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Topic: What Is Magic?
Message: Posted by: michaelmystic2003 (Oct 22, 2007 05:29PM)
Seems like a simple enough question, but really, CAN you effectively answer it? Here is my personal interpretation of "magic":

"What is magic?"

The art of entertaining with the seemingly impossible, the impossible for which the only logical explanation in the minds of audiences is that they are witnessing what they would call "magic". Of course it is rare that a person believes it is real, but just to witness magic-like miracles is enough to make our art one of the most entertaining to witness.


Let's hear it! What is magic?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 22, 2007 05:37PM)
From what others have written here I'd say most want to believe it's a dessert topping used by performers as a floorwax and applied with wand.
Message: Posted by: McAllisterMagic (Oct 22, 2007 06:28PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-22 18:37, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
From what others have written here I'd say most want to believe it's a dessert topping used by performers as a floorwax and applied with wand.
[/quote]

Darn I was going to say that...
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Oct 22, 2007 06:40PM)
Better question I think is "who decides"?
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Oct 22, 2007 08:55PM)
Yes Jonnathan is right magic is both a floor wax, and a desert topping, but at the same time.

Danny
Jonnathan and have decided.
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Oct 22, 2007 10:45PM)
[url=http://www.dumbledorepride.com/]The one on the right[/url]
Message: Posted by: Father Photius (Oct 22, 2007 11:13PM)
Magic is a suspension of belief in reality.
Message: Posted by: Tony Brent (Oct 23, 2007 12:26AM)
Real magic is:

Overeating during the weekend only to find on Monday you have lost three pounds.

Letters in the mail saying your premimums on your health insurance and car insurance has been lowered.

Pull up the cushion on the couch and find not only loose change but a wad of folded twenty dollar bills.

Tony Brent
Outta Control Magic Show
Orlando
Message: Posted by: Tony Brent (Oct 23, 2007 12:38AM)
My point in the post above is; "magic" can be "magical" eye candy without being "important". It only becomes important when it impacts your audience in some way. It becomes important when your audience "cares" about what they are seeing. If they do not care about what they are seeing then all the hours spent in front of the mirror practicing are pointless. A silk vanish doesn't mean much but if the silk belonged to your dear absent-minded Grandmother....

Tony Brent
Outta Control Magic Show
Orlando
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 23, 2007 02:09AM)
Josh

Having fairies in your garden is magic....so I am told. :)
Message: Posted by: JackScratch (Oct 23, 2007 05:52AM)
One word, many definitions. Not the only word with a lot of definitions either. Need a whole lot more context to answer this seemingly simple question.
Message: Posted by: Alan Wheeler (Oct 23, 2007 08:38AM)
A solid definition of magic (conjuring) must include at least four elements:

1. a description of the effect
There is a demontration of the impossible or a bending of the laws of nature. However, this element is not enough because the special effects in movies and certain events in fairy tales also contain impossible effects.
Would the definition need to specify that the impossible effects are illusory?

2. a suggestion of the mystery
There is something hidden and unexplainable, a dark secret. Of course this element is not enough on its own because even Colonel Sanders has a secret recipe.

3. a mention of the performance or entertainment element involved in magic--since we are traditonally grouped with clowns, comedians, acrobats, jugglers, fire-eaters, and freak shows. (Sorry)

4. an acknowledgement of the artistic element of magic. Tommy Wonder focused on this element when he defined magic (at the end of his last interview in Genii) as "beauty."

I've got a definition that includes these elements in nine words--including articles!--and I can get it down to five or six words if I don't have to mention that the effects are illusory and not real.

I know that books could be (and have been) written on each of these elements, but for me, so far in my journey, these boil magic down to its lowest common denominator.
Message: Posted by: JackScratch (Oct 23, 2007 11:44AM)
Why in the world would you want to do that? What do we constantly seek to put boundaries on things which should not be bound?
Message: Posted by: Alex Linian (Oct 23, 2007 03:23PM)
A conclusion about an astonishing experience by someone who has been lied to.
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Oct 23, 2007 03:36PM)
My personal definition that I perform by is:

Magic is the process by which a person can genuinly believe in something that they know isn't true, even if only for a moment.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 23, 2007 03:57PM)
Why do you want to know?
Message: Posted by: karbonkid (Oct 24, 2007 07:09AM)
Jackscratch said it best. I don't know why this is even a question. It's like, to quote Bill Palmer, "It's like trying to nail jelly to a tree."
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 24, 2007 08:39AM)
Its not like trying to nail jelly to a tree it is doing it.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Oct 24, 2007 08:49AM)
I like Paul Harris' definition: (To paraphrase) Magic occurs in that brief moment of astonishment...when our inner child says "Whoa! No Way!" and before our adult ego can say "Oh, it's just a trick."
Message: Posted by: Bill Hallahan (Oct 24, 2007 09:45AM)
The word "magic" has many definitions.

The earliest definitions referred to supernatural event.

Both the early definition, and the modern definition, are in the book [i]Our Magic[/i] by Maskelyne and Devant. The modern definition is:
[quote]
Magic consists in creating, by misdirection of the senses, the mental impression of supernatural agency at work.

That, and that only, is what modern magic really is, and that meaning alone is now assignable to the term.
[/quote]
Then there is [i]enchantment[/i], i.e. "they were in love and it was magic."

Those are the definitions commonly used. Those, and other definitions are at [url=http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/magic]the definition of the word "magic" in "The Merriam Webster Dictionary"[/url].


Here, we're usually referring to "simulating a supernatural event", although to the audience it can appear to be an actual "supernatural event." It can sometimes appear that way to the magician too.

The distinctions between simulated magic and actual magic sometimes gets mixed up in conversations, and some people then argue with each other when they actually agree.

The topic [url=http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=144878&forum=27]Definition of "Magic"[/url] already explores this in detail, and just such an argument ensues, along with arguing about minutia. Someone else starts referring to magic as enchantment.

The idea that magicians have to "believe" what they do is real also has caused some confusion too, because, while it is critical that a magician internally accepts his or her role, lest they aren't natural, clearly the word, [i]believe[/i] doesn't completely describe the cognitive state of an actor with respect to his or her role. There are different types of belief. Because of that, some magicians switch definitions of magic mid-stream in their arguments.

I've also seen someone post that what magicians do isn't [i]real[/i], and their meaning is obvious to me, although another person will react with, "of course it's real, because it's what we do!" This can lead to the same type of confusion.

Discussing magic can easily result in miscommunication if there is no consensus on definitions. Read the topic at the link above and see what I mean.

There is great content there, but much miscommunication.

Whit Haydn has had a great idea that all simulated magic is the result a logical argument with a false premise. I do think all magic fits that mold. At first, this seems like a simple obvious idea, but then so was the idea of gravity, but it took thousands of years for someone to have that idea. Perhaps in the future, someone will extend that idea.
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 24, 2007 10:17AM)
Very well said Bill.
Message: Posted by: JackScratch (Oct 24, 2007 11:21AM)
Wow, Skip, I really like that one.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 24, 2007 11:28AM)
Try Crowley's definition. You can put it into a theatrical frame if you must. And put a second frame around it if you need others to accept it.

But to ignore the frame or to believe others will ignore that frame are probably signs of trouble ahead.

Magic is not cognitive dissonance, surprise or astonishment nor is it [b]any[/b] procedure which creates them. There simply must be an active agency of will involved to distinguish the natural from the willful.

I hope all here know the difference between a secret and a mystery and can avoid ruining the latter by making a public display of knowledge of the former. Or you can look up the story in DC Comics where Cain and Abel offer stories and discuss that distinction.
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Oct 24, 2007 12:48PM)
I disagree that the discussion of "what is magic?" is a pointless one, or like trying to nail jelly to a tree. Your personal definition of magic should be the lifeforce of how you perform. If you don't have a well defined definition of what magic is to you, how can you ever hope to show magic to your audience? In that respect I view this question as the one of the most important, if not the most important, questions that a magician needs to answer for his/herself.
Message: Posted by: karbonkid (Oct 24, 2007 01:50PM)
I'm sure you have some 'best selling' theories on magic. While I feel it's the most important one, I liken it to being alive. I don't need to go into the minuta that makes one alive, I could never begin to describe it, yet I know how it feels...how it feels to me specifically to be alive. I could go on about what excites ME about life and makes ME feel alive. I could go into the cellular make up about what makes one alive, or the minute processes of water molecules. All these things make me alive...yet not one of them, singularly, does. In one situation water is what keeps one alive, in another, it can kill you.

Magic is like that.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Oct 24, 2007 01:56PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 14:50, karbonkid wrote:
I'm sure you have some 'best selling' theories on magic. While I feel it's the most important one, I liken it to being alive. I don't need to go into the minuta that makes one alive, I could never begin to describe it, yet I know how it feels...how it feels to me specifically to be alive. I could go on about what excites ME about life and makes ME feel alive. I could go into the cellular make up about what makes one alive, or the minute processes of water molecules. All these things make me alive...yet not one of them, singularly, does. In one situation water is what keeps one alive, in another, it can kill you.

Magic is like that.
[/quote]

I don't see how that is helpful. It's hard to build a boat if you don't know what one looks like. There is very little about performing magic that is "natural."
Message: Posted by: karbonkid (Oct 24, 2007 02:16PM)
But what defines magic changes as time moves forward. For example, if turn the of the century I picked up a little box that showed a motion picture and a voice came out that comes out in english...that would be magic to them...at the time. So trying, or attempting to put it in a box with rules becomes even more than complicated...unless you have pages upon pages, ala Ortiz, to lay out in painstaking detail (which I know you contributed to), I don't think this can be easily resolved in a forum format.
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Oct 24, 2007 02:24PM)
But it has been resolved, Even before this thread. The jello that we are nailing to the tree isn't the definition of "Magic", rather the insistence of some do simply disagree with whatever is offered.

The last paragraph of Bill Hallahan's last post referencing Whit Haydn is simple.... But then we start trying to lump the Television or childbirth in with what we do and we get this stupid cycle of confusing concepts
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 24, 2007 02:29PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 15:16, karbonkid wrote:
But what defines magic changes as time moves forward. ...[/quote]

I disagree.

For example, let's say that when asked about being a magician you were to reach down to pick up a pebble, blow upon it and then let a moth or butterfly loose from your hand. I believe it would be just as effective as it has been for millenia. You made the pebble into a living thing.

I hold that it's all about the audience percieved effect. Now as to the performance - the relationship between the performer and the magic or the performer and the audience... that is very much a matter of context IMHO.
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Oct 24, 2007 02:33PM)
I imagine we are talking about the thing we do that looks like we put a ball into our left hand, but really keep it in our right? Or when we lift 2 cards when we act like we lift one?


Cause I might be in the wrong conversation
Message: Posted by: karbonkid (Oct 24, 2007 02:33PM)
Agreed.
Message: Posted by: erlandish (Oct 24, 2007 02:46PM)
I've had a really hard time dealing with this question. On the one hand, my own personal goal has been to try to attain Maskelyn and Devant's definition (thanks for putting that up, Bill). If somebody asked me "What is magic?", I'd want to try to answer it from that frame of reference.

