Philip’s Writing

Ethical Sleight-Of-Mind

by Philip H. Henderson, Ethical Magician, Oxen Teamster, and Inspirational Listener

What is Ethical Magic?

I began studying the performance art of magic in 1994.  I enrolled in a Certificate program in Magic at Cal State University Fullerton.  Professor David Thurson was my instructor.  During the day, Professor David Thurson was the chairman of the Music Department at CSUF; in the evening, he wore his magician's mantle and taught adults how to perform "real magic."  David Thurson started performing magic tricks when he was eight years old; now, at seventy plus years, he was a master of the art of performance magic.  David became a professional musician as a young adult.  He taught piano and choral music.  The rehearsal hall for choral groups at Cal State University Fullerton is named Thurson Hall in his honor.  David has inspired generations of musicians to follow their love and make a career in music.  However, in the evening he turned his lifelong love of magic into a labor of love.  I was blessed to learn performance magic from him.

In the magic courses I took from him for two years, I learned many techniques that fooled my friends and family.  After the first year of study, David encouraged me to audition for membership in the Magic Castle in Hollywood.  I felt I was not ready.  I had visited the Magic Castle before as a guest.  I saw the caliber of performance in that world famous venue.  I never imagined that I could become a magician member.  David had confidence in me.  He offered to give me private lessons at his home.  With his emotional support I finally found the courage to face the magician's at the Magic Castle.  The evening I signed up for audition twenty-five men and women arrived to take the test.  The audition consisted of an interview by a panel of magicians and then a private performance for the panel.  After our orientation, we were led downstairs the the "Hat and Hare" room for our audition.  I was called about half-way thorough the process.  One of the magicians who went before me came back and told us that he had gotten nervous and dropped his cards.  He had to start over.  He was unsure whether he would be accepted.  This magician had been performing for live audiences for more than twenty years, and he was nervous.  I had only two years experience, a real novice at age 47.

When my turn came for interview I almost walked out of the club.  The only reason I stayed was I didn't want to disappoint David Thorsen.  I started to relax as the interview began.  They asked me who I had studied with to learn the art of magic.  When I mentioned that I was a student of Professor Thorsen, they seemed to know him and that was obviously in my favor.  I told them about my habits to practice magic.  I told them about the books I used.  I spoke to them about the ethical responsibility of a magician.  Finally, they asked me to perform.  They told me that as magicians they would not be impressed by my performance because they had seen everything.  I was not to be put off if they did not respond as a typical audience.  David Thorsen had told me they usually asked magicians to perform three different tricks, but to be prepared to perform at least five.  That way I could choose what I felt best prepared to do for the performance.  I chose one card trick, MacDonald's Aces, one Rope trick, and a coin trick as my primary illusions.  I was surprised to get a reaction from the panel when I performed the Rope trick, The Jumping Knot of Pakistan.   My next illusion was MacDonald's Aces, which also received a response from the panel.  As I started to set up my third trick, I was told that was enough.  They were satisfied that I could perform "real magic tricks."  I was elated.  I think I floated upstairs to join my colleagues who were waiting their turn for an audition.  Of the twenty-five who auditioned that night, three were not accepted.  I was initiated into the Academy of Magical Arts that night and became a member of the Magic Castle.  I continued my membership for twelve years.  I learned a lot about magic; I met dozens of magicians; and I treasured my membership in this august society of magicians.

I began studying magic in 1994 because I thought this was one good way to improve my ability to make public presentations.  Magicians by the nature of their work make public presentations.  I wanted to get the experience of being close to my audience and demonstrate to them precise information to entertain them.  A successful entertainer must gain and keep the attention of his audience.  If he performs expertly, he gets the audience to laugh or cry as they follow him along the story he tells with his words and actions.  A magician is foremost an actor.  He has lines to speak and actions that bolster his story.  The central purpose of the magician is to perform an act in person that defies logic.  He must do so convincingly that the audience believes he has just performed something that appears impossible.  He knows something before it happens.  He makes a solid object disappear and then reappear in an impossible location.  He borrows a simple object from a spectator and transforms it into something else.  He performs magic!

