One of the greatest benefits of joining the Order of the White Road over other mystery schools is our Mentors’ Program. While other organizations provide you with a primary-class teacher and a series of video lectures and a “good luck” at worst, the Order takes time to invest in each one of its students the first day they join. More experienced students serve as official mentors to newer students. They primarily act as coaches, guides, and traveling companions down the White Road.
In my own time in the Order, I’ve formed some of the greatest friendships I’ve ever known from mentors and from my own mentees. And I’ve served as a mentor myself for more than a decade. Both from watching other mentors at work and learning from their mistakes (and making a few on my own), I’ve learned a thing or two about how important mentors are and some of the common missteps that they can make that sabotage their mentees’ careers in the Order rather than spurring them onward.
I wanted to take some time to share some tips, tricks, and general thoughts for the mentors or mentors-to-be in the Order hoping in some small way the advice I give here might benefit both them and the students they’re trying so hard to guide. Before I begin, I would like to extend a personal thank you for all the mentors in my regency and in the world-wide OWR for working so hard teaching and guiding your mentees. You receive neither wages nor funding for all that you do and all of us masters appreciate your hard work.
With that said, let’s dig in!
#1: Mentors, Know Your Value
As we all know, there’s a difference between masters and mentors. This can be confusing for new students and even new mentors who may have not been in the Order for very long. The term “master” is usually applied interchangeably, both to an individual member of the OWR that holds that rank and an instructor in the OWR, who is almost always of the master rank, anyway. We can differentiate these two roles by giving one a little m and the other a capital M.
And so, masters possess the rank of master but are not primarily responsible for teaching a course to lower-ranked students. These masters either simply do not feel the call to teach and prefer to continue their studies under more experienced guides or they become research masters (a master whose primary concern is historical research, magical experimentation, and preparing white papers to contribute to the Order’s research archive).
Masters (Capital M) are instructors and like college professors, their role in the Order is to pass on the knowledge that they have gained by teaching an entire course on some subject or other, either on the OWR Academy or locally in their own regency.
Mentors differ from either of these roles entirely. The difference between Master and Mentor is analogous between a college professor and a sports coach. One’s role is to instruct, and the other is to motivate. Continuing with this analogy deeper, it follows logically that a professor would not be as close to the student as a coach. After all, the professor interacts with the student almost only in terms of the taught subject. The professor is there to answer questions and provide resources, but only regarding the class’s curriculum.
The coach is there with the student in the locker room, on the field, and during injury, training, victory, and defeat. Like a coach, the mentor provides a certain amount of tutelage and instruction. But the emotional closeness that mentor and mentee develop means that more than any other person, it is the mentor that determines whether a Neophyte stays in the Order for the long-term or walks away in frustration.
If a mentor neglects their students, abandons them in their time of need, or even leaves them to their own devices for long periods of time, then that student can come to feel like there’s nothing in the Order for them. The Order can become a meaningless cycle of classes and intellectual study with no sense of community or belonging. Because the OWR’s curriculum can often be challenging, this means that rather than feeling befriended and welcomed, the student will spend most of the time feeling frustrated with no sense of direction.
As the coach to your mentees, you realize you are the link in the chain that often holds people to the White Road and keeps them walking down it. And as a result, you have to be the driving force, not your students. To push your mentees forward to their next great accomplishment, it is often said that leadership is the art of pushing people to do what they do not want to do to achieve what they want to achieve. This is pressing when your mentee is an Initiate or Neophyte, as, at that level, students may not yet have enough knowledge to know what beauty and truth await them on the other side of the journey.
While we must always respect the At-Will System and respond appropriately when our mentees demand space, we also realize that in a certain gentle way, the coach must push for one more lap.
As a first principle, we understand that this push must be done with nuances. To push too hard is to drive students out of the Order. To not push enough is to see them fade away. As with all things in the Order and in life, balance is necessary.
#2: Get To Know Your Mentee
When you became a mentor, you had a choice. You could’ve said no. You also know that all official mentor requests are private. So you could’ve denied individual students as well. Since you are a mentor now, you agreed to take on a certain level of responsibility for those who are in your guidance. These people rely on you to show them the way down the White Road, but in the beginning, they can be as new to you as you are to them. No one meets a stranger on the road and tells them their life story. A certain level of rapport and common ground is necessary between mentor and mentee. Like all friendships, this is something you have to work on.
