In 1997, I had reached out to Erica Larsen who was, at that time, editing Genii, about doing an issue devoted to Doug Henning. Erica kindly agreed, arranging for a few other writers to contribute pieces, and I volunteered to do a biographical sketch. Because Doug was still involved in trying to launch the Veda Land project, I was able to track down his team.
I had one or two phone calls with them, and they asked that I fax them a request, explaining the nature of my project. The people working for Doug were nice, if a bit guarded and secretive. They would only work via fax, so I sent a request, laying out our plan to do a Genii issue covering Doug’s career.
About ten days later, I received this dense, eclectic, biography of Doug, consisting of seven single-spaced pages. While Doug’s magic career had been well-documented, and was fairly easy to research, about half of this document covered the period of his life following his entry into Transcendental Meditation. (This was) a period largely overlooked or ignored by mainstream media and the magic trade press. The biography explains the relationship between Doug’s magic career and his attraction to TM. “I’ve always believed in real magic,” it quotes Doug as saying. “I realize now that even my wildest imaginings are but a fraction of what is really possible.”
Perhaps the most interesting information is that relating to the plans for the $1.3 billion Veda Land project, described as “the first theme park in history to combine magical illusions with hi-tech entertainment technology.” While the concept of a TM-inspired amusement park seems, perhaps, self-contradictory and the ready subject of parody, this rare document shows that there was serious thought behind it. Doug describes rides like the “Courtyard of the Maya” and the “Dive into Veda” on a flying chariot, and the document reports that Doug had created dozens of new illusions that would be showcased there. Perhaps that would have been something to see.
Then there’s this quote, again attributed to Doug: ”The purpose of the art of magic is to inspire people to delve deeper into the mysteries of creation, to initiate their interest in the beyond, and to renew their sense of wonder for life.” That’s not bad.
Later, the Veda Land folks sent me a photographic slide with an image of Doug and his wife, which I had printed and used with the article. In locating this fax, I found a letter forwarding me the slide, and requesting that I return the slide after I had it printed, which I did.
After the issue came out, Doug faxed me a wonderful thank you letter, which appeared on the blog in the past.
Special Thanks to Gary Brown for expanding upon how this article came to be, and allowing us to publish Doug’s official bio and photo.