Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A Sense of Entitlement

Over the last few weeks, I've seen some posts and comments that mention a certain sense of entitlement among some students who come to teachers, who maybe buy a $25 2-hour workshop, and expect the teacher to become their 24/7 confidant, conspirator, and confessor. Kenaz recently posted his thoughts about how a pagan community ought to support their "Elders" because the Elders have done so much for them, and how it's not right that Elders get so little support from their fan base when they have needs of their own.

Kenaz talks about the sense of entitlement among students, but there's a certain hypocrisy there I'd like to address, and it's not about Kenaz personally. Kenaz mentions Bonewitz' lament that people don't take care of pagan elders, and I've seen similar laments from people talking about the Ciceros, the Sam Websters, and any number of other leaders within the spiritual communities who spend a lot of their time writing, coordinating, teaching, and helping people along their paths.

First of all, lots of freeloaders want to get all the spiritual wisdom of the universe given to them for free. There's a guy who calls himself Digimob who goes around stealing occult author's writings and publishing them on torrents. He calls it a labor of love, and defends his theft using the old "Information Wants to be Free" argument popularized by the hacker community, and even embraced by at least one Information Model spiritual group who came pretty close to recreating the neo-platonic cosmology using terms from the digital age, with Information as the Monad, not entirely self-aware, but expressing itself in various forms of complexity.

Bullshit. If I write a book, I expect to get paid. You wouldn't expect a jeweler to give away the products of his craft, yet people think that my books ought to be free because they're information about spiritual topics. It's like they think it's somehow less work or something, or that the hours I spend writing aren't worth as much as the hours a jeweler spends... jewelering.

Look, the information is freely available to anyone willing to do the research and the work; if you want my opinions, experiences, and a quick-reference guide to the distillation of the resources we have on neoplatonic magical practices of the Renaissance Traditions that I spen the time developing, you can pay me for it. Or make your own. Asshole.

Ok, so I'm clear about that, right? I know there is a sense of entitlement among the masses that isn't appropriate.

But there's a sense of entitlement among occult teachers that isn't appropriate either. They want to have all the benefits of a priestly caste, but they don't have a congregation. They want all the money that they think goes into a megachurch,* but they don't understand that occult teachers are not shepherds of their congregations. Occult students don't go to one occult teacher and expect them to provide the management of their spiritual lives the way religious congregants do. As soon as a fan of an occultist's work begins to behave like a congregant of a church, expecting spiritual advice and counseling, help with whatever drama is going on in their lives, etc., the occult teacher starts bitching about the nut jobs he has to deal with.**

We occult writers simply do not provide the same level of support and outreach and services to our followers that a church provides.  Even if the pagan community did provide that kind of support, there just aren't enough pagans to support a paid clergy. In a church, they have the "tithe" that pays for the overhead costs of running the church. The tithe is 10% of the congregation's gross income. The fact is, only about 6-10% of the congregation regularly tithes. The rest give offerings, sometimes, of a couple of dollars here, a twenty there, or for special projects the church is doing, like visiting Africa or helping single mothers or pregnant teens.

Here's some quick figures. Let's pretend I'm a pastor, and my blog followers are my congregation. Figure the average income of the followers is around $30,000 a year. If 10% tithe, I can expect to bring in around $42,000 a year. Out of that comes all the expenses of running a church, the rent/mortgage, the hymnals, the energy to heat and cool the building, and the weekly bulletins, plus the maintenance and administrative costs. There's not much left for a salary when all is said and done. That's the kind of life modern clergy can expect to live, if they have a belief system that the majority of people even believe in.

The occult genre represents about 6% of the total number of books sold in America each year. That means about 6% of America is interested in the occult. With roughly 300 million people in the US, that's about 18 million people scattered from coast to coast and in Alaska and Hawaii. Most of these purchases are one or two books, and then the person moves on. Maybe 3 out of every 10 people who have ever bought one or two occult books actually goes on to do anything long term with the occult that would require a teacher. That leaves about 5 million people. You've got pagans, ceremonial magicians, hoodoo and vodousants, and all the people of the New Age and the Far East competing for the interest of these 5 million people, all scattered across the country.

The odds of having enough of a local community interested in what we present to be able to afford to support a full-time clergy are astronomical. It's totally unrealistic for any pagan or occult teacher to expect the occult community to provide for them.

If we each had millions of followers who had reached financial and medical heights of success and attainment as a result of our teachings, then we would have a right to expect the people to provide for all our needs. I've got 139 Followers of my blog; are you richer and happier because you read this?

The fact is, no vodou book has made anyone so rich that they should pay the author anything more than the cost of the book. No occult books, even the ones that do tell you the answers to the Mysteries of the Universe, give the reader a happy life. All the things I talk about require you, personally, to do a lot of Work to make it useful. All I'm doing is entertaining you while informing, and hopefully inspiring you to do the Work.

My primary goal in doing all this is to have some magicians to talk to with similar experiences and attainment. Sure, I'd like to get rich, and if you use my information to get rich and it works for you, you fucking owe me 10%! But until I start teaching you things that make your life better, substantially better, until I start offering you the kind of support a priest offers the laity, I have no right to expect anything more from you than the money you pay for my products.

And comments, you could at least comment more on the posts. I spend all this time writing the posts, you can take a minute and comment.

* Megachurches are the exception, not the rule. They're rare, and they never last long. The life cycle of a megachurch is this: a charismatic leader arises with a message that is appealing to the masses, that is either geared towards prosperity or emotional peace, or some combination of the two. Whatever it is, their message resonates, there's a huge surge of increased membership, they get a short-term influx of donations from their starry-eyed followers, and they start building huge churches, producing television shows, radio shows, and lots of books about their idea. They finance all this shit, and it takes a year or so before all their planned stuff can actually start coming to production. By the time it does, the starry-eyed followers have moved on to the next TD Jakes, or Benny Hinn, or Marilyn Hickey, or Bart Pierce (the APOSTLE OF BALTIMORE!!!), and they go bankrupt, their buildings are foreclosed on, and their mistresses, no longer getting the fancy gifts, start going public with their affairs.

** And rightfully so! Your purchase of one book or course or whatever you paid isn't going to support me for the 8-12 hours of advice, counseling and therapy that it will take to get you over whatever drama you're going through!  We should get $45 an hour to listen to you bitch about how you fucked up your life and tell you how to fix it.Then maybe you'd get to the point.