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Jeff McBride

But a real magician is a magician 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on and off stage. I’ve learned this in Las Vegas because, well, first of all, I get paid extraordinary sums of money to reward the over-privileged for their bad behavior. And I realize that the chamber maid that is cleaning my room, and washing out my sink, who never sees magic, needs, and deserves, and will honor magic, just as much as any of those overstuffed high-rollers in the front row at the second show. So doing magic for people in off-stage situations is very meaningful for me, and very meaningful for the people that encounter it.

David: What do you think happens to consciousness after the death of the body?

Jeff: I can’t explain it, but I’ve seen it. It’s a painting by Alex Grey in his first book Sacred Mirrors.

David: Which painting was it?

Jeff: It’s “Death”, and the man laying there in bed, with his spirit ascending, twisting and turning into the Net of Indra.

David: You see a background composed of eyes?

Jeff: Yes. And again, it can’t be put into language. But visionary artists like Alex Grey can paint it, and it is there for us to see.

David: So, you think that after the death of the body there’s an aspect of your consciousness that survives?

Jeff: Yes. However, whether the ego remains, I would say no. Consciousness in it’s unexplainable form, yes. I had an interesting conversation with my friend Joshua Levin last night. I forget the exact numbers that he used, but he says, you know all this reincarnation stuff? I can’t figure it, because if you go back a thousand years, what was the population of the planet then versus now? Where are all these people coming from?

David: Well, the Hindus would say they’re coming up from the animal realm. They evolved up through the lower animal realms into the human realm.

Jeff: Rumi has a wonderful take on that too. I’m paraphrasing it. He goes, once I was a rock, and I died. Then I was an insect, and I died. Then I came back as an animal, and then I died. Then I came back as a human, and I died. What have I ever really lost from dying?

David: That reminds me of an old sufi saying that goes “God sleeps in the rock, dreams in the plant, stirs in the animal, and awakens in man.” Yeah, these are attempts to express an evolution of consciousness over time, and Rumi is wonderful. So is Hafiz, another amazing Sufi poet who I just recently discovered.

Jeff: Oh yeah, and Lala too. Lala was kind of a female sadhu back in the 1100’s I think. Incredible. Tree spirit. Like the first feminist poetry. You’ll come across it if you’re doing the Rumi thing.

David: What is your perspective on God?

Jeff: Spirit. You know the word God is so loaded, and archetypically it just–bang–puts this big guy in a chair for me, having been raised a Roman Catholic. I’ve been examining my personal lexicon and I prefer the word Spirit, because it embraces all gods. I love gods. There’s tons of gods that I really identify with, that are really wonderful. Hermes and Mercury, and Thoth–these are gods that really capture my imagination and my heart. I study as much as I can about the Hermetic tradition, as far as the teachings of the gods go. To use a Ken Wilber phrase, Spirit transcends yet includes God. So I prefer to use the word Spirit.

David: Just because it’s so culturally-charged and emotionally-loaded.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s a really loaded word, with a capital G. I think as consciousness evolves, the language evolves. I think language is one of things that helps consciousness evolve. And right now, the people that I spend most of my time with use the word Spirit in place of God.

David: Yeah, that was one of the things that Terence McKenna used to stress–how our language shapes reality.

Jeff: Right, and I think Ken Wilber explores this as deep as any writer that I’ve encountered does.

David: Do you think the human species will survive the next hundred years, or do you think that we’re in danger of extinction?

Jeff: (laughter) I think we’ll survive. I think we’re just a bit smarter than cockroaches, and look how long they’ve lasted. (laughter)

David: What do you think is the biggest threat to the human species?

Jeff: I think it’s humans themselves, quite simply put. I think there’s a kind of increasing paranoia towards global nuclear holocaust. But my hope is that, through people exploring magic and alchemy, they’ll find some way to turn even nuclear waste into some sort of wonderful energy source.

David: Assuming that we do survive, how do you envision the future evolution of the human race?

Jeff: Daniel Quinn, in his book Beyond Civilization, sketches a map that intrigued me. It was a reexamination of tribal culture–not in the sense of that we all throw the keys of our BMW into a ditch, and walk away barefoot into the paleolithic–or paleo-terrific–past ideals, I should say. (laughter) But that by exploring what works about tribal culture, we’ll develop a new way to interact in community. So I see that as a viable option, and something that we explore in our festivals and our retreats.

David: What are you working on these days?

Jeff: I’m subversively encrypting all of my Hermetic knowledge into my more exoteric magic shows on the Strip in Las Vegas–where the people need awakening the most. It’s kind of the front lines of the entertainment world here. I travel a lot doing these alchemical fire circle festivals, which, again, stemmed out of the work that I started when I traveled around to all these festivals and gatherings. In addition to Fire Dance, which we produce every summer in the Santa Cruz mountains of California, we also produce three festivals a year in Vegas. One is called Fall Fest. The February event is called Mysterium, and the May event is called May Fire. 

With each one of these gatherings we create ceremonial fires that go on for days and days and days. The festivals are open to all paths and traditions, to express their creativity and magic. It’s an experiment in tribal utopian society, and we refine the process each time we get together. In the daytime there’s workshops, classes, and lectures by people that we feel are masters of their art. We encourage and empower people to become their highest vision. I think the Fire Dance Festival is the highest profile of our gatherings. 

We call this fire circle technology the Alchemical Fire Circle, which is a model of fire circle ceremony that we feel transcends and includes many types of ritual. It’s a type of a ceremony and a ritual that just about any person can not only experience but participate in, because it’s around this fire which melts down all of the things that separate the individual religious or spiritual paths. So we create space for deep play. We explore ancient and modern mysteries through the lectures. There’s workshops on drumming, dancing, singing, performance magic, and the arts. We share community rituals. But the main focus is that we weave a web of spontaneous music, art, and ceremony around these all night fire circles. Then we great the rising of the sun. So together we connect with the magic of the fire and the spirit of each other. 

It’s an extraordinary event. All kinds of stuff happens at these fire circles. It’s totally spontaneous, improvisational, ritual theater that happens at these things. People bring gifts to the fire–their stories, their songs, their joy, their tears–and this goes on for days and days and days. When people get tired they rest, and when they get their energy back up they come back down to the fire. And now we’re doing these all over the world. We’re doing one in Amsterdam this April. They’re done in Hawaii and all across the U.S. Next week I’m actually going to Bali to meet with some shamans there, and we’re going to do one of our type of alchemical fire circles there. 

So this is really taking off, because the model of the

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