Mario The Vigilant Christian is not having any of this “false eastern mysticism”. He warns us against being sucked into Yogamaatha’s “portal to the demonic realm”. Not to be outdone, the rest of YouTube’s semen-encrusted commentators chime in – the fans, the trolls, and the Psychedelic Scientists:

James: @vsemd Absolute bollocks. You do realise this girl is only renowned because she lives in the third world and they live life on faith and religion.

vsemd: @James have you ever tried learning and doing some research on this; let alone this girl (who you think is cheating, although for no reason), do some study if needed.

The ‘spiritual web’ might seem bizarre, but you and I are absorbing and questioning the same sort of content – be it yogi wisdom, TED Talks on mindfulness, or Alan Watts’ old audio tapes. The 21st century spiritual seeker is discontent with orthodoxy. We are spiritually polyamorous: our mind-soul healing engages with multiple religious, mystical and even psychotherapeutic disciplines. Why? Because we need an antidote to secular debauchery, a balancing beam, something to instill a sense of meaning. As The Dalai Lama puts it, we’re trying “to answer the great question which confronts us all: how am I to be happy?"

Greg Jacques: @Muri Ella I go through phases. Sometimes it's Buddhism, sometimes Hindu movies, sometimes Amanda Todd, sometimes sucky cue-card videos. I have a lot on my plate. Yay!

The female healer both embodies and rides off of this anarchic postmodern rush for re-enchantment and meaning. Cross-culturally, centuries of exclusivity across myriad spiritual paths have denied women access to centre stage. Portals like YouTube break down barriers like never before. Female healers don’t necessarily rule the roost – their male counterparts willingly denounce them, and sexist trolls are ever present – but the Internet provides an unprecedented opportunity to connect with followers outside the old patriarchal systems. 

To explore the audio-visual spectrum in all its glory, here are seven healers who take us from Buddhism to Shamanism, and into the New Age. This social phenomenon is a two-way stream, an exchange between the seeker – the spiritual ‘polyamorist’ chomping on lentils and sipping on craft beer in-between Netflix binges – and the female healer who is changing lives in a fundamental capacity. One cannot be understood without the other. 

Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche is a rare example of a female Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist high priest. Despite Buddhism’s open and liberal reputation in the West, in many practicing countries Buddhist nuns have to put up with the sexism inherent to the male-dominated hierarchical monastic system. In certain contexts nuns are blamed for ‘distracting’ monks from reaching enlightenment – as opposed to monks being unable to transcend their sexual urges. And in some lineages nuns are believed to be unworthy of Buddhahood, making it doubly challenging to ascend to positions of authority and ultimately to reach the laity – until now. Up to 40,000 people click through to watch any one of Rinpoche’s teachings for a hit of equanimity.

Perfectly balancing humour with a serious, focused intellect, in ‘What Impedes Happiness’ Rinpoche compares the person who clings onto emotions to one who “does not know how to swim and so grabs onto water although one cannot hold onto it”. We become our transient thoughts and feelings in our desperate quest for ‘me’. Non-attachment to the illusion of Self, is the Buddhist solution to the problem of modern human suffering. 

Like Jetsün Rinpoche, venerable Thubten Chodron has also bridged the gap between East and West in extraordinary ways. An American-Tibetan nun trained under the current Dalai Lama, she is (more or less) warmly received by a 250,000-strong audience on YouTube. Nevertheless, the spiritually polyamorous are wary of this reversal of the traditional cultural exchange; the Westerner who goes East unsettles her followers.

Mr Creosote: Americans are so corrupted and conditioned by their capitalist masters that they cannot speak truth to power, whatever guise they come in. 

Famous for confessing lovelorn, and disgraced celebrities on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah is the wealthiest and most notorious healer of our time.  Surprisingly, she also swoons in the spiritualist groove. In the early 90s she came into contact with Deepak Chopra, a guru-type figure originally trained in Transcendental Meditation, who taught her how to move a ring on a string with her mind. The possibility of telekinesis nourished her hungry ego and she became fascinated by all things psycho-spiritual.

In terms of audience, Oprah destroys our humble Buddhist healers: she has over 32m twitter followers, is worth $3.1bn, and her eponymous chat show remains the highest rated talk show in American history, suggesting that influence in healing circles is tied as much to tech and market savvy as wisdom. Beyond cries of charlatanism, Oprah’s shows changed America, and she has changed lives. 

Mina Fanelli: I'm SO happy to discover woman! Thank you OWN!

Falana Jerido: Very interesting and spiritual, loving this Oprah


Borrowing from all religions and disciplines to create her own brand of self-help-soul-therapy, Oprah’s approach to healing alludes to a twilight zone where the healer is as spiritually polyamorous as the seeker. The teachings of best-selling author Marianne Williamson similarly span the spiritual universe – drawing on everything from metaphysics to Christianity, to Buddhism, to political philosophy. 

Williamson stands out for the outspoken critique she levels at the West. Speaking at Wisdom 2.0, a tech conference about living consciously in the Digital Age, she defiantly admonishes the attending speakers from Fortune 500 companies for not pulling together in resolving some of the world’s most pressing issues; whitewashing and practicing ‘mindfulness’ in glossy Silicon Valley offices while doing little to address “the needless suffering of sentient beings”. Even with 11,000 subscribers and up to 70,000 viewers at a time, she can’t hope to compete with the power and influence of the tech companies she takes to task. But Williamson is pushing for real change in the world: for her, spiritual ‘being’ becomes a catalyst for political action. 

Mina Sedgman: To be spiritual, we have to integrate and address human suffering, there is no neutral zone

maymaylingling: fierce!

Others aren’t convinced by her multi-disciplinary approach to spirituality. Christian fundamentalists feel especially threatened in this open spiritual forum. Orthodoxy is slipping through their fingers. 

timm2020: This woman is the Devil. Marianne Williamson and Oprah = Satan

Let’s get extrasensory. Clairvoyant, clairaudient, able to feel the unfelt, know the unknown, Teal Swan refers to herself as ‘The Catalyst’.

In ‘How to Activate and Open Your Third Eye’, Teal explains that we’re subject to “mistranslation”, the gap “between what the universe feeds you and what you are capable of receiving based on your perspective”. In time, by following Teal, your perception will be expanded and you will be able to perceive the totality of existence. In activating your Third Eye, she warns that “you may experience dizziness or vertigo, faster hair and nail growth, heart palpitations or irregularities [as your body comes into] coherence with your increasing frequency”. Millions click through to reach these heights of perception, even if it means temporarily short-circuiting their brains. 

HolisticHomie: you're right about the headaches :) thanks for this, love you girl!

For Teal’s followers, extrasensory abilities like clairvoyance can be cultivated. Such ideas and mysticisms exist in all religions, and here they are delivered in a single consumable package without the weighty bonds of a systematic, hierarchical religion. It appeals because it’s a trip, and the spiritual polyamorist is definitely looking to trip.

No healer embodies this extrasensory chaos better than the shaman. Among indigenous cultures the shaman is characterised as the eccentric who goes beyond – these are the medicine men and witch doctors who gain entry to the spiritual realm through chanting, dancing, performance, and psychedelics. The female shaman has long been overlooked in the West, but the role is gender fluid and women have been at the forefront cross-culturally from Ancient China and Japan, to Amazonia, Mexico, Chile, Scandanavia, and even contemporary Russia and Siberia.

 In ‘Experiencing the Shamanic Journey’ Sandra Ingerman initiates seekers in the art of “travelling into hidden worlds” and “dancing with the spirits” through drumming – hypnotic, repetitive, and trance-inducing. By ‘journeying’ into the spiritual realm, she explains, shamans learn “that so much of the trauma and drama that we’ve created in the outer world really is not what life’s about.” The spiritual realm is reality as far as the shaman is concerned.

 Plenty are willing to follow her into that reality, with over 80,000 tuning in. And yet, despite their ‘openness’, in true neo-colonial fashion, the online seeker still feels more assured with the magic of native blood, bones, and skin:

The Komando007: please don't understand me wrong but from whom got she empowerment? is all that what is she talking about her own projection or there is connection to an old shamanic- tradition/lineage?

María Sabina (1894-1985) is a Mexican curandera (native shaman), whose healing rituals used psilocybin mushrooms. She became renowned in the 60s for letting Westerners participate in healing ceremonies. 

The mushrooms, for María, were the ‘holy children’. In a documentary filmed in 1979, just five years before her death, Maria explains, “they had wisdom, they cured sickness... they are Christ’s blood.” The holy children taught her the language she used during her healing ceremonies. She couldn’t resist the holy children’s cries and she was willing to face the darkness in order to heal. One of her many poems reads: “I am the woman who looks under the water/ I am the sacred swimmer/ Because I can swim in greatness”. She ate the holy children with her patients. If the patient vomited, the holy children had expelled the evil or the pollutant. If not, María would vomit on their behalf.

 As time went on she became more renowned. Celebrities discovered her: Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bob Dylan. There was a Time write-up. American teens started showing up. She accepted them all, but they were looking to trip, not heal. Retrospectively, she understood that, “from the moment the foreigners arrived, the holy children lost their purity.” The village infrastructure was destroyed by the influx. The Mexican police accused her of selling drugs and threatening the curenderas’ livelihood. Her family turned on her, and burned down her house. She had a hard life, and a tragic end. Maria is celebrated online – potentially by the same types of seekers who would have destroyed her culture and livelihood. 

Psychedelic Rock - SAINT SABINA: We are her legacy, gratitude and respect from the bottom of our hearts!!

brownsurena yuridia mendez: WOW I LOVE U MARIA MARIA SABINA SABINA I LOVE YOU ARE MY WISDOM IS YOUR MASTERPIECE AMEN immeasurable

As previously safeguarded and specialist healing cultures slip into the app generation where everything can and will merge, a contradictory and flirtatious spiritual playhouse is built. The Digital Age has created the conditions for female healers to practise unencumbered, but it has also made healing an industry: transforming the directionless seeker from worthy soul to market potential. On the other hand, the spiritual junkie, at once open-minded and staunchly critical, can make and break the healer. In the case of Maria Sabina this insatiable appetite for meaning devoured her.

 So where does this leave the spiritual polyamorist? ‘How am I to be happy?’ may be the question on the Dalai Lama’s mind but perhaps we might never find the answer. In truth, it’s not even what we’re looking for. Instead, we are here to be broken, to reach higher plains of consciousness while retaining a filthy soul, to risk our heart, to reach ecstasy, to be depressed, to know melancholy, and ultimately to be swallowed up. Healing takes discipline...

Ayoob Mejamis: or you can try LSD

Words by Aitan Ebrahimoff and illustration by Alex Citrin

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