Posted by Eric V. Sisco at 10:19 PM
During your initial communication and interaction phase, you may notice that some members start to correspond with you more than others. They may send you a friend request, which of course you happily accept. You want to be part of the community now, right? They may even start to instant message you outside the discussion group and strike up a conversation. Wow! This guy seems super-smart and really important, and he’s taking a shine to me! Isn’t that great?
Uhh, no. Not necessarily. There are scores of bogus, self-exalted mentors out there who use discussion forums, not for deliberation on the tradition or the development of its community, but as a pool of unwary potential candidates for their esoteric Orders. These mountebanks put on a performance in front of the incognizant, luring them in with saccharine dialogue and the pretense of the grandeur of their Order. (I like to call this “candi-bait”, a portmanteau of “candidate bait”.)
Speaking of plays on words, using the term “fly-by-night” is a deliberate pun. On modern terms, the phrase refers to something transitory or someone who’s unreliable at best, shady at worst. Originally, it was a slang term, conceived in the late 18th century, to refer to a woman of reproach, suggesting that she might be a witch! How scandalous an accusation for someone in that time! But I digress.
Returning to the whole aura and idea around grandeur, keep in mind that, as it often goes, the more magnificent the title, the more bloated the ego. Furthermore, if someone introduces himself to you as the Chief of a multi-national Order with temples world-wide, there is probably something amiss with that Chief or that Order. Why would the spiritual leader of a global convocation of seekers be trawling the Web for the next single seeker? Maybe the Order is not really so multi-national or the membership is not nearly so flush with members. Even if so, then the Chief is putting new recruits over his existing associates, and with that kind of dereliction of duty, his order may not be world-wide nor populous for very long!
Regardless of position or title, once you’ve been “friended”, you can glean quite a bit from a person’s social media profile. Although you want to avoid sweeping generalizations, you will be able to catch glimpses of the person’s mindset, character, and even intelligence. If a mentor doesn’t have a good grasp of his native language, why in the world would you want that person to teach you spellcraft if he can’t even spell? “Grimoire” comes from an Old French word meaning “grammar”, after all. Someone who passes along sensational news or informational memes that are easily debunked by a five-second Google search clearly lacks critical thinking skills. Esoteric mentors should have a discriminating eye for the truth. Even with setting spirituality aside, would you expect anything less from any other teacher?
Whether it be on one’s profile, or in discussion, also take particular notice to assure yourself that the person is consistent and, preferably, balanced. For example, it is a fairly common thing to find mystics using psychedelic substances to achieve altered states of consciousness. However, a mentor who practically glorifies drug culture is likely to not function well in the mundane world, or worse, may not be able to separate fantasy from reality. Being a weapons enthusiast is entirely within one’s rights, but when a leader of a group of “white lighters” publicly advocates “second amendment solutions” to societal problems, things just don’t add up. Defending one’s rights is admirable, and fighting for others’ rights is honorable, but if a person voices opinions sympathetic to certain cultural or racial “pride” groups, don’t expect them to play nice with people that are different from them, especially if they’re “untermensch”.
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone is a hypocrite to some degree. Cognitive dissonance and unenlightened self-interest are virtually the forces that spin the globe. That said, it should be reasonable to expect that a spiritual advisor should be something better than that. “More than human” is the term Israel Regardie used. Bear in mind though, that “more than human” is still always going to be less than perfect.
On the flip side, let’s say you engage in conversation with a person who has some very strong opinions and even a little bit of inside information. Once friended, however, the person’s social profile seems to be conspicuously thin. He has very few other friends on his profile, no one else seems to know this person, and after a second glance, you notice that the profile was set up only a few days ago. Chances are this profile is a sockpuppet, designed to advocate and attract people to (or scare them away from) a particular Order, while disguising the person’s true identity. For some reason, this seems to be a favorite practice of some of the worst Order leaders out there. These sockpuppets, and the people behind them, deserve nothing more than your silence.
Sockpuppets aside, if a tangible tutor’s public profile is a total turn-off, that doesn’t mean you can’t have cordial conversations. Having an interest in the occult is a rare thing, so finding people who share that interest is something to treasure. Just be clear in your interactions that, if pressed, you prefer a peer-to-peer rapport, and not a mentor-to-student relationship. Furthermore, if that pressure takes on the characteristics of a hard sell, especially if there are consequences included for not acting soon, you should probably think twice about having that person as a mentor. The path that you take and the choices about it that you make need to be directed by you and only you. This is your path. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated in any manner that steers you away from that.
When it comes right down to it, there’s no simple litmus test for occult tutors, so you’re going to have to do your esoteric background check all by yourself. By all means, you want to establish a level of trust with the people with whom you are choosing to interact. However, if one of those people can’t find a kind word to say about anyone else, all the while exalting himself above all others, he is trying to isolate you. Don’t be afraid, therefore, to ask your little circle of potential mentors about others in the community, most of all about the other mentors! Most of the community stalwarts are going to be kind about others, yet you will be surprised at some of the things they have witnessed and the stories they will tell. You will never know until you ask. Then, of course, always verify the information that you hear. You might be surprised to find, though, that some of the more outlandish rumors that you’re told, which you might normally reject as utterly ludicrous, are actually true. That said, it is a basic rule of thumb that the more discreet whisperings from the veterans of the tradition are going to have greater veracity than those you will find lingering about on slander sites littering the Web.
You also have to be on the lookout for the soft sell as well. Many of the fly-by-night mentors are very well practiced in the fine art of the schmooze. Some of them will try to fawn all over you, to try and ingratiate themselves to you, in order to bring you into the fold. The more seasoned ones are a little craftier. They will tell you exactly what you want to hear and just a little bit extra to whet your intrigue. Remember where you are at this moment. You’re not married to an Order, and you’re not engaged by an Initiation. You’re still on the esoteric dating scene, trying to connect on occult OKCupid. The smooth operators out there are going to tell you how wonderful you are and, if you just hook up with them, you’ll find all the resplendent brilliance and power of your dreams. Truth be told, however, they just want to get into your robes.
Again, if the question of tutelage comes up, don’t be moved. Really, the subject should be broached by you and on your timeline. Certainly, you can’t expect an esoteric suitor to hang around forever, but if he leaves at the first indication that you won’t be his pupil, then that will tell you what his intentions were all along. Same goes if the person gets impatient or pushy. That shows you his priorities, and he’s putting his over yours. Establish healthy boundaries now, because you may have to do it again, even after you’ve been a long-standing member of an esoteric Order.
Next Chapter: Making First Contact