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Alexxander
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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
funsway
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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 ...
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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David Thiel
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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
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.


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Christopher Taylor
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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
Christopher Taylor

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www.taylorimagineering.com

MAKING MENTALISM MORE IMPOSSIBLE
Jporter123
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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
Mr. Mindbender
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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."
Mac_Stone
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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.
Mr. Woolery
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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
funsway
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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.



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?
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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funsway
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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?'
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



ShareBooks at www.eversway.com * questions at funsway@eversway.com
MC Mirak
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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?


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.
Mac_Stone
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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.


And yet there are just as many stories that are equally as successful BECAUSE the mystery remains unresolved.
Mr. Mindbender
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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.
Alexxander
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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


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...
mindmagic
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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
Mac_Stone
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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.
luiscubanmentalist
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This is what I love about David Blaine.

He just does.
Philemon Vanderbeck
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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.
Professor Philemon Vanderbeck
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Mark Timon
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Giving a false rational explanation of how you accomplish your mentalism takes away the mystery of your performance.
landmark
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Quote:
Do people market something other than entertainment, because then, maybe, I'd see the issue?

Yes.
E.g. John Edward
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