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The Life & Magic of Stewart James (1908-1996)


The Grafter & The Tree Of Knowledge (Part 1)

Suppose you have an orchard in the land of The Waiting Place For Unborn Thoughts.  Consider each tree a Tree Of Knowledge and no two are the same. You look them over and decide on one. Its fruit is the knowledge you carry of an existing trick or subject ... which branches out in several directions; it is possible one of those branches is ideal for a project you have in mind.

— Stewart James

Lineage was important to Stewart James.  His work constantly refers to tricks as if they were living people.  It has already been mentioned that he thought of each of his creations as being born (in his mind), then being sent out into the world (being published) and into the hands of others (see “Spell of Mystery”).  Therefore, it makes perfect sense that he saw a thorough knowledge of the genealogy of magic principles, tricks and creators as essential for anyone wishing to contribute to the performing art or to one of its particular branches.  

When applying “Grafter and The Tree of Knowledge” to a problem, James imagined that he was tending an orchard of ideas.  As in the other thought-starters already discussed, the magician pictured himself interacting with organic life forms to visualize the compatibility of different trick plots, methods and effects.  During this mental exercise, when one tree (representing the knowledge – or known lineage – he had of a certain trick) did not contain a branch with the right fruit (or the correct information necessary to solve a problem) he would “graft one from another source” (SJP 843). 








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