Beware Of False Prophets
By Leo Gura - January 19, 2015 | 37 Comments
The dangers of worshipping human personality
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org, and in this video I want to talk about how to beware of false prophets.
“Eloquence, at its greatest pitch, leaves little room for reason.” – David Hume
This is one of my favorite quotes from David Hume and one of my favorite quotes of all time. When I was growing up and going through high school and college, I really adopted this quote and fell in love with it because I felt that there was something so true with this.
There is so much bullshit, nonsense and disinformation that come when people get sucked into the cult of personality. That’s what I want to talk about in this video, because this is a very dangerous thing that leads many people astray in their personal development. It dooms them for life.
It makes them lost for life. It makes them believe in stupid ideas and buy into dogmas. It makes them angry, resentful, defensive, egotistical, and violent and many more negative qualities like these, which we want to avoid with personal development. Actually, the quote goes on.
Hume’s quote goes on, and it says – “Eloquence, at its greatest pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection, but addresses entirely to the desires and affections, captivating the willing hearers and subduing their understanding.”
This is exactly the danger of it. When something sounds really nice, flowery and when someone’s really eloquent, a good speaker, can make a really good case or present something beautifully and knows how to pitch something to you, that’s usually when you have to watch out the most.
All of that talk is not letting you come in contact with the truth via direct experience. No matter how well something is said, what you’ve got is hearsay. You’ve got someone reporting something to you. You always have to keep this in mind.
The Cult Of Human Personality
The key to understand here is that there is always a cult of human personality. Human nature is such that your mind and brain are literally programmed and hardwired for following strong leaders. This is just how the human species has evolved.
Presumably, we evolved because, in the past, we used to live in tribes. These tribes were run by leaders. There were always the few who were passing down authority and information to the many.
The many would work for the few and there was a hierarchy, like a cast system. This is just part of our evolution and history. In modern times, we’ve really come a long way and we’ve shed a lot of that, which is great. It’s amazing.
I think it’s one of the most important developments in human history and evolution, the doing away of these cast systems and false authority. Still, our brains leave us very susceptible to giving authority to people very easily and just trusting that authority.
It’s not just like we’re buying in and believing in bullshit from people. I mean, that definitely happens. I’m actually even more interested in this video to talk about a more nuanced case where you’re an intelligent human being, you’re smart, well educated, went to college, you view yourself as very independent and you value personal development, yet you still fall into the trap of the cult of human personality.
This is simply because you’re very persuaded by someone’s likeability and charisma. This is something very difficult to separate yourself out from. For example, you’re watching a video on YouTube. Someone is presenting some sort of information or point to you. Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s someone else. It doesn’t matter.
You’re listening to this person. This person can have a different manner, style or personality. They can be funny, serious, abrasive or very calm and peaceful. It doesn’t really matter what their style is.
What’s going to inevitably happen is that you’re going to resonate to certain styles and personalities more than you do to others. You’re going to tend to make this mistake by saying – “Well, I really like this person. He really resonates with me. He really understands where I’m coming from or the way she talks is funny and interesting. I really like it. It’s really humorous to me.”
What’s happening is that your tastes are getting played on. That’s fine. There is nothing wrong with liking someone who you’re listening to. I do that too. You have to be very careful because it’s a very slippery slope.
What tends to happen is this. As soon as you fall in love with the style, manner and personality of this person and even fall in love with their ideas, it starts this slippery slope. Sooner or later, you’re just ceding your own authority and mind over to that person.
Suddenly, you’re not being as analytical and critical as you ought to be of their ideas. I say this about myself and I say this about other people. Sometimes, I see someone in the comment section saying – “Oh, you’re a genius! This person is brilliant. Oh, look at this!”
It’s this sense of worship, right? It’s the worshipping of false prophets. That’s basically what it is. You have to be really careful about this whole style thing because the style and manner of what is being communicated to you is irrelevant, even if it’s a serious communication to you.
It really doesn’t matter. If you’re attracted to the style, this will get you very lost in life. Even if you’re attracted to the ideas because you feel that the ideas are cool, you always thought that way yourself, you know this is right or it’s a very beautifully articulated idea, you have to be careful about that too.
Just because an idea is beautiful, it sounds nice to you or it’s simple, elegant and eloquent, it doesn’t say anything about the validity of that idea. Even if that idea is valid, that’s hearsay no matter how you slice it. It’s always hearsay.
