By: Alexander Ciurana
If you are to truly be a “spiritual counselor”, there may be a few loose ribbons to your training requiring some attention. Until these are tended to, there is little justification for any real synthesis between spiritual guidance and psychology. You may not yet possess the requisite lens to make this synthesis, and if this is so, you do not understand over 90 per cent of the world’s population from a spiritual or religious vantage.
Allow me to explicate…
Ninety per cent of the world’s population ascribe to one of the following world religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. If you do not have even an armchair-scholar’s understanding of a single one of these, you are sorely underprepared. The required knowledge would include at least: the origin-story of the founder(s), the religion’s formative years, its basic interface with other religions and cultures, and its foundational corresponding worldview/philosophy.
Some people who imagine themselves spiritually acute may retort that listed above are “religions” while their expertise is about “spirituality”. This is an extremely tenuous defense, because almost any spiritual practice may be considered to have a living history—be it meditation or prayer or labyrinth walking—and is connected to one or more of the above religions. But let the spiritualist’s rather untidy division between religion and spirituality stand, and she is still going to be rather useless to most as any sort of informed advisor. Her audience is so minuscule, she would be hard-pressed to fill a small auditorium in most cities. And even if she did, what will she say? Only fragmented, ahistorical, amateurish new-ageism and pseudo-psychology will fill the airspace—and if this sort of lecture is becoming popular, it is only the mark of a people who have checked their brains at the door. Such is a sad case of dissonance, an unnatural cohabitation of great technological-rational modernity and indefensible mystical babble.
But what about the other 1/10 of the world’s population? Well, of course, atheism and agnosticism account for some. But the rest of religious/spiritual adherents not belonging to one of the Big Five, are remnants of mostly culturally specific groups such as Sikhism, Taoism, Shinto, and Zoroastrianism. This author will not discount American New-Ageism as deserving to belong to this minority list, but there are few devotees who are able to explain the history, impetus, and major tenets of the New Age movement.
The point is a spiritual counselor without an understanding of world religions is likely able to adequately serve less than 1 per cent of any population. Those who can earn a living doing so usually receive clientele from the Meccas of American spiritual sloppiness, the greater San Francisco area, or other small, barely flickering torches on the west and east coasts. And even in these cases, the subject matters discussed are often so idiosyncratic and hyper-personal, there is hardly a rubric for a concerned counselor to employ; it is more likely to be the blind leading the blind than a cohesive spiritual quest.
If one chooses a transpersonal or integral or otherwise humanistic approach to the counselor’s task, this is no guarantee the religious-spiritual fabric of the client will be rightly assessed. How many psychologists are also experts in religion? Where are the courses, the curriculum in religion and its accompanying spirituality among schools who affirm the nexus of spirituality and psychology? And of these schools, how many do not also commit the error of dichotomizing spirituality from religion? These institutions, so needed today, prefer offering a course in ancient indigenous spirituality, though not a student in the classroom has a bone through his nose—and he’s not likely to meet a client with one either.
Certain forms of spirituality and religion have, for all intents and purposes, passed from the world-scene. Why is this? It is quite simply because they have ceased their intents and purposes! Streams flow according to hydrodynamic laws and principles, not because they are animated by spirits or demons; the earth produces its harvest according to horticultural laws and principles, not because fertility goddesses are appeased; and certainly a modern viable spirituality is about knowing oneself and others as sacred, not about visits to the netherworld or exorcising Satan. Some things have passed and are passing for very justifiable reasons.
Therefore, let it be said of those who practice the art of psychology and spirituality, that they are forces for rational holism, rather than connoisseurs and purveyors of the simply weird and unfounded. Let them bring a way for others to be responsible navigators of the modern, rather than necromancers of dead superstitions. Let them bring a true marriage between science and mystery, rather than a Frankenstein, frightening to the unlearned and laughable to the lettered. Namaste and Amen.