How to avoid fake spirituality: 20 signs to look out for

What makes a spiritual master? Do you think you have spotted signs of someone fake? Not sure?

A select few have mastered a great level of wisdom into spirituality and wish to share their insights with others. However, some people abuse the idea of spirituality and use it for their gain.

This article will teach you the top signs of fake spirituality and how to avoid spiritual scams. Let’s jump right in.

What is Fake Spirituality?

Fake spirituality is the act of using spirituality to exploit others. It’s when someone falsely claims to be spiritual to gain power or popularity but does nothing for themselves.

Some signs that something might be wrong are when people take up spirituality for the sake of their ego or when they try to use it for personal gain.

Fake spirituality can also be a sign of a mental illness, such as narcissism. Someone might think that they have grown to be a spiritual master when they’ve instead only grown their ego.

Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman defines ego as, “that aspect of the self that has the incessant need to see itself in a positive light.”

So it can be easy to start to revere yourself for being “so good”. Many spiritual gurus can easily fall under the label of a spiritual narcissist.

It’s important not to confuse these signs with those who are simply going through a dark time and learning from it. Someone may have a great deal of darkness in their life, but that doesn’t mean they’re fake.

It’s important to understand how you interpret your spiritual journey and make sure you’re not being fooled by those who don’t have your best interests at heart.

How to Avoid Spiritual Scams

The F.B.I has warned that there has been an increase in spiritual scams during the COVID-19 pandemic. When times are uncertain, we tend to want to find answers to life quickly. But be careful, there are many ways in which people can misrepresent themselves.

It’s important to think critically if someone tries to tell you that they have all the answers.

One way is through the use of spirituality for personal gain. It’s also important to keep a diligent eye for any power imbalances and to look out for selfish motivations.

When you first meet someone who claims to have the keys to spiritual insight, try to keep an eye for any intuitive feelings that might be surfacing within you:

  • Is someone asking something of you that you don’t feel comfortable with?
  • Does something seem too good to be true?
  • Are they asking you to do something that doesn’t feel right?
  • Does someone seem too perfect?
  • Are they saying that you’re special or different from everyone else?
  • Is anything worrying you about the situation?

If you can answer yes to any of these, then be careful. It could mean that the person is fake or has bad intentions. There are many ways in which people misrepresent themselves. It might be your gut telling you to exercise caution.

No matter who the person is, renowned spiritual master or unknown online psychic, remember to question if someone asks you to donate or give them money.

People might use their spirituality to scam others into giving money or making them feel guilty about not donating.

Scams like this happen when people take advantage of the need for spirituality.

They will make you feel like you are missing out on something important that only they can provide you with. They might also threaten you with curses or bad omens if you don’t comply and support their services.

When someone is using spirituality to scam others, they’re usually trying to earn something from it.

They might be trying to earn money, emotional support, or a feeling of superiority and power over others (e.g., “my religious beliefs make me better than you”, “you will experience financial ruin if you don’t accept my blessings.”)

If you ever find yourself in a situation where someone seems like they’re using spirituality for their gain, there’s a simple way to avoid scams: ask them what they want you to do.

If they say, “give me money,” then they’re most likely not telling the truth and you should walk away from that person right away!

Why Authenticity Matters

You’re probably wondering why authenticity matters. I mean, what difference does it make if someone is fake?

Achieving a true sense of self-knowledge and feeling a strong sense of reality and interconnection is important in the spiritual path.

It’s easier to help someone understand an experience if you’ve gone through it yourself.

Someone might be able to tell you all about a spiritual awakening. But if they haven’t directly experienced it themselves, they are limited to interpreting texts and using concepts to guide you.

For example, I can try to tell you how to lessen your pain while giving birth. I might have guided multiple women through the birthing process, but if I haven’t gone through labor myself, I am missing a way to more fully understand and relate with other women going through a profound experience.

Direct experience is not necessary for empathy, but it certainly helps.

The real issue of authenticity comes up if I say that I’ve had experiences when I haven’t.

It might not seem like a big deal to you, but many spiritual people are hurt by the fake spirituality that’s out there. The emotional scars that come with abuse and disappointment after encountering spiritual masters who lie and deceive can take years to heal. Very rarely are spiritual teachers taken to court for any scams.

Be Careful Fakes Gurus and Scams Do Exist

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There are many ways to scam vulnerable people who are desperately seeking answers and meaning in life.

For example, even fortune-telling in New York is against the law. Many psychics have overcharged their clients by thousands of dollars, but they are rarely prosecuted. These cases commonly fall through the cracks of the legal system.

