Finding a Spiritual Guide: The Story of Morton Kelsey

Quotations from Morton Kelsey are from his book, Christo-Psychology, pages 2-7.

In the early 1940s, Morton Kelsey, graduated from The Episcopal Theological School with honors. He had originally attended seminary in the hopes of finding a cure to his agnosticism. He left with confidence that there was good argument for deeper meaning to his materialistic world. 

Kelsey took a job as a parish priest and described the state he found himself in:

“Some years into the ministry I found myself in a dead-end street. I was intellectually burned out. As I got up to preach the Good News, a voice kept whispering in my ear, ‘But you know you don’t really believe any of that claptrap.’”

The issue was that in school, he had received a solid education on biblical criticism and apologetics, but no instruction on experientially connecting with God. He was filled with intellectual arguments and no spirit. No life. He was delivering an empty message to his parishioners. While internally Morton Kelsey was having a nervous breakdown, externally everything looked fine.

“My wife and two children were lovely. The church was doing magnificently. But this outer life had little to do with the problem and when my wife and children took a trip to visit her father, I was left alone to deal with myself and the monsters that are found in all of us.” 

Morton Kelsey was struggling with living two lives. A parishioner of his saw the tension and suggested he talk to a Jungian analyst named, Max Zeller. The church’s intellectual movement created such a spiritual gap that Morton Kelsey had to go outside the church to find someone to guide him on his inner spiritual journey.

“Tragically, as I looked around I could not find a confidant within the church who knew enough about the human soul to help me (and who would not report me to the bishop). This is a sad commentary on the Christin church. I had to go to a secular Jewish Jungian analyst for soul healing.”

Max Zeller was a Jungian analyst who had been imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He taught Morton the techniques that had helped him survive the camps, including deep breathing. He shared with Morton how to face anxiety head on and how to pray. Max taught him about the reality of God.

Morton Kelsey shared the life changing results that came from his time with Max Zeller:

“Max Zeller taught me how to deal with anxiety and guilt, depression and fear. He listened and never judged, and I began to live again. By the time my wife returned home seven weeks later, I had changed so much she hardly knew me. Before she left she had felt that she was barely holding me together, but now she decided to go into analysis herself in order to relate to her new husband and to understand what had occurred…

“I began to establish an inner emotional stability. The fellowship, understanding, openness, and religious experience of my guide helped me cope with previously overpowering moods and fears… I began to pray to a real God who cared and responded… When my emotions started leveling out, creativity blossomed. I could hardly believe the energy, life, and direction that arose within me.” 

As Morton Kelsey began to change, people started coming to him asking for guidance. There arose such a need that Kelsey established a Jungian counseling program in his parish. Carl Jung was shocked because he had experienced such resistance from churches. The change Kelsey’s parishioners saw in him opened the door for a new kind of spiritual direction to take place.

Morton Kelsey acknowledged the sad truth that he had to go outside the church for his healing to take place. He noted that, “Jesus had said on the first Palm Sunday that if the people did not cry out, God would raise people up out of stones to praise him. In some respects, I see Jung and his followers as having being raised up out of stones when the church failed to do its job.”

Finding a Spiritual Guide

It is not easy to find a spiritual guide. Many times they come through word of mouth or divine intervention. It is not a popular keyword search and there are no directories for them. You’ll rarely find them in church and many Christian counselors won’t fit the bill. So if you feel like you are in need of a spiritual guide, below are some main qualities to look for in your search:

The Need for Spiritual and Material Balance:

The first part comes with the title, but a spiritual guide must acknowledge the need for a physical life and a spiritual one. We are spiritual and material beings. We will have internal conflict if we lean too far to one side and neglect the other. A spiritual guide is one who can speak into the imbalances of your life and help you engage with both your material and spiritual self.

Psychological Training:

A spiritual guide must also have both psychological training and understanding in spiritual matters. Some of our issues are long-time wounds that need healing. It is important for your guide to understand how to work with trauma, relationships, and more severe emotional issues. If your spiritual guide does not have psychological training, they could potentially cause more harm than good.

Other issues come from our spiritual side. When Morton Kelsey needed help with his inner issues, he didn’t receive the help he needed until he went outside of the church and found a Jungian analyst who had been through it himself. Kelsey describes a spiritual guide as someone who has “experienced the confrontation with inner conflict and evil, found a way through it and offers this expertise along with an understanding of human problems in which the nonmedical therapist is trained.” (Pg. 172, Companions on the Inner Way)

Holistic Perspective:

A spiritual guide should also be able to address the integration of mind, body, and spirit. We are connected beings. When one part of us hurts, all of us hurts. That’s why you see depression and anxiety manifesting in physical symptoms. When we suffer from internal conflict, we need someone who has a holistic knowledge of what it is to be human.

Surrendered to God:

The most important piece is that your spiritual guide is actively living in surrender to God. They are not the healer, God is. They are an instrument used by God to bring healing. This kind of humility opens up space for God to speak and work in unanticipated ways. The best part of working with a spiritual guide is the increased opportunity to encounter God. It begins a whole new adventure.

Desert Road Ministries has a team of spiritual guides. If you would like to connect with a spiritual guide and begin your inner journey, contact us to set up a consultation!

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