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INTERVIEW WITH JEFF McBRIDE 1 T:
HOW DID YOU GET INTO MAGIC?
Well, I was always interested in drumming and ah in third grade there was music books next to the magic books and I took out the magic book. And I read it and the first rule of magic said, never reveal your secrets. So I made the book disappear out of the library kind of permanently so the other kids wouldn't be on to my magic.
WHAT FASCINATED YOU ABOUT IT?
I guess it's power. I guess it's power. All of a sudden you have something that other people don't and it fascinates them. And young boys need lots of attention and they need to get the attention of pretty little girls and their peers and when you're smaller than somebody ah all of a sudden you kind of have this magical power and it makes you, you know, an equal or maybe even a little bit more. So it's a way to stand out in the crowd and young kids are looking for identity and that was the way I found mine was through magic. It made me different.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WERE ....
As soon as I did my first show in the living room for my parents and they all went yea, that's really great. And it was the affirmation. I don't think children get enough of that from adults. Just school work, yes. Oh if you do good in school you'll get my respect and you'll get my love. But something else outside of that that's a little unusual. My parents were ery supportive of that. I was very lucky.
DID YOU WORK AT IT A LOT?
Every day. That was it. I mean I grew up in upstate New York in a little town and there wasn't a lot of children playmates there so I would spend a lot of time - I made my closet my magic room. And only I was allowed in there and I decorated it and had mirrors in there for all my tricks and that's all I did. And then I would take the magic to school and show my friends and then go back and work on it some more. But I was the only magician in the school. They had no one to compare me to. So even if I was lousy, they didn't have anybody to compare me to. So I was the best magician because I was the only one.
YOU'RE NOW VERY SUCCESSFUL AS A MAGICIAN. AND JUST IN TERMS OF RECOGNITION FROM THE MAGICAL COMMUNITY. AND TO A CERTAIN EXTENT VERY MUCH SO IN THE MINDS OF THE PUBLIC ALTHOUGH YOU MAY NOT BE AS WELL KNOWN AS SOME OF THE BETTER KNOWN MAGICIANS BUT YOU'RE DEFINITELY RECOGNIZED AS A WORLD CLASS MAGICIAN. DOES THAT ALTER YOU AT ALL?
Does it alter me at all? Hm. Well socially because I wear a mask on stage, my performance persona is something very different from my offstage persona. Not a lot of entertainers or people in the public eye have that extreme separation that I do onstage and offstage because they just look the same. I'm able to take that very aggressive McBride character, my character of my ..... master you know of the arcane, esoteric arts off onstage and be just me offstage or my other altere ego is offstage. So I'm very lucky because I can shape shift onto stage and then the off. And I spend as much time in nature and going to different gatherings and events and participating in retreats as I do in nightclubs and casinos and theatres and doing big production shows. So I'm very lucky that I have that balance.
WHEN DID YOU BEGIN TO HAVE THE INTIMATION THAT THERE MIGHT BE SOMETHING MORE TO THE PRACTICE OF MAGIC THAN JUST DOING TRICKS?
Well very early on I got into martial arts as well. I was about 8 years old and I was still looking for things to stand out in the crowd and to make me unusual. And as a little kid, I was picked on a lot. So martial arts was a way just to have the confidence not to get into fights or not to be intimidated by other people. I think it was probably the martial arts and doing what they call the key breathing. I learned at a very early age about magic of the breath and power of the breath. And (exhaling) you know being able to empower yourself through the elements. And that became something that was natural to me. When I was 16 years old I went to Japan and I saw kabuki theatre and you know the whole ritual of the kabuki theatre. And that's when I knew there was something more to theatre that was ritualistic, that was mythological, that it just wasn't about, wow, how did you do that? That it was you know mind opening for people because I really was blown away by the kabuki theatre with the masks and the costumes and the effects and the flying rigs and the things that they were doing. It was like there's more to this performance magic than meets the eye.
WHEN YOU SAY YOU WERE BLOWN AWAY BY IT WHAT WAS HAPPENING? WHAT WAS HAPPENING INSIDE OF YOU?
