I've been thinking a lot lately about the vast disparity between the esteem our Eastern counterparts are held in their respective cultures, and the lack of esteem we receive here in our own. A monk in Tibet is respected, loved even-and make no mistake, they are every bit the Mages and Wizards we are. We are not respected. There is no getting around it. Call yourself a metaphysician, an Alchemist, and you might be able to dodge the disparagement train. Tell someone your a Ceremonial Magician,a Mage, a Wizard, and watch as their eyes glaze over and they do their best to escape the conversation.
So...why the difference in respect?
The monks in eastern cultures (be they Tibetan Buddhist or otherwise) are active in their communities. They do tons of charity. They give people succor in their temples. They feed the poor. They serve and add to the communities within which they exist, and so are loved and respected.
We do none of these things.
I'm certain there are Temples that do the occasional charitable thing, but we don't have a culture of service from what I've experienced. This, in my opinion, negatively affects both our image and our spiritual development. Our work as Magacians guides us to look inward-our charitable work would give us the opportunity to turn our compassionate gaze outward, as well. Without any real charitable presence, all one who is not a Mage has to understand us with are rumors and nonsense...or worse yet, the arrogance and defensiveness study of a sacred and hidden tradition tends to breed in persons. I'm sure I'm not the only mage who has made an ass of himself cutting someone down for daring to question him, or for being unlucky enough to be raised a fundamentalist of some sort. What is it old Gandalf said? "Be wary of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger." How True!
Learning how to work with one's intellect in a positive fashion is part of the growing pains of the modern mage-wielding the Sword of Air responsibly. Perhaps, if i'd been tempering my Magical work with Charitable work, I would have taken a step back, and realized that other person's feelings and self-respect where more important than my being Right in an arguement.
This same charitable work would improve our image and increase the number of aspiring Adepts we have. How many Adeptus Exemptus do you think are running around out there? (I'll give you a hint: not enough.) Look at our brother Freemasons-you cant throw a rock without hitting one of their temples, and they've had more bad press than anything we've had to deal with. The difference between us and them, from the outside perspective, is that most people know a Freemason, and they know him for doing something positive. They are respected members of the community-respected because they are known for doing good things. What is the Golden Dawn known for, in the community? Usually nothing, and if something, than nothing good. If we were doing food drives for poor familys, coat drives in the winter for the poor who are cold, raising money to by schoolbooks-we would have tons of great press, and I daresay an exponentially larger number of members. It definitely beats being learned about from what's on the Net, as the current contreversy so aptly demonstrates.
It warms my heart to see G.H.Frater L.E.S. taking the high road, and I hope he will be joined by the other leaders so that we are "Fraternal" orders in more than name....and so that people don't look at me like I'm a nutbag when they find out what I am. That would be nice. Not so much to make me feel better, but so that they would perhaps consider practicing the Sacred Art that I love so much.
I don't have a local physical temple, and don't have the authority to act on behalf of my Order-if I did, I'd start to work on this immediately. Would it be much too ask each temple to engage in some small charitable act each month?