Admittedly, it is awkward to befriend someone on purpose. I freely acknowledge this. More often, friendships are organic. They sprout out of normal social institutions like work, school, or mutual acquaintances. Emotional attachment to someone and the building of trust is often a nuanced thing that develops without conscious thought on either parties’ part. But you are magi, and it is important that you come into this relationship (mentor/mentee) knowing that your student does not have. To know how friendship normally works from the beginning is not a detriment and an invitation to awkwardness, but is rather a knowledge that can make friends with anyone.
Consider the words of the great sage Eliphas Levi, who writes:
“Reason was given to all men but not all men know how to make use of it; it is a science which must be learned. Liberty is offered to all, but not everyone can be free; it is a right which must be won.”
A mentor must actively seek out the student’s interests, beliefs, and ideals, but not in a way that is burdensome to the mentee or overly awkward. Once known, these interests should be investigated and the mentor should take pains to become at least knowledgeable about these areas. As a matter of opinion, I am rather bookish. I’m not a fan of the outdoors and prefer climate control to climate change. However, it wouldn’t be beyond me to develop an understanding of hunting or fishing if I had a student who was particularly devoted to those activities in order to grow closer to my mentee.
These private investigations allow the mentor and mentee to develop a relationship that will eventually become quite organic on both sides. While it is up to the mentor to take the first steps in this relationship, it is human nature, once a common ground has been established, to exchange ideas from the point of view of both parties. Your mentee will find that they feel more related to, while eventually, you will discover interests in them that resemble your own. It is easier to advise a mentee with whom you have a deep emotional rapport and it is easier for them to ask for advice and to confide in you.
As this second principle, you must get to know your mentee always.
#3: Know More About Your Mentee’s Spiritual Beliefs Than They Do
While the Order is based on the Western’s spiritual tradition, it welcomes students from all backgrounds and beliefs. This can often make relationships between mentors and mentees difficult, not least of which because it is the role of the mentor to instruct on spiritual matters, while the religious upbringing of the mentee prevents their ability to adopt certain principles.
I like to call these proclivities preconceived notions. And every student comes into the Order with them. They bite hard in the Initiate and Neophyte stages. Admittedly, these can often make mentoring a nightmare. We talked about the reason to understand this a little about in Section 1, but say, it is primarily because the Order and the student are in conflict with moral, magical, scientific, or spiritual principles.
How the mentor handles these issues, especially of crossroads and conflict with their students, can be the chief reason a student stays in the OWR or walks away from it.
The mentor must address each mentee with two understandings. The first cannot be showed better than by a phrase once said to me by Cui Bono, “Philosophers can agree on everything if one excludes each other’s opinions.”
Every student who comes into the OWR will come skeptical to a certain degree. As their mentor, you will unfortunately be on the front-lines of a battle the student is waging with themselves. As the Order teaches new principles and they bud up against the preconceived notions of your students, it is to you they will look to act as devil’s advocate as they wrestle with which position to adopt. It helps if you can begin where they start.
The second principle is that religion is much more than just a list of dos and don’ts. It is a system of how to see the world and one’s own place in it. Spiritual upbringing glues cultures together and if a mentor can see where a mentee could’ve gotten a certain idea or the truth of why they can’t really justify adopting a new one, then they can be a more effective guide at explaining to their mentee where their preconceived notions came from and why the Order is saying what it’s saying.
For these reasons, it is probably best to only accept mentors who share a spiritual background that closely resembles yours. Leave differing cultures to the more advanced mentors. However, this is not always and everywhere possible. Regencies have differing sizes, different amounts of mentors, and different levels of cultural diversity. If you find yourself when it is unavoidable that you accepted a mentee with a different theological bent than yourself, then the best thing you can do is to take extra time to immerse yourself as deeply as you can in both the theological beliefs of that faith and its history. Knowing more than your mentee about their own religion gives you a window to guide them not only more thoroughly, but in their own language and on their own terms.
#4: Schedule a Time For Your Mentee
Every regency has its own schedule. Many meet communally once a week or once a month. As members of the OWR, we are also all familiar with meeting for rituals, celebrations, retreats, and most often, classes. New mentors, therefore, make the mistake of believing that it’s just easier to see your mentee at those meetings, leaving the space in between a gaping maw of silence.
