A Conversation, The Follow-Up
Continued conversations from the Edge – again, all true.
“How is Andrea?” my friend asked. “Good, she was shaken up by the collision, but good. The other vehicles are scrap metal strewn across Route 309. She stopped earlier to get a stuffed hedgehog for the baby shower, and well, this is where she was at the intersection. ” I replied.
“And her car?”
“Better than you would think. Hood, front bumper, and air conditioning compressor is all. About $2,000 or so when all is said and done. I was out all day getting estimates. You know, it is interesting. When I didn't need a garage that did body work I was aware of only three places. Now that I need one, I see the signs everywhere. There are at least four shops within walking distance of our house, and four more very closer by. That is the way of life. When we become aware of something, then we begin to see it everywhere if we are open to it.”
Continuing he asked, “How did your posting go of our little discussion we had the other day?” His questions, was followed up by the sounds of some not so gentle cursing as my interrogator was on speaker phone and working as we spoke.
“Hard to really tell." I replied, "If silence means consent then it was a Herculean success. Five people wrote to me about it, three of them I have a long-term relationship with and have provided much needed support over the years, so they were not a surprise. Do hurrahs from the choir even count? Then two more wrote to offer some sort of 'condolences' by way of commentary. So, they understand the problem, but what that means in terms of actual material support is another question. We will see.
“Alfred had some good insights into the issue. He suggested people are simply so used to being lied to and ripped off that they don't know how to respond, even if they recognize that what they have is not useful or beneficial for them. They retreat to the known because it is comfortable. It's a rare person who is willing to leap into the unknown with both feet. Alfred also agreed with what I had written regarding the necessity to manipulate the student in the student's best interests, quoting his old mentor Dr. Christopher Hyatt."
“He knew Hyatt?” came the question with a strong laugh.
“Yes, Kenneth Grant too. I have a copy of The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic autographed by Hyatt and Lisiewski around here somewhere. It had to be one of the last things Hyatt signed before he died a few months later. I remember speaking to him on the phone about it. I only spoke to him a few times, but that I remember very well.
“I am reminded of the dialogue that appears in the semi-autobiographical novel Initiations by Paul Sedir, where Andreas, the father figure and humble mystic master instructs our hero the Doctor about his own teacher and enlightened Master, a Rosicrucian, who does not age over twenty years. In the book he is described as being the perfect master of Oriental mysticism and politics and able to meet all people exactly where they are, and find solutions to their problems. Now, notice, he does not describe his master as one who speaks 'truth to power' or an inflexible idealist, but one who walks in the world and gets things done by meeting people where they are, and not expecting them to change beyond the modest state of finding a solution to their immediate problem. Service to God and humanity is preached and demonstrated to them, but at the end of the day, they are manipulated into doing the right thing because they are incapable of doing it on their own. If they were capable, then they would have no problem to begin with." I sighed, releasing the tension between my shoulders, "But, I digress.”
Getting back to the main point of our conversation, my caller said, “So let me get this straight. Out of, say, 1,400 people on your list and an equal number on Facebook, between which we can assume some high level of overlap, we can estimate roughly 2,000 people received the letter. Of those 2,000 recipients, only five had any thoughts on the matter?”
“That is correct.” I stated matter of factly.
"You realize, that's fairly weak. If I went to the zoo I could probably get a higher percentage of the resident monkeys to throw poo at the window than that feeble response you got."
"You are a certifiable cretin." I shook my head, but couldn't help but laugh.
“That's long been determined, friend. But seriously, if we take a good hard look at what you have achieved over the last ten years, what would you say your major accomplishments have been?” he queried.
“Clearly, publishing. That is the only objective measure that I have to point to. Seven or more books, many translated into a total of six languages, with articles in a total of eleven languages. All of the relationships I have with close students and supporters are directly related to being widely published.”
“You forgot something?” he said with tinge of sarcasm.
“What's that?” taking the bait.
“You avoided by the skin of your teeth from becoming a dues paying member of the Divorced Occult Writers of America Club?”
“Yes, that is true. Most of my friends are members. I think you got your card punched twice. Do broken non-marital relationships count? You will get extra points for those.” I replied with a near equal amount of snark.
Ignoring my jibe he continued, “Again, what does that tell us? It looks like publishing is the way to go. All of your major supporters are behind it, and who cares what the rest think? If they want the Institute for Hermetic Studies to be more than just a publishing house catering to their whims and fancy like the big boys then they need to get off their asses and do something to make that vision come true. Everyone wants to study at Hogwarts, but no one wants to pay the tuition. You don't get your name on the Founders List because you showed up late to the party and empty handed. They expect J.K. Rowling to build it for them. Speaking of which, did she ever respond to your letter?”
“Yes, very nicely, in fact." I said, "Daniel Radcliff sent an autographed photo as well. I have Harry Potter's autograph. I need to frame it and hang it with the rest of the celebrity stuff. I'm always looking for that media sugar, Brother. It keeps the voices in my head quiet."
He chuckled, cleared his throat, then asked, "Speaking of talking heads; of your old associates, how many are still teaching?”
