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Mind Phantom

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As we all know, some mentalism can be very strong when presented properly. And every one in a while we will come across someone who believes that certain people have supernatural abilities like John Edward & James Van Praagh and the Long Island medium or, even yourself.

What do you say to these people ? Do you try to change their minds ?

In my thinking, I am not in the business of trying to change other peoples belief about what they believe. I am presenting entertainment, that's all.
 
My mother believes that people can bend spoon's with their minds.

Do you try to set people straight ? What do you say to someone who believes YOU have super psychic powers even after you have given your disclaimer ?
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Nathan_himself

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Because of the mentalism I often perform and the presentations I find the most interesting, I often get asked if I'm the real deal. I often say something along the lines of "I am whatever you believe me to be." with a cheeky little smile and a wink. I try to avoid actual conversations about it because strong opinions are bad for business. I would never set them "straight" or tell them what to think. I never say I'm psychic, but I never say that I am a master NLP-er and body language expert. I usually just say I'm a mind reader and an entertainer. I like to balance in this space between real and fake, with both methods and presentations. 

However, when I did present myself as a "Psychological performer" that read body language and etc., I was told: "Pretending not to have psychic powers is a good cover for your real abilities". Now that I perform in a more esoteric fashion I get told: "you can read peoples body language so well."

People are going to believe whatever they want, I will have little impact on that. I personally don't believe in "real" psychic abilities, but I'm also not arrogant enough to say that I'm infallible. I'm also not arrogant enough to make someone feel stupid for believing in something. I love The Amazing Randi, but I don't want his job. I'd much rather perform strong mentalism and make people see it as an art, not change their beliefs.  

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Gerald Deutsch

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I met a fellow magician on a train and i asked him where he was going.

He said he belongs to a club of mental magicians and they are having a meeting.

I asked why a meeting was necessary.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #4 
I am in China right now. The level of superstition is very high. For example rubbing this jade gives you luck. Wearing a jade bracelet protects you. Green tea cures just about everything etc. 

Read Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World" for a perspective on believing in nonsensical things. Also Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things. 

M
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Anthony Vinson

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
I am in China right now. The level of superstition is very high. For example rubbing this jade gives you luck. Wearing a jade bracelet protects you. Green tea cures just about everything etc. 

Read Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World" for a perspective on believing in nonsensical things. Also Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things. 

M


Yes! A thousand times, yes! Both are excellent recommendations. Belief in the supernatural is irrational. Apply Hitchens' razor: the burden of proof lies with the claimant. 
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Nathan_himself

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Although I agree that belief in the supernatural isn't rational, I don't see a problem with people believing in it. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone else and they can believe in anything. 
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Anthony Vinson

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan_himself
Although I agree that belief in the supernatural isn't rational, I don't see a problem with people believing in it. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone else and they can believe in anything. 


My mother believed in angels. Whenever she was in a "near miss" circumstance she credited an angel with being there to keep her safe. While seemingly harmless, I watched this irrational belief lead her to incredibly risky behaviors - based on her health conditions - toward the end of her life. After all, an angel would protect her... 

No, I could not disagree more, Nathan. Consider homeopathy or chiropractic or other alternative medicines. Belief in those things can and often does lead to harm. Or what of astrology? Many people have their charts prepared by so-called professional astrologers and live their lives based on the readings. Harmless? Perhaps, but what potentially harmful behaviors might result from those beliefs?

Yes, a person may believe what they wish, but a rational person strives to base their beliefs on evidence. To quote Dr. Sagan, "What's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?"   
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Blathermist

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerald Deutsch
I met a fellow magician on a train and i asked him where he was going.

He said he belongs to a club of mental magicians and they are having a meeting.

I asked why a meeting was necessary.

What was his reply?
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Blathermist

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Reply with quote  #9 
Nothing to do with mentalism, but on the subject of believers, I want audiences to believe that I'm the best/greatest most fantabulous cardman they're ever seen or are ever likely to see.
It's not that difficult to achieve, even if the feeling only lasts a few minutes.
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Nathan_himself

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Yes, a person may believe what they wish, but a rational person strives to base their beliefs on evidence.  


My favorite quote in the world is "I know one thing; that I know nothing."

Socrates was a very intelligent man but wasn't infallible. I am a pretty smart guy, but I'm not arrogant enough to think I am infallible or I know whats best for other people. 

