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This is the third article in a series on the film "The Secret" and the "Law of Attraction". In the first, I argued that "The Secret" was no secret, and that the so-called "Law of Attraction" is not a law. In my last article ("Does Manifestation Work, and How?"), I outlined evidence for the effectiveness of manifestation and possible scientific explanations of it. In this article, I explore the idea that manifestation is a collective rather than an individual activity, the nature of abundance, and the danger of blaming the victim.
MANIFESTATION IS COLLECTIVE NOT INDIVIDUAL
Towards the end, the file "The Secret" proclaims that we are all connected. Unfortunately, this message gets lost in the dominant focus on the satisfaction of personal desires for material wealth, relationships, health, happiness and so on. Importantly, the possible scientific explanations discussed in the last entry reveal that manifestation is not simply about drawing the abundant resources of the universe to ourselves. Rather, our desires and those of all sentient beings co-create our collective reality.
Our thoughts and desires interact in a seething ocean of potential, continuously shaping and reshaping the energy patterns of the quantum field from which material existence crystallizes. And at the macro-scale, we collectively influence the development of the systems of which we’re parts. It’s as if we live in a spider’s web. Pluck one strand and the whole web vibrates and adjusts to the new pattern of tensions. And we are all plucking away simultaneously, playing a collective tune, whether consciously or not.
From this image it is clear that individuals can’t manipulate reality for their own benefit in isolation from the rest of humanity, other beings, Gaia and the universe. Whatever we manifest is the co-creative product of all those with whom we’re connected, and our efforts likewise have repercussions for the whole. Hence, as David Spangler expressed it, we are all manifestations for each other. If I want to manifest a beautiful environment for myself, I need to be willing to be manifested as a protector of it; if I want a perfect partner, I must be willing to manifest as a perfect partner in return.
Let’s make this clearer with an example. Imagine you manifest the house of your dreams. That house requires resources of brick, concrete, timber and metals to build, and energy to run. Hence, when you manifest it, you also manifest environmental destruction, resource depletion, pollution and greenhouse gases. Building and running your house provides work for local people, which may be part of what they wish to manifest. But in our global economy, we may also manifest exploitation of workers in the majority world, and contribute to the extinction of other species.
It seems to me that we cannot morally ignore this interconnected reality, and that this must shape our understanding of abundance.
THE NATURE OF ABUNDANCE
Abundance is a key word in relation to manifestation. "The Secret" claims that the universe is infinitely abundant, and has more than enough resources to meet everyone’s desires. It argues that the idea of lack is a lie that leads to greed, fear and stinginess; that the diversity of our desires limits the strain on any resource; that when a resource runs out, we will always find replacements; and that there are more than enough creative ideas, power, love and joy to go round. Is this true ? Yes, and no.
Certainly some things are truly abundant. There does not appear to be any limit to human creativity, or the experience of joy, love and other positive emotions. As William Bloom put it in "The Endorphin Effect": “People need to feel happiness and success, not own it.” And this can be achieved without material resources through the stimulation of endorphin production.
Further, we are living in an emerging information economy, and information has no limits. Rather than being exhausted by use, it grows and is enriched by being shared. Abundance in this context is not about how much we have, but about the richness of our connections and relationships. This opens up a vision of a sustainable society based on the infinite potential of human knowledge, love and wisdom.
The picture is different when we consider physical resources. For all practical human purposes, the material and energetic resources of the universe are boundless. But we live on a small planet largely physically isolated from the rest of the universe apart from a limited flow of energy from the sun. In effect, therefore, we inhabit a closed box, and share its limited resources. Even the information economy is driven by hardware which is energy hungry and heavily dependent on rare minerals which we are depleting rapidly.
The only way out of this sense of limitation seems to be to believe that God or some other cosmic entity magically creates more planetary resources from nothing upon request and does not simply realign the flow of existing resources. To the best of my knowledge, no-one to date has detected increases in the Earth’s mass, or in the abundance of particular elements, or unexpected increases in energy flows or any other objective evidence for such a process.
What is very clear is that our collective needs and greeds are stressing the Earth’s ability to provide beyond endurance. So if I ‘manifest’ material abundance beyond simple needs, I am inevitably depriving some other beings, whether plants, animals or humans of needed resources. In other words, I am also manifesting poverty, exploitation, environmental destruction and the conflicts which inevitably flow from these. It is simply not possible from this perspective for us all to manifest material abundance. As Gandhi said, the Earth has enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.
