This is a transcript from Sovereign Self Radio Show on June 29, 2020, hosted by ZofiaRenea Morales, with guest speaker, Maya Zahira. This interview transcript has been edited for content and clarity.
Click HERE to listen to the replay on the Sovereign Self Radio show page.
Zofia: In my own experience in the New Age world, there’s not a lot of discernment that is used. People kind of run around willy-nilly, randomly experiencing things without using a lot of discernment. I think there’s some disconnect between discernment and judgment that goes on. But yeah, suspending judgment does not mean that you should just randomly go for everything.
Maya: Another thing that’s happening, especially with people who are new in the spiritual world, is that they are oftentimes in a position of emotional vulnerability. They are actually reaching out for this new spiritual realm, this new spiritual community, and going outside of their previous box because they are going through some major life transformation, something that’s really hard—a divorce, a major loss, a trauma. They are reaching out to this community that looks so promising, so they are in a vulnerable mental and emotional position anyway. There’s this assumption that all can be trusted. You just don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s what I’m here to help us with.
Zofia: I love the topic that we’re talking about today—How to Identify False Spiritual Teachers, teachers that have not done their work. I’ve sadly run into quite a few of these. You would think….they’ve got these amazing gifts and amazing tools and they’re in a hurry to use them on other people but they frequently have not done their own work. I’m excited to have this topic today! Give us a little background on how you became introduced to this section of work.
Maya: I’ve been involved in the spiritual community for many years. As a participant, I had my own situations where I encountered some really weird things in the spiritual community, where there were some really toxic behaviors that some of the spiritual teachers were engaging in that were very normalized by the community, making it appear that these toxic behaviors were all okay. Over time, I started to see the light. I began to question some of the things I was observing. When I would speak up and say, “Some of this doesn’t seem healthy,” my efforts would get smashed down by the group peer pressure to follow along.
Over the years, with the spiritual protection work I have done, as a side effect, I’ve ended up also attracting a lot of clients who have been recovering from situations with abusive spiritual teachers. Some of the stories that I’ll share with you are things that either I’ve experienced personally or my clients have experienced them. Anytime I share a client story, I’m creating composite stories in order to illustrate the common patterns and themes and to keep each client’s personal story confidential. Names and details have been modified in order to respect everyone’s privacy. But these stories are absolutely totally true. There’s so much of this going on, that even though some of these stories are composites, there are a million stories just like it.
Zofia: Can you give us an example of what that looked like?
Maya: I’ll share a pretty mild story to start with. This is something that I experienced personally. (I have some pretty severe stories that I’ll share later on.) We’ll just call this spiritual teacher, “Madame Starseed”. (That’s not her real name.) One day, I was scrolling through Facebook. Just like so many of us do, I saw a meme that caught my interest so I decided to share it, along with my personal commentary, which began with, “I don’t agree with this line of thinking because….” We ALL do this—post things we either agree with or disagree with, and we add our personal remarks and opinions. This is what our own Facebook page is for and this is a normal thing. So, on this particular day, I did what I often do and shared a meme to my Facebook page along with my contrary opinions on the subject, not having any idea the storm of fire that was going to come down upon me as a result. Hand on heart, I made this post very innocently in a very well-meaning way.
I had shared my post when I was in a nature location. Then, I shut down my computer and drove home, sitting down at my home computer about an hour later. As soon as I turned on my computer, I saw a REALLY long message from the internationally-renowned spiritual teacher whose name had been on the meme. (Yes, this is a spiritual teacher who is known worldwide and teaches internationally.) What I received was this really long ranting message in which the spiritual teacher blatantly said, “You, Maya Zahira, have clearly not worked on your shadow….” The message continued with an onslaught of accusations, assumptions, and projections. She then went on to insist that I was trying to attack and “defame” her via my post. By the way, this is a spiritual teacher who teaches people about working with their inner shadow (the unhealed aspects within themselves). Apparently, she had decided that since I’d posted my perspectives regarding her meme, that apparently meant I was projecting some unresolved aspects of my inner shadow.
