Manifestation: Is it Real?

Let’s Talk about Secrets

The Secret, published in 2006, kicked off a spiritual wave of investment in the idea that thoughts can create reality. The book was a rapid success. To date it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and the idea of manifestation has swept into the mainstream buzz. The Secret’s secret is grounded in the Law of Attraction, which simply states that like attracts like, so what we think is what we get. It was immediately appealing to many in its simplicity: just visualize your ideal life, and the universe or god or whatever greater power you believe in will conspire to make it happen. That’s all, just picture it. Done. I’m in. I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy into this armchair manifestation of dreams? It seems so easy. All I have to do is imagine it? Sign me up. But while it is necessary to be able to imagine your ideals as clearly as possible if ever you are to achieve them, it doesn’t stop there. (Cue the disappointed wah wah wah).  It takes conscious action, however small, beyond the visualizing, in order to begin to move in the direction of your dreams. If you fall asleep at night imagining the life you want to be living, then wake up the next day and do the exact same things as the day before, you aren’t going to get anywhere beyond where you already are. 

We are of the stars

The idea of sharing a connection to a great cosmic benefactor is not a new idea, and is the basis of many religions and spiritual schools of thought. Not only is the great and powerful force working outside of us, it is also within us. We are a part of it, and carry it with us. We are connected to everything and everyone and everything and everyone is connected to us. Golden Rule, anyone?

The Buddhists call it Prana, the life force, the universal energy that flows in and around us. The idea of Prana is connected deeply to our breath, and the practice of Pranyama, one of the eight limbs of yoga, focuses on breath control. Similar to Prana, Qi is the ancient Chinese vital living force that is part of all living entities. A rough translation of Qi is “air,” and Qi is also connected to the idea of breath as the source of the vital life energies.  

The Tao, of Lao Tszu’s Tao te Ching, is roughly translated as “the way.” It is the combination of yin and yang and is the absolute principle underlying the universe. Taoists believe in cosmic harmony, and that this force springs from everything (including us). They would say that the forces of both light and dark are present within us all, and to achieve zen, the deeply peaceful state of bliss and contentment, one must find balance with these forces and essentially “go with the flow.” Philosopher Alan Watts says of Taosim: 

“Taoists view the universe as the same as, or inseparable from, themselves so that Lao-tzu could say, “Without leaving my house, I know the whole universe.” This implies that the art of life is more like navigation than warfare, for what is important is to understand the winds, the tides, the currents, the seasons, and the principles of growth and decay, so that one’s actions may use them and not fight them.” 

The Holy Spirit in Christianity is third divinity in the Holy Trinity, the other two being God and Jesus, and is said to reside in all born-again Christians. This force brings the essence of God into physical form, carrying ethical characteristics with it. 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:16.

Kabbalah is a Jewish mystic tradition, rooted in the teachings of the Torah. Kabbalah is concerned with the interactions between the planes of reality and divine emanations, and how the evolved from and affect one another. The seder hishtalshelut is the process by which divine energy (or "light", in kabbalistic terminology) devolves from higher spiritual planes to lower ones, eventually to become manifest in this physical plane of existence.

Spooky Science

A more modern concept of this universal oneness comes in the form of Biocentrism, Robert Lanza’s “Theory of Everything.” He argues that rather than the universe creating life, life created the universe, and consciousness is the great creator. His theory relies heavily on quantum physics, using exciting new` developments in the field as a catalyst for philosophic thought grounded in science. One particular example comes from quantum entanglement, or the idea that two particles created together are inextricably linked, and will demonstrate this connection across the barrier of space. In 1997 Swiss researcher Nicholas Gisin proved this by creating entangled photons and sending them flying in opposite directions down miles of optical fibers. One encountered an interferometer where it could take one of two paths chosen randomly. Researchers found that when one photon took a particular path, its particular twin (miles away) took the complimentary path at exactly that moment, every time. 

