Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A road to nowhere?

Fellow Magi - there is a question that I would like to pose as a point of debate. Be warned, my views are somewhat inflammatory.

Where are we going?

The first thing to define here is what do I mean by we?
Here, I am referring directly to the branch of magic that has come to be defined by the term 'Mystery Performance'. I think this is a far better label as it instantly de-constructs some of the more obvious clichés that form around the word 'Bizarre' - also I feel that if I bill myself as a 'Bizarre magician' the audience expect me to be 'bizarre' if not a little kinky! 
More importantly, I think the term 'Mystery Performance' opens up some interesting possibilities and ways forward. This is the nub of my debating point.

One of the useful doors that this term opens is in it's very title - it blurs the boundaries and allows us freedom.
For example we do not have all the 'rules' that the mentalists have (or 'popes' setting them) - if we wish to use cards we can, if we wish to use mentalism, we can. If we want to claim that what we do is 'real' we have an easier time of it. I think we are also better poised for our magic being real. A mentalist could not (comfortably) use the Cups and Balls - we can. This may sound like an attack on mentalists, it isn't - I am also aware that it is a generalisation. I could have used any branch of magic (including 'Bizarre') and pointed out their 'rules'. Rules are restrictions and we do not need them.

However, I feel that we should have aims - and this is what I would like to consider.

To define future aims, one needs to be aware of our past history (where we came from) and current circumstances (where we find ourselves now).

The history is interesting - I do not want to say too much here, as I feel that this is one of the points for discussions. Importantly for me is that the roots of what we do now have their foundation in 'real' magic. The very term 'mystery performer' should tell us this. Magicians have always been performers of mystery; shaman who open the doors of reality to the community in which they work. This is our legacy and it has always been my belief that this legacy should inform us in the present. If we call ourselves 'Performers of Mystery' we should deliver on that promise and do a little more than perform a bought trick or take people through the workings of a prop.

There are (of course) many other roads leading to where we are now - from traditional magic (sleight of hand, deception etc), séance work, involvement in the paranormal and (importantly for me) storytelling.
No areas are out of bounds in what we have inherited and therefore nothing is off-limits to what we bring to bear in our performances.

Where are we now? This is where my argument gets more controversial perhaps. You do not have to agree with what I have to say to be able to debate the points.

I do not think I can remember Magic being at a lower point in terms of public perception. I can certainly remember when I found Magic as 'Saturday night entertainment' shallow and unappealing back in the 70's. But at least it was popular and regularly performed, and for a mass audience.
Now, magic on TV is defined by just one or two representatives for the whole art - and this defines the public perception of what magic *is* ("are you like that Dynamo guy?").
Worse than this, I think magic is broadly despised by the contemporary audience. Now, before I raise your blood pressure too high, let me qualify this generalisation by saying that good performers overcome this, and appreciative audiences are still to be found. However, I think we all can connect to my *gut feeling* that magic is held in low esteem - Magicians find it harder to get work or to fill venues. When magicians are depicted on the media, they are often no more than clichéd parodies put in the stocks for us to laugh at. I generalise again, but if this generalisation rings true, then we need to accept it and do something about it. 

If it is true that magic is in low esteem, then it is not the fault of the art, but of the practitioner. The art of magic remains the same, but it is filtered through the variable of the practitioner. It seems to me that most magicians are more intent on demonstrating the superiority of their own needy egos than revealing the mysteries of the art and transporting the audience into a magical place. Most magical performances are little more than puzzles - puzzles that the magician offers no solution to in their display of superiority to their audiences.

Magician: 'I know the word you are thinking of/the card you have picked/which hand you hold the coin in - etc…' (this is something that I can do, that you cannot do).
'I will now demonstrate that I have this superior power to you - or rather *at* you'.

Subject (I use this term knowingly): 'Wow, how did you do that?' (actually, I am not that interested how you did it, I know it is a trick, and a puzzle you will not give me the solution to. So if anything I feel a little frustrated. But I will be polite, then you will let me get on with my life)

How many you tube videos have you seen where this is the real subtext?