And larger communities forming around spiritual leaders can also come forth years later when they realize the damage that has taken place.

For example, many former members of the Ozen Rajneesh commune accuse the controversial spiritual leader of being ‘fake,’ cheating them of great sums of money, and mishandling the disappearance of a fellow spiritual community member.

Spirituality is something that takes time and commitment to get right. It’s about feeling connected to something bigger than yourself. It takes a lifetime to master.

And so when people use it for their gain, they’re robbing others of this connection. It’s about taking advantage of vulnerable people and creating yet another way to feel bad about themselves.

Fake spiritual leaders tend to tell their listeners that they are not good enough. They try to convince others that they have the answers. They can bring you more money or better health to be happy or content with life.

Fake spirituality perpetuates the idea that happiness is just around the corner – if only you could get more of this or less of that! When authentic spirituality is rarely concerned with material gain.

Spirituality is meant to help us understand the true nature of suffering and learn what makes us happy. True self-love, acceptance, and gratitude are free and difficult products to sell.

Choose an authentic spiritual journey

When it comes to your personal spiritual journey, which toxic habits have you unknowingly picked up?

Is it the need to be positive all the time? Is it a sense of superiority over those who lack spiritual awareness?

Even well-meaning gurus and experts can get it wrong.

The result?

You end up achieving the opposite of what you’re searching for. You do more to harm yourself than to heal.

You may even hurt those around you.

In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé explains how so many of us fall into the toxic spirituality trap. He himself went through a similar experience at the start of his journey.

But with over 30 years of experience in the spiritual field, Rudá now confronts and tackles popular toxic traits and habits.

As he mentions in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core.

If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video.

Even if you’re well into your spiritual journey, it’s never too late to unlearn the myths you’ve bought for truth!

The Top 20 Signs To Spot a Fake Spiritual Master

It’s easy to be tricked into believing that people who seem spiritual are on their path. However, there are many key signs to watch out for so you know what to look out for.

To help you think more critically about shady situations with spiritual teachers, keep an eye out for these things:

1)  Lack of Knowledge

One sign of a spiritual fake is an inability for a teacher to answer questions about their beliefs or spirituality.

In the case of a guru, it’s not necessarily expected that they know everything, but they should be able to answer questions about their beliefs and practices. If their answers are vague or don’t make sense, this is a red flag.

If you ask them about any aspect of their philosophy or practice and they get angry or agitated, that’s another warning sign.

A good spiritual teacher will be able to explain their stance on life in a calm way and remain calm when answering questions.

They’ll be happy to offer you answers when you have them and confident in the answers they do have. This is not to say that if someone can’t answer your question and asks you what you think instead, they may be fake.

2) A Need for External Validation

Another sign of fake spirituality is not being able to do good things for themselves.

People who believe in self-actualization and self-love don’t need anyone else’s approval or validation to make themselves happy.

3) A Hard Sell

Another sign is if they try to sell you something, like a book or a special counseling session. They may be selling it to you because they want the money, not because they want you to experience something positive and meaningful.

4) Trying Too Much

If someone seems to be trying too hard to get attention, this is another sign of inauthenticity. Someone who is truly spiritual does not need attention and will not seek it out.

A master is happy to share his wisdom when others ask.

5) Overly Confident

A true master will have the ability to accept criticism and will be able to take responsibility for their actions. If someone is constantly changing their story or blaming others for their mistakes, this may be a sign.

6) No Desire to Teach

Some people may be spiritual, but they do not have the desire to teach others. A true master will want to share his wisdom and help others, even if it is in a small way.

7) No Desire to Learn

A true master has the desire to learn and will keep an open mind. This person is always learning and will be open to new ideas and different perspectives. A true master usually considers himself first and foremost a student.

8) Willing to Lie

If someone is willing to lie, they may not be a true master. A true master will not lie because they want others to trust them and know that they are telling the truth. People who are willing to lie may be doing it for their gain or pleasure.

9) Attention Seeking

A true master will be happy just being a quiet observer of life, rather than seeking the spotlight.

They will let their actions speak for themselves and will not need others to see them or know who they are to feel good about themselves. They are comfortable with silence and solitude.

10) Clinging to Certain Roles

A true master will not be attached to the roles they play in their life. They will be able to adapt and change as needed and not get stuck in any one role. This is because they are true to themselves and what they believe.

11) Sense of Self-Importance

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Someone who is a true master does not feel that he is more important than anyone else, but he also does not feel that everyone else is more important than him. He realizes that we are all equal and connected.

He doesn’t need to prove his importance by putting others down or being arrogant. He will treat everyone with respect and dignity.

