Magic and Meaning by Eugene Burger, Robert E. Neale

(c. 1995) (Submit Review) (Submit Update)

Details: In 1995, two celebrated philosophers of magic, Eugene Burger and Robert E. Neale, wrote a book that examined the psychological, symbolic and spiritual roots of theatrical conjuring. The result was a work brimming with new ideas that set readers’ heads spinning and revealed a way of thinking about performing magic that is at the same time ancient and revolutionary.

For years MAGIC AND MEANING has been out of print and much sought after. This new edition contains the original work in its entirety plus two added essays, one by each author, adding 34 pages in which they reflect and expand on the intended message of their writings.

MAGIC AND MEANING EXPANDED is not a book for the timid, the hidebound or the unimaginative. It is a book with the purpose of opening new vistas for the performance and presentation of Real Magic! It explores how magic does and always has permeated our lives-how magic serves profound needs for humanity-and how theatrical conjuring, as a part of the magical tradition, is something far less trivial than the average conjurer realizes.

MAGIC AND MEANING EXPANDED is a serious attempt to establish a philosophy of conjuring, one that motivates and vitalizes the performer of mysteries and his performances. Burger and Neale have distinct voices, which occasionally disagree, but they approach their topic from similar directions, ultimately arriving at a harmonious world-view of magic as both entertainment and something much more. Their views, opinions and arguments are genuinely revolutionary and insightful. They are also “inciteful”; that is, they are sure to raise heated debate in the conjuring community. Those hot debaters would do well, though, to read carefully, for the thoughts contained in this book are often complex and subtle. Robert E. Neale seasons this philosophical brew with seven tricks. These tricks and their novel presentations are used to illustrate his method of instilling magic with meaning. Of them Dr. Neale writes, “They may be upsetting to some. They should be upsetting to all.”

Many magicians, amateur and professional alike, perform blind, with little or no understanding of the powerful emotional and symbolic elements that lie inherent but generally unused in their work. Employing a wide range of disciplines-including literature, anthropology, philosophy, religion, myth and film-Eugene Burger and Robert E. Neale explore these important components that rest at the very soul of magic.


ix Foreword by Max Maven
xi Introduction

1 Conversations
1 Are Magicians Afraid of Magic?
4 Magic, Comedy and Mystery
6 Magic and the Bizarre
9 Finding Ourselves

13 The Magical Experience
14 Expecting the Unexpected
17 Experiencing Surprise
17 Experiencing the Impossible
17 Experiencing the Nonrational
22 Experiencing the Mystery
23 What it Means

25 The Shaman’s Magic
26 Native American Conjuring
29 Shamans
31 Shamanism and Deception

39 Early Conjuring Performances
41 The Doll
43 The Bullroarer
47 The Shaking Tent
53 The Rope

57 Stories of the Origins of Magic
57 Stories of the Beginning
61 The Magic Behind the Magic
64 The Economic-political Theory
70 Shamanism and the Origin of Conjuring
76 Deception in the Animal World
80 Conclusion

82 Matinee Magic
82 Matinee
86 Response to Matinee
88 Sawing a Woman in Two
89 The Horrible Sawing
93 The Humorous Sawing
95 The Holy Sawing
98 Matinee Magic

101 Trickersters and Real Jokers
101 Tricksters
104 Images of Trickster
106 Real Jokers

121 A Potion or Two

127 Are Card Tricks Card Magic?
127 What is a “Good” Card Trick?
128 The Awareness of “Moves” Murders Magic
129 Can a Spectator Restate the Effect?
129 The Adventures of the Props
131 Card Tricks and Card Magic

133 Sole Survivor

137 Meaning in Magic
137 Literal Demonstration
139 Problems with Literal Demonstration
140 Symbolic Demonstration
142 The Transformation of Magical Demonstration

145 Parable Magic
146 Parables
146 Zen Tales
147 Sufi Tales
147 Modern Tales
149 Truth Beyond Comprehension
153 The Parables of Jesus
154 Parable Tricks
154 Parable of the Publican and the Tax Collector
157 Parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin
158 Parable of the Great Feast
162 Conclusion

163 Triskaidekaphobia
168 Alternative Routine
168 More Facts and Their Sources

173 Many Magics
175 Primary Magic
179 Secondary Magic
181 Reduced Magics
183 Restored Magics
187 Reflexive Magic
188 Conclusion

  • Publisher: Hermetic Press
  • Pages: 189
  • Location: Seattle, USA
  • Dimensions: 6″x9″
  • Date: 1995
  • Binding: hardbound

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Approx. Price: $24.00 (2003) ***

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