Everything I tell you, including what I’m telling you right now, is just hearsay. You have to have independence, your own critical thinking and your own faculties in order to analyze all of this stuff and piece it together for yourself. Do not outsource this to anybody else.
It’s very dangerous. I see people outsourcing this and saying – “You know, let that person handle it.” Usually, they don’t do it consciously. You don’t just say – “Hey, let him do all the critical thinking for me.” Usually, that’s not how it happens because that’s too obvious.
Your brain is very subtle about this in the ways that it gets deceived. Politicians will do it. Religious leaders will do it. YouTube celebrities will do it. Self-help gurus will do it. Spiritual gurus will do it. Leaders at work will do it.
Your business partner might do it. The person in your marriage might do it. It doesn’t really matter. This is how humans work. We try to persuade and influence each other. When it’s persuasion, we always think and tell ourselves – “Well, I get persuaded by logical arguments. I get persuaded by the meat of the matter.”
That’s very rarely the case. Usually, if you’re very self-honest, and this takes a lot of open mindedness and self-honesty to admit, you can see yourself doing it. When you’re persuading someone else and when you want something from them, it’s very difficult to stay objective.
It’s very difficult to stick to the issues. You usually start to diverge and talk about all sorts of irrelevant stuff. Basically, you’re building up that cult of personality. You’re trying to persuade people.
Persuasion Happens Through Emotional Appeals
Usually, persuasion doesn’t happen through logical arguments. It’s hard to persuade someone through a logical argument. It’s a lot easier to persuade them through emotional appeals, and that’s how persuasion usually happens. What are some examples of this?
I read a lot of comments. I pretty much read all of the comments you guys leave me under the videos and on my website. I hear stuff like who likes what and who doesn’t like what, what you guys are into, who you’re watching and who you’re following.
I follow some of these people too. I think some people are really great. I love learning from experts. This is not to say that you shouldn’t learn from experts. There are literally thousands of experts and if I could just send you to all of those experts, and you actually committed to studying from all of them, then that would be amazing.
If you put the time and effort into it, I would send you to all of those experts. Most of you don’t have that time. The point here is this. Experts are cool, but don’t cede everything to them. Don’t put them up on a pedestal or idolize them. This is not necessary. In fact, this is very dangerous to you. Here are some examples.
Many of you who watch my videos also watch RSD videos. RSD videos are great! I have watched many of them, but RSD is definitely a cult of personality that you have to be really careful about.
A lot of the RSD instructors are charismatic, funny and have interesting and cool ideas. A lot of that stuff blows your mind and it’s great. However, I also really see this kind of cult of personality happening there. I’ve noticed it in myself because I’ve watched a lot of their videos.
I really start to get sucked into it to the point where my mind stops working independently. This is a very bad thing, as much as RSD talks about group think. That’s a really big theme through a lot of RSD content, group think and how dangerous it is.
Actually, RSD is a very dangerous pit of group think. Be careful about that. I personally know many people who are involved with RSD. I’ve pretty much met all of the instructors face to face. I know these people.
I know the people who follow these people. There’s this definite tendency to kind of buy into the group think. Also, another example is Elliot Hulls.
I love Elliot Hulls, but don’t idolize him. If he gives you good ideas, that’s great. The ideas are great. Let the ideas stand on their own merit, but not on his personality. He’s got a great personality.
That personality is very attractive. That personality is like this. “Oh, I want to be like him or he really inspires me!” That’s great, but separate that out. You can be inspired by Elliot Hulls, but separate that out from the merit of what he’s talking about.
I think he talks about a lot of great stuff that has amazing merit. I have no real bones to pick with him, other than this. You can take Elliot Hulls’ material and turn it into crap by turning it into this false prophet situation.
I think Eckhart Tolle is a big one too. Many people talk about Eckhart Tolle like this. “Oh my god, it’s Eckhart Tolle! It’s amazing! Read the Power of Now and read all of his other books! It blows your mind. It’s so enlightening.”
Eckhart Tolle is an amazing human being. He’s an enlightened human being. You can watch his videos and read his books. It’s great and I recommend it. Again though, don’t turn him into a false prophet.
By the way, all of these people I’m talking about will tell you the same thing themselves. They actually faced this problem themselves because they have a lot of followers and viewers. They will tell you this themselves.
At least they will, if they are very honest. They should be telling you this. They should be sensitive to this kind of stuff. Many people love Tony Robins. People talk about him because he’s kind of like the father of modern personal development and self-help.
