A few days ago Nick Farrell wrote about the popular occultist as a dying species. Reading this I got really sad: This is not the way to go ahead!
Let me add my two cents to the discussion by tackling the issues from another angle? Although this article is written as an answer to my colleagues, I encourage all seekers and practitioners who are interested in the Hermetic Mystery Tradition to participate in the discussion.
The information is out, but the teaching is still hidden
The last decades a lot of written material was published about the Hermetic Mystery Tradition. The information is out, but the teaching is still hidden: This is nothing to be worried about because it is normal! Why? Because as heads of schools we are specialists in our field!
Let me explain this by comparing our specialization with mathematics. Although I know my numbers, I would not be able to understand a university paper on mathematics. Why then would I expect people who recently discovered ‘there is more’, to be able to appreciate the complex teachings on the Tree of Life? It is way over their head. People need to grow into this field of interest, and it takes years.
Spiritual Development is a life-long process
What happens after that first awakening? At first you might develop into a New Ager who is completely open to every fantasy. Is this person lost? From where I am sitting this might appear to be so, but why would I assume that a seeker would want to develop the way I did? Maybe for him or her New Age is the beginning of a new hobby to share with friends or a fashion? Maybe he will start to read esoteric websites or books.
Because of the lack of experience and background he will not be able to divide ‘the real thing’ from ‘fantasy’, because how to discriminate the information? He can be fascinated by the possibility to levitate and maybe dreaming about unicorns. Great occultists like Paracelcus were also fascinated by unicorns (and so am I). The only difference between them and Paracelcus is that they perceive the reality of unicorns from a different perspective.
The next step that our New Ager could take, is to participate in roleplaying games. This is great! He learns to assume different mythical characters, he plays around with ‘magical tools’ and might even get hungry to find the ‘real thing’, because this dabbling might give him some experiences that open a few more inner doors!
If that is too adventurous he might become a historical investigator: an escape into science! Biding some time to be mentally safe: he does not need to question his sanity (nor does his environment need to get worried). It is all cool superstition left behind from long gone ages. And if this is satisfying for that person, who am I to judge?
Why can’t they find it?
But the real question for us as occult teachers is: when there are real seekers among them, why can’t they find the teachings? What can we as teachers of the Hermetic Mystery Tradition learn from other teaching systems, like Buddhism and Yoga, who are able to attract beginners and educate practitioners?
When the student is ready … the teacher is frustrated and depressed? We need to start the training at the level where the potential seekers are. That means in the New Age, at the Elf fairs and the Mediaeval Markets, in the world of role playing games. And at universities: here we need to emphasize that the ancient Grimoires were written by magicians for magicians (and not for scientists, whose help in the investigation is highly appreciated and they are of course allowed to study them as well). But they need to understand that there is an additional teaching to the grimoires that is not written down in the texts, but crucial to understand them. This additional teaching can only be taught from mouth-to-ear.
Be aware of the lay community
It is okay to educate ‘New Agers’ because from these lay communities the next generation of occultists will develop. Popular Christianity, Buddhism and Yoga have built huge outer cord rings of laymen; Yoga starts with gymnastics that causes some of them to get the taste for the advanced work and they are helped to the next level of education.
When people fall out from courses we need to think why this happened. Since we are the teachers, and they already did the best they could by showing interest and enrolling.
Don’t insult seekers!
Don’t address potential students as ‘dumbed down new agers, fantasts and frauds’! This is highly offensive and a sure way to chase away everyone. Is it possible to treat them as a guest, be respectful, compassionate and teach by example? Great and complex teachings need to be translated into a language where non-specialists can start their study. Initiates are not born, they are educated! Being a teacher means explaining the basics again and again, to new students.
Welcome the intellectual approach
The intellectual approach is not a contamination, in contrary; it needs to be expanded into other fields of research. The last few years historians, archeologists and dead-language specialists greatly helped underpinning the reality of our incredibly rich legacy of wisdom teachings.
