chelidon: (Pan Mardi Gras)
[personal profile] chelidon
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.

Date: 2011-01-12 07:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elorie.livejournal.com
:)

Tell it!

I have reasons why I think trying to teach Faery in particular (and possibly some other traditions/disciplines that work similarly) at a distance is a problem; it is essentially a theological argument. People don't have to agree with me, but they should at least know what I actually think about it first. Anyway, it's coming soon to a website near you.

Date: 2011-01-12 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chelidon.livejournal.com
Thanks, and I'll look forward to reading it -- and you are exactly right, there are theological arguments, for sure, matters of belief structure and theory, as well as hands-on practical issues.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with anyone saying that they believe that important or essential components of their particular flavor of any tradition cannot be taught long-distance, and irregardless of the domain of study, there simply are some things that cannot effectively be taught long-distance (or via a book, etc). I would have to say that I knew the essence of every flavor of every subject and tradition to state that everything (or even most things) can be taught long-distance, to groups, etc., and that certainly is not so, nor ever will be ;>

But what I have found unlikely (or at least the arguments I have seen so far have been unconvincing), is the concept that (to take specifics out of it) "no X can ever be taught long-distance," where X is anything rich, complex and diverse. Usually, at least in those cases I have seen, some components of X can be effectively taught long-distance, and others cannot. What I have more often seen is the argument that X cannot be taught long-distance, because "if it's taught long-distance, it's not really X." Well, that's a circular argument, of course, totally self-referential, and theology aside, it doesn't match particularly well with my own personal experience across various domains.

But, to repeat what I wrote above, for me to contradict someone who said that their particular version of flavor of X cannot be taught long-distance (or to groups, etc), I'd have to have deep, intimate first-hand knowledge of that particular flavor of X, and for most things, that's not true, so I'll generally keep my mouth shut. Or try, anyway ;>

Date: 2011-01-12 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starfrosting.livejournal.com
well said, particularly your point about egocentricity and lack of respect.

Date: 2011-01-12 08:59 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-13 01:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elnigma.livejournal.com
A person can read everything up about a tradition. That doesn't equal knowing. That comes out of the work and practice (and yes, the face-to-face and hands-on).

:)

Date: 2011-01-15 01:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elnigma.livejournal.com
About the distance learning thing - in other traditions that wasn't uncommon at all. Also, most of the occult community is so small that even if someone hasn't personally met someone else yet, someone they know likely is quite familiar with them. Meeting online is like one degree separation most times, like knowing someone as a friend of a friend, and probably going to be at the next party they hold.

Date: 2011-01-29 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elnigma.livejournal.com
I find people in general (not you guys, as you all are consummate hosts) are interacting less in the person-person, home party visits, etc. and that's a shame.
Some things are nice about having groups meet outside homes, or online perhaps first, for sure, but with no such intimacy? sad.

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