“All I want for Christmas…” (Part 1)
Originally published, November 18 & 22, 2015. Republished here for your consideration and illumination, with more to follow.
A conversation I recently had with a fellow author.
“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 this 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 The Book of 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.”
We left it there, finished our coffee, and went back to our labors so that we could support the Work.
Continued Conversations From The Edge – Again, All True (Part 2)
“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. 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 respons 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 a dozen 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. 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 to himself, then added, “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.”
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 permanetly do it for us. That is why those operations had wonderful initial results, but not all were carried to their 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, your 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 paridisical 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.
Voice of Hermes – Lessons from the Path
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