The weird thing is, when I was doing magic show for Korean kids, we used to have a little discussion beforehand (this was to fulfill the ESL component). I'd ask them this exact same question... "What is magic?"

About every second class, one of the answers that would come out is "It's a trick."

I don't think that we can approach the idea of what magic is as a performance genre without taking this default skepticism (that can frequently remain even after bamboozlement) into account.

My humble take is this: Magic (as a performance genre) is the manifestation by a performer of an apparently impossible or implausible phenomenon, with the causative agent usually purported to be "magic" (as a mystic force).

Magic (as a performance genre) vs. magic (as a mystic force): Specified to prevent something that sounds like a tautology. Also, I want to specify that I'm not talking about the magic of a baby's smile, the magic of a wonderful poem, etc.

Manifestation of a phenomenon: Something must occur external to the audience's imagination. The amazement might occur in their interpretation of it, but they've got to have something to interpret.

Impossible/Implausible: Since it's technically possible for someone to predict winning lottery numbers five times in a row, I put "implausible" in there to satisfy allowing the genre to include Mentalism.

Apparently: Not sure if this is the best word for it. Basically, what it's meant to state is that logically, if they think about it, the audience should believe the phenomenon to be impossible or implausible. Of course, the fact that it's just been shown to them puts this previous certainty into doubt.

By a performer: Self-evident?

The causative agent: Something has to make the phenomenon happen, right?

Usually purported to be "magic": Not every performer makes this claim ("reading someone's pulse to locate their card"), or really takes this claim seriously (limiting the magic moment to a cursory snapping of the fingers). I also don't think there's necessarily any fault in not taking the route of describing the phenomenon as being caused by "magic".

This definition is really limited to magic as a performance genre, and it also does its best to avoid passing judgement upon what is "good magic". I don't think that's an easy question to answer, because that's where objectivity often goes out the window.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 24, 2007 03:52PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 15:33, Josh Riel wrote:
I imagine we are talking about the thing we do that looks like we put a ball into our left hand, but really keep it in our right? Or when we lift 2 cards when we act like we lift one?


Cause I might be in the wrong conversation
[/quote]

That is wandering from audience frame to performer's frame and not knowing one's purpose.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Oct 24, 2007 04:06PM)
Ask not how the magic was done for you. Ask how you can sustain the magic.

To really enjoy the wonders of magic we have to learn to savor that rare and beautiful moment of utter astonishment when our inner child says "Whoa! No Way! Cool!" and stop our adult ego from demanding a solution to the puzzle. The longer we can convince our minds to reside in astonishment mode, the more we'll relish the joys of magic.

As a magic performer, our solitary goal should be creating and sustaining this moment of astonishment for our spectators. Only when we can do this on a consistent basis, can we truly call ourselves magicians. Real magic is never a puzzle to be solved. Real magic is a fantasy journey that draws us along while creating a believable alternate reality.

This is why the secrets of magic are so important. It isn't about doing something no one else can do. It isn't about proprietary ownership of an effect. It isn't about fooling people with a gimmick. It's all about keeping the fantasy and the power to astonish alive.

Once the average layman learns the secret to an effect, it tranforms that precious moment of "Whoa!" to "Oh...okay." It is our sworn task as magicians to erase disbelief, create that indescribable moment of child-like astonishment and nurture that moment as long as we can before our adult egos finally kick in and spoils the moment with the declaration that "it's just a trick!" Curse you, adult ego!

My opinion.
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Oct 24, 2007 06:02PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 16:52, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 15:33, Josh Riel wrote:
I imagine we are talking about the thing we do that looks like we put a ball into our left hand, but really keep it in our right? Or when we lift 2 cards when we act like we lift one?


Cause I might be in the wrong conversation
[/quote]

That is wandering from audience frame to performer's frame and not knowing one's purpose.
[/quote]

......no..... it's what we do. Why inject cerebral nonsense into a rational question? We pretend to do something, we don't. No wandering here, it's a simple concept really.

What is so difficult about: "Simulated magic is the result a logical argument with a false premise".

Of course that's exactly why these conversations go nowhere. We all gotta compare the size of our brains.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 24, 2007 08:07PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 19:02, Josh Riel wrote:...
We pretend to do something, [i]which[/i] we don't [i]actually do by the means claimed to our audience[/i]. ...
[/quote]

I prefer the version with the words inserted. How's that for you?
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 24, 2007 10:08PM)
Does Maskelyne’s definition exclude performances of magic not performed for a live audience?
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Oct 24, 2007 11:03PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 23:08, tommy wrote:
Does Maskelyne’s definition exclude performances of magic not performed for a live audience?
[/quote]
If a guy does the most incredible illusion in the middle of a forest when no one is looking... is it magic?

I don't know what magic is, but I think the magic of magic is getting people to go home thinking, that's impossible, but I saw it.
Message: Posted by: landmark (Oct 24, 2007 11:15PM)
Can I take this a little further?
I like George's definition, similar to Whit's and Jon's but now let me ask this--why?

Why do we want to send the audience home in this condition of uncertainty? How does it help them or us?

Not taking a position here--I just want to hear more about the why of what's happening from your perspective.

Jack Shalom
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Oct 24, 2007 11:41PM)
Why do we want to send them home feeling this way? Because people need a break.

Human beings want, and need, to get away from their everyday lives and problems, and indulge in relaxation, in fantasies, in dreams, and in going, "wow, what if..." and chilling out. Releasing pressure. Re-grouping. Getting a different perspective.

That's what entertainment is.

Right now I'm doing preliminary work for a production of "My Way - a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra," which I'll be designing early next year. Reading about the guy back in the early to mid 1940's, when he was the ultimate fantasy of bobby soxers, makes this clearer for me than a neon sign: he was giving these kids a break from their lives. He gave them a dream. He gave them emotions. He gave them something to look forward to. The Beatles did exactly the same thing, and so did Elvis. And so do movies and sports. And hobbies.

We, as human beings, need it.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 05:09AM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 00:15, landmark wrote:... Why do we want to send the audience home in this condition of uncertainty? How does it help them or us? ... [/quote]

I suppose we could offer them a complete set of lecture notes and citations for the material we perform and after doing the "performance" could explain the tricks in detail... though I suspect that sort of offering would elicit a different kind of experience and maybe even attract a different kind of audience.

Do actors and playwrites usually discuss in detail how they created the play and what they used and did to elicit our awareness of the characters during the performance of the play?
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Oct 25, 2007 07:57AM)
Photius, Brian Miller and Skip pretty much echo my opinion on what magic is.

"Magic is a suspension of belief in reality."

"Magic is the process by which a person can genuinly believe in something that they know isn't true, even if only for a moment."

"Magic occurs in that brief moment of astonishment...when our inner child says "Whoa! No Way!" "
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 09:27AM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 08:57, Jaz wrote:
...

1) "Magic is a suspension of belief in reality."

2) "Magic is the process by which a person can genuinly believe in something that they know isn't true, even if only for a moment."

3) "Magic occurs in that brief moment of astonishment...when our inner child says "Whoa! No Way!" "
[/quote]

I disagree about the above being suitable definitions of magic.
By way of counterexample, consider the following:

1 - try watching the news
2 - learn some science or about nature
3 - look at the new car ads or for cell phones or ice cream

All real and common but I hope we can agree that none of those counterexamples to the definitions offered are themselves magical.

The root question I see that has so far not been addressed is:
What distinguishes the experience of magic from the experience of the wondrous and surprising in nature or common social reality?
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Oct 25, 2007 09:57AM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 08:57, Jaz wrote:
Photius, Brian Miller and Skip pretty much echo my opinion on what magic is.

"Magic is a suspension of belief in reality."

"Magic is the process by which a person can genuinly believe in something that they know isn't true, even if only for a moment."

"Magic occurs in that brief moment of astonishment...when our inner child says "Whoa! No Way!" "
[/quote]
I tend to agree with this (it sounds nice), but I also see Jon's point. We need to be aware that any definiton of "magic" as we know it has to be in context and taken in context. This context is going to be arguable too :) , but I'm going to say it should be that of a person doing "magic" for others for entertainment purposes.

As far as sending people home in a state of uncertainty, I wouldn't use the term "uncertainty" in the context of entertainment because it generally has negative connotations. When we go see a movie or a concert or a sports event, we often go home thinking about it, talking about it, and hopefully excited about it. We can still be "uncertain" about some details ("Why the ^%$$# did that idiot try stealing third base?????"), but my point in my post above was that we forget about our lives and our problems for a couple of hours and think about something else.

Why do we want to send people home excited and wondering about what they saw? Because that's what entertainment is all about. If we don't watch magic for entertainment purposes, we'll watch something else.
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 25, 2007 10:09AM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 10:27, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
. . .The root question I see that has so far not been addressed is:
What distinguishes the experience of magic from the experience of the wondrous and surprising in nature or common social reality?
[/quote]

Your use of the word "magic" remains very muddled. You seem to understand the word as it applies to an inner hypothesis that humans like to hang on. However, you use the term ambiguously again and again. As magicians, we do magic. Its a craft. Its an art. Its magic when we perform, and its magic when we practice. In your sentence above, you must be asking to separate two inner experiences. Where does the practice of the art of magic fit into that?
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Oct 25, 2007 10:30AM)
JT writes: "The root question I see that has so far not been addressed is:
What distinguishes the experience of magic from the experience of the wondrous and surprising in nature or common social reality?"

Most wonders and surprises experienced due to Earth's nature and people are explainable.
Magic comes from beliefs or lack of and when a seemingly unexplainable occurence is filtered through the imagination it becomes magic.

I have no idea what I just typed. :lol:
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 25, 2007 11:36AM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 00:03, George Ledo wrote:
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 23:08, tommy wrote:
Does Maskelyne’s definition exclude performances of magic not performed for a live audience?
[/quote]
If a guy does the most incredible illusion in the middle of a forest when no one is looking... is it magic?

I don't know what magic is, but I think the magic of magic is getting people to go home thinking, that's impossible, but I saw it.
[/quote]

What if one did magic the middle of a forest when no one is looking but a camera ?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 11:40AM)
In our performing craft we apply guile and some social conventions and story themes to offer amusements which contain a simulation of storybook magic

Yes, IMHO one must have beliefs in order to experience magic. IMHO the experience of magic also requires the perception of a will in action.

To be formal and state my hypothesis: I hold that magic is a cognitive meta-experience (not a thing we perceive directly but an emotional reaction to the difference between what we are perceiving from our senses contrasted with what we expect or believe about the world GIVEN) [of] the presence of a will in action affecting the world.

In theater or film that will can be as simple as the old Greek [i]deus ex machina[/i] where the gods intervene or as subtle as the way good storytellers communicate a moral position.

But IMHO magic itself has only that one definition which involves the presence of beliefs, will and sensory experience which is counter to what one expects based upon ones everyday beliefs.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hallahan (Oct 25, 2007 02:38PM)
I think you should make it clearer that the "will in-action" is causing the change in the world that results in the cognitive meta-experience. You could append something like, "that results in the meta-cognitive experience." to your definition.

Given that I know what you meant, I'm nitpicking. It seems like a good operational definition of magic.

