The price of knowledge

Over the course of the past decade and change, I have been involved with a number of different initiatory organizations and traditions. Among them are the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the OTO, and smaller orders here and there. At present I am only involved with two groups, one of which is a synthesis of Arabic mysticism and the Western Mystery Tradition and another which is a local coven which combines Strega with a particular Wiccan tradition. The paths change, the people change, but some debates and concerns remain the same: do you charge for initiation and learning? If so, how much is too much? Or too little? Is there a price that can be satisfactorily placed upon spiritual knowledge? This debate exists in both the ceremonial magick and witchcraft communities, and I suspect will always exist as a bone of contention amongst its members.

I have seen groups charge outrageous sums of money only to learn it was funneled through to their leader so they could have a form of income. In such cases, obviously the intentions and methodology of collecting the money is corrupt, and has led many on a “no charge” policy out of retaliation. I have been in groups which refused to charge a dime on grounds that it was unethical by their standards. And yet a middle ground where the group only charged for the cost of the materials, no more, no less. Some offered a reasonable sum of dues per year to cover web expenses, materials, and the like.

In the world of the Internet, it’s actually quite easy these days to locate an initiatory body and either travel or receive long-distance initiation. The benefit of this has been to unite those who ordinarily would be excluded from the mysteries and obtaining knowledge due to geographic location, but the downside of this has been not truly knowing who you are initiating, and thus would be the equivalent of offering a stranger a place in your family without knowing who they really are and what they truly want.

Then there are the finances involved, and what groups expect in return for initiation. There are some who argue that if someone is willing to pay a huge amount of money then they must be sincere in pursuing the mysteries. And yet there are others who say that this is classist and excludes the poor, the unemployed, and the financially struggling from pursuing their spiritual goals. After all, if people are going out of their way to provide you with a spiritual experience, shouldn’t they not be expected to provide the full costs of that initiation to you out of their pockets? Very few people these days are rich and have the capacity to go to Kinkos and copy study materials for many, many students–and some will refuse to initiate more than a few at a time due to these grounds and more.

For those of you who are initiated, what price did you pay for it, if any? Do you feel that it was fair? For those who initiate, do you charge a cost and if so, why? I personally feel that while it’s reasonable to expect the initiated to compensate for the cost of materials should they exist and help donate their own resources towards their initiatory body at large, that one should not charge for initiation. People may argue that an exchange of energy needs to be made, and I would claim based on experience that if an experience is had by the candidate and they are indeed initiating, they pay back that price in their lives through the alchemy they undergo.

What do you think? Should people be charged to receive initiation into a chosen tradition, or not? Why?

 

Love & Magic,
Adrianne
www.adriannebrennan.com

8 thoughts on “The price of knowledge”

  1. I think it depends – if the egregore of the training is such that a monetary charge us custom, then some kind of charge is in order.

    However, for BTW, it is not. It is not how it was passed to me, and is not how I will pass it on.

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  2. That’s an excellent response, and I agree with it. I know that this is often debated in the various Reiki lineages, and I come from a few which absolutely refuse to charge.

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  3. I paid for the OBOD cost – but they were good about explaining what the money was used for – course materials, someone to run their office, postal costs and tree planting to offset materials used, so, I’m cool with that.

    I’ve no qualms at all about charging costs – travel, room hire etc – I can’t afford to teach or run workshops at a cost to me, I have to eat too. Beyond that, in celebrant work and other places, I tend to say ‘this is what I need to cover costs, if you want to go over that I’m not going to object’ and then if people want to, they can – and sometimes they do want to, but I’ll happily do it for what it costs me. I’ve taught by email for years, which costs only my time, and I didn’t charge for that (not currently doing it though).

    I’m conscious of the radical overcharging out there in some quarters, and I’d be very wary of anything where you can’t see what you are paying for. People whose work is their path do need to make a living, but that doesn’t make it ok to rip students off.

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  4. I think charging someone for spiritual growth takes away from the very nature of it. I have taught many people many things from algebra to music and much in the spiritual realm. I refuse to charge a cent. If they feel they should pay me then that is up to them. But usually I will accept some other form of payment instead. i.e. I can use their laundry while im teaching. To charge is messing with something I really think ought not to be messed with

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  5. Bryn, based on sad experience with past unscrupulous behavior I am very pro financial transparency, and in any org where I am amongst its leaders I advocate it. I’ve been in each side of the table, so to speak, and part of establishing trust and earning it is by being open and honest in every manner possible.

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  6. I see no problem with charging for supplies, and even with dues. Heck, my Girl Scout troop had dues – it allowed us to do group trips, etc. I do think there should be a sliding scale on the dues, so folks who truly can’t afford to pay much still can participate. That said, I think the funds should go into a group treasury. And that there could be a work program for those who simply cannot afford anything, with a limited number of people eligible for it. These costs could be covered by the dues paid by more financially fortunate members. I do believe in financial transparency.

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  7. I paid less than $100 for my first three inits and about $300 for my most recent (incl back dues) and I feel that it was worth it. Of course, I’m lucky to have had pro initiators working a good system (M:.M:.M:.) so I feel like it would be worth it if it were 10x as much.

    There is a lot of merit to the classism objection and I feel like that is really a cover-up for the underlying racism in a lot of white-dominated magic communities. That is a whole different topic though.

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