A young Buddhist monk and an old monk were traveling together. One night, the young monk noticed that the old man had a mirror in his traveling pack.
"Old one," said the young monk. "I'm surprised to see you traveling with a mirror among your possessions! Could it be that you're so vain that you admire yourself in the mirror when you're alone in your tent?"
The old one laughed. "My son, it's not vanity that places that mirror among my most cherished possessions. Rather, when times are rough, and I'm beset with trials, I can look into that mirror and see both the CAUSE and the SOLUTION to all of my problems!"
--Old Inscrutable Oriental Tale
I'm the first to admit that my career was marked by a drifting, uncertain sense of self, punctuated by episodes of incredibly good fortune, until I received some good advice from a few very kind individuals who evidently saw the hidden potential within the bumbling oaf I was at the time. I've tried to express my inspiration and gratitude to those individuals in the course of my text.
In 1986, I had created in my mind a show that would knock an audience dead and insure my fame and fortune for eternity. On paper, it was a phenomenal event. So, I rented a hall, invited a roomful of people to attend the dress rehearsal, and hired a video crew to film the event for my promotional video.
First of all, the audience was not cooperative. They insisted on thinking of my performance as a Magic Show. They refused to follow my (I thought) clear
directions. They stubbornly insisted on being unimpressed by my telepathic skills. My motivational scripts seem to go right over their heads. Some of the amateur magicians in the audience messed with me. I could go on and on
What happened? I passed out a questionnaire, which I asked the audience to fill out anonymously (but which were marked as in Pseudo Psychometry so I could see how I tweaked the troublemakers). Most of the comments were about how my 'tricks' were good but not truly psychic. The blindfold routine seemed to get the most response, followed by Pseudo-Psychometry. Triple Prediction did nothing for anyone. My message-reading method didn't impress because of the 'forms' I had the audience fill out before the show. Someone mentioned a 'carbon paper' clipboard, which, by the way, I didn't use. Etc It pains me to this day to watch that tape, but the experience was worth the $600 or so it cost me...I knew now what not to do!
I received comments that requested that I do more audience reading ... that some of the procedures were too complicated. I listened to the audience, I thought about what they said, and on that day a magician died—but a Psychic Entertainer was born!
Death and rebirth is always a painful experience—ask any Phoenix. This single episode enabled me to evolve almost overnight into a much better performer. Looking back, it would have taken me about two years of trial-and error to have gained the insights a single critical viewing of that tape revealed.
Once a year I videotape my show, and I no longer wince quite as much. I listen to my audience, and year by year the show that I had built in my mind is becoming closer to a reality. The audience members are convinced. They have a great time! They no longer fight me. What had changed? Better material? More devilish subtleties?
No, what had changed was nothing more than my attitude. Looking at that early tape, I see that I was perceived as a Magician because I acted like a Magician. As soon as I became a mind reader, I was perceived as a mind reader. It's simple, basic, Sympathetic Magic!
Magicians are marked by their brash, challenging attitude. Most magic performances are a tribute to the performer's ego. I'm sorry if that statement pinches anyone, but it's true, and I know because I'm one of the accused. We crave applause and the approval of total strangers. We have the performer's dysfunction—we need a pat on the back from total strangers that our loved ones can't give us. This sometimes makes our performances a little self-absorbed from the audience's point of view.
The greatest skill a Mentalist can have, I believe, is to genuinely project caring and warmth to the audience. A lot of performers come across as 'heavy' and intimidating. They seem, as Mr. Earle once said to me, to expect the audience to genuflect. A simple rule applies to performing as well as in life: The more seriously you take yourself, the less seriously you're taken by others.
I mentioned before my feelings of gratitude. I'm grateful that I no longer have to work for a living! I have a choice that few people are offered in this lifetime— to do what was expected from me, or to follow my bliss. I chose to follow my bliss and I've never regretted the decision. I don't resent my audience— I'm grateful to every one of them for helping me break free.
I flatter my audience, I give the ladies roses, I butter up my audience volunteers. When I do readings for entertainment, I give out Hershey's Kisses and smooch the lady's hand. When a person comes up to draw a design for me to duplicate, I set him at a table, put the writing implements in front of him, and tell him to take his time. While he does this, behind me and out of my sight, I talk to the audience about the importance of clearly visualizing your goals This is standard stuff from any motivational tape, but it fits in very well, and provides that moment of seriousness that such a strong routine requires. When the person is through with his drawing, I instruct him to tear off the page, fold it into quarters, and sit on it. "This is an experiment in hindsight" I tell the audience, breaking the seriousness and lifting a line from the irrepressible Paul Diamond. After I replicate the drawing, and it is time to verify, I say, "Now, Sir, get up off your drawing, and let's see what you've got!"
