"The best general theory of magic we have yet in any literature" - Dr. Lawrence Hass
Perhaps magic’s most profound and albeit disturbing philosopher, writer, and creator, Robert Neale invites the magic community to examine more deeply the foundations of our performance art. Yet, as challenging as he is, Bob’s genius can inspire each of us to become better in our theatrical artistry, more thoughtful about our relationships with our audiences, and more appreciative of the services that magical entertainment continues to play in human communities.
Bob Neale is a phenomenologist, one who studies human experiences. To study magical experiences, Bob draws upon insights from psychology, philosophy, theology, cultural anthropology, mythology, literature, and sociology. In 2014 Bob was the recipient of a Special Fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood, California, (the Magic Castle).
It is difficult to penetrate the indefatigable mind of Bob Neale. To assist in the effort and with Bob’s blessing and in consultation with his publisher Dr. Lawrence Hass, Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School, Mike Smith and Geoff Grimes, both performing magicians and students of the art, began in 2016 to identify and index 13 essential themes that emerge in his 18 books and 1 DVD, ranging from In Praise of Play (1969) to Breaking Our Magic Wands (2017). The index is the core of this website.
From left to right: Geoffrey Grimes, Robert Neale, and Michael Smith, 2018
This website addresses Bob's general theory of magic developed throughout a lifetime of reflection on the subject, ideas that have coalesced in his trilogy on magic published only in the last decade. An Essay on Magic (2015)--the focus of this website--is actually the third volume in the series. The first volume is The Magic of Celebrating Illusion (2013). The second is The Sense of Wonder (2014). The purpose of this website is to provide an introductory venue into An Essay on Magic, hopefully to inspire a readership beyond the small niche community of his original "aficionados."
While this website explores Bob's ideas about both the art of magical entertainment and the wider contexts in which it is performed, it is not, however, a place to "learn tricks," although Bob is the inventor of literally hundreds of performance pieces which populate his books and articles. Neither is it the purpose "to sell" Bob's books; for those interested, most may be found through familiar vendors. Rather, we hope that this site will serve as a resource to those interested in better understanding the meaning of magic in human experience as well as the philosophy and the psychology on which Bob's particular theory is based.
This website has been created and is maintained by Michael Smith and Geoffrey Grimes. It is meant to be an organic, evolving resource. To that end, we invite serious commentary and suggestions that will help us better serve our mission in introducing Bob's work and in supporting a respectful dialogue about it.
Dr. Robert Neale lectures at the 1999 "Theory and Art of Magic" Conference [Photo by Larry Reichlin]