The next step is to bring aboard the psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists. We as teachers of the praxis know the validity and the powers that one is able to access while practicing. The growth, fulfilment, meaning and ecstasy this can bring into a person’s life; assumed that one follows a genuine teaching path!! These specialists can help providing scientific footage and enable research of occult techniques.
We as teachers need to communicate about these benefits. They come as the result of a tested series of spiritual techniques combined with ethics. We need to know precisely why some techniques endanger the sanity of the mind, and others develop people to become the best version of themselves; that is what the Great Work is about.
Why bother about black box psychology?
We don’t need to waste time at certain traditions of psychology that regard the mind as a black box. We will never be able to convince people who are spiritually stillborn. We need to look into those branches that work with Jung, that investigate psychic phenomena. Within modern psychology there are movements who underpin magical techniques by scientific investigation.
My way or the highway?
We need to get away from the idea that there is only my truth and the rest are fraud. Yes, there is a lot of fraud, but picking on each other will not solve this problem. We as teachers are the living results of the training we teach :-). Do I need to say more?
Magical development is an investment in yourself
We must divide the effects of the world wide crisis from the willingness of students to follow trainings. Everyone has suffered the last few years. In my country people are paying for the crisis in time, money and effort: they juggle between taking care for parents, children, income against an ever increasing demand to work harder, more hours, irregular and postpone their pensions.
Potential seekers need to be made aware that investing in a magical development will help them to deal with the pressure of the world better, and that such a training is a long term investment in terms of self-development and a mini-holiday, every time you have experienced a great meditation session or performed a smashing ritual.
The threat of the internet
The real danger of the internet is not that people download books for free, and don’t come out of their houses to show up at events. The real danger is the neurological effects that the internet causes in peoples brains: they get rewired for quick distractions, and develop huge concentration issues. This results in more people have difficulties to study books, to process complex information, and a growing difficulty to stay concentrated long enough during magical exercises. We need to adapt the training so that people can start the exercises from the point where they are, and close that gap gradually.
Solve personal issues first
This brings me to the next issue; it is impossible for a person to do real magic when he or she is too emotionally wounded to bear silence! The hype around occultism attracted a lot of people who saw the practice of magic as their final option to repair their life.
The right time to start magic is when a person is courageous enough to face personal issues and look deep into the mirror of the self. Then you are able to reflect on what is going on there, and find the right method for magical healing (which most of the time is: bring in a professional healer who looks at you from a ‘neutral’ perspective, instead of trying to conjure up demons), and who helps you to grow above therapy and to access the transpersonal levels instead of getting you addicted to help or taking up occultism as an escape from reality.
We as teachers also need to look into that magical mirror. There are several things to keep in mind. In order to be able to develop professional teaching institutes, we need to heal our own wounds, such as feeling not being respected enough, or taboos on earning enough money to finance the foundation of schools.
Without proper training institutes we are killing the tradition, and we will be passed by other professions and traditions! Why do so many of us feel financially blocked? Why is that regarded to be a virtue? Here the tradition needs to heal some wounds from former generations.
These are all reasons for soul search and self investigation. There is no sane or objective reason not to have students who value what they are learning. Being bankrupt and having no paying, respectful students is a parallel process, not a virtue. Here we need to do some healing magic at ourselves to unlock this potential.
We are the specialists. Are we conscious enough of the fact that people, who start to open up to the unseen realms, are at risk of biting off more than they can chew? Or they might be amidst of a shamanic crisis, or maybe even a psychosis?
Signs of mental imbalance and ego inflation are not a personal insult to a teacher, these are symptoms of something that needs to be addressed. Maybe we are not the ones to deal with these problems ourselves and in this case it might be a good idea to gently direct them into a better way to heal their lives.
I would advocate that we as teachers start to feel responsible for the situation of popular occultism: that gives us the power to change it for the better. When we are the teachers, we need to find solutions for these issues and work together to find some common ground, to serve potential students better than we do right now.
Let us take our own great teachers as examples, and accept the challenge to develop into equally great translators of an ancient old tradition, for the sake of all future students who will benefit from the fruits, as we have been granted them by our own teachers.
October 9 2015
Ina Custers van Bergen
For Enchanting Self-development