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Narcissistic Spiritual Gurus

We see narcissists everywhere—in our rooms, with spouses, ex-spouses, family members, bosses, coworkers, friends. Most of us don’t expect to discover them among spiritual advisors and gurus. A few years ago the great sociologist Christopher Lasch prophetically declared: “In a culture of death, narcissism appears to be —under the guise of personal “maturity” and “awareness” —the highest achievement of spiritual enlightenment.” Many of us assume that if someone has theological credentials or training in the spiritual disciplines, that is true. Some of the most insidious forms of narcissism are practiced by spiritual teachers and gurus.

There are as many styles and degrees of narcissistic spiritual gurus as there are spiritual movements. They range from the itinerant preacher a la Elmer Gantry to the most well-educated, highly trained individuals who create global movements and success through foundations, seminars, numerous books, dvds, cds, and media appearances. Being respected in the world does not mean that one cannot be a narcissistic spiritual guru who causes psychological and financial harm to others.

A narcissistic guru (male or female) is often dynamic and charismatic. He magnetizes people with an irresistible personality that suggests he has unique spiritual gifts and access to secrets that will lead to higher levels of consciousness. A skilled narcissistic guru evaluates which people will join his spiritual circle. He pays attention to the prospective member, letting him know that he is special and permanent. These gurus use riveting eye contact. Their movements, the tone of their voice, all their non-verbal cues focus on their purpose. Narcissistic spiritual gurus are great actors (who often believe in their own performance). They appeal to that part of us that is emotionally vulnerable, feeling deprived or unworthy. Some of us are looking for a magic key or formula that will put us beyond pain—that voice of the ego that wants to feel powerful, limitless—like god. Not all who fall under the spell of a narcissistic spiritual guru are ignorant or ignorant. The high level narcissistic spiritual master has dynamic and perceptive powers that deceive and mislead many people. Despite their tempting charms and promises, there are warning signs that a spiritual master has more power and wealth than helping his devotees:

1. Pay attention to the money barometer. Does the guru charge high fees for his services?

2. Is there constant pressure on members to sign up for expensive ongoing programs? The not-so-secret message here is: the more courses you take with us, the more blessed you will be. This can be called a payment for prayer or a payment to be a sacred spiritual plan.

3. Another observation is that devotees often revere the guru, reflexively obeying him. Having been seduced by their charismatic leader, they are no longer able to think independently.

4. The narcissistic spiritual guru often uses his closest disciples as servants who perform unpaid labor: going on special errands, cleaning his residences, organizing public events. The devoted devotee considers these requests as a privilege and proof that they occupy an honorable place in the guru’s hierarchy.

5. Narcissists play favorites. They pit one member against another to maintain ultimate power and control over their members.

6. Devotees are often mistreated. The slightest mistake can lead to ugly scenes of humiliation in front of other members of the group.

7. Followers who question the spiritual leader or are considered dangerous rivals are expelled from the group.

8. The narcissistic guru behaves very differently from his devotees in his personal life. He is often very selfish, materialistic, greedy, and in some cases, abuses drugs and alcohol. He may sexually abuse willing devotees who are emotionally attached and vulnerable and psychologically dependent on him.

More spiritual awakening and heart centering does not cost money. Despite all the obstacles in front of us, it requires loyalty, discipline and persistence. It is not a short journey; is an adventurous journey.

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