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Eric Fry

Can't agree with you. I think it has long been recognized that there's a difference between instruction and exposure. People won't pay $20 for Jay's book just to know how tricks are done. They want to do the tricks. They aren't just told the secret. They're told the procedures for doing the tricks. Furthermore, the tricks are the sort of thing people can do with inexpensive household objects. That makes them "do-able."

In contrast, no one watches the masked magician and learns enough to go out and perform a large-scale expensive illusion. They just learn the secret. They aren't taking instruction.

The downside of instructional books, of course, is that a lot of people take an interest in magic briefly when they're children. They quickly drop magic, but as adults they remember some of the basic principles. So instruction has the effect of exposure to some degree.


I tend to agree with Jamy Ian Swiss' assessment that revealing secrets in magic is basically a theatrical issue; it is certainly not an ethical or moral issue. The one exception is if at some point a person has taken an oath or signed some document of promise not to do so "under any circumstances", or the like, etc.; then, because of that choice it becomes an ethical issue for that individual.

I don't encourage exposure, however, I would neither condone nor not condone it. This is the same idea behind a special effect in a movie. It’s a good idea to perform the special effect without explanation so that an audience gets the full effect of what was attempted to be begin with. Any avoidance of revealing methodology after said performance is really only to make the experience from the performance stand as its full effect, and magic being a performance art and if the artist wants to perform to his/her best effect, it would seem like a good idea.

To agree with one thing mentioned, it is about the performance. That is (very important point here), IF the performer makes the performance engaging and about something OTHER THAN the trick itself. Which is why I disagree with the next point made: "I may actually know how the trick might have been performed (I might even have two or three theories), but I might not be sure. There's the fun." Making a puzzle out of magic is to avoid the possible impact that magic can have. I agree that puzzles are fun, challenging, and amusing; I suppose it is fine IF that’s all the performer wants the performance to be. But, in my opinion, presenting puzzles gets nowhere near the impact theater and levels of fun that is possible to be brought about via theatrical performance magic. I personally find it a pity when puzzles are presented as amusements instead of mystery and magic at its full potential. By the way, if magicians present puzzles, how can we expect audiences to ever know magic to be anything other than that? Hence, I give you the last 100 years of western society's awareness of what magic is, and the low ranking it has among the performance arts...but I digress for fear on getting too far off topic.

Getting back on track, I am not totally sure that "showing effort" is the single criteria necessary to learn methodologies. I am perfectly happy with people wanting to learn magic to perform (i.e. magicians) and with people interested in magic in other ways as well (i.e. magic enthusiast or scholars) who don't necessarily want to perform. I think what Josh Jay might want to say here is that people who put in time, effort, and respect magic for its difficulty and depth is the criteria by which methodologies (key words here) are enthusiastically disseminated and encouraged to be learned and digested. The Masked Magician and people who were fooled by a puzzle presenter seeking solutions have no intentions toward any of those criteria. The Masked Magician show really presents the mythologies of magic as simple and easy solutions and intentionally bypasses the parts of magic that make it a difficult and robust performance art. The audience has no choice but follow suit and bypass any respect that magic can deserve. By the way, any magician who gets gigs by exposing magic without any greater or further learning intention or purpose, we normally call those "poor magicians". I would also say that the public has had little to no exposure to magic, that is, enough good magic to begin to get a baseline from which to gauge performances. Right now, people cannot really watch magic performances and judge what is good and not so good; it appears that "did the magician fools you?" is the main criteria, but in reality, is only the minimum qualification of being magic to start with, certainly not the gauge of good magic.

In my opinion, the Masked Magician does little to nothing to hurt magic. On the other hand, he mentions he is doing all this to help and encourage magic to develop. I disagree that exposing magic is going to help magic. He thinks magic is about tricks alone, that developing new tricks will save magic. I disagree. What is going to help magic is for magicians to begin performing good, non-puzzle, theatrical performance magic no matter if the tricks are new or old. Another thing that will help magic is to find better ways to attract new magicians, magic enthusiasts, and scholars.

