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Topic: Alternative premises for mentalism
Message: Posted by: Alexxander (Oct 20, 2020 05:10PM)
Hello all,


The classic mentalism divide:

claiming or implying supernatural powers / abilities

vs.

claiming or implying highly developed skills in psychological techniques / body language reading

vs.

not claiming anything and "letting the audience decide for themselves"



I don't think that this is all there is.


In the last months I thought a lot about mentalism and magic and how I fit into all this and what my voice is.

There is one thought that I keep coming back to again and again:

If we think about it, we as performers of the mystery arts essentially have access to resources and skills to create ANY kind of theatrical fiction.

ANYTHING.

And yet most of us choose the fiction of "I have studied psychology and body language and can unter very specific circumstances appear to read minds".

Really? That is what we come up with?

We have tools that literally make the impossible possible and this is it?

Almost every mentalism show I ever saw is all about the performer doing amazing things and wanting credit for it. And this includes all my shows as well.
To be honest, I'm pretty tired of it.

I would love to start a lively discussion about this.

Can anyone relate?

Which examples of performers, shows or maybe just effects do you know which offer a different premise of mentalism, a different perspective?

What do you think about this issue?
Please let me know.


Stay safe,
Alex
Message: Posted by: funsway (Oct 20, 2020 05:33PM)
An approach I have used many times.

"The human species once had many natural abilities that would by considered extraordinary today.
In return for a bigger brain and predictive abilities tied with memory, our senses of smell, hearing and touch became less acute.
Our instinctive spacial awareness of surroundings and other people was lost or lies dormant.
Each of you in this audience has some abilities ready to be awakened under the right conditions.
Allow me to demonstrate what I discovered about myself, then several of you can begin to realize your full potential.

or some such ...
Message: Posted by: David Thiel (Oct 20, 2020 06:15PM)
The justification of "I am a body language expert...and the word you just chose out of that book in your hand was JACKHAMMER."

Huh?

If that's your premise great. But I cannot for the life of me understand how having an understanding of body language, NLP etc can help you divine a WORD or a NUMBER or any thought that isn't a feeling. You will have to address how this happens...or run the risk of looking like a total fraud.

The premise we choose defines what we can do within the narrative of the shows we present. In order to have power, the 'justification' we use must be logical. It is not reasonable, for example, to simply look at how someone is standing or the expressions they are making and deduce that they are thinking of the number 2343. Does that make sense? Do you think an audience is buying it?

I spent a lot of time thinking about this and I have one declarative statement I use all the time and every single word is true: "I am not doing anything here onstage that you couldn't do with the proper training, techniques, methods, experience and intuition." That's it. Any other explanation simply waters down something that a) IS true and b) leaves enough room open for the audience to draw their own conclusions. It also dangles the tantalizing possibility that if I can do it...they can too. And that is true also.

The idea that performers MUST make a point of saying that there is nothing mysterious going on baffles me too. The mystery is part of what makes the show work, what interests the audience. From an audience perspective I WANT to see something exceptional, unusual.

David
Message: Posted by: Christopher Taylor (Oct 20, 2020 07:21PM)
I often maintain I can sense energy/Qi/Ki/Pranna and then go about showing how, entertainingly. I often show a spectator that they can as well, they just don't know it yet.

Christopher

https://youtu.be/BigZV_zMS4s
Message: Posted by: Jporter123 (Oct 20, 2020 09:47PM)
This may start an argument here but it’s something I’ve pondered for a bit as well. How far can we take it. That’s the real question. Many people hold strict limitations toward mentalism. It’s not wrong or bad. But it’s made up of specific guidelines. However I believe that the line that’s drawn is a wee bit thin. I’ve seen many individuals comment in different forums about how mentalism compared to magic is defined as something that is considered real. People leave the “show” believing what they saw is real. However, it is still a “show”. People come to a place that is most likely known for “acts” or theatre. As far as my point goes, people already know they are going somewhere to be entertained. Many are questioning whether or not what they see is real. Curiosity is the reason mentalism is alive. According to some if I were to produce something in flames, it would be considered mental magic. Not mentalism. But the whole idea of mentalism is bringing things that may or may not be true into the real world. I could be a gambler. And I found out one day I could manipulate certain elements. And I could also say it came to me under moments of extreme pressure and concentration. Hence gambling. With all that said if I could convince people what I’m doing is something I could actually do and it’s a power or ability that I found access to somehow, would what I am performing be mentalism. Or magic. Or is there not really a so called “line” that people think are there. Don’t get me wrong I am not bashing other opinions. This is just a though I had. It came to me when learning to develop a character for myself. But in answer to your question. I don’t think there are any limits. Think of fairy’s and wizards of old. Mutants and superheroes. Tales of other worlds. Whose to say none of that is true either. It’s as believable as mind reading. There is more than curiosity with the above mentioned in the eyes of the public. Make things more. Do anything. MAKE IT REAL! I get mentalists must study their roots and fundamentals. We all know where we come from. But mentalism is becoming a little more popular due to television and the internet. The term itself is becoming less rare. I really believe flipping the script and giving the people things they can ponder on would be good for the art.. Again I don’t mean to offend anyone. Just throwing in a seed that could one day blossom. Pm me if you wanna chat more on these thoughts.

-Josh
Message: Posted by: Mr. Mindbender (Oct 20, 2020 10:02PM)
One popular moniker for a mentalist is a "mystery performer", but where is the mystery in explaining your (supposed) method to the audience? If you truly were using body language and NLP to accomplish your effects, would you blatantly announce it!? Taking that approach, a card magician's presentation of the ambitious card would sound like..."Okay, please return your card to the center of the deck, and I'll use a pass to bring it to the top of the deck. Now watch as I perform a double lift...etc." You get the idea.

