Sleight Of Hand. The Sleightness of Sathya Sai Baba (Exposing film clips)
Posted by Barry Pittard on March 10, 2009
Quite often, among our friends or acquaintances, there is someone who has astonished – or appalled! – us with a few magic tricks.
The Ease of Learning and Performing Basic Magic Tricks
Most children and adult libraries have a selection of books on the how-to of a wide range of magic tricks. These show that, without much ingenuity or skill, most people can pick up a few, with a fundament being, of course, sleight-of-hand, not to mention the use of confederates (But can you always trust them?)
For the clear use of a confederate, you can see Doordarshan’s – Indian national radio and television broadcaster – video footage showing Sathya Sai Baba’s palming of a necklace from beneath a trophy handed to him by his flunky. This film the then Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, a Sathya Sai Baba devotee, quickly moved to censor:
Simple Man-about-town’s Magic Impromptu
A few months ago, I was sitting in a cafe and a local character of little education wandered in. He began entertaining the rest of us with a charming and adept suite of parlour tricks. I chatted with him afterwards. Clearly, he had never heard of Sathya Sai Baba. After my briefly describing Sai Baba’s so-called miraculous manifestation of objects, he immediately sprang into action, and indeed the quickness of the hand deceived the eye – until he slowed things down and also stopped diverting the observer’s attention from e.g., palming and transference of objects. Although he felt honor-bound not to reveal a number of the other tricks that he (the young man) had earlier performed, he showed exactly how Sai Baba produces necklances, pendents and sacred ash, etc.
His displays were akin to those of Nils Krøjgaard, the professional Danish conjuror, who is seen in ‘Seduced’, a television documentary (2002) by Denmark’s national broadcaster DR, which exposes Sai Baba. You can see the 53-minute documentary, for Broadband (80 megabytes) HERE. For Dialup (21 mb) HERE. and the transcript HERE.
Goldie Hawn, the famous Hollywood film star is seen sitting, right hand side of the film clip, near to Sai Baba as he performs his trick.
Famous Indian Skeptics Educate Masses About Fraudsters’ Tricks
Courageous Indian rationalists, such as B. Premanand and Professor Narendra Nayak attempt to educate India-wide audiences in demonstrations – ‘Miracle-exposures’ – of the conjuring techniques by which so-called ‘holy men’ like Sai Baba deceive the masses.
Fortunately these days, one is now able to see slowed-down images of Sai Baba as he produces sacred ash (vibhuthi) or other objects. See my blogs of the last few days of March, 2009, which contain relevant links:
Master Magicians or Illusionists
On the other hand, there are master magicians or illusionists who are disciplined in the sense that, for example, a ballet dancer or virtuoso instrumentalist, becomes a consummate practitioner, requiring hours of daily practice. Some magicians risk their lives in pursuit of their craft. A number of them gain, such as the fabled Harry Houdini (see footage at end of this article), almost superhuman personal psycho-physical control. For a contemporary example, see: David Blaine breaks world record on Oprah Winfrey Show for holding his breath
The magic tricks Sathya Sai Baba employs are a pale shadow of these. But they are comparable to what a adroit enough amateur can learn and perform. Do take care, though, as a kid, I once accidently swallowed a coin while trying to master a trick – ah, will the days of half pennies never return?!.
Behold Their Holinesses – the Company of Great Magicians
Imagine how successfully any of the outstanding magicians I refer to below could have set themselves up as ‘holy’ men in India! Or imagine how, in a socio-economically developing country like India, where there is still a great deal of mystification especially of non-educated and semi-educated, how easy it is for an arch-deceiver such as Sathya Sai Baba – and a great many frauds without his more greatly famed and curious talents – to mislead the public.
Many Indians Disdain So-Called ‘Godmen’ Who Detract From India Greatness
Many Indians of my acquaintance (and I lived in that great country for several years), whether religious, humanist or atheist feel terribly badly about the superstition and corruption to which the socio-economic condition gives rise.
Below, here are a few master magicians. Some of them are teachers by nature and ready to show how some of the tricks are done. The English magician Derren Brown, like the immortal Houdini, is committed to exposing fraudulence.
Note: a) Alphabetical order of surnames is followed. b) Clicking on the name of the magician/illusionist brings up their website
Note: In a forthcoming article: Formost female magicians! Including:
Sue-Anne (My own country Australia’s magic star, named (2007) in the book ‘Historias de Magas Antiguas y Modernas’ which surveys the greatest female magicians in history). And, rivalling her for her place –
Cath Jamison, also of Australia
But – for now –
The New York Times wrote, “He’s taken a craft that’s been around for hundreds of years and done something unique and fresh with it”.
“Burton is a magic purist whose show is a loving homage to his craft”.
Kathleen Foley. Los Angeles Times. December 3, 2001.
Magic Secrets Revealed: Lance Burton unveils some mysteries of magic. New secrets featured each month
Several videos, both shorter and longer, are at Britain’s Channel 4 website:
“… a stage act that stretches back 100 years and a future that might be as lengthy”
January 14, 2009.
Doug Henning (The late)
For the magician:
“The hard must become habit
The habit must become easy
The easy must become
“I consider Jim the most brilliant mind in magic.” Jim Steinmeyer, whom, in turn, the New York Times described as the “celebrated invisible man—inventor, designer and creative brain behind many of the great stage magicians of the last quarter-century.”