Inside the murky world of manifestation coaches

Written by Rina Raphael

In an extract from her new book, The Gospel Of Wellness, journalist Rina Raphael takes us inside the mysterious and growing world of manifestation coaches. 

“Close your eyes and bring to mind one thing you’re calling in from [the universe],” instructed Lacy Phillips, a former TV actress and model in her midthirties, now a self-proclaimed manifestation expert. “Boil it down to the essence of this thing that lights up your soul.”

Wearing a ruffled white shirt and black gaucho hat, Phillips exuded approachable confidence. Over the next hour, she taught the 250 women assembled before her in a sparsely decorated industrial space the basics of attracting their chief desires—which, for most of them, was a better and more meaningful career. The women in the audience soaked in how to find their one true passion and “pass tests” from the spiritual beyond. These tests can come in the form of subpar job offers or being rear-ended in traffic. But more important, the women learned that increasing their self-worth would draw in love, happiness, and a raise. Phillips’s presentation was a live version of the lessons she shares on her content platform To Be Magnetic, which sells on-demand manifestation workshops starting at $68.

“How many of you can raise your hands if you feel that you are deserving of what you want?” asked Phillips at the event. An overwhelming majority of hands shot up, and Phillips motioned as if she was counting them. “That’s a really beautiful number,” she cooed.

Following a lecture on establishing confidence to fish for rewards from the great beyond, Phillips proceeded with a Q&A. Participants stood up and stated their astrology sign before explaining their career dilemmas: Can my energy fuel my start-up’s success? How do I attract the right kind of clients? Is a disrespectful work colleague a test from the universe? Is my soul “settling” if I go on a reality TV show? Phillips wasn’t surprised by the intensity of their frustrations, noting they were experiencing Mercury retrograde. “You guys should have some shit going down right now,” she laughed.

Charismatic, attractive, and personable, Phillips comes across like a cool, more successful older sister. She is one of many female manifestation coaches reinventing the law of attraction—the belief that you attract what you focus on—for a new generation. Phillips spreads the philosophy that self-worth is the law of attraction and that we can manifest anything that’s in alignment with “our current state of subconscious worthiness.” Basically, you need to reprogram your subconscious—rewiring childhood trauma, fixing damaging perceptions, and the like—to break the mould of limiting beliefs.

Through live events, digital platforms, and podcasts, these teachers present a nondenominational spirituality that promises to work in their favour, like a heavenly personal advocate.

Manifestation holds that there’s a tangible connection between the mind and cosmic workings. Spiritual influencers’ messages of overcoming personal struggles hold that you need a belief in yourself since “the universe has your back.” That and with talk of modern-day issues— body image pressures, noncommittal boyfriends, sexist bosses—they’re instantly relatable.

Dressed like fashion bloggers, these new leaders speak of “calling in” unseen powers to materialise new homes, jobs, or maybe just that perfect pair of jeans. On the To Be Magnetic website, one happy customer detailed manifesting a discounted white Le Creuset tea kettle. Other leaders skew more ambitious, selling $2,000 money workshops that reportedly draw in tenfold the class fee, thereby offering their own spin on the prosperity gospel. Each influencer has their own tweak on the philosophy and the work required.

Many of the more famous manifestation coaches predominantly preach to a group that has their basic needs met, which inevitably sets the tone for the issues addressed. Although some have scholarship programs, it’s hard to imagine these experts delivering their advice to those living in poverty or war-torn countries. There are no Manifesters Without Borders. Followers, mostly women, are drawn to the idea that whatever good energy you put out into the world inevitably comes back to you. When I ask, however, whether the Jews in the Holocaust lacked the right energy to escape Nazi Germany, some seem legitimately stumped. “Huh, I didn’t think about that,” one college-aged manifester replied.

To be fair, manifestation does not entail only thinking good thoughts; the process involves determination, effort, and “co-creating” with the universe. Followers must put in hard work and make sacrifices to be worthy of divine abundance. Essentially, they have to get their lives in order. And Phillips, for one, does not gloss over trauma, racism, and abuse. Nor does she advocate controlling specific outcomes.* “We’re certainly very open about how much work has to be involved in this,” says Phillips. “It’s not a magic show and your life won’t change overnight.”

At times though, manifestation could also prove a blame-proof strategy: If you get something you wanted, you manifested it. If you didn’t, it just wasn’t meant to be. Or maybe you didn’t do enough on your end to produce the vision to fruition.

The Gospel of Wellness by Rina Raphael (Souvenir Press; £16.99) is out now. 

Images: Getty

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