Explaining what you're doing, and then (supposedly) doing it also contributes to the "Look at what I can do..." aspect that we all want to avoid.

When I perform an effect that supposedly uses body language as my method, I try to present it so that it's not obvious and that I'm about 85% successful at hiding it. I want the participant to later tell her friend something like, "Did you see how he was studying my eyes...etc."

Writer Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels) said “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” I've adapted that for how I try to present mind reading...

"Mentalism is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 20, 2020 10:11PM)
The history of mentalism begins with shamanism and is deeply rooted in early religion, it later moved into the world of spiritualism. Then Dunninger came along and secularized it before Derren and made it approachable for the everyday person.

Undoubtedly there is some new zeitgeist right around the corner just out of sight. Keep looking and you'll find it, just know that those who can't see it yet will find all the ways to tell you that you are wrong. Press on.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Oct 21, 2020 01:27AM)
Any discussion of the different ways to present mentalism also edges toward the subject of how to define what is and is not mentalism in the first place. One of Corinda's 13 steps is mediumistic stunts, but modern performers generally would define this as bizarre magic, not mentalism. That's just an illustration of "definition creep," not an opening for an argument. The same techniques can be used to discern information and then it can be presented in so many different ways. But if you use a p**k to get a written word, you can use a premise of direct telepathy, you can use body cues to determine what it is about, you can be empathic to the emotions surrounding what was written. But if your friendly ghost buddy tells you what is written, even if the method of getting the information is the same, have you moved to bizarre instead of mentalism?

I think ultimately the question is what do you want to say with your performance? Do you want to say that you can read minds? Do you want to say you can read body language? Do you want to say you can get information from the Universal Mind? Do you want to say that your invisible friend was watching over their shoulder and whispered it in your ear? What is the story you are telling the audience?

-Patrick
Message: Posted by: funsway (Oct 21, 2020 04:34AM)
[quote]On Oct 20, 2020, Mac_Stone wrote:
Then Dunninger came along and secularized it before Derren and made it approachable for the everyday person.

[/quote]

We cannot overlook the successes of Ormand McGill and other in the 30-50's. Many post back in 2015-17 that can be searched on the Café'

an except - "we can look to a performer like Ormand McGill to see how conjuring and “psychic magic” can be combined. His book on Psychic Magic is based on articles from 1937 and republished many times since – even 2008. He combined conjury with psychic magic in his shows with great success and encouraged all magicians to do likewise. In his post WWII USO performances, however, on the advice of his booking agent (Arnold Furst) he presented only conjury before the intermission and “mentalism” after words, believing that the former prepared the audience of the later mental demonstrations. He noted, 'there is wish-fulfillment here; an underlying hope that somewhere deep within the mind there may be some mysterious powers that will in some measurable help in the mastery of countless problems that constantly perplex in the hazardous art of living.'

It is easy today to say what he did was 'mental magic' rather than 'pure mentalism,' but demonstrated that a performer can satisfy both those in an audience seeking to be deceived and those aspiring to paranormal abilities. His teaching of this material was based on a belief that a “magician” is the best person to support the paranormal abilities of humans in contrast, saying, 'I have demonstrated how physical laws can apparently be defied for your amusement. Now we shift to demonstrations that the human mind is capable of many things generally considered impossible.' Thus, under the guise of 'entertainment' people can be encouraged to experiment along the lines of personal genuine psychic powers. Taking this approach there is not ethical conflict."

He notes that Psychic Magic is “Magic portraying Magic.” and “It is in the simulation of those supernatural forces that Psychic Magic has its origin, and the more perfect the simulation, the more perfect the presentation.”

“So, we will pursue in our studies as a matter of the production of genuine psychic occurence together with the simulated psychic occurence – for it is in the skillful blending of the pseudo with the authentic, that is found the real basis for Psychic Magic’s rightful place in the art of entertainment.”
.........

So, in answer of the OP it is possible to use the premise that "pretending at magic" for a magician naturally leads to greater understanding of "mental mysteries" and heightened abilities that can be demonstrated. I am not sure about the "skillfill blending of pseudo with authentic" for today's audiences - entertaining most certainly, but confusing for anyone wishing a career as a Mentalist. This indicates that one problem in being a Mentalist is also the one of being an entertainer. What are the expectations of a general audience as opposed to one buying tickets to see a Mentalist? Are "abilities of the mind" considered as impossibilities or just unusual aborations?
Message: Posted by: funsway (Oct 21, 2020 04:45AM)
On a different tack, what is the setting of the performance relative to other events" A single event? You are one of many Mentalists is a show?
You are part of a variety show with different forms of entertainment? What is your position in the line up?

Imagine that you receive a call to fill in for a renowned Mentalist at a show next week (big bucks offered).
There will be a performer doing traditional conjuring type effects, a famous quick-changing artist considered magical, an incredible sand painter,
and YOU. As a special bribe for filling in at the last moment, you get to decide the order of the four performance and where you fit in.

Regardless of your chosen position in the line up, how would this opportunity influence the premise and framing of what you demonstrate?

Alternately, if you know you will follow that French lady quick change artist, what will you do to get the audience interested in your "psychic miracles?'
Message: Posted by: MC Mirak (Oct 21, 2020 02:34PM)
[quote]On Oct 20, 2020, Mr. Mindbender wrote:
One popular moniker for a mentalist is a "mystery performer", but where is the mystery in explaining your (supposed) method to the audience? [/quote]

Huh? So a mystery book... shouldn't explain the whodunnit part? I'm afraid you've lost me. I get much of your argument but the way you put it together is odd. I think it's the whole reliance on an arbitrary name then sort of butchering what "mystery" means. I hope the mystery book example helped, yes there is a mystery, but it doesn't stay unresolved. I'm probably just tired lol.

