Guest Author - Dennis Regling
The entertainment world is full of magicians and mentalists. These individuals are skilled in creating the illusion of magical happenings. They are able to use the audience's own senses to fool them. Using gimmicked props and deft sleight of hand, these entertainers can create amazing effects.
Some magic tricks exceed the expectation of an audience to the point they start to believe it couldn’t have been just a simple trick. They insist it had to be some kind of black magic, demonic power, or divine force. This is the first mistake that people make: they transform a certain assumption into a certain belief. They assume or believe something is, rather than inquire or investigate "how" something is. The use of critical thinking and evidence-based inquiry or investigation over emotion-driven thinking is extremely important when it comes to accepting or rejecting fantastic claims.
The magician David Copperfield created the illusion that the Statue of Liberty vanished. David Blaine became famous for creating the illusion he was floating above the ground. These were amazing presentations that left their audiences in awe. Because of the venue these tricks were presented in, the audience knew they were just that, tricks. Unfortunately, some charlatans have used simple stage tricks to convince their followers they possess some special power.
There are two kinds of charlatans in this category. The first one knows exactly what they’re doing. They’ve learned the tricks and use their skills to attain fame and fortune. The second one really believes that they have somehow attained special abilities or powers, and they want to help people through their “divine gifts.” The first one takes advantage of others through more trickery and deceit. The second one is just as deluded as his or her supporting believers, who also become victims of the first one, who encourages the second one, and all believers to keep on living in the rabbit hole so that the first one would still have a business to run. See how important network marketing is?
Some people are so convinced of the powers of these con artists, that even when the trick is exposed, they still believe the power they saw was real. The logic is that just because a magician can replicate a feat, that doesn't mean the power of the performer wasn't real.
After TV preacher Peter Popoff was exposed as a fake on the Johnny Carson Show, many viewers called in wanting Popoff to use his special powers to answer thir questions. They still believed he was real and that God had given him the gift of secret knowledge.
The biggest secret of magic isn't in the working of the trick, however. The big secret is in the use of words. By the things the magician says when performing, he is able to leave a false memory with his volunteers and audience members. The magician may let a spectator hold a deck of cards. He makes a point before the conclusion of the trick to remind the audience that he has not touched the deck. In truth, the magician handles the cards in an innocent moment that allows him to do what he must. The audience only remembers what he tells them. They forget that for a moment the performer had the deck in his hand.
Often audiences at a magic show are fooled by what they do not see. Many times though, they are fooled by what the magician tells them they saw. I've even heard people describe the effects they've seen me perform in a much more spectacular manner than the way they really happened.
Most magicians are honest. They claim no special powers, only the training and experience to create some amazing visual and mental effects, Before every presentation, I always tell my audiences that there are no special powers used. I inform them that any 10 year old can do the tricks I do with just 15 years practice.
When Uri Geller claimed to have psycho-kinetic powers, (the power to bend metal and move items with his mind), several magicians went out of there way to expose him as a fraud. If Uri had just presented himself as a performer and allowed his audiences to decide for themselves if he had special powers, no magician would have bothered with him. But when he claimed false powers and mystical ability, it was an insult to honest magicians everywhere.
Harry Houdini was a master of illusion. He created many of the spectacular effects and escapes magicians do today. Houdini spent the last years of his life exposing fake psychics. He did demonstrations of spook cabinets and seances, and exposed their secrets to the world. Harry Houdini credited his performances to skill. He made an honest living fooling and entertaining people. He had no tolerance for frauds who used showmanship to cheat people out of money by claiming to have special powers.
The Amazing James Randi, a skilled magician, has dedicated much of his life to exposing psychics, false healers and others who sell hope through the use of deception. He has written several books exposing these frauds. He even offered a million dollars to anyone who could actually demonstrate real psychic powers. No one was ever able to collect that reward, though many tried.
Contrary to general belief scientists are not the most reliable of witnesses when it comes to testing psychics and others claiming supernatural powers. Although trained in careful observation the thinking of a scientist is rational, based on a lifetime of experience in a rational world, but the methods used by those who would deceive are irrational and unless one is trained in the art of magic then the fraud is almost impossible to detect.
While the subject is under observation by those trained to detect the methods employed by magicians, the subjects fail to perform, when left to their own devices or are in a position to take advantage of a loose protocol, they succeed.
When evaluating spiritual occurrences, we should remember Occam's razor. This is a philosophical principle usually credited to William of Occam (1285-1347), and Galileo used it when he preferred the heliocentric solar system over a geocentric one. Sir W. Hamilton (1788-1856) expressed it as, "The law of Parsimony, which forbids, without necessity, the multiplication of entities, powers, principles, or causes; above all, the postulation of an unknown force, where a known impotence can account for the effect."
The rule was originally stated by Occam as, “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.” In effect, this rule states that if there exists more than one answer to a problem or a question, and if, for one answer to be true, well-established laws of logic and science must be re-written, ignored, or suspended in order to allow it to be true, and for the other answer to be true no such accommodation need be made, then the simpler——the second——of the answers is much more likely to be correct.