Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ethics for Magical People: Performing Magic (3 of 4)

In the case history of Janet and the Odd Woman, Janet had reached a nadir in her life when a friend suggested consulting a fortune teller. Janet surmised that with all her bad luck that she was under some sort of a curse. After showing Janet the evidence of such a curse, the Odd Woman (the fortune teller) confirmed her worst fears.

Following many consultations, Janet handed the Odd Woman all her money wrapped in a bundle of newspapers. To rid Janet of the curse, the Odd Woman had to cleanse Janet’s money. (According to the Illinois Police, the Bunco artist convinces her victim that his money is at the root of the curse.) Whilst cleaning Janet’s money, the Old Woman fell to the floor. According to her, Janet’s curse was so severe that it forced her down. Following that, she hands the cleansed money to Janet, who then pays the Odd Woman.

After Janet gives her package of cleansed money to a police detective, they discover that it contains only a stack of paper. When she fell, the Odd Woman switched the packages. According to the NABI, after Janet discovered the trick, the Odd Woman would either disappear or threaten to place another curse on her.

To convince Janet of the existence of her curse, the Odd Woman used several types of performance magic. First, she used mentalism to demonstrate that she possessed special powers. To do this, the Odd Woman did a cold reading, thereby convincing Janet that she understood what was happening in Janet’s life.

To demonstrate the severity of the curse, the Odd Woman used table magic. With slight-of-hand, she hid a capsule of blood and hair in her hand, whilst passing an egg over Janet’s body. Smashing the capsule with the egg, the Odd Woman produced hair and pus. She used another slight-of-hand trick when she fell on the floor and switched packages, whilst cleansing Janet’s money.

The other type of magic that the Odd Woman performed was a theatrical séance by simulating contact with various spirits. To further impress Janet, the Odd Woman performed a ritual to speak with several Archangels. These theatrical séances set the stage to for Janet’s belief in the Odd Woman’s supernatural abilities.

Robert Carroll points out that since people do suspend their disbelief, they can be duped into regarding that a mentalist’s act as real. Alain Nu notes that the audience has insufficient experience to judge the credibility of a mentalist’s illusions. Nu says that a credible mentalist will have a disclaimer for his audience. For example, Nu refers to what he does as “ESP – Especially Sensitive Powers.”

In the case of Uri Geller, Carroll says that he is a stage magician (mentalist) who went too far. Since the 1970s, Geller has demonstrated various psychic powers such as bending spoons. Because Geller claims that he has special ESP powers, he charges people for his services to find oil deposits and other things. Carroll views Geller as a “flim-flam artist,” since he bilks gullible people of their money. Meanwhile, James Randi, a stage magician, proved that Geller is a fraud. Randi says that Geller gives other magicians a bad name, since Geller presents his illusions as truth.

Stage magicians create illusions as a part of sacred theater to have the audience ponder new ideas. They urge their audience to visualize other possibilities. Like theater, stage magicians provide an avenue for people to consider the mysteries of life. By bending spoons as entertainment, Alain Nu hopes to entice people to explore fringe science.

Meanwhile, the Odd Woman and Uri Geller create illusions for their own ends. They use their talents for venial purposes – greed and dishonesty. Instead of uplifting people, they endeavor to keep their victims entrapped in faulty belief systems. The Odd Woman and Geller use their magic to shrink people’s worlds, and to shut down their curiosity.

No comments: