Teacher Student Relationships and What They Mean
With some of our recent posts questions arose regarding the relationship that exists between a teacher and student, or to use the classical terminology, the Master and the Disciple. Herein, the following was most recently said to me, so I though it would be good to pass it along.
“The relationship between the Master and the Disciple is one of love and trust. The Master expresses love for the disciple, and the Disciple trusts the Master. In trusting the Master, the Disciple demonstrates trust in their self, in their own decision making process. The Master-Disciple relationship is about communication. Thinking that there is something we can learn from the Master gives us openness, and enthusiasm to help others. In place of actualized wisdom we have love and trust, until our own inner wisdom is actualized, brought forth into the daily world. Trust of the Master’s teachings and practice of them go together, then the master becomes your eyes – your light. You understand the path they are demonstrating because you are actually walking it. However, at its core, pure devotion to spiritual practice and cutting off of attachments to your limited self-image is what the relationship is all about. The Master helps us learn to help ourselves, to become independent and to resist the sirens call of habituated patterns and old ways. You see, as we dig into our self, there is fear as we are moving towards dissolution, towards the Nothingness, the All. This fear is real, it is the fear of our limited sense of self sensing its demise, or rather its expansion, and fear of that because it is movement towards the unknown. Relationship with the Master is fundamental because it gives us confidence as we can experience fear of going towards Nothingness.”
Coupled with this notion of the teacher student relationship is the topic of Vows, discussed in a recent post. Often during training, particularly those involving initiations, vows are made by the student. Unlike the vows of Poverty, Obedience, and Chastity previously covered, and which deal primarily with the student’s relationship to him or herself, the vows stated, and they are verbally stated, during an initiation or as part of a particular method of practice, are between the Master and Disciple, and more importantly, between the Disciple and others. What is often missed in modern esoteric orders, as can easily be seen by how vows are so poorly given, as well as poorly maintained, is that a vow is not simply a means of control over the information or rituals used, but is a magical act. A vow invokes the creative power of the Word, and is an occult seal upon one’s practice. It strengthens the practice, for it brings with it an obligation. In Masonic terms, we refer to one’s Oath and Obligation, and in this there is not just the words, but the actions that are required to fulfill the meaning of those words.
To often, in modern occult groups we think of vows, and oaths as simple and often ridiculous oaths of secrecy, a secrecy regarding material that is more often than not pulled from a book easily available. There is of course the secrecy of a groups members, in that, we respect the privacy of others to keep their esoteric interests a private matter if they so chose. And there is the often required secrecy regarding times and locations of meetings and activities. Yet all of these are negative vows, or oaths. They are negative actions, in that they restrict us rather than expand us.
Herein we must look deeply at the positive vows that we have taken. The vow to help others, such as one Mason’s vow to help another Mason, or even non-Mason whenever possible is a good example. Or the Martinist’s vow to ascend towards a near Messianic zeal in his or her defense of the Holy Sepulcher, for as they are told, “The hope of humanity rests on thee.” Then there is the Rosicrucian vows, so enumerated in the Fama, and those of the Neophyte of the Golden Dawn, to turn their back on darkness and to help a dying world.
There are also oaths more particular, such as the physician’s oath to first and foremost, “do no harm”. Herein we see that each practice, be it astrology, magic, alchemy, or various psychic arts and arts of divination have their own vows tied into them. These vows are psychic triggers that remind us of our obligations to use our knowledge wisely and not indiscriminately. Cause and effect rule our existence, and the Oaths and Obligations connected to our various initiations and practices remind us of that should we stumble along the way.
And what are we to do if we do stumble? How can we repair our broken vows, our oaths sworn before God, our Master, our Brethren, and most importantly, our self? For some, the answer is such cannot be done, however, this is neither realistic nor very forgiving. In truth, vows are broken for a variety of reasons, many which the violator him or herself does not always understand. At other times the vow may have been broken from the start, or unrealistic, for reasons to cumbersome to go into at this time. However, these vows often have to do with one’s relationship to their occult order, and to a far lesser degree, less personal and thereby less strong, and their being maintained or broken often is of negligible consequences in today’s world. The vows that matter most are in how we say we will treat ourself and others as we journey along the path. These vows are the most important as they show who we are.
These vows once broken can only be resolved through acts of absolution, contrition, and purification or penance. Herein we find the importance of the long lost acts of pilgrimage, feast offerings, and even the much abused and maligned act of endowments for the purpose of restoring broken vows and continuing our onward journey of self-discovery, rather than being tangled in the broken path of self-pity and remorse.