The Theory of Manifestation maintains that all of our beliefs, expectations, goals, hopes and fears project outward into the world and then reverberate back to us in a multitude of ways. Intent is the root force behind manifestation, an integral property of human awareness which directly links us to the external universe. The dynamics of personal growth, nuances of social interactions, the course of events outside of our immediate awareness, and even the apparent rules which govern reality, are all subject to our attention and will. Most modern literature on manifestation focuses on how people can change their inner world in order to affect external events for their own benefit and enrichment, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are still many aspect of Intent which have not yet made it into the popular narrative, such as how it shapes our views of self and the human potential.
Intent continually shifts form, intensity, and direction in tandem with the changing currents of our awareness. Central to all these dynamics is humankind's incredible capacity to imagine. From a five-sensory perceptual range, imagination seems to be an ability to reconstruct the experience of different sensory quantities, making things that do not exist in the outside world, generating whole worlds of thought, emotion and sensation within an inner universe. In the paradigm of manifestation, it is all this, but also something more: a force with which we can affect the world through a connection to the energy of creation.
As Westerners have taken a greater interest in mystical empowerment, seeking insight in other cultural models of reality and the human potential, many have come across the concept of manifesting through Intent. Not everyone who believes in metaphysical abilities accepts the idea of manifestation; some only consider the spectrum of abilities which permit us to engage natural forces that are just beyond the five senses, like etheric energy. Some mystics think that human beings can only expand our range of perceptions (through ESP or lucid dreaming, for example), while others believe that we have a more direct link with the cosmic rules of causality. In the latter paradigm, the power of imagination is something more formidable, though no more remarkable, than the Materialist worldview’s portrayal.
For those of us raised in an environment where skepticism is the rule—where institutionalized versions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam trump their more mystical corollaries—it might seem farfetched to propose that some of the most prevalent belief systems on Earth include the far-out idea of "magic powers." The fact is, though, many cultures throughout history have arrived at some variation on the Theory of Manifestation, and this is just as true today as it has been for thousand of years. For example, all of the prominent religions in the Far East allude to the human power of Intent, especially Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. This reflects a rich history of cultural exchange in which shamanistic ways have been integrated with institutionalized religion. Hinduism’s Siddhis--techniques such as thought transmission or levitation--have their roots in an earlier world view that emphasized a power called Maya which which mystical adepts could channel toward altering their reality. The Tibetan world view has undergone a similar evolution, through the gradual melding of Buddhist and Hindu thought with the native Bon religion.
The notion of magic has also factored highly in native belief systems across Europe, Africa, and the Americas, to say nothing of the aboriginal peoples of Australia. These mystical traditions are far too numerous to mention, but suffice it to say that they have survived in every corner of the world despite religious zealots' concerted efforts to wipe them from human memory. From The Crusades and Inquisition in Europe, to Marxists' repression of Siberian shamanism, to bloody campaigns to "civilize" Africa, Asia and the Americas, the last few thousand years have seen hundreds of attempts to extinguish indigenous mysticism from the face of the Earth. (Please note that some people differentiate European "Pagan" traditions from "Shamanism" everywhere else, but I consider all practitioners of the Old Ways to be united in a common struggle for mystical and religious freedom.)
Even the Abrahamic religions, which are conservative about the human potential in many respects, acknowledge some human powers that resemble Intent. The caveat here is that the most widely accepted interpretations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all maintain that humankind was not meant to use our full mystical potential, so we are permitted to channel Intent into communing with God through prayer, but should not use that same force to commune with animals, a river, the wind, or one another. Even if we possessed of mystical powers, we have been endowed with them as one more temptation that we must resist, much like the power of logic which "tempts" so many people to consider apparent evidence of dinosaurs. Many Christians, Jews and Muslims today still consider the Old Testament to be absolute truth, including all those passages in which God says that witches, wizards, and anyone else who practices "heathen" arts deserve to be murdered (note: list also includes gays). To be fair, even the most devoutly religious people are quite a bit more tolerant toward heretics than their forebears, though many still accept the premise that God only approves of mysticism in a very limited context which has been sanctioned by proper religious authorities.