Anyway, I replied. I did my best to be gracious. “I am deeply sorry for any offense. It was totally innocent. Every day on social media, people comment on things and share things, and that’s all I was doing here. It was not personal. I don’t even know you, so why would I be trying to defame you? Is it possible that YOU could be projecting some aspects of your own unresolved shadow onto me? That said, in order to avoid any further confusion, I make a commitment to you that I will not comment on or share any of your content again in the future. I send you peace.”
After that, she went onto my personal Facebook page and started posting snarky comments on a number of my personal posts. For example, I had posted a meme about being compassionate and kind to others. She commented publicly, “Clearly you don’t follow your own advice.” I scrolled through my recent posts and my jaw dropped as I read through her various passive-aggressive jabs. I was shaking my head thinking, “Wow, this person is messed up!” Eventually, I ended up having to block her. This person was clearly angry.
Zofia: And vindictive! I mean, it’s one thing to be upset. It’s another to go after somebody for every single thing they post on Facebook.
Maya: It was a good learning opportunity for me. I made a strong mental note to myself, “Maya, if anyone ever reposts one of your quotes or memes and has a negative commentary on it, definitely don’t do what Madame Starseed did!” Honestly, her actions made me lose all respect for her. Before this odd encounter, I had actually respected her—from afar. (I didn’t know her.) But after that strange situation, I thought, “Wow, this person really has some major inner work she needs to do—work that she’s been avoiding and projecting onto other people. For a spiritual teacher, that’s dangerous.” Because imagine all the people that she’s training and working with in her workshops. Is that kind of projection happening at those workshops and retreats, too? She is someone who trains very large numbers of future healers and spiritual teachers. This is problematic.
Zofia: I would like to add that in my own spiritual teacher lineage, one of the teachers that was a teacher of one of my teachers actually went down that rabbit hole where she was attacking the students in her course because she hadn’t been able to clear some of the issues she was having within herself. It blew up her life in the end.
Maya: I just want to point out, this is not about finger-pointing. I think, as we are all involved in the spiritual community, it is important for us to develop the discernment to understand what could be red flags, where these might be people that we might not want to work with. We might not want to have them as teachers.
I would consider this person (Madame Starseed) to be in one of the categories of an abusive spiritual teacher, and that would be the emotional/mental abuser. I base this also on several other observations I made with some of her students, but I’m not going to go into those details at this time. But I would put her into that category of someone, like you said, who perhaps really is trying to do her inner work, but there’s a whole lot more that needs to be done. A spiritual teacher with so much unresolved inner material can result in an emotionally and spiritually unsafe environment for their students and followers.
Zofia: Since you brought up the categories, what are the three categories of abusive spiritual teachers?
Maya: I created this list in preparation for this radio interview, and I base this on the different people that I’ve worked with and observed over the years.
The first one that I already mentioned is the emotional and mental abuser. This is someone who will project their own issues. They will gaslight. They might be a boundary violator. They might nurture an atmosphere of blind followers. They might encourage their followers to initiate peer pressure so that everyone will follow along. Those kinds of behaviors are very normalized. Also, oftentimes, they don’t adhere to their own spiritual teachings.
Zofia: Can you give me some examples of some of these behaviors?
Maya: Yes. In the story that I just shared, one of the primary things that Madame Starseed teaches is working on healing and integrating your own inner shadow so that you don’t project it onto others. And that is exactly what SHE was doing—projecting her own unresolved shadow onto others. She was not following her own teachings. Madame Starseed trains future spiritual teachers, and I also observed some of THOSE teachers doing exactly what had been modeled to them—projecting their own issues onto their students in the midst of teaching workshops on how to heal your inner shadow.
I’d like to go into the other two categories. I also have stories in which the spiritual teachers fit into more than one category. In other words, these three categories are interwoven.
The second category is the sexual predator. This is the person in the spiritual community, male or female, ANY gender orientation, who will groom their students or their clients in order to have sex with them. They don’t necessarily target everyone. That’s why it is so easy for them to get away with it. There are always people who don’t believe what’s happening. They will say things like, “Well, he or she never did that to me.” The teacher will groom and gain the trust of their targets, and they will target those who are most vulnerable. Oftentimes, what I’ll see is that there will be someone who is older who intentionally preys on those who are much younger.
