Existential Psychology


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If you are searching for increased self-knowledge and the meaning of your life you are not alone. We have an inherent human need to try to make sense of the world and ourselves, and there are a lot of charlatans out there who try to capitalize on it. This article will use some psychological principles to show you the clear difference between authentic teachers and fake gurus, hopefully giving you the ability to better protect yourself from scam artists of all kinds. It is a great crime to use the searching aspect of human nature for manipulative purposes.

Teachers in any discipline who attract followers are able to do so because they make claims to knowledge and truth. It’s a good rule of thumb to be very skeptical of anyone who wants to act as an intermediary between you and that source of knowledge forever. This creates a hierarchy where the teacher will always maintain a privileged position and students, rather than learning to become more powerful themselves, must rely on an external source of power to get their sense of meaning and purpose.

Real teachers have as their goal to turn students into masters and equals. There is no question that different people have different sets of skills and different ceilings of mastery in various disciplines, but the underlying goal is always leveling the playing field as much as possible. Information is given freely and openly, not jealously guarded, and the teacher has an unerring belief in the ability of students to self-actualize and increase their personal efficacy. They are not interested in fostering dependence.

Some people who are searching for answers to the questions of life are actually searching for a stronger presence to shelter under, unconsciously hoping to derive a sense of power and purpose by attaching themselves to this entity. The tradeoff of making yourself smaller and weaker by merging with a stronger presence is that your existential anxiety is reduced and you get to feel like you are a part of something bigger and more important without really having to do anything on your own. But it’s a bad trade. You rob yourself of your human right to self-actualize, to experience your own power and potency, and to gain a feeling of mastery in your life and personal endeavors.

Charlatans who try to attract disciples are also moved by powerful unconscious forces. They secretly feel weak and insignificant, repressing their conscious awareness of this fact and projecting an aura of power and authority to compensate. They need to have their external appearance reinforced by as many adoring followers as possible to fool themselves into believing they are what they say they are. They also derive their sense of power and purpose by merging with their students. Without these disciples they would feel lost, weak, and anxious.

Fake gurus of all kinds are concerned with hierarchies and with keeping their students dependent on them forever. They make claims to knowledge and say others are incapable of accessing it on their own. Real teachers are concerned with making their students independent, turning them into masters, and eradicating the hierarchy to put them on an equal footing.