Manifestation is useful, whether or not it's real

Published on 2023-08-29

I've found the word "manifestation" has seeped into my vocabulary over the last year, mostly as an ironic jab at the distilled form of new age spirituality that I noticed a lot back when I used Instagram.

But manifestation is real, certainly in as much as it's useful.

It's really easy to look down on all other belief frameworks when you're raised in a world dominated by only one, particularly one that demands you hold no other gods before it. Here in the west, for some, that's Christianity. For others, it's the scientific method. Christianity and the scientific method are both real in as much as they're useful, and they can legitimately be useful. But not always. It may be a little less obvious with science, but there are hard limits on scientific knowledge, particularly when you move past the realm of objectivity.

As I may or may not have written about before, I was really into self-help literature in high school. One thing that stands out to me today about all of those books is that they offer more or less what our elders have been telling us cross-culturally for the last five millennia, just in a secular and/or capitalist framework. This is especially obvious in the context of rituals. We used to do rituals so that the gods would reward us for our reverence. Now, we perform rituals to better serve our employers, or so that the markets will treat us favourably. I'll be the billionth person to draw parallels between free market economics and astrology, but I don't think there's anything wrong with astrology and I don't think the markets being compared to it should necessarily suggest they're any worse than they are intrinsically.

The thing is, astrology doesn't claim to be rooted in science. Economists, on the other hand, like to think of their discipline as a science, which it's not. Or at least, it's about as much of a science as sociology is. The fact that something isn't a science doesn't make it illegitimate; there are better ways of knowing better suited for different sets of knowledge. The problem here is that science, while limited, is very grounded in something, and to suggest that the markets fit well into scientific knowledge just lends them an undeserved "groundedness."

What the capitalist rituals--getting up at 5AM, keeping your email inbox empty, and so on--provide us with are patterns of behaviour we believe will serve us well. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. Maybe they do for you but not others. When you can divorce the ritual from its symbolic framework, you have the power to think more critically about how you structure your life and to what effect. You enable yourself to pick and choose what works for you, and you can latch onto different symbols if you need.

I've found a system of rituals that works for me most of the time. I don't like self help books anymore, mainly because they're too fixated on abstract ideas of what it means to be successful, but the rituals they ripped off and culturally appropriated are still useful to me, and they find their ways into my life in unexpected ways. Though, the things I do have diverged quite a bit from Steven Covey's ideal. You figure out what works for you over time.

I do kind of miss having symbology to go with it, though. I'm still working on figuring out what that should look like for me.

Is manifestation real? Some people certainly claim to be able to pull it off. Unless they're trying to scam you out of your money, they have no reason to lie, and you have no reason to believe it doesn't work for them, in some capacity. I think it's best to take things at face value when people tell you what they believe. If they believe it, they probably have a good reason.

Respond to this article

If you have thoughts you'd like to share, send me an email!

See here for ways to reach out