All I Want For Christmas...
A conversation I recently had with a fellow author – really, it's all true.
“How are you doing?” came the voice through the telephone.
“Fine” I replied, “Just a little sore.”
“What? Breaking in a new Tantric consort?” his voice positively leered over the miles between us.
“You're a pig, you know that? And no..it started with housework. You know the drill...'Chop wood, Carry water.' Sanding the stairs was hell. It must have aggravated my elbow. Tendonitis, Tennis Elbow. It would have been no big deal, but the exorcism last weekend really made it worse.” I said, trying to rub the tension from my arm and failing. “Aside from cleansing the space, there was so much to burn. It took hours, and my assistant nearly shit his robes when the thunderstorm started. It was black, windy, and heavy, but we got lucky and never got hit with a big dump of rain. Intimidating, that's all. We went through three pounds of Epsom Salt and almost as much incense on it all. It was the constant stirring to burn everything to ash that did my arm in. Remember, 'so not that their images or names remain'. I'll will be fine in a few days. The client might take a little longer to bounce back from this, though.”
“Have him check out your stuff on The YouTube Channel. It all looks good. I knew you had lessons and lectures on there, but there must be thirty hours of programs now. What prompted that?”
“I wanted to get it out there while it is still useful. Alex was really the force behind it. He did all of the heavy lifting on improving the sound quality and loading them to the site. He gets the gold star on that one.” I heard a noisy slurp, then asked, “So, what are you drinking?”
“Cuban espresso roast; still too early for rum, although it does help the joints." My friend chuckled then shifted gears. "So it's almost Solstice. You gonna pull the trigger on a new plan for this coming year?” I could hear something being poured and stirred in the background.
“The first thing is simple: get the next book completed. Then, I have a decision to make. Either ramp the Institute up to where it is self-sustaining, let it die on the vine, or turn it into a publishing house. But continued limping along is not working. You know, if everyone on my mailing list took as much interest in the Institute as they do in the next Star Wars movie, there would be no question. We would be talking about how and where to locate the Institute's library, both physically and online, to make materials available for seekers and researchers alike. I would not be contemplating compromising the Institute into oblivion.” With that I could hear a snorting grunt come though the phone followed by a long, strong sip of something hot.
“Really, think about it. For $250,000, we could be up and running with half of the needed endowment to keep from being beggars. For twice that, $500,000, we, and that means I as the Institute's pilot, would be home free. Everything paid for and enough residual off the endowment to meet annual expenses without eating the principal – ever. At 1,400 members of the Voxhermes list, at fifteen years of publishing, that would come to less than $12 a year per person since we started publishing for the first amount, or less than $25 a year for the second figure. In short, for lunch money we could have a regular place for classes, a research library, laboratory for alchemical work, and be financially solid.”
“How about your Indiegogo campaign for the publishing project? That appears to have gone well,” my colleague offered.
“Sure...It was great. We had forty-two donors; a good number. But we relied on a single donor for over half the money raised, and that came in at the last minute, otherwise we would have been just another underfunded dream. When we crunch the numbers, the average donation came in at around $48. If we look at our mailing list, we had a return of 2.5%, or about average for direct mail campaigns. So again, while I have individuals who go the distance, as a total group, as a social-demographic, my audience is average in actionability, and below average in generosity.”
“Well, it might be the cost of a business lunch, but for vetted contacts, the return, in terms of numbers of contributors, seems low to me. Instead, it sounds like a lunch you got to pay for, prepare, serve, clean up, and not even eat!” my friend said with a laugh.
“It appears that way. And that, my friend, is why zealots always win. Because they have total commitment to their cause, for better or worse. Our people are like it is said in Revelations, 'Luke warm, so I spit thee out.' Tepid does not do it, it does not work in anything, particularly something that involves relationships – you are in, or you are out. Our people complain about extremism, but to counter someone willing to die for their cause – a cause that includes you in their eyes – you need to be equally committed to yours. Just look at the adepts of the past, none of them were tepid in their commitment, and each gave everything they had to the Path. That is why they became masters, adepts.” I paused to let that sink in before continuing.
