The Spiritual Stage is certainly not your ordinary kind of magic book. And I should know. I’ve read a lot of them! It falls somewhere between a rambling biography or spiritual biography, thoughts on performing and stage-craft and a self-help book. The title grabbed my attention as both a magician and a pastor. But it should go without saying that my own spiritual perspective will inevitably colour my review.
The subtitle of the book begins to give you some clues as to the agenda – “Experiencing Spiritual Enlightenment through Entertainment.” Blakiston applies his own somewhat idiosyncratic, ‘pick and mix’ spirituality with particular reference to the life of the performer in general and the magician in particular.
There were certainly some things I like. I’m always interested in people’s stories – and the book starts with some autobiographical information and includes many personal anecdotes on the way. He’s had an intriguing life which I enjoyed reading about.
A loosely coherent narrative
The chapters are loosely arranged by topics but often rambled over a variety of themes. The book would certainly have benefited from some further editing – to reduce unnecessary repetition and a number of typos.
Blakiston wants to promote an extremely positive ‘spiritual’ way of life – which is all about positivity and love – helping others and seizing the opportunities that life presents you with. This is a noble aim and to be admired.
The central premise of The Spiritual Stage is that we have a spiritual essence – the real ‘us’ – and if we can get in touch with that we will be infallibly guided towards our correct path in life. Of course, there is wisdom in the ancient principle to ‘know thyself’. But as he started expounding a more detailed philosophy I found it increasingly incoherent and frustrating.
Like many who would affirm this kind of spirituality he is keen to emphasise that all our quests are individual and reluctant to criticise other approaches. I find this kind of post-modern relativist thinking deeply unsatisfactory from a philosophical point of view.
To say in this kind of religious or metaphysical context, that all paths are valid – is logically equivalent to saying all are untrue. Far from being an inclusive position it actually ends up being an exclusive one since it effectively rules all other view-points out as wrong.
I’m sure that this is not Mr Blakiston’s desire – he writes with warmth and an obvious passion and good will towards all men. And if he is to follow the philosophy he outlines in his book then he won’t be the slightest bit troubled by this slightly negative review – since all that matters is that he is true to his own divine essence which has caused him to write the book!
The book is somewhat inconsistent in a number of ways. For example he is happy to doubt – or raise questions – about the dogma of various other religious perspectives – but is happy to assert the authenticity of his own position based simply on his subjective experience.
A small health warning
My greatest frustration comes with his approach to ‘naming and claiming’ your plans. Here is his description of the ‘law of attraction’:
“Everything you ask for will come to you in some form.” p138
I find it a deeply problematic suggestion. He has grown up in a relatively privileged context – and in as much as he shares his own experiences seems to have known little of real hardship in his life. In his writing he seems to recognise the many difficult things which happen in this world – so he is not naive. Therefore to suggest to someone that simply by desiring something you can have it seems to be at best ridiculous or at worst downright damaging.
Peppered along the way are some helpful pieces of advice (for a performer) about finding your own style and developing your own act. There are also a wealth of interesting quotes from a variety of authors and sources. These range from the Bible (his father was an Anglican vicar and his familiarity with the Bible is evident – even if he is happy to quote it entirely out of any context) to Albert Einstein, via that modern sage Jewel.
So I really don’t know what to do with The Spiritual Stage. If you are interested in that kind of spirituality then it’s an easy read and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you’re primarily looking for a book to improve your performing I’m struggling to recommend it.
You can pick up a copy from the Merchant of Magic for £20.99 (at the time of writing).
Review copy kindly provided by Murphys Magic to whom dealer enquiries should be directed.
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