I was sitting down to write this review, when I got an email from a friend asking about mentoring. Imagine that. So, my response to him also counts as my blog entry. Here’s the email:
By an Amazing Coincidence, I was just sitting down to write a blog review of one of the AODA’s Required Reading books, “Spiritual Mentoring” by Judy Harrow, which is all about how to help people along in their spiritual development, from a specifically Pagan perspective. So, instead of writing the review, I’ll tell you all about it so maybe you can help your friend.
First, a quote from page 39:
“Mentoring is both a relationship and an activity. The relationship is more important because the goal of the activity is personal development rather than either training or education. Information can be shared without any personal relationship at all; all of us have learned from books or from broadcast documentaries. Skills can be transferred from one person to another through very narrow interactions; I can learn how to bake bread or write a computer program quite well from someone who is otherwise dysfunctional. But only a truly spiritual person can show another how to become spiritual – and not by precept, only by example.”
This is really the heart of what Harrow has to say. You can’t teach someone how to be spiritual. You can’t personally introduce them to the Divine. You can teach techniques, practices, lore, ritual – but a book can teach that just as well. So what is there to teach? The best thing a spiritual mentor can be is a good example, and that example is shown through relationship.
The rest of the book is about developing that relationship, and an exploration of religious and spiritual development, using models from both within and without the Pagan community.
Here’s a list of questions she recommends “for people considering commitment” Here she defines “commitment” as a stage of conversion marking the decision to join a new faith community. The focus in this book is on people working within specific traditions and communities, but I think what she says applies just as well to someone looking to commit to their own solitary path.
What do you experience as Sacred in your life?
What is your source of hope? of pride? of power?
To what are you loyal? To what are you devoted?
For what are you thankful?
Where do you find nurturance?
Which Deity guides or empowers you?
How would that Deity describe you?
Whom or what do you trust? Whom or what do you fear?
What are your most inspiring goals, your most Sacred hopes?
With whom do you share these things? What are your sources of human guidance or support? Whom do you trust?
Harrow recommends really pondering and meditating on these answers, because the answers will show you the callings of your own heart. I would also add that having thought about the answers to these questions leads to greater commitment to the Path, because the answers are reminders of what is really important. This set of questions seems very much like the questionnaire that you are working on.
The concept that stood out the most for me from this book, the thing that was really an “Aha!” moment for me, is a description of the three main concepts of Deity. She (actually, not Harrow here but a pair of elders whom she refers to) categorizes them as “colors.”
The “red” concept is the orthodox deist position. Gods are real, personal, individuals whose existence is objectively verifiable.
The “blue” concept is that Deity exists as the Ultimate Sacred/Great Mystery/Source. Humans cannot comprehend the Great Mystery, so we have gods that are humanlike metaphors for aspects of the Ultimate (this sounds like your concept below)
The “yellow” concept is that the gods are constructs of the human imagination. They are Truths in the abstract sense – personifications of concepts. They are not Facts in the objective sense.
The neat thing about this model is that it’s a triangle – red, yellow, and blue are the points, but your own personal deity concept can fall anywhere on the triangle, and can change depending on your state of mind or where you are in life. My deity concept is kind of purplish, with a little more blue than red – but there are occasions where it suddenly goes bright red, and others where it mellows to a cool blue. It’s hardly ever yellow, though it has been in the past – I’ve had a few too many Red experiences to go back to Yellow.
The book is terrific, and I highly recommend it to anyone on the Path, whether you have any intention of mentoring others or not. It’s been my experience that students show up whether you invite them or not, so you might as well have some idea of how to relate to them.
The best advice I can give is to be yourself, and allow your friend to be himself too, but that’s probably an irritatingly vague way of putting it. You have the advantage of a long friendship there, so you don’t have to worry about that horrible idealizing transference thing (the whole “I bow before you O great witch queen” thing – which Harrow also talks about – she thinks it’s necessary to put up with at the start, but it just gives me the creeps) and you have a basis of trust. Show him what you do, tell him why you do it, and be there to answer questions – that’s about what it boils down to.