When the news about Teal Swan broke last year, many were surprised. How could such a spiritual person push their followers to such heinous places? It’s a question that got asked of NXIVM, of The People’s Temple. We ask ourselves this question every time a cult leader turns on their people to create violent, hopeless, and emotionally abusive environments.
It’s no surprise when you understand narcissism and the mechanisms behind it. People high in narcissistic tendencies, especially those who would meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, find a lot of solace in spiritual communities. Despite what it promises, new-age spiritual beliefs are often a feeding ground. They provide a shield for a narcissist and a place to gain supply.
Narcissism rears its ugly head.
No matter where you look, it’s easy to see pockets of narcissism bubbling up. Narcissistic people are creative in the ways they disguise themselves and hide their insecurities and egos. That can be seen no clearer than in the new-age spiritual community. Here, narcissists thrive as leaders, practitioners, and elevators of their own graft. They gain supply and control over others by flexing a false awakening.
My mother was certainly an example of this. When I was around 11 or 12 years old, she woke up one morning and said she had been visited by God. A few months later, she was marketing herself as a full-blown medium and telling the world that she was being talked to by God, Jesus, archangels, and aliens.
She loved it. It provided her with a sense of superiority over others and gave her a sense of “specialness” she had never felt before in her life. This spiritual awakening, of course, came at the darkest time of her life in which my mother had never been crueler (to herself or to me). She needed mental health help, but she chose to build a “magic psychic” persona instead.
New-age spirituality like that my mother practiced is incredibly attractive to narcissistic people. The studies don’t lie. Time and time again, it has been shown that those with the strongest belief in new-age spiritual practices and beliefs (not excluding tarot and astrology) are more narcissistic than those without those beliefs. Why?
The answer is simple. Spirituality provides the narcissist with a place to hide. Instead of looking within, spiritual beliefs provide them with the ability to point the finger at everyone on the outside. There, the narcissist avoids accountability and creates a new source of control.
Why are new-age spiritual practices so appealing to narcissistic people?
There’s no mistake. Self-obsessed people are attracted to new-age spiritual practices by design. By shifting their identities onto the universe, they are able to skirt accountability and create the illusion of awakened superiority. Narcissistic people love new-age spiritual practices because they provide an unquestionable place to hide. Avoiding the spiritual narcissists in our lives requires seeing their intentions for what they really are.
First and foremost, spiritual practices can provide the one thing a narcissist desires most: blame. It’s one of the most powerful weapons in their arsenal. Narcissistic people will do anything but take accountability for their shortcomings or mistakes. They blame the world for everything bad that happens to them, so they can avoid any real accountability for their poor behavior.
New-age spirituality has created a welcome accountability bypass for narcissistic people. Rather than looking inside and facing their own shadows, they are able to offload anything they don’t like through spiritual practices. In essence, the narcissist is able to point the finger at someone (or something) else. A great example is seen in the astrology practices and periods of “retrograde”.
During retrograde periods, challenges should be presented to various denizens under certain signs. Narcissistic people like to use this to offshoot any blame. This is displayed clearly in the spiritual narcissist who explains away a big emotional blow-up, or betrayal behaviors, by saying things like, “Oh, it’s just retrograde,” or “That’s just my sign…”
Assuming either paints the narcissist as a victim of their own behaviors. I can’t help it because this spiritual thing is happening in the sky. In the end, there is no real self-reflection and therefore no real change.
Projecting a self
Narcissistic people, specifically those with an NPD diagnosis, can project a facade of a strong and self-possessed person. The reality is a lot more complicated. In truth, narcissists have a very unstable self-image. They define themselves by the desires of others and spend their lives chasing what other people what. That leads to the creation of a “self” and spirituality empowers toxic elements of this.
The heady combination occurs when spiritual beliefs combine with the narcissist’s secretly low self-esteem. Here, in fringe communities, spiritual beliefs can turn into the creation of grand personas which allow narcissists to exist in a state of superiority.
Take for example the new-age communities on TikTok. Here, you will find creators with huge followings who call themselves everything from Royal Angel Hybrids to Alien-Human messiahs sent to rescue mankind from themselves.
The scary spiritual psychosis symptoms aside, we can also see a fragility being masked by the ego here. Narcissistic individuals, pushed far into a sense of powerlessness or inferiority create grandiose personas for themselves. They build alternate realities that help them to conceal their hurt and this fake persona is validated by followers on the internet.
Narcissistic people hide their insecurities behind a mask of “specialness” and new-age spiritual beliefs enable them to do that. Again, this prevents real introspection and change.
Claiming the power
New age spirituality doesn’t only offer power over the self. For the truly manipulative (and creative) narcissist, it is also an avenue to serious power. One need not look further than the master manipulator, Teal Swan, or cult leaders like Jim Jones or L. Ron Hubbard.
