Q: I recently met a pretty well-known Pagan author and speaker at a local event. I’ve read all her books and her work has been inspirational to me for years. I was so excited to meet her, and I walked away from it so disappointed! She was nothing like I had imagined and nothing like her books come across! I feel like my years practicing and studying her books have been stolen from me and that I’ve been lied to by someone who presented themselves in a totally false way. I’ve been so depressed and lost since this happened, like I’m in mourning. Do you have any advice to help me move on without throwing in the towel on my spiritual path? How do I deal with this?
A: In a way, you are in mourning. You had imagined what this “trusted mentor” was like, and now that hope and fantasy has been shattered. This supposed person of wisdom and authority didn’t live up to your ideal expectations. And now you have to let this ideal vision go and accept the truth. When it involves something as intimate as one’s spirituality, it can seem like an even bigger loss.
Unfortunately, most people who have looked up to authors and teachers/mentors hit this point. Sometimes the student surpasses their teacher, or simply has learned all they can. While the relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be severed, it does need to evolve and grow. How this takes place is up to the individuals, and no two situations are completely alike. But people are creatures of habit, and any disruption to that or major upheaval (i.e. growth!) tends to be unsettling to most of us. Even when there’s wonderful new adventures on the horizon, a part of us grieves for the past. It’s natural to feel sad or nostalgic, so long as you don’t let it stop you from branching out and trying new things!
On the other more questionable side of things, sometimes we learn that a teacher or author isn’t the good or knowledgeable person they presented his or herself as. Whether their books are simply well-written regurgitations of common knowledge or other people’s work, or it turns out they were blatantly incorrect, it can be a hard pill to swallow. Just because an author is really good at putting words to paper, or a teacher is exceptionally personable, doesn’t make them automatically a “good” person. If you went to the event imagining perfection, you unfortunately were setting yourself up for disappointment.
Other things to consider are the event or situation itself. Maybe she was having a bad day? Maybe the venue or host wasn’t what SHE was expecting? Or perhaps there’s just a personality conflict that doesn’t show through in her writing? If any of these scenarios seem likely, I’d just chalk it up to learning your mentor is still human after all, with all the same shortcomings as the rest of us. Continue to enjoy her work, and if you come across something that seems incorrect or doesn’t jive with you, then bypass that part and accept that you don’t have to agree with everything they write.
Now, there is a darker side to all of this that sometimes comes into play. On occasion you will run into authors or teachers who are only in it for the money and the ego. They may have talent or personality, but it’s wasted on amassing followers and fortune. Maybe they don’t really live by their well-worded writings and only write what they think sounds good at the time and what people will want to hear (buy). Or they just make up their teachings as they go, never really following any logic or teaching any actual, viable, useable information. Some speakers out there follow the misguided “teach to obscure, teach to confuse” outdated school of thought. Sometimes it’s a need to be needed and personal insecurities that come into play: they fear if they teach their audience real tools, then they won’t “need” them anymore and they will lose students/clients/paying customers and will no longer be relevant.
To put it very, very bluntly, some authors/teachers are really just nasty, insufferable people in person, or are just full of crap. This can be the hardest type of situation to deal with. And unfortunately there’s no pleasant way to move forward from this kind of revelation. It can be heartbreaking and infuriating. Allow yourself to feel this way if you need to.
I still feel that it’s possible to enjoy the author’s work, as long as you accept them for what they are and take their words with a grain of salt. You don’t have to necessarily like them as a person to like how they write. However, if you can’t make this distinction or if the author is really just an unethical, unscrupulous person, there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting rid of their work and no longer giving them your business or recommendation. Do a major cleansing and purification to release the negativity and sadness you’re feeling. While you can’t “un-learn” what you’ve read of theirs, you can make the conscious decision to change your path. Take what you have learned, what you’ve experienced, and create your own! That’s where magic and spirituality truly lives–not on some teacher’s words, but in your own heart and mind!