On Why I Teach
I learned in my twenties and thirties that I didn’t like to teach. No, really. I hated teaching. Actually, let me clarify, I developed a dislike of students. Mostly because it used to be that I didn’t charge anything to teach. Not a single. damn. cent. Nope. I taught whoever wanted to learn. The problem is that some people say they want to learn and really don’t. So you give them assignments and when they can’t even complete said assignments and turn them in, the teacher wonders why they’re bothering and gives up on the student. It becomes a thankless job. When you spend hundreds of hours developing lesson plans and making yourself available to students and they choose not to learn — it becomes wasted time on top of being a thankless job. It’s been no secret that I hated teaching. I’ve heralded it from the rooftops for years. It’s also not something I’m ashamed of. I. Hated. Teaching.
This was why I initially stopped taking on one-on-one students in Daemonolatry. If the student refuses to learn basic alchemy and even a few beginner points in Enochian, and the basic Hermetic principles – that’s not the type of student for a teacher who teaches such things. If one refuses to grow past needing to be hand-held – then a teacher can’t help them either. At some point a baby has to learn to walk without help. At some point a child has to leave home and learn to navigate the world on their own. The same thing happens in a student-teacher relationship. The teacher can lead the student to knowledge, but the teacher can’t make that student learn if the student has no desire to learn that thing. Sometimes – a student thinks they need a certain teacher and they really don’t.
I was telling a friend who is far more adept that he realizes, that while he felt he needed a teacher, he didn’t. I told him:
I am of the firm belief that teachers can only teach the basics. Once one has the basics — you learn by doing. By experimenting. Let’s face it — you really are BEYOND the stage of needing your hand held. The teachers beyond that are experience and the Daemonic themselves. Peer discussion and feedback will probably help you more in your current stage of development than any structured class. The reason structured spiritual training doesn’t work at the advanced level is because none of us is on the same spiritual path. We all have different lessons to learn. Different interests to pursue and we all need different things at different stages of our development.
See, the thing is that being adept when it comes to magick isn’t about “mastery” like some
folks seem to think. I don’t know if one can thoroughly master magick since it’s such a vast and subjective topic. It’s not like taking “Advanced Potions” after completing “Intermediate Potions” after completing “Beginning Potions”. No – you use a book or teacher to show you around the lab and how to mix the potion, then you delve into your own experimentation. Finally- you get to a point where you’re confident in what you’re doing (and what you know) and you can whip up a potion with little thought. That’s seriously how this shit works.
There is no such thing as a grand-poobah, all-knowing magician who has mastered everything about magick. We’re all students until the day we die. If you ever stop learning – you’re likely dead. No, being adept is about being competent enough to direct ones own development, learning, and spiritual growth without needing someone to handhold you. It’s about being able to create the life you want through magick without having to ask, “What time of day should I do this ritual?” You should already know the answer to that. You should already know what YOU need, as an individual because you’re confident enough in your foundational knowledge that you can figure it out without needing constant help and guidance from others. If you can’t even complete a potion on your own, it’s time to take Potions 101 again and again and again until you’re not afraid to experiment on your own. See what I’m saying?
Funny – for years I thought my frustration with teaching was me; that I had no aptitude for it. Finally, several friends set me straight. One said, “Your one of the best teachers I know. You’ve taught countless people through your books, too.”
Another told me, “You’re actually really good at teaching. Where did you get this idea that you suck?”
Then another friend told me, “Have you ever noticed that it’s the people who refuse to be the leaders, or the teachers who are always the best people for the job? The Gods have plans for each of us. We may not like that plan, but we do it out of reverence to them. Because we serve them. Not because we don’t serve ourselves, but because serving them IS serving ourselves.”
Finally – a fourth friend told me that if I wanted serious students – I should charge, because no one is going to throw away money like that, and those who do won’t do it a second time. He, too, was right.
So in the past year and a half I began teaching again. Begrudgingly. I’ll be honest here – I mostly did it because the position I hold within one of the orders to which I belong requires it of me. In order to be a Hekau Lector Priest(ess), one must actually “Lector”, as our temple magistrate reminded me. One can only write so many dissertations (i.e. books on Daemonic magick my case) before (s)he takes that inevitable next step. Luckily I am allowed to charge non-temple members.
So this time around I am charging students for my time in hopes they’ll be more serious about learning what I have to teach. It’s working. Never before in my life have I enjoyed teaching more than I do now, with students who will do the work and who will show up to class. My students are talented, driven magicians who seek to hone their skills and develop themselves. They truly are embarking on the Great Work. I am actually looking forward to classes this time around because I know serious students will be waiting for me. A little alchemy and some Enochian doesn’t scare these students. They do their assignments without whining or procrastination. I have even broken a personal rule and have taken on a private student (who I don’t charge) because she’s just awesome. She is bright, adventurous, creative, well-rounded, responsible, productive, and she really does WANT to learn. She is nothing like the past students who soured me on teaching to begin with.
Do I still have lazy students? Yes. Occasionally I do run across a student for whom structured learning doesn’t work for them, or they really don’t have time to do several hours of alchemy homework a week. But at least now I’m not wasting my time because I’m being compensated for it whether they show up and do the work or not. My time is worth something to me (and my family) and the students who truly DO want to learn what I have to teach.
So no, I don’t feel bad for charging. Yes, sometimes I teach free classes, but only if my schedule allows. I also give free scholarships for those in financial hardship. If you’re curious about what I’m teaching this year, here’s my schedule.
So that’s the crux of it. Also, just in case anyone wonders, yes – my students teach me new things all the time. They teach me things about magick, things about life, and things about myself. This time around I feel rewarded instead of taken for granted. I feel grateful and blessed that friends, my teachers, and the Daemonic forced me back into teaching.
I am glad you are teaching again!
There are three aspects of your teaching that mage it outstanding:
1. Conviction. No wishy washy conversation.
2. Clarity. No trying to sound “philosophical.”
3. Organization. Easy to follow and take action.