SHAUN DE WARREN believes that making money is a spiritual activity. Money, says the self-styled 'life coach', is not merely a unit of exchange, but of energy; energy is spiritual, therefore the exchange of money is love in action.

Economists may be puzzled by De Warren's assertion that, when it comes to the good things in life, 'there is no shortage of supply, there is only a shortage of demand', but his ideas strike a chord with New Age positivists on both sides of the Atlantic.

They are the guiding principles behind the Prosperity Club, whose members, nourished by aphorisms such as 'I'm good, I'm expensive and I'm worth it,' meet in a community hall off the King's Road in west London every Thursday evening. Here, the way to prosperity can be learned for the remarkably reasonable fee of pounds 5 per session.

Seeing the 30 or so people assembled in a small basement room a few weeks ago, cynics might observe that the club's popularity appears to have waned since the heady days of 1992, when authoress Molly Parkin regularly addressed more than a hundred apostles of the prosperity consciousness movement. She came to talk about her painful relationship with money, and about the near-miraculous change in her fortunes since she had taken De Warren's philosophy to heart.

The highlight of the meetings, as far as the fee-paying audience was concerned, was the ritual in which all present were urged to raise their arms skyward and ask in unison for any sum of money they thought they deserved (not forgetting to give a deadline for its receipt).

In 1994 the Prosperity Club, perhaps in accord with the times, has adopted a less materialistic stance. 'Prosperity isn't just about making money,' says De Warren. 'It's about prospering in your life, your health, your friends, your feelings of joy and the amount of energy you have.'

The first row of chairs at the meeting I attended was filled with twentysomethings who giggled appreciatively as ex-cavalry officer and barrister De Warren lectured us on the prosperous knock-on effects of positive thinking and being nice to others.

The outer world is only a reflection of ourselves, he argued, so if people are horrible to us it is probably because we are not being nice enough to them. This is the keynote; spread happiness and joy around you, and all else will follow. 'If you aren't feeling good,' explained De Warren, 'you may be trying and struggling and efforting, but you just aren't giving enough'.

In the best tradition of modern American gurus, De Warren rejects traditional grammar to endow his concepts with significance. He likes to use nouns as verbs, for example.

His philosophy includes 'gifting', the art of giving away money in the firm belief that it will multiply and come back to you; whereas 'visioning' is a tricksy way of fantasising about things you want which causes them to happen.

After the lecture, we did some sharing. A young woman who said she felt she had been gifted a lot lately announced that she was about to get a job in a clothes store and asked for support in negotiating her wages. She was going to ask for pounds 150 a week, plus a discount on her clothes. While I was busy totting up the costs of rent, food and transport in central London, the response had come and gone in a benign one-liner. 'That's right,' said De Warren, 'Ask for what you want.'

The prosperity movement favours snap diagnoses when it comes to personal problems. A woman in her thirties, who had confessed that she repeatedly found herself accepting the role of the other woman in relationships, was identified without further ado as an 'Oedipal loser'.

Some people were able to testify to the power of prayer. 'I want enough money to buy a house,' related a blond chap with a Scandinavian accent. 'But I know that it's not enough to ask only for myself, so I have been asking lately for my boss. He is always miserable.' Was the cash forthcoming? 'He inherited pounds 5,000, so now he is very happy.'

There was a general ripple of delight at this evidence of the cosmic money supply working in mysterious ways, but then an older woman in a business suit stood up to question whether 'being nice' was always the right thing to do.

She had followed De Warren's rules to the letter and given unstinting support to an obnoxious senior colleague. This had left her feeling drained and angry, she said, whereas finally yelling at him had improved the situation for all concerned.

Mr de Warren pressed on with his Pythonesque determination to look only on the bright side of life. 'Good for you, but I still say that if he was behaving badly towards you, it must have been something you were doing,' he beamed, and - inspired - 'Maybe being honest was the nicest thing you could do for him at that moment.'

Constant sweetness and light can be difficult to maintain, however, even for the length of the meeting, let alone a lifetime. Some crack under the strain - despite the benefits they may stand to rake in just by being charming.

When De Warren went on to counsel a young woman to love her evil-tempered father unconditionally because 'he may be a really nice guy underneath', the lady who had been commended for calling her boss an asshole got up and left, slamming the door behind her.