Magic’s Making A Comeback
The difference between magic and illusion is perhaps most persuasively explained if you have read the Harry Potter books or similar fiction written around a magical world. In the “Potterverse”, magic is very much a real thing, and indeed the binding and guiding force of the world the characters inhabit. Things that those characters do could never be explained by illusion.
In the world of Harry Potter and his friends, acquaintances and enemies, the casting of spells does change the effects of natural forces. With certain spells, the wizards and witches of Hogwarts and beyond can levitate items or people, literally stun their opponents, read minds and take on a changed physical form – and take the ultimate sanction of killing others.
While anyone who has read and loved the books would dearly love to inhabit the world in which they are written – who wouldn’t give real money to be able to disappear and reappear somewhere else instantaneously? – such things cannot be replicated using illusion. If you want the coffee in that mug, you’ll have to lift it yourself, and if you want to appear thirty years older you’ll need plenty of makeup.
However, there should be no doubt that a love of the Harry Potter books and films has created an interest in illusion. Magician-illusionist societies have reported huge numbers of new members in recent years, most notably around the release of new books and films in the Potter oeuvre. Magic is persuasive like that, in a way we all appreciate.