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But I Saw Him Levitate!

By Rod Robison

The reactions from the crowd ranged from awestruck to almost worshipful. None of the people approached by this enigmatic young man expected to see the miraculous that day. But there it was. Undeniable. No doubt most if not all of them had seen good magicians do great tricks. But this was no trick. No mere magician could do this. Right there in broad daylight, on a city street in front of everyone--no wires--he just rose from the ground.

If you were one of the millions of viewers who saw the TV special featuring magician David Blaine you may have had the same reaction. Watching this kid approach people on the street and do the seemingly miraculous was an unsettling experience for many. Instead of focusing on the magician this special made the onlookers the stars. Their facial and verbal responses to his minor miracles said it all:  Maybe this guy isn't just a magician. Maybe he really does have supernatural  powers. You could almost see in their faces the challenge to their belief systems that must have been playing out in their minds and hearts.

As a magician, I like to try to catch as many of the many televised magic shows as possible. Most are excellent stage productions. But this special was indeed special. Because this magician wasn't just entertaining people. He was forcibly challenging his audiences' perceptions of the very nature of reality.

Not long after the special aired several of my friends approach me to ask if I had seen the show. Some asked questions about whether there might be something supernatural--even demonic--about this guy. One friend stated emphatically, "But I saw him levitate!"

I've seen the same type of reaction from Christians who have watched David Copperfield do the impossible. One owner of a Christian bookstore once said to me, when she learned I was a magician, "Well, I know a lot of Copperfield's tricks are just tricks. But I can't help but think that some of it is supernatural."

Andre Kole, highly regarded worldwide by magicians as one of the top three inventors of magic illusions, is a consultant to David Copperfield. He's also an evangelist with Campus Crusade for Christ and has been sharing the Gospel with millions of people for over three decades. Over those thirty-plus years Kole has performed a show featuring many of his illusions during which he gives a clear presentation of God's plan of salvation. One of his most startling illusions is a levitation of himself.  It's very convincing. So convincing, in fact, that some years ago a well-meaning woman in the audience stood and attempted to rebuke the demons out of Kole while he was suspended.

Another well-meaning, but misinformed Christian who publicly harassed Kole during a performance was the late Dr. Kurt Koch, regarded as an authority on the occult. He and his associates attempted to convince the illusionist to renounce his "Satanic powers" during a show in Germany. In his book Mind Games, Kole comments on the confrontation: "Here is a man that most of the Christian world looked to as being a leading authority on the occult, accusing me, a magician, of having supernatural powers. I was not able to convince him otherwise."

Kole makes this statement in his book, "The unexplained is usually nothing more than the unexamined." And, in fact, he has offered to examine anyone's claim of  supernatural powers, offering $25,000 for such a demonstration. So far there have been no takers. James Randi, a magician and occult researcher, has offered one million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate supernatural powers under scientifically controlled conditions. After years this highly publicized offer has never been claimed. One would think that if, in fact, some humans possess supernatural powers at least one of them would want to demonstrate those powers and walk away rich.

There have been many reports of supernatural powers including levitations. A book, distributed by a well-known Christian publisher claimed that such a miraculous feat was witnessed by a missionary. But when a Christian researcher tracked down the missionary he stated that the story was overblown and that no such feat had taken place.

One of the most celebrated levitations in history was performed by spiritualist medium D.D. Home during a sťance in 1868. He reportedly floated out of a third story window and back into another in front of three friends. But upon further investigation it was found that the details of the men's stories did not collaborate.  And, as with most seances, the lights were dimmed bringing into question what the men were really able to see. In addition, it is claimed by some who have investigated Home that he was adept at suggestion and hypnotism. Yet, to this day, spiritualists point to this one event as evidence of human supernatural powers. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, in his book "The New Revelation," sites the Home incident as one of the convincing "proofs" that led him to embrace spiritualism.

So what about all of those people who saw David Blaine levitate within feet of on-lookers. Not to mention all of the other incredible little miracles he performed like reading people's minds?  Well, as a magician, I can't reveal his tricks. But I can tell you that most if not all of the methods he utilized can be purchased at your local magic store or discovered in the shelves of your local library. What made them look so real was not the methods Blaine used, but his marvelous presentation. People believed that what they witnessed were real miracles because he presented them as real. He didn't approach those on the street and say, "Hi, I'm a magician. Want to see a cool trick?"  He simply demonstrated some really strange things that he, apparently, didn't even understand himself. Combine Blaine's very convincing persona with the magic of video editing and you have the makings of a modern-day shaman.

Former occultist, John Anderson, who performed many apparent miracles in his role as the leader of a New Age cult, reveals in his book, Psychic Phenomena Unveiled:

In all the years of my involvement in the occult, I never was a witness to even one piece of true paranormal activity. I saw many things that I believed were of supernatural power, but all were later proven false. I have thoroughly researched the issue and collected letters and statements from many of the individuals involved. It is my conviction that Satan gets far too much credit and free publicity from thousands of sincere but misinformed people in God's Church. What is demonic is the power of suggestion that usually accompanies the performance, the lie that you can develop the "God Power" within. This type of deception leads people away from the Jesus Christ of the Bible, causing them to focus their attention on themselves.

