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May 2nd, 2010


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05:53 pm - Reviewing the CTP, Discipline, and Other Thoughts
As of May 1, I was officially charged with reviewing the current ADF Clergy Training Program. This coincides nicely with my submission of the final course in the current program (still pending review/approval).

There are a couple of specific problems that I've been asked to make recommendations regarding the following particular issues:
  • Priests do not have a "complete" set of skills until the end of the Third Circle, leading to the consecration of Priests who may or may not be ready for the full range of services required of them.
  • Appearance of the CTP as a "logical next step" in training beyond the ADF Dedicant Path
  • The CTP may lack the balance of other priestly training programs
  • Ethics and law training occur too late in the current system
  • If a "complete Priest" can be developed by the end of First Circle, we no longer need to push people through all three Circles at the expense of other commitments within ADF (or outside of ADF).
And a few other issues.

One particular area I am currently focusing on is the division of courses. Most priestly training involves three basic "types" of training:
  1. Practical – what is said and done during ritual
  2. Theoretical – the reasoning behind these things said and things done
  3. Discipline – those regimes of physical or spiritual self-cultivation that increase the effectiveness of the practice.¹
ADF has both practicum and theoretics (though more theoretics couldn't hurt), but no discipline requirements. To be more specific, a spiritual discipline needs to serve an unselfish goal, such as the control of the self and dedication of the Priest's personal identity to a power or cause beyond him- or herself. While all will gain benefit from engaging in discipline, be they Priest or layperson, the Priest engages in it because his or her work in this benefits others in some way.

Part of what we will need to answer is what this last piece means to us. Common types of "discipline" in other religions that priests are expected to engage in are "remaining pure" (which can mean many different things to different religions, from having hands without deformity to bathing before ritual to observing certain periods of abstention from ritual after sexual intercourse), celibacy (mostly among Manichaean-influenced religions), and regular prayer and/or meditation. These are, of course, just examples from other religions: I doubt that our membership would even want celibate priests. Still, it's worth mentioning as an example.

As I think about what it means to be an ADF Priest, I know that it involves discipline: there is the keeping of the 8 High Days, the Clergy Order Work, the devotionals we do daily or weekly, and other things that set us apart as a result of our piety. . . and all of them are things that people outside the Priesthood are already likely to engage in, but they are also things that (even though we've never said, "All our Priests do X, Y, and Z") our membership pretty explicitly expects of us. The creation of basic disciplinary requirements for Priests of each grade would go a long way toward consolidating our experience and providing us with a more coherent notion of Priesthood. Additionally, as a student advances within the training, the discipline level can increase, giving an advantage of time to those who do not advance in the Circle system and an advantage of deeper spiritual training to those who do.

It would also give us a chance to be specific about the skillset that we require: the DP, for example, requires only "grounding and centering," and we can require our Priests to have strong experience with the Two Powers by requiring disciplinary practice in that. We might require our Priests to have a "Fire, Well, Tree" altar or keep their altar in a specific configuration. These are just random, pulled-from-the-hat examples.

One thing that I expect to seriously consider is some way to improve overall health of our Priests, such as regular physical exercise of some sort. In the words of Jimmy Buffett, "I treat my body like a temple, you treat yours like a tent." If we recognize that the divine is, in any way, indwelling, then we should treat our bodies well. Because someone may ask, I wouldn't make this suggestion to "slim down" our clergy (again, the primary benefit should not be for the Priest him- or herself), but just because there's some theological reasoning behind providing a healthy temple for the seat of the self, and requiring some sort of physical exercise (within limits of what's medically appropriate, of course) can help contribute to that. A taboo against red meat or standing too close to nuclear reactors might accomplish the same sort of thing, though.

Anyway, "discipline" is about placing the needs of the Folk above the needs of the Priest engaging in disciplinary practices. The Priest meditates regularly so that he can lead others in meditation, not because he derives tranquility from it. The Priest kindles a fire each morning so that she may kindle the fire correctly at her Grove's rite, not to keep herself warm. The Priest reads the Rgveda or Havamal daily not to gain knowledge of the contents, but to speak those verses when there are no words for other things. A lot of this is still percolating, and I suspect that I will only offer some minor recommendations regarding discipline that don't put too much of a burden on our membership, but I know that I will recommend some form of discipline that will be a "baseline" for our Dedicant Priests and all students within the CTP.

