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Magician Reappears

Magic man Doug Henning disappeared a year ago.

Not unusual, but the long-haired Henning, who turned 41 on Tuesday, pulled his vanishing act from a lucrative magical career and wound up in a full-time position in India helping transcendental meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi develop a New Age Magic Mountain.

“It was the fulfillment of my career to do this,” said Henning, tracked down (by phone) the other day in New Delhi.

“I’ve spent my time learning new card tricks and entertaining all the kids in the mountains,” he said. “Anything I do for them, like changing rocks into coins, they just love. The people are so pure. They haven’t been touched by cynicism. They’re just filled with wonder for life. To do magic for them was a fantastic thrill.”

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Vedaland, which Henning and the Maharishi hope will be India’s first theme park, will combine entertainment with spiritual enlightenment. Using his skills as an illusionist, Henning is trying to turn the Maharishi’s visions of rides--such as tunnels that visitors will float through and buildings that change color--into realities.

The grand concepts are still in the planning stage, however, and the amusement park has yet to receive government approval. Henning figures that Vedaland is still about two years from happening. Not until then, he says, will he return to the United States and his career.

“In America, my magic was starting to become overproduced, with more and more dancing girls, more flashy costumes, more lights and lasers,” he said. “People have forgotten the spiritual life and that’s what I want to awaken. I want to use my magic to awaken people’s consciousness and their enlightenment.

“I’ve got all new ideas on a whole different way to do magic: Without boxes--less structural and more emotional. My whole psychology is changed.”

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