display | more...

I used to be of the naïve opinion that stage magicians were being insensitive to the actual religious beliefs of Pagans and Wiccans, just as a stage magician turning water into wine would have been insensitive to the religious beliefs of Christians. Since befriending a particularly clever stage magician who lent me various books including The God Delusion and The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading, I now realise that other clever magicians -- Derren Brown undoubtedly falls into this category, as do Penn and Teller, as their show Bullshit testifies to -- are only so disrespectful of actual spiritual magick because they know more about the subject than do the people who claim to genuinely practice it.

It seems that stage magicians, if they're clever enough at least, do develop a sincere interest in magick and psychic phenomena, only to discover that despite the countless claims of people in the New Age community, many experiments have already been performed, and every one of them has shown the psychic in question to have been cheating in effect, whether consciously or accidentally, or for the people with paranormal powers (such as water dousers) to statistically have no more insight than people being guided by mere blind chance.

James Randi, another stage magician, set up the modestly named James Randi Educational Foundation, whose One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge seeks to find someone with genuine supernatural powers, and will even pay out, as you have no doubt already guessed, a million dollars to the first person to prove their paranormal powers under experimental conditions. So far, out of over one thousand applicants, not one has managed to stand up to experimental conditions and walk away with the prize. It's certainly not for lack of incentive.

So it seems that rather than superficially emulating something they don't understand, stage magicians are actually superficially emulating something they understand all too well.

What impresses me most about Randi, Jillette, Teller, Brown and presumably many others I haven't heard of is that keeping up the psychics' charade would lend these stage magicians themselves more credibility amongst the spiritual community, and by extension the average theatre goer, giving their acts even more mystique, and yet they have enough integrity to dedicate substantial amounts of their time to debunking such incredulous claims.

While scientists may be leading the way in promoting rational thought, it looks like stage magicians can sugar coat the medicine with more entertaining performances and less hostile wording, being by their very nature knowledgeable about the art of showmanship. So maybe people like Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens can learn a few tips from them in the art of diplomacy, or at least entertainment.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.