The Dark Side of Spirituality? – My Past Experiences With Fundamentalist Spiritual Teachers

Fundamentalism:

the interpretation of every word in a sacred text as literal or absolute truth.

I believe that fundamentalism is by its nature violent.

This is because a religious or spiritual fundamentalist says “This is (or I am) the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

They are also saying “your way is not the truth; your truth is not the truth” – MINE is.

Ouch!

Fundamentalism in New-Age Spirituality

We usually associate fundamentalism with Radical Islam or some forms of evangelical Christianity.

But it also exists in new-age circles.  I know because I’ve seen it.  I’m going to tell you about my experiences with it.

Before I begin…

I realize that I have been writing about the dark side of new-age spirituality quite a bit lately. What is up with that? I don’t know. I had some dark experiences in the past. Not all of them are on this blog, and I guess I am trying to help others recognize when a spiritual teacher or healer is out of line, so that they can spot this sort of behaviour quicker than I did.

To date, I have met (or briefly worked with) three people who were spiritual teachers or channels that I would class as spiritual fundamentalists.  That means they declared that they had unveiled “the truth” and everyone else needed to listen and heed it.

I also have a couple of friends who have similar stories to mine and over the last three years I’ve worked with clients who have been in a similar situation and only afterwards realized they were effectively in a cult. Not one of my clients realized at the time that they had given away their own power, otherwise they would have woken up and gotten out.

Onto my cautionary tale…

Fundamentalist #1

When I lived in London, I went to see a healer who did some past life healing on me.  This man told me about how tragic my life was (OK, so it was a bit tragic at the time) and that I had until I was in my thirties to move beyond that and step into my power and ‘fulfill my potential’. If I didn’t, after a certain age, (I think it was 32) God and the angels would abandon me.  He also told me that only he could help me stop this from happening.

I view this time as one of the low points of my life (besides the time I left the Christian church).  At the time, I had a few hundred dollars to my name, and was pretty much alone in London (my family lived overseas) apart from an ex-boyfriend who let me sleep on his couch! So I had nowhere permanent to live.

A few years prior to this time, I had abandoned Christianity and was looking for my own spiritual truth.  I was so naive that I thought all spiritual people were good people.  They must be, I thought, as they all seemed like such lovely, caring folk. They weren’t telling me I was going to hell.  Plus, this man was not charging me anything.  He said he just wanted to help me.

He had a dowsing rod that he would use to access the Akashic record and your energy field, to see if you were telling the truth or if something was true in a reading.  You’d tell him something, and he’d test the veracity of it (even if it was just in everyday conversation).  Much of the time, he’d contradict you and say you were wrong, even if it was about something incredibly subjective, like how you felt.  It was bizarre.

If you said something he didn’t agree with, he’d tell you that you had negative entities who were messing with you and that’s why you couldn’t see the truth of the situation.  His intuition, (he said) was crystal clear and could see through any bullshit.

It took me a week or two to work out what was going on and fire him, as a spiritual teacher and healer.  What a horrible time it was.

It came to a head rather quickly, for one reason.

He told me we needed to sleep together in order for me to be healed.  He needed to re-parent me, re-love me – because my parents did such a lousy job.

This guy was 64 at the time.  And I was in my early twenties.

I didn’t need any more evidence that he was not only a fundamentalist – but also a sleazebag.  And I made a very swift exit.

From what I saw, this man was in conflict with everyone he came into contact with (who had any common sense about them) because they were all wrong, according to him.

He was only interested in making friends who wanted to ‘follow’ him; people who wanted to ‘learn from him’; people who would willingly release their own search for their truth, because here was someone who had already found it and would share it with them.

How can you know if your spiritual teacher or healer tends towards fundamentalism?

Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • When someone claims to have channelled ‘the truth’ about God (or about you) – whether that is through the Akashic Records, or from your energy field.  Ethical channellers will advise you to take what resonates with you, and discard the rest.
  • When someone doesn’t allow for your truth or contradicts subjective things such as your feelings, or beliefs.
  • When the person tells you that only they can help you.
  • When the person encourages you to disassociate from your family members or friends
  • When you won’t allow them to impose their truth on you, they may tell you that ‘you just don’t get it’ or they will harass you about it. Sometimes they warn you about the bad things that will happen if you don’t follow their truth or their advice.
  • When they say that the reason you don’t see their truth is because your fears, ‘issues’ or personality flaws are holding you back – “you’re too afraid/stubborn to see the truth”. They may offer to ‘help’ you with your issues.
  • When the channeler or spiritual teacher channels beings who proclaim that the channeler is very gifted, great or 100% trustworthy.
  • When the fundamentalist talks about how huge everyone else’s egos are.  They may say that no-one else can see the truth because of their big ego.  Yet when their pride is hurt or their ideas are challenged, they usually go on an ego-fuelled rampage of ‘everyone must agree with me and do as I say, or else!!’
  • When the person gives you an incredibly accurate reading on yourself and uses this as evidence that you must listen to their ideas (some people are talented psychics who use their abilities for personal gain.)

If the above seems incredibly obvious and common-sense to you, and you’re wondering why I’m writing about it, then you’re obviously not the kind of person who gets sucked into this kind of thing.

The thing is, I consider myself an intelligent person, yet when I first came across behaviour like this, it took me about two weeks to work out what was going on.  It’s effectively brain-washing, and brain-washing is not hard to do, especially when it comes to vulnerable people.

Fundamentalism can also go unnoticed in new-age circles because spiritual people are often so accepting of others and so open. Some of them are more likely to cast love at you than tell you that your ideas are hateful.

This Time Around

I am going to fast forward a little and tell you about the third person I have come across who did this.

This was someone I met not so long ago.  It was a gentleman who has had a big hand in creating one of the modalities I trained in a while back – someone who channelled a lot of information that has helped a lot of people.  I knew of the existence of this person, yet I didn’t know him personally.  I thought he must be a great person because his information had helped so many people and he had given it away freely.

When I came into contact with him, I was so disappointed.  Right off the bat, he declared that my methods, my truth, my work were all wrong.

He had the truth, the right way, the right information and I should listen to him and become his student (if he considered me worthy of that privilege). All other teachers had such big egos that they had corrupted the truth. He even set me a task involving my intuitive abilities to see if I was worthy of being his student. If it didn’t align with his results, I was not ‘doing it right’.

I am open to people telling me that I’m wrong.

But I’m not open to people setting themselves up as spiritual authorities and telling me that all wisdom and answers come through them and no-one else.

I had already learned my lesson and so I made my exit quickly.

There is nothing ‘spiritual’ about this

Being spiritual but not religious means you go within to find your truth.  (Or you can take beliefs from any religion or spiritual tradition as it suits you.)

Finding your own truth means finding the worldview and beliefs that give you peace.

But this also means something else:

…that there can be no absolute search for truth – only your own truth, and my truth.

This is OK, isn’t it?  After all, as spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical beings, it’s almost as if we are universes unto ourselves.  Your personal universe may not correspond with mine.

The Antidote

If we want to create more peace in the world, and within ourselves, I believe the best thing we can do is accept and respect other peoples’ spiritual and religious truths.

This is something I have been working on myself.  I had such a bad time with Christianity (and I hated it so much) that in the past I had thought, if anyone is Christian, then surely they must be setting themselves up for an unhappy life and must be very deluded.  I read articles like this one: 10 Reasons You Should Never Have a Religion and saw it as confirmation I was on the ‘right’ path.

Later on, I realized that not everyone is on the same path as me.  Christianity for me is a prison.  But maybe my prison is someone else’s freedom.

In the end, that thing that causes wars and prevents peace (in us and outside of us) is the belief there is only one truth and one way.

The Dalai Lama said: There are six billion people on this Earth. There are six billion paths to the top of the mountain to meet God.

That is one of my favourite sayings.

Amen to that.

What about you? – have you ever come across a spiritual teacher like this or found yourself in a similar situation to the ones I’ve written about here?

 

Meet Anna

Hi, I’m Anna Sayce! My purpose here on this website is to provide practical techniques and information to help empaths to understand, and fix the root of their energetic overwhelm & also to help sensitives to embrace and develop their intuitive gifts. I believe that developing our spiritual & intuitive side is very powerful and allows us to improve our own lives, and if we wish, even make the world a better place for others. Discover more >

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20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    That first dude got to you because you were young and inexperienced and in distress, that’s all. There are certain profiles of people who are ripe to be taken advantage of like this, and you fit one of them at the time. There are other profiles that fit…and they don’t all involve being young. Some involve being too stupid… or even too smart.

