Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

People have long sought to enrich their lives and to awaken to their full
natures through spiritual practices including prayer, meditation, mind-body
disciplines, service, ritual, community liturgy, holy-day and seasonal
observances, and rites of passage. “Primary religious practices” are
those intended, or especially likely, to bring about exceptional states of
consciousness such as the direct experience of divinity or of cosmic unity.

In any community, there are some who feel called to assist others along
spiritual paths, and who are known as ministers, rabbis, pastors, curanderas,
shamans, priests, or other titles. We call such people ‘guides’: those
experienced in some practice, familiar with the terrain, and who act to
facilitate the spiritual practices of others. A guide need not claim exclusive
or definitive knowledge of the terrain.

Spiritual practices, and especially primary religious practices, carry risks.
Therefore, when an individual chooses to practice with the assistance of a
guide, both take on special responsibilities. The Council on Spiritual Practices
proposes the following Code of Ethics for those who serve as spiritual guides.

1.[Intention] Spiritual guides are to practice and serve in ways that cultivate
awareness, empathy,
and wisdom.

2.[Serving Society] Spiritual practices are to be designed and conducted in ways
that respect the common good, with due regard for public safety, health, and
order. Because the increased awareness gained from spiritual practices can
catalyze desire for personal and social change, guides shall use special care to
help direct the energies of those they serve, as well as their own, in
responsible ways that reflect a loving regard for all life.

3.[Serving Individuals] Spiritual guides shall respect and seek to preserve the
autonomy and dignity of each person. Participation in any primary religious
practice must be voluntary and based on prior disclosure and consent given
individually by each participant while in an ordinary state of consciousness.
Disclosure shall include, at a minimum, discussion of any elements of the
practice that could reasonably be seen as presenting physical or psychological
risks. In particular, participants must be warned that primary religious
experience can be difficult and dramatically transformative.

Guides shall make reasonable preparations to protect each participant’s health
and safety during spiritual practices and in the vulnerable periods that may
follow. Limits on the behaviors of participants and facilitators are to be made
clear and agreed upon in advance of any session. Appropriate customs of
confidentiality are to be established and honored.

4.[Competence] Spiritual guides shall assist with only those practices for which
they are qualified by personal experience and by training or education.

5.[Integrity] Spiritual guides shall strive to be aware of how their own belief
systems, values, needs, and limitations affect their work. During primary
religious practices, participants may be especially vulnerable to suggestion,
manipulation, and exploitation; therefore, guides pledge to protect participants
and not to allow anyone to use that vulnerability in ways that harm participants
or others.

6.[Quiet Presence] To help safeguard against the harmful consequences of
personal and organizational ambition, spiritual communities are usually better
allowed to grow through attraction rather than active promotion.

7.[Not for Profit] Spiritual practices are to be conducted in the spirit of
service. Spiritual guides shall strive to accommodate participants without
regard to their ability to pay or make donations.

8.[Tolerance] Spiritual guides shall practice openness and respect towards
people whose beliefs are in apparent contradiction to their own.

9.[Peer Review] Each guide shall seek the counsel of other guides to help ensure
the wholesomeness of his or her practices and shall offer counsel when there is


This draft for public comment was released 17 October 1998. The current version
is available on
the Internet at

Copyright © 1995 – 1998 Council on Spiritual Practices

Box 460820 csp@c…
San Francisco, CA 94146-0820

Permission is hereby given to reprint this Code, provided that the text is
reproduced complete and verbatim, including the CSP contact information,
copyright, and this notice of limited permission to reprint.