The question of spiritual qualifications is often debated. I submit that spiritual training itself is not the issue: rather, the issue is with taking on a label that carries expectations one does not fulfill. Ultimately, it comes down to our general resentment towards people who overstate their own importance and make false claims in the process.
Of course, fraud is fraud no matter how you look at it. But I’m not talking about situations where a “practitioner” is knowingly out to rip people off or otherwise cause harm. I’m talking about those grey areas that exist when mostly good-intentioned people claim to offer a spiritual service (either for free or for some kind of exchange) but have no apparent qualifications for doing so. (By qualifications I refer to certificates and other proof-of-attendance from various schools and workshops.)
It seems to me that spiritual training is only a concern when one is claiming to offer some very specific spiritual service for which standardized training has been developed and become expected. If you call your practice Reiki, then you ought to fulfill the definition of a Reiki practitioner. If the standards themselves are a little fuzzy, then you ought to fulfill the definition of your practice according to what is reasonably expected by most people seeking your help.
However, if you don’t make claims to offer any specific service — if, for instance, you do not adhere to any particular spiritual label — I submit that you are free from all expectation. Furthermore, I believe that standardized spiritual training is impossible in most cases, and that reputation alone is the far better indicator for those who need proof of efficacy.
There is an argument that spiritual services of any sort are powerful enough to be dangerous in the wrong hands. Therefore, one ought not offer help without training. One ought not even offer advice without learning proper counseling techniques, no matter how opinion-based and even arbitrary they may be. This boils down to the idea that no one should extend aid to someone else without being absolutely certain that one knows what one is doing.
I don’t buy that. I don’t believe there is any such thing as certainty, let alone “absolute” certainty, with regard to helping people in any way. It is really far more dangerous to believe that one does know with certainty how to help. That kind of thinking is arrogance and leads to disaster. Proper humility, meaning accepting that one may make mistakes, leads to healthy caution and healthy respect for everyone involved.
I really don’t mean to be dismissive of standardized spiritual training. What I dismiss is the idea that we should sit back and do nothing without it. First of all, workshops and classes are not the only ways to learn one’s practice. I’m not even sure they are the best ways, but that’s just an opinion. I think that spiritual skills by nature beg for unconventional training, which therefore cannot be standardized, and thus one cannot be expected to have followed any specific path to attain them.
Ultimately, I think one ought to be clear about what service one is offering and fulfill the definition of that service with integrity. It is both our birthright and our purpose to help others — let’s not discourage it or make it more difficult than it needs to be.