The Bottom Line For Me

This article concerns what for many is a sore subject. I offer my thoughts and perspective as an attempt to both answer some specific criticisms and to hopefully set some standards on how to discuss these topics in a respectful, thoughtful and measured way.

I recognize that people of good faith can disagree and, at the same time, we can continue to respectfully interact within our various overlapping communities. We can still grow and evolve toward being respectful colleagues and even ultimately close friends.

And further, I appreciate the single person who bothered to speak directly to me about this subject instead of simply complaining in forums where I do not participate. And so Marcos, I applaud you for respectfully taking me to task directly – this article is dedicated to you. Thank you. I appreciate and welcome your honesty and integrity.

It has taken me a long time to publish this article although I wrote most of it many months ago. I had to first finish my series on money so that this article was set upon a firm foundation. I needed to set a few standards for the discussion of money within the magical, political and spiritual realms. And so this article concludes, for the moment, the money portion of my larger discussion of money, sex and power.

In my recent article on the true cost of low prices, I discussed the double standard many of us have in wanting businesses to pay living wages, while simultaneously being unwilling to pay the cost associated with living wages. This double standard is clearly illustrated in what we, as consumers, are willing to pay to small producers such as authors, artists, musicians, artisans, small merchants and yes, spiritual teachers.

Exchange ArrowsWhen I personally could afford to pay more, I made it a habit to pay top of the scale for what I received from small merchants and service providers. For example, I forced several local artists to raise the prices of the art I purchased from them. And I even made my maid service charge me more -- $12.50 per hour instead of the $6 she requested.

Recently I was taken to task for charging $250 for a weekend workshop that included about 18 to 20 hours of instruction and ritual. The concern was not just about the price charged but also the methodology it was assumed that I had used to compute the price. Several methodologies were suggested to lower the price or to provide for lower income students to have access to the classes and trainings I offer overall. And finally I was asked to consider my prices in light of the Reclaiming Principles of Unity, especially when offering the Reclaiming tradition’s core courses.

What was amazing to me was that the prices that were suggested as being more reasonable were often lower than what I would have charged for a two-day class without an evening ritual. And for this event, I had to also cover airfare for the teacher. With 20 hours of instruction and ritual, $250 becomes an hourly rate of $12.50 per hour. At last check that is at the lower end of the living wage range computed by various methods for the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

When I mention this fact, I have had folks look at me with confusion. Why? Because more often than not they are computing not what they should pay but what the receiver should earn. And their estimate, always lacking in information, like how many people will attend, the cost of airfare or site location, etc always seems to justify them paying less than living wage.

So in an effort to add some transparency to this discussion, I have decided to share the methodology I use to determine prices for my public classes and workshops. The prices I charge for my Reflections classes are based on a living wage rate of $12.50 per hour using the following scale.

Type Duration Rate
One Day 6 to 8 hours $75 (6 * $12.50)
Two Day 12 to 16 hours $150 (12 * $12.50
Two Day & Evening 16 to 20 hours $200 (16 * $12.50)
Six Week Class 15 to 18 hours $175 (14 * $12.50)

Additional charges include a surcharge to cover airfare if a teacher is coming from out of town and, depending on the event, there may be fixed costs such as lodging and meals. I recently raised the rate for my six week Reclaiming classes because I realized that $150 was substantially below the living wage rate set for the school. So the workshop price in question was based on a price of $200 for 16 to 20 hours with a surcharge of $50 to cover airfare.

The second major complaint I received was that I did not offer sliding scale rates, or at least not publicly. I accept this complaint, and I understand the frustration behind it. However I am no longer sure sliding scale works the way it was intended.

I use to offer sliding scale prices for most of my classes. And many of the folks who used it would not have been able to attend without it. Some of those people are in my school currently. However, there were also many folks who paid at the lower end of the sliding scale not because they could not afford to pay higher, but because they were unwilling to pay at the higher levels if a lower rate was available. In other words, they were doing the equivalent of outlet shopping, looking for a good deal or a sale.

If I were to offer a sliding scale again, the lower rate would be substantially higher than what I charged in the past. For example, I would probably have the lower end match the price Reflections students pay for public classes.

Work-study was another option I experimented with in years past. I found that the work-study students were more than willing to set up, clean up before and after classes. Some of my current full-time students use work-study to cover their annual tuition. Work-study slots are limited, and are currently only offered to Reflections students. Why? Because it is difficult to develop appropriate work assignments for students who may or may not be committed to spiritual transformation. Too often, work-study assignments became opportunities for free one-on-one instruction or counseling. I prefer that such opportunities be reserved for my full time students.

