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Avoiding Spiritual Manipulation


By George A. Boyd © 2003

Several different kinds of spiritual manipulation are seen in cultic groups. Seven major types are detailed below:

Forced Choice

You are required to commit yourself exclusively to one Master, one teaching, or one belief—or you are denied the privilege of receiving the Light from your Master, entering the presence of the Master or going to spiritual meetings of this group, or receiving teachings.

In addition to withholding spiritual benefits, you are threatened by terrible consequences: hell, transmigration, or denial of entrance to the path for incalculable amounts of time.

You feel compelled to do what you're told because you don't want to lose the Master's blessings and Grace, or experience the suffering of the consequences. This ultimatum forces you into believing there are only two alternatives, when in fact there are many.


The teacher answers your questions with ambiguous, vague symbols that can be interpreted in many different ways. This produces mental confusion. It frustrates your critical thinking. It encourages blind faith and devotion without gaining understanding.

Spiritual Intimidation

The teacher manifests a form that you encounter at the edge of your unconscious mind that follows you even in your dreams. You gain the impression that your teacher is watching you all the time. You may develop guilt feelings or even paranoia if you don't obey the Master's every wish.

Information Overload

By inundating you with spiritual information with no time to process it or integrate it, you reach a state of information overload in which you your mind shuts off. In this state, you may "snap" into an altered state of consciousness and remain fixed there.

Spiritual Theatre

By showing you love and kindness, then rejecting and being cold to you, you become emotionally confused.

The love and caring shown to you gives you a feeling of safety and comfort, and cements your dependence on the teacher.

The rejection stimulates your fear of abandonment, which makes you try to do whatever you believe will please the teacher, so you won't lose the teacher's love and Grace.

The Grateful Teacher

The teacher gives to you "the opportunity for selfless service," conveying the impression you will receive unspecified blessings or favor. You volunteer thousands of hours to do service and propagate the teacher's message.

You receive a smile and a sincere expression of gratitude from your teacher. Compensation for your time, money and effort are not forthcoming, however.


The teacher routinely humiliates you in public by chastising, criticizing and ridiculing you. You are made to feel insignificant, like the teacher is a god or goddess, and you are nothing—a mere gnat or insect.

When you come to feel sufficiently bad about yourself and doubt your judgment through this continual barrage of put-downs and public embarrassment, the Master will advise you what to think, believe and do.

Gradually, your entire personality may be re-shaped through this means, and you can become the Master's obedient slave, and literally, lose your own individuality.

With the loss of your unique perspective and independent judgment, you may also lose your ability to think independently and to make your own decisions, so that every aspect of your life will be guided by the Master's commandment and wishes, or scrupulous adherence to doctrinal guidelines.

Avoiding Manipulation

Spiritual teachers who avoid these manipulations follow alternate ways of dealing with their students:

  1. They honor the free choice of the student. They allow students to have an unimpeded search for meaning and truth; not imposing their truths, ethics or path on the student.

  2. They make their teachings clear. If symbols are utilized as metaphors, analogies, or teaching tools, they explain the meaning they intend by them.

  3. They remain out of the personal psychic space of the student. If the teacher manifests a guide form, it does not appear in the student's unconscious mind, but rather at a discrete station on the upward path of the spirit or attentional principle.

  4. They give information in amounts that can be integrated. They encourage study and reflection about the topics disseminated.

  5. Treat the student with kindness, respect, and unconditional positive regard.

  6. They either pay the student or offer an equitable exchange for services done by the student.

  7. Whenever possible, they correct the student's behavior in private, and explain why that behavior is inappropriate. They treat the student as an equal, as another human being, and demystify spiritual states of consciousness.

Exposure to spiritual manipulation is commonly seen in cultic groups. We ask the meditation student or religious adherent to examine your current relationship with your spiritual teacher or spiritual group leader. Do you discern that these manipulative methods are being used with you? If they are, you may wish to determine why these manipulations are being used to control you.

We believe that spirituality should support your autonomy, empower you to express your full personal and spiritual potential–without attempts to force you to follow any path that is not resonant with your intuition an innate sense of truth. We call upon spiritual teachers who are using these manipulative means to abandon them, and set the captives free.


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