I am about to share with you my own experiences of charging for spiritual teaching. This sharing is my gift, on a practical level, to those of you who are teaching spiritual information now, or especially to you who are about to teach. If you are a seeker, perhaps this will help you to understand the precarious balance that spiritual teachers must find if they are to remain in integrity with what they charge you to come to their classes.
How I Began Teaching
Almost twenty years ago, I was asked by my guides to teach what had been taught to me in the twelve years prior to that. I didn't know, during the whole twelve years of my training, that I was going to be asked to do this. So the request came as a surprise.
The request also came as a shock. So much so that at first I said no. I didn't want to make my life public. I was thinking only of myself. But over a period of about two weeks, my guides made clear to me the Spiritual Law that says, When you receive a spiritual gift, it cannot be kept only for yourself. It must be shared with others. When I saw the truth of what they were saying to me, I reluctantly agreed to teach what I had learned.
As I set out to prepare to teach a class on the Mer-Ka-Ba meditation of ascension and Sacred Geometry — the sacred shapes and proportions that generate the Creation within which we live — I encountered an ordinary and everyday problem: Was I to charge money for this spiritual knowledge, or was it to be given away for free?
This was a question that had never entered my mind until that moment. I really didn't know what to do.
Spiritual Traditions Differ
My first thought, because I went to Catholic schools when I was growing up, was that the teachings must be given freely. Many Christians believe that because Jesus gave away his teachings, so should spiritual teachers today.
But during the past twelve years my guides had been sending me all over the world learning from different sources, and the spiritual teachers and traditions I had encountered all put forth different ideas about charging for spiritual knowledge.
For several of the twelve years, for example, I was a Sufi, and the Sufi tradition says the exact opposite of the Christian tradition. I was taught by the Sufis never to give away spiritual knowledge. The Sufi teachers I studied with believed that there must be an exchange. It didn't have to be money, but there had to be an exchange, or the student would miss the lesson.
From these two opposite poles, I began to contemplate what to do.
What Would Jesus Do?
Then I thought of Jesus. If he were alive today, could he preach in the same way that he did 2000 years ago? And I saw immediately that the answer was no. To begin with, gathering thousands or even hundreds of people together in cities nowadays is illegal. If he tried it, Jesus would be arrested immediately and fined. And if he continued to do it, they would put him in prison. To gather people legally, he would have to hire managers to obtain licenses for assembling, or rent the venues within cities, which is very expensive. If he traveled outside of the country that he lived in, he would have to have passports and airline tickets.
In other words, if Jesus had performed his ministry under 21st-century conditions, he would have been faced with the same ''money'' problems that all spiritual teachers are faced with today. So, for simple, practical reasons, spiritual teachers must charge something or find someone who will pay the expenses for them. Either way, the expenses are a fact of life.
The first reality that I was faced with was the undeniable fact that if I was going to gather a hundred people together under one roof, I would have to pay for the space. I didn't have any money myself, so how was I going to pay for this venue? It became excruciating clear that I had to charge something, or I couldn't even begin to teach.
The more I realized the costs of putting on a seminar — phone bills, mailing costs, electronic and audiovisual equipment, PA systems, plane tickets to various locations, and on and on — it became absolutely clear that it was going to cost money to teach, whether I liked it or not.
Further, if a spiritual teacher is to devote his or her entire life to teaching, as I was being asked to do, there has to be enough money left over to pay life's simple necessities — rent, food, etc. And so taking all of these concepts into consideration, I realized that what was important in today's world was that the exchange the Sufi's talked about had to be "fair."
There are spiritual organizations that require you to give everything you own over to them before they will teach you, and some which require such high prices that only a few people could ever pay for their spiritual knowledge. One, which I will not identify, asked of students that they pay over $100,000 for the information. These are examples of the extreme, and in my mind they are wrong. They are not fair.
Giving It Away
Then, as I actually began to teach, I discovered that no matter what price you put on the class or seminar you are teaching, for some people it will be too much. There are people who are so poor — especially in foreign countries — that any reasonable price whatsoever is impossible for them.
My first solution to this was to allow free classes for those who could not pay for them.
And that was when I began to experience directly the reason for the Sufi understanding that you must never give away spiritual knowledge. I truly hadn't known why the Sufis believed this idea, but the answer now unfolded right before my eyes.
Class after class, as I gave out free tuition to those who said they could not otherwise attend, I experienced that it was these people — the ones who were allowed in for free — who never understood what was being taught. I even discovered that if another person paid for someone's class, there was the same problem. The free students were almost always the ones who showed up late and left in the middle. They were the ones who would fall asleep or talk throughout the class. And, even more important, they were the ones who didn't actually practice the meditation after the class was over. The Sufi's reasons for never giving away spiritual knowledge for free were glaringly apparent.
A Fair Exchange
So what was the answer? I decided that the exchange was all-important. If students received the teaching for free, it would have no meaning to them, but the exchange didn't have to be money. Instead of money, they could give time and energy. In so doing, they would engage their desire to learn, and it would have meaning to them.
So I told those who said they could not pay that if they would volunteer their time to one of the major charities, such as Red Cross — enough time, based on ten dollars per hour, to pay for the workshop — then they could attend for free. I asked for a letter from the charity to verify their time.
I still do this today. And what is truly fascinating is that only about one person out of fifty actually takes me up on this offer! Even though they are not working and could easily give their time, it turns out that almost all of those who ask to come to my workshops without paying are not doing it out of deep spiritual desire, but simply because they want to get "something for nothing."
How Beliefs Affect Your Results
Another side of the equation of paying for spiritual knowledge is that whatever we believe to be true around money affects the outcome. When I first began to teach, I decided that what was fair was $222 for three days. I could barely pay for all the expenses, but that amount seemed fair to me.
However, my secretary, who arranged the classes and actually talked to the potential students, thought that this amount was outrageously high. Even though she could see on the books that we were actually losing money, she still believed the workshop was too expensive. And so, every time someone called in to register for a class, her beliefs would transfer to the person signing up. Inevitably, they would ask for a payment plan. I ended up with hundreds of people making payments, which was slowly sending us into bankruptcy.
Then my secretary moved to another state, and I replaced her with a woman who believed the opposite of her predecessor. She believed that what I was charging was entirely too little. So she talked me into raising the amount to $333. And, because she thought this amount was fair, from the time she arrived not one single person felt as though they needed to have a payment plan. Not even one!
This story shows clearly that what you believe affects the outcome — even with money (incidentally, this is equally true if you have a healing practice — it doesn't just apply to teaching).
Financial Success Is Important
Today, after almost twenty years of experience around the subject of paying for spiritual knowledge, I believe more than ever that there needs to be an exchange. It needs to be fair, but not charging for spiritual teaching doesn't work, not for the teacher, and not for the student.
And what you personally believe around money will affect the outcome. Your beliefs about money will ultimately determine whether or not you succeed financially.
And succeeding financially is important, because until you do, you will be limited in your ability to share with others the spiritual teachings that God has given to you.