Keep an eye here: I have begun my own disciplinary practices (since I can't prescribe any without trying them out), and will have more information about things I've tried soon. So far, it's a shift in my devotional schedule, an addition of regular exercise, and a couple of other things. It's a bit painful to try and jump-start practice like this, but it hurts in a good way. :)

¹ - Oxtoby, Willard G. "Priesthood: An Overview." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. 2nd ed. Vol. 11. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 7394-7399. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 May 2010.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: "King of Somewhere Hot", -JB

(64 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:seamus_mcnasty
Date:May 2nd, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
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Very nice! I was shocked and happy to see you think about the physical. We need to maintain balance, physical, mental and spiritual! WOOT good job Michael!
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:May 2nd, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)
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The physical is the most complicated for me. As I indicate above, I don't want anyone to feel that I am trying to slim down our clergy, but this point that Cei makes in A Book of Pagan Prayer stands out to me:

"Why do the gods demand physical gifts from us, then? Why are they not satisfied with prayer and a sincere heart? In part because there is no sharp line to be drawn between the material and the spiritual. By demanding material offerings, the gods remind us that the material is sacred too."

This notion correlates very strongly to a founding piece of ADF literature: What Do Neopagan Druids Believe? This article makes a particular point:

"We believe that divinity is both immanent (internal) and transcendent (external), with immanence being far more important for us to pay attention to at this crucial phase of human history. Deities can manifest at any point in space or time which They might choose, including within human beings (through the processes known as "inspiration," "channeling," and "possession")."

While ADF has moved away from the word "believe" to describe what we do, I would suggest that this is still what I like to call one of those "ritual assumptions" that we make in ritual. It is important that we offer a temple, not a tent, when we call that fire of inspiration in or when we begin again at our center in order to set out to meet the Kindreds.

Balance, yes.

This is, right now, the hardest of things for me. I despise rote exercise, but I'm up and running every morning now.

I've just started some recommendations that may require people to shed offices as they rise through the CTP, as well. But that's a different post.
[User Picture]
From:prophet_maid
Date:May 3rd, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
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"I despise rote exercise, but I'm up and running every morning now."

Why? Why not find some joyful or non-rote form of exercise? I could never go to they gym 3 times a week, but I do get daily walks, love swimming, biking, dancing, hiking, and practice yoga. It's not rote, it has spiritual merit, and it's exercise.
[User Picture]
From:anivair
Date:May 3rd, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
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Agreed. I dig.
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From:chronarchy
Date:May 3rd, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)
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Dude, I *love* the shovelglove website.

I think I may do that, actually. Sounds awesome, at least in theory, which is generally plenty for me :)
[User Picture]
From:prophet_maid
Date:May 3rd, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
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One of the things I like about ADF is it doesn't prescribe a specific spiritual discipline. I do think all clergy should be expected to have some, but I wouldn't want it to be prescribed beyond a VERY basic outline. My own discipline (a pagan approach to yoga) is evolving constantly and is very relevant to the rest of my religious practice. I don't want that interfered with.

As for the "improving the overall health of the priests" that rings alarm bells for me. So much of our culture these days is about "improving health" that it's become a cultural obsession that is frankly unhealthy and damaging. I don't want ADF tainted by that. One, I think you need to think long and hard about your reasons behind this before you even consider the how, and furthermore consider how a health mandate would be perceived coming from one of the youngest and thinnest or fittest members of the clergy. I'm moreover concerned that this comes up so shortly after that brief flap on facebook about Rev. Crystal Groves' body.

