Through the cycle of descending ages, most spiritual traditions came to overemphasize the masculine – both in approach and in domination by men. This has led to drier, more austere forms of spirituality and issues with repression.
Those traditions cultured well-prepared teachers though. Teaching did not begin until they were trained and deemed ready by their mentors.
Rising consciousness is bringing a gradual restoration of the feminine. This means healing emotions, relationships, and raising women into leadership roles. It also leads to a much richer unfolding when both our masculine and feminine aspects are supported.
Today we see many independent teachers and a more entrepreneurial approach to spirituality. Many teachers self-assign or come out of a brief lineage with less formal structure. This has led to a much greater diversity of voices but also to some teaching without understanding the interpersonal dynamics of their relationships with students.
Often, we see teaching begin before there is professional development. They may act out, develop co-dependent relationships, or unload on their students. There isn’t peer support nor an understanding of healthy boundaries, power dynamics, and appropriate relationship.
At the same time, students may venerate teachers. Yet spiritual development doesn’t grant interpersonal skills. They’re different kinds of development. This has been a recipe for disaster. I’ve seen some egregious issues and the resulting fallout. Students have far too often become victims.
While we are shedding many of the issues of rigid traditions, we’ve also lost the structure. To make spiritual teaching reputable in the West, we need a professional association and ethical guidelines. Not as a control mechanism or out of spiritual correctness but as a framework for education and standards that protect teacher and student.
In 2015, a group of us discussed some of these issues during the Sofia panel. Rick Archer did a talk on the subject at last year’s SAND17 conference and then had lunch with Jac O-Keeffe and Craig Holliday to discuss how they might contribute. They worked together on a formal structure all year.
At this year’s SAND18 conference, Rick, Jac, Craig, and Caverly Morgan formally announced The Association of Professional Spiritual Teachers (APST) during a panel discussion. (All have BATGAP.com interviews.)
The association offers ethical guidelines, education, and peer support for spiritual teachers and anyone who offers spiritual guidance.
It also offers guidelines for students, helping them understand appropriate behaviour; for them and for teachers.
The idea is not to impose on what is often very personal and very direct teaching. It is to offer a support framework for teachers that has been lost in the shift away from ancient traditions.
The association is very new and very open to feedback and suggestions. The founders have been consulting with various professional organizations and spiritual therapists who deal with the consequences of ethical breaks. I had several discussions with the founders during the SAND conference and attended their meeting and the recording of an introductory video.
I’ve joined the association and will help some on the tech side. You’ll see their logo on the right sidebar here.
The founders describe the association as an evolving work in progress. But now they need awareness and teacher members to join for free and grow the presence of the organization.
If you are not a spiritual teacher or guide, the student guidelines may be valuable and you can offer feedback through their Contact form.
Finally, it’s worth noting the beauty of this. Not so many years ago, teachers were largely in silos, seeing others as competition. Here we see an opportunity for the community to come together under one mutually-supportive umbrella. Another symptom of the rising tide.
Update: based on feedback, the founders have decided to change the name of the association to the Association for Spiritual Integrity (ASI). The new domain is spiritual-integrity.org Changing the gazillion related details will happen over time.