(As for the videos where the 'rather select' street audience - who upon seeing a demonstration of a puzzle by some magician dressed as some kind of weedy rapper - start whooping and dancing up and down the street. Well, I need medication after seeing those. THAT is as bad as it gets).

I think that if I were to give many magicians a truth drug and ask them - what is your real aim in doing this - they would say - 'to get people looking at me and telling me I am incredible'. If this is so, it is a poor foundation for entertainment and perhaps a reason why most people no longer find magic relevant to their lives.

Frankly your audience do not care if you are incredible, in fact - they rather resent it. They want to be incredible. Now some people are thinking - but I do my tricks/effects ''in their hands'. Indeed, there is a good deal of deep and useful thinking that has gone into this of late. However, does the audience go away from the performance feeling empowered, or do they walk away thinking that they are inferior to the demonstration they have just seen? Do they feel themselves to be a conduit for magic or to be on the receiving end of it?

'Thank you very much' (for acknowledging my superiority).

I still love card tricks and traditional magic - but you may be performing the most skilled and inventive card trick ever - if I come in and claim that I can tell people their future, you will lose your audience to me - you are empowering yourself - I am empowering them.

I think there are better premises for the performance of magic.

For me, the better aim is to *bring mystery* into an audiences life - *genuinely* including and empowering them in the process. I have my own agenda here of wanting people to question what they mean by 'reality', as this is transformative. It has always been the magicians role to transform, just as it is the role of the Magician to be the trickster. We have just lost the deeper understanding of what this means along the way. 


Why do you perform magic? I mean - here is that little blue truth pill.....

What is your goal in a performance? Have you defined it?

As a community of 'Mystery Performers', what are our aims and why do we hold them?

What do we wish to achieve and why do we wish to achieve it?

If magic is in an impasse, maybe asking these question will reveal a path out?  


I did say that my aim here is to provoke debate, as debate is good, it contributes to how we move forward.
So how to debate this. well, a blog is not the ideal forum. 

However the MOON has a structured plan. 

We will fully debate this (and other topics) in the UNDERGROUND  

If you do not know how to find the door drop me an email at alchemytalk@gmail.com

Thursday, 26 February 2015


Some people assume that I do not really exist - which is actually 'good for business'
However, I am a discarnate voice, if no more than that!
Mystic Menagerie Podcast. 

As I do not have a lot of time today - let us have a night in with a few interesting videos.
All of these videos relate to the subjects I touched on in the podcast in some way.

And this is worth a watch in relationship to some of the points. 

And Finally these two -  a rather wonderful premise for magic do you not think?

Sleep well!

Friday, 20 February 2015

We have all the Magic we need.

One of the great joys of being involved in performance magic is that it enables you to retain some of your innate childlike qualities... and this is a good thing.

Like most magicians, I have draws overbrimming with stuff that I will never, ever use and may not even ever look at again. So why do we continue to buy so much bric-a-brac? I think there are two reasons.

The first is the whole 'inner child' thing. As with most hobbies it is great to relive Christmas whenever we have enough spare change - to eagerly await the postman's knock - to excitedly open the tactile little jiffy bag - to play around a bit - and then consign it to the purgatory of the magic draw. Rinse and repeat.
The second reason is that magicians, like the hero Galahad are constantly seeking the 'holy grail' (the is evidenced by the fact that many magic routines market themselves as being just this - even though they are not). There is, I think, a hollowness at the core of magic... something is missing.
My own view is that what is often missing is magic itself.

So as a magic retailer (albeit a rather mercurial one), I am going to aim the gun squarely at my own foot and tell you what you already know; you already have all the tricks you need. 

I have often argued that if you have a couple of the standard classic books on magic (you may wish to draw up your own shortlist), then you are set for life. Everything you ever need for a lifetime of performance and exploration is probably already in there. Further more, you will probably discover that all the workings behind the stuff in your magic draw is is there too. Man, you could have saved yourself a lot of money! I think this money could have been better spent in buying books that are outside of traditional magic, books to inspire new thinking and new approaches. For the Bizarrists here, the money could have been better used scouring junk shops, antique stores and ebay to find some really nice props to add to the ideas you already use.

