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 at best, 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 mentorees. 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 mentorees’ 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 in the hope that 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 own regency and in the world-wide OWR for working so hard teaching and guiding your mentorees. 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), on the other hand, 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 exclusively in terms of the taught subject. The professor is there to answer questions and provide resources but only in regard to the class’s curriculum.
The coach on the other hand is there with the student in the locker room, on the field, and during injury, training, victory, and defeat. Like a coach, the mentor does provide a certain amount of tutelage and instruction. But the emotional closeness that mentor and mentoree 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 to some degree, 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 mentorees, you must realize that 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 mentorees 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 particularly pressing when your mentoree 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 mentorees demand space, we must also realize that in a certain gentle way, the coach must push for one more lap.
As a first principle, we must 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 Mentoree
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 begins to tell them their life story. A certain level of rapport and common ground is necessary between mentor and mentoree. Like all friendships, this is something you have to work on.
Admittedly, it is awkward at best 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 a magi, and it is important that you come into this particular relationship (mentor/mentoree) with the knowledge 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 be used to 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 mentoree 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 personal 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 mentoree.
These private investigations allow the mentor and mentoree 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 mentoree 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 mentoree 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 mentoree always.
#3: Know More About Your Mentoree’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 mentorees difficult, not least of which because it is the role of the mentor to instruct on spiritual matters while the religious upbringing of the mentoree precludes 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 particularly hard in the Initiate and Neophyte stages. Admittedly, these can often make mentoring a nightmare. The reason that you have to understand this was talked a little about in Section 1, but suffice to say, it is primarily because the Order and the student are in conflict about moral, magical, scientific, or spiritual principles.
How the mentor handles these issues, especially at times of crossroads and conflict with their students, can be the chief reason why a student stays in the OWR or walks away from it.
The mentor must address each mentoree with two understandings. The first cannot be demonstrated 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 that 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 mentoree 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 mentoree 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 available mentors, and different levels of cultural diversity. If you find yourself in a situation where it is unavoidable that you accepted a mentoree 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 as well as its history. Knowing more than your mentoree 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 Mentoree
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 mentoree at those meetings, leaving the space in between a gaping maw of silence.
True, the odd text may flow to and fro every now and again but by in large, you leave your mentorees to their own devices. Mentors and mentorees, as already mentioned above, need (preferably) to form deep, emotional attachments. This can be difficult if the mentoree begins to believe that it is simply not appropriate to bother you.
Moreover, your mentoree may feel that they have questions that they want to ask you but they don’t want to appear ignorant in front of either your other mentorees or their fellow students.
Making a regular appointment with each one of your mentorees is important because they will be able to 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 it happens that 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 mentoree 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 Mentoree
As seen in the above sections, the OWR encourages a deep bond between mentor and mentoree. On top of this, the Order also values the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine. As a result, it would be a violation of these principles to attempt to match up mentors and mentorees by way of sex, gender, or sexual orientation. However, it does happen that with the precondition of shared interest in occult studies and the social milieu of the OWR pushing mentor and mentoree together that feelings can evolve. If they develop after the fact (after a mentor’s been paired with a mentoree 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, it should be noted that upon a mentor becoming aware of such feelings, they should immediately approach their Regency Master or Council (privately if necessary) and request reassignment of that mentoree.
It should also go without saying that a mentor should never accept a mentoree simply because they are attracted to that individual. Mentoring is a position of spiritual trust, not unlike a deacon in a church. Under no circumstances should that trust be violated by anything but the purest of friendships and platonic love.
To do otherwise is to take advantage of the mentoree who by their very nature is less-experienced than the mentor and therefore perhaps, ill-prepared to even pick up on such feelings, to say nothing of knowing how to navigate that social situation.
Having said this however, allow me to contradict myself somewhat. In certain situations, the Order has allowed mentors and mentorees to be paired amongst lovers. But these pairs are often done only in the context of 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 mentoree are spouses, mentors can’t play the normal 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 different ways and at risk of repeating myself, I just want to spell out this principle plainly and hopefully, briefly.
If you have a mentoree 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 mentoree 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 mentoree 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. In any event, you should be the driving force behind keeping your mentorees engaged and traveling the White Road.
#7: Lean On Your Mentors As Well
Becoming a mentor is at times 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 mentorees 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.