From the Aspirational Curmudgeon Corner, some thoughts on training in any field, magical or otherwise, posted recently to a friend's journal. There's a good reason studying in most fields is called "learning a discipline."
So much in this world and this Work is lost and impossible when respect is not the norm, but quite the rare exception. The combination of a me-centered, anti-hierarchical societal bias, and the concomitant encroaching sense that the "answers" should be free, quick, simple and immediately accessible (Google Magic, I have been calling it), have led to a huge degradation and loss of both content and integrity in a wide range of magical trads with which I have association.
I am very aware of some of the periodic abuses this is in part a reaction against, and I do know that charlatans, sociopaths and predators operating under the protections of secrecy and authority have contributed to this trend, but IMONSHO, there are important *functional* (not ego-driven) reasons why almost all traditional training programs are based on respect, including deference to ones elders and teachers, even if (perhaps especially if) one disagrees with them.
I think that at the base of it, is the basic concept that genuine initiation and enlightenment probably will never be a "mass-market" phenomenon. Which is not to say that things of value cannot be taught at a distance or to groups of people (I'm not getting involved in *that* argument, because it is just too silly when actually examined), but that instruction in complex and subtle matters (of which most "real" magic can be counted) takes time, attention and focus, is a highly individualized process, and is not something that can be packaged in a Happy Meal and fed to the multitudes. It just doesn't work that way.
Excellence is always elitist, because that is part of the definition of "excellent" -- it is a figure against a ground, an assessment within the context of "usual" and "normal." We may all advance (or degenerate) together as a whole, but excellence will always be the exception, that's kind of the point, and ideally, excellence in others is taken as an inspiration to work hard and excel oneself, not an excuse to knock down (metaphorically or otherwise) everyone who manages to stand above the rest.
I've always felt that anyone who wants to seek the genuine mysteries needs to be ready to work hard, over a long period of time, and hold true humility and authentic respect first and foremost -- for among other good reasons, if you can't even learn and show respect for your (divinely) human teachers, sure it is the gods will eat you alive.