So what is it that is missing? What is it that puts us on the treadmill of consuming the same ideas in different packaging? Where is the Holy Grail of magic?
Luckily for this discussion, I think I know the answer to this.

The Holy Grail is you!

The real magic is to be found in you, in your performance, your ideas and your engagement in magic.
This can never be bought. When we attempt to buy it, we are left hungry as the meal did not contain the nourishment we had hoped for.
My suggestion here is that you concentrate on just a handful of ideas. Enough for a 30 minute performance and really look to how they connect to you on a deeper level.. this as an alternative to going through the motions of the trick. How does your performance of magic connect you to your audience?, and more importantly, what you are trying to achieve?

..and why?

Are you a magician, or some guy that demos other creator's tricks?

If you are a magician, have you ever stopped to wonder what magic actually is? If you can achieve magic, how do you communicate it in a meaningful manner to the audience? And again, just what is that meaning? If you have been involved in magic for some time, you will have transcended the immature stage of performing magic to 'look cool' or to project your ego in a social situation. We all will have moved on from annoying people for our own psychological needs, to the idea that we are bringing magic into their lives. But - what do we mean by this and how do we achieve it?

This train of thought has been important to the development of my own magic for some time. And it is informing the ideas that I am currently working on for Alchemy Moon.

I will discuss in what way in a future post.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sacred Music Sacred Geometry

This Blog is intended to be a personal journey, so although there will be quite a few posts here linked to my thoughts about magic, there will also be quite a bit about what is informing my thinking and some pretty weird stuff along the way!

Recently I have become very interested in the concept of energy fields, sacred number and geometry. The latest piece of work I am developing is an attempt at exploring this to some extent, or at least to open the audiences eyes to these possibilities.

Also, Dr Todd Landman is exploring a similar theme in his work on the Macrocosm. This is being developed in our latest joint work - The Moon Board. (With Todd taking credit for most of the work here, Paul Kostrach for the actual physical manifestation, and a somewhat more ethereal contribution from me!).

I have always used energy fields as part of performance, even with standard card tricks! Understanding human energy fields, working with them and employing them as part of your work can really contribute to elevating your performance into something that is a truly magical experience for your audience. This is a subject that I am sure that I will return to here.

All of this has led me into a study of what lies behind the phenomena. It is amazing just how much knowledge there is out there in regard to this; really detailed and quite profound knowledge. This had led me to understand that there is a structure behind what we perceive as reality, and that this structure is expressed through mathematical and geometric relationships. How this relates to the performance of magic is not entirely clear to me at the moment. However, it seems to be a more interesting direction than the rather stale and overused themes in magic that we seem to habitually explore. Whilst I do not want to abandon magic for purely entertainment or for telling a good story, I think we can also use magic to achieve a deeper connection for our audience.

So to give some idea of what I am talking about I would like to share something here that I found to be worthy of consideration. I hope it inspires my readers in the same way it inspired me.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Magic for Magickians and Magick for Magicians
By Christopher Gould

Introduction: At the Crossroad (fell down on my knees). 

I started my interests in the metaphysical many, many years ago. As a teenager you would find me studying The Golden Dawn and the Kabbalah. Somehow - life got in the way and I drifted more to the material plane (job, mortgage, family - you know). Later in life I became interested in a very different sort of magic; performance magic. After a few years of mind-reading and card trickery, I found this experience to be somewhat hollow and began to miss the sustenance provided by my former esoteric studies. Oddly I found the same was true of many other fellow performers. So now I find myself opening all those strange old books (and some new ones too!).

