A YouGov survey has revealed the extent of spiritual beliefs among British adults, with 46 per cent believing people can emit positive or negative vibrations, 34 per cent believing chakras can affect well being if blocked, 26 per cent believing some people can see parts of the universe hidden to others and 15 per cent saying star signs affect personality. The survey of 1,653 people was conducted in September last year
Good Vibrations is surely the ultimate feelgood vibe. Brian Wilson’s song, cowritten with his cousin Mike Love, is seen as synonymous with sun-soaked California in the Beach Boys’ golden age of pop.
Wilson once said the hit was inspired by his mother. “I didn’t really understand too much of what she meant when I was a boy,” he told Rolling Stone magazine. “It scared me, the word ‘vibrations’ — to think that invisible feelings existed. She also told me about dogs that would bark at some people, but wouldn’t bark at others, and so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations.”
The song was a massive hit, while the concept behind it has endured and strengthened in recent years.
Dr Susannah Crockford, a lecturer in anthropology at Exeter University, published her first book, Ripples of the Universe: Spirituality in Sedona, Arizona, in 2021 after spending two years in the city that attracts those searching for alternative spirituality.
“In new-age spirituality, everything is energy and all energy vibrates at a certain frequency,” she told the Religion Media Centre. “So, what we perceive as mass is in fact energy vibrating at a very low frequency.”
Influences first emerged more than a century ago with the religious reimagining of theoretical physics. The concept gained much popularity during the 1960s and 1970s.
“The counterculture had this overwhelming religious side where the message of peace, love and harmony was very strong and people started to talk about good vibes,” Dr Crockford said.
“The idea of a new age is that there will be a new era of peace, love and harmony where we will reach a new spiritual way of living and level of enlightenment.”
In her book, Dr Crockford writes: “Energy vibrates at specific frequencies and this creates the appearance of mass. ‘Mass’ is merely an illusion, an effect of living in the third dimension. The dimension we are currently in, the third, is characterised by a morally valenced conception of density.
“Things that are dense are a heavy drag upon the spirit, keeping it down in the third dimension. Good energy, good vibrations, are characterised as light and uplifting. There is an emotional level to this correspondence. Sadness, anger, bitterness are all heavy, dense, third-dimensional emotions, whereas happiness, love and trust have a higher vibration.
“Raising the frequency of vibration by being positive emotionally is one way of ascending through the progressive levels called dimensions, a process called ascension.”
Proponents believe we can bring on the new age by “raising our vibrations”, Dr Crockford said. “You raise your vibrations by being more positive. You speak more highly of others and don’t say no.”
Other things like diet and meditation also play a part, she says. Earth has its own energy, believers say, with some places positioned on a vortex of spiritual energy.
“Sedona and also Glastonbury are said to be vortexes,” Dr Crockford said. “Places that are very beautiful are said to have a high vibration because of the landscape. Some people talk about there being chakras of the earth.”
Jane Fuller, a multi-award-winning TV film producer who became interested in the theory more than a decade ago, told the Religion Media Centre: “I was looking for something much bigger than what I had understood life to be. I had been in a business, which is all about image and being very conscious of that and making money [and] I thought there’s so much more to life than this.”
The concept of energy and vibrations struck a chord and today Fuller regularly gives talks and workshops on how to empower and attract through positive vibrational beliefs and expectations.
“What we send out, we attract so the people we meet will be at the same vibration,” she said. “The better you feel, the more aligned you are vibrationally to the things you desire, so anything you are seeking is vibrationally seeking you.”
The idea of “manifestation”, by using vision boards — collages of inspiring images, expressions of dreams and desires — and affirmations, is key, Ms Fuller said.
In her book, Dr Crockford writes: “There is a motility to energy. It flows, it vibrates, and through these movements it creates the illusion of mass. This creative force of energy was termed manifestation. In simple terms, manifestation was creating or making something happen.”
Ms Fuller said: “What visualisations and affirmations do is that you come out of that negativity into a more positive stance which then allows you to attract more of the positive people and places and things.”
Melanie Moore, who describes herself as a “leading vision board expert”, believes good-quality food and exercise can help. “Do good in the world and be helpful and kind because those are all things that raise your vibration,” she said. “It’s a holistic approach to the way we live and that either makes us a high
“Spirituality and having that whole high vibration life go hand in hand. For me, it’s just a whole part of my life and that’s how I encourage others to do it as part of their life.”
The words energy, vibrations and quantum suggest a scientific basis, but that is not quite the case according to Dr Crockford. “They believe that it’s science and use the word science a lot. It isn’t really science, it’s a religious interpretation of science,” she said.
Once regarded as “New Age”, the concept is more commonly referred to as “spirituality” and hinges heavily on positive thinking — something that does cross over with the current trend for wellness and wellbeing.
She adds: “Vibration and frequency have a moral and emotional meaning. If you are positive you talk about happy and uplifting things to others. If you are negative and are critical then this lowers your vibrations. “They think thoughts have power and thoughts create reality. If you think positively, you are creating your reality to be better.”
Such emphasis on positivity can, however, be problematic, she believes. “Sooner or later, you have to encounter the reality that not everything is good in the world,” she said.
“Many people say, ‘I don’t want to watch the news, it’s too negative.’ It becomes anti-politics and a refusal to engage. This can often be a gateway to things that are conspiracy theories.”