Well there was a culture shock to me. I'm 16 years old and I'm opening for this Latin rock band, this salsa band travelling all over Japan. And all of a sudden I was thrown into this whole other culture and whole other music and dance and a way of thinking and that's what opened my mind up that these people just weren't high school kids from upstate New York. That there was different types of magic in the world and it was finding out that the Asian culture interprets magic and receives magic in a very different way than we have ourselves locked into here in the West. And that's something that when I came back to America I brought back a lot of kabuki glad rags and things like this that I would put in my shows. And I was playing with it, experimenting because no one said I couldn't. So I put my other passions and my other loves into the magic martial arts, dance, mine, makeup, costumes. I put all of these things into it and continued that search. Tried to get to as many different countries and cultures and bringing exotic influences to my magic.
WHAT IS THE STATE OF MAGIC TODAY IN THE WORLD, IN THE WESTERN WORLD?
In the Western world, it seems in the past couple of hundred years it's this slick guy in a tuxedo that's cleverer than you. And ah Gerry Seinfeld has a line in his act where he goes, Most magicians are like this. Here's a coin. Now it's gone, you're a jerk. Now it's back, you're an idiot. And it really separates. Many magicians are interested in blowing away the audience. They want to blow them away, that means distancing. And for me a change happened to me, you know, a number of years ago, about 10 years ago where I wanted to get closer to the audience and move in, start sharing the magic and also using the archetype as the magician to mirror the audience's magical potential that it is possible to create a place for change and transformation and that reality is subject to change without notice and you're the magician, I'm just reminding you. And that was the role of the magician through time for thousands and thousands of years right back to the ancient shamans at the fire in their healing ceremonies empowering the sick person, the patient as it were, the audience, the initiates, to explore their own inner worlds. And I think that's what people are awakening to today is exploring their own inner worlds.
ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU SET MYSTERY SCHOOL UP TO DO?
That's what magic is to me, it's a mind opening experience. Mystery school is the school I would have liked to have gone to when I was first starting out. So I didn't have all these bad habits and these social masks and these masks of what we think we should wear to break out of, you know, just start with really good teachers raising a lot of interesting questions, giving some of their knowledge. We didn't have that growing up and it's really a way for me to get all these master teachers together that I want to study with too under the guise of a mystery school. I mean it's as much for me as it is for anyone else but it seems that we all want to do this together because we're all learning from each other.
INTERVIEW WITH JEFF McBRIDE 2 T:
LET'S GET INTO MYSTERY SCHOOL. IN TERMS OF WHAT YOUR INTENTION, I'D LIKE YOU TO ELABORATE A LITTLE BIT MORE.
Intention? Well in other systems of magic, not just performance magic, intention is the number one thing that you're looking for, what is your intention on creating this magical theatre. There's what Paul Harris calls a moment of astonishment when magic happens in social situations where a magic effect happens and all of a sudden the audience goes, awh! and there's that moment of wonder where their entire world view falls away, what Paul calls a paradigm popper. And all of a sudden, their subconscious mind or the inner child, if you want to call it that, or the lower self or the higher self, there's something - that other part of the iceberg part of the mind is all of a sudden very receptive. It's awh! it's open, it's awh! And most magicians, many magicians don't use that moment to state what their intention is. Because all of a sudden the fertile soil is opened up and an intention is a seed that the artist plants in the mind before the audience can go, ah that was a trick, ah ploom! and it shuts back up again. But that's too late. It's too late. It's been done. And it's an incredible responsibility for the magician. It's an ethical question here. What is the intention of your magic? Why are doing it? Is it to get more money and status and great bookings and maybe a fast car or is to bring the audience closer and perhaps share with them a piece of your personal philosophy, a personal peak experience of your life, a valley experience. What are you sharing at that moment? The magic is the tool that opens the mind, that alters the state of consciousness. And that's what shamans have always done is enter non-ordinary reality and journey into it.