I don't subscribe to most of the stereotypes around performing as listed by the OP. I guess, after reading a bunch here, I would be a magician who likes to perform mental magic. In reality, I'm an entertainer first, an actor second, many other things then a magician. With that in mind, the moral ambiguity that many people seem to have around "playing it real" doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Did Avengers: Endgame need a disclaimer? Obviously not, it was entertainment, marketed as entertainment. Do people market something other than entertainment, because then, maybe, I'd see the issue?

If we are talking about "pyschics" taking people's money, I think there are usually laws that say they have to have it posted it is all entertainment right? If not, then definitely not a fan.
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 21, 2020 02:56PM)
[quote]On Oct 21, 2020, MC Mirak wrote:
I hope the mystery book example helped, yes there is a mystery, but it doesn't stay unresolved.[/quote]

And yet there are just as many stories that are equally as successful BECAUSE the mystery remains unresolved.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Mindbender (Oct 21, 2020 05:17PM)
Yes, mysteries are resolved -- but usually at the end of the story. The way I see a typical "psychological illusionist" presentation is that the mystery (of how I'm going to do this) is revealed up front. In that type of performance, the "mystery performer" tells the audience exactly how they are going to accomplish this seemly impossible feat before they actually do it.

Imagine if the first line of Citizen Kane was -- "As a boy, he named his sled Rosebud..." or how about changing the name of the movie "Field of Dreams" to "Father's Last Chance" -- btw, that is exactly what one movie exec suggested to the director of that film Phil Alden Robinson. Talk about ruining a mystery!

If you truly were super gifted and talented and could reliably recognize that the way a person blinked their eyes, or shifted their weight from one foot to another, or notice a subtle movement in a person's head, somehow told you what card they were thinking of -- would you reveal that upfront to the spectator? I wouldn't.

But then again, to each his own - and that's what's great about mentalism or any other kind of art form...there's no one way.
Message: Posted by: Alexxander (Oct 22, 2020 02:32AM)
Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!


[quote]On Oct 21, 2020, Mr. Woolery wrote:
Any discussion of the different ways to present mentalism also edges toward the subject of how to define what is and is not mentalism in the first place.

[...]

I think ultimately the question is what do you want to say with your performance? Do you want to say that you can read minds? Do you want to say you can read body language? Do you want to say you can get information from the Universal Mind? Do you want to say that your invisible friend was watching over their shoulder and whispered it in your ear? What is the story you are telling the audience?

-Patrick [/quote]

To be honest, I think I do no longer care if my performances can be classified as mentalism or not.
I am interested in using the techniques and tools of mentalism to create a different kind of fiction than "I can read your mind".

I used to be super strict about the distinction between mentalism, mental magic and magic, as I learned it from the greats in mentalism, and on this forum. But I am tired of it.
I do have huge respect and admirations for a lot of mentalists, but I want to start performing more shows that are NOT all about me and my amazing skills or abilities.


That's why I am thinking about alternative premises.
I want to find a way to make my performances more audience-centric.
Other than a certain magic blogger, I don't feel like there are many people sharing that goal...
Message: Posted by: mindmagic (Oct 22, 2020 02:56AM)
When I perform (rarely) I'm demonstrating the hidden powers of the unconscious mind - mine, helpers' and the audience's, not necessarily in that order.

Barry
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 22, 2020 08:34AM)
Ben Hart and Nate Staniforth are two magicians performing classics of mentalism in fresh and interesting ways, I'm sure a lot of the writers here would hate it. The work of Jared Kopf and John Wilson is also highly focused on the affect of the audience.
Message: Posted by: luiscubanmentalist (Oct 22, 2020 08:49AM)
This is what I love about David Blaine.

He just does.
Message: Posted by: Philemon Vanderbeck (Oct 22, 2020 09:14AM)
My premise: I've sold my soul to the devil in exchange for these bizarre powers. As long as I continue to trick my participants into playing my games and thus collecting their souls, I will continue to live forever.
Message: Posted by: Mark Timon (Oct 22, 2020 09:22AM)
Giving a false rational explanation of how you accomplish your mentalism takes away the mystery of your performance.
Message: Posted by: landmark (Oct 22, 2020 10:46AM)
[quote]Do people market something other than entertainment, because then, maybe, I'd see the issue? [/quote]
Yes.
E.g. John Edward
Message: Posted by: MC Mirak (Oct 22, 2020 12:04PM)
[quote]On Oct 22, 2020, landmark wrote:
[quote]Do people market something other than entertainment, because then, maybe, I'd see the issue? [/quote]
Yes.
E.g. John Edward [/quote]

I expected that somebody would name him or that Sylvia lady (maybe I am getting the name wrong). Do they actually use many of the same methods? My understanding is a vast majority of their work is around hot readings (with some cold reading thrown in there). I would also posit that they don't market themselves as mentalists or magicians.

I guess I am thinking it is the difference between Avengers: Engame, the Blair Witch Project, a documentary from PBS on the lifecycle of mayflies, and a "documentary" on how the world is flat.

The first is obvious entertainment, the second SHOULD BE obvious entertainment but some people get confused, the third is a factual communication of information (edu-tainment as it were), and the last is clearly aimed at a subset of the population that believes it.

Do the producers of Endgame worry at all about that flat Earth "documentary"? Are the producers of the Blair Witch Project subject to criticism if some people believe them? Do the producers of the mayfly documentary need to address the fact that some "documentaries" are full of lies and/or are totally fake?