“You know, over the last few weeks I have been approached by friends and strangers regarding the perennial topic of politics, or more precisely, politicians. The general quality of the average candidate in the current crop of front runners is less than what many desire, and I am often asked what can be done about it? What can we do to raise the bar in terms of the morality and ethics of our leadership?”
I took a sip from my own cup and continued, “The answer to this question involves a host of assumptions, from 'what are the limits of human potential and cosmological influences' to 'birth order and genetics'. In the end, however, my reply is always the same.
"You have three choices here. They are very simple: One, be an example of the change you want to see and run for office yourself. Two, be an example of the change your want to see and support those individuals and institutions that provide the opportunity for people to improve themselves and thereby provide a better pool of candidates, or three, be an example of imperturbability and detachment, and shut up about it. Those are your meaningful choices. Pick one or more as you see fit.”
Again, I could hear laughter through the phone.
I stirred the caramel liquid, took another sip and went on, “Now, what can you do? I have been repeatedly asked to run for local office and have refused. I have neither the time nor resources. I have helped candidates - even providing astrological advice to several – whom I believed would be good leaders. So far I have not been wrong. My skill set is best used where it is – in the domain of esoteric teaching, and with that, setting the best example I can for others to imitate until they find their own footing on the Path of Return.
"In a nutshell that is the entire purpose of the Institute for Hermetic Studies – to help people learn how to help themselves so that they may grow as individuals and be of genuine service to others.
"We do this to the best of our capacity, and in direct proportion to the degree of financial and material support we receive from people who tell us they care about esotericism. No more, and no less. So, the more support we have, the more we can do - the more people we can reach - and from that, help create a better pool of potential leaders in all areas of society, not just the commonly held idea of 'politicians'.
"Related to this is a secondary conversation that keeps returning. The love so many people have with Manly P. Hall. I like Hall too, and am glad so much of his work is available to us decades later. But why does that work even exist in the first place? I'll tell you - Money, and lots of it. You see, Hall had some big backers, as did Harvey Spencer Lewis of AMORC, and Swami Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship. I could name others, but you get the point. Each of these leaders had financial support they could use to establish, build, and maintain their organizations. Buildings, temples, and libraries did not pop out of thin air like a thought form on the Himalayan mountainside. No, it took the Work of the Bull - cold, hard cash.
"The First Degree of initiation in several esoteric schools is that of Zelator, or one who burns with zeal for the mysteries. To be admitted, as the story goes, they are asked one question, “Why do you wish admission to the Mysteries?” To which they must answer, “To serve.”
I'll say it again, with emphasis - TO SERVE.
"Serve who? Serve their Master, their lineage, their fellow students, and then from that, community, humanity as a whole, and what we have come to call all 'sentient beings' of the visible and invisible realms.
"Very few students serve, or serve to the same degree of zeal that their forebears did, and with that, to the same degree as your average religious or political zealot. And that is the tricky part. In the Book of Revelations, a text of prophecy and initiation, Jesus says, 'I would prefer thee hot or cold, but you are lukewarm so I spit thee out.' Our people, despite all their protests, are simply too selfish or scared to trust and commit to the Path. Now, if they don't trust me to do the right thing with their money when I ask for it for a project, why the hell are they trusting me with their mind and their soul by reading anything I have to say or referencing arcane tomes to which I refer them? It simply does not make sense, but that is where we are. We, like those wonderful Tibetan Lamas, are compelled to manipulate our readers, followers, whatever, into doing the right thing as too few will do it on their own. This is where fancy titles, nice robes, and photo opportunities come in handy.”
My friend then said, “I hear you...and to me it sounds like the path is clear. Manipulate them in their own best interest. It is not like most of them will know the difference. At least something good may come from it, something that helps them and others, instead of pissing away their energy and life force by buying into Star Wars, the NFL, or some other such distraction. Really, it is like massage therapy. You go to the therapist to be manipulated to be healed, the same with real spiritual instruction. Because you can't know what you have not yet experienced, you don't tell the therapist how to do their job in healing you. This is even more critical in genuine spiritual work. You have to get out of your own way and allow the teacher use the methods they know will work best with you as an individual.”
We left it there, finished our coffee, and went back to our labors so that we could support the Work.