Sometimes I fall down this particular rabbit hole…the rabbit hole of spiritual cults. I read a bunch of articles on past and current spiritual cult leaders, I rewatch the documentaries on Netflix, I google for connections between various cult leaders and verifications of their actual histories vs. the extraordinary accounts offered by the leaders themselves.
And it drives me fucking crazy.
By the time the day is through, I have vowed to myself that I will never work in the spiritual industry ever again. I’ve decided that I refuse to have one more conversation about “higher consciousness” ever. again.
Of course, I’ve done this at least a dozen times. But spirituality is a part of how I see the world, how I express myself, and I always come back to it in my own quiet (or loud) ways. I can never truly escape it. Probably because there’s nothing tangible to actually escape from. But it makes me sick to see how often spiritual leaders have been abusers. Even figures like Ghandi and Osho aren’t innocent in this. Outrageous displays of narcissism and inappropriate expressions of sexuality towards followers have been reported about nearly every single spiritual figure out there, on all levels, from local to international, dead and alive.
It’s almost too easy for spiritual leaders to abuse. They have enough philosophical information, enough of an understanding of spiritual principles, and enough false humility, to garner the attention and respect of normal, smart people. Who wouldn’t agree with calming the mind and conquering your fears, becoming one with your higher self and the god consciousness? But then comes Act II, where that universal spiritual knowledge gets twisted and bastardized. Cult leaders know how to find the spiritual wounds in the soul, and they know how to pretend to fill them. And brainwashed followers are born.
It makes me so angry that anyone would take such pure spiritual wisdom and twist it to fit into their own intentions. But the more I trace it back, the more the true problem reveals itself: We shouldn’t be “following” anyone.
We’re always looking for a savior. We’re always looking for the superhuman, the supernatural, to lead us. We’re always looking for that thing that’s *more* than human. Because human is flawed. Human is boring. Human is undesirable and dirty and evil.
But what if human is what is truly divine?
What if it’s really a complete snore that we’re all magical aliens from various cosmic places with hidden superpowers and agendas that will like, totally raise the consciousness of the whole world. What if every other person is a reincarnated deity, and every other person apart from those people are half-fairy quarter-mermaid mindreaders? What if that shit is what’s really standard and boring?
For real, fuck all of that for a minute here.
For a moment, let’s imagine that the truest and most spiritual manifestation of a person is someone who is fully committed to being a normal human being on this planet in a normal human being body, doing normal human being things, and having normal human being feelings.
What if I don’t care that you’re really an angelic being with healing powers that would make all the saints jealous? What if I care more that you intentionally have a kind conversation with the disabled woman behind you in line at the coffee shop? What if I don’t care that you have an online subscription site that has 200,000 members and your mission is to heal the world? What if I care more that you apologize when you’re wrong, and regularly tell your people that you love them? What if I don’t care that you saw Jesus when you were 7? What if I care more that you rescued a shivering dog from the side of the highway? What if I care more about how you found hope after your devastating breakup than how you channeled Isis the other day?
We came to this planet to be human beings. We came to experience the messiness of love and heartbreak and community and isolation. We did not come into the world of humans to be nonhuman. And anytime we raise others or ourselves to a nonhuman spiritual status that deserves “followers”, we betray the divinity of humanness.
Yes, let’s support brilliant minds and fearless leaders and lift up the work that will heal our broken hearts, but let’s make sure that those minds are real and human and humble. Let’s raise up those that can admit that they fuck up, but who strive to repair relationships and love fiercely anyways.
You can train yourself to see the dogma in others. You can train yourself to see the dogma in yourself. (I know this is dumb and cheesy but you realize that dogma spelled backwards is “amgod” right?)
Let’s adjust our gauges of what wisdom looks like and begin our adoration at the level of the mundane. There is a deeper current of magick there. Maybe a dirty and unglamorous version of it, but that version is the true essence of why we’re here.
Let’s change the way we build relationships. It’s all too easy to make friends and build relationships on similar ideologies and our nonhuman qualities. This is the benefit, and the drawback, of social media and online communities. You can easily find your “tribe” this way. Oh, a group for crystal healers? Yep, so there. A group for single moms who are buddhist vegans? Cool, yeah. Queer femme witches? Click, join. There’s nothing wrong with finding people who understand you on these levels. And it can be super healing too. But too much of it and we find ourselves only embarking on relationships where these conditions are met first. Anyone who doesn’t meet these superhuman qualities right off the bat, and they’re not “our people”.
And I get it, I’m really guilty of this too. Nothing has informed me of this more than living in this tiny town in Northern Minnesota, where who I am is a bit of an anomaly. But the more I cling to those superhuman standards, the less I meet or talk to anybody new, and the more I reject everyone for stupid reasons. But ya know what? When I talk to the stranger in the YMCA sauna about the weather, or when I greet someone hiking on the same trail, or when I apologize to someone I accidentally bump into in the grocery store, I can feel the current of humanity running through me. And I’m just a boring human, just like everyone else is. And it’s beautiful. And real. And where this all should start.
If being a boring human is the baseline for divinity, and is the only requirement for being worthy of love, then any problem or disagreement can always start with love. If every relationship is built on the camaraderie of the human experience rather than whether you think energy vampires are real or aliens are secretly running the government, there’s more space for heart-centered discourse.
I can easily see this in my own interactions. With the friends that I’ve had for decades, those relationships are based on love and shared experiences as human beings over the years, so even when our ideologies clash, we approach each other with love and humanness (or try our best at least), because that’s what we started with and we don’t want to lose eachother. And even if we will never meet up in some of our beliefs, we both become kinder, more compassionate people to differences in general as a result. We become more aware of our personal stories that influence those ideologies. But if some dude I don’t personally know is posting on my Facebook wall with clashing ideologies, I verbally slay him and/or block him. And that’s totally fine - I’m not saying you have to be nice to the assholes you don’t know. (And you have to know where your own personal lines of unacceptable ideologies are crossed…) But if I can approach every new relationship on the baseline level of being regular humans together, I’m increasing future opportunities for compassionate discourse because I am making space for each human being’s story.
If our focus in this world is on our experiences as humans, we don’t need spiritual gurus. We don’t need to follow anyone, because we’re kind of following everyone. Storytelling becomes our guru, humanity becomes our leader. And it’s not that we can’t also be magical fairy alien angel people with cool abilities and shit, but that shouldn’t be what defines us. That shouldn’t be how we categorize our worth and the worth of others.
No one is better than anyone else.
We’re all just shouting into the void.
And even if some of us have more elegant things to shout into it,
the void doesn’t discriminate.
So let's just be real people, k?
(PS Did you know my book I Don't Want To Be An Empath Anymore is available?! Cool. Just checkin.)