Why You Should Do At Least As Much Background Research On Your Teacher As You Would On A Computer

A Ridiculously Long Essay
On How To Minimize Your Chances
Of Being Screwed Over, Abused, Or Cheated

As usual – a draft.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that people are taking advantage of current social media and technology to groom, abuse, cheat, and confuse seekers. They set themselves up as teachers – of magic, of astrology, of divination – and look for students. It’s not about knowledge. It’s about power.

By now, we all know that people aren’t always who they say they are online. They aren’t necessarily telling their prospective students the truth, or the whole truth, about themselves, what they’ve studied, their qualifications, and their teaching ability.

There is no accrediting body for spiritual teachers. It’s far too easy to find a bad one.

At one point in time, the only way to learn magic was via other people. There was a certain amount you could learn from books, but after a while, you looked for an order, a coven, a working group, a discussion group – someone to learn from. People still got hurt. Orders and lodges had predatory members and mentors, discussion groups had people who’d joined to groom new members for abuse, new initiates were told that they had to engage sexually with senior members of their coven in order to “advance.” Basically, people are still people and assholes are still assholes. Just because they’re practicing magic doesn’t make them any better, more noble, or more well-intentioned than any other group. In fact, some organizations were so notorious for bad behavior that people left almost as soon as they’d joined.

It’s easier now, for both teachers and seekers. The Internet, social media, and online interaction have made searching out people to learn from a fairly simple matter. Once you’ve narrowed down what you’d like to learn, it’s possible to just go online and look for someone on Facebook or another social media platform. Just join a group and pinpoint the administrator or moderator as someone who Knows What They’re Doing and believe they are going to teach you what you need to know.

Let’s say you’ve found your teacher, mentor, group, coven or order.

Now, stop. There’s more to it than just finding someone. In fact, that’s probably the easy part.

It’s time for any seeker to do their research. Not into what branch of magic to practice, or what type of astrology to learn, but into who will be teaching them what they’ve decided they want to know.

Possibly not the right teacher, though she’s very knowledgable in FB groups.

Doing Your Due Diligence

The term “due diligence” has been used since at least the mid-fifteenth century in the literal sense “requisite effort.” Centuries later, the phrase developed a legal meaning, namely, “the care that a reasonable person takes to avoid harm to other persons or their property”; in this sense, it is synonymous with another legal term, ordinary care. More recently, due diligence has extended its reach into business contexts, signifying the research a company performs before engaging in a financial transaction. This meaning may also apply to individuals: people are often advised to perform their due diligence before buying a house, signing a loan, or making any important purchase. 

“Due Diligence.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/due diligence.

Anyone making a major purchase will hopefully do research on what they’re buying. They’ll at least read reviews and check ratings. This is due diligence – no one wants to wind up with a dishwasher that leaks all over the floor and leaves food on the dishes just because they didn’t take the time to read the reviews.

Deciding who to learn from is at least as important as purchasing a major appliance. Do you really know who this is? Is this person who they say they are? Are they actually trained in what they’re teaching? Are they a good teacher? Do they have a history of abuse or bad behavior?

There isn’t a ratings site for spiritual teachers, magical orders, covens, and other organizations (yet – somebody should work on that), but even the most basic research will help. Keep in mind that unless you’ve known this person for a significant period of time, you do NOT know who they are, or if they are who they say they are.

If you’re looking for a teacher, your first step is to vet whoever you’re considering – teacher, guru, magical order, or even just a working group.

Vetting, also known as a background review, involves investigating an individual, company, or other entity before making a decision to go forward with a joint project.

A vetting process might begin with a confirmation of facts to ensure a resume, for example, accurately describes all the skills and experience claimed.

A vetting process continues with the verification of information. Every degree, award or certification claimed by a candidate is checked for accuracy.

Vetting is the process of thoroughly investigating an individual, company, or other entity before making a decision to go forward with a joint project. A background review is a vetting process.

Kopp, Carol M. “The Vetting Process Defined.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 29 Jan. 2020, www.investopedia.com/terms/v/vetting.asp.

The Basics of Vetting 

The verb “to vet” has its origins in 19th-century British slang. A horse was thoroughly vetted by a veterinarian before being allowed to race, so a patient undergoing an examination could be said to be vetted by a medical doctor.

In modern usage, vetting has come to mean the process of examining a person or company for soundness and integrity.

Before we invest with someone, we vet them. Before we use a doctor, we vet them. Why would we not subject spiritual teachers and magical mentors to at LEAST the same level of scrutiny?

Possibly because it’s not a business transaction – or at least, we don’t think of it as a business transaction, even if the person is charging money for teaching or advising. It’s awkward to tell someone you’re considering as a spiritual or practical teacher that you need to check with former students to clarify their teaching style, or that you would like to verify their training and expertise.
That’s why a lot of people skip vetting. They don’t do their due diligence, and they wind up with a teacher who doesn’t know what they’re doing, a mentor who’s abusive, an initiator without a valid lineage (more on that later), or a fraud who promises instruction for a fee and then disappears.

Initial Vetting

Google – We all know how to use this tool. Check their name. See who they’re associated with, who lists them as a contact, where they’ve spoken, what they’ve written. Don’t just rely on the first page of results. Go deeper, go six or eight pages in, because that material may tell you more. Check alternate spellings, look at the name in conjunction with whatever they propose to teach. A person who wants to teach you astrology should be cited somewhere as someone who knows about that form of astrology. There should be at least some material available about who and where they’ve previously taught. A lack of any information is suspect.

Facebook – A lot of teachers have Facebook pages. Look at the page – who are their friends, what organizations do they claim membership in, who do they “like” and what are their interests? You can learn a lot about someone from the minutae on their FB page.

Other social media – Does the prospective teacher have a Twitter account? How about Instagram? Who do they follow, who do they interact with, what do they post? The Yahoo groups of old are lost, sadly, but there’s archives in other places.

Specific Vetting

For Initiatory traditions

For Magical Orders

Wow, you’re suspicious

The nature of ritual magic is secretive, and that is a boon for bad teachers, predatory behavior, and lends itself very well to grooming new students prior to abuse. It’s even easier now – people don’t even have to leave the house to find new students. Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, GoogleMeets, messaging services, even Twitter are ways that people find and interact with teachers, advisors, and groups. These platforms can be a great way to learn what you need to know, but they can also be a great way to meet people who aren’t trustworthy.

Let’s put issues of behavior aside. Monetary fraud is also a major issue in the spiritual community. Someone will offer a class – something that a beginner would want to learn, something that would be important to learn from a person and not a book. Pay via an online service and wait for your materials.
And wait.
And wait.
Meanwhile, the teacher has changed their profile and is offering other classes to other people.

The term caveat emptor means “let the buyer beware.” It’s an important step when determining how, when, and from whom you’ll learn.

Don’t agree to a mentorship or teacher-student relationship without a whole lot of research.

It’s important to remember that YOU are the person responsible for choosing your teacher, advisor, or mentor. Ask them questions, interview them, verify their qualifications. And if you have reservations – if you think something is up, if it doesn’t feel quite on the level – move on. There are other people who are teaching. The last thing you want is to end up in a toxic situation that will affect the way you feel about magical practice and magic in general.