How This Dangerous 'Spiritual Guru' Is Like an Instagram Influencer

Teal Swan at work
Teal Swan at work
Image: Nora Ballard and Matt Laumb (GMG/FMG

On this very spiritual episode of DirtCast, Madeleine Davies and Megan Reynolds get the behind-the-scenes dirt on Gizmodo’s crazy new podcast The Gateway, with host Jennings Brown and producer Jessica Glazer.


The Gateway is a six-part series about Teal Swan, the online spiritual guru/YouTuber/influencer/“Suicide Catalyst” using a dangerous combination of SEO, charisma, and hypnotic self-help to draw vulnerable people into her web. As Maddie says, “it’s fuckin’ crazy.”

With so many people looking for meaning online, Teal Swan’s unorthodox brand of “therapy” exploits the gaping holes in our mental health system, targeting people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. She represents a dangerous lesson in how the internet can influence a person’s worldview—and their decision to take their own life.

You’ll hear the pilot episode, but first, an interview with the creators. How did writer Jennings Brown end up being sucked into the virtual—and then physical—world of Teal Swan? What lessons does the “Suicide Catalyst” take from Instagram influencers and wellness vloggers to amplify her brand? And we’re not using the C word but... why is she so often accused of running a cult?


DirtCast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, NPR Oneand iHeart Media.

This episode was produced by Levi Sharpe. Mandana Mofidi is our Executive Director of Audio. Our intern is Rachel Withers. Our theme music is by Stuart Wood. This episode was mixed by Jamie Collazzo.

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Freedom Cow

I’ve been listening to the podcast and it is nuts. I hope Jennings Brown continues with podcasting about these ...interesting...religious movements.