July 15, 2019

Why we “Godjectify” Bad Gurus & Allow them to Hurt Others.


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Godjectification, or bust.

I often wondered why members of spiritual communities turned a blind eye when their guru did something that appeared wrong.

The guru would extort funds, or sleep with devotees, or all manner of abuse, and many of his devotees would defend him.

And then I got it. So much of it comes down to the nature of Godjectification.

In my “Enrealment Dictionary,” I define it in this way:

Godjectification: The tendency to project God onto others.

In its healthier forms, the projections are reflections of our sacred humanness. We don’t have expectations of perfection. We see ourselves, and others, as Godseeds in the making, carriers of divine possibility, invaluable seekers of wholeness.

We Godjectify in an effort to honor and support each other, particularly when we lose our way. We Godjectify as a reminder to hold each other in our truest light.

In its unhealthiest forms, the projections are laden with unrealistic expectations and fantastical imaginings. Unhealthy Godjectification ultimately leads to disappointment and to all manner of abuse, particularly in spiritual and religious communities.

The key is to remember that gurus aren’t Godthey’re human.

We can certainly respect and learn from them, but the moment we begin to project perfection or spiritual mastery onto them, we have undermined our own empowerment. Nothing will disable you more on the path than perpetually projecting God’s wisdom onto others. It is true that others may have valuable wisdom, but when it comes to your own path, only you can know what specific soul-steps to take.

Others can provide you with tools that help you to remove the blockages to clear seeing, but they cannot tell you which path to walk. You are the only person who can know the true path you are here to walk. You are the sculptor of your own reality—don’t hand your tools to anyone else.

On the most basic level, I understand why we have a tendency to Godjectify.

We are such a shamed collective, with no experience with, or training in, seeking the Godself in the mirror. Our parent(s) didn’t live up to our greatest hopes and imaginings. And God⁠—if God exists at all⁠—is elusive and essentially unseen.

So, that deep longing to connect to the divine gets projected onto all manner of fool. And, if the spiritual teacher is particularly adept at manipulating energy and languaging in ways that fortify the projection, then the seeker is snared.

This seems to be particularly true for the most severe trauma survivors, who are more vulnerable to manipulation and more desperate for a tangible God to hang onto. They are vulnerably ripe for the picking.

One might think that the Godjectification bubble would burst when the guru acts out and reveals their unhealthy aspects. But this seldom happens.

It took me a long time to understand why, but now I do. Many of the seekers who are drawn to the guru trip want to flee their humanness because it’s so painful. This is why they are drawn to patriarchal spiritualities that characterize our spiritual lives as distinct from our humanness. This is why they buy into the guru-no-human game…hook, line, and sinker.

Just like the teachers they follow, they long for a spirituality that advocates for the dissolution of the personal self and excludes everything painful and confusing from the experiential equation—our stories, our personal identifications, our feelings, our egos, our bodies. They long for relief from their suffering, and are happy to confuse self-avoidance with enlightenment. They don’t want anything to do with their painful selves.

And so when the guru acts out and claims⁠, in his own defence⁠, ⁠that “his actions were merely his personality, but not his true essence”—they are happy to believe it, because they are doing the same thing with themselves. They are bifurcating their consciousness. They have a deep-seated need to believe that we are not our behaviors because it allows them to flee their own humanness, and the memory of those who have wounded them.

If they accept that there can be no true awakening if there isn’t alignment across all aspects of the self (which I believe to be true), they have to abandon their guru, and more importantly, they have to return back to their pain. They have to come back down to Earth, confront their unresolveds, and integrate their parts.

Those who can’t, or won’t, will always let the guru off the hook. Their fragile flight from self depends on it.


author: Jeff Brown

Image: @ElephantJournal

Image: YouTube

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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barbdombroski Jul 15, 2019 7:00pm

Jeff, I agree that sometimes individuals want to turn away from their own pain and towards a guru type or one who has been unhealthily godjectified, but it seems another possibility could be the powerjectification one is provided by followers and by the ‘chain of command’ system. When behaviour of a top ‘commander’ is questionable, it is very difficult to challenge this individual. The love and support you want to see for humanity Jeff is a beautiful but difficult concept, how can it be realized when abuse of power by some, like a cancerous growth, rapidly takes over humanity.

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Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown is a breakthrough voice in the self-help/spirituality field, and the author of six inspiring books: Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation, Ascending with Both Feet on the Ground, Love It Forward, An Uncommon Bond, Spiritual Graffiti, and Grounded Spirituality.

In his previous life, Jeff was a criminal lawyer and psychotherapist. Since pursuing his path as a writer, he has launched many initiatives, including founding Enrealment Press, and an online school, Soulshaping Institute. He is the producer and key journeyer of the award-winning spiritual documentary, “Karmageddon,” which also stars Ram Dass, Seane Corn, Deva Premal and Miten. He has written a series of inspirations for ABC’s Good Morning America and appeared on over 200 radio shows. He also authored the viral blog “Apologies to the Divine Feminine (from a warrior in transition).” A popular presence in social media, Jeff’s new terms and well-loved quotes became a phenomenon some years ago, and continue to be shared actively by seekers and growers worldwide.

In April, 2018, he was invited to Ottawa by Sophie Grégoire Trudeau—gender equality activist and the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—to film a conversation with her about emotional healing and inclusivity. Excerpts from that dialogue are viewable on Sophie’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

Jeff currently lives in Canada with his wife, poet Susan Frybort. At present, he is getting caught up on lost sleep after writing Grounded Spirituality, and preparing for the next stages of his creative journey and path of sacred activism. You can connect with his work at soulshaping.comsoulshapinginstitute.comkarmageddonthemovie.com, and enrealment.com.