Follow-up to “Cultural Inovators”

First of all, my sincere thanks to everyone who joined the conversation and contributed a comment or two. (And a gentle reminder to those posting anonymously: in the future, please include your name.)

I posed a very multifaceted question. But obviously most people felt compelled to respond to just one aspect of it: “what pagan leader would you pay $100 to hear speak?”. Most of you answered “nobody”.

I was thinking of tightening up the question somewhat: “Supposing you had $100 handed to you, right now, and the benefactor said that you had to use the money to attend a public talk by one or more spiritual leaders, whom would you choose?” had I phrased it that way, all issues concerning ability to pay, or the need to spend that money on rent, gas, food, children’s needs, etc., would have been out of the way. We could then have focused on what I was hoping we would focus on, namely, the matter of the qualities of character, or practice, or service, or whatever, that those people possess, which makes them innovators. I thought that such a discussion would helpfully enable us to find other innovators, or future ones, whether they are famous writers, or local individuals who serve their local private or semi-private groups.

But it seems most most people wanted to discuss the matter of economic compensation. And most people, it appears, held the view described by marytek when she said: “The idea of monetary compensation is an anethma to most pagans.” (Read her comment here). It certainly appears to be anathema to those who, replying to the blog post, said that they would not pay anyone any money at all for spiritual services. harmonyfb put it in very stark terms when she (are you a she?) wrote, “I don’t prostitute out my belief system for a dollar”. Another person, writing anonymously, said “No one, my way in the craft forbids charging for training.” Some even went further, denying any significant personal need for a community innovator in the first place.

Well, the amazing thing about people is that they will always surprise you. 🙂 But don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.

My own views on the matter aside – which, you will notice, I have most cleverly not disclosed (not yet anyway) – may I continue the Question of the week by asking: Why, exactly, is it morally wrong to contribute and/or accept money for spiritual services? Why is it wrong to pay someone for performing a handfasting, a wiccaning, a rite-of-passage, a counselling session, a teaching circle, a public lecture? Do we have a right to expect that people in a position to offer such services, whatever their qualifications or experience, should work selflessly, and therefore for free? Is there in your thinking an inherent contradiction between material services like car maintenance, and immaterial services like spiritual guidance counselling? Or is there another reason?

Or, perhaps it is the case that spiritual services should be compensated much as one compensates a medical doctor, or a car mechanic, as dop4 observed (read his comment here.). After all, your local Elder, and your local friendly neighbourhood internationally famous pagan writer, also has to pay for rent, gas, food, children’s expenses, and so on, just like everyone else does. And as just about all of these writers will tell you, the income they get from book sales and royalties is nowhere near enough to meet their minimum living expenses. Perhaps, as another anonymous comment said, we become “stingy selfish buggers” by refusing to compensate.

But please don’t answer with “My way in the craft forbids it”, since this doesn’t really answer the question: in fact it probably commits the fallacy of appeal to authority.

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