Reflections is accepting applications for 2012 school year till Samhain, October 31st.
Every year we post the Reflections application for admissions and every year we hear the stories people make up within their minds about how difficult the application is or the fear it generates in some folks. I have received a great deal of push back about our admissions process. And every year like clockwork, the brave and the determined seem to submit the application just fine even with more than a little trepidation and every year they make it through the admissions process mostly unscathed.
And here we are again, another year of trepidation, nervous questions and more push back.
So this year like in previous years, I thought I would tackle another one of those “questions” we get at Reflections on a regular basis.
Why do we require folks to apply to Reflections instead of just admitting everyone who signs up?
I will answer the question, but first I need to tell you a couple of stories. (And I apologize for the length, but it could not be helped.)
Story #1: Witchcamp “Advanced” Paths
At Reclaiming witchcamps, we teach via a selection of paths. Each path meets daily at the same time, and each path will generally cover a different topic for the week. So in selecting a path, you were selecting your work for the week. You do not wander from path to path, you have to commit to a path for the week from day one. This works pretty well for the most part and the paths were usually advertised ahead of time and right after dinner on the first night, the path teachers describe their paths and the following morning, you have to pick which one to take.
However if you wanted to offer an advanced offering that required folks to be at a similar level of training, we found it helpful to require students to register for the path before camp. We would usually set a cut-off date in the camp brochure and require folks to send in letters directly to one of the teachers. So that once camp started, these students already knew what path they were in and had already completed some preparatory work.
And each year, there would be a couple of students who would request entry at camp, and each year, we would say no. Why? Because each of the students had committed to work ahead of time and as a result had already begun the work of the path. It was both a respect for their prior commitment and a guard against the new students starting up already behind the rest of the class.
Story #2: Michael Conforti, Ph.D and the Assisi Institute
Dr. Conforti founded the Assisi Institute a couple of decades ago. He began his work not knowing how it would turn out or that he would invent a new discipline in Jungian Psychology, Pattern Analysis. But one thing he learned long ago is the need to be selective in bringing in new teachers AND new students.
He shared recently that he interviews every prospective student before the application process because he wants to make sure that they are a right fit for the program. Why? Because he has worked so hard to build the learning environment (i.e. container), he wants to make sure that everyone who enters it can not only thrive, but contribute to its strength.
Dr. Conforti is not a pagan, but his attention to the learning container he has created should be familiar to any High Priest/ess worthy of the title. We try to learn as much as we can about anyone coming into our covens, lodges, circles and groups because we are guardians of the group boundaries.
The Admissions Process
And so I am determined to preserve the level of scholarship, the level of commitment and the level of maturity found within the mix of our student body. There are no perfect candidates, but I needed a way to tell if someone was capable of thriving in our school AND contributing to its overall strength.
The tool I use in addition to interviews is our application. It has twelve questions -- seven collect information such as your name, birthday, address, etc. The remaining five questions asks the candidate about their life, spiritual state, practices, references and what they seek from Reflections. Additionally we have them take a freely available Myers-Briggs test, and list classes that have taken or taught over the last 3 to 5 years.
When I wrote the application, I intended it as a way for folks to demonstrate their accomplishments, commitment, experience and depth. I had never even imagined that it would discourage good folks from applying.
And so recently I was advised to drop the application, and maybe just have interviews.
I thought long and hard about this issue and I decided to keep the application. Why? Well because interviews take up a great deal of my time, energy and attention. And if I am willing to talk to anyone who fills in an application, the least they could do is give me some information about themselves ahead of time. And the application provides me with just the information I need to conduct an interview.
And at the same time, I understand that the application may seem like an impersonal data gathering device. So here is my compromise.
I will explain what I am looking for in each question.
Questions 1 though 7 are pretty self explanatory. Here we get your names, info to pull your astrological information and ways of contacting you.
Starting at question 8 however is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak.
8 - Please explain briefly how you have demonstrated any three of the following; sustainability, willingness, self-care, humility, service and discipline.
So where did this list of qualities come from anyway. Well if you had taken the hint to read the website over carefully, it would have jumped out as the six vows of the Order of the Elemental Mysteries, The underlying spiritual tradition that supports Reflections.
And also notice what word is not listed in this question -- spiritual. This question is not about your spiritual life, it is a question whose sole purpose is to get you to talk about how these qualities already express themselves in your life, your entire life. It is an opportunity for you share your accomplishments in the world.
Did you train for a marathon, or work as a Peace corp volunteer? Did you serve in the military or help plant community gardens? Did you care for a sick relative or persevere in the face of great odds? Here is your chance to share it with us.
It is not an essay question on a college exam. We are not testing to see if you know what the words mean. We are simply giving you a chance to tell us something amazing about yourself.
9 - Please describe briefly your present sense of your spiritual strengths, abilities, challenges, and growing edges.
Now this is where we finally begin asking about your spiritual life. And again, it would help if you read the section on admissions on the website.
“Applicants are expected to have taken our foundation course Elemental Mysteries or its equivalent, participated in group ritual, and have taken steps on their own to deepen and expand their knowledge, skills and experience as a spiritual seeker
Acceptance into Reflections is based on a variety of factors including: experience, skill, knowledge, talent (latent as well as learned), maturity, self-awareness, appropriate uses of power & influence, stability, leadership and level of commitment. Special consideration is given for candidates who have tested themselves via initiation, long-term study, challenging leadership roles, or have faced difficult life challenges.
Although Reflections does not currently accept beginners in the craft, we do offer public foundations courses, such as Elemental Mysteries and the Language of Magick. Reflections however is a place for folks who have already begun the work of personal transformative change.”
So this section is asking that you demonstrate how you meet our expectations for admissions.
What are your skills, talent, knowledge, experience, etc. and what areas do you believe could be improved
10 - Please describe your current personal spiritual practice. How does this help you personally, in service, in leadership, and in community?
I always thought this was an easy question. What do you do and how does it help you. If you are a solitaire, fine. But how does your spiritual life impact the rest of your life? That is all we are looking for here. If you are not sure, say so. You cannot get this question wrong. There is no right answer. Really.
11 – Please list two people who can affirm the level of your magical/spiritual experience, ability and training. Please include either an evening phone number or email address for each. Listing their organizational affiliation is also helpful.
I have only contacted one reference ever and that was because the person misread the application, so I had to make sure it was just nervousness. That person is now one of my top students.
So please do not fret about this too much. I understand every one can have a bad breakup with former teachers or coven mates. But surely you know someone who will vouchsafe for you?
Because if you cannot get along with anyone, why on earth do you want to join a community of committed spiritual seekers?
12 – What do you seek to accomplish within Reflections? What are your hopes and aspirations? What are you fears and concerns?
Okay, this should be a straightforward question. Moving on ...
So now to the section that gives everyone a fright.
- Please provide a list of all your magical/spiritual trainings over the last 3 to 5 years, including names of teachers and/or mentors. You can summarize as needed.
- Please provide a list of all magical/spiritual classes you have offered over the last 3 to 5 years, including names of co-teachers and/or mentors. You can summarize as needed.
Everyone frets over these questions. So here is a hint. I am not using the answers to this question to determine if you get into Reflections. So relax. There is no wrong answer here. Just tell us what training you have had or provided. And “None” is a valid answer to either question.
And that is it, the entire application explained in detail. The only thing I did not discuss is the Myers Briggs test scores. And frankly, just attach the score sheet and forget about it.
So now, what else are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Apply! The deadline is Samhain. I look forward to reading your application!