Magic is a wonderful thing. When something we experience is too good to be described in words, we call it magic – thus, music is magic, love is magic, and so forth.
I haven’t seen a live magic show in many years, but the fascination remains. My mind goes back to the first ever magic show I saw, as a schoolboy. After the standard repertoire of producing rabbits and pigeons out of his hat and a small box, the magician proceeded to cut his assistant, a young woman, sealed in a coffin-like wooden box in two, using a common household saw.
Then he produced his masterpiece, which was an act of levitation. The young woman was asked to lie down, face up, on a bench. Then he proceeded to ‘hypnotise’ her. When that was done, he moved his hands deftly several inches above her body, and you could see it rising up slowly, and finally lie motionless about two feet above the bench. Then, using the same graceful motions, he set her back on the bench, and she ‘woke up’ with a smile.
I have never bothered to find out the actual workings behind any of these tricks. Magic is magic. I don’t want to know how the rabbit is pulled out of the hat or tennis balls taken out of the mouth. As long as it’s performed before an audience with that purpose only in mind, it’s harmless. It’s when people make spiritual claims on stunts that things go awry.
Magic is spectacle, and today’s magicians have taken the art to spectacular levels, and away from indoor stages to public places. David Copperfield, and many others, nowadays perform that old trick of sawing a person in two with industrial showmanship, using a massive, revolving blade. Then there are other new stunts I could hardly have imagined during my school days – Copperfield makes the Statue of Liberty vanish, and walks on water. When someone explained to me how that was done, I felt disappointed. The magic was thrilling, and to know the mechanics behind it is anti-climatic.
This is the problem with You Tube. Almost everything under the sun is explained. Levitation is another popular item with magicians. They can be seen walking over buildings, traffic, and trees on these videos. It’s the same technique that film stuntmen use. If you want to learn more, look up You Tube. I’m not interested because I want to be thrilled by the magic.
wRecently, Rupavahini showed on its Wasuliya programme a young Sri Lankan magician performing the same levitation act which I saw during my school days, but with this difference. The venue was a beach, and there were no props, no benches. The magician, wearing the trademark sunglasses (funny, you hardly see those on You Tube but I remember that many of our magicians wore those on stage) asked a girl to lie down on the sand. Then he told the onlookers that he was hypnotising her (it took only a few seconds). After that, with the same deft, graceful hand movements, which magicians all over the world use for similar acts, he raised her up several feet above the sand before setting her down again.
I have no idea how this trick is performed, nor do I want to know. Since no props at all were used, it looks even more mysterious. Well, that’s the magic. You Tube has many similar videos from all over the world. In one, the same young magician levitates himself several feet above the ground from his chair. This trick, too, can be seen in various forms on You Tube.
It’s all good fun but something our young magician said spoiled the whole thing. He mentioned that the act resulted from an ‘advanced state of consciousness.’ This is complete nonsense, and amounts to duping the viewing public with a fairy tale.
Sri Lankans, many of them being superstitious, gullible types, will readily fall for the ‘advanced consciousness’ crap. I tested this on someone, who can be categorised as an above average Sri Lankan, computer savvy, someone who reads good books etc. and he said there are things we don’t know about, and he was convinced that the show on the beach was the product of an advanced mind.
Serious yoga practice can lead to some astounding feats – some yogis can survive for lengthy periods sealed up in a box, while others stand meditate in sub-zero temperatures without freezing to death (I must admit that I have not seen either phenomenon with my own eyes, but have trusted accounts written by what I consider to be reliable sources. Hence, my method here is not entirely scientific).
But it stretches my credibility that a yogi can walk on water, off a building into air, or can lift objects against gravity, and that young man on the beach wasn’t a serious yogi but a magician. But, with so many people willing to believe that he has superior mental powers which can defy gravity, it may be a matter of time before our politicians, and their sons, mesmerize the all-too-gullible public by walking off Sri Lanka’s tallest building, walking over Diyawanna Oya or lifting a hypnotised voter (many are permanently in that sonambulent state, in any case) off the ground with a deft movement of the hands. Everything you need to perform such miracles can be bought on e-bay. After the politicians, it will naturally be the turn of the clergy to perform miracles as public entertainment.