As we all know, there are two kinds of students in the Order of the White Road: distance (remote) members and regency members. While remote membership is picking up steam, the OWR has traditionally expanded much more effectively through its regencies. So, if you are a member of the OWR, it’s likely that you’re a member of a local regency.
The OWR tries to open up as many regencies as it can, but as we’ll learn in this article, opening up regencies can be expensive, difficult, and filled with challenges that organizers may not have thought of before the fact. Because of this, there is still plenty of space within the United States and globally that the OWR hasn’t reached. This, as well as the incidental relocation of individual members (due to career, family, schooling, etc) to locations where there’s not a regency, has inspired many qualifying OWR members to start a new one.
This is a worthy dream and one that the worldwide OWR welcomes with abundant enthusiasm. However, once one opens up a regency, understand that the challenges just begin. There is a whole range of hurdles that must be jumped both internally (registering with the OWR) and externally (government institutions) before one can actually start growing their new community.
Often, would-be regent masters (the registered leader of a regency) are simply either unaware of these challenges or optimistically convinced that they’re adequately prepared to meet them.
I want to outline some challenges that I faced in starting my regency in order to temper the enthusiasm of would-be regent masters who approach with abandon the possibility of leading their own OWR communities.
It should be noted the things said here are not meant to stifle the hopes of anyone who wishes to start a regency, but just to ensure that those who set it as their goal do so with a sober understanding of the realities.
Successful regencies take hard work and long-term dedication, while failed regencies are good for no one. The OWR wants all of its local regencies to succeed and for that to happen, regent masters and their organizing councils need to be fully aware of the maze of challenges they’ll need to navigate.
An Overview of Starting a Regency
While we’ll go in more detail about each of these steps in subsequent sections, it would probably help to begin with the overview of the entire process of starting a regency. So in this section, we’ll give a brief run-down of everything you’ll need to do and dig into some ambiguities below.
In brief, the steps to start a regency are:
- Attain the rank of acolyte or higher (unless you have special dispensation or are operating as a satellite regency).
- Choose your officers.
- Write and prepare your constitution according to OWR norms.
- Submit your constitution via this form and wait for approval (if denied, it will explain why in your denial letter. If this occurs, change your constitution accordingly and resubmit).
- Form a non-profit organization (either religious or educational) according to the laws of your local government.
- Review the donation and tax laws of your local government.
- Set up financial infrastructure (DBAs, bank accounts, PayPal, etc) under the laws of Step 6.
- Do the ongoing work of expansion: go to events, hold open-houses, run fundraisers, etc.
Attaining the Rank of Acolyte or Higher
We all know that there are five ranks (grades or degrees) in the OWR. These are Neophyte, Gate Proselyte, Proselyte, Acolyte, and Master. We consider the first three the Outer Order. Members of these ranks are primarily considered students and, while they can serve as mentors and teachers’ aids, they aren’t considered ready to deal with entire classes on their own. It should go without saying that regency masters, especially in a budding community, would be almost solely responsible for handling instruction of what could be a very large number of people.
Attaining the rank of acolyte is incredibly important. Acolytes in the OWR are advanced students. To use a college analogy, these are students with a master’s degree working on their PhD. Therefore, they are more than capable of teaching on a range of subjects and only occasionally need to refer to those more experienced than themselves.
The main problem for most people who wish to start a regency in the OWR is that the OWR has a very thorough and holistic approach to mystical education. While other mystery schools dive you into the meat of their curriculum immediately, the OWR wants to thoroughly prepare you for the study of the occult. Context is key.
For this reason, reaching the acolyte rank can take many years, even for gifted students. The sheer patience necessary to attain the minimum rank to start a regency is itself a major barrier to developing new communities. But this protection is necessary to ensure that new students are educated in the mysteries correctly. Acolytes are also expected to have had a few mentees, gaining the experience of instructing other students.
The astute reader, for all of this, will note that there were some exceptions to this rule mentioned in the overview. To understand these exceptions, we need to deploy some definitions in order to aid our understanding.
These definitions are given below:
- Diocese: a large OWR community possessing a brick-and-mortar temple capable of ministering to the liturgical needs of many surrounding regencies.
- Regency: a regional OWR chapter of any size but not possessing a temple.
