Value of correspondence courses

What’s the opinion of Forum members regarding learning the philosophy and lore of Druidry from correspondence courses or curricula of Orders (e.g. OBOD’s correspondence courses, British Druid Order’s courses, or Dedicant path in ADF) vs. learning similar material on one’s own from books and video? Do correspondence courses provide more depth of knowledge and spiritual practice than published books that one can find in a library or purchase on the market? If I never take a correspondence course, am I missing out on the full education and experience of Druidry?

I’ve mostly relied on learning from books but am considering taking a correspondence course in 2023. But since any correspondence course is expensive and time-consuming, I’d like to be sure of its worth before finally deciding.

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I understand the feeling that you might be missing out on something. The beauty of druidry is that there is no single view of Druidry. Every single one of us follows their own path. Learning from books/videos that you self-select is one way of shaping that path, learning from curricula or correspondence courses another and many of us actually combine these methods. Neither is more valid than the other.
Correspondence courses do appeal to me. In general they offer both knowledge and practices that help your spiritual development in a way that is well thought out. It is a guide of sorts. The same can be said of books, though! As a member of the BDO I have access to their bard course. I have chosen to focus first on my AODA work and pick up the course again once I reach the first degree.

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As @JudithO says, there is value in studying on your own and in taking a correspondence course.

Is there a correspondence course whose goal matches what you want to learn? Can you find out from others who took it what they thought of it, and does that match the course’s claim for what it can teach you? Do you have enough time to dedicate to the course to learn what it has to teach in a reasonable amount of time? Can you afford it? Is the material something that you can learn better from a teacher, or would you learn it better working from books or other resources that you choose? These are some questions I ask about a correspondence course as I am considering it.

I have taken two correspondence courses, the Dolmen Arch course and the SuperStar astrology course. Both have helped me learn material that I was finding difficult to learn on my own. With them as background, I think I can continue learning on my own in both areas for the foreseeable future.

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I’m in the Dolmen Arch correspondence course through AODA, and in the Ovate Grade correspondence course via OBOD. I completed the Bardic Grade last year in OBOD world, and just completed the first level of the course via AODA. I love having some level of accountability and progression, which is what these courses give me. I have mentors or persons I am able to reach out to in each. Journaling and examination are part of both correspondence courses, as well as having forums to touch base with in either organization.

It’s a bit more community based than simply reading a book, and that’s why I choose to continue with them. All the material from either of these courses could potentially be obtained via other avenues, but I think the experience is much different. One of the things we learn as Druidic practitioners is energetics of solitary practice and group practice. I think the correspondence course is somewhere in between.

Also, one thing I learned as someone who gets paid for services and time, when something is purchased and someone commits to something, it’s often valued more. When someone really invests in something, there is an increase in dedication, and follow-up. Personally, I know I’ve made a lot more progress on the Druidic path with the correspondence courses than if I’d just picked up a few books on Druidry.

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In any spiritual path, only you can know what works for you. If not taking a correspondence course will gnaw at you, then it sounds like you need to take one. It may just be for the experience. OBOD has an initial packet that you can send for to see what their system is like. When I received it, I read through it and realized it was something that I would not be able to keep up with at this point in my life.
As a member of ADF I will let you know the Dedicant Path is not really a correspondence course. It is more like the AODA curriculum. You read their DP manual, then read 3 books that you choose from a reading list, fulfill other requirements and write a bunch of essays about your experiences.

I guess the question is: what are you seeking that you don’t currently have?

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Ultimately this is a personal choice that you’ll need to make by weighing what you want to learn against the time, money, and investment needed to do so.

For me, I would make the choice based on the openness of the course; in other words can I see where it will take me, and are the steps clearly defined, and is it where I’d like to end up. An organization, in my experience, isn’t going to cater to individual needs, and your not always going to agree with the stances, practices, or philosophies you find in a large organization. With this in mind, are you able to live with the compromises you need to make in order to learn what the organization has to teach, and is it worth it?

