Magic of Consciousness symposium
A story about the annual meeting of Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, which included a special segment on stage magic:
Secretive as they are about specifics, the magicians were as eager as the scientists when it came to discussing the cognitive illusions that masquerade as magic: disguising one action as another, implying data that isn’t there, taking advantage of how the brain fills in gaps – making assumptions, as The Amazing Randi put it, and mistaking them for facts.
Sounding more like a professor than a comedian and magician, Teller described how a good conjuror exploits the human compulsion to find patterns, and to impose them when they aren’t really there.
‘In real life if you see something done again and again, you study it and you gradually pick up a pattern,’ he said as he walked onstage holding a brass bucket in his left hand. ‘If you do that with a magician, it’s sometimes a big mistake.’
He left us with his definition of magic: ‘The theatrical linking of a cause with an effect that has no basis in physical reality, but that – in our hearts – ought to.’
Full Story: New York Times.
Phil Hine interviews Ramsey Dukes
I think I’ve read this interview before but this is more or less how I feel about the occult and magick right now:
The trouble with successes in magic is that you can look back and describe some things that happened and they are so amazing when that when you tell them to people they think you must be the world’s greatest Magician if you could do things like that. But you know that actually they didn’t happen in the way magic ought to – ?I just want this to happen and I make it happen’. Very little have I managed to achieve in that way, life has a habit of springing surprises however hard you try to direct it. Some of those surprises are uncannily close to what you asked for, and yet they have a way of occurring which is not what you expected. I am very much aware of what is happening to me and it’s a sort of theme which occurs in fairy stories; the wish is granted but it doesn’t work out the way it was meant to. I think it must be a cosmic law that that should happen.
Are you still involved in the occult for the same reasons or have they changed?
That’s a difficult one. I can’t give a tidy answer to that. It’s very much my nature to be involved in the occult and that hasn’t changed. Involvement carries a certain momentum – the friends one has made, the practices I am performing and so on, all that adds up to a reason to stay with the occult. Yet I realise I am looking for different things now than I was earlier on. But those reasons are fairly superficial. It really is just curiosity about life and that is the strongest motive and that, in a sense, has not been changed.
Why do you think that people are still drawn to mysticism and the occult when the terrain is so obviously dominated by frauds, wastrels and knaves?
Now that’s a bit like saying why are people still interested in sex when obviously the sex industry is so full of corruption and sleaze. I think for some people there is actually a fascination in the sleaze, fraudery and trickery, which actually adds to the subject – sex is actually more intriguing because of the aura of sleaze about it. I’m not sure if that is so for me, but I think the occult too is something which you can be put off by the sleaze of it or actually you can find that as a rather intriguing element in it. One of the ideas I was putting forward in ?The Charlatan and the Magus’ (in ?Blast….’) was that maybe existence itself is sleazy, and that mankind’s instinct always attempts to eliminate sleaze, which is as misguided as swallowing a load of antibiotics, which although they may kill the germ, they kill off certain other things in your gut which then has to recover; or as misguided as trying to make a clean compost heap by putting a lot of disinfectant on it which actually would stop the composting process. In other words, sleaze is itself inherent. The universe itself has a strong element of sleaze in it and it’s part of the nourishment of life. We need to work on our own exaggerated concepts of hygiene.
Full Story: Phil Hine’s web site.
My Generation Hex review
I forgot to mention, my review of Generation Hex is up on Key 23:
If you’re looking for a book with a mind shattering new magical paradigm, this is not that book. It is also not a handbook for beginning magicians. This is the book you’re looking for if you’re a magician in need of fresh inspiration in a bleak and self-destructive society.
Read my GenHex review on Key 23.
The spiritual in design
Fell continues to work towards his theory of occult-design:
I remember speaking to a fellow by the name of SatsUrn on OccultForums.com some time ago. He works as a physicist in the U.S. dealing with electromagnetic radiation and had gotten involved in the occult with his interest in sacred geometry in ancient temples. Turns out that much of the ancient holy architects had some sort of esoteric knowledge of how particular angles, shapes, dimensions, and spaces could warp and affect the natural electromagnetic forces and other radiations and/or energies that were naturally occurrent. These structures could also focus human energies while within and, for lack of better terms, magnify or amplify them. Thus, sacred temples were actually, yes, houses of the gods. Not in that they were hanging out in the rafters looking down upon us, but as it welled up exotic energies that essentially entrained the people within to be drawn into either ecstatic states or lower EEG states, perhaps from the normal, waking beta state down to more introspective, “mystical” states that are normal when the mind’s EEG is entrained to alpha or theta waves.
In art, it is the realm of the artist to exact their inner visions of reality upon a canvas, whether it be clay or by brush. We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. But a designer learns the tenets of her or his craft in order to bring an order, hierarchy, and structure to that which there is apparently none ? something especially true in an “Age of Information,” an age named after an abstraction. The methods of magic are similar in that the will of the individual is fixed and, through a projection of desire into the substratum of reality, events unfold that can bring about changes in apparent accord to the magician’s will. It is an attempt to place an abstract order of control over the randomness of life. (Love Women, Hate Stupid).
Learn tarot and tarot history
Learn Tarot is a practical online course in tarot reading, using the Raider-Waite deck.
The Hermitage is an excellent collection of articles and essays about the history of tarot. Of particular note are the history of the Marseilles deck and history of the magician card. The trump histories include images from many historical decks. Exactly the sort of site I’ve been hoping to come across.
Anton LaVey: On Occultism of the Past
Anton LaVey slams Crowley et al.
Strange, how seldom one hears plaudits for Crowley?s poetry, worthy of inclusion with the likes of James Thompson, Baudelaire, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard. If Crowley was a magician, it was the beauty of his creative art which made him so, not his drug-befuddled callings-up of Choronzon, et al. Unfortunately, his followers today have taken up his worst, while neglecting his best.
Link (via Disinfo).