If you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for anything”

-Eric Davis

I’ve seen a number of schemes designed to take advantage of people on the spiritual path. Popping up more and more. In this age, there is a lot of suffering, and people put in tough situations both from; An isolation, and a financial perspective.

This suffering can make the mind fearful, and in this state of fear a potential solution can seem like a lifeline. In many cases, it can just push us deeper into the shadows, and leave us wondering why things never seem to work out for us.

If you are wondering why things don’t seem to be working out, maybe keep reading a bit. First let’s explore one of the more common schemes, just so we have a concrete example to unpack.

Ungrounded Spirituality

Take a gander at the idea of this gifting circle. Please, take the language used to describe it with a grain of salt, it’s definitely very judgmental. 

Pyramid Schemes and The Importance of Spiritual Lineage

Illegal pyramid scheme masquerades as a women’s support network (Gifting Mandala)

The salient information to take away from this is that it’s a standard pyramid scheme, wrapped within spiritual language; And targeting spiritual people, who are hoping to have their dreams realized in a quick way.

When approached initially, it is done under the shroud of secrecy, the full scheme is not explained; Until it’s almost too late to back out without suffering social pressure and shame. This can be too much for many people, and the Ego which is good at avoiding suffering will steer them away from that action.

When combined with the potential windfall at the end, this carrot and stick are too much for someone who is already in a fear state and living ‘on the edge’.

Now, pyramid schemes have been around as long as money, so I’m not really bringing any new information here. And I’m not here to try and warn people about pyramid schemes per se. What I would like to point out, is in fact the dangers of leading a spiritual life, without being connected to a spiritual lineage.

You can’t become yourself, by yourself

What, may you ask is a spiritual lineage? A lineage has 3 major factors that create a container to hold you within your growth, beyond yourself.

“You can’t become yourself, by yourself”

– Fugen Roshi, 2020

First component

The first component of a lineage is that it has a recognition of a holder of the lineage. This is a priest, guru, roshi, sensei, lama, or one of a thousand other names. The importance here is that this person received a transmission from another holder of the lineage. They were taught, energetically directed. And, eventually were able to demonstrate that they could ‘tune into’ the frequency or source of where the teachings are coming from.

Second component

The second component of a lineage is the teachings. These are not made up by people, nor are they read in books, rather they are direct experiences of the way reality works, which can then be translated into words, books, teachings, etc. The part most people miss is that the teachings do not come from the teacher. They come from existence, and the teacher is receiving then transmitting them, much like a radio tuning into a station. Their job is to show you which station to tune into. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. And they can tell a lot better than you can, and gently repoint you in the right direction when you get distracted.

Third component

The third component of a lineage is the community. A group of individuals who have committed to exploring this particular radio station. It is through shared experiences that we grow, and here is no different. We experience something, then share it and grow in the reflection that others provide to that experience. Simply having an experience and mirroring it to oneself gives too much opportunity for the shadows that are hiding inside, to hijack the experience and color it in a way that serves them to continue to hide. Ego gets to play the spirit.

Spiritual Ego

That brings me to the point of this article. Without these three factors, which have been battle-tested for thousands of years, across every religion, culture, and creed; We eventually get trapped. Trapped back into our own stories.

Yeah, sure they will evolve in accordance with the new experiences we are having. However, those experiences will be curated to fit the narrative that is convenient with Ego. 

This is the problem. 

This is THE problem.

How does that relate to the pyramid scheme? It’s rather simple. Without the continual development towards discovering what spirit really is, for oneself, it’s MUCH too easy for Ego to grab onto a few experiences, and begin to imitate them. Ego then begins to puppet the being again, this time under the guise of spirit. 

It grabs onto the lingo, the style, and other trappings of being spiritual.

  1. “That doesn’t feel in alignment” becomes a new form of “I don’t want to do that”
  2. “I’m feeling called to this” is a new form of “I want to do that”

Except now, it’s in a form that makes one accept the story. Again. And thus, we fall back into the shadows… Until another being or experience gives us the opportunity to get pulled up again.

Why walk alone?

And that’s the point of the teacher, teachings, and community. A recognition that the path is winding and there are many traps, and opportunities to fall into storytime. The spiritual lineage is a form that can hold us when we waver and gives us the opportunity to check in when something comes by to try and take advantage of us (like a pyramid scheme).

If you’re on the path without a teacher and lineage, take a good look at why that is? Is something in you trying to hide? Really look. Is this path improving your life? Or are you faced with a string of ‘almost got there’ or ‘just missed it’?

If you feel like every time you hit a new high, that something is pulling you down, it just might be the fact that you’re alone. And your own shadow is creating these situations.

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