Magic In Mind | Introduction
By Joshua Jay - Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Six years ago I released a compendium of ALL the great theoretical writings in magic, between two digital covers. It was called Magic in Mind, and it was, and is, a free download available on our site. I’m proud to say that it has been downloaded over 30,000 times, and shared around the world. It is used as part of a University curriculum at several renowned colleges, and it has become a gateway for budding magicians to learn about the deeper concepts of our craft. Starting now, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite essays from this book with you here on our blog. It goes without saying that if this interests you at all, please download the full ebook. It’s all there, if you’re willing to invest the time to read it.
So let’s begin with my introduction to the collection, here:
If you could spend time with one great magician, who would it be?
I used to pose this question to myself often, and other young magicians ask me some form of it quite regularly. Like I was when I started in magic, they are in search of a guru, a role model, a hero. But I have come to believe that this is the wrong question.
It is the wrong question because it presupposes that there is just one person, one path, one ideology that we should search for. A better answer to the question, “which great magician do I spend time with?” would be this: all of them.
What if you could learn from all the greatest magicians, alive and dead? You can, of course, through their writings.
But this is not as simple, to the student, as it seems. To purchase all the books by all the greats is expensive, particularly to a young magician who has entered the fray. Just those books excerpted in this collection would cost approximately 4000 dollars. Even if our newbie had the money, many of the most important titles are flat-out unavailable. Besides, how would a beginner know how to separate the best books from the rest, and what to read first?
Some have argued to me that the student’s migration from tricks to books is a process, and that finding the diamonds amidst the coal is part of the initiation. This seems cruel to me. Why not give someone the chance to excel and to find his own path?
Magic in Mind is that chance. I have collected what I feel are the very best parts of the very best magic books. Some of the greatest minds in the history of magic share their most guarded secrets here, all with their generous consent. The advice spans nearly two hundred years, thirty authors, and three languages. In the giving spirit, these authors have permitted me to share their wisdom with you; Magic in Mind is available to you and all serious magicians free.
I gave myself some guidelines for the project: all the material should be theoretical, and nothing over fifteen pages or so. The essays should break new ground or be the definitive treatment on their subjects. And, as much as possible, the advice should do what all good advice does: require interpretation. Whether you’re young or old, beginner or expert, illusionist or mentalist, you should find meaning in these pages.
Another piece of advice: don’t rush this experience. Pause. Reflect. Consider. Each essay is rich with ideas, but to get the full effect from each one, look up once in awhile, and think about how these abstract ideas can be applied to your work. You will, no doubt, disagree with some of my inclusions and exclusions. That’s okay with me. Many magic authors make persuasive arguments, but many of them unwittingly make the same arguments already made by (and better than) their predecessors.
The book is organized by theme into ten chapters. In much the same way works of art in an exhibition play off one another to illuminate a theme, I have attempted to make essays old and new “play” off each other in contrasting and unexpected ways. I have at several points chosen opposing viewpoints on the same topic. You choose your own fate.
It is not particularly important to me whether or not you agree with this essay or that magician - only that every single essay makes you consider a viewpoint you had not, or that it helps you see something in a new way. I encourage you to seek out the works of those magicians whose thoughts resonate with you.1 Many of these articles were written in a different era, directed to a different audience. Some you will like, some you will hate. Warren Buffet spoke to this when he said, “Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you what kind of person you will become.”
Magic in Mind is not just food for thought. The opinions you form during this experience will shape the magician you become. Good luck.
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