Monday, July 28, 2008

Dues, warm bodies, and officers

The dissolution of the RMWT has got me thinking today about the resources neccessary for the functioning of lodges and covens. A lot of people think that all it takes to run a lodge or coven is someone wanting to do so. Yes, that all that it takes to start a group, but it requires a lot more if the group is going to stick around and be functional.

I invite you to stroll around the internet for awhile. There are some groups on the internet that look functional; but in reality, never hold meetings and in fact, can be said to consist solely of the webmaster and a couple of minions. I have heard rumors that one of the Big Name Orders does not have a single lodge in existence, and I know of another that is trying to look like a Big Name Order and doesn't have any lodges. Looking good on the internet does not neccessary mean that a group is actually functional.

And by functional, I mean that members occasionally met face-to-face, initiations and rituals are performed, lectures are given, and the occasional handout is issued. By this standard, many esoteric groups are not actually functional.

So what resources does an esoteric group need in order to be functional?

Dues (money): Money is neccessary for a group to function; it allows them to buy supplies (incense, candles, ink cartridges, the occasional ritual prop) and to rent a meeting place. Some groups also kick in to compensate the chief officers for their time, and it takes a lot of time to run an occult group if it is growing and developing.

Many people object to dues. They say that the wisdom of the ages should be given to everyone for free. These are the same people who think that writers, Hollywood film companies, and musicians should give their product away for free.

"The wisdom of the ages does not belong to you; it should be given away for free to everyone who is interested in it."

By the way, these are the same people who complain almost the loudest about the fact that there are no cutting edge occult books, and that most occult books are just copy and paste jobs. Why are there no cutting edge occult books? Simple, no one is willing to pay for them; therefore, publishers do not commission them, and writers do not write them.

(In fact, many occult books are now being done by small publishers or print on demand services because the bigger publishers only want mega-new-age books that sell better. The quality suffers because of this.)

Furthermore, these are the same people who believe that all the expenses of an esoteric group should come out of the wallets of those who run it. They don't want to chip in for incense and supplies even. Of course, if they become leaders, they will expect their members to chip in. And so it goes.

There are also some people who scream loudly that certain occult leaders are robbing their members by charging them dues. Ironically, some of the loudest in that category charge their own members dues.

(Yes, some of the politics of the occult community is actually about money, and who is making it.)

And there are some leaders who generally have an aversion to collecting dues, and believe that the wisdom should be taught for free. Generally, the groups they form dissolve because they don't have enough resources to continue operating.

When Bast Temple formed, the costs for the meeting were read out loud for all to hear, a custom lifted from Hathoor Temple. A couple of the members were surprised to learn how many expenses were actually involved in running a group; it was something that they were never exposed to before. Within a couple of meetings, one of the members (not the founder of the lodge) proposed a dues structure, and it passed; to this day, the Bast Temple dues are set by the active membership of the lodge.

Dues come from the members; and if you have enough members, most of a group's needs are taken care of.

Members (also known as warm bodies): One of the most important resources a lodge can have is members. Without members, a group is just a paper and/or an internet group, existing only in the mind of its founder and whoever falls prey to the illusion.

From the members come the dues, the experiences, and the people neccessary to actually do the rituals. Without members, rituals are impossible to do in a group setting. It is possible to get away with less than a full number of members, as Bast Temple has proven with their revised Neophyte ritual; but some members are always neccessary.

And without members, especially the occasional new member, an esoteric group is doomed to extinction. The reason for this is that the membership is the pool that new officers are pulled from.

Officers and leaders (the people who attempt to herd cats): Without officers and leaders, it would be impossible for occult groups to exist. The number one case of occult group dissolving and disappearing is the lack of leaders and officers. The history of the occult is littered with groups that died out and disappeared when its leadership got burnt out or died.

For any occult group to survive more than a single generation, officers have to be replaced. And for a group to survive for more than a couple of years, officers must be able to avoid becoming burnt out and/or bankrupt.

Of course, the real trick here is for the officers to learn to set their egos aside, teach younger members to replace them, and actually step aside and allow them to take over. This is harder to do than it looks. It depends on being able to say, "I don't know. I need help doing this work. It is no longer my problem." Tough words to say under most situations.

And looking at the RMWT and its dissolution, I know that the cause of its death was rooted in the fact that only a couple of people were carrying all the expenses, the membership numbers were dropping, and a couple of people were stuck doing all the work. It was a deadly combination for any esoteric group.


Dean Wilson said...

Excellent post and points. This is actually what caused the dissolution of my old Order. We tried running without dues, but it became obvious that they were essential (although some people objected). We lacked membership, or, rather, we lacked "warm" membership, as many of our members got to Probationer and we never heard from them since. Very few people ever actually got into the first few grades. Leadership was the killer though, and this influenced all the other factors. We were missing Officers, and had certain Officers disappearing from time to time, with most of the workload left to one or two remaining Officers, myself included. It gets to a point when those Officers look around them and realise that there's no one else pulling their weight, and there are no members to make pulling weight a beneficial act in the first place. Thus dissolution.

Again, excellent post. I think I'll link to this on my blog if that's okay with you :)


Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

It is ok with me if you want link to this posting. Personally, I feel that the more people we can expose to the fact that there are some things a group can not live without (aka there is no free lunch), the better off the esoteric community will be.