- Satellite regency: a semi-independent group controlled by one central regent or council but which has grown regionally too difficult to handle for one leader.
- These groups will have sub-leaders called auxiliary regents. These leaders still function under the authority of the primary regent or council for that area, but have independence.
In the situation in which you can become an auxiliary regent in a satellite regency, the need for you to get acolyte in your own right is less necessary and it is easy to see why.
Regencies are self-contained and need to be as self-sufficient as possible. It sometimes occurs that regencies find themselves with the ability to expand into new areas, but with no ready members of acolyte rank on hand. It can also be that major cities, such as New York City and Chicago, prove simply too big for one regent to handle. The final scenario could be envisioned where a regent finds desperate communities within a state, but these communities are spread out and not well connected. In my case, an example of this can be seen between St. Louis and Columbia, MO. There are no regencies that cover that area and so it is easier for the OWR to open up a satellite regency in Columbia than it would be to spend many years to train an acolyte hoping they might pursue starting a regency on their own.
Serving as an auxiliary regent can be great for a dedicated member who has yet to attain acolyte to gain the experience needed to open up their own regency. But it can’t be stressed enough that auxiliary regents must take their guidance from their primary regents or their regency councils. To do otherwise is to risk miring a regency in strife.
Choosing Your Officers and Constructing Your Constitution
One thing that makes the OWR’s regency system so versatile and thus successful is its ability to be everything to everyone. No two regencies are run exactly the same. The mysteries are always preserved and passed down faithfully no matter what OWR regency you’re in. But how you receive those mysteries, in what order, and under what form of government, differs widely depending on each regency’s constitution.
The constitution of a regency is a document drawn up by the founders of said regency during the planning phase of their communities. This document is sent to the HQ of the worldwide OWR and is considered for approval by the OWR’s leadership (see this form). The document sets out key points of the regency’s governance, which hopefully will keep leaders accountable to membership and everyone knowing the rules of the game before they start.
The constitution should lay out a few basic things:
- What is the seal (official emblem) of the regency?
- Who are the officers and how do they function or what are their roles?
- How long are the officers’ terms and how are they elected?
- How is the money handled and how are dues set?
- What powers does any central council have and are all members of a regency on that council, or is it elected from the regency’s membership?
This document helps the worldwide OWR manage any disputes that may arise within that individual community according to the norms and customs that are outlined in said constitution. It also helps determine the rules of the road for that regency’s own internal governance.
By the time that you have written the constitution, you should’ve already picked out your officers. And to any member who desires to be a regent, it can’t be stressed enough by the importance of this choice.
A regency should possess a minimum of three officers: a regent, a secretary, and a treasurer. It should, at some point or another, incorporate a regency council to ensure that decision-making is dispersed among the whole of a regency’s membership. What powers each of these offices hold, how they are appointed or elected, their terms of service and their level of supervision over individual members are all decisions that will determine the eventual success or failure of a regency.
The regent and secretary will handle most of the day-to-day operations of the regency working as a team (in our case, Kala and me). These two people should be able to work for long hours together without conflict and they should also be individually self-motivated, given that these positions are the work-horses of the regency. If these two positions cannot motivate themselves, the regency will flounder. This is especially true in the beginning.
The treasurer is the position of less daily work, but is crucially important. How the regency’s money is handled is often the primary factor in how individual members feel about belonging to that regency. Having a regency treasurer, which is honest, litigious, and hardworking, lies therefore at the center of a successful regency. The treasurer should be someone you trust and should stand for election regularly to ensure that the membership trusts them as well.
Finally, we come to you, the reader. Most likely, the would-be regent themselves. Understand that to be a regent is not at all to wear one hat. You will be to your members simultaneously doctor, therapist, priest, professor, prophet, and friend. You will spend the free time of your life preparing classes and events, settling disputes, consoling students, convincing council members to act on the regency’s behalf (despite how they feel as paying customers), and going without one day where you are not trying to build the regency up or keep it from falling down.
It is one of the biggest challenges and responsibilities an OWR member can take on, as wearing the regent’s ring makes you the sole arbiter of the intellectual and spiritual development of many as well as the spokesperson for the reputation of the worldwide OWR as a whole. You should consider whether you possess the qualities needed to be the regent at all.
