Many of us struggle to understand: why do some of us end up following blindly? Following blindly means turning to gurus, healers or leaders who promise answers to our deepest yearnings. These places, often led by charismatic figures, draw us in.
John of God, a spiritual healer from Brazil, brought hope to many. His spiritual surgeries and entity channeling attracted people worldwide to his healing center. His story showcases our deep need for hope, healing, and miracles.
But there’s another side to the story. Egoism, selfishness, and narcissism can infect individuals and communities like a virus. Some get caught up in greed, power, and status, losing their humanity along the way. NXIVM is a perfect example.
Under Keith Raniere’s, NXIVM promised happiness through self-development. The reality was darker. NXIVM served as a recruiting platform for a secret society. This society branded women and forced them into subservience. Raniere used this platform to fuel his delusions, convincing followers he had the answers they sought.
But instead of providing a path to happiness, Raniere and his “leadership” team drained the lives of thousands and their families. And this is another story of a sociopath in our sick world who preyed on people who were looking for answers to the secret of a successful life and ended up having their sanity, trust, and bank accounts cleaned out.
In 2018, the state prosecutor’s office in Goias indicted John of God for rape by deception, as well as sexually abusing over 600 women who came forward. Raniere was convicted on charges of federal sex trafficking, racketeering, and possession of child pornography. The court sentenced him to 120 years in prison. In the end, so many of the self-proclaimed gurus are creating misery and chaos that they feed off.
Following Blindly, or Not
It might shock us, but anyone can fall into this trap. Many times, we look for answers outside ourselves. We give our power away to other people or false idols. And we also crave a sense of belonging, to be part of something big. We think we can spot a cult or scam right away. Yet, promises of self-improvement and a strong community can draw us in. It happens all the time but we don’t openly talk about it.
This isn’t a rare occurrence. It happens more often than we think. The International Cultic Studies Association did a study. They found that friends or family introduced more than two-thirds of cult members to the group. This finding shows how much trust affects our choices.
As creators, do we have an opportunity for us to learn and step away from a culture that idolizes heroes or celebrities? When figures like the Dalai Lama endorse these leaders, why is it so hard to question their actions? Is it this need so many have to feel special?
Take, for example, when the Dalai Lama placed a Tibetan scarf, a khata, around Raniere’s neck. How can anyone question that endorsement? The Bronfman sisters are deeply invested and championed NXIVM, which is the financial connection to the Dalai Lama. And Oprah Winfrey not only had John of God on her show but also encouraged others to join her in seeing him for healing.
Can we question who is drawn to positions of power and influence? And why we celebrate anyone outside ourselves as more successful, more influential and more powerful than us? It is us who elevate the people around us and yes, we created this very reality, which means we can also make much healthier choices than following blindly.
Discernment is Needed
Yet, research also shows that psychopathic traits are common in leaders. A lack of remorse, a sense of grandeur, charm, manipulative behavior, and shirking responsibility are just a few examples. Psychologist Nathan Brooks found a higher number of psychopaths in executive roles compared to the general population.
Often, we join an organization or follow someone because we believe they have answers that we don’t find within ourselves. Isn’t that the main reason why we become part of any group?
Psychopaths often come across as “normal”. They aren’t always criminals sitting in prison cells. CEOs, politicians, spiritual leaders, or even our friends or neighbors can be psychopaths. They excel at telling us exactly what we want to hear and fake compassion, empathy, and understanding perfectly.
Some even cloak themselves as consciousness gurus and their actions tell a much different story of unconscious and uncaring behavior. When we are aware, we can be far more discerning about who we bring into our lives. And not every book we read is written by someone who actually knows how to be heart centered in day to day life.
A mastery of shedding fake tears, all without a trace of real emotion. Out of the eight billion people in the world, 8% are psychopaths. They are expert liars and never feel guilt or remorse. And are mostly unconscious.
We are the decision-makers. We let leaders take the helm. And we pick who leads us and choose to follow. When it comes to gurus, we become their audience, their followers. We hand over the reins, letting them guide our countries, societies, and organizations. We’ve all felt the sting of deceit and manipulation. Asking why we follow or surrender our power is a crucial step.
We’re constantly in a state of learning and unlearning. We’ve trusted toxic individuals. But that doesn’t mean we’re trapped. Every experience gives us a chance to grow, to learn, to evolve. It lets us build healthier connections with ourselves and the world around us.
Looking at these examples, we understand the dangers of following blindly. It serves as a strong reminder to question, to explore, and to carve our own path. We hold the power to create our journey, free from blind devotion and celebrity worship.
We might sometimes wish for a hero to save the day. But in this age of opportunity, their true colors and darkness shine through eventually. The more we endure betrayal, the more we start to question our inner knowledge.
We have the power to shatter the patterns we’ve unknowingly built and embraced. But until we grasp our own strength, we’ll keep bumping into leaders who aren’t fully conscious. Psychopaths, by the nature of their brain structure, can’t truly feel emotions like love, compassion, or empathy. This inability might contribute to the major leadership crisis we’re facing today.
It also opens the door for us to realize that leadership doesn’t come from the outside. Nobody holds our answers. There are no saviors, except false idols in tales where characters play the roles of heroes and victims.
It’s time to question culture, society and what they’ve been told, taught and sold. We can choose to shape our lives to naturally resist toxicity. We can’t keep investing our money, time, attention, and energy in efforts and people who diminish us. There is a healthier way of conscious leadership.