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Painting of a man holding a white dove in his hand.

Magicians, Inhabitants of the Frontier


The line that separates illusion from reality is very fine; it is in this reduced space that magic and those who know its secrets live.

Medieval drawing of sun, moon, stars in sky over field with person in robe crawling on ground.

In each culture, the different techniques of vital preservation through health (which would eventually become medicine) and the mechanisms to make contact with other beings with the purpose of learning from them (fields that where later occupied by psychology or art) were encompassed in coherent visions of the world without fissures, like a single elemental continuum. At another time, these techniques were known as grimoire, language, or merely as the art.

Alan Moore, scriptwriter for comics such as V for Vendetta and From Hell affirms that in another time, magic was nothing other than the way in which changes in our consciousness were produced through the use of precise procedures, transmitted through a transformational process (or initiation) marked by an undivided line that dates back to the dawn of mankind.

In this way, the pyramid of Tarot, after losing its ritual sense, became a card game; everyday rituals became superstitions, repeated in empty forms through ignorance, and the recognition of the ability to produce said changes (positive or negative, according to the observer’s point of view) was lost, partially at least, in the night of time.

Magic, however, continues to be present in many ways in our everyday life. Magic manuals of the 19th century, for example, encouraged children to astound their audience through hundreds of card, handkerchief and top hat tricks. The magician entered the stage to astonish those that enjoyed testing their skepticism.

Illustration of magician standing over men in robes smoking hookah

Even as a source of entertainment (we can think of Las Vegas’ showiest spectacles), the basic principles of illusionism are an empty form of ancient magic, where its fundamental postulates still survive; one of these states that reality is a construct that can be disarticulated if the correct techniques are known. It is probably not possible to make an elephant disappear from a stage, but it is possible to unsettle the audience’s perception of that elephant. Now you see it; now you don’t.

According to modern physics, objects that have a mass disappear when their speed leans towards the speed of light. Reaching a mere ninth of this speed would result in the object shrinking; if, hypothetically, we could make an object move at the speed of light, it would vanish, or more to the point, it would become energy. Despite the fact that this is not part of our quotidian life, we are still enchanted by observing a magician disappear “magically” a coin in his mouth, to later make it reappear from an unsuspecting child’s ear.

Somewhere between the world of the unknown and of the quotidian, magicians cross over, leaving the divide between these two frontiers untouched. When we see how a magician begins to levitate, or that he guesses the number on our card, we are seeing something we are not supposed to see according to the rational agreement we have with reality; by breaking this agreement, the magician takes us to another state of perception: one of openness and childlike awe, regardless if we are adults. Rationally, we know there is a trick, but the magician’s magic consists of astonishing us and in making the trick effective.

Drawing of magician in chair with owl and black cat on table, surrounded by men with swords

Magic then, in reality, is nothing other than one of the many possible names we give astonishment.

Are these acts lies? Lying is produced when we deliberately want to convince someone of a false reality; but there is no falsehood in the technique or its application. Additionally, as an ancient magician used to say, a magic trick will never deceive anyone who didn’t previously want to be deceived.

Magic is there, everywhere, waiting for someone to discover it.


Painting by Király András

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