Every day I log on Facebook, read the news media, listen to radio and watch television, check out the groups that I am part of online and respond to emails from patients. Each day I am presented with a steady onslaught of misinformation by people who, although well-meaning, are convinced that their views and understandings of the universe are correct. Each day I am also presented with glimmers of hope and people who are more knowledgeable about the subjects I am interested in than I am and mentors who willingly and lovingly share their knowledge so I may grow as a person and practitioner. Upon questioning, many of these practitioners are as tired about the state of misinformation and willful ignorance in the world as I am.

This is especially true not only in the spiritual community but all communities. Interviews with Sheryl Crow saying that she got cancer from water bottles, people espousing diets and herbs and all sorts of cures for everything from A to Z without anything more than high school biology class to back them up, whatever the latest Dr. Oz fueled fad is, people espousing beliefs from the Bible without actually ever having read the Bible… There is so much information out there that is made for and consumed by people who have little understanding and knowledge on the subject. We live in a Wikipedia age, where a very small amount of understanding about the subject suddenly makes someone into an expert. And not only an expert, but confident in their opinions as valid. This creates a culture of misinformation and very basic knowledge that is perpetuated and harmful to not only the “expert” but anyone who listens to them as well.

Beyond this is a state of willful ignorance. Frequently these two- spiritual misinformation and willful ignorance- are combined. This is especially an issue in the spiritual community. It can be exciting to be on a spiritual path. Some people on the spiritual path truly open themselves up- they get mentors, teachers, read hundreds of books, study, meditate, dance… doing whatever they need to do to truly understand not only the universe but themselves. Most people on the spiritual path have not done so- they have not studied, not had teachers to guide them, or are in a state of willful ignorance.

Willful ignorance is evident on a spiritual path when someone claims that they do not need to learn or that their knowledge at the moment is appropriate. A while ago a core shamanic practitioner who claims to work with possession and curses stated that she did not need to know about the varying states of possession, about demons, or about curses. Her “spirits” would guide her through them- she did not need to know anything about the subject to work with the subject. Energy workers in particular are known for believing that all the body needs is basic balancing. There is not even a need to know about different energetic states, anything about the human body, anatomy, physiology, emotions, or spiritual conditions to them. Other practitioners of spiritual healing, energy work, holistic healing, and massage have no issue prescribing herbs, giving out medical advice, and counseling patients without any sort of proper training. The general population on the spiritual path is filled both with curious beginners who find it difficult to ascertain what information is actually helpful and “advanced” practitioners who are in this state of willful ignorance… with the population who has extensively studied, practiced, and continually opens themselves up to greater understandings and practitioners who are ethical and only work within the parameters of their licensure and what they really and truly know.

While general energy work or practitioners who are willfully ignorant can be somewhat helpful in relaxing the body or mentally creating an environment of healing, if the practitioner does not know what they are affecting or what they are working with the results will be much different than a practitioner who does. Nobody wants to hear this, because it is so popular to become a Reiki practitioner after a weekend class, to be an massage therapist and not consider that your herbal advice can be harmful or even deadly, or be a spiritual practitioner with little understanding of the spiritual realms and accidentally attach an energy to someone. Doctors especially do not like to consider that if they have only had one day of herbal training or two weeks of anatomy training (which are both the standards at most medical schools) that they should refer to a certified herbalist, a physical therapist, or a massage therapist with extensive anatomy training.

But it is true. Every week I see Facebook conversations by people who give out advice from everything from cancer cures to Kundalini with little understanding or proper training, every week I get emails from people who go to spiritual practitioners and end up suicidal because the practitioner accidentally brought back an energy that wasn’t theirs. Every week I see massage therapists make recommendations about everything from herbs to surgical procedures. Every week I get hundreds of emails from people who have Kundalini and have been given advice by their friends, their online groups that has caused them further confusion and harm,  and gone to other clinicians who have tried to work with it without understanding what a Kundalini awakening is. I cannot describe the amount of sadness that this creates in me. I really hope one day for people to be able to honestly assess their own training and abilities and refer anyone that is beyond their capabilities. I have seen too many people at this point who have had their whole lives screwed up by a well-meaning but ignorant practitioner who is trying to work with something emotional, physical, or spiritual that they shouldn’t be. These people can search for years not only to help their original problem but also to ease the damage done by all of the practitioners they have gone through. Releasing imprints (basically other practitioners work) can be really complex work. I do it because I feel it is one of my callings, but there are times that I am honestly unable to undo the damage because it is too extensive. And most times the practitioner has little idea, or has little capability to be able to look at their own work honestly, or will even consider the fact that they were doing something outside of their scope of practice and knowledge.

Imagine this- you go to a Reiki practitioner for a session. She places her hands on you and does general healing. She has very little understanding about energy, energetic circuits in the body, or different type of energetic and spiritual forces in the body. She has very basic understanding of human anatomy, and almost zero understanding of the disease the patient is struggling with and how it presents. She herself struggles with depression and other significant emotional and physical health issues. Her Reiki session is okay- the person falls asleep and feels a bit more grounded.

Now imagine that same session with a Reiki practitioner who has studied and worked with energy, energy currents, meditation, and can differentiate the different spiritual forces in the body. She has worked with herself for years to be clear vessel for the patients she treats and dealt with much of her emotional and spiritual baggage. Although she does not have a degree she has studied anatomy enough to know where she is being called during a Reiki session and can name out the organ or area that she is working on. She knows what layer of the energy field she is working in, she knows what spiritual currents in the body are out of balance. She has a good understanding of a fair amount of diseases or at least is willing to look them up to understand what her patients are struggling with.

The above session is like night and day to the first. The knowledge base and skill set of the practitioner allows for her to be able to single out and identify exactly what process is going on in the patient- whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, or all three. Not only that but she is able to sort out what is going on in the energy field and/or the physical body and focus her energy on that. This practitioner is willing to grow her knowledge base and if misinformed about anything willing to change and open. This openness and understanding then energetically allows for patients to reveal and work on a deep level.

It certainly is possible and common for practitioners and the general public to work on a very basic spiritual level (and physical, emotional, etc). We see it everywhere. It is possible (I suppose) to work even with things like curses when you don’t wish to talk about or think about anything “dark”. It is possible to have no idea what an autoimmune disease is and what happens to the physical body and give a decent Reiki session. But the specificity and knowledge base of the practitioner allows for work on a deeper and more transformative level. Without working and living at a deeper level we fall victim again and again to spiritual misinformation. Every time we think we are done learning we or don’t need to know about something we fall victim to willful ignorance. When we claim competence or mastery of something while only having a very basic or Wikipedia-type knowledge about it we are perpetuating this cycle. Every time we post a Facebook meme about cures for cancer or what spiritual awakening means we are perpetuating this cycle. Every time a practitioner does any of this they are perpetuating this cycle not only for themselves but possibly harming countless patients.