Is the Magician a Stoic?

Dear Friends:

Our guest columnist this month is our long-time friend, recently named as an instructor here at the Magic & Mystery School, Tim “Santiago” Converse.

Tim has an extensive background doing Quality Assurance for companies ranging from small startups to enterprise level software systems for the US Military. He is the owner of his own business, as well as being an instructor in the art of magic, and has used those opportunities to develop a significant skill in “out of the box” thinking. He regularly uses his skills as a magician and entertainer to enhance his workplace skills in communication and management of people.

Is “The Magician” a Stoic?
by Tim “Santiago” Converse 
One of the things that has long fascinated me about things like magic and philosophy is how often I find connections between them. Those connections are usually about vision, training, and discipline.

For the past year or so I have been making a serious study of a particular philosophical discipline known as Stoicism

Stoicism has its roots in Athens going all the way back to the 3rd century BCE. Originally founded by Zeno of Citium, and practiced by philosophical luminaries like Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, Stoicism is based on the foundational idea that being virtuous would lead to one’s happiness. The way to judge what were “virtuous actions,” would be by observing behaviors of people and the results of their interactions with each other, rather than their words. When it comes to random external events, we must take the time to pause and carefully reflect on what the best course of action might be, rather than to react instinctively on what we might perceive, as that would often be to our own detriment.

Magic teaches us forms of control over the perceptions of others, and it does so by virtue of our own understanding of our perceptions. The Tarot Magician teaches us to use our tools to exert control over the world around us, and both our own perceptions, and the perceptions of others.  But thanks to the efforts of our special corner of the magic world, the Mystery School, we find that as we dig deeper, it also teaches us to understand and master ourselves. 

So I found it particularly interesting when I ran across these words:

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
— Epictetus  

I can spend a lot of time explaining anything I want to an audience, but if they can simply see for themselves by looking at me that I have magic to give, that will mean so much more. Which brings us to an idea we’re all familiar with; “Magician 24/7.”

As I have spent more and more time trying to master myself, I have found it easier to pass on a sense of magic – a sense about how my audiences, too, can be magical.

We strive to teach our audiences that they have magic in them – that they can use that magic to take control over their perceptions of the world to be in charge over their lives, rather than simply being reactive to everything around them. In times like we have been facing, that is a very precious gift.

“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.”

– Marcus Aurelius  “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”
– Epictetus

Don’t we deserve the best for ourselves? No one is going to give it to us, but if we truly are magicians, then certainly we have the power to go out and get it for ourselves. What is that power? It is nothing more than the willingness to face the world in control over our own choices and our own perceptions.

Does any of this have a practical way to translate to the stage, or to a performance? My answer comes in the form of three of the most powerful words I have ever heard spoken:

“I don’t know.”

What I do know is this: the better I understand myself, the better I understand what I have to offer an audience. I can share their hopes and fears by sharing mine with them. I can share my magic and be some kind of light that says, “Look! That’s where your magic is too!”

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is, and pass some time in his own company.”
 – Seneca

The classical Stoics never really speak directly of magic. But the legendary magicians in literature, often seem to have a stoic philosophy about them.T hey are comfortable with the world as it is, knowing that they get to choose how they respond to it, knowing that they can change the course of things with their power, but only so long as they remain in control of themselves. They often see the world for what it is, and are perfectly content to live within it as it is, reserving their magic only for those times when it is truly needed.

“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.”
 ― Seneca  

I have noticed more and more, especially in our current time of turmoil, that we magicians really do seem to be unconquerable. In a world that has been brought nearly to a standstill, most people have been frozen in their tracks, afraid of which way to move. There are many brave souls who have taken to the defense of our physical bodies, our health, and our overall well-being. They are amazing people to be respected and supported in all that they do.

There are also the artists and entertainers who have adapted to this new world. They find a way to continue to bring something to the rest of us that is in defense of our hearts and minds, doing all they can to help keep us sane.

But the magicians? We not only seem to be able to adjust and adapt, but we are thriving under this very strange time. Beyond that, we are even creating something that gives hope. I think that is a very stoic place to be. I think the Stoics knew that they had the vision to see not just what they needed, but to see what we all needed – not just to survive, but to thrive, no matter what the adversity may be.

The Stoics teach us to consider everything carefully with all due deliberation. Then from there, to determine what it is that we cannot affect, and what it is that we most certainly can. To act with purpose in order to bring about our own happiness and the happiness of others. That seems like an act of deliberate magic.

And so I have to wonder, is “The Magician” a Stoic?

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