He’s an easy example to use, and that’s great. I love Tony Robins. I watch a lot of his stuff. I started on Tony Robins material. The first self-help book I read was a Tony Robins book. Actually, it was a CD program of his.
I mean, that’s awesome. Again, don’t think that Tony Robins has every aspect of life nailed and that he understands every aspect of life. He doesn’t. I can find you areas were Tony Robins is deficient in understanding life.
That’s fine. I’m not trying to say I’m better than Tony Robins. I honestly don’t care. I’m not going to compare myself to these people. I’m just saying not to cede blind authority to these people, even if you know they have amazing accomplishments.
The stuff Tony Robins has accomplished, I probably wouldn’t in ten lifetimes. He’s a very achievement oriented guy. He has had amazing talent. He’s an amazing speaker and he can do amazing things on stage.
I’m sure he helps a lot of his clients in really powerful ways. Don’t turn him into a false prophet. You can also go back to the old school prophets – the actual prophets like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed or whoever else you want to follow based on your religion, tradition and culture.
You might think these guys are the original prophets. No, they are not. The way that these guys have been false prophesized or turned into false prophets by people who came after them thousands of years, has really turned into a travesty.
It’s a real travesty. For example, if you read the writings of Buddha, you can see that he’s very much against this kind of stuff. He’s very much against it. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been appalled by what has been done with his teachings after 2000 years.
It’s been turned into complete nonsense. These kinds of people don’t want you to take them as prophets. Actually, it’s a very egotistical thing to want to be a prophet, to be put on some sort of pedestal, to think that you’re special and to use this kind of authority to influence people.
A self-honest and intellectual person is never going to want to do that. It’s a very disgusting way to lead others. It’s not that they are trying to fool you. I think that what actually happens here is this. Not any of these people we talked about are fooling you in any way.
Most of them are pretty honest individuals. They are doing the right thing. The problem is with you, and not really with them. You’re the one who likes their personality so much that you want to idolize them.
You want to think they are amazing, special and unique. You want to think that there is something about them that makes you think they are a genius. There is something about this person! For instance, Albert Einstein is a genius! “I could never be like that! He could never match that!” This is the stuff you really need to be careful of.
The issue of authority is important as well. Authority is important because of this. All the people who influence many people have something in common. They have authority.
The Real Authority Is Truth
The thing I understand about authority is that there is only one real authority. All other authorities are fake. Real authority is truth. It’s Truth with a capital T.
I will talk about this in other videos because this is a very important idea and many people are confused about what Truth with a capital T actually is and what it means. Briefly, Truth with a capital T is direct experience.
It’s personal and direct experience by you. It’s not even that you can trust yourself to analyze the experience. That’s already a step removed from the truth, although that would be much better than what most of you guys are doing, which is living your life based on hearsay.
Hearsay is what other people are telling you. Truth is direct experience. It’s the direct insight of the question and matter at hand. Even scientific knowledge, which you might say has the pinnacle of truth, doesn’t really qualify as truth.
It’s not real truth. It’s hearsay which is masqueraded under an assertion of truth. It’s really a form of persuasion. That’s what scientific truths are. The real truth is the direct experience of it.
For example, if you sit down and actually complete the science experiment yourself, you see what is happening there and you see the truth of it, there you have the taste of the real truth. That’s real authority.
Notice that real authority is impersonal. There is nothing personal about it. It has nothing to do with human nature or human beings. It’s impersonal. It isn’t even contained in language.
Language does not carry truth very well. Of course, we have to rely on language and hearsay because there is just so much stuff to know and experiments to run that we couldn’t possibly run them all in our own lives. It would take us a million lifetimes to do it.
We have to rely on hearsay. Then of course, there is the whole game of which hearsays are accurate and which of them are not. That’s a whole field of study. You can go in there and start to analyze and compare all of this stuff.
This is a passion of mine. I spent many years comparing and studying different ideas and philosophies. I was a philosophy major because of this reason. I was really interested in dissecting, comparing and contrasting all of these different ideas, cosmologies, ways of thinking, metaphysics, religions and philosophies.
It was just very fascinating to compare and contrast all of this stuff. You’ll do that, but don’t trick yourself into thinking that just because you do some analysis on the hearsay, you’ve actually got real authority. Real authority comes from direct experience.
This means that any authority you give to a human being is false and fake authority, even if this human being is a very nice and stand up honest guy, really funny, charming and telling you true and accurate things. That’s still a fake authority.
