Beware of those offering them too
Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash
So many people are searching for answers these days. Thankfully … or not … ‘answers’ of all kinds are readily available and can be found all over the place in the medium of your choice. But are all these answers helpful? And can the people offering answers be trusted?
The people of today have so much depression and anxiety and carry a heavy burden of woes such as burnout and debt; some may even wrestle with existential dread. Meanwhile, even those who have found success feel like somethings missing, and they still don’t feel genuinely happy in spite of their accomplishments. It seems like people everywhere are feeling exhausted and starting to question: What’s the point of it all? Although the exact questions will vary by individual, the types of questions being grappled with are serious.
Faced with doubts and worries like these, there’s a resurgence of people turning to their spirituality, and/or embracing spiritual or quasi-spiritual practices. I think this is a good thing! I myself closely feel the presence of God, Jesus Christ, and my Saint in my life, and their presence gives me comfort, guidance, encouragement, and peace.
But people looking for answers to ‘the big questions’ like those above might not be in the best place mentally or emotionally. It could be an intensely painful life event that has made them ask the questions in the first place. When people aren’t in a good place mentally or emotionally, they can be easily preyed upon by those who know how to do so. Even if they aren’t in a bad place, it’s easy for both salespeople and scammers to prey on a person’s hopes and desires for better days, more happiness, and more love.
There’s a plethora of spiritual practices out there, being presented by all kinds of people. They run the gamut … there’s a whole lot having to do with meditation and yoga … chakras … crystals and moon rituals, and so on. Meditation and yoga are another story. It’s the crystals and so on that I want to address. I’m certainly not opposed to someone starting up their own business on Etsy or something, making and selling crystal pieces or other sorts of charms. But those are basically just lucky charms, like rabbit’s feet, and of course they’re not being presented as such (that would be bad for sales). Yes, with so many people turning to spirituality for answers and relief from the woes of our modern life, many clever businesspeople have figured out how to profit off of these answer-seekers.
I’m not entirely opposed to them doing that. I definitely support people being entrepreneurial and taking risks, and I love to see people starting their own businesses to create real wealth for themselves and to stop working for others. And certainly not all of them are in the spiritual scene so that they can make money off the desperate. That being said, there are people who are in the spiritual scene so that they can make money off the desperate. And to take advantage.
Some might just be in it to sell a course or eBook and leave it at that. They entice people with titles designed to prey on people’s hopes, dreams, desires, dreams … and greed. Titles like: “The Law of Attraction: Manifest all Your Desires NOW!!!” or “It’s Time to Manifest ANYTHING You Want!!” [These aren’t actual titles, I just made them up as examples.] Of course this grabs buyers through their desire to have their hearts’ desires — immediately. Targeting that desire is a very easy way to covertly persuade someone to buy a product or course, etc. It’s a classic tactic! Everyone wants to get rich quick. And people who are unhappy will gladly pay for what they think will show them how to be happy. Sadly for them, what they don’t understand is that the keys to our own happiness lie within ourselves and nowhere else!
Mature people understand that there is no instant gratification (not for anything worthwhile, anyway), and they understand the value of putting in time and hard work to get what you really want, something amazing. In my own life experience, I’ve learned that taking shortcuts will screw you up worse in the end (there’s nothing wrong with efficiency, but a shortcut seeks to skip some of the work, and that will make things worse overall). Practices such as “Quantum Jumping” (you can look that up if you like, I won’t explain it) are shortcuts, and are often claimed to get you all the money/love/fame etc. that you desire … ASAP.
The people expounding these practices make their sales off the material they sell, such as courses or eBooks, and they probably get their views off their YouTube channel (etc.) too. Good for them I guess, at least we know that someone is making money for real off of quantum jumping :D
To some extent I can overlook opportunistic online entrepreneurs here. But there are others who have darker agendas of control and manipulation. They seek to prey on people in a much more serious way. They’re predators, sometimes even cult leaders, and they harm people who are desperately seeking relief from their struggles, and a happier life. Sometimes, they’re even seeking a reason to live.
The most severe example of someone like this who I can think of is Teal Swan (Teal Scott). She’s a self-professed spiritual teacher, and also claims that she’s a divine being, and a half-alien starseed of Arcturian heritage. She got popular with her YouTube videos, and amassed a devoted global following. She got big enough to start running workshops in different cities, and they were well attended. She can be very charismatic, and she has been effective at attracting followers to her. But she manipulates those followers like a cult leader, claiming that only she tells the truth (a classic cult leader tactic), and cutting them off from the real world to draw them into her world more and more, where she can manipulate and program them further.
But others have already exposed her in much greater detail. Here is a link to one blog dedicated to exposing her, and there are other sites too.
