Carlos’s Comments on “Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”

“The magic show takes place ultimately in the spectator’s head”

Henry Hay, The Amateur Magician’s Handbook 

Magic enchants and awakens us. It shows us that the impossible and improbable have a place in our tedious, predictable world. The skilled conjurer manipulates the environment to surprise the audience with something wondrous and unexpected. In the novel Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach explores the art of magic as it pertains to self-development. An individual who sincerely embarks on a quest for enlightenment becomes an illusionist of sorts: one who creates and tries to comprehend a certain presentation of the self to the world. Putting on a show for others (and oneself) confronts and challenges our conditioned assumptions and perceptions. The magic act, in this broader sense, inspires the magician in each of us to invent a persona which embodies a special purpose – a destiny of crisp, cut gem beauty and fulfillment.

The self’s pilgrimage is an apprenticeship, a process of moving from a seat in the audience to the role of master magician on the stage. And the greatest trick of all is to marvel at the ever-changing illusion that is the persona: now you see it, now you don’t. The elusive definition of “me” can be both frightening and exciting…just like magic. Maybe a different way to view this alchemy of the self is to see the creation of my personality, my career, my relationships and my life as a constantly morphing work of art. Seen this way, my self-portrait is my masterpiece, even if it is an illusion, even if it is a trompe l’oeil. Beautiful yet impermanent, my vibrant self becomes like brushstrokes of wonder and improbability painted like fading contrails all over the sky.

The essence of a magic trick lies in the art of misdirection. In close-up magic, the manipulation of coins, cards and small objects all depends on the ability of the conjurer to guide the audience into presuming certain deceptive actions to be true. Being misled by a belief in this way allows for the mind to be molded and shaped to suit the intention of the trickster. Misdirection and misperception can thereby become entertainment, an amusement that the individual convinces the brain to accept. And additionally, if we suspend belief in a “reality” that is imposed upon us by society, we are poised to mystify others (and maybe surprise ourselves in the process).

Unlike sleight of hand, being a magician of the persona oftentimes involves fooling both the audience as well as oneself. But despite being deceived, it is necessary to recognize the difference between enjoying the illusion that allows the mind to wander freely, and the misperception that results in delusion and negativity. We suffer due to our fear of exploring the mysterious, charming illusion that is our interaction with our environment. We suffer due to our fear of difficult challenges academically, professionally or personally. We suffer due to our fear. If our delusion and fear become too intense, conflict escalates. In its mildest form, delusion may result in a cruel word, deceit, or duplicity. But explosive anger is sorcery: a failure to embrace and adapt to rapid changes in the culture or the environment. This intense delusion is present during every act of road rage, a fistfight, a rape or a mass shooting in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Perhaps we can understand more about the differences between illusion and delusion if we take the time to consider the way each individual embraces (or refuses to embrace) the world. When our embrace is physically or emotionally off-center, we will never be able to understand and to accept one another completely. And when we are unable to sincerely love and embrace who we are as individuals, with all of our foibles, jagged edges and ever-changing boundaries, we have little hope of ever learning to appreciate everything captivating that can be found in others. Embracing the illusion that is our culture, and embracing the illusion that is the self, can inspire us to look deeply and directly into the eyes of those who suffer. If we are truly unafraid, we won’t look away. And the greatest magic spell is the one we cast upon each other, noticing and celebrating the joy and laughter mirrored in those same soft eyes. If we are patient and look very carefully.

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