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.
A Discussion on 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.
In addition to his work in spiritual philosophy, he also serves as president of The Institute for Cultural Evolution, an integral political think tank focusing on the development of values. Before becoming a writer and activist, Steve had a variety of other successful careers, including founding the consumer products company Now & Zen, and practicing law with one of America’s largest firms. Steve is an honors graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two sons. For more on his work visit: stevemcintosh.com.