by Mark Stavish
“Half of all advertising dollars are wasted. I just wish I knew which half.”
The same is true for those seeking esoteric advice and receiving it, or charity in any form for that matter. And esoteric advice is charity – a gift, an expression of compassion and wisdom – the qualities of Chesed. After this last weekend's classes I immediately received two emails from individuals I do not know, each asking for help in their own way. One, apparently from a young man experiencing lurid fantasies that are upsetting him, who was quick to dismiss my suggestions, and sent me several emails telling me how I was wrong. Being direct with him did not work, nor did being subtle. After three emails he used up his “fifteen minutes of kindness” and I informed him to cease emailing me along this line of discussion. I did not slam the door, but closed it firmly if he was going to continue wasting my time. The second was a young man asking for assistance, it was given, and he did not like it, but more importantly, understood what I meant when I pointed out to him that I indeed did give him advice and suggestions, only they were not the ones he was expecting.
He then understood what I was pointing out to him. The first young man cannot be helped and lives in a hell of his own creation and wants to drag others into it. The second young man could be assisted because he is trying, even if naively, to create something that is beneficial and helpful to others. I do not know what will become of either of them, but the difference between them is that one is being totally self-absorbed, that is selfish to be clear, and the other is, and again, even if naively, working from an idealistic position more akin to altruism. One wants to take, the other wants to give. One can be helped, the other cannot.
Now, dealing with these kinds of requests is not easy, and sometimes they come as a total surprise. During the last hour of our teachings Sunday afternoon on theurgy a stranger had entered the building we were using and was apparently seeking help. He was disheveled, somewhat nervous, appeared sincere, but anxious. After several rounds of questions I was able to nail him down to what he was asking for, specifically what kind of help he needed. The short story is that of course he needed money, to fix a break on his late model automobile that was parked in the parking lot. Given our location, and odd placement of our lot, it was easily believable that he had a genuine problem. I asked him specifically how much money he needed, we identified it as $35, and knowing the area, where he was going to get the part he needed. I told him I would see what I could do, went inside, and announced to the class what he was asking for, what my impressions were, and if anyone wanted to assist with a small donation to let me know. The total amount to be given to him was not to exceed $35.00 as that is what we had concluded was needed.
The money was collected by one of the students, a veritable “Baltic Viking” standing at six feet and seven inches. We walked into the parking lot, wherein he handed me the money. I approached our visitor, held the money upright in my hand, and said, “Here is the money you have asked for. It is $35. However, it comes with an obligation. Do you understand me?”
Standing just an inch below my companion, the tall stranger nodded and said, “Yes” with a look of surprise.
“You obligation is this: smoking is expensive and it is bad for you, so stop it.”
He interrupted me, nodding to my Viking saying, “But he smokes.”
To which I replied, “Yes, but he is not asking me for money!”
He snapped to attention, got quiet, and listened as I continued.
“Second, you are to say prayers for seven days for everyone in this building who has given you this money in your time of need. Thirdly, you are to collect $35 and give it to charity as repayment. These are your obligations. Do you understand?”
“Yes” he said quickly and in surprise.
“Good. Here it is, good luck.” We turned and left.
The attendees were interested to hear about what had transpired, and my companion could hardly keep from laughing as he told the story and the look on the man's face when I explained to him what was expected in return. When asked why I put those specific qualifiers on the assistance, I pointed out that we had just gotten done looking at the requirements for Abramelin, and therein, those undertaking the retreat are to give ten gold pieces to the poor who are to say prayers in return, the same with the Flamel Path.
Would it have been easy to not help the stranger? Yes. Was it hard to know if he really needed the money for his car? Yes. Was there a chance that seeds were planted that might actually help him? Yes. Despite all these unknowns, what we do know is that in the end, members of our group overcame their fear, selfishness, and ignorance, and took advantage of the opportunity before them to help someone in full trust, and therefore helped themselves.
Is it a coincidence that this happened right after we spoke on the importance of generosity and kindness? No. Unless you believe in coincidence...and I don't.