I have not read "Absolute Magic" so I feel uniquely qualified to ignorantly respond... ;O)
I think that what needs to be qualified is just exactly what "magic" is. When you can answer that then, and only then can you add such adjectives as "pure" in front of it.
Most magicians seem to consider "magic" to be the process, i.e. something that happens visually that contradicts the laws of reality. I have believed for some time that magic is something that happens inside one's brain pan (a searing realization that the laws of nature are about to be or have been contravened) and that the visual component is a confirmation of what happens inside audience's head.
I guess the investigation should be into isolating when the "magic happens" and the audiences' role in the proceedings.
Does it come following the production of a load (a passive role) or does it happen *prior* to the revelation that the card that has been in plain sight has been transformed into the spectator's card (an active role). The latter relies on dramatic tension and anticipation on the part of the spectator, while the former relies primarily on surprise.
I would suggest that the passive role (what I like to call "eye candy") encompasses maybe 80% of magic currently performed (perhaps more).
I would argue that having the magic occur in the spectator's head and then being confirmed elicits a much stronger audience reaction. To generate this type of reaction requires much more active involvement on the part of the audience and thus requires more planning and effort on the part of the performer to ensure participation.
That being said, I am curious that few people have bothered to identify exactly *how* people percieve "magic" and what factors contribute to the sensation (something I have been studying extensively now for about six or seven years developing an approach I call "The Shared Experience").
Getting back to the original query:
It is in my opinion that there is a direct correlation between the quantity of unjustified or unqualified "stuff" (props, costumes, scenery) and the degree to which the audiences are directly involved in the "magical moment." When props and equipment can be identified as "tools," it raises the wall between us and our audience and thus they experience diminishing degrees of "magic."
Perhaps this is what Brown is referring when he speaks of "pure magic."
ajp The Shared Experience