Sometimes, it’s him who appropriates this authority. However, many times it’s you who gives him that authority. This is because your mind is designed to follow. Sometimes it leads, but many times it’s designed to follow.
Even leaders are also great followers. Just having a leadership position doesn’t make you immune. There is probably still someone else out there who you’re idolizing. You turn them into this false prophet because you want to give them authority.
It’s like a constant battle in your mind. You have to stay vigilant through your entire life to this thing. It never goes away and you have to stay vigilant. What I see are people who just aren’t vigilant.
They want to relinquish their vigilance and say – “Oh, whatever! I’ll just kind of coast through life.” They end up coasting through life and getting themselves stuck in a lot of philosophical and mental masturbation, a quagmire of conceptual bullshit. This also creates dogma.
This creates firm and trenched beliefs, which close your mind down so that your mind isn’t open enough to explore other areas in life you haven’t considered before. You might think this. “This isn’t too impactful to my result, development and success in life.”
Let me tell you that this is incredibly impactful. One of the missions of Actualized.org that I’m going to be promoting more, as I shoot more videos, is really open mindedness and getting away from the dogma.
Dogma and closed mindedness are one of the most dangerous things. They are things that really cripple your personal development the most. It’s really dangerous on a personal level. It’s also dangerous on a social level. It can cause real disasters on a social level.
The other interesting thing I’ve been experiencing last year is this. I’ve been getting more followers and my YouTube Channel has been growing. That’s kind of cool. I never thought of myself as having some celebrity status or anything.
Actually, when I go out now, sometimes people recognize me and say – “Hey! You’re that guy! I know you from somewhere!” That’s always funny to me. I always can’t believe that someone would recognize me, but I’ve had people recognize me at the gym and stuff like that. It’s funny and it’s cool.
One thing I’ve recognized in studying how people develop followings, build YouTube channels, websites, political followings and stuff, is that authority is very easy to manufacture.
Authority Is Easy To Manufacture
It’s really easy to manufacture it. The shocking thing is that people don’t realize how easy it actually is to manufacture this stuff. It’s really easy because your mind is very quick to jump to assumptions about people who you perceive out in the public, but you don’t actually know.
For example, it’s funny because I’ll watch people watching my videos and they will leave comments where they say something like this. “Oh, Leo! He’s got this part of his life handled. He’s got all of it handled.”
For example, I have this video named How To Stop Caring About What People Think Of You. It’s really one of my most popular videos. People love that video. In the comments, people write something like this. “Oh, I shouldn’t be thanking Leo because he doesn’t care what other people think of him.”
This is so ridiculous. I can’t believe people would just assume this. Because I shoot a video called How To Stop Caring About What People Think Of You and I talk about it, where I bring up some good points and understand the topic doesn’t mean I literally don’t care what people think of me.
That would be a very difficult state for me to achieve. I’m always chipping away at it. A lot of the stuff I talk to you guys about, I’m not perfect at. You understand that, right? I’m not perfect at it at all!
If you watch a meditation video of mine where I tell you to sit up straight and meditate for 20 minutes and I tell you to clear your mind of ideas and thoughts, you tend to assume Leo does that perfectly. When I tell you to stop caring about what people think of you, you will think Leo does that perfectly.
When I tell you to go exercise and eat healthy, you’re going to say – “Oh, he’s telling me because he’s got it nailed! He’s got it locked down!” I’m pretty good at some of this stuff. I’ve worked really hard on some of this stuff and developed good habits.
However, I’m fallible like everybody else. I don’t always have this stuff locked down. It’s funny because when I see people assuming this stuff about me, in my mind I start to see this. Oh my god, that’s how it happens!
That’s how the false prophet thing works. That’s why it spreads. It’s like a virus that spreads through society. Someone can be very genuine, honest and come up here and tell you all the stuff very precisely, without fabricating anything. Because you don’t really know the person, you’re making unconscious assumptions about this person all the time.
Maybe, when you meet this person face to face, at a dinner or in a more intimate setting where you get to really know them, you would be like this. “Oh, damn! You’re totally different than what I thought you were like.”
You’re watching me through a little screen right here. When I’m standing in front of a camera, that’s almost like I’m wearing a certain mask that I wear. I try to be authentic here. Still, it’s not the authentic me because I am, of course, playing it up a little bit to my audience.
You, of course, have certain expectations of me. Therefore, I have certain expectations of myself. This is also kind of a business of mine. There’s a lot of stuff in here that doesn’t really allow for genuine communication.