Many courses are simply offering a way to systematize what you are probably already learning through your own research. We all, are only knowledgeable about the things we are exposed to, mainly through books. So do the books that the organization wants you to read, fulfill their vision of the world or yours?

Are you wanting a title and notoriety or wisdom. Many go through correspondences to get a title or recognition within a community. I would ask myself if I need an organization to justify my knowledge, or if I can learn and grow as much studying on my own and not spending the money for the title.

A big plus to correspondence courses is the community that comes with it. It may be of value to you to learn with others and journey with others on the same path. And to be able to discuss a curriculum you may be challenged with.

  • Specifically regarding the ADF Dedicant Program. Overall it’s a good course to complete, and I completed it several several years ago and glad I did. But it is a program that teaches you the ADF vision and their version of Druidry; OBOD and BDO are completely different ways to practice and see Druidry historically and it’s progression in the modern world.
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Broadly, I’d say that that main benefits of a correspondence course are the systemic approach, the ability to get feedback from a mentor (for courses that offer that), and the accountability of having a specific progression.

For a true correspondence course (i.e., periodic lessons that must be completed and returned in a specific order) the systematic part is that (if it’s any good) it will cover its subject in a lot of depth, that it will break up that material into pieces that make it easier to really make progress in covering that depth, and that it will force you to spend time with everything in the course rather than letting you skip over the parts you struggle with. I think the last part is the most valuable. I’m nearing the end of the Dolmen Arch course myself, and I can say that I’ve benefited from and come to value every single practice and teaching included in the course. But honestly, if I hadn’t done it as a course, I probably would have dropped more than half of it long before I started to get the real benefits because I didn’t find it immediately congenial.

The ability to get feedback with a mentor can be very significant too. I’ve relied on guidance from my Dolmen Arch mentor (Hi Kathleen!) a lot over the years. Recently, we discussed some issues I’ve been having and were able to root out and correct a long-standing technical mistake I’ve been making which had some pretty serious practical implications. (Most Druidic practices are not really that technical, but some are.) The Dolmen Arch material is also available as a published book, so you don’t actually have to take it as a correspondence course, but this recent experience alone makes me glad I chose the mentored course route.

As far as accountability, some people find they make a lot more progress when they’ve paid money for a lesson and they have to complete it before they get the next one and there’s a real human on the other side waiting for their completed lesson.

But really, the answer varies a lot based on which correspondence course you’re talking about.

I’m not involved in the OBOD or the BDO, but as far as I know, the material in their correspondence courses is not fully available elsewhere, so if you’re interested in one of those specific approaches to Druidry, that’s the only way to go.

The ADF Dedicant Path, which I started a couple times but never finished back when I was an ADF member, isn’t really a true correspondence course, since you just get the whole book at once and finish the requirements on your own pace, though Michael Dangler’s optional companion book reformats things in a more correspondence course-like fashion. In any case, there’s not really anything in it that you can’t find in other ADF (or Ian Corrigan) publications, so the whole point here is the “dedication” part of “dedicant,” not access to a specific body of teachings. A majority of members never actually get around to finishing the DP, though it certainly has value for those who do.

The Dolmen Arch, as I mentioned above, is available either as a course with a mentor or as a published book. It’s an amazing course and it has absolutely become my foundation, but I don’t think I would have been successful working with this particular material if I had tried to do it alone from the book. Ironically enough, now that I have that foundation, I don’t really intend to do another correspondence course for a while, and I feel like I’ll be able to use material in any format much more effectively.

Outside of Druidry, I have experience with Christopher Warnock’s astrology courses. They’re excellent, but if he published the material fully in book form, I’d probably just stick to the books, honestly.

I also did the Order of Essenes’ New Thought courses when they were available only in true correspondence form. Now you can find all the lessons online. In this case, having a mentor was fun but unnecessary, but doing the lessons over a long period of time on a weekly basis is where the main benefit comes from, and just reading through them all at once wouldn’t have anywhere near the same impact. In this case, you can skip the mentor (they’re hard to find now anyway), but not the format.

The other day, I was looking at the website for a certain esoteric organization that claimed their correspondence course had the most powerful and effective spiritual teachings that ever existed in the whole world and that doing the course was the only way to access these. They went further and claimed that everything they published was actually printed in a kind of “code” such that even if you got a hold of their private instructional material from a second hand shop or something, what you read would only mislead you further. Since I chose not to take their course, I can’t say whether or not they’re telling the truth. Druid groups generally don’t make such claims, though, so I don’t think you have to worry about that sort of thing.

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Hey Kynan,
welcome to the forums!

I’ve done a bunch of correspondence courses, mostly Druid based. Honestly it really depends on what you want out of your Druidry. If you have a bunch of OBOD groups nearby, and you like OBOD and want to go to their meetings, then I’d definitely say go right ahead and do the OBOD course. You may even be able to go a step further and join a local seed group or grove, and maybe use their materials - then you only pay for membership and a mentor, which is a good discount.

That being said, if you’re a solitary practitioner and you want information, you don’t need to be part of any order whatsoever. You wouldn’t miss out on “the full experience” or education. You can definitely do pretty much anything in Druidry through self-study. The benefits of courses are really being part of a group, maybe certification, Druidry is very egalitarian, so status and rank tend to not really be a thing.

I think it’s ultimately no different from, say, learning Permaculture either through a course, or through books - in both cases, you’ll have to apply the knowledge to truly master it. A (reputable) course will have the benefit of giving you a shared basis with others who followed the same course, and perhaps a certificate or the like. But ultimately, that isn’t what defines your ultimate proficiency. That’s what you put into it yourself.

In short, yes, a course offers some things books don’t - but no, courses definitely aren’t required to get “the full experience” of Druidry. Note that all of AODA’s systems tend to be published and public - The Druidry Handbook, the Druid Magic Handbook, the (old) Gnostic Celtic Church Manual and Liturgy, the Druid Grove Handbook… You can get those books and work the system without ever joining the AODA, if you don’t care for being part of the Order, getting mentorship/feedback, and getting certified in rank / consecrated in the GCC etc. It’s a valid path, if that’s your choice.

Hope that helps.
Yours under the sacred oaks,
– Brigyn

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This is an exciting topic. The value of a correspondence course is completely within the view of the person taking it. I am currently taking Dolmen Arch as a correspondence course instead of just buying and reading the book, which is perfectly fine. For me personally, it just depends on how I am feeling about the content at the time. I have studied different systems in different ways, as have many others. One thing I do know is that I tend to gravitate towards correspondence courses when I want to have a connection with others who understand that system. I have studied plenty on my own in my life time and that’s fine, but sometimes, even as a bibliophile, I just need a little more structure, a little more accountability, and a little more fellowship than a book can provide on its own.

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Hi @Kynan . I’ve taken a correspondence course from OBOD, so I can give a little bit of my personal experience.

Correspondence courses don’t provide more information than a book. They provide it in a different format. OBOD claims that the monthly pace of mailings leads to a “steady stream of spiritual nourishment,” and a focus on experience. They encourage you to use the time between mailings to do a fair amount of spiritual and psychological practices.

By and large, you can get the same information cheaper from books written by people adjacent to the Order publishing the course. But you’ll be getting it all at once, without access to their mentorships/magazines/group spaces, etc. If those things add value for you, or if the pacing and structure help you stick to it, it can be worth it. If you have the discipline and structure to work through books and have the experiences, it’s not going to add much for you.

I don’t think you’re missing out on a total view of Druidry, so much as missing out on a particular view. If that view and its surrounding support system is worth the money, you may enjoy a correspondence course. If not, you’re completely fine with books.

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