Dogma in Magical Literature

A big problem in magic literature—at least from my point of view—is that the majority of publications are dogmatic in nature. There are many well-known authors who have a strikingly dogmatic style of writing, and who seem to assume that their way of doing things is the only right way. This then probably has more to do with an ego problem.

I remember well a conversation with Tommy Wonder, who, when I asked him if he was happy about his Books of Wonder, replied that he feared that his books were becoming dogma.

That surprised me, but also sensitised me to the topic. So I started to look into the subject more deeply. The results of my research surprised me again, because I found out that the majority of magic books can indeed be considered dogmatic.

Perhaps a solution would be to change the way of describing and the tone of magic literature. Away from “you must do this move this way or that way” to “this is a suggestion of how to do a technique or routine, but nothing definitive”.

The reader should be encouraged to experiment with the material on offer, to change it and make it suit themselves. Under no circumstances, however, should he be given the impression that this is the only possible, or correct, way to perform a trick.

If magic literature becomes a dogma, then many other problems arise. For example, that the reader adopts the author’s style without giving it much thought. He will try to perform the technique exactly as described and invest his time and energy in something he may not be comfortable with. The result is then like a shoe that you can put on (sometimes not!) but that doesn’t fit you because it was made for someone else. Accordingly, the reader will also feel with this shoe and moving around in it will definitely look bumpy and awkward.

The same applies, of course, to the presentations often described in magic books. Here, the words are slavishly parroted and no thought is given to whether this also suits one. You are talking with a foreign personality, and the audience notices this. Of course, this behaviour is encouraged by the laziness of the majority of magicians to think up a suitable accompanying patter for the trick themselves.

Conclusion: It might be better to describe tricks and routines or techniques differently. Presentation ideas are completely omitted, and the description consists solely of conveying the concept and the necessary trick-technical procedures.

Thus, the reader has an overview of how the trick works or what a concept or technique is about. The decision and evaluation, however, is left up to him, with all the freedom that implies.

In most cases, a dogma prevents things from being thought about, changed and developed further. That is a pity and not conducive to the development of magic. However, changing the way we write magic books would be an important and sensible first step in the direction to aim for.