Setting Up Shop: Laws, Taxes, and Money
So you’ve done it! You’ve gone through all of this work and got the regent’s ring, the approval from the worldwide OWR to start your regency. That’s all there is to it, right? Job well done!
Unfortunately, wrong. Your work has just begun.
Though the OWR can trace itself back to the Antediluvian age, it is not itself a government institution, and that means that you still have to cut through whatever red tape your own country has set for you to conduct real business and get real members.
My grandmother used to say, “You can do whatever you like so long as you do it by someone else’s rules.” This holds true in setting up a regency within a local state or province as well. The example here will primarily consist of what is necessary for the US because that is my experience. State, country, and city laws differ, but mostly, this is the record of the hoops I had to jump through. If you find yourself elsewhere, I highly recommend that you refer to either OWR members near you or even better, a lawyer.
The OWR has two aspects to it: by the standards of the day; we are a religious and educational institution. In order to gain legal and financial protections, which are incredibly necessary in today’s world, you’ll need to set up a corporation (most likely non-profit) to create a framework for being recognized as a valid institution by the government.
I won’t go into the details about why this is necessary, but you can email us if you have further questions. Please do not accept membership for individual members without completing this step. In some regards, this step is most important.
For non-profits in the US, setting up your corporation comes in two steps. The first is registering with the secretary of your state and the second is registering with the IRS under Section 501-C3 of the tax code. The former is usually pretty easy, comprising roughly (it’ll differ by state) a $200 filing fee and filling out articles of incorporation. These articles are like the constitution you prepared in the above steps but more legally worded and are set up for local government use. If in doubt, get a lawyer to help. We sure did.
The latter, registering with the IRS, is a herculean battle which will cost you both tears and treasure. The filing fee just for the IRS to consider your application is $600 and the forms one has to fill out are so mired in legal jargon that they’re barely legible to anyone who isn’t a lawyer. Most of the time, organizations like ours need to employ a CPA or a lawyer to achieve this and that can raise the price substantially, sometimes by more than $1500.
If the time you had to wait to become an acolyte wasn’t a barrier enough to stop you from forming a regency, the sheer financial burden of navigating the non-profit bureaucracy will be. If you’re lucky enough to start out as an auxiliary regent in a satellite regency, this step is made infinitely easier. You can just operate under the auspex of an established regency that’s already taken these steps.
Depending on the will of the original regency council or regent, you may grow your satellite regency to a point where you can justify independence. If this is the case, then you would already have the people and therefore the financial resources to make 501-C3 registration a reality.
In extremely rare circumstances, a 0%-interest loan or grant from a more established regency may be offered to your fledgling project. Given how tight money can be within these regencies, it is far more common that the founding members would be solely financially responsible for getting their community off the ground.
In the process of registering for your non-profit status, you would’ve received a tax-ID. This tax-ID will come in handy for two reasons: one is if your regency should take on a paid employee and the other is any time you need to open a bank account. A bank account in your regency’s name is critically important. Today more people prefer to pay with a card or check than with cash and your regency needs to receive these funds, secure them in a safe place, and track incoming and outgoing money.
While not financially expensive, opening a bank account can be another painful hurdle to get through. We’ve all had the experience of opening an account in our own name. With individuals, this comprises fifteen minutes and a signature. For a corporate entity, especially a non-profit, you’ll need all the paperwork from when you incorporated as a non-profit and any paperwork showing any changes taken place since with the signature of all your founding officers.
If you’re an auxiliary regent, much of this will be set up for you by the central council of your main regency. In this situation, tradition holds that the satellite regency will hold its own bank account in its local area but one officer of your central regency will be a co-signer on the account along with you to track incoming and outgoing funds (most likely the treasurer).
As a final note to the finances, depending on the laws of your state, you may need a DBA. The Order of the White Road is a worldwide institution with the rights to which the worldwide OWR owns. Individual regencies can call themselves pretty much whatever they’d like, but it’s tradition to piggy-back on the brand name. For instance, our regency name is “The St. Louis Regency of The Order of the White Road.” This naming schema is not uncommon.
However, you’ll need to know that in most states, getting a DBA doesn’t copyright your name but just legally entitles you to advertise under it. Copyrighting is yet another step of both time, money, and patience that we won’t cover here.