The third category is what I call the dark shaman. This is someone who is intentionally using their knowledge of esoteric wisdom and working with energy to harm, control, and manipulate their students and their clients.
Zofia: Tell us a little bit more about the signs of the sexually abusive spiritual teacher.
Maya: We were talking about how the sexual predator will often groom their students, their clients, their targets. This is why a lot of people don’t believe what’s actually happening. A lot of people who are not targeted will say, “Well, that’s not happening!” The sexual predator will take as long as they need to gain the trust of whoever they are targeting. They will gain their trust by giving them compliments. For example, “Oh, I’ve never seen such amazing and pure spiritual energy like yours!” “I think we’ve had ten past lives together.” “You are a starseed with an important mission on this planet.” Blah, blah, blah. And then, once they gain their trust over time, they will tell them something like, (This is a really common tactic.) “Oh, your sacral chakra is blocked and the only way to unblock it is if you and I have sex.” I can’t even tell you how many sexual predators I’ve encountered who have used that exact tactic.
Now, I want to point out, (this is really important for your listeners) that a lot of times these sexual predators are also dark shamans who are misusing their knowledge of spiritual energy, where they will plug in negative energy cords, manipulating energy cords, whether they are doing black magick, or whatever means they are using to manipulate the person so the target thinks that they are giving consent. The person thinks that they are giving consent, but they are not. It’s really a spiritual control the predator has over them in order to get them to desire this.
Zofia: How do you know, how do you tell the difference between these two?
“Yes, I really want to be engaged with this person, have sex with this person.”
Or, “I’m being manipulated into thinking that I want this.”
How do you make that distinction?
Maya: That’s a really important question, and here’s where a lot of times these three categories will meld together. The number one thing that you want to look at is professional boundaries. If you are going to someone for spiritual healing (for massage, Reiki, acupuncture, etc.) or they are your spiritual teacher, they should not be having sex with you. This is something that a lot of people get confused about. I’ve worked with many clients who have been trying to heal from these kinds of encounters. They simply didn’t know. They didn’t understand that as a participant in this, the spiritual teacher should have been responsible for holding professional boundaries.
Now, there are some unique instances….I actually met someone in the spiritual community who was working with a client, realized that this person was their soulmate and that they were supposed to be together. I really applaud that this person took very ethical, high-integrity steps in what could have been a very tricky situation. They ended all professional sessions with this person and waited a period of time, a number of months. They also reported themselves to the professional licensing organization they were a part of, they explained the reason why they were releasing their licensure because the were choosing to be romantically involved with this former client. That level of integrity hardly ever happens in the spiritual world! Usually, with people who are coming from a predatory standpoint, they will just go for it. That shouldn’t be happening. A practitioner or teacher should not be initiating sex with their client. Period. So, if you are a client of any kind, or you’re a student, or you’re a follower, and the professional is initiating sexual contact with you, that should be a red flag right then and there. This person is not upholding professional boundaries. This is a real problem in spiritual communities.
Zofia: Now, I know many of us in the spiritual world are looking out for our soulmates. If you are on the client end of a situation with a spiritual teacher, and you feel this person is your soulmate, how do you negotiate those waters? You’ve talked about what the professional should do.
Maya: This is a really important question. I would go two directions with this. First, talk to your practitioner. Let them know that you are having these romantic feelings, and that because of that, you need to discontinue sessions with them. Then, ask them for a referral to a different practitioner or teacher. And then, I would take a little bit of space, consult with a good friend, or someone that you trust who is an outside party with good clear vision. Your reason for doing this is to just make sure that there’s no spiritual manipulation going on. I say this because spiritual manipulation (from the teacher/practitioner) is so incredibly common. 99% of the time, that is actually what’s happening when a client thinks that their teacher is their soulmate. Most of the time, it is an intentional manipulation. No matter what, it is a good idea to question things, take some space, make sure that your energy is clean and clear and that there’s no weird manipulation going on. And then, after taking those steps, you can discern whether you’d like to move forward romantically with this person. Either way, you should discontinue working with that person in a professional capacity, because that’s not a healthy dynamic. In other words, when someone is your teacher or healer, they are in a position of authority over you. That in and of itself is not a healthy foundation from which to build a romantic relationship.