SPEAKING OF SHAMANS WHAT'S THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAGIC AND HEALING?
Well someone once said that the goal of magic is to transform the magician. I think it's a personal healing process. You know, young boys and girls find identity through it. People find status and on many levels, social organizations. There's many magic clubs, the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians. There's a fraternity, sorority? Not yet really,[ 11:02:4-2110] but it's still - there is an exchange there, social exchange. But the shamans used the tricks that they did whether it was walking on coals or putting fire in their hands to convince their patient that they could tap into unseen power. And through these allusions created the belief in the patient's belief system that perhaps, just maybe, that there was other unseen forces that were working around them or within them that they could tap into because it was necessary. Science has found out that there are placebo effects. Magic heigtens and empowers that placebo effect by putting at that crucial moment when the mind is open an intention towards healing. And that's something that's being discussed these days more so at mystery school than most places because it's a safe place to allow ourselves to be magicians and to enter the realms of quote, unquote, real magic without harsh judgements, without you know people going, oh that's a lot of crap. I mean Bob Neal has taught us that it's not about to believe in magic or to disbelieve in magic but to make believe. And at mystery school we create this magic circle where we can make believe we are real magicians.
THAT BRINGS US TO A LITTLE BIT ABOUT RITUAL AND I THINK YOU COULD TALK ABOUT RITUAL AS - IN TERMS OF ITS TECHNOLOGY BECAUSE I DON'T THINK MOST PEOPLE TODAY REALLY UNDERSTAND RITUAL.
The word is such a buzzword. Ritual conjures up all these images from 1970 spooky movies and things like that. But ritual is living a myth. It's creating your own myth. It's creating a new identity or a new character or studying a magical thought form whether it be a god or a goddess or a legendary hero or something and bringing more of those aspects into your own life. The ritual is the dance of creation. It celebrates the cycles of death and rebirth. And if there's anything that the shaman and the magician have in common it's this fascination with death and rebirth. The shaman's initiation is a descent into the underworld and a death and then rising upward. And that's a myth that's throughout history in all cultures. And rituals or ceremonies, whatever you want to call them, are the reenactment of that. The magician is a mythic character but we've been taught the last couple of hundred years that no, don't step too much outside of society because you might not get back in. Well that's why the magician has the magic circle where he creates a place where the mythology can live, raises that magic circle with the brother and sister magicians, enters into the dance, the game of magic, the game of life, and allows himself to be a magician. If you see a magician saw a lady in half that's about death and resurrection. But many magicians don't think about it that deeply. And mystery school gives a place where we can think about our magic deeply.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BECOME?
Well we're not interested in creating a mass market of you know, a widespread movement. And we considered this very early on, that it's not for everyone. It's only for those people that are really seriously interested in transforming not only their magic but themselves and their relation to other magicians and the audiences. We're interested in not making this tidal wave of new magic that sweeps across the earth but in deepening the hard core of magic and going into the mystery and that's not for everyone. It's for the brave. And I think magicians need to be brave.
TAKE A BREAK.
WHAT WAS THAT THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO TACK ON?
Well I feel that a magician in order to give his audience a magical experience must first have a magical experience because you can't really give a gift you don't have. And mystery school is a place where a magician can come and quite possibly have a magical experience because of all the unusual, you know, events and things that we have them there to encounter and explore. Ah at mystery school we don't talk so much about moves and technique but more about what moves us from the inside out instead of just learning new technique and learn new ways to you know find a selected card. We're talking about the whys and the whats and more the meanings of magic.
MUCH OF WHAT YOU DO TAKES PLACE IN SECRET. WHY IS THAT?
Secrecy. Well I believe that the word secret and the word sacred come from the same root. And sacred space is secret space and it's very personal. Many of the things that we discuss and many of the needs that people express and many of the views that are brought up are very controversial, among other things, and we create a safe space, a sacred space and sacred doesn't mean somber. Bob Neal makes sure of that. But there's a need to feel that when you're opening up to explore and to give from your heart that it's going to remain within the circle. And that's really important to people when they're opening themselves up and exploring new parts of themselves or letting go of old ways as well. Letting old parts of them die and being reborn into a new awareness of what magic means in their lives. It's not just a means of income or social acceptability but it's a path. It's a life path. It's a way of living life, not just something you do as you're living life but it's the road which you're going down is the magic way.
