I have to confess to a certain reaction whenever I hear or read about the New Age concept of ‘manifestation’. On good days, I may subtly roll my eyes. On bad days I actually feel an instinctual curling back of the lips as I prepare to tear the heart out of the proud ‘manifestor’ before me. Despite New Age teachings, workshops, play-shops, give-me-your-money-shops, all designed to teach us how to ‘manifest’, the simple fact of the matter is this:

No one ‘manifests’ anything.

Take a look at something in front of you. Anything. Even better, something you’ve ‘manifested’. Look at it and ask yourself, how did this thing come to be? For example, this lovely pencil. Follow back in your mind all the various actions, causes, people, life-forms, events needed to produce a single pencil.

I may have purchased this pencil – or someone else may have. This involves money, which involves labour, banking, banking staff etc. Then there is the shop where it was purchased from – this involves hundreds of people from architects, to builders, to store staff and security. Then we have the transport of the pencil to the store, probably involving drivers and warehouses (more builders), the petroleum for the driving, which involves millions of long dead plankton and algae folk. Not to mention the wood around the graphite – a tree, with water, forestry workers, manufacturers of chainsaws etc.

So you see my point?

Me ol’ chum, Sir Francis

If I ‘manifest’ anything it has to be as a result of a vast interdependency on countless beings and causes. Even if, at the end of a great and ageless stream of causation and choices, we somehow manage to ‘attract’ a thing or job or person towards us, our own intervention is as but a speck in the unlimited sky of what went before us to produce this opportunity anyway. We are so small in the actual causes of ‘manifestation’ that to ascribe it to us (or anyone) would be even more bizarre than saying the latest Hollywood block buster ‘is’ the movie of the second-assistant to the second set catering service.

To say we can manifest is akin, I feel to saying that Columbous discovered America or Cook discovered Australia or Drake was the second person to circumnavigate the world. Historical inaccuracies and indigenous negation aside, these statements ignore the fact these captains all had crews, most of whom suffered and worked harder than the figureheads they supported. Several died.

These statements of discovery reflect an imperial and class based worldview and so too do statements that I ‘manifested’ a lovely job, or a perfect boyfriend or whatever. It assumes we are the central agency and discounts or removes the supreme truth of radical interdependence. It places us, as in the old medieval model, at the centre of the magic circle controlling the powers, rather than a place from which to observe and consciously actualise our interdependence. This is but one of many examples of the unconscious adoption by the New Age of imperial and class based ideologies while pretending it’s all about connection and light and floaty bliss balls.

Of course, practical magic is also ‘manifestation’ under a different guise. As I have often said, I let the magician side down a bit on this front. I have previously explained why I do not valorise or practice magic like this, so won’t go into it much now. My critics on other blogs have pointed out that magic does work, and they even eat based on their practical magic. I find this interesting and exciting, since most people fulfil their regular need for food etc via paying jobs. You know, something you can depend on, at least in the short term. So if magic is that reliable, that regular, it surely must be testable, verifiable in a controlled setting. In which case I suggest these folk contact the Australian Skeptics who’ll pay a $100 000 prize for such a demonstration. I am sure there are other avenues for easy money too.

The simple, bald fact is that no one has yet proven practical magic – or manifestation – has that level of reliability. I would really like it to have, and I am serious about magicians showing of their skills and being tested – I would love to know for sure practical magic works. Until then, I remain open to the possibility but remain of the understanding, as mentioned in this post, that

…the best and most successful forms of practical magic are those performed collectively for altruistic purposes and which work in alliance with spiritual beings under the presidency of the higher powers. These are keys elements: a collegiate experience to go beyond the self; altruistic and transpersonal intentions; working in harmony with beings in the other realms where we at best can but blunder around, and; an attitude of surrender to the One.

From a traditionalist perspective rather than focusing on ourselves being the manifestor, we are called to become more aware of the supreme sacrament of our own manifestation. We ourselves are the manifested. From a Christian perspective, we are the Body of Christ. From a magical perspective, we are the embodied and active component of the Chain of Being leading back to the One. This so far more exciting and wonderful than anything we can manifest. 🙂



  1. 01finrod · February 19, 2013

    Hmm. A “vast interdependency on countless beings and causes”, you say?

    What do you make of this?

  2. Sally North · February 19, 2013

    Well said Peregrin. The new age ‘doctrine’ of manifestation is a giant ego-trip and an ego-trap (IMO!). Ignoring the giant web of interdependence (both of being and things) leads to a very isolated ‘will’ working 24/7 to make things ‘manifest’. I’m reminded of the old story about the monk who meditated, fasted etc. for 20 years in order to be able to walk on water in order to cross a river, and was chided by his teacher who told him, ‘you wasted all your time on that? the ferryman would have taken you across for a penny’.