Zofia: How do we recognize a dark shaman? What are the signs of that?
Maya: This one is kind of tricky because they will often present themselves as love and light. In fact, this one sexual predator and dark shaman, his whole message he would tell everyone was, “Love, love, love, love, love.” But what he was really saying was, “No boundaries. I’m going to violate you.” He was in his 60’s and he always had these beautiful, lovely, innocent, young 18-23-year-olds as his followers and proteges.
So yes, the dark shaman often presents as love and light. They put on a very good show. They’re so adept at manipulating energy that they can create what some people would call a “glamour” where they appear very enticing and magnetic, yet it is all based on energetic manipulation. This person is a master of energy and esoteric knowledge. That might not be something that you see in the beginning, but you discover it later on. On the surface, they usually present as love and light, so you have to really learn how to develop your own intuition and discernment. What you will eventually see are little examples where they are misusing their power.
Zofia: Give me an example of this misuse of power.
Maya: There are a lot of shamans who will astral travel to their target person without consent. They will act like it is normal and completely okay to do this. When they astral travel, they might mess with the person’s energy, or they might have sex with them in the astral realm, or do any number of things to this person in the astral (like opening their kundalini energy, casting black magick on them, attaching energy cords, and so much more). Most followers don’t even know to speak up about such psychic intrusions. They simply don’t know that there should have been consent because lack of boundaries are typically the norm of this person’s followers (and of the spiritual world in general).
Zofia: Exactly. If you are new to the world of spirituality, you may think it is completely normal for your teacher to show up in your dreamtime.
Maya: Yes. And I’ve been using the label “shaman” but they can be a dark magician, a yogi, a guru, etc. using any number of esoteric techniques.
Zofia: They can be “angel healers”. Let’s be honest, right? False light comes in a lot of forms.
Maya: Yes, there was a case that I worked on with a female spiritual teacher who presents herself as an angel lady. She does horrendous things to her followers. She does black magick against them, creates blocks in their energy, curses, energy cords, and so much more. This teacher is very telepathic and she will send very strong telepathic messages so they will literally hear her voice booming in their own head. It’s all manipulation to make them question themselves, to feel crazy, and to become emotionally dependent upon her.
Zofia: So, one of the signs of working with one of these abusive teachers is you actually don’t get better, you fall apart more.
Maya: That’s right. Typically, you’ll begin to notice that there are control scenarios that are happening. For example, if you try to speak up for yourself or you try to get away, then you will notice that you’re suddenly getting a lot worse. Now, at first, when you work with them, it might appear that you’re getting better. You have these lovely experiences and you might feel very uplifted. But that is actually a false light trick. Because later, when you start to see that there is something not right, and you try to pull away, then you get much worse. Then, when you try to pull away from the abuser, you start to unknowingly unleash curses, psychic attack symptoms, nightmares, strange illnesses, and all sorts of crazy things—essentially boobytraps this abusive teacher has put into place to keep you from getting away.
Zofia: What are some symptoms of psychic attack (for people who are not familiar with this)?
Maya: When we are considering a possible psychic attack, we need to first recognize that many of these symptoms can come from purely mundane causes. So, with that said, we need to be sure to not jump to immediate negative conclusions and be fear-based.
So, let’s say that you’ve gone to this energy healer and you start to question that something is not right, and then you start to have nightmares. Nightmares are a big red flag of a potential psychic attack, but they could also simply be you working through your own internal emotional stuff. So, you’ll want to look at that. If you start to have an unusual illness that comes on mysteriously, or pain or some other mystery ailment, then you’ll want to take a look at that.
Zofia: And I find those are suspiciously ill-timed also.
