Spiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the divine, or to learn and grow in their own personal spirituality. The person seeking direction shares stories of his or her encounters of the divine, or how he or she is cultivating a life attuned to spiritual things. The director listens and asks questions to assist the directee in his or her process of reflection and spiritual growth. Spiritual direction advocates claim that it develops a deeper awareness with the spiritual aspect of being human, and that it is not psychotherapy, counseling, or financial planning.
In religion, divinity or Godhead is the state of things that are believed to come from a supernatural power or deity, such as God, the supreme being, creator deity, or spirits, and are therefore regarded as sacred and holy. Such things are regarded as divine due to their transcendental origins or because their attributes or qualities are superior or supreme relative to things of the Earth. Divine things are regarded as eternal and based in truth, while material things are regarded as ephemeral and based in illusion. Such things that may qualify as divine are apparitions, visions, prophecies, miracles, and in some views also the soul, or more general things like resurrection, immortality, grace, and salvation. Otherwise what is or is not divine may be loosely defined, as it is used by different belief systems.
The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other.
Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings. In psychology, the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one's mental state, while in a spiritual context it may refer to the examination of one's soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and is contrasted with external observation.
While there is some degree of variability, there are primarily two forms of spiritual direction: regular direction and retreat direction. They differ largely in the frequency of meeting and in the intensity of reflection.
The meaning of a spiritual retreat can be different for different religious communities. Spiritual retreats are an integral part of many Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Sufi (Islamic) communities.
Regular direction can involve a one- to two-hour meeting every four to eight weeks, and thus is slightly less intense than retreat direction, although spiritual exercises and disciplines are often given for the directee to attempt between meetings.
If the directee is on a retreat (lasting a weekend, a week or even 40 days), he or she will generally meet with his or her director on a daily basis for one hour. During these daily meetings, exercises or spiritual disciplines such as lectio divina are given to the directee as fodder to continue his or her spiritual growth. Alternatively, retreat centres often offer direction or companionship to persons visiting the centre alone.
The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are a popular example of guidelines used for spiritual direction.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian, who founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and became its first Superior General at Paris in 1541. The Jesuit order served the Pope as missionaries, and they were bound by a vow of special obedience to the sovereign pontiff in regard to the missions. They therefore emerged as an important force during the time of the Counter-Reformation.
Within Christianity, spiritual direction has its roots in Early Christianity. The gospels describe Jesus serving as a mentor to his disciples. Additionally, Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9 describes Ananias helping Paul of Tarsus to grow in his newfound experience of Christianity. Likewise, several of the Pauline epistles describe Paul mentoring both Timothy and Titus among others. Tradition tells us that John the Evangelist tutored Polycarp, the 2nd-century bishop of Smyrna.
Christianity is a Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Most Christians get baptized, celebrate the Lord's Supper, pray the Lord's Prayer and other prayers, have clergy, and attend group worship services.
Gospel originally meant the Christian message itself, but in the 2nd century it came to be used for the books in which the message was set out. The four canonical gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — were written between AD 70 and 100, building on older sources and traditions, and each gospel has its own distinctive understanding of Jesus and his divine role. All four are anonymous, and it is almost certain that none were written by an eyewitness. They are the main source of information on the life of Jesus as searched for in the quest for the historical Jesus. Modern scholars are cautious of relying on them unquestioningly, but critical study attempts to distinguish the original ideas of Jesus from those of the later authors. Many non-canonical gospels were also written, all later than the four, and all, like them, advocating the particular theological views of their authors.
Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity and is widely described as the most influential person in history. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.
Theologian John Cassian who lived in the 4th century provided some of the earliest recorded guidelines on the Christian practice of spiritual direction.He introduced mentoring in the monasteries. Each novice was put under the care of an older monk. Benedict of Nursia integrated Cassian's guidelines into what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict.
John Cassian, John the Ascetic, or John Cassian the Roman, was a Christian monk and theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. Cassian is noted for his role in bringing the ideas and practices of Christian monasticism to the early medieval West.
Benedict of Nursia is a Christian saint, who is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.
The Rule of Saint Benedict is a book of precepts written by Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot.
Spiritual direction is widespread in the Catholic religion: a person with wisdom and spiritual discernment, usually but not exclusively a priest or consecrated in general, provides counsel to a person who wishes to make a journey of faith and discovery of God's will in his life. The spiritual guide aims to discern, understand what the Holy Spirit, through the situations of life, spiritual insights fruit of prayer, reading and meditation on the Bible, tells the person accompanied. The spiritual father or spiritual director may provide advice, give indications of life and prayer, resolving doubts in matters of faith and morals without replacing the choices and decisions to the person accompanying.
