Here are a few excerpts from the book of William L. Hamilton “Saints and Psychopaths” that I thought I would share with you……………
“If you have a true saint for a teacher, then you have a real possibility for spiritual attainments, including enlightenment. If your teacher is a psychopath, then you may become a programmed puppet, and you risk being sexually or financially abused. You also may lose your job, family and possibly even your sanity. Eventually you risk disillusionment from pursuing any spiritual quests”.
….There are more psychopaths pretending to be saints than there are real saints. This book will provide you with some understanding of what a psychopath is, what a saint is and how to tell the difference. It is also a sharing of what I have found in my search for inner-peace and for ways to develop my unrealized potential.
Some paths I followed were more like stepping stones which went part of the way, but became obstacles to further progress. Some of these paths were offered by sincere teachers, and others were paths of entrapment offered by psychopaths. I learned something from all my spiritual teachers, if only that some teachers and teachings should be avoided. I hope that sharing my experiences will provide you with some guidelines for avoiding similar mistakes, while encouraging you on your own spiritual quest.
There are more psychopaths than saints
Psychopaths pretending to be saints present a very serious problem for all spiritual traditions. There are many more psychopaths pretending to be saints than there are real saints. If you have a true saint for a teacher, then you have a real possibility for spiritual attainments, including enlightenment. If your teacher is a psychopath, then you may become a programmed puppet, and you risk being sexually or financially abused. You also may lose your job, your family and possibly even your sanity. , Eventually you risk disillusionment in the pursuit of any spiritual quests.
For the purposes of this book I define a saint as any true spiritual seeker who, through a process of study, discipline, prayer, or meditation has attained a purification of mind and true spirltual understanding. In the Buddhist tradition a saint would be fully enlightened, although a legitimate teacher would be one who has attained at least the first of four levels of enlightenment.
A psychopath is someone who is morally defective and does not respect the values of property, truth and proper consideration for the effect of actions on self and others. Generally mental health professionals do not regard psychopaths as mentally ill because they do not manifest obvious dysfunctional behavior, but they appear to be rational. Most professionals prefer the terms sociopaths, borderline personalities, or antisocials.
Perhaps it is because my degree in psychology dates back to 1959 that I prefer the old fashioned term psychopath. I am doubtful that changing the name for each current vogue in professional understanding contributes to the public's understanding of this very important issue. Also, my direct personal experience with psychopaths has reinforced the view that psychopaths are indeed mentally ill, even if the signs are not immediately obvious.
Distinguishing saints from psychopaths
Distinguishing a saint from a psychopath presents a unique problem because they have some common characteristics that seem at first to be identical. Both saints and psychopaths can have the appearance of a beautiful, radiant and attractive being. Both may tell you, Be here now, forget the past, forget the future; be spontaneous, heed your inner voice, follow your bliss. Both may advise you to not be bound by traditional social values but by higher spiritual values. Both may have messages from God or spiritual teachings tailored just for you. Both may be homeless wanderers. Both may manifest fearless behavior and may risk persecution. Saints and psychopaths can be intuitively perceptive of people's mood changes, new developments, and new understandings. They may appear to manifest similar psychic powers, healing, mind reading. and channeling from other realins.
Although the powers of a saint and a psychopath may seem the same at first, they have different roots. Saints have a calm, clear, empowered state of mind as a result of discipline, meditation, and introspection. Psychopaths can develop paranoid samadhi, which is a concentrated mind, because they have done so many unskillful things such as lying, theft, injury, adultery, substance abuse, etc. Their powers corne from having to have a very sensitive awareness to perceive when someone is coming after them. They are also gluttons for attention, and when they have your attention they will start to feed on your spiritual energies like a psychic vampire. They can sometimes read minds, tell the future, do healings, see things which aren't physically apparent and you may become mesmerized and convinced of their divine power.
So how do we tell saints from psychopaths My teacher, Sayadaw U Pandita, says that he never makes up his mind about peoples enlightenment until he has known them and observed them closely for a year. It is in the nature of saints to respond to sincere requests for help, and guidance. If you sincerely want help they will be there for you. They may ask you to make commitments once you are training under their guidance, but there is unlikely to be an initial urgent commitment. Psychopaths, on the other hand, are more likely to corne on to you with an initial urgency, demanding that you make a commitment immediately or lose your opportunity. Therefore, my first advice about telling saints from psychopaths is to take your time.