I know my answers and I'll share the first: the Endgame producers would, I imagine, not give a second thought to the flat Earth documentary and would, again just me imagining, not even consider it a part of what they do, even if they do use CGI and actors, etc.

So, lots of questions I'm curious to get opinions on but I'll finish with one last one: Do mentalists consider John Edwards to be performing mentalism? Because, if so, then I will never want to call myself a mentalist. That would be a family I don't want to belong to.
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 22, 2020 01:16PM)
[quote]On Oct 22, 2020, MC Mirak wrote:
Do mentalists consider John Edwards to be performing mentalism?[/quote]

You are venturing FAR outside of the original intent of this thread. Few on here really seem to have understood the OP's intent.

Before Derren Brown the idea of a psychological l illusionist did not exist or was at the very least hidden in obscurity. Derren is generally credited with having created, or at least popularized, a NEW mode of performing mentalism.

The question the OP is asking is have we reached the limit of possible modes with which to perform mentalism or is there possibly some new mode currently hiding in obscurity waiting to enter the zeitgeist?

It may well be that what is new harkens back to what is old in the way that Blaine modernized the very genesis of magic and mentalism with his Urban Shamanism.
Message: Posted by: MC Mirak (Oct 22, 2020 02:27PM)
I didn't bring up John Edwards, somebody else did. I was answering the OP's question about "a different premise of mentalism, a different perspective?", somebody else brought up John Edwards, and I was curious why his name would be brought up and asked the question that put a fly up your butt or something.

I'm sorry my response didn't meet your approval. Not really, I'm just sorry I had any interaction with you. Won't happen again. But it did answer the question whether I'd want to be considered a mentalist, if a sweet guy like you is, count me out.

Dang, what a place this Café is. :hmm:
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 22, 2020 04:04PM)
[quote]On Oct 22, 2020, MC Mirak wrote:
I'm sorry my response didn't meet your approval.[/quote]

Great. I'm glad this thread can get back on track, thanks.
Message: Posted by: Alexxander (Oct 22, 2020 04:08PM)
@MC Mirak, I'm sorry you felt that way, I'm sure that Mac_Stone didn't intend to offend you, I think he was just trying to bring the thread back to the original question, it surely wasn't a personal attack.



Thank you Mac_Stone, you said it better than I could.
And yes, I do also feel like some people did not exactly understand what I was getting at.
I know the standard premises and standard approaches to perform mentalism.
I am not looking for ways to feel better about them.
For many people, they work great, but they don't feel exciting to me anymore.


The two question I'm essentially trying to answer for myself is:
Why am I able to know what people are thinking?
Why am I showing it to an audience?

Philemon, I really like your premise.
You made a deal with the devil and collect other souls for him in exchange for immortality.
YES! That's awesome.
It answers both questions perfectly.
Message: Posted by: Dylenium (Oct 23, 2020 07:44AM)
I literally just now had this idea, so this is more brain storming then well thought out.
Usually mentalists state that they havent done any research on the participant in advance. But what if that is your premise? You are a research god and with just one minute on the facebook feed of someone can tell them about their personality and even what they do next and think next. Quite similar like the targeted ads from google that show you where to buy a new refrigerator a day before the one you own breaks (I just made that example up but you know what I mean).
The pro side is that its hyper believable. The con side is that you loose almost all the mystery and maybe even get your audience pretty anxious (Did he hack me? What else did he find? Does he know what ***Videos I watch? Will he tell my wife? etc.)
I don't think this is a premise anyone would actually choose, but it is for sure different then everything else.

Dylan
Message: Posted by: Alexxander (Oct 23, 2020 12:11PM)
I like this idea!

I think it could work, if you push this premise to absolute ridiculousness, and revealing things that would be obviously impossible to research.
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 23, 2020 12:58PM)
Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superforecaster
Message: Posted by: WitchDocChris (Oct 23, 2020 02:19PM)
Here's a radical thought: Don't lie.

Just use genuine skills and present them in an interesting and mysterious way.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 23, 2020 04:57PM)
There ya go! Quite simple isn't it? No need for all this mental runaround and magican's thinking.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Oct 23, 2020 05:14PM)
??? magicians I know aways tell the truth.

"I am going to create an illusion of an inexplicable event using artifice, guile, skill and psychology. Then I do just that.

When performing as a Mentalist I also tell exactly what I will do, and the follow through. Same thinking either way.
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 23, 2020 05:32PM)
[quote]On Oct 23, 2020, Mindpro wrote:
There ya go! Quite simple isn't it? No need for all this mental runaround and magican's thinking. [/quote]

Would you describe Derren's performances as mental runaround and magician's thinking?

Claiming to use psychology and body language to know which hand a coin is in is not all that dissimilar than claiming to use AI driven analytics to predetermine a person's thoughts, decisions, and actions.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 23, 2020 05:43PM)
[quote]On Oct 23, 2020, Mac_Stone wrote:
Would you describe Derren's performances as mental runaround and magician's thinking? [/quote]

Absolutely!
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 23, 2020 05:53PM)
Fair enough. It does seem to have worked quite successfully for him...
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 23, 2020 06:04PM)
Oh, I agree...for him. Not so much for all the poseurs and wannabees he created.

You said "Derren is generally credited with having created, or at least popularized, a NEW mode of performing mentalism."
This is true within magic circles but in other mental arts (and some pro-level entertainment circles) he is credited with damaging the art and science and bringing it down to a diminished level.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 23, 2020 06:38PM)
I have just been sitting back watching what could have been a great, informative and developmental thread, go down the dumper with more examples of typical magician’s thinking and mentalities what they think is mentalism.