I consider other definitions valid in other contexts, but from the perspective of a magician wanting to understand magic as an experience, and perhaps even to create it, I agree that a definition that is describing the goal is better than one that is closer to describing the means.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 03:26PM)
Bill, to be fair, I suspect that it's simpler that that.

In the text you wrote above [that the "will in-action" is causing the change in the world] there is an assertion about cause which itself needs a frame of reference. In a story? In the story someone wants you to believe? In the story you tell yourself? I feel we need to nail down the presence of a story happening inside each audience member. At a guess I suspect it's when they project themselves into that story in the "that wouldn't happen if I tried" we get that "how do I feel about that" type reaction.

The "will in action" is part of the belief or story. It's causal or non-causal relation is a factor in the story you accept about the event.

When the storybook wizard waves his wand and the horse turns into a mouse we don't feel magic. But when someone borrows your car alarm fob, clicks it and you are looking at a dog where your car was you feel something inside that deserves the name "magic"

And yes, nitpicking to find the presuppositions and hidden beliefs about a thing are a great tool to help us find the most elegant description of a thing.
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Oct 25, 2007 04:25PM)
I just stopped caring about the definition of magic.....

I'm going to eat a spoonful of Peanut Butter and go make a golf ball go through a tablecloth.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 04:32PM)
COOL! Can I get some of that peanut butter?
Message: Posted by: michaelmystic2003 (Oct 25, 2007 04:42PM)
Whenever someone asks me to define "magic", The Art of Astonishment always pops into mind right away. Maybe that is simply the answer. No need for 10 pages essays on one topic... just those 5 words answer it all for me.

This further proves what a genius Paul Harris really is.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 06:24PM)
Since when is astonishment the same as magic? Consider that Jerry Springer offers astonishment to his guests and audience every day but we probably don't think of him as a magician.

The craft of bringing the joy of astonishment to people via simulated storybook magic may work as a definition of what we do tough. :)
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 25, 2007 08:02PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 12:40, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
In our performing craft we apply guile and some social conventions and story themes to offer amusements which contain a simulation of storybook magic. . .[/quote]

Sorry Jon, regarding your basic premise, the "simulation of storybook magic" may be a personal design choice on the part of the performer/director, but it is not in any way part of a reasonable general definition of our performing art. So far, you have suggested only that we apply guile, social conventions, and story themes to offer amusements.

[quote]On 2007-10-25 12:40, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
To be formal and state my hypothesis: I hold that magic is a cognitive meta-experience (not a thing we perceive directly but an emotional reaction to the difference between what we are perceiving from our senses contrasted with what we expect or believe about the world GIVEN the presence of a will in action affecting the world. [/quote]

Its good to frame these things in ones own words, and you have done so admirably. The cognitive meta-experience of which you speak, i.e., the emotional reaction to a difference between sense perception and what we believe about the world, I would describe in the same way Whit Haydn describes it: Cognitive dissonance. That this must occur in the presence of a presumptive cause (which you describe as a "will in action affecting the world") establishes the importance of context, and the false premise that Whit Haydn has described frequently and in detail.

What else is new?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 08:15PM)
Michael, I sought to distinguish our craft from the social practices which Reginald Scot wished to distinguish from... shall we say less than laudable and possibly infringing upon the accepted practices of groups which currently demand a special social protection.

I stand by my definition of our craft (in entertaining) as involving the use of guile to offer amusements.

I'd like to read some about what you find missing in my description and perhaps counter-examples to show where I have misrepresented or omitted valid expressions of what you hold to be magical.
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 25, 2007 08:43PM)
"The use of guile to offer amusements"

I am reminded of the hand buzzers and exploding cigars that used to be advertised in the back of comic books (perhaps still are).

Could be perhaps the definition of some set into which magic as a performing art (unfortunately) may be placed. As a general definition of magic I think it sets a very low bar.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 08:48PM)
Michael, from what you wrote I get the impression that the word "amusements" is a source of irritation. Is this an accurate read of your perspective?

From my side, only using that word to distinguish what we do from what conmen and false-prophets and charlatans do. Is there a better word for "harmless diversions intended to entertain and perhaps provoke some thought"?
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 25, 2007 08:56PM)
No denying it accomplishes that much. Your insistence on "story book magic" as part of a general definition is a bit irritating now that you mention it. Or perhaps you were just alluding to your own design choice, and I misread you. Is that the case?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 09:24PM)
Michael, I want to stay reasonably close to Robert-Houdin and also stay away from the things that Scot wanted to save us from.

I hold that the notions of imps, the north wind... wizards, leprechauns etc are all storybook and am extending that idea to "whatever sort of willful aspect we impose upon the world as we perceive it AND any artifacts they may have enchanted or left behind during their visits".
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 25, 2007 09:43PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 22:24, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Michael, I want to stay reasonably close to Robert-Houdin and also stay away from the things that Scot wanted to save us from.

I hold that the notions of imps, the north wind... wizards, leprechauns etc are all storybook and am extending that idea to "whatever sort of willful aspect we impose upon the world as we perceive it AND any artifacts they may have enchanted or left behind during their visits".
[/quote]
Fine Jonathan, you do that.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 25, 2007 09:52PM)
Okay... what do you suggest?
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 25, 2007 09:56PM)
I think a nice lie down followed by a cup of tea will do you a lot of good.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 26, 2007 08:26AM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-25 22:56, Michael Kamen wrote:
I think a nice lie down followed by a cup of tea will do you a lot of good.
[/quote]

It is sad when one confuses their mental model of a person with the real person with whom they are having a discussion.

The mental model is is useful for stories one imagines. The real person can offer feedback from their living perspective.

So, what's the story today? :)
Message: Posted by: erlandish (Oct 26, 2007 08:36AM)
Jonathan,

Quick question about the willful action part of your definition. Am I incorrect in thinking that this would be inconsistent with a performer doing the plagued-by-magic plot? For instance, Fred Kaps's performance of the Homing Card.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 26, 2007 09:01AM)
IMHO That 'plague' is not only willful but very specifically motivated. It does not turn his cards into sand or his tie into a snake... it simply wants him to have that court card in his hands. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it's his personal imp? But I feel there is some room there for a payoff in that most people act from good intentions. Finding out WHY that card wants to be there would be a fun discovery for the audience.
Message: Posted by: erlandish (Oct 26, 2007 09:12AM)
Ah... ok. So the willful action is not necessarily on the part of the performer?

Just wanted to be clear.
Message: Posted by: michaelmystic2003 (Oct 26, 2007 05:23PM)
Astonishment, Mr. Townsend, being a general statement. Magic is one of the many forms that are part of the art of astonishment.
Message: Posted by: Patrick Differ (Oct 26, 2007 06:55PM)
Magic is the direct result of the magician's will.
A magician is one skilled in the use of magic.

The magic in Kap's Homing Card is a direct result of his will. He says it a couple of three times. "This is the first time I have done this trick." He explains why it keeps going wrong and therefore keeps it within the boundaries of his (geez, who knows how I'll do with this one tonight?...it is my first time.) will.

On that note, Cardini was a little tipsy after a night on the town and had forgotten "to turn it off." It was a direct result of his will albeit a little under the influence.

I like this distinction made between magic being the result of natural events and it being the result of the magician's will, Jon. It sure works for me, man. It is nice to know what a boat looks like before trying to build one.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 26, 2007 06:56PM)
That's like defining a great cup of coffee as "something wet".

What distinguishes the intended internal effect (affect) we'd like to elicit in the audience when performing a trick from all other affects?
Message: Posted by: michaelmystic2003 (Oct 26, 2007 08:03PM)
Interesting point. you always get me thinking, Mr. Townsend!
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 26, 2007 08:41PM)
Is the intended internal affect the same in all tricks? Because if its not then what distinguishes it from other affects might well alter.

All piantings do not have the same intented effect so why should our mysteries?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 26, 2007 08:58PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-26 21:41, tommy wrote:
Is the intended internal affect the same in all tricks?... [/quote]

I posit that at least one of the distinct affects desired is shared.

Let's start to whittle down the list by removing all the stuff that stories, movies, plays can elicit and see what's left.
Message: Posted by: landmark (Oct 26, 2007 10:38PM)
If we could define it, would we need to do it?


Jack Shalom
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 26, 2007 10:46PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-26 23:38, landmark wrote:
If we could define it, would we need to do it? [/quote]

What we know does not interfere with what the audience enjoys. They SHOULD not know about out gimmicks, sleights etc so IMHO this would be just more stuff that we call "secrets".
Message: Posted by: landmark (Oct 26, 2007 11:01PM)
Jon,

my question was addressed to the internal state of the audience that people in this thread are attempting to define. My comment was meant to mean that it could well be undefineable in words--that is [i]why[/i] we [i]do[/i] it. What is the internal state of the audience listening to Rhapsody in Blue? If we could say . . .

My prior post concerning sending the audience home with the experience of cognitive dissonance was not obviously, a request to patch it up. It was asking, if magic is about creating a specific kind of cognitive dissonance, why do we think this is worth doing. George posited that it was entertaining. Okay fine. Do we want to go Further Than That?

Jack Shalom
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 26, 2007 11:13PM)
Ah, thanks for clarifying.

I notice that when I feel "magic", not long after I become more aware of options I had not considered ... as if the world opened up a little somehow.

Seems a nice thing to offer and for them to enjoy later on IMHO.
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Oct 27, 2007 12:16PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-27 00:01, landmark wrote:
Jon,

my question was addressed to the internal state of the audience that people in this thread are attempting to define. My comment was meant to mean that it could well be undefineable in words--that is [i]why[/i] we [i]do[/i] it. What is the internal state of the audience listening to Rhapsody in Blue? If we could say . . .

My prior post concerning sending the audience home with the experience of cognitive dissonance was not obviously, a request to patch it up. It was asking, if magic is about creating a specific kind of cognitive dissonance, why do we think this is worth doing. George posited that it was entertaining. Okay fine. Do we want to go Further Than That?

Jack Shalom
[/quote]

If the state of mind that some are attempting to further define does not amount to something approximating either a religious experience or the mood that often follows sexual intercourse, then many of those folks would possibly not be interested in performing it. It becomes very important thus to come up with such a satisfying "definition."

My personal view is that this begs the question of what magic is and why it [i]can be[/i] entertaining. Note, it is not always entertaining even when performed well. To some people, it is irritating and annoying even when performed well.

What it is I think has already been stated clearly without the need for any claptrap. Why it is entertaining is also fairly clear insofar as it is related to the engaging personality of the performer, and a choice of premise that resonates for the particular audience, or the performer is able to sell to the audience.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Oct 27, 2007 04:48PM)
A descriptive definition can be shown to be right or wrong by comparison to usage. while a stipulative definition cannot. So I just read but since I don’t get it: What is a descriptive definition of magic and where is the usage that can show it to be right or wrong.
Message: Posted by: Brad Burt (Feb 10, 2009 06:01PM)
Perhaps the easiest way to define 'magic' is to define it like pornography: I don't know 'how' to define it, but I know it when I see it.

