Lord of the Flies with Incense
In nature, predators are attracted by the presence of prey. Whenever there is a herd of beings, there will be predators watching with fascination, studying the prey very attentively. Predators pay special attention to anything wounded or young or vulnerable-seeming. When an animal is about to give birth and just after, they are vulnerable, and the newborn is easy pickings.
When there is a watering hole that the animals have to come to, there are also predators of various types who lie in wait to feed on those who come for water. An ashram, spiritual center, meditation school, church, temple, is a watering hole. A place where people come to drink the water of life.
Train yourself to perceive that people are the same everywhere. If every office of ten employees has a backstabber, a vicious gossip, a betrayer who will use you to get ahead, an abusive boss, a sexual predator, and a couple of people who are just trying to do a good job, then it is the same in whatever spiritual center you walk into. The difference is that usually spiritual people have better camouflage, they have learned to adjust their spots and markings and coloration to blend into the environment.
What is Your Instinctive Response?
Train yourself to notice your instinctive response when someone is paying "special attention" to you. What is that flicker in your nerves? What is your first, split-second impression? What is your next thought? This is really all you have to go by. Once that first tenth of a second has passed, you will be in the realm of second-guessing yourself, and then you'll be lost. In any spiritual group, you will be continually surrounded by people who have black belts in psychological judo. Anything you say or don't say can be used to trap you into their web of words.
Predators will travel to follow the herd. In the human world, pickpockets go to the great tourist centers, because there are lots of opportunities to practice their craft. When there is going to be a gathering, such as the Cannes Film Festival, the pickpockets are among the first to make hotel reservations, a year ahead. Thousands of pickpockets from all over Europe converge on the festival, because of the rich pickings. There are now spiritually-oriented pickpockets, who go to spiritual gatherings and loot the attendees of their money, energy, belief, and trust. Meditation and yoga have become so successful that they are attracting increasing numbers of bloodsuckers.
It is the same with gatherings for "spiritual" purposes. It is best to assume people are the same everywhere. An ashram, church, or spiritual group is going to be much like any office, and is going to have its share of manipulative managers, demented clerks, sexual predators, gossips, backstabbers, and incompetents in authority.
The Internal Net
The Internet has its share of sexual and financial predators. So does every internal - net organization: workshop centers, churches, meditation schools, yoga retreats. All these places promise you access to your inner life, to your soul.
Sometimes the teacher or preacher is the main predator, there to prey upon your desire for transformation. They have the biggest teeth, and take their choice of the cuts of meat, eating your brain or internal organs, and leaving the rest of your body for the jackals and vultures.
The Black Widow
When you walk into her workshop, psychotherapy office, seminar, she feels her web tingle. The great thing about self-help techniques is that you can get your victims to wrap themselves up in your web, and they will then wait there for you to come around and drink their juices.
While you are busy praying or meditating or confessing, she can study your weak points and plan how to insert her stinger in to inject a nerve toxin. Then while you are immobilized, drink your blood. Then lay some eggs in your body, which will hatch. Or use you as a recruiting tool.
The Sheep Shearer
There is a reason why meditation centers have so much land and money. All successful gurus have adept con men and con women around them. When you walk into the room, they can look at you and estimate with considerable accuracy your net worth, and the percentage of that wealth they might be able to get you to "donate" to the guru.
You may not ever even meet the person who has planned how to manipulate you. The con woman won't herself necessarily become your NBF, New Best Friend. She will send someone else, male or female, to do that job. She might even arrange for you to meet your "soul mate." Such a con might take several years to evolve, and the divorce, with a good share of community property, may already be planned from the beginning.
Domination/Submission games rule the spiritual world, for better or worse. There is a lot of groveling. Wherever there is the idea of bowing down to someone, or following an authority, there are going to be master/slave specialists, people who feed on the energy involved in bondage, domination and submission.
Predators can be good teachers. Because they are so desperate and hungry for their particular food, they may work extra hard to create the conditions that attract a herd. The predator may create the watering hole in order to draw in prey animals, and only devour one in ten. So most of the herd benefits from the presence of the water.
I was once taking a workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and one of the assistants kept coming around every half an hour to bust me on something or other. She was trying to nudge me into signing up for the next workshop, very expensive. Finally I looked at her and said, "I have an image of you wearing a skimpy outfit, high heels, with a whip."
She laughed and said, "That's me."
"That's what?" I asked.
"I used to be a dominatrix," she said, "Now I like doing this," and walked away.
Later, I had to ask someone what a dominatrix is. I'd never heard of the concept.