Here are the observational highlights as this has gone off the tracks…

“This is what I love about David Blaine. He just does. “ - Blaine, a mentalist? lol

"psychological illusions" (translate = magician/magic)

"The human species once had many natural abilities that would by considered extraordinary today. In return for a bigger brain and predictive abilities tied with memory, our senses of smell, hearing and touch became less acute….” (mental runaround saying/meaning nothing)

"...one day I could manipulate certain elements. And I could also say it came to me under moments of extreme pressure and concentration. (more mumbo jumbo that the magician thinks is clever and would convince audiences. He has convinced himself and since he thinks he’s clever and the the smartest in the room, it’ll convince others - again, more typical magician’s thinking)

Ormond McGill was a magician (and hypnotist)

Philemon - “I’ve sold my soul to the devil in exchange for these bizarre powers. As long as I continue to trick my participants into playing my games and thus collecting their souls, I will continue to live forever. - This is better than most oft the cockamamy premises many here are putting out there with body language, NLP, etc.

“Edwards, Sylvia Brown, etc - -Avengers: Engame, the Blair Witch Project, a documentary from PBS on the lifecycle of mayflies, and a "documentary" on how the world is flat. Lol, we’re getting closer now, lol.

Then of course there’s the “a research god and with just one minute on the facebook feed of someone can tell them about their personality and even what they do next and think next”
Yes, that’s what audience, promoters and bookers want and will accept as mentalism.

“magicians I know aways tell the truth.” - More delusion.
“"I am going to create an illusion of…..” Yep, more magic

“If we are talking about "psychics" taking people's money” - We’re not, no one ever mentioned this, yet in almost every discussion here on mentalism someone inevitably brings this up.

Finally…
Alexxander - “To be honest, I think I do no longer care if my performances can be classified as mentalism or not.

I am interested in using the techniques and tools of mentalism to create a different kind of fiction than "I can read your mind".

I used to be super strict about the distinction between mentalism, mental magic and magic, as I learned it from the greats in mentalism, and on this forum. But I am tired of it. “


Exactly how and where it ends for most coming to mentalism from or through magic. Precisely how it tends to play out for most. Easier to bail than commit to get through the process to come out on the other side. Not worth it to most magicians.


There were some great and valuable insights that can be taken if one is willing to sift through all the noise and nonsense….

David Thiel “I cannot for the life of me understand how having an understanding of body language, NLP etc can help you divine a WORD or a NUMBER or any thought that isn't a feeling. (absolutely true - only in magicians land would seem a possibility, lol)

WitchDocChris Here's a radical thought: Don't lie.
Just use genuine skills and present them in an interesting and mysterious way.

Alexxander “The two question I'm essentially trying to answer for myself is:
Why am I able to know what people are thinking?
Why am I showing it to an audience?

MC Mirak - “I don't subscribe to most of the stereotypes around performing as listed by the OP. I guess, after reading a bunch here, I would be a magician who likes to perform mental magic.

Mr.Mindbender - “One popular moniker for a mentalist is a "mystery performer", but where is the mystery in explaining your (supposed) method to the audience? If you truly were using body language and NLP to accomplish your effects, would you blatantly announce it!?”

Mr. Wollery - “Any discussion of the different ways to present mentalism also edges toward the subject of how to define what is and is not mentalism in the first place. I think ultimately the question is what do you want to say with your performance? Do you want to say that you can read minds? Do you want to say you can read body language? Do you want to say you can get information from the Universal Mind? Do you want to say that your invisible friend was watching over their shoulder and whispered it in your ear? What is the story you are telling the audience?”


To me no one is hitting on the one thing that should be of most concern on a foundational level. For those here that are just hobbyists and amateurs, I am not talking about you. I am talking about anyone doing this part or full-time with the intend of earning income from their performance, and having a marketable and sellable show for profit. Where someone is paying to see or have your mentalism performance. All the rest is just for fun and self-fulfillment. But for those I’m talking to you all seem to be missing a main and crucial point that can steer and determine all of this…

Mr. Wollery was close or getting there.

Let the show continue…
Message: Posted by: funsway (Oct 23, 2020 07:14PM)
What is really amazing, Mindpro, is your apparent fascination with self -
that by posturing yourself as against some rephrased post, and then offering your opinions as fact,
somehow elevates these opinions to higher certainty.

Nope - still just opinions with no shred of evidence to support your 'self-proclaimed" superiority of view.

But, let me predict. Next year you will repeat a pattern of attacking phrases out of context and suggest that some people are moving closer to something but not quite there.

One statement is worth pondering - "with the intend of earning income from their performance, and having a marketable and sellable show for profit."

Please explain why this should be a standard for defining Mentalism or any other activity. You put down - "Self-fulfillment?" Why do you want to earn money?
Why do you wish folks to hang on your opinions as a specialized truth?
Why limit other people's options to just "hobbiest, amateur or 'intent on making money'?" You just don't get it.
Message: Posted by: Alexxander (Oct 24, 2020 05:06AM)
Mindpro, what is the main and crucial point everybody is missing here?
Message: Posted by: j100taylor (Oct 24, 2020 06:53AM)
[quote]On Oct 24, 2020, Alexxander wrote:
Mindpro, what is the main and crucial point everybody is missing here? [/quote]

Noooo! Why?
Message: Posted by: Djin (Oct 24, 2020 08:38AM)
I'm not a pro. That said I'll throw my two cents in anyway.