Maya: Yes. Speaking of ill-timing, there can also be a string of bad luck or a string of accidents. A car accident is a common indication of psychic attack. Things breaking, especially electronics. At one point a long time ago, I was dealing with somebody sending some spiritual warfare, and everybody close to me in my life had our computers crash and cars break down, all in three days. That’s a sign! If just one computer starts to act weird, maybe it is caused by a psychic attack, or maybe it is just a mundane cause.
Zofia: Maybe it’s just Mercury Retrograde, right? [laughing]
Maya: Those are the most common symptoms. There are other symptoms that are more subtle where you just start to have this feeling of dread, you feel like there’s something wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. If you are pretty psychic, you might start to see black or red energy or shadows in your peripheral vision. You might start to notice some paranormal activity. Your spiritual gifts might be blocked, and that can be a sign that there’s something nefarious going on.
Zofia: Those are all important things to keep an eye on.
You’ve shared with us the qualities of the 3 types of abusive spiritual teachers—the emotional/mental abuser, the sexual abuser, and the dark shaman. Give us a story or two that will illustrate some of the things that people may want to consider if they suspect something like this may be going on.
Maya: Certainly. I’ll share with you the story of a male “spiritual healer” that I will call “Tommy Yaruba”. (That’s not his real name.) This person illustrates all three categories of abuse. The main thing that he was doing was sexual predation. I mentioned before the scenario of someone who was in his sixties, and a big red flag was that he always had very young, beautiful female followers around him. His main teaching was “Love, love, love, love, love.” He would go up and give people hugs, and he would say, “Everything is love. All is love.” Meanwhile, he had no boundaries.
(I didn’t know this part until I started working with clients who were trying to recover from being victimized by him.) He had that classic thing that he would say (a similar tactic to what many others say), and that is, “Your sacral chakra is blocked, and the only way to unblock it is to have sex with me.” He spent a LOT of time grooming his followers, his proteges. He would spend six months or longer gaining their trust. And actually, he had a rotation. He had at least twenty-five or more women at once, different clients and proteges, that he was sleeping with. None of them knew about the others. They all thought that they were the special one chosen by the teacher.
Zofia: Oh, okay, they’re the special one, they’re the soulmate.
Maya: Later, I came to find out, through working with women who were recovering from his abuse, that some of them went and had direct conversations with him, confronting him that what he had done was terrible and that he should be ashamed of himself. What he said to them in reply was totally shocking. He told them that he had implanted very deep energy cords within them, that he had done black magick on them, and that they would never escape from him. This guy literally said that to their faces. This is very creepy! This person was indeed using black magick against his targets. It came from his own mouth! He said it outright. And, he would use these dark spiritual methods to get the women to consent. That’s what was really hard for a lot of these women in their healing process, because so many of them blamed themselves. What they said so often was, “Well, but I consented. I said yes. I wanted it.” Well, yes, because they were being manipulated by black magick.
Zofia: It’s one thing to give consent for sex. It’s another thing when the sex comes along with a bunch of black magick that you did not consent to.
Maya: I think everybody probably understands this, but I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have sex. I mean, there’s consensual sex happening all over the place. It’s a beautiful, healthy thing. We’re talking about when a teacher is abusing their students. This scenario should not happen because the teacher, the leader is in a position of power over their followers. Because of that dynamic, the default should be that the person in power should not be engaging in that kind of relationship with their followers.
Zofia: It’s not a meeting of equals when this is the situation.
Maya: Yes, you worded it perfectly.
Zofia: Let’s do another really quick story on the dark shaman.
Maya: I’ll talk again about the angel lady who was very powerful and a very dangerous person. She could actually use her practices to cause someone to have a stroke or a heart attack. We’re not talking about a little bit of black magick to make you upset or have a bad dream. This is someone who is extremely adept, so it was very scary for victims try to get away from this person. But I’ll talk about some of the more mundane aspects of this dark shaman. In her classes, she had no boundaries. This, in and of itself, was a big red flag. Groups of her students would hang out at her house and she would fraternize with them like they were all good buddies. She was even dating some of them. Even before you’d see the more dangerous red flags, you could see right away--big obvious red flag, there were no professional boundaries between her and her followers. There was also a very strong encouragement for people to worship her and put her on a pedestal. That right there is a huge red flag. If someone is encouraging that, there’s something wrong there.