Unfortunately, many Christians have consigned to Satan more power than God has given him despite the fact that there is no evidence in nature or in the Bible that he has ever given supernatural powers to humans.

When the astrologers in the Book of Daniel were challenged by King Nebuchadnezzar to read his mind or be put to death, even they responded, "There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks." Even under penalty of death none of them were able to do the "real thing." What an opportunity for Satan to have demonstrated his powers  by reading the king's mind and giving the information to the astrologers. But perhaps he didn't because he couldn't.

As recorded in the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh's  court magicians were seemingly able to duplicate the miracles God performed. But did they really? Dan Korem, a world-class magician and investigative reporter, who also happens to be a Christian, in his book Powers, describes means by which the magicians could have counterfeited God's miracles on a smaller scale. Turning a rod into a snake, for instance, is easily accomplished by the same method modern day magicians turn a cane into a flower or handkerchief. I've seen the "cane to snake" performed by magician Allan Rasco. Believe me, it's impressive. All of the other effects the Exodus magicians performed can be easily explained by a trained modern-day magician. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they did accomplish them with trickery. Could they have actually performed miracles?

The Bible describes the activities of the Egyptian magicians by using the Hebrew word lahat, meaning "secret arts." There is nothing in the word or the text to suggest any supernatural powers. The magicians were seemingly able to turn inanimate objects (their canes) into a living beings (snakes). They had to have done it one of two ways; either by trickery or by supernatural powers. We've already seen that turning a cane into a snake is possible utilizing trickery. If, however, the magicians actually performed a miracle by literally turning something non-living into something living, then we have to accept the proposition that these magicians, or Satan through them, could create life. But God alone is the Creator, according to John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, and Revelation 4:11. Scripture is abundantly clear that He has never given Satan that power.  

In the New Testament there are two magicians described. Both cases have been used by some to offer proof of supernatural powers ascribed to men. The first is Simon the Sorcerer. The Book of Acts chapter 8 tells us he amazed the citizens of Samaria who called him the "Great Power."  He obviously had quite a reputation. The Greek word mageuo, used to describe what he performed, simply indicates that he practiced magic and does not suggest any supernatural  powers. It appears from the text that Simon was just one very good magician who passed himself off as someone who had powers.

The other "sorcerer" was named Elymas. The account of his encounter with Barnabas and Paul is found in Acts chapter 13. The word rendered "sorcerer" is magos and only suggests that he was considered a "wise man" in the same sense as the magi or "wise men" who visited Jesus. Elymas is also called a pseudoprophetes--or false prophet. Again, not the real thing. Paul rebukes Elymas, accusing him of "deceit and trickery" but not suggesting any supernatural powers.

II Thessalonians 2:9-10 states that when the Anti-Christ comes on the scene his abilities will be "in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders...."  Note that Satan's own right hand man of the end-times will only be able to perform "counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders," not the real thing. Even at this pivotal point in history Satan's tactic is deception, not miracles.

Is all of this to suggest that Satan has no powers? The Bible is quite clear that he does possess powers, but that they are greatly limited by God. We are told in Ephesians chapter 6 to "put on the whole armor of God" so that we won't fall into Satan's schemes. But nowhere in the Bible are we told that he has the ability to give humans supernatural powers.

Why is this distinction important to Christians? Throughout Scripture and in our present time there have been many who have claimed to have supernatural powers. It is a deceptive seduction to think that we can share powers God reserves only for Himself. From the time of Eve humans have been taken in by Satan's lie that we can "be like God."  New Age gurus hold out promises of supernatural powers, like levitation, to would-be gods. So-called Christian teachers, popularized on television, offer their followers the promise of performing the miracles of Jesus and becoming "little gods" by speaking the right words in faith.

One of Satan's greatest powers is the power to deceive--even Christians who should know better. By ascribing more power to Satan than God has given him we allow ourselves to be fooled into fearing him. If we believe that Satan can make people levitate and display all manner of supernatural manifestations then his power to intimidate us is greatly increased. We then unwittingly become more vulnerable to his schemes.

Jesus unmasked Satan when he said in John chapter 8, "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." Satan is a much better liar than he is a miracle worker. If we are to, "Test everything. Hold on to the good," as we are admonished in  II Thessalonians 5:21, we'd be well served to understand the truth about the limits of Satan's power in this world and the limitless power of the God we serve.

Copyright © 1999 Rod Robison

Rod Robison is a comedy magician residing in Tucson and serves as Vice President for Development with Family Life Communications.

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The above article was posted on this Web site May 29, 2000.

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