Because I know nothing, it is never my place to tell someone else what to believe and not to believe. My personal beliefs are not exempt from being incorrect, nor is it my place to try to change someone's beliefs. Like I said, I am a performer and nothing more. My goal is to entertain, not preach. 

If I'm asked if I'm psychic, I say no. If I'm asked if psychics are real, I say I don't know. 

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Anthony Vinson

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan_himself


My favorite quote in the world is "I know one thing; that I know nothing."


One of my favorite quotes is, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

While I understand the sentiment behind the quotation you cite, I personally do know a thing or two. Life has provided me with lessons and I have elected to retain and apply them. We live, we learn, we grow. Hopefully. Belief in the supernatural is irrational. It is also potentially harmful. I accept the irrational, but cannot willing tolerate the potentially harmful and will never hesitate to bring it to the attention of those who may be in danger. To that end I would never tell someone what to believe or not to believe, but would, rather, apply the Socratic method and perhaps inspire them to think beyond their limitations. 

 Don't forget that Socrates also said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

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Nathan_himself

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I love Socrates! I'm a firm believer that we should examine the world we inhabit. 

What I was attempting to convey with that quotation is that everything I think I know could be disproven any moment. Rational thinking seeks to find certainty. But the one thing I truly know is that the natural state of the world is uncertainty, but even that isn't certain [wink]. I digress. 

I agree that there is a potential danger is the belief of supernatural things. I just don't think it is my place to teach those dangers. If I'm asked, I will give my opinion. But 99% of the time I'm not asked about psychics, I'm just revealing information using my peek wallet. 

Thank you for your insights, Anthony! I think we just see the world from different views. 



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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan_himself
...
Rational thinking seeks to find certainty.
...

I'm sorry, but this statement is invalid.

Rational thinking has nothing to do with certainty or uncertainty - it identifies a style of thinking based on evidence, logic and reason rather than impulse or whimsy.  Pursuing a line of rational thought is just as likely (if not more likely) to lead to a recognition of uncertainty as it is to a perception of certainty.  I would suggest that irrational thinking is more likely to lead to certainty than rational thinking is.  In the context of this discussion, when a rational thinker witnesses a mentalist perform it is entirely possible for them to conclude "I am uncertain about the method that was used to gain that information, but my rational analysis leads me to conclude that it was not supernatural." whereas an irrational thinker may conclude "That had to be mind-reading.  There is no other explanation." 

However it would be fair to say that rational thinking, as a practical tool, seeks to provide confidence.  Given alternatives, the rational thinker seeks to reason out which of them is most likely to be true (or in the case of alternative actions, which is most likely to lead to a positive outcome).  The rational thinker uses evidence, logic and reason to attain confidence that his/her explanations are consistent with reality, and his/her choices are consistent with his/her personal values and goals.

Rational thinking is not inconsistent with insanity.  In the Batman stories, the Joker is profoundly insane (in terms of his perception of the world and his choices of goals), but at the same time completely rational in his ability to develop plans to achieve them. 

With regards to the question of what to say if asked about "real powers", here is an analogy.  The forests in Ontario are home to a plant called poison ivy.  This plant secretes an oil which causes extremely painful and long-lasting rashes on human skin.  Because it is an oil, attempting to wipe or wash the afflicted area usually spreads the oil to the hands and then to other parts of the body.  The oil can persist on clothing and other surfaces for up to a year.  It's very bad news.  What's worse, the plant is quite hard to identify because it looks a lot like hundreds of other plants that are not harmful in the least (typical description of poison ivy: "Leaves appear in groups of three." ... this is true of about 90% of the plants in our forests.)

Now let's suppose that you have trained yourself to recognize this nasty plant.  You may even be among the 15% of the population who are immune to it.  You've just walked a trail along which you discovered poison ivy, and you meet a family about to set off down that path.  Do you tell them?  No of course not ... because it's not your place to teach them about the danger ... right?


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Nathan_himself

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Reply with quote  #14 
I don't think my statement is invalid, I think it is oversimplified. It wasn't my main point of contention, so I didn't flush out my entire idea on the subject of rational thought.  

My main point is that my job as a performer is not to police peoples beliefs, it is to give theatrical performances. As I have said, when I'm asked about my opinions of psychics, I tell them my skepticism towards them. That being said, I'm not going to go out of my way to preach against it. Like I said, I am not The Amazing Randi nor do I want to be. I'm more interested in being Nathan. 