12) Manipulating Others

Misusing other people’s talents and emotions for one’s gain is a definite sign of a spiritual fake. They will go out of their way to manipulate others into believing something they may not want to believe.

They will do this to gain an advantage over others. They may even use the emotions of others to manipulate them. This is a sign of immaturity and insecurity, but it is also a sign of spiritual weakness.

A spiritual person knows that they are secure with who they are and what they believe in, so they will not misappropriate the talents or emotions of others for their gain.

If someone tried to manipulate them using these methods, they would just laugh it off and let them know that they were not going to be manipulated by these methods anymore.

13) All About the Money

If the spiritual master cares more about money than anything else—getting rich quick and making it all about the money, then he is probably more focused on that than sharing spiritual lessons.

The spiritual master cares more about what he can offer others and his contribution to humanity than he cares about material possessions. He believes that the world is full of abundance, so he will share freely what he has to offer.

If the spiritual master is all about the money, then it is probably because he lacks self-confidence and his primary focus is on himself. He may be insecure and feel like “I’m not good enough” unless he has a lot of money.

If a spiritual master focuses on money, then it probably means that his teachings will be focused on how to get rich quickly as well.

14) Power Hungry

If the spiritual master is more focused on power and control than anything else, then they are probably more focused on that than sharing spiritual lessons.

You may not be able to see it at the time, but the guru will become more interested in gaining more power than in helping you on your spiritual journey.

There are many stories of gurus who have become so powerful that they live in massive buildings, drive fancy cars, and generally act like kings.

The problem is that when this happens, the guru becomes more concerned with maintaining his or her position of power than with helping people.

If a person has this tendency, they will seldom give up their power and position even if it means that those around them suffer.

15) Doesn’t Practice What They Preach

A true master will live what they preach. If they say they are a loving person, but beat their spouse or children, then this is not the true person to follow. They will live the life that they want others to live and not be hypocritical.

A true master will also be humble enough to admit when he is wrong and apologize if needed. A true master will not be angry at others when they see them making mistakes because he knows that we all make mistakes and we must learn from our own.

16) Not a Good Listener

A true master is always learning and listening to others. They realize that they do not know everything and they are okay with that.

A true master listens to others without judging them or being judgmental. He will listen with an open mind, heart, and soul so that he can learn from the other person.

17) Preaches About Love But Hates His Enemies

A true master understands that love is meant for everyone, even their enemies. If the spiritual master hates their enemies, then they are probably more focused on hate than love and peace.

Spiritually awakened people will not be violent toward anyone or anything in any form. They will live their life peacefully and will not allow others to bring them down.

18) Self-Righteous

A true master is humble enough to admit when he is wrong and apologize if needed.

A true master will not be angry at others when they see them making mistakes because he knows that we all make mistakes and we must learn from our own. He will not brag about how great he is or how much power he has. He will let his actions speak for him, rather than his words.

19) Full of Themselves

A true master will not be arrogant and full of themselves. They will be humble and thankful for all that they have. They will not put others down to make themselves look better.

They will understand that we are all on our spiritual path and we must learn from each other. A true master will not think he is better than others because he has more power, money, or fame than others.

He will not think he is better than others because he has a higher spiritual level than others. He will not think that he is better than others just because they are of a different race or religion than him.

20) Is Not a Teacher, But a Master

A true master will know that they have no right to judge another person. They will realize that we are all on our spiritual path and we must learn from each other.

A true master does not expect anything in return for teaching people about the spiritual life, or for his teachings. He does it simply because it is the right thing to do, not because he wants something in return.

If these signs sound like someone you have sought spiritual advice from, think about how they might be negatively affecting your spiritual growth. Try to assess whether or not it’s worth it, in the long run, to continue with this person in your life.

In Conclusion

Fake spirituality is a real thing. It’s a term that refers to people and organizations that prey on good intentions and feed off of the genuine desire of people to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

These people and organizations are the ones that promise spiritual fulfillment, but end up inflicting emotional and sometimes physical damage.

Real spirituality is something that can’t be bought or sold.

It can’t be controlled or manipulated by others.

Real spirituality comes from within and it’s something that you have to discover for yourself through introspection, contemplation, trial and error, prayer and meditation, and studying the great works of spiritual literature (like this one).

If you’re not careful, you can end up spending a lot of money, investing your time and energy into something that’s not the real thing.

The best way to avoid getting scammed is to recognize the major signs of fake spirituality and to listen to your intuition.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all spirituality is fake, so don’t shy away from exploring what spirituality has to offer, just go in with discerning eyes.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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