From a slightly different perspective, critics of manifestation ask: If the universe manifests abundance in response to thought, why is there so much poverty? Why are billions of people barely surviving when they could manifest themselves abundant new lives? In response, we need to ask ourselves: Are we in danger of blaming the victims for their plight? Could it be that manifestation as promoted by The Secret can flourish only in the freedom granted by affluence, education, democracy, and tolerance of difference? Could it be that the power of manifestation is severely limited for sex slaves, exploited workers, refugees, illegal immigrants, the ignorant, the starving, political prisoners, citizens of oppressive states ...?
It seems to me that we all face boundaries to the probable, if not the possible, that are set by our genes and environment. It would take an unbelievable realignment of planetary energy for a Darfur refugee to manifest a Hollywood mansion and the income to go with it. Similarly, we can’t all be Olympic sprinters because our bodies are not designed for that; and we can’t all be Einsteins because our brains don’t work that way. The more probable our vision, the more likely it is that we will successfully manifest it.
In discussing spiritual economics, David Spangler argued that a sustainable society must be based on economic justice. This doesn’t mean material equality but that: “everyone needs an opportunity in which their unique gifts and talents can be developed and contributed to society. It means that the needs of survival and growth must be met, where growth is not the simple aggrandizement of the individual or the group but the honing of the skills of communion and empowerment.” This is a form of abundance we can all help to manifest.
Over the years, I have come to realize that abundance is more an attitude of mind than a state of material wealth; an attitude that is nurtured by the practice of gratitude. My partner and I lost a large percentage of our life’s savings in an ill-advised ‘ethical’ investment that we felt guided to make. As a result, we had to let go of the house of our dreams, and settle for a very modest lifestyle. The pain took years to work through, but we didn’t fall into anger and blame, and we now feel more abundant, more blessed on many levels, than we ever have before. Perhaps we manifested what we needed rather than what we wanted?
BLAMING THE VICTIM
"The secret" claims that manifestation always works for everyone all the time; that we draw to ourselves everything that happens to us. But this belief not only opens up liberating vistas of creating our own futures, but also carries with it a dark shadow. It is hard not to use it as a yardstick for judging others, potentially leading us to blame the victims for their plight. The poor and sick and lonely are seen as having failed through their own negativity. The sufferers of famine, war, oppression, wrongful imprisonment and torture stand subtly accused of being architects of their own fate. And so our empathy, compassion and desire to serve our fellow humans are weakened, and selfish individualism is encouraged.
Similarly, if we are not fully successful at manifesting our desires, we may well blame ourselves rather than being grateful for what we do have, and looking for the gifts and lessons in our disappointments. Hence, our thoughts and feelings may become more negative, and we may suffer a drop in self-esteem and confidence. As we are more inclined to share our success stories than our failures, I suspect there are a lot of people in the world who have tried manifestation without apparent success.
Manifestation is not always easy. There are many reasons why it may not work, and efforts to overcome these challenges may lead to unforeseen side effects. Creating a clear, precise image of what we want can be difficult because of conflicting desires, unconscious motivations and emotional blocks. The visualisation process also can lead us to focus on things that are familiar, and hence to miss significant opportunities that are beyond our current experience. Similarly, we may fail to recognise what we’ve actually manifested when it arrives. Many of the good things that have happened to me have been unexpected, unsought, and only appreciated in hindsight. And others have arrived years after I’ve forgotten I asked for them.
Feeling and acting as if our requests have already been met is also easier said than done. Most of us have at least niggling little doubts which, we may fear, will be enough to block the process. Certainly I do. Many people try to force the issue by programming their minds with positive affirmations but this may push the doubts into the unconscious or bring up resistances rather than remove them. It also may result in suppression of aspects of ourselves, such as our shadows, that we need to understand and deal with.
Finally, at some level, many of us do not feel we deserve what we’ve asked for. And so we may turn away the manifested object or opportunity when it does arrive. “Oh, I couldn’t accept that as a gift ...” “Who am I to ...” And so it goes on.
There is little doubt that sometimes people can turn around their own negative thinking and become successful in life. But sometimes their external circumstances are just too strong and overwhelming. Or there may be causes of negativity that are not so easily switched off. Perhaps your gene for endorphin production is only weakly expressed so it is hard to feel good. Perhaps you suffered a severe trauma in the womb or at birth that is unconsciously triggered by events in your life. This may lead to repeated patterns of financial loss, failed relationships and stress-related illness until that trauma can be identified and healed.
The practice of manifestation is all too often distorted by individualism, materialism, egoism and greed. In my next article I will summarise what I see as the qualities of right manifestation.