That is a very interesting question. Specifically, the ancient Stoics, whose overall philosophy I admire, recommended certain meditative exercises that I assume you’re talking about here.
You can find these and other exercises described here.
The two exercises in question are:
1. Practice misfortune.
Quote from the website:
It’s important to remember that this is an exercise and not a rhetorical device. He doesn’t mean “think about” misfortune, he means live it. Comfort is the worst kind of slavery because you’re always afraid that something or someone will take it away. But if you can not just anticipate but practice misfortune, then chance loses its ability to disrupt your life.
2. Practice negative visualization.
Quote from the website:
Seneca, for instance, would begin by reviewing or rehearsing his plans, say, to take a trip. And then, in his head (or in journaling as we said above), he would go over the things that could go wrong or prevent it from happening—a storm could arise, the captain could fall ill, the ship could be attacked by pirates.
“Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation,” he wrote to a friend. “. . . nor do all things turn out for him as he wished but as he reckoned—and above all he reckoned that something could block his plans.”
I would agree that it makes sense to think about all eventualities (without necessarily expecting them), BUT… their method of choice is visualization.
And that’s, in my opinion, where the problem lies.
If people could only understand how powerful their imagination is, the world would be a completely different place.
So if you practice poverty by dressing in rags, smearing dirt on your face, and sleeping under a bridge three days a month, AND if you pretend it’s totally real and not just some morbid kind of dress-up, then there’s a good chance it will become your reality at some point.
Same with vividly imagining how all your loved ones are gone and you’re deserted by everyone.
Although in that case, the manifestation might be counteracted when you then feel the overwhelming gratitude of actually having your loved ones around (which is the whole point of that exercise).
In any case, I wouldn’t chance it.
So don’t dress up as a panhandler every Halloween, don’t tell all your friends that “I am so f****ing broke,” and don’t make “Money doesn’t grow on trees” your personal mantra.
I don’t consider it witchcraft—to me, it’s exercising the inherent spark of creation every one of us is born with.
If you’re religious, remember that Jesus himself tried for the longest time to get his harebrained disciples to use manifestation. Throughout the New Testament, he pushes them to perform miracles and despairs when they’re too dumb to do it.
There’s the story of the father who brought his son who was suffering from demonic infestation to the disciples, but they couldn't drive out the demon. So he had to go to Jesus… and Jesus was pissed.
He said (and I quote): “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?”
In other words: “You’re too stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time. You should know how to do this by now. I’ve just about had it with you. Didn’t I teach you anything?”
And the disciples were all like, “Sor-ry… but hey dude, why the heck didn’t this work when we tried?”
Jesus answered (and I quote): “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Unfortunately, his words were interpreted by the church fathers (and now most Christians) to be a metaphor. I don’t think they are.
I also have a semi-scientific theory that may sound like so much woo-woo right now, but I’m convinced that post-mortem I’ll be celebrated as a misunderstood genius like Joseph Lister or Ignaz Semmelweis.
“Who?” I hear you ask. Exactly.
In a nutshell, I believe rather than drawing objects, people, and situations to us through the “Law of Attraction” (a theory that has quite a few holes when you care to look at it closely), we actually “jump dimensions,” choosing a new parallel reality as we shift.
I'm laying it out pretty well here.
If you’re interested, there’s a huge (now closed) sub-Reddit called “Dimensional Jumping” that I find quite intriguing.
Isn't the Law of Attraction essentially just you visualizing what you want and taking initiative to get it, rather than magic hokum?
No. The difference is that with manifestation/LOA, you can make things happen that are ranging from highly unlikely to impossible.
Like opportunities falling into your lap out of nowhere.
For example, I always wanted to translate a spiritual book, but it was highly unlikely that my wish would come true.
I had translated some articles and marketing material from German into English, but I didn’t have any contacts in the publishing industry and neither experience nor a diploma as a professional translator. It was a nerdy but pretty futile desire, so I never told anyone about it.
One day, my best friend called me and said that a small German publisher—who got her contact information through a friend of a friend—had emailed her and offered her to translate a New Age book.
But she didn’t feel like doing it, she said: “I thought this would be right up your alley.”
So I actually got to translate the book. What kept the story from becoming a “happily ever after,” was that the publisher ran into financial problems, and the translation was never published.
He also never paid me, despite me bombarding him with increasingly pissed-off reminder emails. Since I lived in a different country, I had no legal recourse.
In the end, I realized that I only ever envisioned translating a spiritual book but forgot to envision getting paid for it too.
It was a good reminder to be careful what you wish for. So make sure that when you visualize that brand-spanking-new job, adequate payment is part of your manifestation.
Most people are so conditioned to only believe what they can see that “manifestation” just seems like a bunch of hocus-pocus to them.
Can’t really blame them, since most of them never experienced the results of conscious manifestation… and if you never try, you can never succeed.
The conundrum here is that you have to believe it can be done for it to succeed—which means if you’re not a believer from the get-go, you probably won’t see results, and then you won’t become a believer, and so forth, ad infinitum.
And if these people did, by chance, manifest something out of the realm of the ordinary, they are just as likely to explain it away as “coincidence.” Granted, a monumental coincidence, but still.
I usually tell people to start with something small—just because our mind is more willing to believe that you could manifest something small, like a feather, even though there’s really not much difference between that feather and, say, a new refrigerator.
But as always, perception is everything.