I paused and then said, “Other than myself, two I think. They are good and know what they are doing. The rest stopped because it was not worth the Return on Investment. Too few show up and then don't do the work. But to their credit, it is alchemy – real alchemy, mineral work – that is often being taught. Small audience for that subject. Oddly, the Church of St. Cyprian the Mage of Antioch has gotten a very nice reception and we have several IHS Study Groups started. It is the idea of IHS as something solid, tangible and lasting – the very core itself – that is weak.”
My friend gleefully continued playing his role of Devil's Advocate, “There you have it. The people have spoken. You have more than enough material to publish six more books. Get it done and walk away. This is not like the old days when you had to flog the dog to keep the books in print. Using print on demand means they will always be there for people who want them or can find them, and you do not have to waste your time promoting books on 2AM radio shows. Or, if you want, focus on the Church and helping those who clearly want to be helped by it. The clergy are trained to pick up the burden, to carry the cross, so they are behind you. The Study Groups are semi-independent anyhow, so treat the both of them as a semi-secret society or club. Leave what is online up for people to listen to or read, and just deal directly with those who directly support you and your vision. Let everything return to the way it was a century or more ago – small, intimate, expensive, and demanding.”
My friend had a valid point. Cool calculations are what had allowed him to make several fortunes over the past decades, so who was I to say different?
He continued, “What is the most common thing people have come to you about over the years? What is the problem people most commonly want solved?”
“Simple: healing of some kind. It may be psychological, physical, or spiritual – such as with our recent spate of exorcisms.” I replied.
“How do they say thank you?” he asked.
“Most do not. They may say the words, but the actions are not there. Those few who do are the ones who make the most progress, see the quickest results, and from whom I get the greatest tangible support. You see, occult action, or spiritual healing -whatever you want to call it – is widely treated like something that does not involve any real work or effort on the part of the Operator. In part, that is true, depending on what they are doing, other times a great deal of work is involved.”
“Hmmm, give me an example so I can see what you mean.”
“If I pray for you, that involves little work. I will say some prayers and it is out of my hands, it is up to your karma. That can be enough for some. Simply knowing that they are being prayed for activates their own inner resolve and they get better. As the Bible says, 'Your faith has made you well.' Other times it requires more effort, and here we get into what Catholics call novenas or extended prayer over days. This is more of a theurgic or magical operation. Then there are occult operations like I did for your three friends a few years back. Remember those? They take several hours, about a day in total to prepare for, perform, and recover from. Those require sacrifice.”
“I remember those. One fellow got his girlfriend back, the other a job, and a third the script he was shopping around ended up second in a national competition and finally got some notice. Only one said thank you, and none did anything else.”
“Correct, and how long did the window of opportunity last for them? The time in which they could act on the opportunity given before they fell back into their old patterns?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Three months at the most,” he replied.
“See? And that speaks to the heart of the matter. People do not need to suffer. Suffering is what they want removed. They must be willing to suffer however, to suffer the efforts of changing their ways, of stepping outside their selfishness if they want their lives to improve. This means helping others, and it starts with the people who have helped you, particularly when they ask for it. Failure to grasp this is failure to actually help one's own self.
“You cannot buy your way into heaven, but you can buy your freedom from those things which hold you back from realizing it, from getting there. You can purchase your freedom from greed, selfishness, avarice, pride, gluttony, that is the purpose of sacrifice – to clear the path for the possibility of moving forward – but that movement, like clearing the path, is up to each of us. No one can permanently do it for us. That is why those operations had wonderful initial results, but not all were carried to their desired and ultimate desired conclusion. There was no sacrifice or gratitude, at least none beyond what they were normally capable of, and that was not sufficient for where they wanted to end up.
"You know, I am amazed at how many people actually believe in the literalism of karma. That is, the idea that if you hurt someone in this life you will be hurt in the same exact fashion in another life. Yet, these same people are unwilling to grasp the notion that if you want to secure your enlightenment in this or a future life you need to establish the foundation for it through your actions right now. Now, if you opt for a Hermetic Path, that means securing the Five Points of the Pentagram: the teacher, teachings, fellow students, location of teaching, and time of teachings. Most are only concerned with securing the teachings, that is the books, equipment, materials, and think little of the vehicle that provides them and their fellow Travelers a means of transmission to the next generation.
"If you are concerned about your Illumination, you need to provide a vehicle for it right now. Form is just as important as essence, they are one and the same from the view of Kether, if you will, and even our daily existence in Malkuth or the Middle Pillar as a whole. 'He who sees me sees the Father.' That is the lesson of Tiphareth on one level. The earthly temple is the gateway to Yesod, which is then the gateway to the remainder of the Tree of Life, the entire Path of Return. If you want people to enter the Gate, then you have to have a Gate they can see, before they can pass through the one that is invisible.”
My friend grunted, "In my experience, most would rather walk away from such a gateway in order to play with other practices of little import. Sacrifice and dedication to tradition are thin on the ground out there."
I paused and said, “Yes, but that means that being in the Kali Yuga as we are, every effort we make is worth more than if we lived in some paradisiacal golden age. A little now has more value simply because of the many distractions. Thus, a lot more now has even greater value than in some future age time of ease."
With that we stopped chatting. I returning to pre-Holiday activities, while my friend once again gave his work his full attention.