Eastern Orthodoxy comes from the same pre-schism traditions, but the role of a "spiritual director" or "elder" in Orthodoxy has maintained its important role. The original Greek term geron (meaning "elder", as in gerontology) was rendered by the Russian word starets, from Old Church Slavonic starĭtsĭ, "elder", derived from starŭ, "old". The Greek tradition has a long unbroken history of elders and disciples, such as Sophronius and John Moschos in the seventh century, Symeon the Elder and Symeon the New Theologian in the eleventh century, and contemporary charismatic gerontes such as Porphyrios and Paisios. Sergius of Radonezh and Nil Sorsky were two most venerated startsy of Old Muscovy. The revival of elders in the Slavic world is associated with the name of Paisius Velichkovsky (1722–94), who produced the Russian translation of the Philokalia. The most famous Russian starets of the early 19th century was Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833), who went on to become one of the most revered Orthodox saints. The Optina Pustyn near Kozelsk used to be celebrated for its startsy (Schema-Archimandrite Moses, Schema-Hegumen Anthony, Hieroschemamonk Leonid, Hieroschemamonk Macarius, Hieroschemamonk Hilarion, Hieroschemamonk Ambrose, Hieroschemamonk Anatole (Zertsalov)). Such writers as Nikolay Gogol, Aleksey Khomyakov, Leo Tolstoy and Konstantin Leontyev sought advice from the elders of this monastery. They also inspired the figure of Zosima in Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov. A more modern example of a starets is Archimandrite John Krestiankin (1910-2006) of the Pskov Monastery of the Caves who was popularly recognized as such by many Orthodox living in Russia.
In Judaism, the Hebrew term for spiritual director differs among traditional communities. The verb Hashpa'ah is common in some communities though not all; the spiritual director called a mashpi'a occurs in the Habad-Lubavitch community and also in the Jewish Renewal community. A mashgiakh ruchani is the equivalent role among mitnagedim (adherents of the mussar tradition). The purpose of hashpa'ah is to support the directee in her or his personal relationship with God, and to deepen that person's ability to find God's presence in ordinary life. Amongst Lubavitchers this draws on the literature and praxis of Hasidism as it is practiced according to Habad standards, and to Jewish mystical tradition generally. Spiritual mentorship is customary in the Hasidic world, but not necessarily in the same way.
In Sufism, the term used for spiritual master is murshid , Arabic for "guide" or "teacher". He is more than a spiritual director and believed to be guiding the disciples based on his direct connectivity with the Divine. The murshid's role is to spiritually guide and verbally instruct the disciple on the Sufi path after the disciple takes an oath of allegiance or Bay'ah (bai'ath) with him. The concept of Murshid Kamil Akmal (also known as Insan-e-Kamil) is significant in most tariqas. The doctrine states that from pre-existence till pre-eternity, there shall always remain a Qutb or a Universal Man upon the earth who would be the perfect manifestation of God and at the footsteps of the Islamic prophet Mohammad.
Hesychasm is a mystical tradition of contemplative prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Based on Jesus's injunction in the Gospel of Matthew that "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray", hesychasm in tradition has been the process of retiring inward by ceasing to register the senses, in order to achieve an experiential knowledge of God.
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Samuel L. Lewis also known as Murshid Samuel Lewis and Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti was an American mystic and horticultural scientist who founded what became the Sufi Ruhaniat International, a branch of the Chishtia Sufi lineage. After a lifetime of spiritual study with teachers East and West, primarily Inayat Khan and Nyogen Senzaki, Lewis was recognized simultaneously as a Zen master and Sufi murshid by Eastern representatives of the two traditions. He also co-founded the Christian mystical order called the Holy Order of Mans. His early interest in international seed exchange and organic agriculture also established him as one of the pioneers of green spirituality. His most enduring legacy may be the creation of the Dances of Universal Peace, an early interspiritual practice that has spread around the world in the 43 years since his passing.
Semipelagianism is a Christian theological and soteriological school of thought on salvation; that is, the means by which humanity and God are restored to a right relationship. Semipelagian thought stands in contrast to the earlier Pelagian teaching about salvation, which had been dismissed as heresy. Semipelagianism in its original form was developed as a compromise between Pelagianism and the teaching of Church Fathers such as Saint Augustine, who taught that people cannot come to God without the grace of God. In semipelagian thought, therefore, a distinction is made between the beginning of faith and the increase of faith. Semipelagian thought teaches that the latter half – growing in faith – is the work of God, while the beginning of faith is an act of free will, with grace supervening only later. It too was labeled heresy by the Western Church at the Second Council of Orange in 529.
Sufism Reoriented is an American school of spiritual training, headquartered in Walnut Creek, California, established by Meher Baba in 1952. In November of that year he signed The Chartered Guidance from Meher Baba for the Reorientation of Sufism. He appointed Ivy O. Duce as the first Murshida, or spiritual guide, of Sufism Reoriented.
The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, composed 1522–1524, are a set of Christian meditations, contemplations, and prayers written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th-century Spanish priest, theologian, and founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Divided into four thematic "weeks" of variable length, they are designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days. They were composed with the intention of helping participants in religious retreats to discern the will of God in their lives, leading to a personal commitment to follow Jesus whatever the cost. Their underlying theology has been found agreeable to other Christian denominations who make use of them and also for addressing problems facing society in the 21st century.
