How to Spot Abusive Spiritual Teachers

By Yari

Use Some Common Sense
If a teacher talks what sounds like the good talk, but is sexually promiscuous with his students, committing adultery, or both then this is a red flag. If he is sixty having sexual union with an 18 year-old student what does that say about his character? It is amazing how many people tolerate such behavior with their teachers--even support it. It is interesting to see how these sorts of spiritual predators operate. First they will gain the trust and a certain level of intimacy with their prospective prey. They may even do binding rituals to gain control over the intended's will. Then when they have the total confidence of their prey and have managed to hypnotize them to a degree, they will pounce. If you can see flows of energy, you can see how this type of predator rips people off. His charisma is stolen from his prey. If someone is enlightened they will not feel any need for sexual (union divine forces is many times more soul-fulfilling) and would certainly not behave in a way that could damage his student's mental stability.

My discussion refers to teachers who live in our culture. If you go to some tribe in the Amazon and the shaman wants to make you one of his 5 wives, that is not what I am talking about. Each culture has their own standards. In some native cultures the adults fondle the genitals of the young children to calm them down. In their culture this is normal and not child abuse. If a shaman from such tribe moves to this country though, it would be expected that some of his modalities of behavior should adjust.

Don't Tolerate Humiliation and Abuse
This is a touchy subject because a good mentor needs to point out the weaknesses in your character and your logic process in order for you to heal and strengthen yourself. It is very painful to face these weaknesses full on, but this is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is someone who makes you crawl on your hands and knees to meet them, or accuses you of being the reason everyone else in the group is having problems in their lives, or who leaves you bleeding instead of driving you to the hospital; someone who tries to force you to do something that is against your better judgment, tries to separate you from your family and friends, tries to convince you that having sex with him is part of the initiation process or threatens you.

Don't Get Attached
The spiritual path is about freedom, not dependence. There are a lot of teachers out there and a lot of traditions and if you have the opportunity to experience different teachers and traditions then why not? If your spiritual mentor is telling you not to visit other teachers, this is another red flag. Maybe there is something he doesn't want you to find out that you might just find out if you look around. Think about it. Would one of your professors at the University tell you not to take courses from other professors, or in other departments? A well-rounded education provides for multiple instructors and exposure to different ideas. Some of the best spiritual experiences I had were triggered from something someone said that fit a piece in the puzzle so to speak. Perhaps I saw that person one time and will never see her again. I got a gift from just one experience with them, and perhaps that is enough. They probably had no idea what happened to me. Your spiritual path is a personal path and that is the beauty of it. Don't limit the possibilities by limiting your experience.

Even if forcing you to crawl on your hands and knees is in their tradition, teachers who self-indulge in these sorts of demands should know better by now. The teacher is no better than you. They may have transcended fear and most of the dismal emotions that you still indulge in, but they are no better than you. When I was in Dharamsala and went for private interviews, I would do the normal bowing 3 times, but the masters who I really respected would wave me up and have me sit on a chair when I tried this.

Ask yourself why they would have you behave in ways that puts an obvious status gap between you and them--where they will appear holier than you. There is no possible reason for indulgence in self-aggrandizement on their part and it certainly won't help you in your personal development. It will likely make you feel more pathetic then you did. You are only pathetic if you indulge in soul depleting emotions or you let people take advantage of you.

A teacher may set tasks for you. In the process of completing them you might learn certain flaws about yourself, but a teacher hardly needs to do this because life does it anyway. We just need to see what's going on and be flexible enough to change. So if a teacher is humiliating you for his own satisfaction this is a kind of abuse. Either leave or call him on it. Tell him that you will not accept abuse and if he behaves this way towards you again that you will leave. If he doesn't care if you leave, why are you there? It's the same with an abusive spouse. Don't tolerate the same abuse over and over. Tell your spouse the first time it happens that you don't tolerate that kind of behavior and if it happens again you will leave. And if it happens again then LEAVE. Don't wait years justifying the behavior of an abusive spouse or guide saying that well after all you really love each other or whatever else you tell yourself or your girl friends that keeps you locked in. If you stay there and accept the abuse, you are masochistically flirting with death because the dynamic is anti-life.

Abuse from a spiritual teacher can be as bad or worse than abuse from a parent because you expose all your weaknesses to your teacher in order for a chance to be released from what torments you. It a teacher takes advantage of your exposure and your love for him he can wreak permanent damage.

Watch Your Dreams and Feelings
Sometimes the spirits will try to communicate to you about those around you through your dreams. The spirit of the Ayuhausca plant once told me that two of my mentors at the time where not my friends. I continued with them but with much more caution. The spirit turned out to be right. Another time I received a dream where a young girl told me that if certain things did not change by a certain date that I was to leave the teacher I was with. She detailed for me why the relationship was not a good fit for me. I continued with him past the date that she gave me, but on hindsight I realized her analysis and advice was accurate.

Are You Getting Anywhere?
If the methods given to you by your teacher are working you should notice an improvement in health, you will be less subject to negative feelings and increased lucidity and extraordinary experiences. The assumption here is that your primary purpose is your spiritual development. If it is primarily to make friends then there are perhaps better venues for that. Not long ago I went to a Tibetan Dzogchen retreat. The teacher told the group, "Look I have been coming here to teach you for years, if you are not getting it by now, then go do something else. If nothing is happening, then this is not for you. Don't stay here just because your friends are here. If that is what you are doing you are wasting all of our time."

Everything May Not Be As it First Appears
Be particularly suspicious if there is any sort of ritual with the apparent purpose of bonding the student to the teacher. There is a type of binding magic used to subjugate the will of the student to that of the master. This might make it easier for the master to make sure you continue to look after his financial and sexual needs and that you will rationalize any indiscretions you observe to his favor.

It is important it is to find out as much as you can about a teacher before you get involved in his group. If you see signs of promiscuity with students, financial motivation, or psychological control don't get involved. An enlightened teacher who cares about the welfare of his students will not abuse them sexually, financially, nor psychologically. Sometimes potential students suspect such behavior is going on, but rationalize joining the group anyway on the basis that they can learn what is worthwhile and then leave anytime. But the more involved you become, the more likely you will become energetically "hooked". Once you have formed bonds with the teacher and the people in the organization it is a lot more difficult to leave. In the worst cases, you will not be allowed to leave at all. Those that took poison with Jim Jones did not sign an agreement that this was acceptable to them when they joined the group.

When you look for a spiritual teacher it is important to look at the person's actions as well as their words. Sometimes this is difficult to do because people are not likely to tell the dirt on their teacher. You may have to contact people who left the organization in order to find out and then try to read the truth in the energy of the delivery. Remember that you cannot necessarily tell much about the guy just by looking at him. Successful criminals are very charismatic; that's what makes them successful.

Teachers who abuse students may look radiant. They will size you up and figure out what your hooks are. They might look you in the eye and listen to your deepest fears, pretending that they know much more about you then you know about yourself. They may imply that they hold some secret knowledge that will be revealed to you later. They might tell you that there is something dark about you, perhaps something from a past life, that you need them to help you overcome. They might put their arm around you with what appears to be paternal affection, but once a predator has gained your confidence, they may pull you down to their bedside or ask you to do something else that would have been morally unacceptable to you before you were involved with the group. This wake up call could happen years after you joined.

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