Fun fact: When I was a kid, we were taught what poison ivy looked like and how to treat it when I was in grade school. Maybe more schools should teach that! [wink]

Just different world views, my friend. Neither side is right or wrong, just different opinions. 

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Rudy Tinoco

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Reply with quote  #15 
What a great topic! Thanks Logan Five! I can always count on you to present our community with some interesting points to consider.

I'm grateful to you fellas for providing us with some deep insights to consider and presenting them in such a respectful way.

Thank you!

Rudy

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #16 
Nathan_himself wrote: Because I know nothing, it is never my place to tell someone else what to believe and not to believe. My personal beliefs are not exempt from being incorrect, nor is it my place to try to change someone's beliefs. Like I said, I am a performer and nothing more. My goal is to entertain, not preach.

But you do know things. If you encountered another human being whose irrational beliefs were placing them or others in danger would you not attempt to intercede? 

Beliefs should proportion themselves with evidence. Beliefs that defy evidence are irrational by definition. If evidence appears that contradicts any particular belief, the rational and reasonable response is to reconsider and perhaps even change those beliefs to comport with the new evidence. Beliefs can be dangerous or benign. Dangerous beliefs should and often must be confronted.

As a father it was and is my responsibility to teach and counsel my children. As a non-commissioned officer in the military it was my responsibility to teach and counsel my soldiers. As a corporate human resource manager and trainer I constantly worked to align beliefs with objectives. (As a freelance trainer and writer I still do.) As a humanist it is my responsibility to help others when I am able, and this sometimes includes helping people of question irrational beliefs. Not changing their minds, but changing their perspectives so that they may, on their own, examine beliefs that might be harmful.

As a performer... Okay, I cede your point. To a point.

The two books Mike mentioned in his earlier post are worth your consideration - They may even inspire you to challenge some of your beliefs about belief. I'd recommend Sagan's book first. While I love Shermer's books, his writing sometimes leans to the thicker, academic style. 
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Nathan_himself

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Reply with quote  #17 

If I met someone that was spending thousands of dollars on faith healers instead of modern medicine, I would speak up. If I knew someone that was being sucked dry by a "psychic" that could contact their dead mother, I would share my beliefs on the subject. These are rare cases that I haven't encountered.

 I also see beliefs as something deeply personal. I believe that I should have respect for all beliefs, regardless if I agree with them or not. You have your beliefs and I have my beliefs. Some of my beliefs are not entirely rational. Does having those beliefs make me less intelligent than those without those beliefs? No. Why? Because Humans are capable of complex and abstract thoughts. I'm able to believe in something supernatural and still graduate with a 3.5 GPA from a great college with two degrees. (I'm a recent college graduate, so I guess I do know some things [wink].)

My point was not to say that we shouldn't challenge these beliefs, but I choose not to do so in performance. That is why I always returned to the point that I am just a performer. When I perform, I'm paid to give a theatrical experience, not to preach about rational thought. I also make no claims in having powers, but I don't make claims of using pseudo-psychological methods.  I simply perform and some of the things I really enjoy doing are far more esoteric than many other performers. Because of the strength of some of this material, I don't want to diminish the power of effect by explaining it away with a lesson in rational thinking.

 I've also read both of the books Mike mentioned. I've made it a habit to read a book a week. I also agree that Shermer's book is a dense read, but nothing out of the ordinary from things I usually read. I believe that we just have two different views on this, Anthony. I respect your opinions, I just see the world from a different perspective. So, if it okay with you, I agree to disagree. 


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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #18 
Agree to disagree? Naturally! Isn't that the point and purpose of the discussion?! [smile]
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Will Jung

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Reply with quote  #19 
Shin Lim says that he doesn't claim to have super natural powers. He presents his performances as carefully structured and choreographed pieces of art. 

I personally is a follower by this. One time after I performed, a lady asked me if I could change the size of her nose. She was joking, obviously, but if she was serious, and I DID claim to have supernatural powers, I might have found myself in a strange situation....


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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #20 
Not surprisingly I'm with Anthony and Robin. They've already expressed the "rational viewpoint" and rebutted some views about that viewpoint that needed to be corrected IMO.

I think it was Mark Twain that Anthony quoted above. Great quote!

Mike
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
I think it was Mark Twain that Anthony quoted above. Great quote!


Circle get the square! Yes, indeed, attributed to Mr. Clemons. One of my favorite authors and the source of so many great quotes.
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