Self-Help “Gurus” & Tradegies – When Personal Development Is Taken To the Extreme

Guru: A spiritual teacher, esp. one who imparts initiation.

Guru is a word that comes from the Indic languages.

It simply means spiritual teacher.

However here in the West, it seems to have gone to an extreme, where people think that they know everything, throws tons of money at them, and think that they have all the answers.

I know, because I’ve fallen for it before.

And real “guru” will ask you to keep an open mind, yet remain skeptical, so you can prove things for yourself without just buying into what the teacher is saying.

Tragedies have happened in recent years, when people devote themselves to gurus who take it too far, and abuse their power.

Here’s the one that shocked many of us in the personal development world, many times over.

One of The Secret’s stars James Arthur Ray had three (3) people die, while under his watch at his retreat in a sweat lodge cleansing ceremony.

I liked the way he presented things in The Secret actually, he was one of my favorite speakers in the movie.  I even bought his book “Harmonic Wealth”.

But it’s too bad he took a turn for the worse, and became abusive with his power…

James Arthur Ray Sentenced: Self-Help Guru Responsible for Sweat Lodge Deaths Going To Prison

I don’t believe he was always this way.

It seems that you can develop yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and then crossover into the ego at anytime, if you don’t remain humble.

Once you learn how to create the life you desire, even from a humble place you HAVE to watch out for crossing back over.  No one is immune and James Ray certainly wasn’t.

It seems he used an ancient Native American ceremony to push the limits of human beings, which it was never designed for.

It’s hard to believe there’s been another one since James Arthur Ray’s sweat lodge incident in Arizona, but it happened again, very recently:

Women Dies in “Detox Therapy” Retreat

The power of the guru.

NEVER fall for it.

I have, and luckily they were rather innocuous, would never have pushed people to their physical extremes.

Yet still, they used and abused their power over their community to emotionally manipulate them to staying on.

If ever you hear any of your teachers say “I have all the answers” or you even start to think they do at all, and they agree with you, GET OUT.

No one individual or set of individuals has all the answers.








2 responses to “Self-Help “Gurus” & Tradegies – When Personal Development Is Taken To the Extreme”

  1. Mike Lydon

    Hey David,

    Great post.

    I’m not sure that I’m using the term correctly from sociology, but one thing that helped me with a similar issue was having “ambiguity tolerance,” which means that you are able to see the ambiguities of life without resorting to black and white thinking (this person is “all-knowing,” is a “perfected parental figure,” “immune from criticism,” etc. – or not). Within the spectrum of human development, I don’t think that anyone is finally enlightened until they graduate from human consciousness entirely (meaning they no longer reincarnate). Sometimes people (and I include myself in this category) like or have liked in the past to have people in their lives who offer all of the answers in their lives, as it eliminates the anxiety in making one’ own decisions. Also, we might desire to have someone in our lives that provides unconditional positive regard no matter what, almost like an archetypal figure who will understand us in all of our human failings or limitations and love us in the ways that we don’t presently love ourselves.

    Other motivations may be, for instance, being afraid of using one’s own power due to past mistakes, and wanting to be in the “truck bed” of an “enlightened” person because they can go along for the ride without having to be the driver (enlightenment is in quotes here because I don’t think anyone human is fully enlightened, and if they are then they are likely anonymous and don’t have the emotional need, desire, or inclination even by a fraction of a percent to accept human followers or devotees) . I think what is most insidious is when a school or teaching claims that it is “beyond systems” or “beyond theory,” as then the presuppositions, beliefs, and limitations of the system become implicit instead of directly stated, and thus more subtle, and sometimes they pass unnoticed by followers.

    For instance, if someone talks about “divine union” but doesn’t address past life issues within their paradigm because they see being focused “in the now” as a superior strategy because the “now” is all that is actually real, then you can come away without your issues being addressed, or feeling like you just need to tell yourself “well trauma is part of maya, so it must not be real”. Then of course, the trauma festers and doesn’t heal, as a result of the metaphysical system that was adopted from the allegedly “system-free” spiritual path.

    One thing also is that when some gurus claim to be “rude boys” who yell at or are overtly harsh to people, perhaps in the name of “cutting through the ego” of a devotee. This is sometimes just a euphemism for feeling like they are above treating people with a sense of dignity that all humans want and deserve. This of course, also sets up pretty heavy conditions of worth. My last comment here is that, I think that any guru that is against self-help is an asshole. Krishnamurti had written about self-help being a fancy way to sustain and perpetuate the ego, yet he somehow felt fine with carrying on an affair with his best friend’s wife.

    Well, if self-help is just a fancy way to sustain and perpetuate the ego, apparently so is being a guru.


  2. David Hamilton

    Well said Mike, and you certainly don’t hold back, which I love.

    I agree particularly with your point on approaches that say “don’t self-help yourself” which basically means, don’t evolve yourself, we have the recipe on a silver platter. From my current understanding, without personal evolution, whether self-aware or not, there is no evolution (I feel that My Big TOE explains this very well, though not an easy read).

    So putting all your chips in one “system” is basically an attempt to stop the evolutionary process, which may or may not work anyways. Or perhaps it’s part of the evolutionary process to get stuck, anyways, to get the lesson to go onto the next stage.

    I agree too on the point about systems that claim they have no system or are above system, as you well know I participated in one such delusional approach.

    As I am just cracking into out-of-body experience and the non-physical realms, I don’t have much in terms of response about past lives, etc, because honestly I never believed in that kind of paradigm before, because I saw it as coming from a religious or solely mystical bent. However, I’m now open to the possibility of those realities existing given my experience and scientific exploration of these types of realities.

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