Roger Walsh MD., Ph.D. DHL graduated from Queensland University with degrees in psychology, physiology, neuroscience, and medicine, came to the United States as a Fulbright scholar, and is currently a professor of psychiatry, philosophy, anthropology, and religious studies at the University of California. His research interests include psychological health and wellbeing, virtues such as love and wisdom, practices such as meditation that foster them, and the psychological roots of our current social and global challenges.
The attempt to formulate a code of ethics that might apply universally in the contemporary spiritual community and enliven an understanding of what may or may not be appropriate, giving students greater confidence in their own discernment and discrimination.
Ancient traditions held the teacher beyond reproach and students surrendered their own will. This may have worked in monastic settings but generally does not work today.
Preventative support so we’re not busy doing cleanup.
Power hierarchies should not be an essential part of spiritual development and can lead to abuses.
Spiritual awakening does not necessarily qualify a person to offer advice on relationships, finances, etc.
Ethical training of some sort is integral to most honored traditions.
The issue of sexism and patriarchy in spiritual organizations.
Entering the teaching profession prematurely.
All too often, when teachers are challenged on their behavior, they ignore the challenger or become defensive.
How do we offer the possibility for redemption and atonement?
Moving away from a culture of competition to one of cooperation.
The importance of humility.
The importance of teachers not identifying with their role and thinking that students’ devotion is about them.
South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” as a model.
Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.
The Ethics of Teacher-Student Romantic Relationships
The Association for Spiritual Integrity does not have a moralistic, judgmental orientation. It’s a community endeavor. We don’t agree among ourselves on certain points. We’re trying to balance our subjective perspectives with standards that fit our contemporary culture.
A key point of disagreement is the issue of teacher-student romantic/sexual relationships. None of us are rigid or adamant in our opinions. We’re trying to work it out.
There are exceptions to every generality. In graduate school, psychotherapists are taught that it will never be appropriate for therapists and their clients to become partners.
Relationships tend to be the most challenging aspect of people’s lives. These challenges shouldn’t bleed into a teacher’s teaching activities.
When a teacher/student or therapist/client relationship transitions into romantic involvement, the potential for growth is undermined.
Sometimes “divine compulsion” arises in your spiritual path, shattering your conception of appropriate behavior.
The problem with teachers who haven’t transcended desire and explored their own shadow.
There can be a huge disparity between the apparent enlightenment of a teacher and their behavior.
Isolation and being closed to constructive criticism can be very dangerous for a teacher.
If a teacher doesn’t have friends other than his students, he might want to ask why. If he doesn’t have regular relationships and is always on a pedestal, he won’t get real-world feedback.
The culture is changing anyway. We’re just trying to give voice to values that are becoming lively in collective consciousness.
There can be a lot of practice involved in having your actions be a reflection of your deepest understanding.