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Part 6: Astonishment, magic, meditation and controversy

Art of astonishment part 6

Art of astonishment part 6

To deliver magic which leads the participant down the path to the final goal of astonishment – the magician / performer /entertainer must truly believe in what he or she does and not trivialise it with crap patter, unfunny jokes or a plethora of card flourishes. The performer must be 100% confident and congruent with the magic itself.

Have you ever been standing a bus stop, totally immersed in one particular thought, one central point of focus? New people arrive but you do not see them. Sounds persist but you do not hear them.  Your mind has been so focussed on one thought that your sense channels shut down. At that moment they cease to function, and the mind has gone upwards beyond them . The mind has merged with the conscious state. You are left with a stillness of the mind (Except with that one thought you have been fixated on) – something likened to meditation. Fully conscious, fully aware but with magic where the prestige hits……there is not even that thought. You are left with that primal state of uncluttered purity of the mind. All competing thoughts, stress, worries, trials and tribulations dissolve into nothingness and the mind is still. Only when the external stimuli reawaken this moment of pure happiness do we come back to the ‘real world’ with a jolt and the conflicting views of the world come flooding back in as we seek to make meaning of what we have just seen.

Skilled meditators can live in this pure, undeniably state indefinitely. With magic, it is a short sharp shot.

I propose something controversial.

When you take a participant on a journey to the plateau of astonishment, when they reach that point of pure undeniable bewilderment, they will find a happiness, and peace so pure, so rich and un-adulterated, nothing else in the world matters.

Every person from every race, creed, religion and background leads their daily life wanting something. This may or not be something tangible but if you ask somebody what they want and really drill down to the very core of what they want – you will find peace.

“I want to be rich and wealthy”

And after that….

I want financial independence.

And after that….

A beautiful wide and healthy children

And after that….

Good friends, great family, feel safe and secure in my environment

And after you have that…..


I want to feel happy and content

And after that? (If you drill, and I mean really drill)


No matter where the person starts or what they want, no matter how much they want it will all end in peace. We value peace above all else, but because it is not something that is tangible or bought or sold, it is not something that we think about – only when asked, (or quizzed and questioned for a book about bloody astonishment and magic) do we get to the crux of the matter.

So what exactly is this peace? Peace is when there are none of the aforementioned conflicting thoughts, ideas, or agitations. Peace is when the mind is still. To define the peace we also need to identify the movement.

When we were very young. Infants; and as mentioned the world was unfurling before our very eyes are intellectual mind was not engaged. We were merely sponges, absorbing the information from the world around us.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post as much as I enjoyed writing it – feel free to share it with your friends or tell your friends about it. If not, and you want to keep it for yourself, keep your eyes peeled for the next offering – part 7 I think we’re up to now 😉

Part 5. Astonishment, magic and Neuro Linguistic Programming

Art of astonishment part 5

Art of astonishment part 5

Alfred Korzybski whose best known dictum is “The map is not the territory”, that human beings are limited in what they know by (1) the structure of their nervous systems, and (2) the structure of their languages. Human beings cannot experience the world directly, but only through their “abstractions” (nonverbal impressions or “gleanings” derived from the nervous system, and verbal indicators expressed and derived from language). Sometimes our perceptions and our languages actually mislead us as to the “facts” with which we must deal. It is these perceptions which couax the more verbal audience members to speak out with their view of how a trick or effect is done.

Essentially if someone sees a piece of magically performance and immediately starts to dissect the mecahnics and workings of the trick then this they are not seeing, or experiencing real magic. It is a leap of faith for them, to suddenly start believing in magic from this ‘unknown’ magician when the very concept of magic had been banished from their minds along with the tooth fairy, father Christmas and leprecahuns long before they started secondary school. As a result from the moment we start our performance, we should make every effort to shape our performance into a piece of theatre which, if correctly structured, with congruence, authenticity and an air of mystery then hopefully they will buy into this frame, leave their beliefs and misconceptions and the door and enter into a world, where their moment of astonishment may run and run…..

If they react to this correctly ‘dressed’ piece of theatre or magic then the end result should finish with a gaps of amazement, a nervous giggle (the kind that you used to do when queuing up to have your first jab at school from the school nurse) or be left with a moment of absolutely stillness in senses. This piece of theatre, piece of magic, then transcends their pre-conceived idea of a magic trick and enter into a completely different world before the emotion of astonishment starts to crumble, the questions about its impossibility, then possibility and then dissection return as their mind starts in inevitable whirring again.

