Gresham’s Law and Esoteric Movements
It’s all about leadership. Leadership means upper management, and by this I do not mean some ‘invisible masters’ or ‘unknown superiors’. I most certainly mean those who are entrusted to formulate, communicate, and direct the vision – mission statement if you will – of the organization. This organization can be a small study group of less than a dozen members or it can be a multinational order, or a group of any size in between. At the end of the day, it all comes down to management: in fact, good management is a sign of spiritual illumination. Read that again and let it sink in. Good management is a sign of spiritual awakening, particularly on ‘the level of Chesed’ for those who like qabala-speak.
Thus, when I am informed of problems in various groups it is easy to see who and what the problems really are: management. Now, this does not mean they are solely responsible, as the members of the body play a role as well. However, it is management that sets the tone, communicates the mission, and keeps everyone on track. They are also the gatekeepers in both its positive (expansive) and negative (restrictive) aspects. Leadership demonstrates the effectiveness of the most basic goals of spiritual practice: insight and problem solving. Because at the end of the day that is why people undertake the path: to gain some insight and to solve their problems.
When I was informed recently of a crises in an esoteric group from the details given it was immediately clear what the REAL problem was: management. Was there a problem? Yes, and it was well known for years. A serious problem? Only if you consider leadership transition important to your group. The leader, well known and respected had been ill for a while. This has impacted his/her ability to fulfill the functions of the job and as is well known to everyone, someone else was actually running the show. However, instead of coming to terms with the need to gracefully and publically appoint a new director, a “crises” occurred – and then those at the top jumped into action.
Well, jumped right off the cliff is more like it.
In a panic –and the operative word is panic, as panic is fear and that is not a good decision making tool – they removed the leader and reorganized their by-laws in one fell swoop. Now, haste makes waste and speedy changes to one’s operating structure, particularly during Mercury Retrograde, tend to backfire. More importantly, it demonstrates that leadership does not really understand the application of the very principles they claim to be teaching. One should only throw lightning bolts from Mount Olympus after great consideration.
So, what then is the effect? That remains to be seen, but loss of membership is sure to be one of them. Of course, ironic as it is, when this happens those who stay behind often simply double down on their position and hope that not only will they survive as an organized entity, but believe they have really done the best they could. And did they? In a manner of speaking, yes. We can only make decisions based upon the skill sets we have. This calls into question not the sincerity of many in esoteric movements, but their practical day-to-day abilities.
It is a commonly stated axiom that smart and successful people suddenly become stupid when they start sitting on a non-profit board of directors because unlike their career or a position on a for-profit board, there is rarely any personal consequences for failure in a volunteer position. In short, you get what you pay for.
The sincerity that drives many to spend tremendous amounts of time and energy in maintaining various esoteric groups is in part the problem. Emotional commitment is needed, but it needs to be channeled through effective mechanisms. Most modern esoteric groups are organized along lines that allow for easy comparison to traditional religious and military hierarchies. However, to achieve a position of leadership in those hierarchies is movement upwards and with it, an understanding of the various parts that make up the whole. For many in the esoteric field, leadership is a function of being the founder or the survivor willing to take on the role. This does not necessarily mean they are qualified to organize or direct the group in day to day functions.
Being a good officer in a group makes you either a good bureaucrat or technician, it does not make you a director or an engineer. Modern American Freemasonry is a perfect example of this, and with it the economic principal known as Gresham’s Law, which states that when two currencies are accepted by law as having the same value, the one which has the greater intrinsic value will disappear from circulation. For example, United States copper pennies from before 1982, silver coins of all denominations from before 1965, or even modern nickels whose metal value exceeds the cost to produce them. All of these coins are removed from circulation because their value exceeds their stated legal worth. What happens to them? They end up being horded as a hedge against inflation, traded to collectors, or even scrapped to recover their greater value. At the end of the day, they are no longer to be seen.
The same is true with leadership: bad leadership in volunteer positions in particular, drives out the good. People with the skills and talent will not waste their time trying to lead, build, and serve a group that does not understand what leadership is or how it functions. They simply move on to something productive.
From the late 1990s until the early 2000s I wrote and presented on the importance of organizational structures and planning for esoteric groups. I gave several presentations at very large and well attended esoteric conferences during this time on organizational development, but quickly stopped because they were so poorly attended. Upon discussions with those present at the events as a whole I discovered that many of the people involved often did very little planning in their own lives, or had professions where benefit packages were clearly defined, so planning was not really something they felt they could or needed to do. Unfortunately that same mind set, and the lack of skill set that goes with it, does not transfer over well to running either a start-up or existing group of any size.
As such, it is very important that esoteric organizations in particular understand the symbolic and practical aspects of leadership. The Jupitarian function requires vision, but also planning. It is not enough to be the “big vision guy” but to also know how the parts work together and how they function. The devil as they say is in the details – Mercury will let you know if it is working or not. Second, this training should start early and include an understanding of the magic of compound interest in all its forms. If my lodge leadership is reckless and wasteful with its personal finances, I can be assured that the same will happen with the lodge treasury if there are not sufficient safeguards.
In the end, esotericism we are told is about mastery of life in all its expressions, and to do this we need to include the rulership aspects of Zeus and not just his more entertaining and enjoyable debaucheries.