Something is ONLY magic if it is perceived by the audience AS magical. Tilted to one side a 'trick' becomes just a joke or an engaging puzzle. Framed carefully to the other direction you have a perception that the Laws of Nature that we hope in the Future will be exactly as they were in the Past have been contravened. The power of that contravention IS what we call Magic. Best,
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 10, 2009 08:12PM)
[quote]
On 2009-02-10 19:01, Brad Burt wrote:
Perhaps the easiest way to define 'magic' is to define it like pornography: I don't know 'how' to define it, but I know it when I see it....
[/quote]

The provincial attitude of one person toward a stimulus need have no bearing on the reactions of another. Remember the tale of Doug Henning doing magic for the Aleut (eskimo) people.

Probably more productive to start with Crowley per "Magic Without Tears" and see where you go from there.
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Feb 10, 2009 08:42PM)
I think Brad is kind of in line with my thinking of magic's definition: I know how to define it, I know it when I see it, but I won't try to define it here (And imagine that there is any real point in this place).

What is magic to you? Why should you care what any of us think about it. Since (I assume) you are here because you do what [b][i]you[/i][/b] consider to be magic (Perhaps there is no Entertainers Café'... which might be why we seem to be inundated with "entertainers".), you should have already formed your opinions of magic.

At any given time it seems like there is an active topic with this exact same discussion of a simple concept that is easy to comprehend and continually argued about.


[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic]Wikipedia[/url], [url=http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_/magic.html]MSN Encarta[/url], even[url=http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/magic]dictionary.com[/url] have no difficulty explaining it; it's kind of funny that those of us who actually do it seem to have such a hard time with it.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 10, 2009 09:05PM)
Many (if not most) here have some words to describe what they call doing tricks in front of people. Few here have taken the trouble to ask what those tricks are supposed to connect to for others or themselves.

Have you even read the first chapter of that book mentioned above? It's online for free. For those who have yet to have a look - I ask why you settle for willful ignorance when you can gain perspective and access to some ideas for a few clicks and a few minutes reading. Is being willfully ignorant about what we pretend or simulate that important in your ecology?
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Feb 10, 2009 09:34PM)
I know what magic is, I have no need to read Magic Without Tears to define it.
I may well read it though.
Are we so insecure with your our opinions that we have to have a book open and point to the page to have an acceptable belief? While the attempted insult regarding willful ignorance might hit a soft spot on some, the opposite extreme where we are not allowed to have a simple opinion without thorough study of every available publication, is just as ridiculous.

However,if you want to discuss the intricacies of the connection betwixt the audience and the performer on a cerebral yet emotional level, I'll dig up a dozen of those threads too. It's all important if you want to have a valid opinion (with some at least)...

At some point you have to know your audience. I know this audience.
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Feb 10, 2009 09:41PM)
Re-reading that last post, I guess I don't know this audience...
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 10, 2009 09:44PM)
I dare say most here are so insecure that they use writing to distract themselves or hide from reading. Getting feedback from audiences is important. Yet without some organized way to describe what one is finding out we are left with "knack", "you have to see it to understand" or other such sorry excuses for ineptitude in our writing.

Reading is fundamental. Why settle for willful ignorance when you can read some and then graduate to the heights (or depths) of denial?
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 11, 2009 01:54AM)
Ok but what reading would you recommand? There is a huge diversity of books? What should be read first? Can you suggest 1 book, and for later 3 books and then 10 books as reading program?
Message: Posted by: Josh Riel (Feb 11, 2009 07:30PM)
I like to hear peoples recommendations of books, but I have a specific taste for reading. There may well be a thousand books that, were I to read and learn from I would grow in leaps and bounds.

But I have a full time job, a family, random household projects, and magic of course.... and the Café' that I only have time to read the things that bring me pleasure as well as information. And I have a lot of interest, not just magic... I assume my particular situations is not abnormal.

However, this is a discussion of what magic "is". While you and I might not agree, don't we already have an idea anyway?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 11, 2009 07:35PM)
[quote]don't we already have an idea anyway?[/quote]

nope, most here don't even connect with the notion of magical thinking much less get the connections to belief and intuition. about the closest we get around here is when folks start to ask about gestures or sometimes about character.

most here can tell you about base procedural actions, the backstage mechanics for getting stuff moved around secretly, but not much about what the audience is supposed to think and feel about the performer's character, their intent and the purpose of those actions they see from audience view.
Message: Posted by: paradoxmagic (Feb 12, 2009 03:07AM)
What is "Magic"?
This does pose a very interesting question?
One, that I am sure, all magicians and laypersons have all pondered at some time.
Well, this being my first posting to the Magic Café, I couldn't think of a better place to introduce myself to the group.
Magic is defined in many places.
To list them all would take a life time. Furthermore, to list the definitions would take... well, let's say it would take longer.
It is difficult to say if there is really any right or wrong answer. Magicians have been noted for being masters of sleight of hand, legerdemain, impostors, tricksters, prestidigitators, or all around wizards.
But that does not define magic, does it?
Magic has many associations:
Witches
Healers
Shaman
to name only a few
But, within this we do not find the definition of magic, do we?
Let's look within ourselves, as magicians first.
To be a magician one must have dedication, drive, passion, love, and compassion for their craft or art.
One must spend countless of hours, days, months, years, perfecting their desire to be a magician.
When we call ourselves a magician, it is not something that is just printed on a business card, it is a title bestowed upon us because we have given our life to the art into what we know as "Magic"
How does one describe such a symbolic word? Should a definition even exist? Magic is a state of being. Above all else, magic is an EMOTION.
As Juliet looks out to the stars contemplating,
"What is montegue? it is nor hand nor foot nor arm nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man"
She tries so hard to determine what is a Montegue when what she is really trying to understand is, what is love.
Magic is that feeling that is not just experienced on stage.
Magic is all around you. It is that very moment when you say to yourself, "Wow!" It is that moment when you cry because your happy, and it is that very moment when you have completed a life long goal.
Magic is that emotion.
So, the real question is, "What is a Magician?"
We are what gives emotion that ability to manifest itself into what we call reality.
We use our tools to create the emotion we call magic inside our audience.
Our tools are sleight of hand, misdirection, gimmicks.....
I do hope the words "Believe", "Dream", and "Imagination" mean something to you?
Because these are the words that put the emotion into action.
When we give people the feeling of magic, they put into action the all mighty phrase of, "What if?"
Magic is powerful, Magic is love, above all Magic is abundant.
Spread your magic out to the world, and give people the chance to experience the emotion that they have long awaited for.
So, whenever you are asked, "what is magic?"
So something special for them. And when they respond with a smile say to them, "Do you feel that? You see how you feel when you smile? That's Magic!"
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 12, 2009 05:18AM)
Since Jonathan suggested Crowley's chapter one as a thinking ground and not everyone has access to the book, let's not talk in vain. Here it is

Chapter I: What is Magick?

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

What is Magick? Why should anyone study and practice it? Very natural; the obvious preliminary questions of any subject soever. We must certainly get all this crystal clear; fear not that I shall fail to set forth the whole business as concisely as possible yet as fully, as cogently yet as lucidly, as may prove within my power to do.

At least I need not waste any time on telling you what Magick is not; or to go into the story of how the word came to be misapplied to conjuring tricks, and to sham miracles such as are to this day foisted by charlatan swindlers, either within or without the Roman Communion, upon a gaping crew of pious imbeciles.

First let me go all Euclidean, and rub your nose in the Definition, Postulate and Theorems given in my comprehensive (but, alas! too advanced and too technical) Treatise on the subject.1 Here we are!

I. DEFINITION:

MAGICK

is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.*

(Illustration: It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take "magical weapons," pen, ink, and paper; I write "incantations"—these sentences—in the "magical language" i.e. that which is understood by people I wish to instruct. I call forth "spirits" such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution is thus an act of

MAGICK

by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.)
II. POSTULATE:

ANY required Change may be effected by application of the proper kind and degree of Force in the proper manner through the proper medium to the proper object.

(Illustration: I wish to prepare an ounce of Chloride of Gold. I must take the right kind of acid, nitro-hydrochloric and no other, in sufficient quantity and of adequate strength, and place it, in a vessel which will not break, leak or corrode, in such a manner as will not produce undesirable results, with the necessary quantity of Gold, and so forth. Every Change has its own conditions.

In the present state of our knowledge and power some changes are not possible in practice; we cannot cause eclipses, for instance, or transform lead into tin, or create men from mushrooms. But it is theoretically possible to cause in any object any change of which that object is capable by nature; and the conditions are covered by the above postulate.)
III. THEOREMS:

1. Every intentional act is a Magical Act.†

(Ilustration: See "Definition" above.)

2. Every successful act has conformed to the postulate.

3. Every failure proves that one or more requirements of the postulate have not been fulfilled.

(Illustrations: There may be failure to understand the case; as when a doctor makes a wrong diagnosis, and his treatment injures his patient. There may be failure to apply the right kind of force, as when a rustic tries to blow out an electric light. There may be failure to apply the right degree of force, as when a wrestler has his hold broken. There may be failure to apply the force in the right manner, as when one presents a cheque at the wrong window of the Bank. There may be failure to employ the correct medium, as when Leonardo da Vinci found his masterpiece fade away. The force may be applied to an unsuitable object, as when one tries to crack a stone, thinking it a nut.)

4. The first requisite for causing any change is thorough qualitative and quantitative understanding of the condition.

(Illustration: The most common cause of failure in life is ignorance of one's own True Will, or of the means by which to fulfill that Will. A man may fancy himself a painter, and waste his life trying to become one; or he may be really a painter, and yet fail to understand and to measure the difficulties peculiar to that career.)

5. The second requisite of causing any change is the practical ability to set in right motion the necessary forces.

(Illustration: A banker may have a perfect grasp of a given situation, yet lack the quality of decision, or the assets, necessary to take advantage of it.)

6. "Every man and every woman is a star." That is to say, every human being is intrinsically an independent individual with his own proper character and proper motion.

7. Every man and every woman has a course, depending partly on the self, and partly on the environment which is natural and necessary for each. Anyone who is forced from his own course, either through not understanding himself, or through external opposition, comes into conflict with the order of the Universe, and suffers accordingly.

(Illustration: A man may think it his duty to act in a certain way, through having made a fancy picture of himself, instead of investigating his actual nature. For example, a woman may make herself miserable for life by thinking that she prefers love to social consideration, or vice versa. One woman may stay with an unsympathetic husband when she would really be happy in an attic with a lover, while another may fool herself into a romantic elopement when her only true pleasures are those of presiding at fashionable functions. Again, a boy's instinct may tell him to go to sea, while his parents insist on his becoming a doctor. In such a case, he will be both unsuccessful and unhappy in medicine.

8. A man whose conscious will is at odds with his True Will is wasting his strength. He cannot hope to influence his environment efficiently.

(Illustration: When Civil War rages in a nation, it is in no condition to undertake the invasion of other countries. A man with cancer employs his nourishment alike to his own use and to that of the enemy which is part of himself. He soon fails to resist the pressure of his environment. In practical life, a man who is doing what his conscience tells him to be wrong will do it very clumsily. At first!)

