I have been on my moonlit path for some five years now. Prior to that I was a Christian and a minister in a well-established national church.
Since entering the world of woo I have found some teachings which resonate with my particular brand of spiritual geekery, and some which, although hugely popular in spiritual and new age circles, make me uncomfortable.
One of these is the idea of “manifestation.”
Initially I wanted to buy into this body and soul. Who wouldn’t? Change your thoughts, and you change your world. It sounds simple.
And there are elements of truth within it, for instance neuro-linguistic programming teaches us that the ways in which we speak and use language can have a huge impact on our successes. To manifest something we should choose positive language. Rather than saying I won’t drink coffee, we look for a positive phrase, I will drink non-caffeinated drinks that support my body’s health (for example.)
And it seems to be true that if you set yourself a goal you are more likely to achieve it than if you don’t. Similarly if you set yourself a goal and then take steps towards achieving it you’re more likely to be successful than if you sit at home eating digestives in front of the Great British Bake Off. It wouldn’t be much good if I set myself the goal of becoming a qualified teacher and then sit at home waiting for it to happen. I need to get enrolled on a teacher training programme, attend classes, survive my teaching practices and finally gain my certificate.
What I am uncomfortable about about this concept of manifestation is the idea that anyone can have anything they want if they just put their mind to.
I feel like there’s a chance this might work for you if you were:
a) Born in Europe or the U.S.A.
b) Are white.
c) Are from a middle or upper class background.
d) Are literate and numerate, more likely if you have a degree.
It feels as though “manifestation” of your “best and highest life” is another way of saying going for the American dream. A six-figure income, dream house, the ideal career, the luxury holidays, the perfect partner. It feels as though it’s about material gain, ultimately capitalist goals and it makes me uncomfortable.
Back when I was a teenager we attended a charismatic congregation. Teaching there said that God would answer my prayers if I prayed the right way and lived the right kind of life. If my prayers weren’t being answered then there was likely some unrealised sin in my life, or it simply wasn’t God’s will.
The teaching I hear around manifestation is similar to this. Your dreams aren’t being realised? You’re not setting clear enough goals. You aren’t being positive enough. You need to devote more energy to the practice.
I want to call bullshit on this kind of teaching.
I think it is a colossal spiritual red herring, and potentially very dangerous.
785 million people on the earth lack basic clean water access. 795 million people lack enough food to live a healthy life. 73 million children (between ages five and seventeen) around the globe are engaged in hazardous child labour. Between 1990 and 2016 the world lost 502,000 square miles of it’s forests. In the UK there are 1.2 million chronically lonely old people.
While I am busy focusing on aligning my intentions, and manifesting my dream career I am in danger of losing touch with the world around me, and the real needs that are out there and the very real suffering of other human creatures.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t like my own home one day, or to take holidays sometimes, or that I don’t dream of being successfully self-employed tarot priestess one day. It’s ok to have dreams.
But there’s a danger that if I follow the manifestation road I will become blinkered. I will create a demanding idol who will eat up all my time, energy and focus and the world will continue to starve and bleed and die and I will be blindly serving my self-created god. Vision boarding while Australia burns.
It is never straight cut. I know there are people out there whose dream it is to create something healing. My friend Flo and her family have, creating and establishing a refugee charity in Malawi. Or there’s the amazing work of my talented sis-in-law Sue through Christmas with Kids. Real people making and creating real and sustainable change.
It comes down to this. Whatever your faith, whoever or whatever you follow the Letter to James has it right to my mind, “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26).
I wonder if it would be possible to turn all the focus and energy ploughed into “manifestation” and create something truly magical? An end to child labour perhaps? A world where people were valued for who they are not what they produce? A planet where all creatures are honoured and there is justice?
It would take will, hope, determination, surrendering wanting more than our share, a measure of sacrifice.
But it seems to be what is needed.