    I will probably eventually write a book about my own worst case scenario, which involved (yes) sex; prison breaks; kidnapping; a priestly class, and any number of other cool elements…and ended with a back-country sheriff’s posse wielding shotguns and a team of FBI agents. No lie.

    Make no mistake…Spirit is there. The Higher Self and our other resources are always with you. I’ve seen too many “coincidences” for there not to be a method to all this madness we call life. One advantage to getting older is that you have a greater backlog of known information; you can look back and see how some of the things that seemed terrible at the time were actually exactly what had to happen in order for your authentic path to be opened up for you. And you also learn that there really are sincere people (like you and I) who want to help people put the spiritual into perspective and apply it to living a better life (and as a necessary byproduct, evolving spiritually).

    It’s only when we allow fear and, as you say, mistrust of our own inner wisdom to take over that these kinds of people can take advantage of us. Thanks for writing about it – you might save someone from an _unnecessary_ situation.

  2. Avatar

    Awesome post Anna. It plain pisses me off when in our search and quest and vulnerability we come across people like this. Probably about 20 years ago or a bit less I was seeing a couple I was doing healing with, after a while they kicked me out of their alternative healing practice because I wasn’t healing fast enough or to their liking. So ego driven.

  3. Avatar

    Fundamentalism by its nature is VIOLENT? That’s going too far, IMO. I know many people who consider themselves to be fundamentalist in their beliefs, and who’d be quite offended by someone who felt they had a right to define them and put them into their own preconceived parameters. In fact, I’d say some of your statements above are more inflammatory than anything I’ve ever heard from them.

    Prime example was a situation that just came up in conversation with a close friend of mine earlier. He’s a devout Catholic, and I mean the kind that goes to Mass every single day. He believes the bible to be the unerring truth. Someone was giving him a hard time about having as a good friend one of our classmates who’s Jewish and gay. We’ve all been close since prep school, over 30 years now. According to the prying individual, if my friend was REALLY fundamentalist, he’d be bashing our gay friend over the head with a hard copy of the New Testament, at the very least. Mind you, the prying individual was neither Catholic, gay, Jewish, but just an instigator whose fundamental belief is that everyone has a right to hear HIS opinion, AKA “truth,” and he has a duty to give it. But even that guy is little more than a pain in the butt.

    A staunch believer of anything can be by-the-book in their own individual, family, or church life, and be accepting of other people AS THEY ARE. In fact, if the aim is to influence and/or convert someone in regard to what you hold as truth, a relationship with the other person has to exist first, and it has to be a tender one. Violence doesn’t have to enter into the equation at any point. If it does, you’re not talking about a fundamentalist, you’re talking about a zealous, misguided kook.

  4. Anna

    Lemelia – Fundamentalism is saying “this is the absolute truth for everyone and for me; we should interpret this scared book literally”. I wanted to check I had that right, so I looked up the definition (I found the quote at the top of the article in a dictionary.)

    As someone who has been on a receiving end of fundamentalist beliefs, in my view, if someone declares they’ve got the truth, and everyone else needs to believe it too (or X, Y or Z will happen), it is a kind of violence or a kind of abuse. Because it invalidates and doesn’t accept other peoples’ truths. It may not be punching someone in the face, but it’s still creating fear and confusion in someone’s heart because of the threat of hell or something similar.

    Then the person who hears this may not be acting out of the beliefs of their heart, but out of fear of upsetting God or the church, or out of fear of going to hell when they die.

    I know that one first hand. As you may have read, I had an abusive relationship with an angry ‘God’ and an abusive relationship with a fundamentalist church.

    On the other hand…

    I know not all religions are the same, nor are the people who practise them the same, even within the labels that they might apply to themselves, like ‘fundamentalist’.

    Plus, you are right – there is a difference between preaching/teaching and just believing.

    Someone like your friend might consider themselves a fundamentalist (and perhaps millions of people besides him consider themselves fundamentalist), but not declare or preach that everyone else should follow it too. If so, good for him.

    I don’t have a beef with religious folk (I know some kind, wise, wonderful religious people) but I do have limited patience for those who declare from the rooftops (or teach) there’s only one path, one source of wisdom and one truth. In the past, I personally have found THAT inflammatory. Whether that’s in religion or spirituality. I don’t think it is just me who has felt this is inflammatory because preaching one truth and one way is one reason for wars starting. We only have to look at history (and our current world) to see the evidence of that.