9. A man who is doing his True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist him.

(Illustration: The first principle of success in evolution is that the individual should be true to his own nature, and at the same time adapt himself to his environment.)

10. Nature is a continuous phenomenon, thought we do not know in all cases how things are connected.

(Illustration: Human consciousness depends on the properties of protoplasm, the existence of which depends on innumerable physical conditions peculiar to this planet; and this planet is determined by the mechanical balance of the whole universe of matter. We may then say that our consciousness is causally connected with the remotest galaxies; yet we do not know even how it arises from—or with—the molecular changes in the brain.)

11. Science enables us to take advantage of the continuity of Nature by the empirical application of certain principles whose interplay involves different orders of idea, connected with each other in a way beyond our present comprehension.

(Illustration: We are able to light cities by rule-of-thumb methods. We do not know what consciousness is, or how it is connected with muscular action; what electricity is or how it is connected with the machines that generate it; and our methods depend on calculations involving mathematical ideas which have no correspondence in the Universe as we know it.‡)

12. Man is ignorant of the nature of his own being and powers. Even his idea of his limitations is based on experience of the past. and every step in his progress extends his empire. There is, therefore, no reason to assign theoretical limits§ to what he may be, or to what he may do.

(Illustration: Two generations ago it was supposed theoretically impossible that man should ever know the chemical composition of the fixed stars. It is known that our senses are adapted to receive only an infinitesimal fraction of the possible rates of vibration. Modern instruments have enabled us to detect some of these suprasensibles by indirect methods, and even to use their peculiar qualities in the service of man, as in the case of the rays of Hertz and Röntgen. As Tyndall said, man might at any moment learn to perceive and utilize vibrations of all conceivable and inconceivable kinds. The question of Magick is a question of discovering and employing hitherto unknown forces in nature. We know that they exist, and we cannot doubt the possibility of mental or physical instruments capable of bringing us in relation with them.)

13. Every man is more or less aware that his individuality comprises several orders of existence, even when he maintains that his subtler principles are merely symptomatic of the changes in his gross vehicle. A similar order may be assumed to extend throughout nature.

(Illustration: One does not confuse the pain of toothache with the decay which causes it. Inanimate objects are sensitive to certain physical forces, such as electrical and thermal conductivity; but neither in us nor in them—so far as we know—is there any direct conscious perception of these forces. Imperceptible influences are therefore associated with all material phenomena; and there is no reason why we should not work upon matter through those subtle energies as we do through their material bases. In fact, we use magnetic force to move iron, and solar radiation to reproduce images.)

14. Man is capable of being, and using, anything which he perceives; for everything that he perceives is in a certain sense a part of his being. He may thus subjugate the whole Universe of which he is conscious to his individual Will.

(Illustration: Man has used the idea of God to dictate his personal conduct, to obtain power over his fellows, to excuse his crimes, and for innumerable other purposes, including that of realizing himself as God. He has used the irrational and unreal conceptions of mathematics to help him in the construction of mechanical devices. He has used his moral force to influence the actions even of wild animals. He has employed poetic genius for political purposes.)

* In one sense Magick may be said to be the name given to Science by the vulgar.

† By "intentional" I mean "willed." But even unintentional acts so seeming are not truly so. Thus, breathing is an act of the Will-to-live.

‡ For instance, "irrational," "unreal," and "infinite" expressions.

§ i.e. except—possibly—in the case of logically absurd questions, such as the schoolmen discussed in connection with "God."

15. Every force in the Universe is capable of being transformed into any other kind of force by using suitable means. There is thus an inexhaustible supply of any particular kind of force that we may need.

(Illustration: Heat may be transformed into light and power by using it to drive dynamos. The vibrations of the air may be used to kill men by so ordering them in speech as to inflame war-like passions. The hallucinations connected with the mysterious energies of sex result in the perpetuation of the species.)

16. The application of any given force affects all the orders of being which exist in the object to which it is applied, whichever of those orders is directly affected.

(Illustration: If I strike a man with a dagger, his consciousness, not his body only, is affected by my act; although the dagger, as such, has no direct relation therewith. Similarly, the power of my thought may so work on the mind of another person as to produce far- reaching physical changes in him, or in others through him.)

17. A man may learn to use any force so as to serve any purpose, by taking advantage of the above theorems.

(Illustration: A man may use a razor to make himself vigilant over his speech, by using it to cut himself whenever he unguardedly utters a chosen word. He may serve the same purpose by resolving that every incident of his life shall remind him of a particular thing, Making every impression the starting point of a connected series of thoughts ending in that thing. He might also devote his whole energies to some particular object, by resolving to do nothing at variance therewith, and to make every act turn to the advantage of that object.)

18. He may attract to himself any force of the Universe by making himself a fit receptacle for it, establishing a connection with it, and arranging conditions so that its nature compels it to flow toward him.

(Illustration: If I want pure water to drink, I dig a well in a place where there is underground water; I prevent it from leaking away; and I arrange to take advantage of water's accordance with the laws of Hydrostatics to fill it.)

19. Man's sense of himself as separate from, and opposed to, the Universe is a bar to his conducting its currents. It insulates him.

(Illustration: A popular leader is most successful when he forgets himself, and remembers only "The Cause." Self-seeking engenders jealousies and schism. When the organs of the body assert their presence otherwise than by silent satisfaction, it is a sign that they are diseased. The single exception is the organ of reproduction. Yet even in this case self-assertion bears witness to its dissatisfaction with itself, since in cannot fulfill its function until completed by its counterpart in another organism.)

20. Man can only attract and employ the forces for which he is really fitted.

(Illustration: You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. A true man of science learns from every phenomenon. But Nature is dumb to the hypocrite; for in her there is nothing false.*)

21. There is no limit to the extent of the relations of any man with the Universe in essence; for as soon as man makes himself one with any idea, the means of measurement cease to exist. But his power to utilize that force is limited by his mental power and capacity, and by the circumstances of his human environment.

(Illustration: When a man falls in love, the whole world becomes, to him, nothing but love boundless and immanent; but his mystical state is not contagious; his fellow-men are either amused or annoyed. He can only extend to others the effect which his love has had upon himself by means of his mental and physical qualities. Thus, Catullus, Dante, and Swinburne made their love a mighty mover of mankind by virtue of their power to put their thoughts on the subject in musical and eloquent language. Again, Cleopatra and other people in authority moulded the fortunes of many other people by allowing love to influence their political actions. The Magician, however well he succeeds in making contact with the secret sources of energy in nature, can only use them to the extent permitted by his intellectual and moral qualities. Mohammed's intercourse with Gabriel was only effective because of his statesmanship, soldiership, and the sublimity of his command of Arabic. Hertz's discovery of the rays which we now use for wireless telegraphy was sterile until reflected through the minds and wills of the people who could take his truth, and transmit it to the world of action by means of mechanical and economic instruments.)

22. Every individual is essentially sufficient to himself. But he is unsatisfactory to himself until he has established himself in his right relation with the Universe.

(Illustration: A microscope, however perfect, is useless in the hands of savages. A poet, however sublime, must impose himself upon his generation if he is to enjoy (and even to understand) himself, as theoretically should be the case.)

23. Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.

(Illustration: A golf club is intended to move a special ball in a special way in special circumstances. A Niblick should rarely be used on the tee, or a Brassie under the bank of a bunker. But, also, the use of any club demands skill and experience.)

24. Every man has an indefeasible right to be what he is.

(Illustration: To insist that anyone else shall comply with one's own standards is to outrage, not only him, but oneself, since both parties are equally born of necessity.)

25. Every man must do Magick each time that he acts or even thinks, since a thought is an internal act whose influence ultimately affects action, thought it may not do so at the time.

(Illustration: The least gesture causes a change in a man's own body and in the air around him: it disturbs the balance of the entire universe and its effects continue eternally throughout all space. Every thought, however swiftly suppressed, has its effect on the mind. It stands as one of the causes of every subsequent thought, and tends to influence every subsequent action. A golfer may lose a few yards on his drive, a few more with his second and third, he may lie on the green six bare inches too far from the hole; but the net result of these trifling mishaps is the difference of a whole stroke, and so probably between having and losing the hole.)

26. Every man has a right, the right of self-preservation, to ful- fill himself to the utmost.†

(Illustration: A function imperfectly performed injures, not only itself, but everything associated with it. If the heart is afraid to beat for fear of disturbing the liver, the liver is starved for blood, and avenges itself on the heart by upsetting digestion, which disorders respiration, on which cardiac welfare depends.)

27. Every man should make Magick the keynote of his life. He should learn its laws and live by them.

(Illustration: The Banker should discover the real meaning of his existence, the real motive which led him to choose that profession. He should understand banking as a necessary factor in the economic existence of mankind, instead of as merely a business whose objects are independent of the general welfare. He should learn to distinguish false values from real, and to act not on accidental fluctuations but on considerations of essential importance. Such a banker will prove himself superior to others; because he will not be an individual limited by transitory things, but a force of Nature, as impersonal, impartial and eternal as gravitation, as patient and irresistible as the tides. His system will not be subject to panic, any more than the law of Inverse Squares is disturbed by Elections. He will not be anxious about his affairs because they will not be his; and for that reason he will be able to direct them with the calm, clear-headed confidence of an onlooker, with intelligence unclouded by self-interest and power unimpaired by passion.)

28. Every man has a right to fulfill his own will without being afraid that it may interfere with that of others; for if he is in his proper path, it is the fault of others if they interfere with him.

(Illustration: If a man like Napoleon were actually appointed by destiny to control Europe, he should not be blamed for exercising his rights. To oppose him would be an error. Anyone so doing would have made a mistake as to his own destiny, except in so far as it might be necessary for him to learn the lessons of defeat. The sun moves in space without interference. The order of Nature provides a orbit for each star. A clash proves that one or the other has strayed from its course. But as to each man that keeps his true course, the more firmly he acts, the less likely are others to get in his way. His example will help them to find their own paths and pursue them. Every man that becomes a Magician helps others to do likewise. The more firmly and surely men move, and the more such action is accepted as the standard of morality, the less will conflict and confusion hamper humanity.)

* It is no objection that the hypocrite is himself part of Nature. He is an "endothermic" product, divided against himself, with a tendency to break up. He will see his own qualities everywhere, and thus obtain a radical misconception of phenomena. Most religions of the past have failed by expecting Nature to conform with their ideals of proper conduct.

† Men of "criminal nature" are simply at issue with their true Wills. The murderer has the Will-to-live; and his will to murder is a false will at variance with his true Will, since he risks death at the hands of Society by obeying his criminal impulse.

Well, here endeth the First Lesson.

That seems to me to cover the ground fairly well; at least, that is what I have to say when serious analysis is on the agenda.

But there is a restricted and conventional sense in which the word may be used without straying too far from the above philosophical position. One might say:—

"Magick is the study and use of those forms of energy which are (a) subtler than the ordinary physical-mechanical types, (b) accessible only to those who are (in one sense or another) 'Initiates'." I fear that this may sound rather obscurum per obscurius; but this is one of these cases— we are likely to encounter many such in the course of our researches—in which we understand, quite well enough for all practical purposes, what we mean, but which elude us more and more successfully the more accurately we struggle to define their import.