Murshid is Arabic for "guide" or "teacher", derived from the root r-sh-d, with the basic meaning of having integrity, being sensible, mature. Particularly in Sufism it refers to a spiritual guide. The term is frequently used in Sufi orders such as the Qadiriyya, Chishtiya, Shadhiliya and Suhrawardiyya.
A starets is an elder of a Russian Orthodox monastery who functions as venerated adviser and teacher. Elders or spiritual fathers are charismatic spiritual leaders whose wisdom stems from God as obtained from ascetic experience. It is believed that through ascetic struggle, prayer and Hesychasm, the Holy Spirit bestows special gifts onto the elder including the ability to heal, prophesy, and most importantly, give effective spiritual guidance and direction. Elders are looked upon as being an inspiration to believers and an example of saintly virtue, steadfast faith, and spiritual peace.
Fanaa in Sufism is the "passing away" or "annihilation". Fana means "to die before one dies", a concept highlighted by famous notable Muslim saints such as Rumi and later by Sultan Bahoo. Fana represents a breaking down of the individual ego and a recognition of the fundamental unity of God, creation, and the individual self. Persons having entered this enlightened state obtain awareness of the intrinsic unity (Tawhid) between Allah and all that exists, including the individual's mind. It is coupled conceptually with baqaa, subsistence, which is the state of pure consciousness of and abidance in God.
Sufi philosophy includes the schools of thought unique to Sufism, a mystical branch within Islam, also termed as Tasawwuf or Faqr according to its adherents. Sufism and its philosophical traditions may be associated with both Sunni Islam and Shia Islam. It has been suggested that Sufi thought emerged from the Middle East in the eighth century, but adherents are now found around the world. According to Sufism, it is a part of the Islamic teaching that deals with the purification of inner self and is the way which removes all the veils between divine and man. It was around 1000 CE that early Sufi literature, in the form of manuals, treatises, discourses and poetry, became the source of Sufi thinking and meditations. Sufi philosophy, like all other major philosophical traditions, has several sub-branches including metaphysics and cosmology as well as several unique concepts.
Pir or Peer is a title for a Sufi master or spiritual guide. They are also referred to as a Hazrat or Shaikh, which is Arabic for Old Man. The title is often translated into English as "saint" and could be interpreted as "Elder". In Sufism a Pir's role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path. This is often done by general lessons and individual guidance. Other words that refer to a Pir include, Murshid, Sheikh and Sarkar. In Alevism, Pir's are considered a direct descendant of Ali.
Discernment of Spirits is a term used in Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Charismatic (Evangelist) Christian theology to indicate judging various spiritual agents for their moral influence. These agents are:
Saint Ambrose of Optina was a starets and a hieroschemamonk in Optina Monastery, canonized in the 1988 convention of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Inayati Order is a Western Sufi order, originally founded by Inayat Khan.
Although today's meaning is usually a place where a hermit lives in seclusion from the world, hermitage was more commonly used to mean a building or settlement where a person or a group of people lived religiously, in seclusion. When included in the name of continental European properties or churches, any meaning is often imprecise, and may refer to some distant period of the history of what is today a property that is either a normal parish church, or ceased to have any religious function some time ago. Secondary churches or establishments run from a monastery were often called "hermitages".
The Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) exists to address the greatest social needs of U.S. cities with the experience and skills of mature adults. Ignatian Volunteers, men and women age 50 and older, donate 600 hours of service a year and are supported and sustained by IVC’s unique spiritual reflection program.
The Sufi Ruhaniat International (SRI) is a stream of Universal Sufism and draws inspiration from traditions of Sufism within and beyond historic Islam. SRI is an initiatic order within the lineage of Inayat Khan (Inayati-Chishtiyya). Murshid Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti, a disciple of Inayat Khan, formally founded the order in 1970. There are centers throughout the United States, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Sufi Ruhaniat International has five primary activities.
Ignatian spirituality, also known as Jesuit spirituality, is a Catholic spirituality founded on the experiences of the sixteenth-century theologian Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. The main idea of this form of spirituality comes from Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises, the aim of which is to help one "conquer oneself and to regulate one's life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment." The Exercises are intended to give the person undertaking them a greater degree of freedom from his or her own likes and dislikes, that they may choose based solely on what they discern God's will is for them. Even in the composition of the exercises by Ignatius early in his career, one might find the apostolic thrust of his spirituality in his contemplation on "The Call of the Earthly King" and in his final contemplation with its focus on finding God in all things.
Revelation of the Veiled ; Kashf-ul-Mahjoob also Kashf-ul-Mahjub; is one of the most ancient and revered Persian treatise on Sufism which contains a complete system of Sufism with its doctrines and practices. The author himself a renowned Sufi saint takes an expository approach. Mystical controversies and current opinions are illustrated where many are clarified by presenting his experiences. The book with its Persian flavor of philosophical speculation is itself a piece of the identity of Ali Hujwiri also known as Data Ganj Baksh.