Do I have a serious point to make here or is this a “get off my lawn” post? I’m not sure – you decide for yourself. I just know I’m annoyed and I want to talk about it.
I was a latecomer to Instagram, but I’m there. And unlike Facebook and Twitter – which I mainly use to promote the blog and to express social and political opinions – I mostly use Instagram to share pictures. Follow me if you like – if you don’t that’s fine too.
One of the hashtags I follow is #witchesofinstgram. It’s mainly beginners posting for beginners (though occasionally there’s some good conversation) and that’s fine. I don’t follow it to learn anything, I follow it for the cool pictures.
I don’t mind the crystals and sage crowd. Everybody has to start somewhere – my job is to be here for those who want more. But I regularly come across posts that say something like “you will receive five figures this week” or “this is the Bird of Good Luck – don’t scroll by” or any number of things that can be boiled down to “like this post and good things will come your way.”
There are numerous accounts that make these posts. They all have some form of “law of attraction” or “manifesting” in their name. They each have several thousand followers. And they post different versions of the same theme over and over again.
I’ve started blocking them every time I see them.
I’m under no illusion I’m accomplishing anything other than reducing the number of such posts I see. They’re popular with a lot of people. I can’t do anything about that… other than to occasional remind them that the Law of Attraction is Norman Vincent Peale repackaged for New Agers. But it makes me feel good to banish them from my feed, and then I don’t have to look at them anymore.
Most of these posts are manipulative
I have a complicated relationship with authority. On one hand, I respect the authority of competence and I often rant against the “you can’t tell me what to do!” Pagans. On the other hand, I have no tolerance for arbitrary authority and especially for misused authority.
Manipulation – whether psychological, magical, or otherwise – falls into that latter category.
When someone says “do what I say and good things will come to you” my initial response is “oh, really?” The fact that I’m a magic-using Pagan doesn’t mean I’m gullible and naïve – my innate skepticism is still pretty strong. Show me how it works and I’ll pay attention – make baseless claims and I won’t.
I don’t know what these accounts are trying to do – I don’t know what’s in it for them. I just know that when someone tries to manipulate me into doing something, my initial instinct is to do the opposite.
Or, you know, just block them.
The Law of Attraction is privilege-based victim blaming
The Secret has been out for 15 years – do I still need to debunk the Law of Attraction? I think I do.
It has just enough truth in it to make it sound reasonable. Psychological programming is one of the ways magic works, and our thoughts do make a difference in our lives. But thinking good thoughts is only helpful to the extent that it motivates you (consciously or otherwise) to do good things.
Further, if “claiming it” is all it takes to manifest what you want, why is anyone poor? Why is anyone sick? Why does anyone ever get shot by the police? They must have scrolled right on by that Bird of Good Luck without clicking “like.”
Sometimes bad things happen because you do bad things. But many times bad things happen because life is random and capricious and bad things just happen. There is no metaphysical cause and effect for childhood cancer or getting hit by drunk drivers.
And sometimes the system is set up to make it easy for some and hard for others (see “shot by police”).
Magic is more than intention
Intention is important. If you’re going to work magic, you need to know what to work magic for. When I taught an on-line class in Operative Magic, I said “if you remember nothing else from this entire course, remember this: working magic is easy. Figuring out what to work magic for is hard.”
But intention is only the beginning. If you’re driving a car, it’s important that you know where you want to go. But then you’ve got to actually get in the car, start the engine, and begin driving. And make sure you’ve got plenty of gas.
“The Universe” does not exist to give you things. The Universe is indifferent to your existence, much less to your desires. If you want your “intention” to be anything more than daydreams, you have to work through the process of making them real.
The best model I’ve found for that magical process is the Witches’ Pyramid: to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silence. If you do these things – and if you do them skillfully – you will manifest results. But manifestation is the end result, and it requires much more than intention.
Working magic for a low-probability event still leaves you with a low-probability event
Magical or not, results have to have a way to manifest. How could you possibly come into five figures this week? Do you think a leprechaun is going to bring you a pot of gold? (if one does, do NOT take it – it will not end well for you).
Unexpected bonuses simply don’t happen in my line of work… or in most lines of work. I have no rich relatives who could die and leave me $10,000. I suppose someone could crash into my car and total it. Their insurance company would write me a check with five figures… which I’d have to turn around and spend on a new car, leaving me no better off than I was before.
Once you have a way, then you can use magic to improve your odds. But if your open way is buying a lottery ticket, know that even if you improve your odds by 1000 times you can statistically expect to win PowerBall once every 2800 years.
Mostly, the worst thing that happens is nothing
Are these “law of attraction” and “manifestation” posts hurting anything? Not really… not seriously, anyway. Some are manipulating people for clicks, but if I blocked everybody who did that there wouldn’t be much of the internet left. For all the dire warnings about taking magic seriously, in most cases the worst thing that happens when you do something wrong is nothing. The spell simply doesn’t work.
Beyond general curmudgeonliness, what bothers me about these posts is that they reduce magic to superstition – a misunderstanding of cause and effect. So much is possible if you just do a bit of studying and a bit of practicing. OK, a lot of practicing. Even affirmations can be helpful, if they’re strategically sound and carefully targeted… and if they’re backed up with both magical and mundane action.
But clicking “like” on the Bird of Good Luck? Not likely to manifest anything at all.
That’s what’s so disappointing about all this. How many people feel a pull toward magic, encounter the Law of Attraction and all these “manifestation” posts, are disappointed when nothing happens, and then walk away for good?
That thought annoys me every time I see them.
I think I have most of them blocked now, but new ones pop up all the time, either from people looking for a cheap way to build a big following or from people who really think that “intention is everything.” Get off my lawn.
And now I need to go write something on real magic. Because ultimately, the best cure for bad information is good information.