  5. Avatar

    Prolly could refine the concept with “fundamental evangelist” – or, “evangelistic fundamentalist”.

    😉

  6. Avatar

    Hi Anna,
    I’ve been enjoying your blog although this will be my first time commenting. I nearly fell out of my seat when I read about your latest scenario….because I am sure I have just gone through the SAME experience with the same man!

    I was rocked for about two weeks in a great spiritual turmoil over what had happened with him until I was able to get clarity on a soul level (with help from a wonderful spiritual friend) around why I attracted this man into my life! I’ll write about it once I launch my site.

    Anyhow, I have learned that the best path for me is to continually follow my inner guidance and “test” things for myself. Although a good dose of logic is handy, I have realized that when I go off the path of inner wisdom it is because I am involving my intellect too much.

    And I also believe CHARACTER counts for something! I feel wisdom corresponds with character and this experience taught me that I can evaluate consciousness by observing someones actions. This man’s behavior did not line up with his apparent level of God truth.

    Because this man has also influenced so many with his work, I wonder where his work is being repeated as opposed to being examined more deeply?

    Sooo glad you posted this – I believe these scenarios happen often and it’s good to see how others process disturbing events like these.

  7. Avatar

    Hi Anna,

    I applaud you for talking about the dark side of New Age movements. It needs to be talked about specifically for the reasons you set out above. I think there is an assumption that New Agers are more accepting than others, and as you know this is not necessarily true.

    An individual needs to make sure that their spiritual relationship with others in any movement feels right to them.

    My own abilities were shut down for years by virtue of my belief in the judgment of one my own teachers.

    Since we are those experience “direct revelation” and are trying to encourage others to to seek their own paths of direct revelation, WE NEED TO RESPECT OUR OWN JUDGMENT OF WHAT IS RIGHT FOR US. Many times we have given our power over to others in the past – whether a religion, belief system, etc. and we need to trust ourselves and take this power back for ourselves.

    The corollary of that is, as you said, we also need to respect the others rights to do the same.

    As you mentioned, this is why there is no “one size fits all” solution for everyone. Each individual has unique needs, past experiences, and purposes for being here.

    There needs to be an acknowledgment of the dark side, for without acknowledging the dark, and respecting our “warning systems”, we can unintentionally give away our power in any situation.

    Kara

  8. Anna

    Hi Michael, yes, you are right. One of those would probably be a better label.

    But I didn’t want to use ‘evangelistic’ as it’s often associated with Christianity and I’m not actually talking about Christianity in particular, I was talking more about the ‘spiritual but not religious’ people.

    Oh well, just labels.

  9. Avatar

    I think I have a pretty good idea who Fundamentalist #3 is … I was put through the same task and when I passed, he tried to make me his pet and it was very uncomfortable to see how he’d put everyone down with his “truth”. When I got the heebie-jeebies and stopped responding, he tried to stalk me (via email). Creepy. But I learnt a great deal from that experience. Made me question a lot of things I’d learnt in the past … in a good way.

  10. Avatar

    Awesome post. 🙂 During the early days of my spiritual seeking, I would believe whatever anyone who’s ‘more experienced’, after all, I was hungry for knowledge and hopelessly lost. Till I came across a piece of “truth” that wasn’t resonating with me, it made me question and seek my own answers. I guess it is important to learn how to trust our very own intuition, which is not easy to do at all.

    I’ll take the opportunity to share a passage with you people. 🙂

    “Do not put your faith in traditions,
    even though they have been accepted for long generations and in many countries. Do not believe a thing because many repeat it.Do not accept a thing on the authority of one or another of the sages of old,
    nor on the grounds of statements as found in the books.

    Never believe anything because probability is in its favor.

    Do not believe in that which you yourself have imagined,
    thinking that a god has inspired it.

    Believe nothing merely on the authority of teachers or priests.

    After examination,
    believe that which you have tested for yourself and found reasonable,
    which is in conformity with your well being and that of others.”

    Kalama Sutta – Buddha

  11. Anna

    Monica – We probably (hopefully) didn’t come across exactly the same man, unless you live in London!

    You are right – testing concepts for yourself is important. As is assessing someone’s character. If their words and actions don’t add up, then something is not right.

  12. Anna

    Kate – In the end, they probably did you a favour by throwing you out, after all, it sounds like they thought the healing process was more about them than it was about you!

