March 23, 2012: I have had much reason to think deeply, lately, of teachers and students in the Craft milieu, and especially of the concept of "teaching Craft" and "the Craft of teaching." And once again, I am revisiting something I wrote many years ago, and finding it still highly relevant. Here it is, for your musing--or, perhaps, for your amusing....
I believe that many of the abuses and problems of "power-over" and cults of personality, which are endemic in Craft communities all over the world, stem from our misuse of, and faulty understanding of, certain terms. Among these terms are "teacher" "student" "teaching" "training" and "initiation".
The fact is, no one can actually teach Craft, and no one can actually learn Craft from a teacher. My mundane profession for 27 years was teaching, and I can attest from personal experience that the process of imbuing someone with the ability to learn the mysteries is absolutely nothing like teaching---but it is VERY like what teaching is *supposed* to be. We in the Western mystery tradition are knowledge-based...when we set out to "learn" something we tell ourselves we are going to "know about" it or learn to "understand" it. So we buy books and begin reading
up in order to inform ourselves. We have a slight contempt for people who don't go to college, who want to "work with their hands" or who are "laborers". We give much recognition and honor to the academic mind. But the academic mind is of little or no use in the process of learning,
apprehending and synthesizing Mystery. Mystery in the Craft definition is the Numinous, the arcane. It is something you encounter, something you undergo or experience, someplace you dwell, something you do or are. It is almost never based upon something you "know" as we "know" biology or arithmetic.
So how is this theory relevant to Craft cultures? In our experience as seekers, we soon discover that there appears to be a body of lore and information out there...some of which is "sacred" and some of which is "secret", and all of which has been invested with a whole bunch of WitchCrap juju by those who have a stake in giving themselves the big head and appearing to be in possession of vast bodies of lore, combined with mysterious techniques and secrets which they will ceremoniously convey to you either on payment of an exorbitant fee or for the proper duration and intensity of ass-kissing in public and private. We do buy books, but we are convinced the first time we meet a "real Witch" that what we are looking for is not to be found in the books. We determine this partly because we notice that "real Witches" are different, and we want whatever it is they have. And our idea here is reinforced by the "real Witches" because they tell us that we cannot possibly get what they have from the books. So we sign up to get a teacher, because we all want at some time to have that thing they have that makes them "real WE-aitches". And the first thing that happens to most of us is that they begin to expound on and refine the things we found. or are finding, in the books. And we don't understand.
Teaching in the mundane world is often pretty useless because students of all ages, especially kids, have a tendency to scorn what they do not immediately apprehend as useful. "When am I ever gonna use this stuff?" is a refrain schoolteachers hear innumerable times daily, especially if
they teach something "useless" like English lit. Schools survive by massive efforts on the part of teachers and administrators to constantly reinforce the relevancy of their information base. But the fact is, we could and should throw out all the textbooks, because the kids are largely right. It really doesn't matter exactly what books the student reads or what scientific experiments the student is exposed to, if the teacher understands hir role...which is not to get the student to absorb a body of information, but to teach the PROCESS OF LEARNING...to make the
student so intimately acquainted with the way hir mind works that it can be maximized in its effectiveness and honed like a precision tool. But because Craft teachers live in and were trained in the same Culture as the rest of us, they too often misunderstand. They know they have lived
more deeply. sometimes longer in years, always longer in experience of Craft, than those who come to them for teaching...so they know that they "know more." And because they are acculturated along with the rest of us, the word "know" kicks in a process of "know? information? share information!" So they immediately begin to try to teach the Seeker what they Know...and often the process dies a-borning, because if they ARE "real Witches," they DIDN'T learn it that way...but they forget that.
What the teaching of Craft really consists of is taking the Seeker through the Labyrinth of hir own personality, helping the Seeker become intimately familiar with the landscape of hir own inner world. A "teacher" of Craft is really more of a Mentor, a Guide, a catalyst for synthesis. All
the real Craft teacher can do is set up experiences for the Seeker, and help that person synthesise the results. It is an innate truth of Craft that "my mysteries are not thy mysteries" and that if they are, the person who is imitating the other person's Mystery hasn't gotten there yet. When one is "learning Craft" --well, truly, when one is really learning anything at all--one is learning to understand the way the Self processes information so that one can adapt that knowledge to achieve Change.
So we have abuses of the role of teacher, and abuses of the learner... and sometimes abuses of the teacher as well, because we do not understand the process. And until we recognize that no one owns Craft knowledge, and that even in the same Trad and Coven , my Craft is not your Craft, and that when I really do apprehend the Mysteries I will NEVER be able to convey that experience to anyone else, we will not understand the process, and we will run a risk of damaging ourselves and others in trying to share it.
So maybe what is needed is an earnest exploration among Craft communities worldwide, beginning right here where we all Are, of what we are really trying to do when we "teach Craft" and of what will maximize our effectiveness in achieving that goal. Because the fact is that a good Craft "teacher", like a good teacher in any other discipline, renders hirself irrelevant and unnecessary as rapidly and thoroughly as possible, and produces not an acolyte nor groupie-type personality supporter but a thoroughly competent balanced self-sufficient individual. And a world of such Witches would be Paradise indeed---but as long as we teachers misunderstand our role we will never get there.