More than a guidebook for aspiring wizards, Magic is also a veiled theory of religion. According to Henry Evans, whose introduction performs a kind of historiographical sleight of hand, spiritual miracles, paranormal experiences, and occult occurrences in ancient times point to a forgotten pre-history of modern stage magic. “Weeping and bleeding statues, temple doors that flew open with thunderous sound and apparently by supernatural means, and perpetual lamps that flamed forever in the tombs of holy men”, believes Evans, “were some of the thaumaturgic feats of the Pagan priests.” (Two hundred pages later, in Book II, Hopkins offers detailed schematics of “temple tricks” designed by the Ancient Greeks, discussing Heron of Alexander’s description of the Triumph of Bacchus, a mechanical shrine with self-moving figurines, and the dicaiometer, a jug that magically poured a perfect measure every time.) In the Middle Ages, continues Evans, the frequent reports of phantoms were a by-product of improvements in optics, for magicians with concave mirrors “were able to produce very fair ghost illusions to gull a susceptible public.” Witches burnt at the stake during the Enlightenment, he intimates, may have been magicians fully committed to their trade.
Source: Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions (1897) – The Public Domain Review