I started this game young – I was 17 and I irritated my “elders” too. But in a completely different way from the way I am irritated now. I was the eternal student. I listened and asked questions and wrote a lot down. I remembered what was told, often reminding teachers what they had said in the past, or what others had said. If I struck what I thought was a contradiction I would ask about it.
I did manage to swallow a lot of rubbish from a lot of my teachers, some of it has only be countered recently and there might be other material lying below the surface waiting to be challenged.
But the fact that the information is there at all is a testament to the patience of those who taught me, and might even have been down to my own diplomatic abilities. I might be an arrogant shit but most of the time I knew when to keep my mouth shut and be loyal to who was teaching me.
Sometimes that loyalty was rewarded and other times it was not. Sometimes a teacher would get a bee in their bonnet about me and it was time to exit. It is the way of occult groups and teachers. The most sainted occultist will always have trouble at some part of their magical career. Teachers can be unbalanced, and you should be prepared to forgive them as you would any friend. Sometimes you can become dangerous to the political games of people in a group and be knifed in such a way that you have to leave a group. Other times you have to be the one who takes the teacher to one side and point out they are off the rails (normally when the inner calls upon you for that function, your shelf life in a group is short).
But I was still taught and although I had some bad experiences with teachers there was not a single one who I would have avoided. So here are ten tips for young occultists to actually learn something. It is going to go down like a lead balloon but when you hit 50 and are still an occultist you will realise that it is right.
- Realise you know nothing. No one aged 20 to 30 knows anything about people, life or has put in enough man hours to understand magic. If you are training at that age you are lucky and have more time to learn. Once you have a few years under your belt you will have stories to tell. But even then you still know nothing and will have something to learn. Those people you think know nothing actually have pissed off far better people than you and stopped making the same mistakes you are doing 20-50 years ago. Even Jesus did nothing meaningful before he was 30 and he was supposed to be a god.
- Stop talking. Your theories on occultism, magic or anything are not really worth much. There will be people around you who know much more than you and they will never speak while you are talking. While you are talking you are only able to express your very limited understanding.
- Listen. One of the things that are really good about the Internet is that you have access to teachers who know what they are doing. If they are talking listen. When you are listening and I mean really listening, you remember it all. A “lesson” might be too advanced for you now, but it will go in and not be forgotten.
- Do not use questions to assert your own ignorance. Ask real questions related to the subject and its implications. Good teachers allow questions and debates because that is how they learn. Unquestioned teachers make emphatic statements which will have to be challenged later.
- Realise that you are unimportant. You and your ideas will only become important when you have refined your ideas and found your “voice.” The world is full of people who think they are teachers – an occult teacher is someone who is forced into the role by circumstance and other people, you shouting “pay attention to me” disqualifies you. If you want to teach, you should never do it.
- You can learn a lot from some real cunts. One of the thing I noticed that that me and a lot of occultists have been trained by people who have been real arseholes. They may be brilliant magicians but dealing with them requires the patience of Job. Fighting with such a person is easy – getting on with them is often the challenge of learning.
- A good teacher does not really care what you say, they are more interested in what you do. They will be looking at your diaries to see what experiences you have had with the system they are trying to teach you. Work flat out and when you are asked show them your results.
- You will project your weaknesses onto your teacher. Everyone does this, but the younger you are, the more likely you are going to project whatever you feel about your patents on to your teacher. Occultism is full of people who want a mother or a father figure because the relationship with their parents was so bad. When you are younger this pain is closer to the surface. If you find that the teacher is suddenly becoming your worst nightmare it might be a good idea to evaluate your relationship with your parents before taking it out on your teacher.
- Don’t just sit there help. A teacher can teach but organising an even often requires help. Walking into a room sitting down and saying “teach me” is expected but will not earn any friends from the teacher. You might have come from an environment where you mother did everything for you, but helping put out the chairs, making the coffee, washing up is more likely to attract attention from any teacher. I don’t mean glamourous stuff, like conduction a lecture or volunteering for a ritual role – I mean the shit jobs.
- Never challenge the leader. If a group is bad, having you mouth off about it is not going to help. If you are unable to quietly take your concerns to the leader then you have to leave. Even if you take your concerns to the leader, be aware that you might be announcing your own exit. The problem is that when you are young you are going to get hurt and diced by magical group politics by people who are a hell of a lot more clued up than you. Remember that in games like that, you are just there to make up the numbers or be cannon fodder of more mature and politically clever people – it always ends badly.
Younger people seem more likely to want to change stuff. That would be ok but a lot of it does not need to be changed. If you review all the articles written by those who think there is something wrong with the Lesser Banishing (sic) Ritual of the Pentagram they will usually be under 30.