How far you can go, what you can get your audience to believe, depends on you and your audience. People will swallow hook line and sinker that which reinforces what they already think they know. If the body language and psychology approach is in line with their beliefs, you can push that as far as your skill allows. If they believe that their tinfoil hat is blocking CIA mind control rays, then you may get them on board with your recently regained suppressed memories of having been a child MK ULTRA test subject that left you with these amazing abilities. There are people who want to hear about moonbeam power, enhanced brainwaves, demonic possession. All of it. The trick is twofold. Your ability to perform and your ability to "spot" the audience who is picking up what you're laying down.
Message: Posted by: Christopher Taylor (Oct 24, 2020 11:41AM)
I play this game professionally. I have come to realize that because of simply who I am, I am far more successful at convincing my audience that I can sense the energy-residue in an object handled by a participant than I am at convincing them I can read their minds. I have also TOTALLY convinced people I can bend metal. So, does all that mean I am a professional mentalist or Bizarre Magician? I don't care. I am being me and I get paid either way and my audience has fun.

Christopher
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Oct 24, 2020 12:56PM)
[quote]On Oct 24, 2020, Christopher Taylor wrote:
I am being me and I get paid either way and my audience has fun.
[/quote]

All the professionals that I talk to are completely in line with this. They also agree that there are no hard and fast rules about what is and isn't mentalism, only aesthetic choices.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Oct 24, 2020 01:00PM)
Frankly, as I go through old notebooks, I realize that brainstorming (which is at least part of what’s happening on this thread) will produce a lot of short-lived avenues that don’t get us where we want to go. But those ideas can get us closer just because they are outside the box we started in.

I get exasperated with Mindpro’s strong definition of mentalism sometimes, but I respect him for having it and I appreciate that he holds a line. I do wish I actually had a better understanding of his definition, but that seems to be a difficulty in communication.

However, with no offense intended to Mindpro or anyone else, shutting down folks who are contributing “what if” ideas or “maybe one could” ideas is counterproductive. I fully expect that 95% of the ideas in my notebooks won’t go anywhere. And that’s true of performance ideas as well as physical art I might plan out. If I lose my excitement for an art piece during the planning stages, I won’t make it. But the idea process is what gets me to my passion.

On subject, I think the core of mentalism is that it demonstrates what the human mind can (apparently) do. But most of the popular approaches are either psychic or psychological. Is there room to perform mentalism with a spiritual frame or does it become something else if that’s your premise? One of the lines Osterlind uses in his L&L videos is “I don’t know how I do this...” This seems a bit disarming and allows him to break out of the range abilities already shown without having to explain the ability now shown. I don’t really know what other theatrical premises might be the next game changer. But I don’t think shutting off brainstorming opportunities will help answer the question.

Patrick
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 25, 2020 10:14AM)
[quote]On Oct 24, 2020, Mr. Woolery wrote:
I get exasperated with Mindpro’s strong definition of mentalism sometimes, but I respect him for having it and I appreciate that he holds a line. I do wish I actually had a better understanding of his definition, but that seems to be a difficulty in communication.

Patrick [/quote]

Patrick, please understand that none of this has anything to do with my definition of mentalism, but rather only as it pertains to the OPs original post as intended for most here as mentalism within the magic community.

Also, my distinction between working professionals and hobbyists and amateurs was by no means meant to be offensive or dismissive, but rather than just to point out that those who work professionally have different perspectives, needs, expectations, and understandings especially as it pertains to getting bookings and making an income from performing. This factors into how they create and position their performances. It was from this position I was referring.

No offense taken.
Message: Posted by: WitchDocChris (Oct 26, 2020 08:38AM)
[quote]On Oct 24, 2020, Djin wrote:
I'm not a pro. That said I'll throw my two cents in anyway.

How far you can go, what you can get your audience to believe, depends on you and your audience. People will swallow hook line and sinker that which reinforces what they already think they know. If the body language and psychology approach is in line with their beliefs, you can push that as far as your skill allows. If they believe that their tinfoil hat is blocking CIA mind control rays, then you may get them on board with your recently regained suppressed memories of having been a child MK ULTRA test subject that left you with these amazing abilities. There are people who want to hear about moonbeam power, enhanced brainwaves, demonic possession. All of it. The trick is twofold. Your ability to perform and your ability to "spot" the audience who is picking up what you're laying down. [/quote]

I would counter this idea with a slightly different take.

You don't have to perform something that is within a person's specific beliefs. I seriously doubt most people have any serious beliefs on most of what we do on stage. Why would they? Psychic abilities or psychological skills are not something your average person is going to put much energy into thinking about; it just doesn't apply to their lives.

Most people have a generic sort of blanket belief in a variety of things, and if pushed can develop more of an opinion.

The key, in my opinion, to a good performance is in developing a narrative within the performance that makes the claimed demonstration seem plausible. Really, this applies to any theatrical endeavor that wants to achieve immersion.

Another way to put it - Spiderman can't fly. The established narrative of Spiderman gives him specific abilities, and if he suddenly used an ability outside of that set without explanation, people would instantly be pulled out of immersion because ... Spiderman can't fly.

The mistake I most commonly see is a performer failing to either properly establish the character/premise, or failing to stay within the established character/premise. IE: Starting a routine as a display of mind reading, then showing they had predicted the outcome ahead of time. Or claiming to be a mind reader and then bending metal. What do those things have to do with each other?

If the premise, character, and scripting all flow together, though, then you get the synergy required to get people to buy into it.
Message: Posted by: Jporter123 (Oct 26, 2020 03:35PM)
WitchDocChris. I don’t mean to start anything I just want clarification. You stated that the audience most likely does not put much thought into psychic abilities. If that is the case, then why does it matter if I read minds then bend metal? The audience has no idea if you can do that or not. And by said definition they don’t know much anyways. I guess I’m trying to understand these points is all
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 26, 2020 06:40PM)
That is one of the main benefits and appeal of mentalism is while some (audiences, lay people) may think they have an idea of what it is, they really don't know for sure. Their mindset stops at "this guy has some special abilities..."

