Magic’s Plastic Religion: Tenyoism

In general, the suffix “-ism” tends to indicate the ending of a rather unpleasant word, think fascism, communism, racism, or FISM (disclaimer: no relations between these). Beyond that, many -isms seem to have in common that they describe a hierarchial belief system which is based on a strict yet simple manifesto with (pseudo) religious undertones; their proponents feel chosen and superior and, therefore, air dedication and determination; they share strong convictions, a simplistic “we vs. them” view of the world and, sadly, a tendency to sentence, banish or even harm dissenters.

The same applies, along less violent terms, to Tenyoism, which roughly translates as the plastic ersatz religion of arousing childlike pleasure by immersing yourself into buying, hoarding, displaying or playing with Tenyo miniature magic props, which are cheap and colorful, sometimes ingenious, and often a bit shabby and embarrassing. (In other words, a bit like sex toys, only for older boys.)

Collectors drip and drivel when you casually mention strange lingo like “Paradox” or “Magic Coin Case”. They are also willing to pay serious money for rare pieces in perfect condition, which often means “unopened”, which in itself signifies the eternal conflict of burning desire vs. cool self-restraint: by buying the desired item but refraining from opening it, you transcend the cheap urge to play or to perform. Instead, you purify yourself by worshipping The Prop for its sheer presence and beauty in and out of itself.

Despite their cheap appeal you cannot help but admire many of these Tenyo creations. They foreshadow redemption from us majishuns’ eternal search for the next “real” big thing that we can actually perform, as they promise the perfect miracle in your hands: easy to do, instant reset, usually very visible magic, and sometimes even examinable props. In a few cases, Tenyo tricks are just that: Some of the best close-up miracles you will ever find and ever do.

Besides, magic masters like Tom Stone and many others ably demonstrate what’s in a toy and how to develop great routines that go well beyond Tenyo’s brief instruction sheets.

Take a look, for example, at this clever, organic performance of Tenyo’s Zig Zag Cig (T-110) here:

Like every religion, this one has their bible, too. It’s a two-volume hardbound book teaching and preaching the gospel, published by Richard Kaufman only recently, and it’s aptly called, well, Tenyo-ism. Buy it!


Some links on Tenyo to further whet your appetite:


Addendum: In a Genii Forum thread on this subject, Richard Kaufman commented:

Rather than any of the negative “isms” you mention, I think Buddhism would be more apt.

Point taken!

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