This strange journey has been worthwhile and has opened my eyes in many ways. I realise now that I was just going further and further down a rabbit-hole of confusion and incomprehension in my magickal studies. I was being entertained, but I was not actually achieving anything. Strangely perhaps it was performance magic that opened my eyes to the fact that magic was not only a practical art that worked, but that it’s structure was inherently very simple. It was performing magicians who opened my eyes to magick!

Now I see the performance of magic without a magical context as being largely pointless. I also see much of the metaphysical studies I had engaged in being superfluous to the central and simple truth of magic.

So now I find myself at a strange, but very interesting intersection of the two roads. Alchemy Moon is very much an expression of this crossroads.

Standing at the crossroads gives one a unique view.

Magic for Magickians.

An understanding of stage performance has a great deal to offer in the context of metaphysical workings. I think the first eye opener that magic gave to me was when (as a card magician) I walked around a Mind, Body and Spirit festival. I was astonished at the amount of cards sleights and out-and-out deception was going on under the hands of the 'psychics' giving readings. I really should not have been surprised. These professionals were out their to earn a living and that living depended upon their ability to 'deliver'. Someone without an understanding of such techniques would have been quite ignorant of them and attributed the readers with quite supernatural power. Someone with an understanding of card magic would have branded them as 'charlatans' rather than as working professionals.. So there is some degree of wisdom and knowledge to be gained.

But there are also far more important ant practical applications of stage magic to a metaphysical setting.

The first one is what can be learnt about the dynamics of performance, essentially all readers are performers, yet few realise this. I will not talk about this aspect here, as I intend to cover this in a future article.

Structure. A magical 'effect', trick or performance relies upon structure. There is a clear beginning, middle and end and their is a mechanism in this structure. Understanding this from my training in magical performance has really opened my eyes to how a lack of structure and mechanism in genuine magical work leads to failure. I now look at my occult researches with a more analytical eye. I look for what works and what is unnecessary 'window dressing'. I look for the mechanism. I look for the structure. This allows me to refine and make the work more pure; more effective.

Bringing Magic to the world. Magick for me was always a solitary pursuit, it involved me getting lost in the labyrinth of my own mind. It left me misplaced and wandering; directionless and alone. Performing magic to audiences led me to a fundamental realisation. The performance of magic gave people and experience of something that was beyond their mundane reality. It opened the gates to possibilities. Whatever your background, you will probably agree with me that we live in a world devoid of magic. One of our first experiences of leaving childhood is to have magic taken from us. Without magic the world is not only a greyer place but a more dysfunctional one. Cutting the umbilical chord to a 'greater reality' is the cause of much of what is wrong with our greedy, materialistic and war-torn world. This statement may be more contentious, but no less true.
As magicians of any description, it is our task to restore magic to a world where it is denied. We may do this with a card trick, or a creative visualisation of other realities. No matter what the tools, we are exercising our 'calling'. Many traditional magicians will have jumped ship by now. This does not concern me, as they do not have to swim too far to shore. Also, some of  you who have a background in 'real' magick, will find the ideas presented here difficult to assimilate, or at least confusing. I would argue that the work is worth the result, and I say this from personal experience.

From the magician Dedi performing the 'cups and balls' trick as genuine magic in the courts of ancient Egypt, through to the mechanical devises found at the Delphic oracles, Scots 'exposure' of conjuring in Elizabethan Europe - right up to modern day 'debunking' of psychics using electronic equipment - Magick and Magic have always held hands throughout history.
For one simple reason; magic is unpredictable. It is unpredictable both in terms of timescale and effect. Magic cannot be simply 'turned on' at command and it's results are rarely exactly what the magician intended (but were intended for the magician). So when the revered ancient Shaman performed to his expectant audience, believe me, he had 'a back up plan'. Not because he (or indeed she) was a charlatan, but because it was his job to make the magical universe apparent to those who did not have the luxury of time or education to experience these things first hand. A shaman who turned to his 'audience' and said "Something may happen at some point in the future, but I cannot tell you the exact nature of it..' would simply have been 'booed off the stage'. I think to loose this mechanism of bringing real magic into the lives of those deprived of it is not a good thing. We should not let our beliefs erect a wall of sincerity and stop us in our task of bringing magic into other's lives. This never bothered Crowley, and it is my opinion that it should not bother you, particularly in the exploration of magick in a social setting. I am not presenting this as a 'fact' but as my opinion. However, I think it an opinion worthy of consideration.

