Joel Osteen even calls bullshit on them. Sure, he might put it more politely while broadcasting to millions of people, but he still questions those who seem to have some red phone that answers calls from God.
“[Y]ou'd think God speaks to them more than he spoke to Moses, David, Esther, Sarah combined,” Osteen said.
How often have you encountered someone who tells you that “God told them” something—and it has something to do with how you’re currently living your life? Indeed, words came down through the prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah about how people have fallen down the wrong path.
It always fascinates me, though, when people want to assert themselves into the lives of others. In their attempt to control, they use God’s name to subvert others. They know that guilt is a strong manipulator, weakening victims who have a conscience.
Talk about using God’s name in vain.
In some cases, perhaps the person is trying to help another. They care for the other so deeply that perhaps God did communicate with them because they knew the other is too mired in their circumstances to have ears to listen. Love can really open doors.
In other cases, these “mystical experiences” are illusions of the ego. Pride or jealousy can disguise themselves and lead people to believe this “voice” or “vision” comes from God.
How can we tell the difference? Is it that people who believe in God are the only people who have had a mystical experience? Do visions and voices only come through the lives of those who are on the “right” path? Not always.
Sure, if you look at the faith of Moses, who led the Jews out of slavery into the desert, he received divine revelation on Mount Sinai. The Buddha became enlightened under a bodhi tree after a long, arduous search for the truth about human suffering. After significant time of prayer and fasting, the angel Gabriel visited Muhammad in a cave at Mount Hira. All had dedicated their lives to their noble search, and the wisdom granted to them has transcended time.
Divine revelation can also point people in a different direction. Remember that Paul was dragging the early Christians to prison before Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus. In this case, divine revelation came to Paul. It wasn’t another person who said, “God told me to tell you to stop persecuting these people.” It was personal to Paul’s life.
In contemporary society, we hear people claiming to have mystical experiences and divine revelation. I don’t doubt that some people might have them. Research shows that many who have a mystical experience do so during stressful periods of their lives. Even atheists have had mystical experiences. The question is—what do people do after having them?
One of my former students follows a “mystic” who claims to have had a mystical revelation. This revelation handed down a way to unlock your fullest potential in life based on your birthdate. All you have to do is follow this prescribed plan based on your personality. The plan costs more than $100 for the basic course. Eventually, you’re led to a four-month retreat in a rather exotic location (my student posted pictures) to unlock your “new flow for prosperity.”
Sounds like a cult AND a scam. Moses, The Buddha, or Muhammad didn’t charge money to hear “secrets” passed down. They shared what they knew.
The leader of this movement is selling a ton of books. If you look at his bio, he doesn’t have a degree in psychology or anthropology. He claims to have a master’s degree in metaphysics and literature, but the university he cites doesn’t have any program of the sort. That should give you some sort of clue about his credibility.
My student is promoting this system through her podcast and Instagram stories. She’s young and very charismatic, so I would imagine many who are searching for themselves idealize her.
I would imagine those who can afford this movement will have its devoted followers. Those who can’t fork over the time and money will accept what they have learned then go on living their lives as if nothing happened. Spirituality shouldn’t have a price tag. It shouldn’t be reserved for the privileged few.
I don’t have to give examples of the many spiritual and religious teachers who have asserted their “divine privilege” to manipulate their followers. In these cases, whether they received a divine revelation or not, they employed their messages for personal gains, such as power or prosperity. This is not spiritual revelation—it’s personal delusion and manipulation.
Even Jesus and The Buddha were tempted by illusion. The demon Mara tempted The Buddha to pursue worldly pleasures such as political power, sexual pleasures, and prosperity. The devil promised Jesus a material kingdom in the desert. Both recognized the power of the ego in fooling us.
The next time someone claims to have had a mystical experience or divine revelation, look at their subsequent actions. Are they living lives of humility, compassion, or charity? What do they do for the poor, oppressed and marginalized?
Are they lording their experience over others to gain something material? Are they promising something secret that can only be revealed by a significant financial cost? Do they want you to shed your ego and attachments, or do they tempt you with sensory or material gratification?
If they don’t model humility, compassion, or charity, perhaps we can just say, “bullshit.”