If someone claims to know you better than you know yourself,
run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. Some years back, I met with a so-called spiritual teacher who was looking for a ghostwriter. I asked her what her favorite books were. “I don’t need to read books,” she said in our first (and last) meeting. “I just look at the first page and I know everything in the book.”

“Then why do you want me to write a book for you?” I asked.

“I know my students better than they know themselves. I’m
trying to enlighten them.”

Where’s the door? I thought. I really needed to get out of there.

I’m suspicious when people calls themselves a spiritual teacher. I came of age in the sixties when a number of guru types from India crossed the ocean and claimed to be enlightened. They told whomever would listen, “I promise you that you will become enlightened, too, if you sit with me and do exactly what I say.” They were all about themselves and attracting followers who revered them, gave them all their money and wouldn’t make a move without their permission.

I didn’t follow any of them. I’ve always listened to my own inner
counsel, but I was intrigued to research them and see who they were. It was a diverse group:

An obese drag queen said he was channeling a 200-year-old entity,
a doctor, who knew all. The good doctor told you whatever you wanted to hear.

A heavily bearded “wise man” said, “You have sex with me and I’ll lift you into the stratosphere.” Quite the quid pro quo.

A woman promised that hugging her would open your third eye
– the all knowing chakra. She hurt her back from so much hugging, she ended up in the hospital.

A “breatharian” boasted that he didn’t need to eat. He could live on air. His people tried to do the same until one of his hungry followers spotted him leaving a McDonald’s with a hood pulled down over his face.

A mediation teacher said he had overcome anger and insisted
that his followers smile all the time or leave. One day, one of his acolytes was in the kitchen when the anti-anger man kicked a dog who had stolen his sandwich.

I heard a Transcendental Meditation teacher tell a student
to “shut up and meditate.”

I met a relationship expert who was on her fourth marriage
and counting. She had a biting temper that she regularly unleashed on her assistants and she fired any staff member who disagreed with her.

In the dire extremes, a tyrant branded his female followers with his initials and a monster forced his flock to stay inside a sweat lodge
until several of them died of hyperthermia. Then there was Charles Manson who brainwashed his “family” to commit heinous murders and David Koresh who forced his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid?

The above are real people exhibiting various degrees of destructive
behavior. As I researched them, I noticed a common thread of dogma. They were so desperate for adoration, for groups of people to hang on their every word, they all offered a form of the same message. “I know you better than you know yourself.” That idea is so arrogant and demeaning, it has become the barometer by which I measure a teacher’s authenticity.

In my experience, a good teacher encourages debate, listens well,
shows patience and tolerance, admits to personal challenges and inspires people to think for themselves and make their own decisions. If you’re not sure what you want to do, it can be valuable to take some time and listen to the educated opinion of someone else. But in the end, what you believe and what you decide to do is always best for you. No one ever knows you better than you know