I’m sure you’ve come across this type of introduction on a website or facebook status and perhaps you might have considered the sale’s pitch and clicked the link to check out the impressive looking website with all the fancy and attractive images that accompanied the enticing words promising you influence and power. Perhaps you even watched a video they posted on that website or their affiliated YouTube Channel; but
Your intuition if you honestly listen to it and open yourself up to it, will guide you to authentic teachers and classes that can offer you what you are seeking. Chances are that the individual with the impressive website and enticing promises of influence and power may certainly be able to teach you something, but they probably can’t fulfill the promises they are suggesting and if they can, it’s really just impressively packaged “fluff” that you could have easily learned on your own.
How do you spot the false teacher? The charlatan? The “fake guru”?
First and foremost, I would suggest that you keep in mind that just because someone has psychic abilities or because they identify as Witch, it does not mean that they are self-aware or enlightened. Just because someone can do something well themselves, it doesn’t mean they are meant to teach others how to accomplish the same task.
When I am seeking a teacher, I am cautious of those individuals who charge a large amount of money as well as those who charge too little. I’m not afraid to send an email and ask questions about the class if the information is not freely discussed on the website or in the video. Exactly what am I receiving in exchange for payment and is it an acceptable equivalent exchange from my perspective?
Personally I am wary of titles that people claim and when I come across someone who proudly uses a title, I need to know how they’ve earned it. If I come across someone online who claims the title of High Priestess, I want to know what they are High Priestess of; are they the leader of a coven and does that coven have more than one or two other members? If they are someone I meet in person then I ask them about their experiences as High Priestess. I am completely unimpressed and somewhat repulsed by individuals who boast and brag about their psychic abilities and accomplishments. You know the type, “Take this exclusive workshop with me, where I will teach you how to vanquish demons, like I did when my brother was possessed by the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon.” I can’t. I just can’t and I encourage you not to as well.
I am one who tends to rely on personal references and will ask others if they know of or if they’ve taken a class with the teacher I am considering taking a class with and if I’m still unsure about the teacher, I will email or speak with him or her and question them about their credentials. An honest teacher or mentor will understand your desire to know who they are going to be spending their time and money with so if they act offended by your questions or make you feel foolish for asking, then I would suggest that it is a clear indication that something isn’t quite “right” and perhaps the teacher is claiming something that isn’t true.
If I do enroll in a workshop with someone and I discover that they are sharing false information with the group I speak to the facilitator or teacher privately to discuss my knowledge, personal insights, and exchange information, but if the individual is outright rude or aggressively defensive and talks over me or spends this time rationalizing their perspective while actively attempting to debunk the information I share with them then I do not waste my time continuing with the workshop or class. It is clear that they are only interested in what they have to present and are not opened to other’s perspectives, which personally raises a red flag for me. Authentic teachers and mentors understand that they are also students of life and continuously seek to expand their own understandings of the nature of the Universe and themselves.
This brings me nicely to the topic of authenticity. I strongly believe that all teachers and mentors should “walk their talk” and lead by example. If I am teaching a class on how to read Tarot cards then I should be able to read the Tarot and have experience in doing so in a professional setting; if I am facilitating a workshop about meditation and visualization then I should be doing both with success in my own practice; if I am instructing students on spell casting then I should be manifesting my own desires successfully, which should be evident to others if they were to observe my life experience. Those individuals that are recognized in the spiritual community as The Ascended Masters are known to be individuals who “walked their talk”; they taught what they lived. If I find a striking contradiction in a teacher’s teachings and their personal life then I am unconvinced that they are able to teach me what they have not been able to grasp themselves and will not take their class or drop out of an ongoing class I am enrolled in. I will not stomach hypocrisy and refuse to spend my time and energy on a class or workshop lead by someone who is an example of it.
Any teacher or mentor, who name drops and constantly shares personal information, is focused not on their students’ spiritual development, but rather on being the center of attention in order to gain that which they lack within themselves. They use their classes and workshops as a stage and spend the majority of the time talking about their personal accomplishments and experiences, which tend to be overly dramatic and will usually showcase their “special” or “unique” psychic skills and abilities. You know the type: “I met the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon that had possessed by brother on the Astral Plane and used the technique Archangel Michael taught me to vanquish it to The Underworld.” These teachers are not providing their students with an opportunity for growth and enlightenment, but are providing a setting for their own validation and the building of self-confidence and worth through their students. This is not an ideal teacher for anyone.
An effective spiritual teacher will spend time discussing the wide spectrum of spiritual concepts and experiences; those that are usually deemed positive as well as those that are considered negative. Just as physical life encompasses all these experiences our spiritual selves encounter them as well and the Seeker should expect a teacher or mentor to be willing to discuss them. If you find that you have come upon someone who identifies as a spiritual teacher, but is unwilling to address the shadows of the self or disregards any experiences that involve pain and suffering, I would suggest that they are someone who actively represses their own unwanted feelings and may not be working on their own spiritual growth and awareness.
I caution everyone to be wary of teachers or mentors who promise a quick way to reach self-realization because the authentic teacher knows that all forms of spiritual enlightenment, regardless of the label it wears, takes time, serious effort, and actual work on the part of the student. There is no quick and easy way to attain spiritual knowledge. While it is true that the student will gain personal gnosis as they engage in meaningful spiritual classes and workshops, dismantling a lifetime of intellectualized beliefs, which will enable them to be opened to greater understandings of themselves and the nature of the Universe, takes time and cannot be done in an hour workshop or a week long class or even in a year-and-a-day program. We are all Seekers and continue to be such even after we’ve experienced epiphanies.
The last point I want to address isn’t as unnerving as the previous ones I’ve written about up to this point, but I have found that it can be a symptom of the “fake guru”; this is a hyper-focus on aestheticism and priority for spiritual materialism. These are the motivators for the teacher’s practice and he or she will openly discuss how much each of their tools cost them and enjoy showing them to the group. The teacher may also openly criticize their students who do not own or are unable to purchase “pretty” tools. While I am a Witch who likes pretty things I am not obsessed with purchasing them. I am practical and will not put myself in debt just so that I can purchase another ritual blade from the Ren Faire. I own the tools that I believe are required in order for me to practice my spirituality effectively; some of them may be second hand acquisitions while others are new purchases, but none of my things are the focus of my practice or my attention.
For more thoughts on this topic check out a blog post written by a shaman friend of mine: Rant: Self Proclaimed Gurus and Teachers