You’re also looking at me in a very narrow context – this little window. You don’t see me with my family, girlfriend or doing meditation. You don’t see me doing a lot of this stuff. When I’m doing those things, I’m in a different headspace.
I’m in a different mood and I’m behaving differently. We all do that. You can see this in yourself. When you’re at work, you behave in a different way. You have this mask you put on when you’re at work.
When you’re with your family, you have another mask you put on there. When you’re with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you have a certain mask you put on there. If I just observed you only at work, I wouldn’t really get the full picture of you.
I would have to observe you in all of these different areas to really get a sense of who you are as a human being. When you don’t have direct access to the person, which you usually don’t, this is how the false prophet thing happens.
For example, you don’t really know what Barack Obama is like. You’ve never met him and you’ve only seen short snippets of him on TV, in a very contrived setting. You don’t really know what George Bush was like. You don’t really know what Osama Bin Laden was like. You don’t really know what Hitler was like.
You don’t really know what Jesus was like, or what Buddha was like, or even what Tony Robins is like. You might say you’ve been to a Tony Roberts event and seen him in person. Well yeah, maybe you’ve seen him in person, but you’ve seen him on stage, in a huge and commercial setting with thousands of people watching him.
That’s not necessarily the real Tony Robins. Have you seen Tony Robins when he’s sitting with his wife or his kids? Actually, that would be a very different Tony Robins. Maybe he is very authentic. I believe he is quite authentic.
He’s probably got similarities how he interacts with his wife and kids, and how he interacts with people. Still, who knows? You don’t know. You just assume this. You assume this stuff, but there is no evidence to back it up.
What’s even more interesting is this. The person who you’re assuming about doesn’t even want you to assume that of them. For example, when people assume about me that I don’t care about what other people think of me, I don’t even want that. This is like a burden that I now have to bear.
It kind of feels heavy. Damn! What if someone ever saw me caring about what someone things of me? I would look like a hypocrite. Even though I never went out there and said I literally don’t care what people think about me, it’s still an assumption that someone put upon me.
You know, that’s fine. That’s kind of the burden of being a public figure and having people know you. I’m not complaining about that. I’m just saying to be careful because it’s you who is doing it. It’s you who is doing it.
You’re falling in love with the personality. The bottom line is this. Firstly, no one is truly authoritative. No human being is authoritative. Secondly, no human being is special. Thirdly, no human being is better than you. Fourthly, no human being is unbiased. Every human being is biased. Every human being grows up in a culture, environment and within a group think.
Even if the human being who is communicating to you very honestly and whole heartedly believes that everything they are telling you is true and accurate, this doesn’t mean they’re immune from infecting you with their group think, cultural influences, traditions and all of that stuff.
It’s all still there, in some people less than others. It’s still there. The biases are there. There are commercial biases, social biases, political biases, personal biases, traditions, cultures and religions. There are so many biases that are being communicated to you by these people you watch and admire.
Be really careful about that. Lastly, no one is a genius. I hear people saying things like this. “He’s just so untouchable! This person is a genius! It’s pure brilliance!” This is as though you couldn’t arrive at that situation and place yourself.
You have to see yourself just as capable as these people. For example, I want you to believe that if you dedicate yourself and work hard enough, you can develop yourself within a really high level in personal development. It’s like whatever you think of me.
I don’t think of myself as super self-developed or whatever. Some people will say to me – “Leo, are you self-actualized?” To me, this is funny. Self-actualization is a process that continues for your whole life.
There is no end point that you reach. If you think Leo is pretty self-actualized and you would never be able to live up to him, it’s a really dangerous assumption. You should think like this.
“He’s just a normal guy, who is just shooting some videos and sharing information with me. Some of this information is good; some of it isn’t so good. Let me take the good stuff. Let me try it out myself, field test it and apply it in my life and I can become like him. I could also become a little different than him. I can advance, develop and go even higher.”
That’s how you’ve got to think. You have to really flatten out the whole hierarchy. There is no hierarchy in life. Nobody is above you. There is no magical pope who is infallible. This is a really dangerous and silly idea.
The really bad news here is this. You’re listening to all of this and it’s making perfect sense to you. Everything I’m telling you makes perfect sense. However, you’re still going to get lost. You’re still going to fall a pray to this.
I notice myself falling a pray to it too. Even though I know this stuff, it’s not enough to just know it. You have to agree with it. You have to stay vigilant all the time. Also, really watch out for this cult of personality thing. You have to really watch out for it.
In summary, stay vigilant.
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