Usually, toxic spiritual teachers don’t fit into just one category. They may be engaging in mental/emotional abuse. They may have boundary issues. They may be dating some of their students or engaging in sexual predation.
One of the troubling characteristics that the “angel lady” had was this tendency to bounce from hot to cold with her followers. She would just gush love onto you and tell you how amazing you are and give you all of these angel messages. And then five seconds later, she would have all of these daggers coming out of her mouth, saying things to intentionally hurt you. It was this gaslighting kind of confusion in order to draw you in but then make you feel needy for her approval. The intent was to make you feel like there was something wrong with you and that you needed her to help you heal. (In my opinion, this teacher was intentionally trying to create co-dependent scenarios with her followers.)
Zofia: Yes, as opposed to helping you through an issue and empowering you to go off and do great things on your own.
Maya: Let’s recap. Remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. Many people are innocently moving through the spiritual community, and there is so much that is toxic that has been normalized. There are all these other people around them who are acting like these [dysfunctional] things are okay. Once you become more informed on this subject, you’ll be in a better position where you can avoid these negative situations in the first place.
Zofia: And if you’ve been in one of these situations, give yourself a little bit of grace. I’ve had my share of exposure to this sort of thing as well. I always take something away from the experience that was valuable for me to know. So, be gentle with yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong. It doesn’t make you bad, and there is nothing to be ashamed of if you’ve been in one of these situations. (Or if you’re in the process of getting out.) We both have a lot of compassion for you if you find yourself there.
Maya: Yes, I’ve been through some situations myself as well, and I have a lot of compassion. I’m so glad that you brought up those words of support because I think it is very common for people to blame themselves. I hear a lot of people who are recovering say that they feel really stupid because they didn’t see what was truly happening. But as I’ve said, you just don’t know what you don’t know.
Zofia: And these people are very skilled at manipulation. They have had a lot of practice in honing their manipulation skills to get to the point where they can deceive people with such mastery.
Maya: Yes, and some of these people are very convincing, so convincing. That’s why it is important to know the red flags, to practice standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and removing yourself from any situations that you think might be toxic or unhealthy.
Zofia: …That you suspect could be going down the wrong road. You are not crazy. Honor your intuition even if everyone else is saying, “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Honor your intuition.
Maya: I literally left a spiritual event midway through even though I knew that everybody would probably call me crazy because there was some really bad stuff going on. Sometimes you just have to be brave enough to walk out.
Zofia: Okay, so you mentioned that you got up and walked out of this event. I know a lot of us as lightworkers feel responsible for everybody around us. If you’re in one of these situations and you feel like it is going down the wrong road, should you just walk out, or should you speak up right then?
Maya: There’s not a cut and dried answer. What I will say, from direct personal experience, is that a lot of times when you try to tell people directly what’s going on, 99% of the time, they don’t believe you. So, sometimes you just have to take care of yourself. Make sure that you are in a good space and then reevaluate from there. For example, if you are at an event and everyone is gaga over what’s happening there and just loving it, and you decide to speak up about something, again, 99% of the time, they are not going to listen. In fact, they are most likely going to push you out and you’re going to be demonized.
Zofia: They’re probably going to gang up on you.
Maya: There’s so much peer pressure and brainwashing that it creates a very challenging scenario. I know we want to heal and fix everything around us. But the reality is that you can speak up about things, but people are not necessarily going to listen. So first, take care of yourself. In the moment, you can just tune into your inner guidance and ask if you’re supposed to say something. Or, are you supposed to perhaps not say anything but instead help shift the energy? Or, are you supposed to just get up and remove yourself?
Zofia: Right, because your “spiritual team” knows far more about what you are up against most of the time.
Maya: Absolutely. (And so does your own inner guidance!)
Zofia: It’s been such a pleasure to have you with me here today, Maya. Thank you so much for joining me.
Maya: Thank you for having me!