I assure the audience that no one will be made to look foolish. I had to break the Magician's habit of getting laughs at the expense of my audience. Some of my stuff is a little shmaltzy, but the audiences love it.
I can't stress this strongly enough. In the introduction I mentioned that Mentalism made me a better Magician. In a nutshell, this one rule made all the difference to me: Put yourself in the audience's shoes. What do they want? Do they want to be ridiculed and placed in an uncomfortable situation? Or do they want to feel included in the fun and validated?
Listen to the audience. If possible, and if your self-esteem can stand it, do as I did, and poll them. This will really open your eyes. Get a friend to sit in the audience and take notes, not of his reactions, but of your audience's reactions. Videotape your show.
Don't be afraid of making mistakes. You have plenty of time to recoup. The audience is not aware of the lines you forgot to say, or the routine you botched. Be very observant of the effect your words have on the audience. It's important to keep your setbacks in perspective. After all, the sun will still rise tomorrow. And the phone will eventually ring, if you're doing your job properly.
One show I did recently brought this point home to me with extreme emphasis. I was performing Terri Roger's The Key. If you don't know what this is, it's simply the strongest book test in existence. Very literally, you hand the spectator his choice of two books and he can look up any word on any page. You proceed to tell him what the word is, with much drama! The effect on any audience is incredible. For some reason, on this particular night, I completely blew it. I don't know to this day what went wrong; whether it was my fault or my spectator's. But I attempted it again — failure!
Let me point out that this had nothing to do with the reliability of the trick. It should be 100%. Suffice it to say that I was kicking myself pretty hard for blowing one of the strongest items in my act. After the show, a nice lady came up to me and said how much she enjoyed the show. I thanked her for her kind words, and apologized for messing up the word test. She said, "You know, that's all right. It makes you look more human. After you did that thing with the rose fFloraRiggs) and the cards fThe Koran Deck), we were beginning to say to each other 'this guy's not normal'! But seeing that you were capable of error made us feel more comfortable with you. You were human after all!"
I like being a human. It beats hell out of any of the alternatives.
There's a great deal of power in the spoken word. When you say negative things about yourself, your audience, or others, you call down tremendous forces. You're 'casting spells' Don't fall into the trap of casting negative spells against yourself. You can spend as much energy sitting around and telling yourself you'll never succeed as you can telling yourself you will succeed. Do you really have time for negative mindsets? Or for people with negative mindsets?
All your life you've been told what you can not do, and what you are not good at doing — by your parents, by your teachers, and by television. There are a lot of people who'll tell you that you can't entertain for a living. Most of these naysayers you'll find at your local Magic Club. Well, sorry — but how do they know? Did they ever try it? I sought out people who were doing what I wanted to do and listened to them!
I've often been asked by my compeers what it's like being a Psychic Entertainer living in the buckle of the Bible Belt? At first it was scary for me, because I anticipated all the objections that would be raised against my show. I found myself apologetic about what I did from the outset. I was putting words and thoughts into other's minds; I was 'casting spells' against myself. As soon as I realized this and got over the negative mindset, my spells became good ones. Consequently, I'm one of the busiest performers in my area. Those who don't like what I do avoid me, and those who are interested about what I do spread the word. I've already explained how I avoid confrontation.
I've had my moments, though. During one show I noticed some members of my audience pointedly kept their backs to me the entire time. I found out later that they had "religious" objections against what I did. I'd like to be able to say that I didn't understand why they didn't simply leave, if they were offended by what I do. But, I do understand why. So do you. The stage isn't the only place you'll find drama artists.
From people with similar mindsets, I sometimes receive 'hate mail' during my Q-and A act. I just substitute a 'gag' question and move on.
As hard as it is to believe in these enlightened times, there are still people who believe that the Devil has nothing better to do with his time than perform a few simple mentalism tricks at a small company function. However, these people constitute a part (admittedly, a very small part) of the audience that I'm committed to entertain, and I try to treat them very gently, for they're wounded souls. When you're representing a company, you cannot afford to take anything personally.
I try to keep in mind that most people have no idea what it is that a Psychic Entertainer does. There can be a lot of trepidation from some of the more sensitive audience members. So I have an opening line I use to let the audience know that I'm 'hip' to what they're thinking. I open with some strong piece of Mentalism, usually my FloraRiggs from my book, The Man With The $1.98 Hands. Then, I deliver the following mouthful. Once again, I choose my audience carefully for this one.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I rely solely on your concentration for the success of the demonstrations we'll be performing tonight. Let me assure you that nothing I do has any connection to anything occultic or spooky. I'll not draw upon any supernatural influences tonight. After we get past the goat sacrifice, the rest of the show is downhill all the way!"
May this book help you learn how to cast 'good spells' for yourself and your audience. Send a good thought my way now and again, and I hope you enjoyed this effort.
Thank you for reading my book. John Riggs
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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.