Re: Charging for a Correspondence Course

Getting into an argument on some Yahoo group about charging money for spirituality. I got so into it that I realised it would make a blog-post in its own right! So here is a rejoinder I was planning to write, from which I have trimmed the intemperate bits (i.e. the more intemperate bits).

Now let me present a completely different argument about why it is wrong to charge people money for spirituality. It has nothing to do any superstitious notion about money being tainted, and everything to do with Economics. It is this:

If Spiritual Teachers are seen to be getting away with charging money for their services, it will only encourage Spiritual-Teachers-Who-Aren’t-All-That-Good to charge money for their services.

Now I may be treading on sensitive ground here, but without naming any names I’m sure we can all think of a few organisations, maybe but not necessarily connected with some incarnation of the Golden Dawn, whom we all know are basically a bunch of crooks who are only in it for the money. Why are they doing it? Because they think they can! They have seen genuine teachers charge money, and they think “we can make an argument for saying we’re genuine – now let’s see those dollar bills!”

Hence, based on Economics, the way to get rid of the shysters is not to charge more money than them, but to undercut them.

Moreover, I can think of two ways to make sure that only high-quality candidates take a correspondence course on offer. The first is to set them at fairly difficult entrance exam right at the out-set.

The second is to cease advertising it. This only looks counter-intuitive to those who have an obsession with publicity, or with empire-building, but the fact is that there are a great number of organisations that thrive perfectly well with doing no publicity whatsoever. People who are genuinely interested in their work seek them out, of their own volition.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Re: Charging for a Correspondence Course

  1. You are seeing it in business terms which it is not about. I don’t see there being a competition.
    The problem is that if something is free people will sign up just for the hell of it. I will then spend time making sure they get the right supervisor and that they get the information they need. Since it was as near as to free as it could be, they do not do anything other than waste my, and their supervisor’s time waiting for diaries that never come. The plan is to increase the starting fee and keep the course material at the same low price.
    I agree with you. There are shysters out there. But equally there are a lot of committed supervisors in the correspondence school who are snowed under because they have to look after people in the first one or two lessons. I don’t care about whether people leave or not, seeing committed people’s diaries and meeting the right types is all I need. However at present there is too much sifting wheat from chaff.
    As far as advertising goes… we do not advertise the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea I tried advertising the school but gave up in the end. Now it is entirely on word of mouth and the Internet front. So far the only people who have joined the order from the Internet have come through the school. The rest we have recruited in the traditional way. At the moment the Order does not charge anything. That might change as we get bigger but at the moment the only charges are for hiring halls.
    There other problem is that there becomes a power issue between the order and the student. In the old orders there was the idea that a student served the Order as something bigger than themselves. These days there is a codependentant attitude with students doing nothing for the group, but leaning on the teacher making more demands. Sometimes they work, more often they don’t but the result is that the teacher ends up being like one of those parents who lets their children misbehave out of fear that they will not love them any more.
    The age where the teacher was god is now mercifully gone… but what do you replace it with to provide some form of balance.

    • It does not matter whether it really is a business or not – if you treat it like a commodity, the universe will behave as if it is one.

      In any case, I must disagree with your remark “The problem is that if something is free people will sign up just for the hell of it.” I personally know of one Order (nb: not a GD one) that has reduced its costs to zero or as close as dammit, and consequently charges nothing in the way of either entrance fees or subscriptions. Mind you – one has to jump through hoops to join it, which is what puts off all but the genuine seekers. The moral of the story being that a sufficiently high barrier to entry is effective to weeding out time-wasters, and does not necessarily have to be in financial form.

  2. Jeanne Cermak

    “charges nothing in the way of either entrance fees or subscriptions. Mind you – one has to jump through hoops to join it,”
    -Ah but there is a cost, Time & energy.

    “Hence, based on Economics, the way to get rid of the shysters is not to charge more money than them, but to undercut them.”
    -Exactly. I don’t see anything wrong with getting back some compensation for the work you put into but to try and make a huge profit is where the shysters show themselves for what they are. Besides, f you are not getting back something for your time, energy and supplies, you will just stretch yourself too thin and ultimately wear yourself out.

    • The organisation I had in mind is run by “amateurs” in the true sense of the word. Because they are so committed to its principles, the honour and enjoyment of belonging is the reward for their time and effort. Some costs do arise, but to be honest I’ve spent more on drinks in one night in a pub than their suggested annual voluntary donation.

      I don’t actually object to people running an organisation at cost. But when the alleged cost doesn’t represent the value of the service provided, I start getting suspicious.

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