One of the key questions in the matter of professionalism is whether having these discussions is even necessary. Are we actually acting in a professional capacity, one where we need to be talking about a professional ethics?
For many people in our community the answer is going to be
clearly not. Most Pagans–and, indeed, many spirit workers–are going to be cleanly on the side of the line where the questions are ones of personal responsibility and individual ethics. These are important, but for them, this section on professionalism is going to seem a little strange. Questions such as dual relationships and ethics of divining over someone else’s health simply aren’t issues that they have to deal with, at least on the giving end. For people in these situations, this section can be treated as a thought experiment or–possibly–as a guide for what you should look for in the professionals and semi-professionals that you deal with in the community.
For others, the question is extremely clear cut in the other direction. They make a living giving talks or teaching classes. They may have gone on to achieve a Masters of Divinity from a school such as Cherry Hill Seminary or Naropa. They may be members of professional tarot organizations or possibly even pastoral counseling/spiritual guidance groups that already have codes of ethics in place.
These are topics that such people deal with regularly and that they–hopefully–know that they are dealing with and have put considerable thought into already. While the quality of those groups varies, they also have the benefit of a group of like-minded professionals to discuss professional ethical situations with.
For most of the rest of us, however, we exist somewhere in a nebulous and uncertain middle. That is where the danger lies, and that is where I believe we need to be having the most discussion. We slowly start inching our way into acting in a professional capacity, and people start listening to what we have to say, but–unless we make time for it–we never take a moment to step back and reflect on the ethical quandaries involved.
So where do we draw the line?
To me the cleanest and clearest place to draw the line is when one individual starts using their abilities for another person or group at their behest or at the behest of someone else. Even when you take no money or other forms of compensation: if they might listen to your advice as a result, then it is my stance that you have a professional obligation.
So the tarot reader at the metaphysical fair, the spirit worker who offers shamanic readings, the medium who investigates houses for ghosts, the person running a metaphysical store or teaching a class, and the person in charge of an open ritual are all acting in a professional capacity. The spirit worker who delivers messages for the gods and wights or who performs soul retrieval is also acting as a professional.
At least for the time that they are in that role.
For many of us–spirit workers especially–this means that even if we are not acting in a professional capacity most of the time, we still need to be mindful or professional ethics for those handful of occasions that we to step into that role. We need to be mindful of our dual relationships when they come up, and be mindful of our personal boundaries for how much we should reasonably be willing to give.
None of this means
don’t. It mostly just means that whenever we start doing things that have an effect on other people, then we need to be mindful of our impact on them and their impact on us. No matter how many qualifiers we put up, people take our advice and listen to what we have to say.
So we owe it to them–and to ourselves–to only do things when they are within our competence, to be mindful of how dual relationships impact both our advice and how that advice is received, to understand where our obligations begin and where they end.
Of course, none of this means I have the answers or that what I post here is viewed (even by me) as any sort of absolute word, and most of my writings in this regard are based on what I perceive to be best practices throughout multiple different professional communities from their posted ethical codes and texts. So please do not view this as me laying forth any sort of judgmental dogma, but rather my theoretical discussion on the matter of how we interact with clients and students.
What I do believe, however, is that this is a conversation we–as a community–need to be having and that these are topics we desperately need to be mindful about. That, more than anything, is why I started this series.