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of sacramental practice and individual exploration of one's own psyche, one of the services we may feel called to provide to the public is that of spiritual counselor or advisor. This short essay seeks to provide a brief foundation for the practice of counseling from a Gnostic perspective. Although I have chosen the generic clerical term "Counselor" to represent the reader, it is my hope that anyone involved in Gnostic spiritual life may find the following information helpful in his or her day-to-day interaction with others. Spiritual Counseling is not therapy, nor is it a substitute for the advice of a medical professional. Spiritual Counseling is not intended to address the very real problems of the mentally ill, and it is the Counselor's obligation to refer individuals who they suspect of mental illness to qualified professionals. Spiritual Counseling is the process of addressing the personal problems of a normal individual (the "participant") and providing him or her with an environment in which he or she can explore possible solutions. Some examples of some problems for which participants may seek counseling might be relationship troubles, difficult life decisions, grief or bereavement, questions of spiritual need, addiction, etc. The Spiritual Counselor does not provide solutions to these problems. He or she acts as a sounding board, providing context, references and experiences, tools and experiential knowledge to the participant, and helping him or her through his or her own psychological decision-making process. As Gnostics, lay- or otherwise, our primary concern must be for the participant's own ability to come to self-knowledge. Through compassionate involvement with the participant during his or her decision-making process, we can only ever hold up a series of decorated mirrors and hope that one of the mirrors will contain what the participant needs to see. Nonetheless, the focus should always be on the participant, and when providing counseling, we should be as unobtrusive as possible in our observations. The Gnostic Counselor and the Participant: Some Basic Considerations 1. Compassion: Above all else, we must place the needs and desires of the participant above our own. According to Gnostic spirituality, each individual human contains a spark of the Divine Pleroma, that substanceless substance which fills us all. As this is the case, we must strive to treat the participant with the same regard we treat ourselves-indeed, with the same regard we treat the Pleroma. This does not mean, of course, holding up the participant to any kind of veneration; rather, if we truly wish to assist another individual with his or her problems, we must remember at all times that he or she is a valuable individual who contains this Pleromic spark and deserves our love and compassion.
2. Respect and Regard: If we desire to serve another in the capacity of Counselor, we must be completely open to, and respectful of the participant. Nothing he or she confides in us should be considered trivial, useless or invalid. We should avoid being patronizing or making undue assumptions about the participant's ability to formulate conclusions for him or herself. We must regard the client as an equal, equally imperfect and equally beset by the World of Forms but also equally intelligent, equally able to make decisions and work through problems. 3. Confidence: By confidence, we mean we must take into utter and complete confidence anything shared by the participant. Not only do we have an ethical (and in many cases legal) obligation to regard all such information privileged, we are also in a position to understand the difference between first- and second-hand experience. As our tradition teaches us, the experience of gnosis supercedes any attempts at interpretation by secondary participants, resulting in errors of judgement or worse on their part. So too can sharing confidential information about a participant with anyone not directly involved in the counseling process (or anyone at all, really) result in errors of judgement or worse. The very few exceptions will be touched upon later. 4. Kindness: As Spiritual Counselors, we have the privilege of being granted access to a participant's vulnerable emotional space. As such, we must live up to this privilege and treat the participant with the kindness he or she deserves as a fellow. 5. Honesty: Finally, though it seems that this should go without saying, honesty is of the utmost importance when fulfilling the role of Spiritual Counselor. We will oftimes be called upon to deliver difficult truths to participants about deeply personal issues. When this is the case, we must never hesitate to openly and honestly supply these truths, always in the spirit of compassion and kindness. Although these five basic considerations merely scratch the surface of the relationship between the counselor and the participant, they hopefully provide a foundation upon which such a relationship can be built. We will discuss them in detail at a later point. Some Basic Tools for the Gnostic Counselor The Gnostic Spiritual Counselor has a great number of tools at his or her disposal. Although the individual Counselor must develop his or her own "set" of tools, the following are a few suggestions specific to the Gnostic Path which have been proven valuable for the process of self-exploration. More "traditional" counseling methodolgies and modalities will be addressed in a later section. 1. Scripture and Mythology: One of the "patron saints" of Gnosticism is, of course, Carl Jung, who recognized that the archetypes in mythology are universal and personal. Gnostic scripture and myth are an absolutely invaluable tool for the Gnostic Counselor. The stories they contain exemplify both extra- and intrapersonal processes. The Archons, for instance, are often described as corresponding to particular character traits or psychological conditions, such as fear, envy, etc. The Aeons, on the other hand,
correspond to other traits such as wisdom, perception, etc. These stories can be utilized as teaching metaphors and descriptions of psychological processes that may assist the participant in coming to terms with events in his or her own life. 2. Divinatory Systems: While not specifically "Gnostic," divinatory systems such as the Tarot and the I Ching can be powerful assistants for the Counselor and the participant as they work through personal issues. The archetypal symbolism inherent in the Tarot, for instance, provides a wonderful map of the psyche, which, when used for selfexploration, often leads to startling insight. These methods can also greatly assist both Counselor and participant in moving forward in a situation in which they have become "stuck." 3. Prayer and Ritual: As Spiritual Counselors, we should never hesitate to recommend sincere and heartfelt prayer to the participant, and should be willing to pray with him or her if so moved. The Christos and Sophia should be invited to join each session, and can always be relied upon to provide wisdom and guidance when asked. If we are in a role to provide sacramental service or ritual to the participant, we may also choose to use such service or ritual, or to connect the participant with such services as can be provided by the local spiritual community. Healing rituals are especially useful, though many different sacramental forms can be used to great efficacy. 4. Contemplative Practice: A large part of the Counselor's duty to the participant will be to assist him or her in dealing with stress and anxiety. As Gnostics, we have a rich scriptural heritage which includes contemplative practice and other forms of meditation. The Counselor can recommend and teach these methods to the participant, not only to encourage the process of self-discovery within the participant, but also to reduce these levels of stress and anxiety which might accompany the situations encountered by the participant.
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