For me any piece of magic, mentalism or effect should result in a degree of astonishment. My professional set is configured to achieving that. That is why very few new effects ever enter in. Often the proverbial magic trick ‘wheel’ is reinvented time and time again with merely just another spin placed on it. This is not always the case I may add,; occasionally there is something truly unique come to the shelves and webpages of magic dealers but – truly unique pieces of magic or mentalism to create astonishment, for me are few and far between. You may disagree. How many effects have you bought that have not impressed you? Admittedly we look at them with eyes of scrutiny – have they impressed us – no – therefore why would they amaze the audience. This sadly is the case time and time again where we do not even take the time to try it out for overly convoluted mechanics. For some it is this overly convoluted card flourishes which find themselves into performance pieces and add nothing to the final impact of the illusion – and to some degree, detract from it, as the performer becomes ‘a show off’ or ‘a sleight of hand artist’. Now this in itself , is not a bad thing – far from it. I know extremely skilled cardicians who are superb ‘finger flickers’ – but does this add to that final encore of astonishment…….? (I’ll leave that as a rhetorical question). Next blog post – part 6 will look at the more spiritual thinking behind astonishment and how it can be likened to meditation…..

Part 4: Astonishment, magic, and those who captured imaginations….

art of astonishment part 4

Art of astonishment part 4

A more modern taste of ‘real magic’ came courtesy of karate expert and sleight of hand artist James Hydrick. In 1981 Hydrick was invited to appear on American National Television to demonstrate his skill of using ‘telekinesis’  to spin a pencil using the power of his mind.  Hydrick performed a similar trick using his supposed magical and superhuman abilities to turn the pages of a phone directory without touching it. This garnered a huge and almost cult-like following. Again people could not these feats of impossibility could only be attributed to ‘magic’.

The following year – debunker of psychics – James Randi – invite Hydick to appear on That’s my Line television show and for Hydrick to replicate the trick under test conditions. (The phone book surrounded by pieces of Styrofoam) to check if Hydrick was simply blowing. Sadly, after an hour and half and several excuses Hydrick had to resign and this signalled the end of his following, TV career and cult-like following. Again – what originally appeared like magic that captivated the nation, was nothing more than a trick.

To an extent these two examples show that people want to believe in magic. I mean real want to. They want to be astonished. Without being heavily duplicitous claiming powers we don’t, I feel we can at least reach out with our magic and allow those to believe and be astonished who journey with us on that path to magic. To astonishment

As profound as this may sound, this is to some extent the beauty of magic. There is nothing else which can compare or take us back to this state of astonishment in our conscious state. Regression therapy or hypnosis may take us there, but we are in a different state of consciousness and are therefore unable to fully appreciate that moment of stillness in our mind. We may be able to thumb through a box of old photos and reminisce on the memories of our childhood but there is nothing that really transports us metaphorically to that infantile state of astonishment.

I believe there are 2 schools of thought with regards to what is the art of astonishment in magic. The first is less my viewpoint than the latter but has it’s own positives.

Effect Vs Trick

Audience sees and effect.

Audience sees a trick – it will always be a trick. Trick has so many connatations to deceptions, deceit  and an attempt to outwit someone.

I believe a ‘trick’ will always leave a sour aftertaste in the spectator’s mouth of having bee ‘tricked’, duped, or fooled. If this is the case then sadly the magic has been performed incredibly badly, and is so far removed for the ideal state of astonishment which magic should attempt to achieve.

For some, the art of magic is not merely to be puzzling, but impossible. This level of impossibility for some in turn leads to that feeling of astonishment. But for me, that is still too complicated. Theere is still too much chicanery and trickery involved in the ‘impossible’. For something to be labelled as impossible still requires a cerebral interaction – a conscious state to question – query, know that it is a trick, look for the possible solution – not matter how believable able or believable and buy into the self-made answer (which is inevitably wrong) but helps us to make meaning of the world around us.

Part 5 will look at astonishment and the psychology behind why we are astonished or not…… keep your eyes peeled 😉 and feel free to share with your friends…