Finally, to the Exciting Part: Growing Your Community
Your journey to starting a regency has probably been a year in the making and that doesn’t account for the time to become an acolyte. After all of this hard work, one expects to finally get to the good part: opening your doors and seeing the members flood in. This, unfortunately, is more often than not an oversimplification of a labor of love which will go on much longer than every step we have discussed.
Growing an OWR regency, like everything the Order teaches in life, is a matter of balance. Unless the regent or founding members are independently wealthy, they must figure out a way to balance life, family, career, and a growing but fragile community.
To compete in the Marketplace of Ideals today is something that takes multitasking and a plethora of skills, the vast majority of which you never thought you’d need. The building of websites, the knowledge of many advertisements, graphic design, and the rapport with people that enables you to speak with them on their level. And still yet, we haven’t mentioned being able to navigate the American occult community or raising the funds to achieve all of this.
Above probably, your officers and you will be completely financially responsible for the upkeep of your regency. When each membership can start at $25 a month roughly (each regency may set their own price), and it takes four members to make $100, how a fledgling regency figures out a way to pay $1000 for rent is just part of what comes with the territory.
The advantage to new regencies is that as the Order expands its online infrastructure, much of its classes and core curriculum is already taken care of and is one less thing they have to think about. This means that a new regency has to think about how to expand in their area without a building, a place to hold rituals, or even the basic use of classrooms regularly. Buildings are expensive and meeting halls are even more so. And yet no one is going to know you exist if you are just meeting in members’ homes quietly without efforts to expand.
Division of labor and constant motion is needed to work this problem out. Expectations need to be tempered to understand that progress will most often come slowly. The At-Will system guarantees that people can leave when they want and the Order’s holistic system offers the best occult education out there but can also sometimes be intimidating to students who are simply dabbling in the occult.
Even though the OWR is a secret society, it is necessary to announce its existence to the public in order to grow. You hold an obligation to protect the identities of all of your members. Another challenge to growing your regency will figure out how to navigate this seemingly contradictory principle.
An effective strategy is to go to trade shows or spiritual festivals (pagan, Celtic, etc) in your area. But to do so also adds to your cost, from the equipment to space itself. Getting volunteers can be difficult, especially at the beginning of a regency. Beyond the fact that you have a few hands anyway, you may have to accept the fact that some people don’t want to be seen publicly associated with their organization.
Open houses are another effective strategy to invite the public to hear about the OWR but how to advertise them without spending too much and where to hold them when you have a budget are both balancing acts which just add to the challenge.
Even once you get members, you’ll have their learning needs. As a regent, alongside all the responsibilities as yet mentioned, you’ll also assign mentors, approving ranking tests, and resolving disputes within your regency council (this last one can sometimes be the hardest of it all).
Growing your regency is by far harder than getting it.
With all of this said, this frank insider’s look at the sheer workload of a regent can dissuade some from starting a regency and cause would-be members to adopt the belief that the OWR is just all politics. But to adopt these opinions is to miss the point entirely.
All the work that regents–indeed, your own regents–put in to make our communities vibrant, living things make the OWR so beautiful. A mosaic tapestry of different opinions and customs, united by the dream of finding spiritual beauty and truth. All of it finding its source like fountains overflowing in the officers and leaders of individual communities around the world who somehow find time to run their own lives while walking the White Road for themselves and simultaneously caring for others who wish to follow them.
That some people will read all of this and still be motivated to start their own OWR communities is itself a testament to the love and dedication that individual members offer as a sacrifice on the altar for all of our members’ spiritual education and development.
Some people might read this and ask, “Why would you ever do it?”
I lived it. And I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it every time I get up in front of a class of students and see their eyes expand with amazement when they uncover the true secrets of the universe.
Being a teacher in the OWR is to give away a part of yourself to others. Being a regent, it is even more so. It’s like having children. One sees the parts of themselves (their knowledge and wisdom) that they’ve given away blossom and multiply as they watch their community grow, become strong, and ever more complex. The labor is a labor of love. This document is merely fatherly advice on what it’s like to be a father or mother.
In short, it is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do and yet something you wouldn’t trade anything for.
Hail seven and blessings.