As I began to practice the magic illusions I also learned the psychological "tricks" that were the real reason the spectator experienced magic.  Actors who perform "magic" on stage are not "real magicians."  A real magician would need no props and no practice, he would just make things happen by willing them so.  Actors who perform magic on stage are practiced performers just as musicians, dancers, and singers who must practice their art.  In a way, stage magicians fool their audiences.  Except, our audiences want us to fool them.  They want us to show them something they cannot figure out where the only solution is the performer is a "real magician."  I am okay with that.  However, I consider myself the world's first ETHICAL MAGICIAN.  A typical stage magician has as his central purpose to entertain his audience by "fooling" them into believing he just did the impossible; right in front of their eyes.   As an ETHICAL MAGICIAN my goal is different.  I want to use the psychological tools that make "stage magic" work to show my students and clients TRUTHS that would escape them if I told them directly.  In a way I fool them to show them the truth.  My clients and students frequently tell me that the exercises I give them work "like magic."  I design the exercises using the same principles I would use if I were doing a magic trick.  The exercises are a kind of "self-working magic."  When my clients and students do the exercises exactly as I designed them, they experience revelations that make them smile and teach them.  I am an Ethical Magician and I love it.


Michael Josephson (founder and director of the Josephson Institute of Ethics (, describes ethical behavior as action taken to do what is right when you know that by taking correct moral action that you will suffer some personal loss.  We have to teach our children delayed gratification.  We have to cease searching for "convenience" and instant satisfaction.  I grew up before there were fast-food outlets.  I grew up when there were only five digits to telephone numbers and long-distance calls were made with the assistance of telephone operators.  I grew up when television was broadcast only in black and white and the local networks went off the air each night about 8 or 9 o'clock.  Now, there is a constant search for instant gratification.  We have a 24/7 mentality that does not support ethical behavior. Remember prosperity comes from hard work.  We have to find ways of being patient and make certain that we behave according to natural laws.  We do not manipulate our environment to meet our desires, instead we honor our environment and give up some freedom to enjoy more liberty.  We honor our most precious possession, our own moral integrity. 

My mother taught me that "who steals my purse, steals trash" and that my most precious possession is my moral reputation.  Our country has steered away from its moral compass.  We have forgotten to protect the United States Constitution and have misplaced our values.  We give too much honor to a man merely because of his personal wealth and power.  Name a moral leader in our country today.  Our national political leaders have been shameful.  Our national religious leaders have been shameful.  However, there are people in our lives, parents, aunts or uncles, neighbors who do show the way, they do by how they live.  We have good examples all around us.  We can commit ourselves to become good examples for our children and grandchildren.  We can reclaim the moral superiority that have allowed our country to thrive.  Make certain that your moral compass is working and that you will act according to what is in support of the highest moral principles.  If you make this resolution and live accordingly, you will find that 2010 will be filled with prosperity for you and your family! 


I am a leadership coach.  I work with successful business people and help them to become outstanding ethical leaders in their home, work, and community.  I work with individuals, often owners of businesses.  I help them learn to behave to earn the respect, trust and caring of the people in their business.  This work blends my passion for understanding human consciousness and ethical behavior.  I am sixty years old, and live with my wife and two cats in Irvine.

I choose Ethical Magic to describe what I do because I use the same principles I would use if I were performing a magic trick (I am an amateur magician.).  About fourteen years ago, I began to study the Performance Art of Magic to improve my public presentation skills.  I learned to use the psychological principles employed in the performance of magic to assist my clients (and students) to see their character and future.  I am the world’s first Ethical Magician.

I was trained by Michael Josephson, founder and director of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, to teach workplace ethics.  I earned a Bachelors degree in Economics and an MBA from UCLA in 1969, and 1970 respectively.  I am an eternal student of life.  I constantly study human consciousness, the human brain, leadership, magic theory, management.  Last year I read and studied 32-books.  I have an undying interest to learn all I can about human consciousness and ethics.

