Magical Quotes

I copied this idiosyncratic collection of quotes relating to the art of magic for my own amusement, so I was not always great about citing sources. The quotes are not ordered alphabetically, or indeed in any order known to man. Please feel free to email me suggested additional quotes here. Thanks.
- Chris Philpott


The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
-Albert Einstein


"All magic is about transformation... the performance magician is telling you that you are the magician in your own life. You are the agent of transformation, your own transformation."
-Eugene Burger


"Conjuring is the only absolutely honest profession - the conjuror promises to deceive, and does."
-Karl Germain


“Wonder is a very subtle, precious emotion, often lost in the gross hustle and bustle of modern life. When we feel wonder, we are immediately reminded of the purity and innocence of our childhood. Then everything was magical and mysterious. Magic should help us relive that wonder.”
- Doug Henning


“You are a special kind of people. You have a certain gift, a special ability. For you, nothing is impossible. You can alter reality, and you can create the laws of nature. You are magicians!”

- FISM president Dag Lofalk.


"The magic show is a competition. The audience is trying to figure you out. They aren't suspending their disbelief—they're trying to expose you as a scam artist."

– Teller (Wired).


“In other words, the magic show takes place primarily in the spectator’s head…. Nevertheless, the wizard may exert a certain degree of control: he determines what the audience shall not pay attention to (a process known in conjuring as misdirection), and he restricts so far as he can the ways in which each onlooker shapes his own private performance. What you must realize is that your game is angling, not shooting. You don’t propel, you lure. The “fly” is in the trout’s appetite, not on the hook.”

-Henry Hay, The Amateur Magician’s Handbook


“When [the magician] clicks his fingers and cards change to the four aces, we know we have experienced sleight of hand. Real magic would not be quite that quick and easy. Real magic would take investment. Real magic would draw you in, and make you nervous.”
-Derren Brown, Absolute Magic, page 40-41.


“If we were all given by magic power to read each other's thoughts, I suppose the first effect would be to dissolve all friendships.”
- Bertrand Russell


“As infants, before we can talk we are tossed on our backs and tickled. That sensation of glee is pure, unfiltered and taken away from us at an early age. It is qualified as soon as we begin to apply logic and reason to things we enjoy. Magic does away with logic, skews or punctures it. I think that is why, when done well, it can reach people in a special way. It can toss an entire audience onto its back and tickle them, bypassing all reasoning.”

- David Regal, Approaching Magic


"If you can truly believe what you are pretending to do is really happening, then your audience will believe it, too."
-
Richard Osterlind, Making Magic Real


“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”

- Walter Bagehot


“Mysteries are not necessarily miracles.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


“A real magic show is not an arena for secular distraction but a relatively safe place for us to experience the sacred.”
- Robert Neale, Matinee Magic, Magic and Meaning (Expanded)


"Magic is not tricks. Tricks in themselves are not more than puzzles. A trick becomes a mystery, a thing of enjoyment to the beholder, only in proportion to the degree of dramatic interest with which it is endowed by its exhibitor."
- Fred Keating, “Magic As Theatre” Tarbell 6


“The Definition, or description of the Operator [magician]: First, he must be one of an impudent and audatious spirit, so that hee may set a good face upon the matter.
Secondly, he must have a nimble and cleanly conveyance. Thirdly, hee must have strange termes, and emphaticall words, to grace and adorne his actions, and the more to astonish the beholders. Fourthly, and lastly, such gestures of body as may leade away the spectators eies from a strict and diligent beholding his manner of conveyance.”

- Hocus Pocus Junior, 1634 (the first book wholly devoted to the art of conjuring).


"Many people take exception to me and say that I'm doing black magic and things they can't do at church. But I'm doing magic that started their church."
– Tony Andruzzi


“Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing.”
–Sigmund Freud


“The generation of atmosphere, the aura of the uncanny, is one of the most important secrets of magic. It contributes to the willing suspension of disbelief, the feeling that, within the circle, or in the presence of the magical shrine, anything may happen.”
- Doreen Valiente, An ABC of Witchcraft


“Magicians have taken something intrinsically profound and made it look trivial.”