In fact, there is only one major belief system in which Manifestation is considered patently possible: secular humanism. Secular humanists deny that human beings have abilities in excess of the "five senses," on the grounds that no one has given clear enough proof to the contrary. This is not necessarily the same as Atheism, which asserts that there is no higher power involved our lives. As a case in point, someone who does not believe in God may still insist that there is scientific evidence for out-of-body experiences, even though it raises some tough questions about an afterlife.
Agnostics are categorically "on the fence" about Intent and other mystical abilities. These can be grouped into three main categories. Conservative Agnostics define their lack of mystical belief in negative terms, adding qualifiers such as "..Maybe there is a God or maybe not, but I'm pretty sure that psychic powers, astral projection, ley lines, Prayer Wheels, and dolphin telepathy are a load of crap." Another group, which I like to call Ambiguous Agonistics, maintain that "When it comes to metaphysical subjects, I’m just not sure what to believe." Finally, there is my favorite group, the AgnoMystics, who kinda-sorta believe that they have a mystical potential and that the world is full of unexplained phenomena, but second-guess all of their past experience to the point that they will never commit to one theory or another.
Social Interest and Systemic Barriers
Modern-day opposition to mystical paradigms reflects an age-old relationship between science and religion, best summed up in the old adage, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Over the millennia, humankind's scientific knowledge has advanced by leaps and bounds, while three religions have stayed incredibly popular but changed very little due to the dominion of conservative orthodoxies. Today, faith is still a strong component of what many people call their "spiritual life," but few would argue that secular humanism has won almost absolute dominance over our basic societal consensus about reality.
Cultural resistance to manifestation theory isn't surprising considering all the stigmas that powerful orthodoxies have associated with mystical ability over the ages. The idea of "witchcraft" has been the target of both religious and secular taboos since before the writing of the Old Testament or the advent of organized scientific inquiry. Evangelicals keep shouting that the Creator did not mean for humans to learn about metaphysical powers, while Secular Materialists keep reiterating the obvious point that the Theory of Manifestation defies conventional (e.g., their own) logic. The good news is, citing the statistical rarity of mystically oriented beliefs to detract from their credibility may prove to be a counterintuitive strategy before long. Western civilization is rapidly warming up to ideas like Intent, even though there is currently no way of explaining it terms of the dominant social paradigms.
The prospect of broader societal acceptance for the manifestation phenomenon threatens the prevailing status quo in both scientific and religious institutions. These two overarching meta-narratives of reality are usually treated as if they were considered mutually exclusive, but their boundaries start to blur when it comes to topics such as healing traditions, psychic abilities, or the behavior of subatomic particles. This is especially true of quantum mechanics. A liberal interpretation of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Theorem suggests that when a researcher measures quanta (tiny units of energy and/or matter), the observer's expectations can affect the waves/particles' behavior through an unknown form of causality.
Studying quantum phenomena has led many scientists to warm up to metaphysical notions that used to be the exclusive province of religion. As Fritjof Capra explains in The Tao of Physics, a kind of religious conversion experience goes with the territory in certain fields of study, because an expanded cosmology is literally the only way to account for what appears to be happening in objective reality. Thus, an increasing number of scientists on the cutting edge of studying the building blocks of the Universe have turned to both Eastern and Western mystical systems to explain the seeming relationship between human expectation and matter. The converse also holds true: some religious figures have investigated the most current research on prayer, healing, and things like random number generator experiments, and concluded that humankind has a more direct and responsive connection to the Creation than most religious orthodoxies would admit. This shift is a microcosm of a bottom-up shift of worldviews, toward a conception of prayer as an innate force through which our goals and expectations influence outcomes in the outer world, not just a process of petitioning God and hoping that He will approve our request.
Western history has witnessed many fronts of opposition to human mystical understanding, but this endemic bias may finally be waning. Over the past couple of decades, notions like the Theory of Manifestation have grown more prominent in scientific, philosophical and religious circles. Science is coming closer to confirming the relationship between causality and human expectation, while interest among laypersons suggests that many people are experiencing such a palpable phenomenon in their lives that they have to discard conventional logic in order to account for it. In any event, mass appeal has never been an objective criterion for validity, as we find looking back on earlier socially held “truths.”
