20 March 2009

Spiritual Direction

One of the things that Christian and Jewish traditions have that many Neopagan traditions do not is a concept of "spiritual counseling" or "spiritual direction" associated to clergy. This is a form of clerical counseling to help people deepen their own spirituality, deal with spiritual issues, and deepen their relationship with the Divine.

This is not counseling or psychotherapy, but borrows concepts from each. It is not necessarily mystical or shamanic in nature, though it may have those elements to it. While we may find such useful as part of the process, things like journeying, bloodwalking, divination, or any such tools serve is an auxiliary function to the far more important process of helping someone get closer to the Divine and live more fulfilled lives.

In a sense, this is part of what Spirit Work is all about, to quote Harner's The Way of the Shaman:

The shaman shows his patients that they are not emotionally and spiritually alone in their struggles against illness and death. The shaman shares his special powers and convinces patients, on a deep level of consciousness, that another human is willing to offer up his own self to help them.

For corporeal clients our job runs significantly deeper than helping them get rid of a blood debt, keep the faeries out of their house, or deal with the chitinous "pet" that has attached itself to a young woman's spine. In short, to paraphrase Bruce Schneier on security: spiritual direction is a process, not a product. It is not any one thing that we can do and then the obligation ends, but an ongoing effort that one makes in concert with individuals who are seeking meaning in their life. To quote Nathaniel Branden:

We humans have a need to feel we understand the world in which we live. We have a need to make sense out of our experience. We have a need for some intelligible portrait of who we are as human beings and what our lives are or should be about. In short, we have a need for a philosophical vision of reality. [...] But the need for answers persists. The need for values by which to guide our lives remains unabated. The hunger for intelligibility is as strong as it ever was. The world around us is more and more confusing, more and more frightening; the need to understand it cries out in anguish.

Helping others with this part of this process is a component of spiritual direction. Helping others finding meaning in their lives: not through dogma, not through platitudes, but within themselves and to--as Henri Nouwen discusses--use our own wounded nature to help others.

I am new on this path and I would be lying if I said I had even the most rudimentary questions, let alone answers, on how to begin this process. I have only minimal and somewhat scattered training in this, and am not even entirely sure what all goes into it, but it is a need that I see in people all around me.

Maybe one day, I will be able to help someone with it.

Further Reading

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