I do believe that there will be some people who will be inspired to be magicians or magic enthusiast or scholars after watching the Masked Magician. I believe these same people might be inspired from other sources as well, if they were exposed to those sources. The mere fact that the Masked Magician is there in the first place might be all it takes. I suppose in the rare case that this is what gets people into magic within the above criteria, then the Masked Magician has done a shred of good for magic in this particular way.

Lastly, Penn and Teller know that exposing the correct solutions to magic effects, and nothing else about magic, would be boring for audiences, because the methods really are boring and disappointing. Penn and Teller have to actually invent tricks and methodologies that are at least interesting and then expose those, and as far as I can remember, (unlike the Masked Magician) its always been to a greater purpose within the performance.

Eric Fry

I think exposure is unethical unless you're exposing a method of your own invention and which bears no relationship to other methods.

Why do I say this? Because although magic is more than its secrets, mystery is the heart of a magic performance. If the methods are known, there is no mystery, no matter how good your script or costumes or whatever makes up your presentation.

A magician without his mystery is a pathetic sight. A movie that uses special effects known to the audience is still, potentially, an effective movie.

People interested in magic have an ethical obligation not to destroy another person's ability to use a method that is part of that person's magic performance.


I disagree that it is unethical to expose others methodology, that is, unless you are doing it for profit (e.g. Masked Magician), then it is unethical because it is not your information to distribute or reproduce from which to make money. This idea is opposed to performing for profit (not exposing) others magic that should have been purchased by the performer if applicable. I agree that if it is your invention, you are free to do with is as you wish. The only possible unethical not for profit action in magic is to expose for the sake of exposing without any further intent of further education (further intent e.g. simple and “common” tricks to get people interested in magic); but this is only really applicable in the realm of magicians as a “self regulating” community (e.g. much in the same way stand up comedy is a “self regulating” community with regard to avoiding telling each others jokes). However, if the magic community does not “self regulate” (for whatever host of reasons it may not) then there is obviously no completely agreed upon and implemented standard by which all are measured. In my opinion, this is exactly what has happened in the western magic community to this day; this is clearly seen throughout the history of magic (a read through a history source such as Steinmeyers “Hiding the Elephant” shows this clearly). In fact, the only standards that have been implemented are through magic organizations in which members gain entry by taking or signing an oath not to expose, many times under no circumstances may they expose. This has been the only types of “certification” in the community that has allowed as little exposure as their has been over time. In fact, as Eugene Burger observes, more incidents of magic exposure happen when novices are not successful in a magic performance than any other way.

In the various manners I have described above, magicians have created a very odd approach in relation to magic’s secret methodologies in my opinion. They relate to them as if they were puzzles to begin with, not potential mediums for performance to achieve mystery for an audience.

To expect that everyone will take an oath of secrecy throughout magicdom and hold to it, is not a practical long term or wide spread solution to any issues regarding exposure. It certainly won’t stop it, and in this Internet centric information age, I submit that it only furthers the curiosity of the laity (i.e. that magic has secrets to begin with) producing far more exposures than had no oath or declaration that secrets even exist in magic would have produced. In my opinion, the better long term solution would be to stop making magicians take oaths of secrecy. Start making them take Oaths of Understanding that says “I understand that the value of secret methodologies in magic are very low, and this being the case, I promise not to make my magic performances about or communicate to audiences: secrets, keeping secrets, or that magic even has or requires secrets at all. I also understand that to consciously make this choice is a theatrical choice and is done to preserve the theatrical portion of performance magic. Further, I understand that in order to achieve mystery, a secret is necessary but is not required for the audience to know exists for the audience to experience the mystery. I will purchase all magic methodologies that are not mine if possible and applicable.” This idea regarding secrets I think is what Steinmeyer says in “Hiding the Elephant” as “magicians guard[ing] an empty safe”. Secrets are boring and disappointing to laity and besides, as far as the audience is concerned, might as well not even exist; which is the best way to guard them.

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