True, the odd text may flow back and forth every now and again, but you leave your mentees to their own devices. Mentors and mentees, as already mentioned above, need (preferably) to form deep emotional attachments. This can be difficult if the mentee believes that it is simply not appropriate to bother you.
Your mentee may feel that they have questions they want to ask you, but they don’t want to appear ignorant in front of either your other mentees or their fellow students.
Making a regular appointment with each one of your mentees is important because they will confide in you privately. This meeting does not have to be in person if both parties don’t want it to be. We live in a miraculous age of video-conferencing, email, and phone calls. If you are a mentor to someone who is a remote student, you can still make a weekly appointment with them without too much interference in your daily life. This will help them feel cared for and give them the opportunity to tell you about any problems they’re having in class.
If the meetings become so regular that you run out of things to talk about, do not forsake the schedule. Take this as simply a better opportunity to use the other tips I’ve shared with you so far. Shoot the breeze, catch up on the game, or simply inquire about how the kids are doing. If the mentee doesn’t have a lot of time or the conversation dies quicker than is socially acceptable, then keep in mind that the meeting doesn’t have to be very long so long as they hear your voice and see your face and know you’re there.
#5: Never Conduct a Romantic Relationship with Your Mentee
As seen in the above sections, the OWR encourages a deep bond between mentor and mentee. On top of this, the Order also values the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine. As a result, it would violate these principles to match up mentors and mentees through sex, gender, or sexual orientation. However, with the precondition of shared interest in occult studies and the social milieu of the OWR, pushing mentor and mentee together that feelings can evolve. If they develop after the fact (after a mentor’s been paired with a mentee for, say, six months), then the first thing that a mentor needs to do is forgive themselves. This is only human nature and quite normal.
However, we should note here that, upon a mentor realizing such feelings, they should immediately approach their Regency Master or Council (privately if necessary) and request reassignment of that mentee.
It should also go without saying that a mentor should never accept a mentee simply because it attracted them to that individual. Mentoring is a position of spiritual trust, not unlike a deacon in a church. Under no circumstances should anything violate that trust but the purest of friendships and platonic love.
To do otherwise is to take advantage of the mentee who is less-experienced than the mentor and therefore, perhaps, ill-prepared to even pick up on such feelings, and knowing how to navigate that social situation.
Having said this, however, allows me to contradict myself somewhat. In certain situations, the Order has allowed mentors and mentees to be paired amongst lovers. But we often do these pairs only in marriage and among experienced OWR members. Even then, arrangements need to be made as regards a student’s testing and ranking. In such situations, where a mentor and mentee are spouses, mentors can’t play the normally suggestive role that they would otherwise play in order to ensure fairness among the judging masters.
#6: Be the Driving Force
I pointed to these issues in several ways and at risk of repeating myself. I just want to spell out this principle plainly and hopefully, briefly.
If you have a mentee that is either an Initiate or a Neophyte, then you need to understand that they don’t know how to have a mentor yet. They don’t know what to ask you, when to call you, or even how to interact with you. Giving your name and number isn’t enough. Haven’t heard from your mentee in a while? Call them. Feel that they’re socially awkward when they speak with you? Figure out a way to break the ice.
The point is that, especially at the beginning; you have to be the motivator. Check-in with your mentee weekly, but if they’ve asked for space, still send an email or text once a month just to check on how they’re doing. If you feel like they’re not stimulated enough intellectually or they’re losing interest in their courses, call them and quiz them. Share with them an excerpt from the textbook you’re studying or even just ask them about their day. You should be the driving force behind keeping your mentees engaged and traveling the White Road.
#7: Lean On Your Mentors As Well
Becoming a mentor is challenging and beautiful, but in all the work and responsibility the mentor takes on, they can come to feel alone in the act. Remember that you still have mentors yourself and you can lean on them just as your mentees lean on you.
All these do’s and don’ts above should also be practiced by your mentor. And if they aren’t, then share this link with them and point out to the paragraph where you feel they can improve (with respect). Because in the OWR, when things become hard or we don’t know the way, our mentors are expected to be our most immediate guide. They share with us their own experience, which is actually what I’m doing now. And they walk with us, even when they themselves don’t know the answer.
Therefore, if you are a mentor and even if you’re just a student in the OWR, demand attention from your mentor. You deserve it and it is your right.
Hail seven and good luck.