By far the most harmful thing about Teal Swan is that she essentially promotes and encourages suicide to her followers! At least two of her devotees have already died by suicide. She frames suicide as a “reset button,” and, claiming that she knows what it’s like to die, she tells her audience that suicide is a liberating and pleasant release from their troubles. She takes the incredibly disturbing step of trying to put the thought: “You don’t want to live,” in certain followers’ heads. That is incredibly dangerous and can even be fatal, depending on who is hearing the message.
She knows that although some people will listen to her just out of curiosity or a desire to learn something, many of the people who come to her are in a bad place and desperately seeking answers. A good number of them are depressed. She herself has said that she gets plenty of emails from people saying they’re suicidal. Knowing that she attracts people in such a mindset, and knowing how vulnerable they are in that state, it’s unfathomably irresponsible at best and criminal at worst for her to encourage/glorify/downplay suicide to her audience in the ways that she does.
She’s declined a good deal from the peak of her popularity. Now she lives in Central America with her most hardcore followers. But she still has a large online following, and if this was posted on a more open platform such as Facebook, it would probably open me up to attacks from her army of shills.
She is probably the most extreme example (that I know of) of the kinds of predators that can be found in today’s spirituality scene who I’m trying to describe with this article.
Various types of predators can be found, but the point is that whether they’re just trying to make some sales, or they’re just trying to be dangerous cult leaders, they don’t have the people’s best interests at heart, only their own. Which is why it’s so important to judge everyone, especially those claiming to be teachers, by their actions towards you and others, rather than by anything they say. And never get overconfident. NXIVM was another cult that’s been busted; its victims were intelligent, successful people. A charismatic cult can hook anyone, and the first step to falling into their trap is to believe that you could never fall for that, so be wary, and keep your eyes open and clear.
The reason such predators are able to attract and hook victims so easily is because so many people are genuinely unhappy these days, ground down by the routine and our society. Life has always been hard, but now, peoples’ souls have grown tired. Our spirits are burning out, starved of nourishment. Depression, addiction, burnout, and so on are on the rise everywhere as people are forced to wrestle with questions of what the point of it all is. What’s the point of our lives? And how does one find happiness? Desperate for answers to these questions, desperate for happiness, for relief, people will look up to and perhaps even idolize those who seem to have the answers (and these spiritual predators are very charismatic and outwardly confident).
The whole situation reminds me of the words of 2 Timothy 3:1–7 (as always, I quote the CEB version in my articles):
Understand that the last days will be dangerous times. People will be selfish and love money. They will be the kind of people who brag and are proud. They will slander others, and they will be disobedient to their parents. They will be ungrateful, unholy, unloving, contrary, and critical. They will be without self-control and brutal and they won’t love what is good. They will be people who are disloyal, reckless, and conceited. They will love pleasure instead of loving God. They will look like they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this. Some will slither into households and control immature women who are burdened with sins and driven by all kinds of desires. These women are always learning, but they can never arrive at an understanding of the truth.
End times confirmed, right? I think this definitely fits our society today. People are brutal, with little self-control, we have a very vain culture now, and the focus of it is on gratifying our pleasures. And even if people are returning to spirituality to seek answers to the fundamental questions of life, they’ll bend over backwards to find spiritual practices that don’t acknowledge God and Jesus Christ; they’ll worship anything else they can, even themselves.
But the most important part of this 2 Timothy quote is the second-to-last line. The ones who slither into households and control immature (people) driven by all kinds of desires? They are the spiritual predators whom I’ve been talking about. It’s easy to manipulate people by their desires and dreams, even more so when they’re in a vulnerable state emotionally or mentally. And it’s easy to deceive people searching for answers to the ‘big’ questions, as they don’t understand that only they can answer those for themselves. So we all have to watch out for such predators, whether we’re involved in alternate spirituality or a traditional religion.
Beware of anything presented as an instant solution to your woes. These ‘solutions’ are just lucky charms, like rabbits’ feet. How about you use the Law of Attraction to win the lotto, and let me know how many tries it takes you? Even if there is something to some of these ‘solutions,’ they are shortcuts. Shortcuts mess you up worse in the end, and if you want to change your life, you’ll be better off investing the hard work in yourself from the beginning, rather than trying to shortcut.
Always judge people, especially teachers, by their actions towards you and others, and never by anything they say. And it will also help you to learn and truly understand that all the answers you’re looking for are inside; they can’t be found anywhere else. Other people might be able to start you on the path to answers, but your answers are ultimately within you and nowhere (or no one) else. If you face yourself, with all your flaws, and look within yourself with honesty, your answers will be revealed in time. And guess what? They won’t be easy answers. But you can tackle them, in your own time.
Most of all, be wary of the people offering the easy answers. Some are salespeople, and some are dangerous predators. But you can bet that they don’t have your best interests at heart.