Monday, October 4, 2010

Paid Clergy

I found this article on Rob's Magick Blog to be interesting. I have generally always rejected the idea that "A witch (mage, etc) is born, not made." Magical power may derive in some measure from innate talent, but it is much more immediately based on practice and developed skill.
One thing I found odd was the assertion that folks who advocate for paid professional priesthood in Paganism rely on the 'magic is innate' argument. Having never once heard an advocate for paid clergy use it, I was puzzled. Read the original post and my primary reply at the above link.

You will also see Rob's reply to my post. Rather than fill up his comments box, I thought I'd get a little mileage out of it here, and post my reply to his reply. Rob's snipped comment is in bold italic:

I’ve seen the idea of innate ability get thrown around a lot in regards to paid clergy. After all, what other criteria could we use to figure out who should get to be paid clergy.

Well, as I said, training, qualification and skill are the criteria I support for who might work as full-time clergy. While talent (or ‘innate ability’) is useful for developing those things, it isn’t the only requirement, or even the primary one. Commitment, focus and devotion to the work count for much more and, of course, we would want the most committed and devoted folks to become paid priest/esses.


I’d wager that most people who are involved with the magical community would love to leave their jobs and get paid to focus on their spirituality full time, even if it does mean helping out the community. I’d also wager that most people who enter a system, be it Paganism or Ceremonial Magic or anything else, expect that if they stay with it they will eventually be in a position of leadership, either running a group, founding a group, involved with the leadership of a group, or teaching their own students.
I think it’s naïve to say that most magical students expect to become leaders. The need to be willing to rebel against common spiritual paradigms in order to even take up magic may mean that a higher percentage of magicians would be interested in that, but my experience is that many – maybe most – practitioners would never willingly take up the task of being a congregational leader and teacher. Note the percentage of solitaries in every magical system - the assumption is not that students will become leaders.

I’d also wager most people would also (wish they could) leave their jobs to be a full-time musician or portrait painter or whatever art-form they practice. The fact is, most practitioners of magic or of arts will not have the temperament to do it.
Even that wager may well be a stretch. There are lots – lots – of people for whom standing before a group of 100 people and performing (whether on the fiddle or as a ritual leader) is about as attractive as an amputation. As a public performer and a public priest, I find lots of folks who plainly say that they are glad someone else is willing to do it, because they wouldn’t even if they could.

You also have to remember that most people enter Pagan religions to explore their spiritual growth and for personal empowerment. A paid clergy system allows for the clergy to explore their spiritual growth and be empowered, but it doesn’t provide this for everyone else. In fact it takes it away from them.
I don’t see why that’s so. The task of full-time Pagan clergy would be to teach and support their membership in how to establish and operate their personal spiritual practice, as well as providing powerful and moving group worship and spiritual experience.
In ADF (where we are working toward full-time clergy) we encourage each and every member to take up the work at home. We teach meditation, home ritual, study and experimentation. In addition we encourage members to come together for group worship and other practice. We are training clergy to be skilled in supporting students as they develop their personal practice, and to have the skills to create and manage good group ritual. All of that serves to educate and empower members, rather than the opposite.

There is nothing I’d like to see more than hundreds of thousands of powerful and capable magicians. And I think that anyone eager to grow spiritually should not only be allowed to do so, but encouraged to do so by both giving them good information and forcing them to take care of their spiritual problems themselves instead of doing it for them.
Yes, that’s what paid Pagan clergy should do. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t.
Now, whether it’s really wiser to ‘force them to take care of problems themselves’ is debatable. Lots can be learned by watching a skilled practitioner take care of a problem the first time or two. Would you encourage folks to work out their own electrical wiring problems rather than call a skilled practitioner?


But most importantly with paid clergy, no one wants to pay for it. There are very few people who believe that paid Pagan clergy would add anything to the community that would be worth a livable wage.
In other magical religions pro clergy are common. In the African Traditional ways some clergy are full-time, some part-time. Most all charge for their services on a fee-for-service basis, and many of the upper ranks live as priests on the proceeds of their ‘house’. In those cases their students are learning magic, moving through the ‘grades’ of training, and generally being as empowered as they wish to be.
Pagan folks have an aversion to putting our money for their religious work, based on a confused ideological perception of corruption in institutionalized churches. My own hope is that Paganism will grow institutions that transcend their founders, and to do that requires financial resources. I agree that it is on those who seek that to provide services to devise ‘products’ that folks will pay for. That’s a matter of desiring to do so, and having the skill to do so. Give us a few more years.

That’s why paid clergy is such an uphill battle. If they were providing an invaluable service to the community, people would gladly pay for it.
Again, that’s rather a naïve assumption. People don’t gladly pay for their music and movies – in fact they’ll gladly steal them.

In fact the clergy could charge for it. But they don’t.
And they don’t primarily because of an ideological attitude among Pagans, *not* because the effort and skill they bring to the work has no value.