I actually got this post idea from the esoteric author Sorita d’Este after she asked the question on her FB “How important is discrimination on a magical and spiritual path? And … how often is discrimination ignored because of a feeling that one should be more “accepting” of others?” It’s a brilliant question actually. My answer to it will probably piss a few people off, but here goes…
So many people use the word discrimination to suggest unfair treatment, when in fact the actual definition of discrimination (aside from making a distinction for or against someone based on something other than individual merit) is making fine distinctions or judgments. Discernment means an acuteness of judgment or understanding. It can also mean to have discriminating taste (i.e. fine distinctions).
IMHO discrimination can be a wise thing. Without any discrimination (as in making fine distinctions) you can open yourself up to a world of hurt. This goes for everything – not just magickal or religious communities, but also when choosing friends, jobs, a home, etc… Not everything or everyone is unfairly judged imho.
You wouldn’t buy a house with a heaving foundation, would you? Or take a job that paid you less than minimum wage? Would you choose to take art classes from a teacher who couldn’t paint or draw? Then why should you choose to allow people into your life who might be bad for you – spiritually or otherwise?
For example – having been a group leader for several occult organizations over the years I’ve learned that one must discriminate against those with alcohol or substance abuse problems. Why? Because people like that can wreak havoc on a group or take down other people with them when they start toppling over the edge.
“But Steph, shouldn’t a religious organization help them?”
To the extent that they give them the phone number to a substance abuse hotline – yes. But otherwise my answer there is no because the fact of the matter is that in non-Christian religions (and sometimes even in those) the clergy or leadership isn’t trained well enough to help a person who has a substance abuse problem. That requires professional help. The same goes with un-managed mental disorders.
It’s not a magickal or religious order’s job to “fix” broken people. If a person is broken they need to seek professional help. Not to mention a huge part of fixing themselves is about taking self-responsibility and doing the self-work to fix themselves. Anyone joining a religion or magickal order to get “fixed” by someone else, or by the gods, is in for a rude awakening.
It is a group leader’s discrimination that can help weed out those people who are looking for a quick fix and looking for other people to fix them. I have known several people over the years who have bashed Demonolatry as a religion because they didn’t “grow”, “learn”, or “get fixed” by it (or by the other people involved in it). Well – that’s because they didn’t do the work. Any spiritual path can help a person grow, learn, and change as long as they do the self-work required to help themselves, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them. A priest (or an adept) is merely a guide – not a miracle worker. The old adage “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind.
I am also for discrimination when it is clear that a certain person isn’t a good match for a group or after 10+ years of practicing a religion or belonging to a magickal order they still need hand-holding. The latter is usually a sign that they’re stagnated and aren’t growing. (Thanks to Mike for pointing that out!) I also think it’s perfectly fair to not put an unstable person in a leadership position where they’re tasked with helping others find foundation in their lives. I also think it’s fair for magickal students to look at their teachers with scrutiny and pick teachers based on stability. Seriously – if a teacher doesn’t have their own shit together, should they be teaching others how to get their shit together? It’s a fair question.
If you want all out acceptance regardless — join a Judeo-Christian faith. A big impersonal church can handle all kinds of different personalities. A small group may not be able to do the same thing. Like it or not – humans are social creatures. We are very clique-y by our very nature (despite how many of us scream about wanting to be individuals). We all want to feel a sense of belonging or have a place where we feel we fit in. If you join a group started by three friends, don’t expect to walk in, march up to the pulpit and start making demands that one of the friends is booted from the inner circle just because you don’t like them. The sad truth is that unless the friend is doing something the entire group dislikes – that person is staying right where they are and you’re probably going to be the one who gets booted (unless you get pissed off and leave). On that same token – you might end up hitting it off with the inner circle and they may discriminate in your favor – deciding you’d be a good leader and tasking you with some group responsibility.
Is it fair? Probably not. But that’s human nature, that’s how it works. Life isn’t fair. Pull on your big-girl/boy undies and get over it.
Discrimination is also beneficial in cases where a member (or leader for that matter) is excessively antagonistic and is consistently creating drama within a group. This can destroy a functioning group. That’s why there needs to be some discernment and discrimination when adding people to a group, or removing someone. I have admittedly discriminated against potential members who seemed overly needy. In a group where no one has time to hand-hold – it’s only fair to the needy person that you don’t accept them into the group or you remove them from the group. The reason being that they’re not going to get what they want or need from group membership and their neediness may feel like a burden to group members, making more than just one person unhappy. It’s a waste of time for everyone.
Sadly it can take these people years to realize you were right in removing them from your order or group. I instinctively knew certain former members of my coven weren’t growing and that Demonolatry (at least in a group setting) wasn’t the right path for them. I knew when it was time for those members to move on. Sometimes there’s no easy way to get this to happen. Sometimes it can require a group leader kick someone out of his/her life (and/or their group) knowing everyone will be better off for it down the road. It’s not easy, that’s for sure.
The same could be said for friendships or business associates. Relationships need to be mutually beneficial for them to be healthy and to thrive. A relationship should end once it’s clear one party needs more than the other can provide. Or when only one person is giving and another is just taking (and taking and taking). Or when you notice one person isn’t growing in the relationship and the relationship itself is causing one of the parties to stagnate. Perhaps this is an over-simplification, but it’s the general gist. A good example of a business application of this was when I realized I had to leave Lulu as my primary printer once it became clear to me they couldn’t give me what my publishing company needed with regards to distribution. My business had become stagnant and wasn’t growing. So while I still use Lulu as a secondary printing service, I have moved on to other printing sources to do my primary distribution because it’s more lucrative a relationship. As a result, my business grew. This is true for all things in life.
Is it fair? Again – probably not. But then life isn’t fair.
I think more people should be accepting about moving on once a relationship has ended. If you are discriminated against by a magickal order or religious group – don’t look at it as a bad thing. It’s probably a blessing and you just haven’t realized it yet. You wouldn’t have been happy there anyway (and it probably wouldn’t have been a positive growth experience) and this way – you can keep searching for a group or community that IS right for you. And if you’re on the other end of that and have to be the person who is discriminating – don’t feel guilty for it. Being accepting of everyone can bite you in the ass (as I’ve learned from numerous personal experiences). Allowing pedophiles into a group with children is probably not a good idea. Letting completely unstable people sit at the head of your group and lead others is probably not a good idea. The needs of the many sometimes outweigh the needs of the one (or few) and as a group leader it’s your job to keep the group together and functioning in the way beneficial to the most people. Not always an easy task since at least one person (the one who is a problem) and his/her supporters is bound to be hurt by your decision and go off on a rampage against your group. Such is life if you want harmony and stability – especially in a magickal or esoteric order.
That’s my take on the matter. (Commence throwing daggers!)
PS> Please be reminded that I’m not talking about age discrimination, sex discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, or any other type of discrimination based on someone’s personal preferences that would have nothing to do with a person’s interactions with others in the group. I’m talking about discrimination based on well intentioned, reasonable expectations of group members based on the existing group and its dynamic.