Let us look at this for a moment from the perspective of the person you are 'performing magic' for. I am performing magic to a small group of people sitting around a table in a bar. The shrine and the altar are some way away and I am out on the street opening portals of imagination with 'everyday' people. I am a seasoned performer, so I am not presenting the magic as a trick, or a puzzle. I am showing them magic! I am telling them that this magic is real - because from the perspective of their experience; it is. Why should I deny them this experience of a more magical dimension? Many would disagree, and this is their right, but I would see this as some perverse form of cruelty.
The audiences eyes widen, their mouths open and they are speechless (well, on a good night anyhow). They have had a experience that has been dormant since their childhood; an experience of magic. They do not ask me how it was done as it is not a trick, but a genuine experience. I leave it this way, they go, a seed of possibility has been planted. If I have done my work well, this seed will grow into a fully fledged paradigm shift; I have been a magician!

Some magicians will unwittingly deny themselves of this experience; 'and for my next trick', some magicians will deny the existence of magic, which only leads you to the question of why are they then performing it. Some magicians who are sincere in their belief in a magical reality, will shun such work as dishonest and somewhat despicable. Both group will be denying the shared legacy of magical history.

Somewhere in the middle ground exists the more anarchistic magician, the child of the trickster gods of antiquity. Someone who is free to explore a range of techniques to re-establish magic. I know of several of these people, and I am inviting you to open your mind and spend a little time in their company.

Bring magic into the world and use what ever tools you need to achieve it. The task is too important for you to fail at it.  

Magick for Magicians. 

This is the other side of the coin, and thankfully, it is easier to discuss.

It is my view that magician should perform magic. Those of you who have read anything I have written before are free to go home and have an early tea at this point. What I mean by this is that the most hollow and useless thing a magician can do is perform a 'trick'. To a good proportion of the audience it is annoying, and to another percentage it is dull. Annoying because you are belittling the audience, setting them a puzzle that they cannot solve (and nor could you before you bought the trick), you are parading your ego and claiming some transitory superiority that your polite audience will not thank you for. Dull, because we perform in an age of 3d Films, virtual reality computer games, entire libraries and entertainment systems that we carry around in the palm of our hands. All of these readily available toys thrown up by our culture can perform far better tricks than the most accomplished magician. Yet these transitory novelties leave us empty; wanting more. They do not bring us magic.

I am going to shout from my soapbox at this point and say that if you are a magician who denies the existence of magic, you have no right calling yourself by that title; leave it to those who do.

So for the magician, a grounding in the esoteric is essential, as this is where true magic is to be found.
There is a big difference performing magic from the point of view of a reductive and rationalist view of the universe and from a metaphysical understanding of (true) reality. *

*by this I mean the reality behind material illusion - it is all energy waves!

Which do you think is the best foundation for performing magic; magic that is a transcendental experience for the audience? Surely, magic by its very definition should transcend. If we keep pinning it down to materialism ('it is just a trick') we are hearing but the faintest echo of our calling.

What does a magician do?


The discipline of Magical performance has a great deal to teach the metaphysician in the structuring and mechanics of his or her work. Magical performance (in my view) should be seen as a useful tool for the working magician to have a social context, to use whatever method is necessary to awaken magic in the  slumbering mind and go someway to redressing balance in our materialistic society.

The occult knowledge of magick is necessary to transform the amateur magician into a binger of wonder, mystery and true magic. I believe that magical performance is a means to an end and that end should be made conscious.

Both performing magicians and esoteric workers derive their art from the same root; an inheritance that did not make the distinctions that we make today.

There is a largely unexplored field of potential that exists between these two poles; a place to meet and exchange ideas, a place to forge a new magic that can transform us and those we meet.