  3. terancewall · February 24, 2013

    Regarding proof of practical magic, it depends on what your definition of ‘proof’ is. scientifically, it would be statistical, where any measurable deviation on your double-blind placebo trial would have less than 5% chance of occurring randomly, or 1 time in 20. the art of practical magic confers a ‘lucky’ influence, in which is one is in the right place at the right time, more times than not. Such an effect would not need to be statistically significant in order for one to live by its benefits, and so magic could be real but not scientifically proved.
    The object of all magic is the self, the vehicle. As far as manifestation is concerned, it is true that every event is caused by a myriad branching network of previous others; as Oespensky says, we cannot really ‘do’ anything. However, it is the job of the magician, the Chariot-rider, by the magic he works on himself to attract favourable events to him, to be in the right place at the right time. You could put this down to coincidence, but when it happens again and again, you get to trust it. Again this effect is very difficult to prove scientifically

  4. dirkt · March 17, 2013

    Oh.. there is surely an individual “manifesting” component involved in that chain of dependent arising, you mentioned above. Apart from all the manyfold causes and conditions necessary to “produce” a single pencil you already mentioned above, there is also the individual human mind involved, with its capacity for classification/conceptualization (sanna), it’s capability to create meaningful mental object categories/concepts. It is this capacity, which makes a pencil finally a pencil. Otherwise it’s just a meaningless assembly of wood and graphite.

    IMO, “magic” (like tantra, when working with the mandalas and yidams of a pure land) is primarily a tool, for exploring how the mind creates (mostly unconsciously) “things” from the raw base material of sense experience and so is actually involved in the process of continuously co-creating the (meaningful) “world” in each and every moment.

    “We are what we think.
    All that we are arises with our thoughts.
    With our thoughts we make the world.”


    See also the Yogachara doctrine of the three natures: fully conceptualized, other dependent and fully accomplished (meaning: seeing “things” as they “are” (or better, as they appear to our senses), i.e. without the conceptional overlay, i.e. other dependent [made up from causes, coditions and mind] = empty).

    Or we can use the categories of Kant: ART or RAT (fitting acronyms): Reality, Appearance & Theory. Reality, in the meaning of a “deep, objective reality” (the “Ding an und für sich” -thing in itself) is always hidden for us. Appearance (the “Ding für uns” -the thing for us) is that which arises of our interaction with that assumed hidden reality (that is: the phenomenal universe), and Theory, i.e. the stories we tell ourselves and others about reality and appearance, which then make up our “world”, our “reality”, which we (mis-)take for the “real thing”.

    Understanding this inner creative process, gives us the opportunity to transform our view of “self” and “reality” and thereby ourselves and “our reality” (individually and collectively).

    Problem with many naive magicians and the New Age folk is, that they are taking this process quite literally, thereby totally missing its significance for real self transformation.

    Ironically, the stage magician or illusionist and even the writer seem to have a much better intuitive grasp of these ideas, than the so called “serious magician”, as they are playing constantly with our perception and imagination… tricking us into believing the unbelievable, thereby creating new “realities” at a moments notice 😀

    I really like the ambiguous image of Hermes/Mercury as trickster and god of wisdom. It’s very fitting for our art 😀

  5. J.C. · March 19, 2013

    From my perspective, the work of our tradition (GD) is to expand and uplift the consciousness to a state of realization of the whole self, and ultimately also of reality. Obviously it is more difficult than it sounds to become consciously aware of all aspects of ones being and to master them to a degree to be able to bring them into productive harmony.

    However, to successfully (at least good enough) complete this work allows for the descent of Spirit into Matter. It allows for our Genius to become a dominant part of our personality over time and training.

    What do we ascribe to such people that society labels as genius? For the most part, I would say someone has earned the title of “Genius” when they have successfully manifested a new idea into the world, and I ascribe a certain creative power to the word. Though you are certainly right that no one person can usually take credit for any one physical thing, the same can probably be said for many ideas as well. However, we will still historically ascribe certain “genius” ideas to “genius” folks like Einstein, Euclid, Descartes, etc. They deserve such a title, not because of who they were, but because what who they were did.

    Further on the concept of creative genius, there is a certain kind of creativity that is needed to make a pencil. It requires a higher form of creative genius to invent the pencil.

  6. Pingback: Again with the practical magic! | Magic of the Ordinary
  7. Pingback: Manifestation « WiccanWeb

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