I’ve met a number of people, probably more than my share due to the nature of my work, who think they have all the answers. A book client of mine appeared on a TV talk show some years ago and she claimed to be a “spiritual relationship expert.” Couples from the
audiencce described their relationship and marriage woes, and her job was to solve their problems. With each question, the camera zoomed in on her as she told everybody what was right and what wasn’t, what they should do and what they shouldn’t, what worked and what didn’t, all according to her alleged psychic powers.

I thought about the heavy burden she was carrying. Imagine having to “know” unequivocally how to unravel the universal conundrum of how men and women could get along when times were tough. She never said, “I don’t know.” Or “Give me a minute to think about that.”
Instead, she was overconfident and didactic, cannonballing her well rehearsed answers, failing to mention that as she sat there telling people what to do, her fifth marriage was on the skids.

Joining her on the colorful list of “all knowing” people I’ve met are a clairvoyant psychiatrist, a psychic life coach, a self-declared enlightened seminar couple, a horny tantric guide, a thousand-year-old entity channeler, an anorexic nutritionist, a tarot card reading
witch, and an auric massage therapist who grabbed a layer of fat around her stomach and told me, “This isn’t mine.”

“Whose is it?” I asked her.

“I absorbed the negativity of
someone I was healing. It’s his.” 

These kinds of assertions were nauseatingly common during the sixties and seventies, when spiritual arrogance was on the rise and they still exist today.  Individuals say that you can be enlightened if you offer them your undying devotion, your money, your body, and your firstborn child. Obviously I’m not being literal, but a host of gurus from the East enjoyed a lot of self-gratifying devotion during the “New Age,” grabbing at everything they could get their hands on, all in the name of helping others get closer to God.

“I’m very spiritual,” I’ve heard people say, “and I know you better than you know yourself, so let me tell you what to do.” Arrogance is always annoying, but I find spiritual arrogance to be shameful, damaging, and at times, criminal. Examples come to mind, like motivational speaker James Arthur Ray. He served two years in prison in 2010 when several people, supposedly under his guidance, died in his sweat lodge. Jim Jones got more than nine hundred followers, some who volunteered, others at gunpoint, to drink Kool-Aid laced with cyanide so they could move beyond this existence into an Eden-like afterlife. They died with their tennis shoes on.

There is nothing new under the sun about teachers claiming ultimate knowledge and garnering wealth by reaching their hands into someone else’s pocket or their pants. I never followed one of these
“elightened beings,” which is why I still have my home, my bank account and my own opinions. I was privy, however, to stories from friends about secret, sacred rituals of famously revered gurus. One self-proclaimed Eastern master who settled in the West had thousands of devotees who gifted him with a fleet of Rolls Royces and Rolex watches. He claimed to be celibate while he
handpicked certain women (pretty ones with large breasts) to dance topless for him at hush-hush spiritual gatherings in his private quarters where he brushed his white-robed body against them, touching here and stroking there, gifting them with his “special” blessings.

But while the number of charlatans is staggering, I have to say that back in the day, a group of authentic and wonderful teachers from the East showed up and offered guidance on meditation, prayers, and yogic healing to whomever was ready to take the next step in his or her spiritual development. Refusing to toe the line and accept the rigidity of our parents, the youth movement that began in the sixties, of which I was a part, shunned the status quo as we experimented with psychedelic drugs and meditation to expand and heal our minds and hearts.

The very concept of healing, in all of its varied shapes and forms, has been much debated for centuries, and opinions vary as to what it really means and who is responsible for the results. In my extensive research, I’ve discovered that the true source of
healing power comes from the healer and the patient working together. I saw that when a person lies down on a healer’s table and says, “Fix me,” or when a healer says, “Let me fix you,” they are both missing the point.

One of the most damaging lies is the idea that we brought our illness upon ourselves. I’m not a proponent of the belief that we create our own reality. No one deserves to be responsible for the brunt of someone else’s ill will or violence. Of course we can choose to be
postive or negative about how we view our lives, but the concept that we are to blame for our cancer or AIDS, invites guilt and shame which are bad for the immune system and create insurmountable obstacles.

A Philippine friend of mine who did healing work with herbs and massage told me, “In my earlier stages of healing, I was caught in an ego trap. I had a few techniques within my grasp, and I walked
around with spiritual arrogance, a holier-than-thou attitude. I said I was serving humanity, but I wasn’t coming from my heart. I have since learned that real and effective healing can only happen through self-awareness and humility. It’s a personal search, a personal awakening. We are learning to heal for ourselves, not for others. And while we want to feel better and help our friends feel better, we are not goal- oriented. What is important is that we
have not separated ourselves. We are connected to the whole and to other people. That is where healing comes from—a lack of separation, a true andindestructible connectedness.”