YOU YOURSELF WORK WITH VERY POWERFUL IMAGES. WHY ARE THOSE IMAGES SO EFFECTIVE? WHY DO THEY MOVE PEOPLE SO?
Well they're archetypal, they're universal.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, ARCHETYPE?
Archetypal, that means they precede form. They're in dreams and they're in mythology and they're bigger than any one person or any one group of people's perception of them. Masks, breaking out of masks, breaking out of old ways of thinking and being and not accepting being stuck or even necessarily living in a place of balance. Because when there is balance, there's no growth. Growth only happens when things are thrown out of balance. And in my performance the master magician as we all are of our lives, every person is the master magician of their own lives whether they know it or not. The magician just reminds them he's the mirror that they're looking into and the audience is looking at the show and kind of living the experience vicariously. I come out on stage and create all these powerful masks that I can, you know, work my will upon the earth. And towards the end of my performance after I've been master of the material world get stuck in a mask of my own creation. As many peole feel all over the world, regardless of language or anything else, at some point in their life they feel stuck like, I got myself here, I have the house and the kids and the family and I want to go away, I need out! And it's their choice. And in my performance the stripping away of masks is very visceral, it's very painful. And then finally there's this liberation that happens that's very painful and a shattering of the mirror and the allusion of what I created. And there's oh, an ecstatic moment of ecstacy where it's just a new beginning. And whether I perform in India or Asia or America or anywhere, it's the same universal theme. Breaking out of old habits. And there's always ordeal before ecstacy. That's what the shamans have passed down to us and that's my personal feeling about my work.
JUST ELABORATE. ECSTACY IS NOT SOMETHING THAT I THINK MOST PEOPLE CAN RELATE TO.
WEll it's not really tolerated so much in society. But -
WHAT IS IT?
Ecstacy? Drumming, dancing, magic.
... INCORPORATE IT...
Ecstacy, the ecastatic moment of transformation or breakthrough where you reach a new level, where your consciousness evolves to a new level and all of a sudden you go, ahah! yes! and there's laughter and tears and a breakthrough. This doesn't come every day. It's a long - you have to be willing to give up something before you reach that level of ecstatic union with whatever, the cosmos or your friend or lover. I mean there's a struggle before that. Ah in society, there's not a lot of places where - that are set out for this. So mystery school is a special place where people can come to maybe have these breakthrough experiences that are okay to have that we allow, that we make space for. It's like this is a place where, okay we'll supply the magic circle. You enter it and you are perfectly allowed to have your breakthrough here and be supported by the group.
... AND THERE AREN'T THAT MANY FEMALE MAGICIANS. I NOTICE YOU'RE MAKING A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO CHANGE IT BY PROBABLY PULLING IN.
The first year of mystery school, we did a lot of outreach to contact friends of mine that are women magicians that are very good I mean at what they do. They're really powerful women magicians. From my experience at doing other retreats it was the gender balance was a major issue of the time so that was a very conscius choice to create a space where women would feel as equals in a magic circle. Even if they were slightly outnumbered which we're still trying to get that balance there. But there's a definite intention here to explore the feminine aspect and the feminine role models. And what happens to the young girl magician that perhaps might get interested but again isn't allowed the space in society to be a magician because that's boy's thing. So explore other archetypal images, the high priestess, you now, the fairy princess, the witch, the crone. And the women are all varying ages that come here. There are very young women and there's you know, elders that come here that have finally found like oh, this is a place where we can explore the feminine mysteries. And we have facilitators that have women's mystery groups which is unheard of at conventional magical gatherings. I mean not the women's tea party or the women's get together, women's mysteries and they got 'em. We don't know what they are and we give them their space. We don't do any of this stuff. And that's when the men are off doing male mysteries. And there are some male mysteries in magic that have been handed down from magical society to magical society. But we try to create that balance and then bring the masculine and feminine energy togethr and celebrate the differences, very important.