As a performer and person in business, this creates many great and unique opportunities. This is where many miss this huge point (and amatuers and hobbyists haven't yet gotten to this point) that it (mentalism) shifts from being about you and what you think, want, and believe, to being more about the type of expecttions of others as I just gave and WitchDocCris was mentioning.
Message: Posted by: Socrates (Oct 27, 2020 03:32AM)
How about no presentation at all, it seems to work for David Blaine.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Oct 27, 2020 04:29AM)
"shifts from being about you and what you think, want, and believe, to being more about the type of expectations of others" - good advice.

Not limited to Mentalism, though. Any endeavor based on audience engagement can benefit from looking at affairs from the point of view of the other person(s) --
teacher, musician, clerk in candy store, magician, handyman ...

No sure why you think an "amateur" (one who does not accept pay) cannot have that knowledge or knowledge?
If anything, being concerned over getting a repeat billing might dilute concern over what is best of the observer, or bias selection of effect as to time or "amount of pay."

Yes, we can all agree, methinks, that many "new to performing" choose what is easy, popular, cheap or "all about me."

Maybe it is more "growth" than "shift" - and good mental based effects do require at least an illusion of interpersonal connection more than "wanna see a card trick." (opinion)

Sadly, few in any audience today have expectations not borrowed from social media, or wants not plunked in head by a marketer (politicians and religious folks included).

I would suggest that most spectators do have a notion about paranormal stuff, but no depth of understanding - so they are open to being taught or swayed as to what is important or 'real.'
Folks paying to see a known Mentalist may have personal experience and be looking for validation more that enlightenment.
Some may be confused over what a Mentalist does vs a conjuror, hypnotist, psychic, etc. - and need some gentle guidance in to theme.

So, would it not be prudent to start off a show with effect/demonstration designed to measure the extent of experience or expectations before plunging into some "deep stuff?"
You can use all of your empathic and non-verbal skills to gauge reaction to phrases and themes while building trust and focused attention.

I am amazed by a performer in any endeavor who has a set list of 'favorites' to inflict on all audiences and settings.
Even an actor who has an exact script to follow strives to make that evening's performance unique and special for the audience of the moment (professional or amateur).

Even more sad (to me) is evidence that many spectators today will be "more entertained" by poor performances they "can figure out" than good effects that require then to think or be involved emotionally.

Just what does a lay spectator in a general audience expect of Mentalist? Does that change if they know the performer is being paid?

I remember one performer of old who knew that he might be recognized at any time and be asked to perform. So, when entering a restaurant or store
he would drop key words or draw attention objects. He was alert to people's reactions and interests at all times - always "on" to discovering interest and expectations.
If he did perform later he was astounding as his selection of effect or story line was alive to that particular group of people.

Not sure that would work today with so many people lost in a cellphone, but a good peformer does not have to wait for the curtain to go up in order to connect ...
Message: Posted by: WitchDocChris (Oct 27, 2020 08:27AM)
[quote]On Oct 26, 2020, Jporter123 wrote:
WitchDocChris. I don’t mean to start anything I just want clarification. You stated that the audience most likely does not put much thought into psychic abilities. If that is the case, then why does it matter if I read minds then bend metal? The audience has no idea if you can do that or not. And by said definition they don’t know much anyways. I guess I’m trying to understand these points is all [/quote]

Because when you switch up the ability being displayed without giving context for the switch, you are breaking the narrative that has been established. It's poor story telling, and poor stories don't engage and immerse. It's difficult for an audience to immerse themselves or engage in the performance if they are constantly trying to figure out what's going on.

In my experience it's often not even a fully conscious thought on the audience's part. Most of them won't actually think (or say), "Why does being able to read minds let him bend metal?" What will generally happen is they will walk away thinking, "I wonder how he did those tricks." Which, if that's goal that's fine, but that's not mentalism.

[quote]On Oct 27, 2020, Socrates wrote:
How about no presentation at all, it seems to work for David Blaine. [/quote]

David Blaine has plenty of presentation - he just doesn't have much spoken scripting. His presentation is in his body language, his clothing, his mannerism - his whole brand, really. All of that is calculated and done completely on purpose.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 27, 2020 09:02AM)
He's also not a mentalist
Message: Posted by: Ray Pierce (Oct 27, 2020 10:01AM)
[quote]On Oct 27, 2020, Mindpro wrote:
He's also not a mentalist [/quote]

I agree, he tends to position himself as an "exceptional artist" which transcends any title we can define. Smart if you can pull it off.
Message: Posted by: WitchDocChris (Oct 27, 2020 12:17PM)
[quote]On Oct 27, 2020, Mindpro wrote:
He's also not a mentalist [/quote]

True.
Message: Posted by: Pepsi Twist (Jan 5, 2021 05:48PM)
Hey Alexander, cool thread (and name), I agree with you that 'Look what I can do' is quite a boring story to tell with your magic/mentalism, personally I think that if the story isn't worth telling without the trick, then it isn't worth telling with the trick.
I'm spending a lot of time trying to make mentalism stuff more audience-centric as well,and having quite a hard time. Magic tricks are usually pretty easy, but revealing a word or something just doesn't have that outcome they can see and click that things aren't right. I'm sure there are plenty of great ways to do it though, keep on trying!
Message: Posted by: Martin Pulman (Jan 6, 2021 02:19AM)
[quote]On Oct 25, 2020, Mindpro wrote:

Also, my distinction between working professionals and hobbyists and amateurs was by no means meant to be offensive or dismissive, but rather than just to point out that those who work professionally have different perspectives, needs, expectations, and understandings especially as it pertains to getting bookings and making an income from performing. This factors into how they create and position their performances. It was from this position I was referring. [/quote]
And yet you dismiss the work of Derren Brown. I would have thought he had "created and positioned his performances" in order to "get bookings and make an income" rather well. I suspect any clients you have would be very grateful for his income and position in the world of Mentalism. He is the one of the most successful and most talented mentalists in the world.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Jan 6, 2021 06:30AM)
I am surprised at some of the responses here. The theme is "alternate premises" not a definition of mentalism or even how to present or frame the premise.

