Tuesday, 24 January 2012

We do Real Magic

In perusing my Dad's dusty library of magic books and manuscripts I came across a very fine collection of essays on the Art of Magic by Richard Osterlind called Making Real Magic. It is part of a trilogy of books and is very worth getting your hands on. This man is a superb and interesting thinker as well as a fine performer of mentalism.

He ponders, in the title essay from the collection, how magic can be real and not just presentation of cleverly performed deception, a topic that has been delved into on this blog before. The way he answers this is as simple as it is ingenious.
"My answer is in the following definition. Magic is the art of creating mystery and wonder. The first key word is mystery. There is no mystery in true miracles!"
If our goal as Magicians or Illuminated Showmen is to create mystery and wonder then performing miracles and supernatural phenomena makes the heart of the mystery, the not knowing, evaporate. Even though a miracle or supernatural event is an obscure and tenuous explanation it is an explanation non-the-less. Mystery, as I've blogged about before, is only powerful and alive if there is no explanation.

If a person actually has psychokinetic abilities, i.e. the power to move objects without physically touching them, an exhibition of these powers would no longer be mysterious. Instead it would be a demonstration of a skill not unlike juggling or expert card mechanics.
If there is an explanation then the Mystery dies.
So if we are to be purveyors of genuine Mystery, it means doing impossible things with no explanation what so ever. Or at least not one that rules out all others with certainty.
"The appeal of the magician is that he or she is able to accomplish something that an ordinary mortal should not be able to do. Please ponder this thought in depth. The
reason mystery penetrates into our very souls is it gives hope that un-solvable problems in life are solvable. The wonder of magic is that it tangibly demonstrates that dreams can become reality. If a magician is mortal and can make magic, then the audience, who is also mortal, has hope!
We owe it to our audiences and ourselves to do real magic. We should not be trying to raise ourselves above the level of our audience. We need to show them that we are just like them and can still do these things. We want to be an example of how human endeavor and ingenuity can achieve great results."
The Shaman is human but one that has gone through ordeals, sickness and who have learnt lessons that gives him unusual but not supernatural powers. As with the Shaman it is with the Illuminated Showman. We study secret Arts, strange feats and clever turns in the pursuit of our Craft and through this we can, with the right frame of mind, feel the heart of Mystery beat inside us and thus be able to show it to others. We inhabit the same planet as the Crowd but we live in different worlds. In the Showman's world the impossible becomes possible, it just takes a little more time. The Bubble Man Tom Noddy says when his physicist friend tells him it is impossible to blow a square soap bubble, "Nothing is impossible." Then he proceeds to blow one. After which he comments: no one should proclaim anything impossible until you have spoken to the Vaudevillians.
In this way what Illuminated Showmen does is not supernatural, but impossible. What we have is not special powers but special abilities.
Osterlind further claims Magicians actually does the impossible, pointing out that they don't just create illusions of the impossible.
"Since the magician starts at point A and the impossible is at point B, if he gets there, then he has accomplished it! It is not an illusion. In a very real sense, he has done the impossible!"
"When you look at the stars at night, you are seeing the light that shone from them far in the distant past. Some of them may not even exist anymore.
The world as we see and experience it is not what we think. Our perception of sights, sounds, smells and other senses can be altered by many factors. Reality is only what we believe it to be at a given moment. To control another person's perception is to control another person's reality. If you can make another person's reality into something wonderful, you can do real magic."
 What else would be worth pursuing but real magic in our performances. Real magic moments that will be planted as seed in the minds of our Crowds. Seeds of Change. Seeds for Thought. Surely that can't be asking too much of us, can it?

“When you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill, take it and push it as fas as it has ever been pushed before, push it into the wildest edge of edges, then you force it into the realm of real magic.”
- Tom Robbins

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