GREAT. ANYTHING ELSE ON YOUR LIST?
The future, the future of magic.
The ancient shamans were the ones that entered non-ordinary reality trans states, ecstatic dance states to reach deeper levels of mind to bring back information to heal their tribe, their community. The ancient shaman of yesterday is the showman of today. They do the same things whether they're magicians or musicians telling stories of great pain and going way deep and triumphing through that. Today's fascination with virtual reality and altered states of consciousness is the same thing that the magicians have been doing for thousands and thousands and thousands of years, exploring consciousness and making breakthroughs, going to new places and new worlds and now magicians have all these wonderful new tools to use to help them travel to these other dimensions that exist around them and within and to bring back that special gift to give to the community.
INTERVIEW WITH JEFF McBRIDE 3 T:
WHAT IS THE SHAMAN'S GIFT?
Well it's different for every shaman and it's different for every patient but the shaman's gift is a healing gift whether it's a message of hope, whether it's taking death to the other side for other people, you know, guiding a soul to the other side, you know, whether it's just holding someone's hand while they're dying and leading them to that other place. That's a gift. That's an extra joined spirit. IT's two circles linking together, joining together to help, to aid in the great mystery. The literal gift is sometimes a story. It's sometimes a dance. It's sometimes a song and all of these things are greatly enhanced. And there's a little bit of magic thrown in there. They impact the audience more.
YOU USED A WORD AT THE CLOSING CEREMONY OF ...... YOUR SACRED TORTOISE SHELL CAN WE WORK THIS INTO THE SUBJECT WITHOUT TAKING THE SACRED INTO THE MUNDANE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
No. Sacred tortoise shell ..... I have very little knowledge of the sacred tortoise shell.
YOU USED THE L WORD.
TOUGH WORD. LET'S SEE WHETHER WE CAN GET THAT.
With - it's something that's not discussed too much. It's kind of like a secret word in magic.
The word love. Because oh love, it's kind of like so corny when magicians get together. It's like about tricks and status but the one thing that brings all these people together from all over the world and all their different backgrounds is love for magic. And sometimes people have a hard time saying that. And that's okay. And ah we talk about our love for magic by just saying, hey we all love magic and oh they said it, somebody said that. Oh well yeah sure. Yeah me too. And it's love, it's passion, it's so many different things. And that's not really - people have a hard time saying that to their wife or to their girlfriend sometimes or to those people they really love. So to say it about magic which really isn't a tangible thing is a little bit more difficult sometimes, but it happens.
IT GETS BACK TO THIS THING ABOUT PURPOSE AND MOTIVATION. WHY DO PEOPLE DO MAGIC?
I feel that all growth and this is something my friend Todd Carr helped me a lot with. All growth begins with disappointment. With hmphf, and that little inner voice comes in there wherever it's coming from, says, there's more, there's more. No, I should not desire more. I have the things I need. More, there's more. Go out there and get more. No, but I'm happy in my home. Everything is fine here and I have my nice safe life and my job and-- more, more. And finally it gets to a point (exploding noise) where you have to go, you have to make the quest. You've got to do the vision quest. You've got to go out there. And that's happening more and more and more today. People have been in this shellof magic, in mainstream magic for you know, who knows how long. I don't know how long. But there is something happening and it's showing and it's happening here. And it's happening because we're using model of a mystery school, an idea that's existed for thousands of years. Magicians standing in a circle as equals holding counsel. Not a magic lecture where I'm the, you know, the great magician this year and I'm going to lecture you on all the wonderful things that I can teach you how to do so you can be just like me alone and stuck. No, we get together in a magic circle where everyone is equal. And we do our magic in that circle and we empower each other to make the changes and transformations in our lives that we need and there is nothing more powerful in the entire world than a circle of magicians raising magic and making change.