We might fare even worse if we tried to clear things up by making lists of events in history, tradition, or experience and classifying this as being, and that as not being, true Magick. The borderland cases would confuse and mislead us.

But—since I have mentioned history—I think it might help, if I went straight on to the latter part of your question, and gave you a brief sketch of Magick past, present and future as it is seen from the inside.

What are the principles of the "Masters"? What are They trying to do? What have They done in the past? What means do They employ?

As it happens, I have by me a sketch written by M. Gerard Aumont of Tunis2 some twenty years ago, which covers this subject with reasonable adequacy.

I have been at the pains of translating it from his French, I hope not too much reminiscent of the old traduttore, traditore. I will revise it, divide it (like Gaul) into Three Parts and send it along.

Love is the law, love under will.

Fraternally,

666

Notes

1: i.e., Magick in Theory and Practice. All Crowley's footnotes are from the original – T.S.

2: Gerard Aumont was a journalist who translated The Book of the Law into French. However it is generally believed that the actual author of the essay mentioned, The Three Schools of Magick, which occupies chapters 6-8 of Magick Without Tears (it had previously been published in German translation by Thelema Verlag) was Crowley himself – T.S.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 12, 2009 08:08AM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-23 09:38, Alan Wheeler wrote:
A solid definition of magic (conjuring) must include at least four elements:

1. a description of the effect
There is a demontration of the impossible or a bending of the laws of nature. However, this element is not enough because the special effects in movies and certain events in fairy tales also contain impossible effects.
Would the definition need to specify that the impossible effects are illusory?

2. a suggestion of the mystery
There is something hidden and unexplainable, a dark secret. Of course this element is not enough on its own because even Colonel Sanders has a secret recipe.

3. a mention of the performance or entertainment element involved in magic--since we are traditonally grouped with clowns, comedians, acrobats, jugglers, fire-eaters, and freak shows. (Sorry)

4. an acknowledgement of the artistic element of magic. Tommy Wonder focused on this element when he defined magic (at the end of his last interview in Genii) as "beauty."

I've got a definition that includes these elements in nine words--including articles!--and I can get it down to five or six words if I don't have to mention that the effects are illusory and not real.

I know that books could be (and have been) written on each of these elements, but for me, so far in my journey, these boil magic down to its lowest common denominator.
[/quote]

Go ahead man, shoot! The post was on my birthday and I'm still waiting for the present: a definition that includes these elements in nine words--including articles!--and that you can get down to five or six words if you don't have to mention that the effects are illusory and not real.

We want both!

... and I personally share the point of view that we might run into circles for long if we don't accept that magic is in the imagination of our audiences (normally we have a clue about what we're doing) and that we should understand what [b]THEY[/b] receive as "magic" in an entertainment environment. The means we use to achieve that are not less complex than the definition -the goal- but IMHO do not apply to the definition of magical entertainment. However part of the magical entertainment includes by the necessity of [b]proving[/b] the flawed cause to effect relationship.

Go ahead Jonathan, keep pushing this to its end.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 12, 2009 04:21PM)
Consider the following as a transcript:

"He took up his wand, waved it over the small tablet in his hand and then gave it to the other person who walked away happy after they brought over a car! I mean it was amazing!"

The story as told, by someone who saw but...()

Kindly fill in that ellipsis.

And thus we can finally get around to understanding the joke behind the Clarke third law.

Do we really need to be such boors as to plainly state that presents are given by adults to children based upon knowledge gleaned directly and via other children's parents? Do we truly need to write here that the above quote was from the point of view of someone who was not aware how one can sign for goods using a credit card and a pen? Oh - it's all about perception. Bingo! Now let's use that understanding to continue with some ECOLOGICAL definitions.

Effect: The story as told like in the example above. What we really want them to tell their friends after the show.

Method: Whatever it was that we had to do in order to give the audience that story to tell.

Magic Secret: What we need to make sure they don't know so they can tell that effect-story to others sincerely.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 13, 2009 05:13AM)
[quote]
On 2009-02-12 17:21, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
...
Effect: The story as told like in the example above. What we really want them to tell their friends after the show.

...
[/quote]

If you consider Mnemonics, you realize that people memorize what is shocking because it registers in. Read Harry Lorayne books on memory or ask him here on the café. Whit's "dilemna" or "cgnitive dissonance" or what I would call (like Nelms) paradoxs (or oxymorons which producing the same result) aim at achieving just that.

Look Wikipedia under Long Tail Effect. If you fooled people well you'll get a good immediate response. If, however, magic created in an entertaining way a strong dilemna or a disturbing paradox, they will speak to their friends about it (not willingly but due to the psychological need to rebalance) but will not be able to "prove their point" and some of them will have to book you again to prove "their" point and you'll gain a long tail effect.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Feb 14, 2009 07:12PM)
Magic is a mind control technique.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 14, 2009 07:14PM)
[quote]
On 2009-02-14 20:12, tommy wrote:
Magic is a mind control technique.
[/quote]

yup, it lets you get from here to there without getting all stuck in astonishment that the world that goes away is the same as the world that comes back when you sleep or sneeze... or that things fall even though there are no strings attached.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Feb 14, 2009 07:28PM)
Our apparent ability to control the outer word with the inner world results in their inner world being controlled. The mind control technique known our magic, places their mind in what is known as the dilemma.

This is the symbol of the magic mind control cult: ?

:)

So we are real sorcerers disguised as magicians!
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 14, 2009 08:57PM)
Not bad. It would mean that the dilemma whit detected has a price in a counter balancing dilemma for the magician that Alan Wheeler is getting at.
Michael Close expresses it well in his introduction of Workers 2

"...magic should be something that (for the spectators) has no explanation.
Juan Tamariz describes this as instilling in the spectators “the sensation of magic.” I refer to this as “fooling the hell out of them.” In order to achieve this, however, the spectators must be convinced. Convinced of what? Convinced that they understand completely what has transpired, that nothing occurred so quickly that they couldn’t grasp it, and that all possible methods have been eliminated from consideration. Tamariz refers to this as the Theory of False Solutions. In his book The Magic Way, Senor Tamariz applies this approach to several routines...
In his new book The Aronson Approach, Simon Aronson expresses this concept very clearly. He writes, “There is a world of difference between a spectator’s not knowing how something is done versus his knowing that it can’t be done.”

If the goal is to have the spectator "knowing that it can’t be done" then we have to reduce the performer centered “fooling the hell out of them” which would mean that it indeed "can be done". As a result we have no alternative but to alledge "real magic" and Whit's dilemma; we also have to accept our own dilemma and live with it: it's the price to pay for performing our art. We cannot exonerate every form of responsibility and therefore the control of our iner world, as Tommy rightfully underlines.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 14, 2009 09:01PM)
Knowledge brings its own responsibility. They know what they are seeing. And you know what you are doing. The dilemma awaits those who attempt to live in both worlds at the same time (audience/performer).
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 14, 2009 09:03PM)
Precisely. How do you do to say in a few words what takes me ages to explain?
Message: Posted by: Alan Wheeler (Feb 15, 2009 05:26AM)
Lawrence O, Happy Birthday from October 23, 2007--a year and a half ago!
I am sorry to disappoint you but here was my definition of magic at that time:

Magic = a performance art giving unexplainable experiences of the impossible.

1. Presentation and Theater = performance
2. Beauty, Truth, Expression = art giving an
3. Mystery, secret, unknown = unexplainable
4. live connection, real contact= experience of the
5. supernatural effect or miracle= impossible

At the time, I felt that if the word "unexplainable" was redundant, then I could make the definition shorter. But I think the word helps separate our magic from magic in movies and stories.

More than the definition, I like to keep in mind the elements that I do not want to leave out--presentation, art, mystery, connection, and impossibility. I think on a trick-by-trick or show-by-show basis, these elements merge, fuse, become superimposed on each other in a way that somewhat defies analysis. The persona will become part of the method by creating shadow and moments of tension/relaxation. The connection and communication becomes part of the effect in places. The meaning and message arises from the theme (substantive meaning), from the conflict (situational meaning), as well as from the magic (impossible effect) itself. [The terms substantive and situational meaning come from _Strong Magic_ by Ortiz.]

Rather than a two-section Yin and Yang image, I see all these elements working together to build up that impossible experience--could it perhaps be called a Ying/Yang/Yeng/Yong/Yung?

I am eager to learn more in both theory and practice.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 15, 2009 08:13PM)
Getting into your logic, I would propose:

Magic = a performing art shaking truths verified by personal experience with progressive consistent proofs enabling to share, live, experiences of impossible causes to effects relationship with both ends carrying their part of the responsibility

1. Presentation and Theater = performing
2. Beauty, Expression, Emotions = art
3. Belief established by general knowledge and personal experience = truths verified by personal experience
4. Facts progressively organized, undeniable proof = progressive consistent proofs
5. Live dialog with the audience = sharing, live, experiences
6. supernatural effect or miracle= impossible cause to effect relationship.
7. Magicians are triggering audiences' imagination = responsibility for a shared moment


[b]That can't be true because it's against everything I know from experience.
That must be true because I allowed you to just irrefutably prove it by making it happen right in front of me.
Both ends sharing an experience cannot avoid their responsibility in creating a temporary flawed impossible cause to effect relationship[/b]

Thus we are not far off the mark
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Feb 15, 2009 08:51PM)
It is true that the audience shares the responsibility factually. However, to the extent that they may awake and feel taken, I do not think we can afford to leave them with that responsibility.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 16, 2009 04:17AM)
Who is it too big an ethical responsibility for to leave them with the responsibility of wanting to believe something they know they cannot believe?
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 16, 2009 11:50AM)
What is magic
Thank to you all, I think I finally got a viable definition of the word and solved the definition enigma.

[b]Magic = the voluntarily unspecified oxymoron referring to the dilemma created by a performing art tearing apar truths verified by personal experience, thanks to allocated consistent proofs progressively enabling to share "live" experiences of unnatural cause-to-effects relationship. [/b]

Hence both the spectators and the performer carry their part of the responsibility for the dilemma.

Defining the concept (as opposed to defining the word) would force this mythical oxymoron to fall on one of its two sides (supernatural powers or physical skill) destroying the balanced unity needed for the concept itself to exist. Only the word can be defined but not the concept which permanently remains in balance like the concept of "god", "love" which defy any definition or are, in some cultures, forbidden to define.

Any comment or refutation?
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Feb 16, 2009 03:22PM)
First I want to seek some clarity. You are mentioning a "shared responsibility with the audience for the dilemma." I responded to this perhaps without fully considering the implications. I would argue that given ethical boundaries around leaving the audience with false evidence of the supernatural, the performer has 100% of the responsibility to prevent this, by creating the dilemma in such a way as to allow them, in falling off the "horns" (which they are very likely to do, eventually or sooner), on the side of reason, and that if they choose otherwise, that is 100% their own responsibility. Does that work?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 16, 2009 04:09PM)
I like the notion of the dilemma here in that if you look up "taking the bull by the horns" and the ancient Minoan sport of Bull Jumping...

you get something close to that parable about footsteps on the beach.

no bull.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 16, 2009 04:55PM)
Hi Mickael
The performer is not "leaving the audience with false evidence of the [b]supernatural[/b]" in any way: he is leaving them having used their imagination to experience an "unnatural cause-to-effects relationship", a feeling they want to have and that you are delivering for them.

