A response to ‘Hierarchy – should we accept it?’ by Teal Swan
Since 2014, I have been an off and on follower of the self-styled spiritual leader/teacher Teal Swan, viewing videos on her youtube channel, which now has over 600,000 subscribers, and for a time, I was a member of her Facebook group, ‘Teal Tribe’. Over the years, however, I became increasingly disenchanted with Teal’s rhetoric, and temporarily stopped following her teachings for a while. Teal has said a number of things I ideologically disagreed with.
I was disappointed by these things, to say the least, but genuinely do not perceive that Teal is “wrong” about everything. I agree with much of what she has to say on the subject of emotions, conditional parenting, and a variety of other topics, and may continue to watch her youtube videos, but perhaps the biggest disappointment came recently when Teal made a video entitled ‘Hierarchy – should we accept it’. In this post, I shall offer a critique of that video, tag it with Teal’s name, and provide a link to the blog post in the comments section of that video.
Teal often likes to say that anyone who vocally or publicly disagrees with her is a ‘hater’, whom feels rejected by her or her ‘tribe’ in some way. This is a childish and fatuous attempt to silence any dissent or disagreement, and I see this as a problematic quality to possess, especially in someone whom has set themselves up as a spiritual teacher. Everyone ‘evolves’, develops and grows at a different speed, and possesses the perspectives they possess at particular points in time because they have some need to. This means that dissent and disagreement are a naturally occurring part of social relationships, rather than evidence that some people are incontrovertibly ‘right’ whilst others are incontrovertibly ‘wrong’.
At the time of writing this post, I disagree vociferously with Teal on the subject of hierarchy. Perhaps at some point in the future, this may change, although, given the breadth and depth of damage which has been done in this world as the result of hierarchical power structures, I have my doubts. In this post, I will provide a point by point critique of Teal’s rhetoric on hierarchy, so in a sense, Teal has actually laid the groundwork for this post, leaving me with nothing else to do but calmly respond by deconstructing her often highly illogical arguments – thanks Teal!
Teal begins her video by stating that “hierarchy is one of those things that has been thrown into the waste bin of bad things”. This seems like a curious statement to make considering the fact that hierarchy is everywhere in this world, and the human race, by and large, continue to accept it, predominantly because of fear of the consequences of challenging it. Like most human beings, I have met, on average, thousands of people in the space of my lifetime, which is why I can say with some confidence that most people do not challenge authority, and by extension, hierarchy. This is why I find it curious that Teal would begin a talk on this subject with such a disingenuous statement. Virtually all human societies in the world today operate on a hierarchical basis, so how have human beings “thrown hierarchy into the bin of bad things”?
Despite acknowledging the simple truth that there isn’t a human being alive today whom hasn’t been hurt by hierarchy is some way or another, Teal then speaks about how people have “swung the pendulum” in the opposite direction. Again, how have they? All human societies in the world operate in a hierarchical way. Most of the Western world, with the exception of maybe France, does not experience regular civil unrest, and America, Teal’s home country, has invaded more countries and forced so-called ‘regime change’ on them more than virtually any other country on earth, so again – HOW has the pendulum swung in the opposite direction to hierarchy? The opposite of hierarchy is de-centralization of power, or to give it it’s proper label, ‘Anarchy’, a word which has become synonymous with molotov cocktails and looting, despite being an actual intellectual philosophy. Again, all human societies on the planet today operate hierarchically, and people, myself included, accept this because of an inbuilt fear of being abused and having their physical freedoms removed if they challenge it. Another word for this is tyranny.
Teal’s arrogance comes racing to the surface at two and half minutes in, claiming that she is continually being approached by people whom offer to “be her friend because of how good they’d be at seeing her shadow, because this makes them feel as though they are on equal ground or superior”. This is a double-bind; if nobody mentions the idea of Teal’s shadow (unconscious), she interprets this as implied acquiescence and deference, but if they mention Teal’s shadow, it is an attempt to ‘be her equal’ or superior. Teal’s conceit is stunning. At no point does she even acknowledge that she has a shadow, but then, she wouldn’t, since the entirety of this video is pure shadow and can be summarised in the following short sentence: “My name is Teal Swan, I am a spiritual teacher, and I want you to follow me, put your faith in me, and never question anything I say”. END OF VIDEO.
Teal then critiques the actions of people who tell her that they see her as “a person just like the rest of us” as trying to “pull her off her pedestal”. These were Teal’s words; she actually sees herself as being “on a pedestal”, but does not even give pause to critique the dangers of being so, or explain whether it is others whom have placed her on it (idealization) or whether she has placed herself upon it (delusion). Teal smirks, chuckles, and describes as ‘unconscious’ the people who refuse to bow down to her in a desperate, though still transparent attempt to manipulate them into seeing themselves as less evolved. Those whom confront her with the fact that she appears to consider herself superior to other human beings are undoubtedly told they are psychologically projecting – another double bind.
