Have You Been the Victim of Spiritual Abuse?

The term spiritual abuse refers to any attempt to control or hold power over another person using religion, faith, beliefs, or spirituality.

Often employed by cult leaders, spiritual abuse comes wrapped in spiritual words, phrases, and rationales, and can use any tactic employed by any kind of abuser, whether it’s shaming, shunning, physical abuse, gaslighting, harassment, humiliation, or other forms of psychological abuse. The end goal is to instill fear in the victim as a means to condition them for manipulation and control.

  • Shaming instills fear of being a bad person and low self-worth, which makes the victim more reliant for validation from the authority figure
  • Shunning instills fear of abandonment
  • Physical abuse instills fear of physical repercussions
  • Gaslighting instills fear and doubt of one’s own thoughts and emotions

Examples of New Age spiritual abuse include:

Cultivate or exploit their victim’s naivety in regard to spirituality.


Use spiritual concepts about unity to justify silencing victims.


May use spirituality to imply or explicitly state that if dissenters understand spirituality differently, the difference of opinion is actually a product of fear, being less enlightened (when it’s actually the abuser whose understanding is based in fear and lack of spiritual understanding), or not having the same level of divine connections that they do, or that other, contradictory sources of information have been “hijacked by dark forces.”


Flex their alleged knowledge of spirituality to position themselves as more enlightened than other teachers who contradict them.


Exploit spirituality to make the victim feel like they are responsible for their own circumstances because the victim is spiritually immature. They may accuse, berate, critique, attack, belittle, condemn or guilt trip the victim.


The abuser often paints themselves as a martyr while simultaneously positioning the victim as the wrongdoer in an attempt to undermine the victim’s credibility while emphasizing their own.


Exploit spirituality to minimize or shift the blame for their behavior, such as claiming that the victim is simply projecting, or justify silencing the victim as “setting boundaries.”


Exploit spiritual concepts and practices for financial gain.


Use tantric practices or sexual healing as a cover to attempt sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault.


Over inflate or lie to the victim about their abilities or how they are regarded by the New Age and wellness community, isolating them from possible sources of support and reinforcing their own superiority.


Exploit spirituality to gaslight, dismiss, or invalidate a victim into ignoring the abuse with platitudes such as “what you focus on, you create,” accuse them of having a victim mentality, label them as not being “awakened” or calling them a sheep.


Attribute accusations against them to the work of evil spirits, negative entities, Satanists, or the deep state.


Use fearful predictions or prophecies that are always just around the corner to instill fear and obedience in followers. When predictions or prophecies don’t come true, there’s always an excuse and another prediction/prophecy to once again keep followers hooked and afraid to leave.


Use fear-shaming as a means of gaslighting and manipulation. In other words, the abuser shames the victim’s common sense beliefs and actions claiming that they are acting from a place of fear in instances where fear is not an actual motivator.


Use the community to protect the abuser, and isolate the victim. The abuser may have a large group of loyal followers who will attack, dismiss, and ostracize the victim for pointing out the abuse or questioning the abuser.


Socially isolate their victims by eroding their trust in other people, and their own discernment, and limiting their access to or eroding their trust in outside information, or support, or both.


Use evil spirits or negative entity attachments as explanations for the victim’s accusations or behavior when the victim’s understanding contradicts fear-based information, such as telling them that their own intuitive information is actually coming from a negative entity or dark energy.

What constitutes a cult?

Cult behavior can occur within a well-defined group of people, or loosely across disparate groups of people. It can appear in internet communities or within groups of people who gather regularly face-to-face.

One of the main indicators of a cult, beyond all of the spiritual abuse tactics listed above, is that it either actively or passively recruits individuals through the use of what is known as love bombing– appealing to a person’s sense of brokenness or loneliness by, at least initially, providing praise, a sense of community, and otherwise manipulating the person’s desire to feel special and understood. Once the individual has been successfully integrated into and the community, the abuse and dependence conditioning begins.

Read about signs that your spiritual teacher may be a narcissist.

The second defining trait of a cult is that there is often a pyramid structure with a singular figure of authority at the top. This authority figure, the cult leader, will often claim to be special in some way themselves, and present themselves as the sole person who has access to some kind of truth, a way of living, or a divine being, and that truth/way can never be questioned. They may present themselves as a channel, a psychic, a spiritual teacher, a prophet, a social media influencer, a self-help guru, a business, or government figure–any sort of position of power that can be wielded over a group of people.

There may be intermediate authority figures in the cult hierarchy who disseminate the cult leader’s philosophies and teachings, and also serve as evangelists and recruiters. These intermediate authority figures gain power by serving as mini-cult leaders to their own groups.

As you may have noticed, many organizations operate under the cult pyramid structure, including businesses and religious organizations, and not all of them engage in [all of] the abusive tactics mentioned above. The defining trait of a cult lies in its underlying motivation: to recruit, manipulate, extort, exploit, and control.


Spiritual abuse is rampant within the spiritual community and is a key indicator of cult classification. Spiritual abuse is being used by adherents of Qanon and other cults to keep people in the fold “trusting the plan.” Please consider sharing this information, especially with anyone who is new to spirituality, in an effort to raise awareness about spiritual abuse.


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