Originally published in Genii Magazine

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While it is true that every moment in a magical presentation is important, it is also true that some moments are more important than others.

Consider, for example, that moment in a piece of card magic when a spectator is about to return a selected card to the deck. If you think about it, you will realize that this moment is exceedingly important. I would say that it is a make-or-break moment as far as creating any sense of magic is concerned. If this moment is handled poorly, I'm afraid there will be no sense of magic. If it is handled well, the possibility of a sense of magic still remains.

Let's look at this moment, examine it, and see what is involved here. A spectator is about to replace the selected card into the deck. First of all, you must appreciate the fact that if there are any observant individuals in the audience, this is the moment when they are intently observing, intently watching what the magician will now do. Sensible people realize that the magician isn't really going to let that card get lost in the deck! On the contrary, sensible people realize, when -- and if -- they stop to think about it, that the magician must in some way keep track of (or, as we say, control) the selected card.

And, of course, they are correct. The fact is that in most card tricks the magician must indeed now do something. In those effects where a card is selected, the card, in fact, usually now must be controlled (brought to the top, bottom, or a known position).

So something must now be done. There are two very different questions here. Let's put aside the usually pondered question of what shall be done (a Pass, a Side Steal, cutting the deck, etc.) and instead turn to the equally interesting, yet too often neglected, question of how whatever is to be done is done.

How shall the magician do whatever now needs to be done? Here is the question: Shall it be done in a way that calls attention to itself? In other words, shall we do what we need to do in a way that audience members notice that something is being done? These, I think, are crucial questions because, obviously, this is exactly what a sane performer does not want to do! If the audience's attention is drawn to my Pass or Side Steal or my cutting of the deck or whatever I am doing, then I am afraid all is truly lost. Members of the audience may not know what I did but they certainly know that I did something -- and any sense of magic is snipped at the bud. These are the cruel facts of life of close-up performance with playing cards.

From one perspective, as magicians we are in a rather paradoxical situation: we must perform an intentional act without betraying any sense of intention. Such moments, of course, come into play not merely with card tricks but with much of the magic that we might choose to do. There are often those moments when something special needs to be done and yet we must do it in such a way that it is not noticed. We must execute an action yet give no sense that any special action is being done -- so that our audience never becomes aware of the fact that we are doing anything at all.

And how shall we do that?

At its heart, I think this really is a question of acting. It is a question of the individual performer's ability as an actor whose challenging role here involves the necessity of intentionally doing something and yet, at the same time, of pretending or acting as though nothing at all is being intentionally done. Again, to betray our intentions at this point in a magic routine is to spoil and destroy the sense of magic.

So, how shall we do that?

Would you like a single -- or simple -- answer to that question? If so, I shall now disappoint you. Frankly, I don't think there is a single or simple answer. I think there is only awareness.

First of all, there is the general awareness that we need to cultivate that not all of the interesting and important questions in magic are questions of method -- questions that deal merely with "what" method or technique we shall use. Beyond that, we need to be aware that there are also equally important questions of "how" we are able actually to perform our sleights and moves, the questions of which intentions we actually betray and which we are able to truly conceal in our performances.

Second, there is the specific awareness of how we are actually handling (specific) moments in some of our (specific) magical routines. Moving beyond general awareness, I am talking about actually beginning the process of examining and evaluating whether or not you are betraying your intentions when you actually perform the concrete effects in your own repertoire -- and then facing the truth of what you discover.

Here, recording your performances and watching them can give you a real picture of what your face is doing as you perform that Pass, or how your hand is twitching just before you execute your Side Steal, or how you really look very guilty just before that Double Undercut.

I am saying that sitting down alone and quietly watching your recorded rehearsal sessions and performances, watching with a specific awareness of what you are doing at specific times, can be a very great help if you are truly sincere about wanting to grow and not simply move sideways with your magic performances.

Quietly watching what you are doing. Just seeing it. Not being in a hurry to make evaluations or changes but, rather, first of all, just seeing what you are doing. Simply watching yourself with "ruthless honesty," as the theologian Rudolf Bultmann used to say. Have you ever watched yourself in this way?

Need I tell you that it requires courage?

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Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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