My previous careers include:  Four-years managing live theatre as an Auditorium Manager at UCLA, four-years studying public school finance including lobbying Sacramento legislators, fourteen-years managing law offices, and eight-years as an Assistant Dean for Operations and Finance at UC Irvine.  My various roles called for me to manage and lead a broad range of business processes including: accounting, finance, facilities, human resources, computer technology, construction, and creative problem resolution. 

From 2000 to 2003, I developed and taught a Leadership Certificate Program at California State University Long Beach.   I taught the students to become ethical leaders by first coaching them to become expert empathic listeners.  I use Ethical Sleight of Mind to promote andragogical learning with my clients and students.  This is Ethical Magic.  In the fall of 2007, I began teaching Empathic Listening and Executive Coaching at the Phillips Graduate Institute in Encino, California. Phillips Graduate Institute ( prepares students to earn a doctoral degree in Psychology or Organizational Consulting.  PGI celebrated its 35 year of operation in 2007. 


In 2003, Bill Richards, head oxen teamster at the Centennial Farm, taught me to become an oxen teamster.  I am a volunteer at the Orange County Fairgrounds Centennial Farm and this year showed more than 50,000 schoolchildren Bill and Bob, the oxen on our farm.  Come visit me at the farm on Mondays, from 9 am to 12 o'clock, I will be demonstrating the Oxen to school age children and their parents and teachers.  Leading a team of oxen requires care and ethical behavior.  You can fool a person but you cannot fool the cattle.  They always know if you behave with integrity.  I learned more about being a leadership coach from the oxen than I learned in four years of graduate school at UCLA.  The cattle give you immediate response so you know when you are behaving with integrity.

In the photograph Bill is on the far left, then Bob, next to Bob is my wife, Merna Henderson, and I am standing next to Merna.  Bill and Bob were thirteen years old in this photograph.  Each animal weighed about 2,000 pounds and has a four foot spread on his horns.  Bill and Bob are American Milking Devon cattle who were trained to work as oxen by Eric Johnson when he was a high school student.  Bill and Bob were bulls when they were born.  They are smart and gentle.  We use the animals to educate school children so Bill and Bob do not do the work they were trained to perform.

Bob died of an infection in late February 2007.  We are saddened by our lost, most of all, Bill is missing his best friend.    Bill and Bob came from New Hampshire; the new team calls New Hampshire their birthplace too.  I learned a great deal about leadership from these oxen. 

In mid-May 2007, Evy Edelo Young and I visited New Hampshire to select a new team of oxen to join Bill the ox at the Centennial Farm.  The new oxen team are Patches and Freckles, 5-year old Lineback cattle.  They arrived on the farm the afternoon of June 20, 2007 after a nearly five-day trip by trailer from their ancestral home of New Hampshire.  Patches and Freckles were trained by a 4-H participant, Brianna Bodwell.  They are perfectly well trained and will be the stars in the 2007 Oxen Presentation at this year's Orange County Fair.  We are pleased to have the new team; no one more pleased than our solo ox Bill.  He is enjoying having someone new to boss. 

In July and August 2009, Patches and Freckles made their third appearance with Bill at the Orange County Fair in the Livestock Arena.  They were the stars of more than 20-performances in the four-week long fair.  After the fair, Patches, Freckles, and Bill returned to the Centennial Farm. Beginning in September all three oxen are part of our daily demonstrations to school children.  On April 29, 2008, Huell Howser visited the Centennial Farm and shot video tape of our daily school tours.  Some of the footage shows Bill in a single yoke; Patches and Freckles pulling the Studebaker Ox Cart; children handling baby chicks, and the sights and sounds of the Centennial Farm.  The video had its first airing on Tuesday, May 20, 2008.  Below is a photograph of Huell Howser up close and personal with Bill the ox.  Bill is the animal without the sunglasses.

     I enjoy working with the oxen because they are full of ancient wisdom.  They live with complete integrity.  I feel at peace when I am blessed to be with them.  Sometimes I just stand with them and enjoy their being without working them as oxen.  They have learned to trust and respect me because I demonstrate to them that I trust and respect them.  I cannot imagine how to live without being with cattle.  They do not make anything overcomplicated.   When I give them food, water, rest, and attention they accept me as another ox--nothing can be a better compliment to my being.