Are we gatekeeping or safeguarding the mysteries?
This is something I ask myself and others constantly. If you haven’t heard of gatekeeping it means to keep secret spiritual philosophies, magical techniques, and power to oneself or an order so that others do not have access to these teachings because of ego. Many groups do this for various reasons. There are some people who believe that there are only a few people capable of these techniques and it is a way to keep power for oneself. Other groups do this because they may not trust others to be responsible for the teachings and may wind up hurting themselves or others. So what is safeguarding the mysteries? In my experience, this means that there are certain magical techniques that are very advanced and could potentially harm someone if not done correctly. It could also mean that they feel that the student has mastered the necessary prerequisite skills needed to perform advanced magick.
Personally, I am not a fan of gatekeeping. I have had many people tell me I shouldn’t publish many of the techniques that I publish. “They are not ready for them” or “These are ancient mysteries only for the chosen few”. Anytime I publish something that is a “secret” of an order I can tell you with certainty that I am simply explaining a technique that has already been published or you can easily find in a google search. Yes, a google search. I have the philosophy that if someone is going to do something you might as well teach them to do it correctly. However, I do have patience with people who give me these warnings because their heart is in the right place. There are also people who like to fantasize about themselves or their group being “The Chosen One”. Only they should have the keys to the mysteries and everyone else will only have access to these things if and ONLY if they do the training how they see fit. I’m all for training. I’m a magical teacher after all. I think there is a difference between helping people walk down their own chosen path and telling someone one to meet rigorous demands based on the teacher’s ego rather than the student’s personal development. Unfortunately, I have seen this several times.
When I was a student, I was magically adventurous and I would teach myself advanced techniques and experiment with them often changing things here and there to alter the outcome. It was all a great experiment. To the the shagrin of my teacher at the time, he would help me clean up and polish the technique to make it workable. This is where I got the “if you’re gonna do it let’s teach you to do it right” saying. I remember reading books in the 90’s that were very basic. It seemed as though book after book was just a retelling of the same introductory techniques. My magical minded friends and I would get bored and start changing things and see what we could conjure up. I understand the reasons of those basic books at the time. The 80’s and 90’s was a renaissance of witchcraft and paganism. There were so many new people to magick at that time that the book’s authors were assuming readers were new to magick. To their credit, many were including myself. I have learned that, now that we are approaching 2020, many readers are far more advanced and cunning than some author’s give them credit. Just speaking to people on facebook I have learned that just because you are newer to magick doesn’t mean that you can’t learn quickly and do incredible things with the energies.
But what about safeguarding the mysteries? This is a good yet complicated question. I think it’s far easier to teach a student in person than it is to write a book about magick. When you are teaching a student in person or on video chat you have the time to see where they are magically and what they need to work on. When you are writing a book you have to do the best you can to assume where the reader is at with their training and speak to an audience that perhaps is newer to magick and at the same time speak to an audience that is more advanced. Easier said than done! There are many magical techniques that a student needs to know some basics on. For example, I wouldn’t teach someone very new to magick how to conjure the spirits of the goetia. Well, not until they had a good solid foundation of circle casting, energy control, invocation, psychic self defence, evocation, and many other things. This is the same idea as you wouldn’t teach a student in 3rd grade college level math. Well, not unless they had shown themselves to be a genius. There are magical geniuses out there! Another thing to consider about protecting the mysteries is that not everyone uses magick for healing and the betterment of the world. I don’t’ believe in ‘an it harm none’ so I try not to judge someone’s path, but there are some people out there who wish to take advanced magick and harm people for no good reason. I will let each magical practitioner decide what a “good reason” is. That is for them to decide, not myself. Then we get into magical policing which I am not onboard with. It’s not for anyone to decide what some should or should not do magically. However, if you are training with a magical teacher than it is imperative that you listen to your teacher’s judgment. They can see things astrally and energetically that you might not be able to see and they are helping you become a better magical practitioner. In my Native American training, your teachers are sacred and you should always give them the utmost respect. At the same time, teachers, in my opinion, should respect the boundaries and talents of their students. We guide our students and help them walk down their path. We don’t police them. But we do teach that it is their responsibility to clean up their own magical mess AND we teach them how to clean up their own mess.
It is important to respect your teachers and the magical groups that you belong to. Some traditions are very specific about their training and requirements. I think this is very ok, mostly because our mentors have taken many years to develop a curriculum that is beneficial for the student. To be clear, this is not gatekeeping. This is teachers with experience giving you teachings from said experience. Gatekeeping would be if someone said they have the mysteries but only a select few will learn them. I have seen this happen with intermediate and even basic techniques. It is important for the student to be discerning with magical groups and teachers. However, remember that you may not always like how a teacher presents something. That does not make it wrong, it means that there is a lesson there. Before choosing a group or teacher to work with, it is important that you do some research on them. “Asking around” sounds simple but it is effective. Also, trust your own intuition. If it’s a good fit it will feel like a good fit. If not, it’s ok to look for another. Just because a teacher is not a good fit for you doesn’t make them a bad teacher. It just means the energies are not congruent with each other. Ask the spirits and the gods to help you find the right teacher and you will be surprised how the right teacher will appear.