The Gateway: Teal Swan is an investigation into Teal Swan (real name: Mary Teal Bosworth), a self-proclaimed ‘spiritual catalyst’ and wellness guru who has plenty of devoted followers. She has been accused of courting fame and fortune on the back of vulnerable individuals who have come under her spell, including many who are suicidal. The podcast also deals with the broader question of how should we deal with the growing phenomenon of internet gurus and their followers.
The limited series podcast is a fast-paced thriller in six episodes, backed by meticulous research and storytelling from host Jennings Brown and lead producer Jessica Glazer.
Who is Teal Swan? Well, she is a “spiritual teacher, channeler, healer, and mystic” who over the past 10 years has amassed a following of thousands of people worldwide. She started with one video to her name, and now she has close to a million YouTube subscribers. Terms like “soul star chakra” feature heavily in her teachings. Sounds BS, right? But that’s the point. Brown and Glazer set out to find what is real and what is bullshit with her. Why does she command such a following? What is the appeal of her teachings?
The podcast is not just a criticism of Swan. The series is more about her followers and how her teachings can be hurtful to the most vulnerable people.
The episodes have explicit trigger warnings, which are essential because narratives are often interrupted by gut-wrenching screams at Philia, Swan’s Costa-Rica based healing centre. Through the course of the podcast, Brown starts to take responsibility for his comments and does not try to impose his views on the listeners. He matures as an investigator and helps listeners do the same. In the final episode, Teal is asked point-blank if she is a cult leader, having made it clear to the listeners that she checks almost all the boxes that make one.
The series is very binge-worthy. There are distinct facets that comprise the narrative. One is dominated by Teal Swan and her followers, the “Teal Tribe” who wax eloquent about her powers and her cult (if it can be so named). The other is from the “Teal Truthers” as named by the host, who vehemently try to expose the fraud that she seems.
What we felt lacking was that Teal as a person was not discussed enough. Listeners could have benefitted from the truth about Swan from people who knew her personally, but were not her clients.
The sound quality is decent, but sometimes the background music could have been done away with. Overall, the podcast is an honest effort to show a balanced view of Teal Swan, her teachings and her work. Listen