How to Avoid the Charlatan Effect

By Carrie-Anne Fields

Are you True to the Spiritual Path or has the Charlatan Crept in?

Having trained over 1500 yoga teachers (and counting) plus dozens of healers, I feel it is imperative to discuss the possible pitfalls of being a spiritual teacher and guide to others.  All we teachers and healers are constantly required to discern what our intentions are when in the spiritual limelight.

The very popular book 'The Alchemist' speaks of 'beginners luck' when first embarking on the spiritual path.  This honeymoon phase of seeing the return energy from all your prayers, goal-setting, manifestation techniques, selfless service and general focus on all things love and light is intoxicating.  Feelings of bliss, this is 'too good to be true', riding the prana wave and wishing you had got on your path years earlier abound.  Co-incidences and synchronistic events appear everywhere and there is a communal feeling of love and connection as compliments fly between you and your new fellow spiritual friends and once you are teaching or healing, from your students and clients.

Beware the Ptifall! You may start believing that you must be a 'chosen one' in the eyes of the Universe. Why else would people constantly tell you how wonderful you are, how much you changed their lives, how they couldn't be where they are today without you...? This belief drops in from the ego mind and seems deliciously tempting to follow. I have heard all the stories over the years and sit in fascinated bemusement that people believe this about themselves or believe it about their teacher or in some cases their partner. This belief can only exist if there is a comparison to others not being as equal to the 'chosen one' and immediately creates the opposite of spirituality in the form of separation, not unity consciousness.

Now we all know when the ego kicks into high gear, the feelings of peace and the usual magic flow of synchronicity and alignment go by the wayside. Suddenly we are pushing and forcing, grasping and pretending. ‘It's all love and light baby,’ we convince ourselves and others, but there's tension in our being, our voice is high-pitched, our shoulders are raised.  Something is not right.  

But we can't stop now - people expect us to be the calm, wise one.  The one who rises above all drama, who observes their emotions without getting hooked up on them, who always see the bigger picture and who could never possibly say the wrong thing.  Boom!  Right there, the charlatan effect has taken full grip. Authenticity has vanished. It's a Universal test common to all yoga teachers, spiritual guides, and healers. The spiritual beginners luck has come to an end.

Staying on the Path

Now begins the true rise in consciousness, should you have the capacity to stay on the path.  This phase in anyone's path can be uncomfortable.  We no longer  have the bliss of ignorance so there's no going back - although, I've seen many try and become even more bewildered.  Going forward on the path takes major commitment. Internal healing of years and lifetimes of patterns must be dealt with. Pain and anguish will arise, fear will set in, the Universe will keep testing.

What happened to that benevolent Higher Power you may wonder? Trust me, it's still there. The truth is, you CHOSE all this growth. You volunteered somewhere on the journey to clear your karma so you could taste the golden nectar of your supernatural self.  You didn't know it would get this hard though. Breathe. Go back to basics. One moment at a time.

This is the making or breaking of the true spiritual leader. This is also the time the charlatan effect can take full hold.  The charlatan is the pretender, the one with all the right words yet lacks integrity in their actions.  We all know one.  I myself have been fooled several times by people with an emerging charlatan.  I have seen teachers who appear genuine and probably started out with all good intentions, yet when the inevitable Universal test came to see if they would really treat others with integrity, they have let themselves and others down... Badly.  

Ego Ego Ego

The ego plays it's mischievous games of trickery and even though inwardly the feelings of shame are arising, the mask is securely in place and the false self is running the show.  From here on, all that's heard about is how amazing their life is and the 'gunna' stories take over.  "I'm gunna (going to) do this, I'm gunna do that, I've got all these opportunities."  The 'gunna' is exhausting to listen to because often nothing is really happening - it's just a load of pseudo connections with other 'gunna's' that leads to a big nowhere.  But the Facebook posts, Instagram pics and blog articles make others believe that wow, something big is really happening for these people.  

For yogis with 'great' poses, it's even more tempting to promote one's prowess publicly.  Ego ego ego.  What happened to serving others not boosting our own profile just for the sake of it?  One by one, the charlatans get found out.  Another perfect opportunity presents itself for honesty, humility and authenticity.  Some take the higher road, some get out of the industry, some dive deeper into maya (illusion) and continue the act.  The old Harvey TwoFace appears and to the wise and intuitive, it's an ugly sight to see the pretenders and posers selling the spiritual ways.

Sometimes the charlatans learn how to use energy for personal gain and are very, very successful in the industry.  Hoards of people get on board because the charlatan tells them what they want to hear or promises the body/image their ego yearns for.  Egos come together in a dance of illusion.  Don't be shocked when the latest renowned guru falls from grace.

Taking the Higher Road

We must remember always, this is the way many people learn and all is as it should be. How else can we know the traps of the ego if we have never travelled far down that road? We will all be tested, we will all be under the seductive spell of our ego's projected glory and asked which energy to feed, Higher Self or False Self. There is no judgement towards ourselves or others if we see the charlatan effect develop. There is, however, discernment and choice to take the higher road.  If we don't, we will hit a dead end.

Endless love to all yoga teachers and healers. This sure is one challenging path and certainly a noble occupation full of many opportunities for growth. The divine rewards are immense and keep us forging ahead. Stay true, stay humble, stay close to God/Goddess, check in daily through your meditation and enquire about what your ego is really doing. We've all got one and only we can manage that naughty trickster!

Words by Carrie-Anne Fields
Founder and Director, My Health Yoga