- Jamy Ian Swiss


“In high school I was a serious theater kid and I had a drama coach who was also a magician. We spent endless hours discussing why magic is one of coolest and most sophisticated forms of entertainment. It intrinsically contains the kind of complex experience that Shakespeare breaks his back to write. When you’re sitting at “Hamlet” and the players are playing a play that is supposed to catch the conscience of the king in “Hamlet,” you as an audience member are going, “How is this catching my conscience?” It makes you think about yourself — and magic makes you think about yourself every moment you’re in the theater because you’re asking yourself, “Where does reality leave off and make-believe begin? This guy is screwing with me, this guy is messing with my brain.” It is a fantastically interesting art form.”
– Teller


“If you believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.”
– old mentalists’ joke.


"It is important as a mentalist to notice small things about people... little things such as being able to tell if someone is right or left handed by looking at which way their belt is pointing. Looking at a book of matches will tell you if they are right or left handed by the side the matches are removed.... It's important to notice these things because the more you do, the more you will realize that each person has little psychological nuances that tell you a lot about the individual. Doing so will tremendously sharpen your skills."
-Banachek, Psychological Subtleties


“Using words to describe magic is like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef.”
-- Tom Robbins.


“Magic consists of creating, by misdirection of the senses, the mental impression of supernatural agency at work. That, and only that, is what modern magic really is, and that meaning alone is now assignable to the term.”
- J.N. Maskelyne, Our Magic, 1911.


“Escapology has one thing going for it that probably made Harry Houdini such a superstar in his day and a legend in the present. Everyone wants to escape from something. Taxes, contracts, illness, work, the multitude of burdens that we chafe under are shadows from which we want to escape.”
- James Randi, quoted in Darwin Ortiz’s Strong Magic, p 127-128.


“No performer should attempt to bite off red-hot iron unless he has a good set of teeth.”

- Harry Houdini


"[Magic] can guide people to the very edge of reason - and then push them off. Thoughts collapse for a moment and the mind is free to just experience. Magic is a window to eternity."
- Patrick Martin


“The next night, when it came time for the appearing dove trick, Doc [Marcus] began to run around the stage waving his net. “There’s one,” the band and the regulars shouted. Doc swung the net. The white feathers appeared and Doc emptied his “catch” in the top of the cage, but nothing happened. The dove wasn’t there. Doc’s eyes widened. He glared at his assistant and began to run around the stage again. The band, and this time the entire audience screamed, “There’s one Doc!” The ever-panicking magician swung the net again. The feathers flashed into view. Again he brought the net down on top of the cage, but the bird wasn’t there. The audience was in hysterics. They were rolling in the aisles. The band was laughing so hard no one was playing…. Later my Dad went into the dressing room to get Doc’s assistant the hook. The despondent magician was bent of the dressing table, crying…. My father pointed out that he had never heard such a fantastic audience response to anything Doc had previously done. The audience loved it…. Doc Marcus went on to become a popular comedy magician…. Nothing in the act worked the way it was supposed to.”
- Larry Becker, Stunners Plus


“Enjoy failure and learn from it. You never learn from success.”
- James Dyson, quoted in David Britland’s The Mind and Magic of David Berglas.


“In magic we have a variety of “uses” for our art beyond magic itself, which reminds me of the notion of art therapy. The rendering of art inferior to therapy is an interesting one: interesting in the sense that it makes me want to vomit angrily.”
-Derren Brown, Absolute Magic, page 38


“The universe is almost like a huge magic trick and scientists are trying to figure out how it does what it does.”
– Martin Gardner, The Nature of Things.


“Existence is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be lived. A problem is something created by the mind; a mystery is something which is there, not created by the mind. A problem has an ugliness in it, like disease. A mystery is beautiful. With a problem, immediately a fight arises. You have to solve it; something is wrong, you have to put it right; something is missing, you have to supply the missing link. With a mystery there is no question like that. The moon arises in the night.... It is not a problem, it is a mystery. You have to live with it. You have to dance with it. . You have to sing with it, or you can be just silent with it. Something mysterious surrounds you.”
- Osho.