Amoral or immoral
In time some very distinguishing differences between saints and psychopaths become apparent. Saints have such a deeply rooted morality from their own direct understanding that by normal social standards they may be amoral. The Buddha clashed with his culture by clisparaging rites and rituals and not respecting caste. Christ, too, conflicted with his culture.
Psychopaths, on the other hand, are simply immoral. Their clivergence from social standards involves self gratification and clisregard for doing harm. At first it may be clifficult to discern whether a teacher is amoral or immoral, but in time it may become apparent whether or not he or she adheres to the standards of behavior being taught. The situation that Ram Dass found himself in was that of having a teacher who insisted that everyone tell the truth, but she herself constantly lied. She forbade the use of drugs, but used them habitually. She insisted on celibacy for her students, but practiced adultery.
I use a standard of evaluation I call SAY, MEAN, DO. Saints will say what they mean and will do what they say. Psychopaths will mean something other than what they say and what they do may have little relationship to what they say and mean. For example, psychopaths may say they love you or want to help you, when what they mean is that they want attention or money. What they do in the long run is going to be a clisappointment. It takes a while for consistency or inconsistency of SAY, MEAN, DO to come into focus. The more time you take in evaluating this the more accurate your conclusion will be.
The pattern of avoiding punishment
Psychopaths skillfully evade blame when they are confronted with having done something wrong. Since they lack a true sense of guilt, they do not respond the way you may expect a guilty person to behave. Psychopaths have a very distinctive sequence of responses to dealing with confrontations. If one method of stopping a confrontation does not work, they will change strategies. When confronted with wrong-doing, a psychopath will respond in this sequence:
1) Ignore the issue.
2) Deny that they have done something wrong.
3) Attack the accuser, usually accusing the accuser or being the one who has done wrong.
4) Threaten to harm the accuser, someone else, something, or self.
5) Apologize and admit that they have done wrong, then ask for a clean slate or new start
A saint, on the other hand, will either immediately admit that he or she has made an error, or ask for clarification and seek reconciliation. An example would be Christ's advice that when someone asks for your coat you should give your cloak also. Generally, saints will place a higher value on harmonious relationships than on pride or possessions. We must allow for cultural factors and personality characteristics, but when confronted with wrong-doing, saints generally will follow this sequence:
1) Acknowledge errors and misunderstandings
2) Admit that they have made an error
4) Offer compensation or correction
5) Avoid that type of error in the future
The first strategy of the saint is the last strategy of a psychopath. But when psychopaths are finally forced to apologize they will outdo the saints. Their previous belligerent attitudes will vanish. They will apologize profusely and confess the error of their ways in great detail. They may even list wrongdoings that you were unaware of, to impress you with the depth of their change. Their transformation seems quite impressive and even professionals who should know better are sometimes taken in by their pretense. Judges have suspended sentences of repeat bigamists and outrageous con artists who swore to devote the rest of their lives to making restitution.
“Give me a clean slate,” is the refrain of psychopaths. They will proclaim that they are a new person or that they have been born again. Sometimes they insist that they should not be punished because the person who did those things no longer exists. Indeed they may make drastic changes in their behavior, from being rude and domineering to being humble and submissive. It is, however, all a ruse to get off the hook. For awhile after being caught psychopaths may go through a quiescent
period, but in time the same old patterns of behavior will reoccur. They are not bound by conscience or true remorse. As soon as you walk out the door they may revert to their old ways without skipping a beat.
Motivating with guilt
Another sign to watch for is that psychopaths tend to motivate you with guilt. Anything you do wrong becomes a lever for manipulating you. This is particularly true if you break, or threaten to break a promise, even though they usually have poor records in keeping promises.
Purity of motives offers protection
Some of the spiritual teachings you need to learn concern impurities in your seeking. To the extent that your seeking is motivated by desires for power, prestige, sex, sense desires, etc., you are vulnerable to being seduced by a psychopath. To the extent that you are motivated to become enlightened or to purify your mind of defilements, then you are on safe ground. Usually our motives are a mixture of good and bad. If you are a true spiritual seeker, you will convert experiences with psychopaths to a process of purification which decreases your lower motives and increases higher motives….