An old mentor and friend of mine is apparently losing it, and I’m at a loss what to do.
I owed this man compensation for some equipment that was damaged while I was borrowing it from him. I had to wait a considerable time before I had the funds to replace it, and when I got those funds I told him that I would take him with me to the store so that he could select a proper replacement and I could pay for it. He agreed and I left it at that. I had not yet had the opportunity to contact him to arrange this shopping expedition, and was planning on contacting him within the week. Since he had waited calmly for months, and had not indicated a particular rush in getting this item, I did not thing a little extra time would cause a problem.
So then my friend “Pete” called me, informing me that he was chatting with our mutual friend and mentor online, and that procuring this equipment had not only become of great urgency, but had made him so angry that he was unwilling to call me and talk to me about it himself. He would not even consider me purchasing the item and bringing it to him, or even leaving it at his house, and Pete had to agree to play delivery boy. During the course of this awkward three-way chat, Pete informed me that my mentor was constantly berating me, insulting my intelligence (which he had always praised previously), questioning my sexuality, doubting my magical ability (which he had also always praised, as he claimed to have taught me all I know), and even going to far as to call me a “pseudo-Scorpio,” whatever that is, because I have the distaste to not be a misogynist. Also among this ranting were threats against me, including references to a “challenge” which I apparently issued to him by not being able to read his mind well enough to know that he was upset about not having the equipment yet.
I apparently am no longer considered among this man’s friends, to the point where he refuses to mention my name. I am but the most recent targets of his irrational displeasure, and among many friends that he has discarded because they did not satisfy his expectations of how they should act.
I must add here a detail which must be considered — this man is in his 60’s and is in failing health. Over the past twenty years, he has suffered at least four heart attacks and two strokes — one of which required him to have to re-learn how to speak. He has also been diagnosed with diabetes, having collapsed from diabetic shock (while in a delirious condition). Despite these facts, he still refuses to care for himself properly — he fails to check his blood-sugar, skips meals, doesn’t exercise, and eats foods he shouldn’t. The bottom line here is that this guy is susceptible to strokes and diabetic shock, takes precautions against neither, and either could cause random rage and paranoia on his part.
This man used to be a great psychic and magician. He was among the most well-known psychics in the Kansas City area, having once worked with such personalities as Sylvia Brown and Joyce Morgan. He has taught numerous classes on magic and metaphysics, and it is through these classes that I know him. The thing is that he is headstrong and mildly vain, and I believe that he relied upon the adoration of his students and fans to keep himself going. He hasn’t had a class for well over a year, and has only just recently ended a long, self-imposed withdrawal from society. This is not going well either, though, since he has since rejected or alienated almost all of his close friends.
The biggest clash resulted from my friends (whom I shall refer to as “Old Pete” and “Egotistical Pete”), who were getting a little out of hand with regards to the sense they had of their own greatness. This caused some problems, but had always been overlooked. Then, one day not long ago, Old Pete asked my former mentor for help with a spell. My mentor became suddenly enraged, and though he did the spell for Old Pete, added to it a curse limiting restricting the movement of Old Pete and Egotistical Pete, so that in theory they could not influence anything outside of their home. (In his ranting to Pete, my former mentor also mentioned starting a war against Old Pete and Egotistical Pete, for no apparent reason.)
This bothered me immensely, as this went against everything that this man had taught me. Not just cursing someone casually on a whim, but the very act of becoming upset with someone, and then not letting that person know that he was upset, or why. I had noticed a tendency for him to ignore his own professed ethical codes, such as stating that it is best to be honest and open, yet cheating on his girlfriend with married women. He is also more and more willing to use magic vindictively and with no confirmation of the slights he claimed to suffer, despite his prior warnings against such actions. Indeed, he is unable to confirm these suspicions, as he refuses to speak with anyone he is upset with, to the point that no one is sure whether he is upset with them or not.
So how does a great magician fall?
I had noticed these trends for some time, but his problem with me apparently began on a recent camping trip we took together. During this trip I fell ill, and when I am ill I become whiney. Taking the position that all illness is the result of mental and metaphysical duress (a position he conveniently abandons when he is sick), he showed me great compassion by grilling me intensely as to why I was making myself sick. This resulted in a confrontation in which I told him that I felt that he was attempting to live vicariously through me, and that he was pressuring me to life my life as he would have, not as I want to. This apparently hit him pretty hard — not just because I confronted him on this, but because he felt that in doing so I was revealing a part of my personality he had never seen, thus implying he had been a poor judge of my character. I supposed he had been, as he had assumed that I was just like him, when I most certainly am not.
The thing is, I think he has been looking for an “heir” — which is ironic, since now that I look back, he really hasn’t taught me much that I hadn’t already picked up from other sources. He was so amazed that I knew all the right answers that he didn’t notice that I had gotten them from Hine, Crowley, and Regardie. But he is in physical decline, has no male children, and has never managed to keep on to an apprentice. I suspect that he felt that I was to be the one to “succeed” him, and was so taken with this idea that he ignored that fact that I was not only losing interest in what he was saying, but was nothing like the clone of himself he imagined I was. By pointing this out to him I shattered this illusion, and perhaps sent him in a bit of a panic, for he would now have no one to carry on his memory in the best tribute he could imagine — being just like him.
So in short, I think I can see why he’s acting the way he is. I just don’t know how to deal with it.
I’m sending him the equipment he wants, so that should be over, but I doubt it will end with that. I suspect that paranoia will set in, and he will begin to claim that I am against him — and possibly attacking him — similar to his reactions to Old Pete. (He has also claimed that many of his old apprentices have tried to kill him, and claims that he has gone so far as to take one of them out.) This is potentially a great problem, as he may get to the point where he starts cursing me, as he has already done to others. I am not sure how capable he is in such a state, but I know enough about his accomplishments to be concerned. Of course, this may be just want he wants — to try to scare me into my own paranoid state, so that I suffer on my own. But with an extensive family including young children, a tentative romantic relationship that I have just recently begun, and a considerable investment of time and money into my education, I have a lot that I could stand to lose. I don’t like being this vulnerable, especially when the potential threat is someone that knows me so well.
I’m hoping that by getting the equipment to him and then just cutting him off from my life, I can avoid any of this. I’m taking some defensive precautions just in case. And I’m considering some offensive options as a last resort.
I wonder how common it is to have a mentor go berserk on you like this? How do others cope with it? Is this why the Sith become masters by killing the one who taught them?
I suppose I have lived under his shadow long enough anyway. It’s time to set out on my own. I honestly think I’ve learned all I can from this teacher anyway, and it is high time to either find a new one, or learn some more on my own.