One thing that could be done is more work exploring the connection between the physical and spiritual, such as with yoga. I love that paganism is a very immanent-oriented religion, and thus embraces the physical, whereas many are more transcendent-oriented and seek to distance the practitioner from the physical and earthy. Of course, yoga falls under the latter category, but I've found it to be very helpful as a tool for the spiritual development of physicality (and vice-versa).
[User Picture]
From:prophet_maid
Date:May 3rd, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
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Sorry that this was somewhat incoherent, I had a baby fussing during much of the typing for it. If you need clarification or elaboration, please ask.
[User Picture]
From:seamus_mcnasty
Date:May 3rd, 2010 02:06 am (UTC)
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this has nothing to do with Crystal, but with a priest (or anyone) putting down the book or getting up from the laptop and doing something physical (at least for me), why? Over all health, stress reduction, reflection, a mental break etc...this is something I have been beating the drum about for years...
It's about health and maintaining oneself as we age. I don't care about body types (I am heavy myself)but about balance...yogo, dancing, chin ups, swiming, basketball, hiking whatever there is a life beyond our mental and spiritual work and by doing this physical discipline we are warding ourselves against burnout, sickness and recharging our batteries. JMHO
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From:chronarchy
Date:May 3rd, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
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I'm probably one of the least fit of our clergy, all told. I'm far more tent than temple. Being blessed with a high metabolism doesn't mean that there aren't other things that need improvement: it ain't all surface, after all.

But that's not the point, nor is it the point to interfere with anything that's being done now. But exercise of "some undefined sort," particularly when tempered with notions that people shouldn't be made to do anything that is beyond their ability (and especially nothing that endangers their health). Yoga sounds active to me. Heck, committing to and managing to get out and walk a half mile three times a week sounds active to me (it's more than I have done until recently).

I wrote and re-wrote this several times, trying to indicate entirely that this is not about weight, image, or any other garbage notion like that. It's just about thinking about ways to incorporate discipline into the CTP. Exercise is a simple one, especially when broadly defined, that will also benefit our members by keeping our Priests alive longer.

But the discipline requirement, as I think I will likely recommend it, will not make everyone happy. No matter how vague we are (my initial thought for CTP 1 students, as an example, is "Keep the 8 High Days at your hearth, meaning solitary/domestic work; meditate and pray daily; and do solitary ritual once per week with a set of ritual tools you have consecrated yourself."

Honestly, I'm pretty sure that I'll get pushback on "mediate and pray daily," and possibly pushback if we require Priests to work the 8 High Days at their home shrine as well as with their Grove.

I don't think that ADF will prescribe any disciplines for our members, but the Clergy are going to start working in similar ways, I suspect. . . and some of us (myself surely included in that, as I'm not driving this bus) will need to begin doing work we may not currently be doing, and may even not be comfortable with quite yet.
[User Picture]
From:wcm
Date:May 3rd, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
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I would love more information on how you've taken a Pagan approach to yoga. It's something I do a little bit (as briefly mentioned above!) but I've not been able to attend an actual class. I haven't done much research on the beliefs behind it - anything you suggest? (feel free to email me at machenball@gmail.com)
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From:anivair
Date:May 3rd, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
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Along with all the other crap I just said here, I would love to see our priests have a greater understanding of not just the two powers, but a lot of different types of grounding and centering. A lot of people don't love two powers (you hear about this on the dedicant lists all the time) and I think exploring other options is a good thing.

Overall, what makes an effective priest is a working knowledge of the things that their congregation are doing. So hearth cultures, types of meditation, divination, etc. I know a lot of this is covered, but I'm just covering my bases.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:May 3rd, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
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Indeed, I'll be moving IE Myth 2 earlier in the program: it gives more perspective on additional hearths.

I have often wondered if the dislike of the 2P has more to do with the skills of those presenting it, the resources available to those working with it for the first time, or the fact that it's a crock of shit. :) I think that if we spent a bit more time training our clergy with it (as of now, you don't have to do it in your personal devotions to become clergy, but our Priests still run through it at rituals), we might get a better experience as a whole out of it.

And I would like to see a lot more diversification in skills and knowledge of different methods. . . I expect to recommend a set of core courses and electives to help our Priesthood become more diverse, actually, too.
[User Picture]
From:anivair
Date:May 3rd, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
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My only real problems with 2P are these:

1) we focus on it a LOT as if it is THE way to meditate and people often don't know that's not true. hell, most people are shocked to learn that they don't have to use that exact meditation as their focus for the DP and it's right in the requirements.

2) we focus on it under the assumption that everyone "gets it". "then just do two powers". It's not that simple. A basic intro to how to do it and what to try if it doesn't work for you might be nice. In fact, maybe I'll go write such a thing right now.
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