Today I was re-reading an essay by Phil Hine on Mentors. It made me think back to my old mentor, whom I have had a deep friendship with for years, with several rocky spots along the way. We’ve reached that place where our views and practices are so far apart that we hardly talk shop anymore, and we mostly just hang out. I’ve been thinking about this, and seriously re-evaluating how much of an impact he has had on my magical path.
I wonder what I would have done differently if I were in his position. How would I handle a student, or even worse, an apprentice? At what point do you decide you are ready to take the responsibility of teaching another how to work the magical arts, to the point that you take full personal culpability for his mistakes?
Of course, I obviously have no problems inflicting my opinions upon others, or with answering questions and giving advice to those who ask. I have already had a few situations where I have given someone a tool or method that provided much-needed help, and in some cases have pointed people in the right direction. So far, though, it has been just that — pointing. I’m not sure if I’m ready to handle the deep, intimate relationship that mentoring a student or taking an apprentice requires.
A while back, I had an old friend come to me and ask for help. I wasn’t sure what I could do, but since he had made a request, I decided to render aid. I developed a list of requirements and the beginnings of a magical training program that I felt would help him. He eventually reneged on his request, fading back into obscurity, but I was left with this odd feeling, that on one hand I wasn’t sure I wanted that responsibility, but on the other handing feeling confident I could have helped him, and looking forward to the new experience. How does one deal with that kind of dichotomy? I certainly am not the type to advertise for students, especially as I feel that is kind of poor form unless I’m offering instruction in a class setting, and even then I’d prefer to operate word-of-mouth. The opportunity for an apprentice is a rare one, and again, I’m not sure if I’m far enough along to handle one.
Of course, I’m working on that one. I’ve stepped up my own practice with an emphasis on development and “advancement,” and we’ll see where it takes me. More importantly, thought, I’ve been considering what a magical training program should consist of. Part of this is due to the simpe fact that my own experience lacked a set of expectations of what I was to learn and what my mentor was to teach, and what the nature of our relationship should be. I feel that such expectations should be made explicit. In addition, I feel that a grading system is important, and I wish that some sort of standardized or at least correlated system existed, so that a student could have a sense of how far he has come and how far he wants to go, and others could have some measure of confidence in his attainment of such grades. Could an international Magician’s Guild or something similar prove effective? Would it enable people to more ably find those capable of teaching the things they want to learn?