"Unnatural cause-to-effects relationship" is not "supernatural power of the magician": I get the feeling that you are addressing your self centered ethical fear or ethical social image here! Stay with the audience's desire to be entertained.

If there is no shade of a doubt about the fact that the effect could be purely and only technical or only due to skill or sleight of hand: there is no ambivalence and THERE IS NO DILEMMA LEFT with them (the magic Michael: THIS is the MAGIC!). We would have unethically fooled them in suggesting that we would deliver some [b]magic[/b] but would deliver our boasting ego. IMHO this is not magic it's ego (granted hiding behind flawed ethics).

In the proposed definition, we are just showing something they badly want to see (they figured it out under your lead) but that they know by themselves to be false: it was constructed by them in their imagination, and they know it. No supernatural power of the performer: there are three parties involved (them, the performer and "Magic") They know they don't have any magical power and, with due respect that you don't either (especially since you don't claim it). Let's keep a tighter leash on our dragons... No cruisade to be made here (Lol)
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 16, 2009 05:11PM)
[quote]
On 2009-02-16 17:09, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
I like the notion of the dilemma here in that if you look up "taking the bull by the horns" and the ancient Minoan sport of Bull Jumping...

you get something close to that parable about footsteps on the beach.

no bull.
[/quote]

Do you mean the Jules De Barros poem "where there is only one trace in the sand, it's the days when I carried you..."? ? ?
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Feb 16, 2009 05:16PM)
Yes, I see what you mean given your,
"Magic = . . .enabling to share "live" experiences of unnatural cause-to-effects relationship. "

So, putting my dragon-like ego on the tightest possible leash, how do you establish that the cause-to-effects relationships shared live, are unnatural?

And regarding not claiming supernatural powers, every time we wave the magic wand (or establish similar moments when the "magic" occurs) we are saying we have supernatural powers. I assume you are countering that somehow. Please indulge my excessively egoistic ethical bent by acknowledging that.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 16, 2009 05:45PM)
"every time we wave the magic wand (or establish similar moments when the "magic" occurs) we are saying we have supernatural powers"
I disagree here. When we mark the magic moment, we only do two things:
We set the magic moment (not one of your spectator ever ever believed that your wand or your magical formula was the real cause or teh effect, but they need an imaginary cause to be entertained otherwise their logic gets frustrated. They don't think tha when John Carney snaps his fingers this really casues a sponge ball to appear, they don't believe that when Al Goshman, after Charlie Miller, was saying the magical formula " and like a ghost gets through the wall of an ancient castle..." it makes the coin to travel under a salt shaker. Take a glass of fresh water and get your well sturtured analytical mind afoot: if they don't believe in it why would they need it? They want to see the "MAGIC": something they know to be false but that is away from the constraints of nature that they resent (having to work, to carry, to suffer, to be responsible...)

Now, admittedly, we set at a late stage the earliest point that their memory recorder will reach (everything before that was contextual) if our entertainment job was imperfect and if they attempt to logically rewind the facts in they minds. In other words we organize for them to keep the dilemma even after they "land" (it will just be less vivid, it it will remain there).
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Feb 16, 2009 05:49PM)
[quote]
On 2009-02-16 18:11, Lawrence O wrote:...

Do you mean the Jules De Barros poem "where there is only one trace in the sand, it's the days when I carried you..."? ? ?
[/quote]

Yes, we know what the horns on the bull are and how unsafe it can be to us/them to get trampled/gored etc... so IMHO what we do is lead them (or carry) them through the entire jump and it is our character which has a firm grip on the horns during the jump and then puts them down safely at the end of the show.
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Feb 16, 2009 06:46PM)
Ok, thank you -- I had a glass of water, that was a good idea. "They want to see the "MAGIC": something they know to be false but that is away from the constraints of nature that they resent (having to work, to carry, to suffer, to be responsible...)" You are describing a desirable characteristic of your ideal audience. These folks are also more fragile than you give them credit for.

I think Jonathan has nailed it. They do not take John Carney seriously, because he does not take himself seriously. It is his performance character, so brilliantly over the top, who spoofs himself and in so doing makes the implicit disclaimer. I would say the same about Juan Tamariz. Both these performers create strong magic (strong in the dilemma), by articulating through their comical personalities, that this is all in fun. Whit would probably say that these trimmings just make the dilemma easier to bear, and he would be right. But I feel that they also convey the "wink and nod" that Whit displays in his own Pop character, that balances against the "no other explanation" side of the equation. In spite of my over-sized ego, I recognize that I am not so learned, and there are many other examples, each with their own way of making the point that, "there is no such thing as magic." In all humility (for me anyway), I believe they (or some other technique serving the same function) are critical to avoid falling into inadvertant charlatanry (from the audience perspective, not the performer's intent). It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I would add there must be method to our madness.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 16, 2009 06:57PM)
Now I agree 100%, only adding that no matter how big an ego gets, it always meet another one to match it... ;)
Message: Posted by: Michael Kamen (Feb 16, 2009 07:11PM)
Now I am blushing, and too honored!
Message: Posted by: Alan Wheeler (Feb 16, 2009 09:48PM)
[quote]
On 2009-02-16 18:49, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
[quote]
On 2009-02-16 18:11, Lawrence O wrote:...

Do you mean the Jules De Barros poem "where there is only one trace in the sand, it's the days when I carried you..."? ? ?
[/quote]

Yes, we know what the horns on the bull are and how unsafe it can be to us/them to get trampled/gored etc... so IMHO what we do is lead them (or carry) them through the entire jump and it is our character which has a firm grip on the horns during the jump and then puts them down safely at the end of the show.
[/quote]

After 7 years and 700 posts, I finally [think] I understand one of Jonathan's posts!
Could it be because you created double jeopardy by phrasing the question in the form of an answer, my friend?
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 17, 2009 06:37PM)
:D

I confused Jules de Barros with Adhémar de Barros

Here is the poem I was referring to (which doesn't mean that what Jonathan is presenting is arguable):

I had a dream on Christmas eve,
I was walking on the beach, next to my father.
Our steps were visible on the shore
Leaving a double imprint
Mine and my father's one;
The idea crossed my mind (it was a dream) that each of our steps
Represented a day of my life.
I stopped to look back
I saw all these tracks which were ending in the horizon,
But I noticed that in certain places,
Instead of two steps, there was only one.
I saw again the film of my life: Surprise!
The places of the unique imprint corresponded
To the darkest days of my existence.
Anxious days or bad-will days,
Egoism days or bad mood days;
Challenging and doubting days, unbearable days...
Days where, I as well, had been unbearable.
Then turning towards my father,
I dared addressing him criticism:
"You had promised us however
To be with us every day.
Why didn't you keep your word?
Why did you leave me alone at the worst possible moments of my life?
Aux jours où j'avais le plus besoin de ta présence?"
But my father answered:
"My friend,
The days when you see only one trace on the sand,
Are the days when I carried you".

Adhémar de Barros, Brazilian poet
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Feb 23, 2009 02:30PM)
I realize that the de Barros poem has put the thread off track, so let's put it back

Presenting “real magic”

So how can we define a form of “magic” that is not charlatanry. Before getting into such a definition let’s use a metaphor. There is nothing complicated about a metaphor: when we say “my computer crashed” or “he watch every move of mine like a hawk” or “No strings attached” or “he had his eyes riveted on my hands”, we are using metaphors: it’s just clearer than an intellectual explanation. A picture is worth a thousand words. Metaphors and similes are figures of speech used in creative communication to express thoughts in a non linear fashion to show to others with visuals what is happening in a situation. In fact we will demonstrate along the way that real magic and charlatanry are metaphors themselves. So let’s use one for representing “real magic” (as opposed to charlatanry).

Let’s suppose that we tie a long rope (no false knot here, just a regular honest simple tying), we obtain a long loop. Let’s now hand over one side of the loop to a spectator or an audience, the performer taking the other end. In our metaphor we now have three entities: the performer, the spectator and the loop which illustrates the magical theme. Now let’s suppose that the performer starts to let the rope circulate clockwise (or counter clockwise) between his hands and that the spectator, playing the game, goes along. The rope circulates between both of them. This circulation of the rope will represent “real magic” in our metaphor.

If the tension on the loop is too lose between the performer and the spectator, it means that the spectator is not “attracted” by what the performer is attempting on his side of the rope. He may play along and let circulate the rope but interest is low: magic needs a bit of acting showmanship to create a pleasant tension between the spectator and the magician. This is done by using emotional implications.

Now let’s suppose that the magician pulls too hard on the pulling side where the audience is supposed to give in. One thing immediately happens, the rope does not circulate freely any more with three possible outcomes: the spectator resists, blocking the “rotation of the rope” (real magic); or the spectator drops his end of the rope (he doesn’t participate emotionally any more); or the knot unties and the rope becomes a line (a demonstration with an end). Some spectators may keep watching the performer turning the rope in his own hand or pointing at the direction it ends into, but he no longer shares an experience of real magic by bringing his own input in the effect. These situations occur generally when the performer’s attitude is too challenging: when the attempt at dominating the spectators people are no longer emotionally involved in the magic. They watch something visual which fools their eyes but not their minds any more.

Thus for a good circulation of the rope certain criteria must be met:
There must be a soft tension supplied by showmanship which attracts the audience without blocking the circulation. How does the performer achieve this? He uses two types of moves. He releases rope on one side and pulls on the other. In magic the release of one side of the rope is concretely realized by the performer delineating the perception that he will disprove, as closely as possible with the spectators global perception (truth in the spectators’ eyes).

This is not done just initially but all along the demonstrated cause-to-effect relationship, corresponding to everything the spectators know on the subject and which has been confirmed by their experience. With the other hand however, the performer pulls the facts that he needs for his demonstrating something opposite to the rope he releases (the truth confirmed by personal experience) and he must obtain the consent of the spectator to freely release the facts opposing the “truth” so that the rope keeps on circulating. The pulling side is a paradox: it goes in an opposite direction to the “truth”. Most of these facts are supplied by the spectator accepting to suspend the disbelief that the performer is pulling on (he must not resist to release some of the rope even feeling that it goes against the “truth confirmed by his own experience”).

In magic as in life, facts are distinct and end up related between them only by a logical process which our imagination selects and supplies. It is our imagination which creates the necessary links: if, as an example, we place a coin from the right hand into the left (whether legitimately or not) the coin is initially visible, the moves convey the fact that it is placed there, then our imagination deducts from the fact that the right hand is now empty and that the moves visually reproduced our experience of transferring an object from right to left, and the left hand assumed a position that our image processing capacity describes to our imagination as the left hand holding the coin. This example aims at underlining that without the audience’s imagination consent to release some rope (the coin has been transferred), the magic stops: it could mean “show me that you really put it there” or more simply “why did you put it in there? Somehow I find it suspicious”. Circulation of the rope is either slowed down or blocked and, in any case, the spectators are no longer focused on the rope which the magician releases for their imagination, but on the paradoxical rope he is pulling.

