So some stage magicians are getting snippy again because people can find out how their sleight of hand is done [YouTube this time, of course]. eg, slow news day at the CBC here

Boo hoo.

This information on sleight of hand/cold reading etc. has always been available. in all sorts of manuals. Hell, I have a half dozen books on rope tricks, card tricks, “mind reading” etc. Many of them date from the 40s or earlier in their original editions. [No, I never bothered to learn how, they’re interesting but it’s not my calling.]

And every little kid gets a “magic kit” at some point and they all have instructions.

Hell, Penn & Teller made a career of showing how it was done.

But their inferiors are shaking in their boots and spitting mad that people might find out how to do their silly little card tricks on YouTube.

Really? You seriously think your audience is so retarded as to believe it’s all conjuring of the sort spoken of in the Keys of Solomon when you pull a coin from behind someone’s ear?

Well, I suppose perhaps they’re right. What’s the old George Carlin quip – “think of how dumb the average person is, then realize half of them are even dumber!”

Now… I’m not saying that well-done sleight of hand can’t be amazing to behold. In fact, for it to work it absolutely has to be well-done and amazing or it’s not worth doing at all.

Penn & Teller and all of their ilk don’t draw the crowds they do because people are stupid and gullible, it’s because they’re amazing performers. Same as any other art – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Steve Vai amaze and awe their audiences too, imagine other guitarists wanting YouTube guitar lessons removed lest anyone find out how it’s done.

Performance is what matters, we know how a guitarist makes music, we only care about how well he does it and how good it is. It seems to me stage magicians complaining about how dare someone else give away the secrets are really revealing their own ineptitude in terms of performance and selling the tricks they do. If they were really good enough, it wouldn’t be an issue, and perhaps like Penn & Teller they would take pride in how it’s all done. You can show how you do what you do when you know very few can do it as well as or better than you can do it.

There’s another angle that makes me chuckle. I’ve spent most of my life as an occultist, and of course I know well the story of Aleister Crowley wanting to differentiate occult or real magic from stage magic and thinking the best way to deal with that was adding a K to the end to show the difference.

Real magic has nothing to do with playing cards or pulling rabbits out of false-bottomed hats. It’s about creating change, making your world turn on a dime according to your will. And there’s no secrets here either, it’s about single-mindedness. Hell, a couple years back I thought I’d stumbled onto something really neat about how yoga and Zen meditation feed into increasing concentration to better direct the will to whatever goal. Then I found Crowley’s Book 4. Guess who figured that shit out and wrote a book about it 100 years ago?

There are no secrets, there are only things you haven’t figured out yet.

The real secret with all of it is that whatever it is you do, do it well, do it constantly, and gradually things do go onto automatic and then their impact snowballs. One last blurb from Penn:

Do it well, do it no matter what, and it doesn’t matter when the secrets are revealed because there are none.

Note: For new acts, there is some copyright protection as “pantomimes”, ie, Teller’s Shadows bit – it’s an original illusion he invented and someone decided to rip it off and offer to give the secret away for $3000+, Teller is suing him. But the complaints in the article above and that I’ve heard over the years are always about traditional card tricks, prop boxes, etc., that have been in use for centuries. In any case, I still say performance matters more.