My own experiences have led me to believe that Intent is a real power in all our lives, which involves far more than manipulating the outer world to suit short-term goals. However, I don't encourage any readers who have not found evidence for such dynamics to take my claims or anyone else's for granted. If this notion doesn't seem to bear out in your everyday experiences, the only logical response is to not believe in it! On the other hand, even those who scoff at the whole Theory of Manifestation need not assume that it has no value in other people's lives.
Since no two people have exactly the same beliefs, there is much to be said for affirming the importance of one another's beliefs even when they are quite different from our own. With this in mind, I hope that even the most hardened skeptics reading this book will be able to wrap their heads around the idea that the Theory of Manifestation is not all bad, practically speaking. Issues of veracity aside, the notion of a mystical force that people can summon to make tangible improvements in their lives bears a strong resemblance to a human capacity called will power. Some people will undoubtedly get carried away with the Theory of Manifestation, and wait for things to manifest instead of taking concrete steps to improve their lot; on the other hand, many folks seem to find empowering in the material world as well as in the more abstract levels of their lives. In other words, believing in Intent can facilitate self-direction or self-deception, depending on your perspective.
Consider the hypothetical person Myra, a Wicca practitioner who believes that she can use spellwork to manifest changes in her reality. Myra’s current project is to focus her personal power on a goal of learning to paint—a process that involves a lot more than just metaphysics. Simply by identifying a goal and directing her attention toward it, Myra is setting many principles in motion, such as directing the neurons in her brain to change their patterns. Taking all levels of awareness into account, she is reviewing memories of past experiences related to painting, assigning greater value to artistic activities, and rethinking her daily routine to make room for the new endeavor. To facilitate the goal of learning to paint, Myra casts a simple spell: she lights a candle, enters a meditative state, and visualizes herself learning to create beautiful works of art. An hour later, Myra blows out the candle and leaves her apartment to go to work. Walking to her car, she finds a flyer advertising an affordably priced oil painting class just three blocks from her home. She enrolls in the class—the first of many. After years of developing her art technique, Myra launches a successful career as a painter. Maybe the spell affected events in unseen ways; maybe it didn’t. Taken in the most secular light, these events confirm that believing in Intent can help people improve their lives—because even scientists recognize that
intent is a potent force of change within the human psyche. By meditating and focusing her will on a goal, Myra has deliberately facilitated a fundamental shift in consciousness, transforming her inner landscape in ways that will permanently alter the course of her life. The ritualized elements of candle magic allowed her to enter into a receptive state conducive to purposeful visualization. The force of her will has shifted her attention to affirm a new commitment to artistic pursuits, and wishing for events that support her in this goal has made her more alert to such opportunities. If not for her "spell," Myra would never have noticed the flyer or enrolled in the painting class; this is true whether magick is real or not.
If a mystical belief empowers some people to improve their focus, move toward their life goals, and feel more empowered, who cares if they're right or wrong about the unseen mechanics of the Universe? Some beliefs demand that we judge them not only on veracity, but also on their impact. People may disagree on how the universe works forever, for all we know. In the meantime, our beliefs have a very real effect on the world we live in. Until the day when everyone agrees on all the important stuff, we are responsible for what we create based on our beliefs.
An oft-underappreciated variable in this equation is that by focusing our will, we actually do a lot more than just bending the rules of causality. Maybe there is a power that allows our thoughts to influence the world more directly than we ever thought; maybe not. In either case, believing in Intent can help people to focus on what they really want, which is the first step to achieving any life goal. Some people who believe in Intent may be lax about working toward their goals, but this can be said for people of any belief system using any abilities.
Even if you feel absolutely certain that Intent is real, it almost goes without saying that manifestation is only one route to getting what we want from life; it should never become a surrogate for more "mundane" forms of action that can move us forward in the journey. People are accountable to material affairs, first and foremost, through how they address those concerns on the material plane of existence. I would add, however, that developing the Intent of the inner world is the most important aspect of working toward goals in the outer one. Some consider this obvious, assuming that the self is part of the secular-materialist reality in the first place, but in this they are mistaken. The universe of the psyche defies the measurements of either science or the five senses, so all personal growth is intrinsically "metaphysical" in this sense.
Next: The Basics