When narcissistic people combine their charismatic nature with fringe spiritual beliefs, it can draw people into them. Everything that makes spirituality tempting to the narcissist — skirting accountability, giving a sense of control — appeals to a normal person as much as a narcissist.
That’s what gives them so much power in micro-communities. A narcissist can turn no their charm and use a person’s desire for answers or redemption like a weapon. Spiritual beliefs provide an avenue for communal narcissists to maximize their supply.
It also gives them a sense of control over the universe at large (which is absurd when looked at with a rational mind). To spiritual narcissists, they believe they are the keepers of special knowledge that lends itself to their special control over the entirety of the galaxy and every planet in it.
Avoiding true depth
True narcissists are not creatures of depth, no matter what their spiritual personas project them to be. Sure, they can think deeply about others — but the thinking stops there. Narcissistic people will always stop short of true introspection. Why? Because that requires accountability. New-age spiritual beliefs can help prevent them from reaching these true depths.
The mechanism is pretty simple. Before the narcissist is forced to look in the mirror at themselves, they can blame their mental health issues on the universe and lay out a practice for resolving it. There’s no introspection. Just a focus on all the external forces that are making them who they are.
It’s another way of skirting accountability, but it’s also another way to avoid any real change or growth. Instead of improving themselves, they focus on learning more astrology or more fringe beliefs that give them the illusion of enlightenment or growth (when they remain the same on the inside).
New-age spiritual beliefs cloak themselves in altruism, light, and “love,” but in practice, they can encourage callousness and cruelty. That’s attractive to narcissistic personalities. Why? Because narcissistic people lack empathy, it’s the biggest fundamental danger of this personality disorder.
Once someone has earned a spot on the narcissist’s “enemy list” they feel justified in destroying them. They will do this in any way that causes the greatest harm to their “enemy”. Turning children against parents, and getting someone fired, none of it is beyond the scope of a narcissist scorned.
There are some fringe spiritual practices that can help to justify the narcissist’s cruelty or lack of empathy. Specifically, practices that incorporate ideas like the belief in the concept of “soul contracts”.
Soul contracts are an old concept commonly used in a wide range of new-age spiritual practices. Essentially, in the modern arrangement of this belief, these soul contracts are the idea that you signed up for all the bad stuff that’s happening to you in your life.
When adopted by a narcissist, they can use this idea to justify their cruelty to others and their lack of empathy for the world. There’s no need to help others, they’ve asked for their suffering. No need to change systems that disenfranchise people, they’ve signed up for that to be a better person. That victim the narcissist wants to destroy? That victim asked for the cruelty they’re about to receive.
How to tell the difference between spiritual awakening and narcissistic tendencies.
Are you or someone you love going through a spiritual awakening? It’s easy to slide down the wrong road and fall into a serious narcissistic trap. True alignment requires questioning our intentions and looking deeper into where the growth (and the benefit) really lies.
- What’s the intention? The first important place to look in the face of a spiritual awakening (whether yours or someone else’s) is the intention. What’s the ultimate goal? If the intention of the awakening is Instagram likes, or popularity, then it’s probably not a spiritual awakening but a desire to get validation from external sources.
- Where’s the benefit? The next important component to look at is benefit. If you’re witnessing someone undergoing a spiritual transformation, look at what they’re gaining from it. Is it providing a lot of supply? Are they building a community of followers they control? If the benefit is widely negative or dangerous, spirituality isn’t in play.
- Who’s getting blamed? Blame is a big part of the spiritual narcissist’s game. They aren’t really interested in greater compassion or self-awareness (the goal of any well-intention spiritual practice). It’s about blaming others and the universe for all of their suffering and mistakes.
- What’s the overall outcome? Looking at the bigger picture is an important part of examining not just intentions but the effect of those intentions. There’s a reason they say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good people fall into bad spiritual practices that leave them vulnerable and bring out their narcissistic tendencies. We see this in bigger-picture questioning.
Spirituality can certainly be a part of someone’s wholeness journey. When it is centered as a part of the ego, however, there are consequences. If you’re someone on a spiritual journey, check your intentions. Watch how narcissists take advantage of new-age spaces and be sure to skirt around their beliefs as you build your own cosmically-connected practices.
New-age spiritual communities can be tempting places for the narcissist to hide. Be wary of those who wield enlightenment like a weapon, meant to subject people beneath them. The charm of a spiritual narcissist is high, and it can provide a place for you to place your own blame. No true healing comes from spiritual bypassing and avoidance, though. If you want that healing, you’re going to have to embrace reality and embrace the entirety of what it means to be human.