It is essential to understand that for magic to exist, the audience has to take part in the process. The metaphor is rich in the sense that it is clear that the magician cannot do magic without this constant dialogue with the spectator. Allow me to repeat that if the spectator blocks the rope the demonstration stops and he will soon release his end of the rope: he will then possibly watch a demonstration of skill but there will be no magic because he will not have shared it and experienced it. Forever magicians did notice (not always analyzing why) that audience participation in an effect was making it more magical.

Magicians experience also shows that the pulling has to be progressive for the spectator to accept receiving it back on the other side. Actually part of the art is to focus the spectator on his receiving side, so that he doesn’t care so much about the type of rope he is releasing on the other hand. This is necessary because another ingredient of magical experience is that the audience knows from the start and all along that the magician is tricking the proof (the pulling side) but is more interested in what rope he is releasing (the effect). The art is to draw on the spectator’s imagination without them being wishing to block or analyze the process. The more they do, the more tension the performer gets on the pulling side (the causes) and the less on the delivering side (the effects). To produce a climax the magician progressively pulled more rope than he actually released and he then releases a length that the audience didn’t realized to exist.

To complete the metaphor it is finally essential to be impregnated with the fact that what is specific to magic is that the rope is a loop when for religions or science or ethics for example it’s a line with a direction. Just as the paradox goes back and forth between the performer and the spectator in opposite directions, it creates a circular dilemma in the spectator’s mind:

That can't be true because it's against everything I know from experience.
However it must have some form of truth because you could just consistently prove it by making it happen right in front of me.
But you admitted all along that the proof was flawed so can everything that I know from experience on this subject really be true if it can be denied live by a flawed proof?

This dilemma that remains circulating in the spectator’s mind is the magic effect. Showmanship and entertainment is what allowed the rope not to get blocked. Magic is the circulation process itself that was shared by the spectator to create the dilemma in his head: if the dilemma is explainable by any form of super natural abilities (whether agility, skill, mental powers, or telekinesis…), it is simply not achieved by “magic” which expresses “no solution”.

If a solution is offered, even only hinted, the knot unties, the rope becomes a line with an end. The art becomes a visual artistic demonstration. The dilemma has to end nowhere: if a solution is offered, even only hinted, the knot unties, the rope becomes a line with an end: it’s a philosophy or a religion at best, a performer’s need for recognition at worst and -possibly in between the surprising demonstration of impossible feat- thanks to the skill hinted. We then have lost the spectator’s participating imagination: he didn’t share an “experience of magic”, he just got manipulated into something.

A philosophy or a religion could be smart in using illusions along the way to illustrate a dilemma they contend to solve. It’s however no longer “magic” because a solution is offered where in magic, by definition, there is no solution. “Real magic” is an oxymoron, a figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms. Oxymoron is a loanword from Greek oxy ("sharp" or "pointed") and moros ("dull"). Thus the word oxymoron like “real magic” is itself an oxymoron.

DEFINITION

From the above we can now offer a definition for Real Magic. It is the oxymoron ending into a recurring dilemma created by a performing art tearing apart any truth verified by personal experience, thanks to consistent proofs progressively enabling to share, "live", experiences of an admittedly but undetectably flawed cause-to-effects relationship outside natural laws.

Thus the dilemma created by “real magic” can be symbolized by an Ouroboros: The Ouroboros (Greek Ουροβόρος, from ουροβόρος όφις "tail-devouring snake", is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle. The notion of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, circa 1600 BC. From ancient Egypt it passed to Phoenicia and then to the Greek philosophers, who gave its name.

Carl Jung, in Collected Works, Vol. 14 para. 513 states “The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. Ouroboros, has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite”

Across cultures and times, the Ouroboros generally comes out as indicating the existence of an undifferentiated from where everything came out and return. Its meaning is double: it can illustrate a simple repetition where everything ends up returning to chaos: the guilt of being finite minds devours us in our need to grasp our infinitely organized time/space universe, which cannot be grasped by finite minds regenerating our guilt and turning into an eternal circle of reborn research and return to initial chaos. In a positive way it is a perpetual rebirth passing through the same death and resurrection phase enabling us to reach the undifferentiated which is beyond any form of opposed couples and that cannot be talked about for it escapes every categories of our logic.

Hence somehow it represents endless self-reflexivity or circularity, especially in the sense of an interrogation constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as circular that begin anew as soon as they end.
Showmanship incidence

An impossible cause-to-effect relationship, a paradox or an oxymoron, is proven in a perfectly progressive and consistent manner. Facts are chosen, progressively introduced and organized to form an undeniable tricked proof (Time displacement graph). Magic is a strategic exercise: it has a specific aim.

The belief established by general knowledge and personal experience must be well delineated both by rational and emotional perception. It has to concern a simply believed truth (looking for socially shared viewpoints is often a good track) verified by personal experience. Thus, in showmanship terms, the truth verified by personal experience must be exposed before the paradox

The effect must, in entertaining terms, result in a Whit Haydn circular dilemma: “real magic” forges an ouroboros. It’s not just “impossible”, the word used by Darwin Ortiz in Designing Miracles who properly pinpoint each of the needed processes without fully explaining what the “Miracles” of his book’s title consist in. It touches for entertainment purposes the religious dilemma of being finite in an infinite and infinitely organized Time/Space and the guilt attached to finitude.

Magic puts on show the Ouroboros of human knowledge: the better we know of the problems, the less we know of the solutions, the more we feel guilty and the more we need to know to evacuate the guilt… and the snake keep biting its tail.
Now “real magic” is not a philosophical or religious lecture: it’s just an art to present a paradox or an oxymoron in a theatrical way: real magic is just a performing art. It means putting on show, live, with someone at the both end of the loop, the sharing of human experiences and doubts with an absurd but deadly consistent logic. Like in every comedy, distress likes hiding behind humor and lightness. It cannot just be displayed without its meaning actually involving some spectators: it would otherwise fall into the charlatanry category. It would be a lecture by someone with the ability to solve the problem, it would no longer be due to this mysterious, hard to define thing called magic.

There are three parties involved in the tense loop of rope metaphor: at one end there is the performer, at the other end the spectator and magic is the circular rope relating them. If the performer pulls too briskly, the spectator releases his end of the rope, his imagination doesn’t come along. If he doesn’t pull enough, the rope is loose and the spectator looses interest. Magicians are triggering audiences' imagination, they initiate the rotation of the stretched loop between his hands and the ones of the spectator (actually between his and their imagination). Both ends share the responsibility for making alive a third party (magic or loop) for a moment. Thus magic is a live dialog with the audience. It includes suspension of disbelief by the audience but cannot be reduced to it: magic cannot exist without the input of the spectator’s imagination, but, naturally, if they don’t suspend their disbelief, there can be no magic.

Since magic doesn’t materially exist in life. It can only be expressed in a metaphoric form, an artful presentation. As it is not essentially comfortable but aims at presenting it in a comfortable way, it has to resort to beauty, and any pleasant emotions. Intriguing is thus made entertaining: magic is an art form because it has no material existence by itself and has to be made entertaining for the spectator not to release their end and to rotate the loop around.

On an ethically contractual basis, by clearly stating that it sells a dilemma with no possible explanation “real magic” is more ethical than any solution, for no one has the knowledge of the end points in the infinite and the best ones can only propose non self centered consistent hypothesis.
Message: Posted by: The great Gumbini (Mar 4, 2009 10:51PM)
What is magic? Magic has 3 phases. First it starts when we are born, we see a bird fly and while most people say "wow that's cool" we say "I want to do that". On and on it goes. We see a solid melt down to form another shape---WOW we think maybe I can change one thing into another. In other words we look at things with different eyes. And in our heart there starts to grow a longing.

Second---We start to investigate how to bring these thoughts that we have to reality. We start to learn all we can. Books on magic GREAT! Lectures! Fantastic! TV shows oh yes! And whats this?DVD"S whoooo! And in this phase we start to practice----and blow it. Practice more---a little better. Practice more and wow we got it. And that longing starts growing even stronger.

The 3rd and most amazing phase of all is when after all of our study, all our shows, all our money spent on magic and all our countless hours practicing the art we so love---we take time to go out and look up and see a bird and think "I want to do that!" And it starts all over again.


Good magic to all,


Eric
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Mar 14, 2009 07:14AM)
It does not really feed the thread about "what is Magic?" and only deals with the performer's stand point (not the audience) but

:applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 25, 2010 06:26PM)
[quote]
On 2007-10-24 14:56, Whit Haydn wrote:...There is very little about performing magic that is "natural."
[/quote]

Hmmm, not so sure. You pick up a lost crying child and reassure them things will be okay as you walk them away from the burning building. Then you hand them over to emergency crew telling the child that these people will ...

Affecting the inner worlds of people by act of will rather than by committed substantive resources seems pretty close to what we call magic. How one paints the lies and deceit with colors of context and presumed intention seems outside the moment when magic is done and worthy of its own discussion IMHO
Message: Posted by: tommy (May 25, 2010 08:12PM)
When one does a magic effect one is in different world to the audience, as they see magic and the magician does not. They are in fantasy land and he, the magician, is in the real world. Thus what magic is, is psychotic.
Message: Posted by: bottlemaster (Jun 15, 2010 02:04PM)
I think magic is so subjective as to be undefinable.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Jun 15, 2010 02:48PM)
[quote]
On 2010-06-15 15:04, bottlemaster wrote:
I think magic is so subjective as to be undefinable.
[/quote]

Then I don't think you should be doing magic, if you don't know what you are doing.

If it is so subjective, then at least you should know what you are trying to accomplish when you "do magic."
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Jun 15, 2010 03:24PM)
[quote]
On 2010-06-15 15:48, Whit Haydn wrote:
[quote]
On 2010-06-15 15:04, bottlemaster wrote:
I think magic is so subjective as to be undefinable.
[/quote]

Then I don't think you should be doing magic, if you don't know what you are doing.

If it is so subjective, then at least you should know what you are trying to accomplish when you "do magic."
[/quote]

... maybe he can't face what he is doing and needs to call it magic for inner complex reasons
Message: Posted by: The Burnaby Kid (Jun 15, 2010 06:43PM)
[quote]
On 2010-06-15 16:24, Lawrence O wrote:
[quote]
On 2010-06-15 15:48, Whit Haydn wrote:
[quote]
On 2010-06-15 15:04, bottlemaster wrote:
I think magic is so subjective as to be undefinable.
[/quote]

Then I don't think you should be doing magic, if you don't know what you are doing.

If it is so subjective, then at least you should know what you are trying to accomplish when you "do magic."
[/quote]

... maybe he can't face what he is doing and needs to call it magic for inner complex reasons
[/quote]

...maybe one shouldn't be so quick to judge somebody for not offering a pat answer to a complicated question that has plagued magicians in general and the Magic Café in particular to the tune of pages of endlessly circuitous debate.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Jun 15, 2010 07:20PM)
"Appearances are of four kinds: things either are as they appear to be; or they neither are nor appear to be; or they are but do not appear to be; or they are not and yet appear to be."

-Epictetus

I think one of them at least must be magic.