Either way, Teal is human, and no amount of arbitrary labels, i.e. ‘soul fork’ or ‘reflector’ can change this. She was born, and she will die – just like the rest of us. In order to prove her authority/superiority, Teal has to show people solid and genuine results of people whom she has helped as the result of being a spiritual teacher. Unfortunately for her, flunkies, enablers and hangers-on do not count, since the placebo effect may in all likelihood be a factor in these people’s successes with Teal’s ‘healing’ modality ‘The Completion Process’. I myself have been helped far more greatly by Michael Brown’s ‘The Presence Process’ than anything Teal ever recommended.
At three and a half minutes into the video, Teal states “We already know the dangers of out of alignment hierarchy”, and then flippantly uses the examples of Hitler, child abuse and abuse of people by the police as though casually listing items on a shopping list. Where the example of Adolf Hitler is concerned, Teal is particularly misleading, since, thanks to Alice Miller’s stunning 1980 text ‘For their own good: the roots of violence in child-rearing’, Miller actually presents an extremely powerful and detailed hypothesis in which she conveys the idea that Hitler himself was the way he was as the result of being severely beaten by his Father on a regular basis during childhood, often to the point of serious injury. Miller explains that parental violence against children is an unconscious and symbolic act of retribution for one’s own experiences of childhood violence, and that if Hitler had reproduced, the chances of him creating a holocaust would have been severely reduced. Abuse begets abuse. But Teal doesn’t care about this, because Teal thinks everyone should listen to her, and if someone doesn’t want to, they are a ‘hater’. This is the reasoning of a five year old.
At four minutes into the video, Teal begins listing ways in which it would be dangerous if a person didn’t defer to the wisdom of another human being, citing the example of nurses not deferring to the wisdom of surgeons in an operating theatre. On the surface, this seems like quite a logical argument. Certainly, if someone has just started a new job as a nurse, and it is their first day, and they decided to argue against the knowledge of the chief surgeon, this will definitely cause problems. However, when you say the word ‘hierarchy’ to most people, they will usually think of a small number of obvious examples such as government, monarchy, law enforcement, or perhaps social hierarchy, alluding to the gap between rich and poor. Few people will think of far smaller examples, such as acknowledging when a person has a superior skill set to you within a particular area, which is in fact a sensible and logical thing to do. Now, lets us look at the four examples I have listed above, respectively:
- ) Government
The idea that those in government are innately better equipped to govern than anyone else is utterly ludicrous. In so-called democratic countries, especially America and the UK, a person has to have established a large amount of wealth to even run a campaign for the job of either President or Prime Minister. All of the other top jobs are assigned on the basis of nepotism and status, rather than capability, and most, possibly all, of the so-called democratic countries work in the same way. Furthermore, once in power, these governments can, and regularly do, ignore the will of the people. A wonderful and incredibly current example of this, at the time of writing, would be the ‘Brexit’ debacle in the UK. The people occupying governments in the western world are not innately better equipped to govern. They are ruthless opportunists who possess enough wealth and superficial charm to temporarily dupe ordinary everyday people into voting for them, and are also likely to shape policy under the influence of an elite group which comprises the world’s wealthiest people. Politics is perhaps the second most toxic, disingenuous and exploitative profession in the world, second only to banking. In countries which have a Communist leadership, the same is applicable, which only leaves monarchy.
The idea that monarchs are innately better equipped to rule, or even act as tokenistic heads of state, than anyone else is utterly ludicrous. The entire premise of monarchy rests on the idea of ‘divine right’, determined by an allegedly pure bloodline, which, to anyone who possesses the faculty of critical thinking, is preposterous. This ideology is little more than legitimised ‘magical thinking’, and is also riddled with entitlement. Monarchs are not innately better human beings than anyone, and in fact, are some of the most prolific parasites on earth. In the UK, some people whom work regularly complain about people whom live on welfare, and scarcely give a thought to the fact that our heads of state, and their entire family, have maintained their lifestyles of extreme luxury and living in their ivory towers for all of their lifetimes at the expense of taxpayers, to the tune of 105 million dollars a year. This has been flippantly dismissed by monarchists on the grounds that it works out at only 65p per year, per taxpayer, but the issue is not that the taxpayers are suffering as the result of paying it, but that the money could be better spent on literally anything else. As a suggestion, I estimate that nearly 1000 homes could be built for homeless people with this money – homeless people like the ones whom are politely told to fuck off and disappear every time a royal event takes place on the streets of London.