If is were to ask, "What are alternate hair colors" I do not want opinions only from hair stylists. I want them from everyone who know what hair is and can see colors.
Any later question of which dying method is better is a completely different question.

I like to explore ideas from diverse sources on any subject, feeling confident that I can sort out the kernel from the chaff.
Please don't suppress possible ideas because of some personal bias or prejudice.

Also, the notion that only methods used by money making folks is standard seems strange. That can be one standard for deciding what approach to use
with a similar audience base - never as a standard for considering an idea or premise.

"If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always did."

For me - I desire the ability to choose premise and presentation based on audience expectations, setting, time restraints and more. I need a full pouch of options. I may choose a mental based effect, conjuring, a story or none of those. Please keep the ideas coming, but do not limit the flow of ideas just because they don't work for you.

Yes, I know I am not a "real mentalist" because I don't charge money for a performance and never pretend that I have special powers. I just demonstrate interesting things that my audience considers impossible or highly improbable for them. I desire to kindle imagination and potentials, never to limit them.

So - a premise for mentalism is, "Take what the audience expects and hopes for in life and give them a vision of more."
Message: Posted by: Mobius (Apr 10, 2021 07:00AM)
David Thiel wrote:
I have one declarative statement I use all the time and every single word is true: "I am not doing anything here onstage that you couldn't do with the proper training, techniques, methods, experience and intuition." That's it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That will do!
Message: Posted by: Scott (Apr 10, 2021 09:03AM)
I'm a bit late to this thread,

Normally I start reading and then as soon as people start !@#$%ing at each other my eyes glaze over and I move on, but scattered within this thread there has been some good advice. I've been a hobbyist, a part time pro, a full time pro, a hobbyist again and then for the last two and a half decades a full time pro once more.

It took me a long time to settle into a premise that suits me and is consistent with the types of effects I perform, that said does your premise need to be consistent?

Some have suggested that reading minds then bending metal for instance is out of context, but I grew up watching Uri Geller, read minds, bend metal, stop and start watches, predict outcomes, locate objects in small containers, duplicate hidden drawings, demonstrate remote viewing and germinate seeds etc. At the time a large proportion of the general public believed he was the real deal, mind you it was the 1970's.

Did he bill himself as a magician, a mentalist, a psychic, a mystery worker. To be honest I really can't remember I'm not sure he actually Pidgeon holed himself like most of us tend to do.

I can't suggest ideas for an alternative premise all I can do is share a quote that I read in 1986, one that changed my thought process with regards to the performance of mentalism. The quote at the time was originally aimed at magicians but I think today it is just as relevant to mentalists.

[quote]The magician of today has become a charlatan, a presenter of tricks and puzzles, and is no longer the figure and symbol of man's conquest of his environment. The modern magician does not concern himself with the creation of a believable role as a master of transcendent powers. He instead portrays himself as just another variety of entertainer.


He must at least for the duration of his performance bridge the believability threshold between everyday reality and the superstitious core that lies within us all.

Steven Minch - The Lovecraftian Ceremonies 1979[/quote]

In my case, trying to "bridge the believability threshold" (and I'm still actively working on it) has consisted of a lot of experimentation, experience, and years and years of getting it wrong. I have the feeling that if I had been willing to just go with the 'as long as my audience is entertained' mind set, I'd have made a lot more money over the years.

What I am trying to say (I think) is that from a commercial standpoint, the magician doing mental tricks, the modern mentalist reading body language or the Psychic entertainer approaches, are easier to sell than the premise that you are an evolutionary advanced alien from a distant galaxy who can tap into the universal energy that surrounds us all.
Message: Posted by: CurtWaltermire (Apr 14, 2021 12:21PM)
"So how much do you study psychology?" someone asked me this past weekend after my comedy club comedy mind-reading show that ended with me doing a strip tease dance, and my shirt half-off and a predicted word written in magic marker on my chest and the crowd laughing hysterically and going wild.

I find it hilarious that someone would ask such a serious question after seeing my crazy 75-minute comedy club show. But regardless of my ridiculous and comedic style of presentation, there's always someone who takes me a bit too seriously. Almost ALWAYS.

"Not as much as you probably think," was my response. After he and his girlfriend pressed me a bit harder, I told them what I tell everyone who pressures me for an explanation of sorts--"It's just entertainment."

We went on to have a nice and fun conversation, and I didn't make a big deal out of shooting down their desire to believe it is something "more," nor did I smother them with false premises or explanations of my supposed "abilities."

The vast majority of people, including everyone else in the club, walk past as they are leaving and smile at me and say "that was really fun" or "thanks for a great show" and one guy even said "Dude! I wasn't really expecting much but THAT WAS REALLY GREAT!"

My approach has been the same for many years. I consider myself like a Harlem Globetrotter of mentalism/magic--complete with all of the skills of ball-handling and playing the game, entertaining to watch, but no one expects me to compete on any real level and win any championships.