“Frauds master our minds; magicians, like poets and lovers, engage them in a permanent maze of possibilities.”
– Adam Gopnik.


"Wonder is the first of all the passions."
- Descartes, The Passions of The Soul, Article 53.


‘Magic words have been called fugitives from dreams and fairy tales. They are mysterious, shadowy, and perhaps indecipherable, yet their cadence possesses an unmistakable profundity. We know the phenomenon in great poetry, where we might be deeply struck by language we don't fully comprehend. With magic words, we define a sacred arena where miracles can come into play. There are profound truths in that old cliché of a magician pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat with the magic word ‘abracadabra’. Almost everyone recognizes the image. But what relatively few people know is that our stereotypical magician is speaking an ancient Hebrew phrase that means ‘I will create with words’. He is making something out of nothing, echoing that famous line from Genesis: ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’’
- Craig Conley, Magic Words: A Dictionary.


“Mimes were invented to give magicians someone to look down on”
- Jamy Ian Swiss from New Yorker article by Adam Gopnik 2008/03/17


“Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”
- Carl Gustav Jung


"There is a world of difference between a spectator’s not knowing how something’s done versus his knowing that it can’t be done."
- Simon Aronson


“Who does not respond to the power of form, of colour, of symbols, and is this not what used to be called talismanic magic? Who is not delighted and moved by the artful use of words, incantations, names as essences, oratory, poetry, and is this not word magic? Is not the effect of harmony and melody magic? And is there not an elemental magic in the intuition of the craftsman, even in the 'feel' of the technician for his machine, though it be a product of the highest technology? To say nothing of common sense? Surely the answer to all these questions is yes. Then these are nothing but the well-known elements of natural magic stripped of their superstitious and supernatural patina. Magic, thus defined, is the complement of science. It acts, not on material objects, but on human sensibility.’
- physicist B K Ridley. (On Science, 2001).


“Audiences are not easily fooled, but they are easily confused.”
- Darwin Ortiz, Strong Magic, page 44.


“A conjurer is nothing if he only amuses and fails to inspire wonder.”
- Thomas Frost, The Lives of the Conjurors


“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand.”
- Neil Armstrong


“It is still an open question, however, as to what extent exposure really injures a performer.”

- Harry Houdini


"Magic is not tricks. Tricks in themselves are not more than puzzles. A trick becomes a mystery, a thing of enjoyment to the beholder, only in proportion to the degree of dramatic interest with which it is endowed by its exhibitor."
- Fred Keating, “Magic As Theatre” Tarbell 6


“In most magic, as far as I can see, the plot is, “I wish for something. I get it. And it’s what I want (though many right-thinking persons might well ask 'what earthly use does that raucous geezer have for a dove?')”
The cause in this case is the magician’s will. He wills it: it comes true.
This is not a drama about a human being. It is the depiction of a god, generally a capricious and trivial one. And it’s just as dull as the biography of any omnipotent being would be.”

-Teller, quoted in Derren Brown’s Absolute Magic, p21.


“Remain in wonder if you want the mysteries to open up for you. Mysteries never open up for those who go on questioning. Questioners sooner or later end up in a library. Questioners sooner or later end up with scriptures, because scriptures are full of answers. And answers are dangerous, they kill your wonder.”
- Osho


“If there is a single secret, then it can be simply put. Think big, create, plan, rethink (even bigger) then prepare, practice and perform.”
- David Berglas, The Mind and Magic of David Berglas, p. 543.


“The rules of sleight-of-hand are three, and all others are in vain:
The first and second are ‘practice’, and the third one is ‘practice again’”.

- Edward Victor



"Unlike a mere deception or a simple secret, which gives the impression that something's been taken away, a great magician makes you feel like something's been given to you."
– Jim Steinmeyer, Hiding the Elephant


“A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician."
- Jean Eugene Robert Houdin


"Those who do not believe in magic will never find it. "

-Roald Dahl



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