3.) Law enforcement
The idea that those in the police force are innately better equipped to enforce common law than anyone else is utterly ludicrous. As an aside, broadly speaking at least, and within the parameters of the system we have, I am in favour of common law, but the problem with law enforcement, at least in the UK, the USA and many other Western countries, is that there is massive confusion amongst the general public, and even many of those in the police force, regarding what common law actually comprises. What most people in the UK and possibly the USA too do not understand is that it comprises only three things: 1) Do not kill people. 2) Do not physically harm people and 3.) Do not steal from people. These are the only things that police officers actually swear an oath to uphold. Anything else is referred to as ‘legal statute’ and is not the business of police. In fairness to the police force, I am sure that most police officers genuinely believe that they serve the greater good, even those who violently beat people at peaceful protests, or in America, continually harass black people, but unfortunately, just because a person believes they are serving ‘the greater good’, doesn’t mean they actually are. It takes colossal arrogance for a person to think they are entitled to physically immobilise another human being in the name of an arbitrary, albeit widely agreed upon set of moral values, and a large amount of delusion to believe that they are somehow more ‘virtuous’ than others for doing so. Police officers, from a psychoanalytic perspective, are people whom were tyrannised as children and deeply suppressed their anguish during their experiences. This, in turn, makes them think that they are fit to be an ‘authority’ over others, even if, from a bigger picture perspective, their authority is fictitious.
4.) Social hierarchy
This is often cited by many as being the most destructive form of hierarchy, with many people claiming that “money is the root of all evil”, alluding to the gap between rich and poor and the fact that this facilitates social hierarchy. Although it would definitely be true to say that the global banking cartel is the single most toxic institution in the world today, and that it has literally enslaved nearly the entire human race, the misuse of money as a tool of oppression takes a back seat to the actual abuse of power in general, which pervades every last aspect of life in all human societies in the world today. Money does not have to be a problem. The perception of class is a problem, and, in a far subtler form than was once the case, class war still exists in the Western world. It can be seen in the UK in the slew of vile, pejorative names people have for the British working class, or underclass, and in the contempt many people still have for gypsies, a contempt borne of the fact that gypsies effectively live outwith ‘the system’. Nobody enjoys being looked down upon, and not everyone is adept at ‘playing the game’ and jumping through the many hoops a person has to jump through to get anywhere in this world. Only today I walked down one of the most affluent streets in Edinburgh. I imagined them to be occupied by barristers, medical consultants, businessmen, all of whom are every bit as human as myself, with many of the same emotions, but whom simply learned how to arbitrarily ‘play the game’ better than I. People like to imagine that we live in a meritocracy, but the biggest pay-off of social acceptance in any society is nepotism. This does not even take into account the problem of ‘quotas’, back-scratching, enabling and a hundred other dishonest means which human beings use to get ahead in life. God help the guileless. Those who get ahead in this system also like to allude to the ‘negative’ attitudes of those whom do not succeed in life, as though genuine positivity is a prerequisite for attaining wealth and power in the world today. It isn’t. Life has been turned into a game, and not everyone is capable of ignoring the surfeit of flaws in the rules.
At four minutes into the video Teal states that “there are also times when hierarchy needs to be acknowledged or it is dangerous for everyone”, and cites a list of examples, but in the examples, what she is actually describing is knowledge, rather than ‘authority’ or ‘hierarchy’. It has often been said that ‘knowledge is power’, but this is a personal power, rather than power over another person. As regards to the scenario in which a nurse argues with the chief surgeon; this would not happen. By merit of the fact that someone had studied to become a nurse in the first place, nobody would jeopardise this career, and besides, would not have made it to such a point in the first place if they were inclined to argue with someone whom clearly had a superior skill set to them. That being said, Teal’s arrogant view that anything other than blind acquiescence to authority is anything other than dangerous is in fact dangerous itself. Both Zimbardo (1971) and Milgram (1963) conducted experiments which demonstrated in sickening detail the depths of depravity human beings will sink to when they are incapable of questioning authority. Teal does not want to be questioned; so she has had to make a video which dismisses the idea of challenging authority.
Superior knowledge and superior skill set do not give one human being authority over another human being unless they consent to this. The problem with Teal’s argument is that she is trying to draw a parallel between superior skill set in very specific areas to much larger power structures such as government, monarchy and law enforcement. It is a clever argument, mainly because nobody wants to be the person whom cannot acknowledge when someone is better at a particular task than them, but this has nothing to do with the hierarchical power structures which control all of our lives. I might even be inclined to say that the people whom hold the highest positions of power in our world are the least suited to do so.
I shall end this part of my critique of Teal’s views on hierarchy by addressing her following quote: “There are a lot of dangers in there being no hierarchy, at this time in human consciousness”.
This sounds rather similar to the views expressed by behaviourists and the world’s so-called elite whom openly speak about the majority of the population as though they are lab rats; too stupid and unevolved to govern ourselves or take care of our own lives, rather than people whom are conditioned, from every conceivable direction, almost from birth, to either acquiesce or die, in a society which actively prohibits non-participation. The entire premise of life in Western society, and many others, is to subjugate one’s own will, and then spend a lifetime desperately trying to forget having done so.