If people need financial assistance in order to attend a Reflections class, all they have to do is ask. I offer payment plans and sometimes, depending on the class, I have discounted slots available. The only time anyone has asked me for a lower price however was when I was offering a residential workshop that had substantial site costs. In fact, the low rate of $300 for my Descent workshop was the discounted rate AND it was advertised as such. And yet folks asked if they could pay less than $300 for a three-day workshop with two nights lodging and eight meals! Oddly enough, due to the generosity of an attendee, two 50% scholarships became available in the last few weeks before the workshop and were offered to everyone who had requested assistance.

And finally I have made a commitment to myself and to all the teachers who bless Reflections with their time, talent and experience. I will not have them give up their time, prepare their material and lend their name to the work of this school and then pay then unfairly.

Most teachers are paid a per student rate. If more students attend, they get paid more. I also pay myself via Amber Eyes for web development, event management and site logistics for each class. I also budget teacher meals, class snacks and beverages as well as for paper products such as cups, trash bags, etc. Additionally, I set aside funds in case I have to rent a site due to class size. All of this should make sense to anyone who has put on an event. The primary variable in all of this is teacher pay. All other costs are substantially the same for each class. Teacher pay as I noted above is linked directly to class size.

So then we come up against all the assumptions concerning class size. Most classes I teach have a class size of 5 or less. Occasionally, especially with some of the Reclaiming core classes, we have had class sizes of eight or more. The two largest classes were both for the Story, Dreams & Trance class, where we had more than ten students. But to hear some folks you would think we routinely had classes of twenty or more!

The problem is when this false multiplier is used to qualify what a teacher should be paid. I refuse to play this game. I will not charge less because of the occasional larger classes and make it economically more difficult to offer smaller classes. It makes no sense to me, and it is not sustainable.

I also find that it is often disingenuous and distracting to engage in debates concerning a presumed “holier than thou” barter-based economics or the so-called “money-free” economy of the future/past. And I am frankly sick of the endless debates on what does or does not uphold the Reclaiming Principles of Unity. None of these debates actually address the real issue in my experience. The real issue is that for so many, money is considered the root of all evil. While at the same time, money is also the primary source of power within our current social-political system.

But money is not evil. Money is energy, and it can be used to alleviate much of the world’s suffering and reward sustainable and ethical economic behavior. As Alta J. LaDage says so eloquently in Occult Psychology, “Money is the semen of the society, the symbol of its energy concentrated into a tangible object, the medium whereby energy is transmitted one to another and from generation to generation.” And to my mind where we spend that energy should reflect our innermost values and priorities. And if we refuse to wield this energy, we are exempting ourselves from changing the power dynamics of world’s economy.

And nowhere is this truer than how we treat members of our community, especially those whose work is solely for the benefit of the community. I value the work of my own spiritual and magical teachers just as much as I value the work of my engineering, mathematics, physics and chemistry teachers. I also value the mentoring and training I received as a priestess and shaman. Part of the reason I teach at all is because of the gratitude I feel for all I have received. I paid my teachers for what I received. I paid them with my time, my respect and my talent yes, but I also paid them with money. I expect my students to do the same.

I expect my students to recognize that the sacrifice they make toward their own spiritual development is because it is a priority within their life. It is not a pastime or a hobby. I expect them to have to make choices within their lives to free up energy to invest in their spiritual education and training. I want them to feel the pressure of deciding to put their training first.

And for that reason, I charge money AND I price my classes at a rate that reflects the true costs involved. Does this make my classes difficult to afford? Yes. Does that mean that not everyone can attend? Yes.

And for the record, I truly comprehend and acknowledge that the economic realities of today is making it more difficult for the average person to earn enough to satisfy many necessities such as food, shelter and health insurance. But I also know that far too many are willing to mortgage away their futures on electronics, eating out and other leisure activities. If you are choosing between eating and spiritual training, you should definitely contact me. But for most of us, the choices are not so dire or painful.

The bottom line for me is this. If you are committed to this path, you will save the money or find a way to earn enough money to make this work a priority within your life. And if that doesn’t work and this path is important enough to you, you will take the time to at least talk to me about ways to make it happen.

Because if this path is not a priority to you or you are unwilling to invest your time and energy, I am not willing to teach you.

Katrina Messenger

Posted in

Support your local crazed mystic ...