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Socrates

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Reply with quote  #1 
As soon as Derren Brown appeared on the scene mentalism became instantly popular, and now all these years later it's booming. To my way of thinking it is really just another form of magic, except it delves into the mind of the audience. However, it still relies on secret methods and subtle techniques, yet it is more likely to be taken as real by some - I guess those folk must convince themselves it is so.

“Try never to lie to your audience.  Rather, allow them to lie to themselves” – Michael Weber

Great advice there from Mr. Weber, but I wonder if it is better to present genuine mental skills and allow the audience to experience the true potential of the human mind... Harry Lorayne performed his memory demos to great acclaim, and Ormond McGill wrote about such things in his book 'Real Mental Magic'.

So why pretend?

Just a thought!


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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #2 
Um, because there's no evidence to support the existence of psychic phenomena? Pretending is powerful. Pretending allows us to imagine. By extension we can offer our spectators an opportunity to join us as we explore the impossible. The ability to read minds, to see the future, to know what's coming, is universal. More than flight or invisibility or teleportation, the ability to pierce the veil of time is probably one our oldest collective dreams.

Feats of memory or mathematics are different. They are demonstrations of skill. We can watch in awe, but still understand that we are witnessing the possible.

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Nathan_himself

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Reply with quote  #3 

So there is a lot to unpack and maybe I'm not the right guy for the job. But seeing how I exclusively perform material that is classified as "mentalism", I think I might have some insight to offer. That being said, my opinions are subject to change. 

Firstly, I think mentalism is a wide net, so what I consider mentalism might be different from what others perceive as mentalism. So my answers are solely based on my experience and my opinions. 

Anthony is completely correct, there is no evidence for real psychic phenomena. But the pseudo-methods presented by many mentalist (photographic memory, reading body language, covert hypnosis, etc) aren't scientifically accurate either. So either way, the performer is "pretending". The only difference between the two is that narrative they want to tell. Do they want to tell a story of paranormal powers? Do they want to weave a story of science fiction?  As long as the audience is aware of the context of the performance (understanding that it is a theatrical performance) I don't really care what the performer claims.* The end goal should always be to entertain the audience to the best of our abilities. 

As far as "real methods", I think they have their place. I use both hypnosis and CMR in my work with great success. But I also see a ton of value in using billets, peek wallets, and impression pads to help elevate mind reading. I should mention that I don't use any memory displays, but I don't see the harm in using real memory displays with a "pretend" method. I am reminded of Ricky Jay and his amazing abilities. He had phenomenal slight of hand, but was still open to using gaff cards. 

 

*This isn't to say that I am okay with people claiming to have real powers and be able to contact the dead. I am firmly anti-conman. That being said, I also think its unethical for a performer with zero experience or formal education in sales to teach at training seminars. Either way, the person is using methods to attempt to pass themselves off as the real thing. I find both dishonest and problematic. 


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Socrates

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Reply with quote  #4 
Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

When 'Magic & Meaning' by Eugene Burger & Robert E. Neale was first published it introduced me to a new concept - the power of blending real abilities with magical techniques.  Doing so creates a multi-layered performance that can engage the audience's imagination, open their minds to question what is truly possible and also assists us in deepening the mystery.

Demonstrating the true potential of the mind in mentalism could also include the ability to pretend.

Like Anthony says pretending is powerful as it allows us to imagine the improbable - being able to do so is extremely useful to our magic and life.  In another post on the forum I mentioned Enrique's 'Act Of The Imagination' and I am now beginning to wonder if perhaps all magic is based on engaging the audience, and encouraging them to recognize the power of imagination we all possess.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand" - Albert Einstein"
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Nathan_himself

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Reply with quote  #5 

Magic and Meaning is one of my favorite books and is a major reason I started using CMR and learning real reading systems. For me, mixing both "real" methods and "pretend" methods adds a texture to the act that can't be replicated. It often blurs the line separating reality from fiction. To me, the act of blurring the line is one of the best experiences in the art. 

As you mentioned, Enrique's book is a masterclass on engaging an audience in a way they probably never experienced. It is something I always try to incorporate in my work because it often builds a real connection between the audience and the performer. I would also agree, the performer that leads the audience on a journey through imagination (much like Willy Wonka) is doing the world a huge favor. For example, I often work on ideas based around Spectator as Mind Reader and Spectator as Remote Viewer. These effects engage both the people on and off stage. They present people with a new reality that they have never experienced.  

But I digress. 

I personally feel as if mentalism only benefits from a mixture of real methods and the more "pretend" methods. It adds texture and excitement. It also creates a layer of credibility to the performance that lacks in many peoples presentations of mentalism. 


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Senor Fabuloso

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Reply with quote  #6 
There IS psychic phenomena.

Psychic - of or relating to the psyche aka psychogenic (Websters)

Psychogenic - originating in the mind or in mental or emotional conflict (Websters)

Phenomena - nonstandard (Websters)

So together psychic phenomena would indicate nonstandard or unusual mental conflict.

I have fit that definition on more than one occasion, I can assure you.

But to answer the question why mentalism? For me it's because it is real in the sense that, together we share a commonality that connects us to each other. Our shared human experiences can create empathic understandings, giving us real insights into the human condition. And hopefully in our performances, convey an empowerment of hope that together, nothing is impossible. Honestly this was also a goal of my magic but mentalism seem more suited and acceptable, to the lay.

That's why for me.

 

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