    Michael – lol. Please tell me that story is made up 🙂

  13. Anna

    Kara – Thanks for your encouraging comment Kara. I totally agree with what you wrote above. I did hesitate in sharing this because I don’t want to be talking about the bad stuff TOO often on this blog. But I felt there was a call for it, and I’m glad I did!

  14. Anna

    Winnie – thank you so much for sharing that quote here. I have never seen it before but I’m so glad I have now. There is a lot of wisdom in it!

  15. Avatar

    Hi Anna! I looooove your blog! 🙂

    Just wanted to comment to Lemelia, violent doesn’t have to mean, as in physically violent. People can be violent psychologically, spiritually…….. As in trying to force someone to do/believe in something against their will, threatening them if they don’t, etc. Trying to make someone feel bad, trying to make out like they’re somehow inferior to you for any reason, etc. Some fundamentalists do this, or perhaps we could call them, rather, religious fanatics or spiritual fanatics, so yes I would also think of them as violent, even if not physically.

  16. Avatar

    Thank you for this post. I’m not new to channeling, but I am new to looking for other channelers on the web and it feels good to see that others look at this material (and their own) with some skepticism.

    Ironically, my channel likes to say Christian sayings like “We are the way and the light” but then go on to say that all paths are that way … almost like it is a joke, yet still true.

    I look forward to reading more of your material. Thank you!

    Larz

  17. Avatar

    Hi Anna,

    back again, truth is one of my favourite subjects, took me awhile to grasp that whilst there is a universal truth (most of which is way beyond our comprehension) we all have a unique perspective on truth. So all truths are valid, even your fundametalist truths (well they are for the instigator anyway).

    We all have free will and we all have choice, so sometimes someone else’s truth is close enough to ours for us to latch on and sometimes we choose to let them disempower us by making choices for us. I did a little piece on it called “The Mountain” to try and show how I believe truth/perspective functions in the simplest way I could.

    Still I see what you are about at the moment, well from my view anyway 😉 It seems you are relaying the negative experiences you had to assist others new to spiritualism (there are a lot at the moment) find their way through the maze, to find their “truth”. Of course who we are now at this moment is a result of the experiences we had. For me sometimes it is necessary for people to have what are deemed negative experiences (all they are really are experiences, how we label them is a personal thing) in order to grow spiritually should that path be undertaken, which invariably it is it would seem for those of the light.

    Thanks for sharing it is fascinating to see how lifes experiences shape someone, I guess that’s why I like biographies.

  18. Avatar

    Hi, Anna! It’s been about a year since we’ve been in touch — lots of water under the bridge, lots of new experiences and adventures. What brings me here today is my recent experiment with an energy healing technique. After a few sessions I felt great discomfort in what I was doing, and ended up going back to my notes on the Spirit Guide coaching sessions I had with you last year. Voila! Back to peace instantly, like visiting an old friend. My Spirit Guides have been active and I think the discomfort I felt was a message to discontinue that mechanical approach and return to what I resonate with.

    I ditto your comments about there NOT being only ONE WAY to truth/spirituality/growth etc. Love your new blog, love the new picture, the new look and loving being back in touch with you!

  19. Avatar

    i came in contact with a spiritual healer a few weeks ago and i found him very fasinating . he said that i had a lot of pain in my heart chakra . i recently lost my partner and he told me that he was hanging around and that he would send him away as it was not doing myself or our baby any good . which i wasnt to happy about its only been seven months and if he is around me then i want him to stay im not ready to let him go . he also seemed to get frustrated with my friends because they didnt understand or really believe in some of the stuff he was saying . so he refered to them as not bieng as good as him as if they where be neath him and not good enough to be in his company. after reading your article it has left me questioning was he a fraud or is this another example of the dark side of spirituality as at the moment i would say im extremley vunerable

  20. Avatar

    yes I too had a spiritual teacher that was contradictory to everything that we felt as individuals, finally to become non existent being to living only on his ideals. I was fortunate to leave due to my father picking me up from my aunt’s to return home. I had to learn to live with basic luxury’s as we learn’t to de materialize our live’s. At the time I was 16 very vulnerable. Thank god my dad came to take me home. Those of my family that did remain, eventually came out of the cult very angry and frustrated, as the spiritual teacher was wanted for fraud robbing many people of money and land.

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