Magic tricks


Off and on since childhood, I have been fascinated by magic tricks and how they are done.

First, there is the enjoyment of being baffled. Then, of learning how it’s done. And with the best performances, the enjoyment of recognizing the skill with which it is done.

In addition to this, magic tricks tells us something about the mind.

Good magicians are experts on certain ways the mind works and they use this to entertain and fool us. And when the secrets behind the tricks are revealed, we also get some insights into how the mind works. (See, for instance, Teller’s Seven Ways to Fool the Brain.)

Mainly, the world of magic tricks shows us how our minds operates on expectations and assumptions about the world, and that these are not always accurate. Most of the time, they are accurate enough and very helpful to us, but sometimes these assumptions break down. Assumptions won’t always be accurate, and magicians take advantage of this and – if we allow it – reminds us the fallibility of our assumptions.

Some even think that magic tricks are “real” magic, and that too shows us something about the mind. It shows us how our hopes and fears can hijack a more rational and down-to-earth view, and what happens when we don’t do sufficient research and lack knowledge about a topic.

A few sources I have enjoyed:

Hiding the Elephant by Jim Stenmeyer.

Penn and Teller: Fool Us – in addition to some googling.

A range of YouTube videos explaining certain tricks.

And there is also an increase in psychology articles on the topic these days.



Misdirection is one of the many wonderful analogies from the world of magic.

Any belief is misdirection.

I experience the world as if it is true. Any story filters the world and experience, and this experience – which naturally conforms with the belief – is taken as support for the belief. And since the filtering story is taken as true, I don’t even notice that and how it filters experience. I take the filtered experience as real, substantial, true and as support for my initial belief.

I believe the world is made up of objects. (Including however I see myself, as a human being, a doer, an observer). I filter experience as objects. I take that experience, those boundaries, as real, substantial and true. I experience myself as an object in a world full of objects. And that experience is taken as support for my initial belief. (Which most of the time is not even brought to awareness. It operates at the level of images, the first imaginary overlay on pure perception.)


Asking helpful questions


The right questions can lead us to a great deal of insight.

For instance, if we assume the woman in this illusion is not actually cut in half….

Where must her real legs be?

If the legs sticking out at the other end are not her real legs, what may they be instead?

Why is her head moving at times when there is no apparent reason for it? Why is her neck in an awkward position while the sections are separated?


Seven basic principles of magic


Penn & Teller‘s seven basic principles of magic and how they apply to the topics of this blog.

Palm: to hide an object.

Attention is absorbed into content of stories, and what we are does not notice itself. It is hidden in plain view.

Also, when stories are taken as true they are not recognized as stories. For instance, as soon as there is identification with the image of a separate I, it becomes the eyeball that cannot see itself.

Ditch: secretly dispose of an object.

Everything self-liberates. Something happens in experience, and it is gone before it has even manifested.

Steal: secretly obtain an object.

Whatever happens arrives out of thin air, out of nowhere.

Load: remove an object to where it is needed.

Identification moves into a sense of a separate I.

Also, the sense of a separate I sometimes move around, especially when attention is brought to it. (It moves to another location, as the “new” observer of where it just was.)




I keep coming back to the same topics here…

Anything can be an analogy to some aspects of the awakening process, and so also magic.

In magic, there is an illusion. Something appears to happen that doesn’t really.

There is misdirection. Attention goes elsewhere, not to the mechanics of what is happening.

The trick may be revealed. There is insight into what is really happening.

And we still enjoy the trick. The appearances, and the skills and showmanship that goes into it.


Magic tricks


Just about anything can be used as an analogy for the process of waking and growing up. It is, after all, as rich as life itself.

So how can magic tricks work as an analogy for waking up?

I can find a few different things….

Misdirection. One of the main tools in the magician’s toolbox is misdirection. He or she brings the attention of the audience to something, while something else is happening somewhere else, and it is done in a very convincing way.

Illusions. Something appears as what it is not. There is the appearance of something that is not there.

And when the tricks are revealed, we cannot be fooled by the same trick again. We may still be impressed and amazed by it, but not fooled.

And the same happens in the dynamics of waking up.




One of the reasons I enjoy the magician Tommy Cooper is that he seems to be completely baffled by what is happening. (See Too many bottles.)

And that is how it is for me as well. Whatever happens is completely baffling.

Fingers move. Letters appear on the screen. They reflect thoughts. Others can read them and understand. There is awareness. This human self funcitons in the world. Choices are made. There is a sense of a separate I here or not. There is something rather than nothing.

I am every bit as baffled as Tommy Cooper.

And all of it is a play… Pretending to be baffled. Being baffled. Covering it up and pretending to not be baffled. The tricks themselves.

It is all play.