Another impressive element of quantum theory is the called the Wave-Function collapse, also known as the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is the idea that a physical particle or photon exists in a state of possibility and only assumes a definite state of existence once it is observed. Dubbed quantum weirdness, this is shown again and again in the famous “two-hole” experiment, which has been performed numerous times with numerous variations. This experiment shows that if one watches a subatomic particle or bit of light pass through slits on a barrier, it behaves like a particle. But if scientists don’t observe the particle, then it exhibits the behavior of waves that retain the right to exhibit all possibilities. For some reason I’m imagining a playful wave dancing around saying “You can’t see me, you can’t see me,” and then melting into a particle puddle of disappointed reality once observed. Poor thing.

Note: these are not waves of material but waves of probability, or statistical predictions, made famous by the Nobel Prize-Winning Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger in his famous papers wave mechanics published in 1926, resulting in his landmark creation of what is known as the Schroedinger Equation. Schroedinger is also known for his thought experiment called “Schroedinger’s Cat,” in which he placed a theoretical cat into a box with a trap that could kill the cat. Until the box was opened, the cat existed in two possible states: alive or dead, and would not assume one or the other in the mind of the observer until the box was opened. This thought experiment was actually created in order to challenge the Copenhagen Interpretation of his equation, which he did not agree with.

So…what we see is what we get?

The idea of our observations influencing our realities is an interesting one. Imagine this: what we see is a series of photons collected by ocular neurons and projected as an image in our mind. In a way, our perception of the object is more real to us than the actual object itself. Taking it a step further, our perceptions themselves our influenced by our thought patterns and belief systems, ultimately impacting our entire experience of the world. What’s more, our brains have a difficult time distinguishing what is real and what is not. Take visualization for example. 

A study found that visualization techniques can actually hamper success in some cases. This is because the brain has a hard time sorting between what is real and what is imagined, and receives a positive reward just for thinking about something positive in the future. The energy required to visualize often takes away from the energy required to act, leading to decreased chances of success. This is particularly true on short term or immediate goals. Imagining getting an A on the test isn’t enough, we still need to study. But participants found they had less motivation to complete the preparatory tasks after the visualization of success than before the visualization exercise. It is important to recognize the ways in which the brain can mislead us. Yes, visualizing success and happiness and abundance feels good. It feels really good. It feels even better to believe it is inevitable once the pieces are put into play, and that some beautiful awesome power is working with you to get you what you want. 

But what does it all mean?

This takes us back to the Law of Attraction, and the belief that we can manifest our dream reality through thought. Could it be so? If everything exists in a state of possibility until we observe it, and our perception of what is real is influenced by our thoughts and is ultimately unreliable anyway, and we have untapped universal creative energy flowing through us, then why couldn’t we create our ideal reality?

With all of this, I say we listen to Bruce Lee: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” If it works, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t. It’s that simple. No one has the end all be all answer to life that will satisfy every mind on the planet. If it exists we don’t know about it yet. There will always be detractors to whatever it is you choose to believe. There will always be someone who disagrees, emphatically, with you. But we know there is power in belief. So if our imagined ideal is real enough to our brains to cause a chemical reaction inciting the reward pathway as if we were actually experiencing it, then that alone proves the point that manifestation works. You’re experiencing it. If what we see is real to us, and anything is possible until we see it, then let’s imagine the best that we can be. Let’s just don’t get stuck at imagining.


1 Source:

2 Source: Yoga Journal,  8 Limbs of Yoga

3 Source:  Frantzis, Bruce (2008). The Chi Revolution: Harnessing the Healing Power of Your Life Force. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books.

4 Source:

5 Source:

6 Source: Lanza, Robert PhD. Biocentrism. 2009, BenBella Books. Dallas, TX. 

7 Source: Violation of Bell Inequalities by photons more than 10km apart, W Tittel, J. Brendel, H. Zbinden, and N. Gisin, Phyiscal Review Letters 81, 3563 (1998). 

8 Wimmel, Hermann (1992). Quantum Physics and Observed Reality: A Critical Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Word Scientific. p.2. 

9 Griffiths, David J. (2004), Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (2nd ed.), Prentice Hall.

10 Schrodinger, Erwin (November 1935), “Die gegenwartige Situation in der Quantenmechanik” (The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics). Naturwissenschaften (48): 807-812.

11 Kappes, Heather Barry, Oettingen, Gabriele. “Positive Fantasies about Idealized Futures Sap Energy.” Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol 47, Issue 4. July 2011. (719-729).

Lauren FuquaComment