Mentalism vs Mental Magic and where to start

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by Maaz Hasan, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. I've heard so many different variations of the definition of these 2 things that I'm not sure which is which. This thread is here to try and find a loose definition.

    From what I understand, Mental Magic is a form of magic where you use intuition and intelligence about something to gain information and present it like magic.

    On the other hand, Mentalism is a demonstration of a psychological power.

    Is this at all right? And if so, wouldn't the 2 heavily overlap each-other? Or is it a difference based solely on how you present it?

    Now if I were to begin trying to learn one of the two, is there a difference in what I would learn in Anneman's Practical Mental Magic and Corinda's 13 Steps to Mentalism? What about Bob Cassidy's works? And which one do Karl Fulves' Self-Workers fall under?

    If I'm going to start in one, how can I keep it separate from the other? Or does it not matter?

    Thanks in advance guys
  2. Mental Magic is a magic trick with a presentation that is based on psychic phenomena. Mentalism is the demonstration of psychic abilities. But, the lines are not clear.

    A book test where you discern the word that someone selected from a book falls within mentalism. Rich Furguson's (where the selected word appears on the spectators arm) is mental magic. Most card tricks with a psychic phenomena presentation are mental magic (see, for example, Bannon's Mentalisimo). I tend to think that cards should not be used in mentalism, but other more famous and well known than me disagree (e.g. T.A. Waters). A good example of mental magic are effects where there is a predicted card or Steinmeyer's Dining Out where there is a prediction of the tab for a multi-course dinner ordered by a spectator. Good examples of mentalism are Q&A routines, second sight routines, Hellstromism, drawing duplications, cold readings, etc. and include palmistry and Tarot.

    I think that mental magic is performed in a way to encourage suspension of disbelief, while mentalism is performed to encourage belief.

    Fulves and Annemann contain mental magic and effects that can be presented as pure mentalism. 13 Steps is mentalism as is the work of Bob Cassidy. Other authors are Leslie, Banachek, Waters, Maven (although some of his effects may be more mental magic).

    Ultimately, I think the biggest difference is the context of the show. Mental magic can be included as part of a magic show without any reduction in the impact of the effect. However, if a pure mentalism routine is done as part of a magic show it's impact will be reduced in that it will appear to be just another trick rather than a demonstration of true abilities.
    Al e Cat Dabra and Maaz Hasan like this.
  3. Thanks

    So it doesn't really matter which of the books I end up learning from, but rather how I end up presenting it?
  4. For the most part. A great example is the tossed out deck. How you perform it and what you perform before and after it matter in how it is perceived. If you reveal the cards selected by the audience members verbally, it looks more like mentalism. If you turn over giant playing cards on stage as the reveal it looks more like magic. If you follow the tossed out deck with a Q&A routine it seems more like mentalism but if your next trick is the linking rings, it is more like mental magic. I believe that true mentalism and magic shouldn't be mixed. Don't do a drawing duplication and then a cups and balls routine. The juxtaposition of the effects weakens the effect of the mentalism because it looks like a magic trick.

    Labeling tricks as mentalism is a great selling point, but you can't really use those labels. There is a great card trick that is taught on Robert Smith's Psypher video called Name and Card. My sense is that is an amazing mental magic routine because of the number of card magic related effects in the routine. To make it more mentalism, I would just take the part of the routine where someone writes down the name of the person and determine various things about the person through various reading techniques before discerning what the name is.

    Often in mentalism, less is more. After a charity mental magic show that was put on by one of my friends, the organizer (who knew that I had helped develop parts of the show) was talking to me and said something like "it would have been really neat to be one of the people called up on stage... but I'm glad he picked different people from the audience." My response was, "do you want to see what it would be like?" She agreed and I picked up a book that was used in the performance and had her select a page and a word or phrase on that page. I then proceeded to slowly reveal what she was thinking. Pure and simple. I suspect she will always remember the exact phrase she picked... I know I do and that was the first and only time I've ever used that book to do something like that.

    In mental magic, performers typically are exactly on, in mentalism, performers sometimes are more powerful is they are just a little off - "your friend's name is Bob... what did you write down? Robert -- there you go!" Mental magic is to have someone pick three index cards, one with a city, one with a dinner choice and one with the name of a person and then reveal that they are thinking of eating Italian food in Paris with Mickey Mouse. Mentalism is to have them select a postcard from a city and then have them think of eating out and describe the restaurant, the food and the view they are imagining.

    Here is a great Introduction to Mentalism that is written by Kurt Browning.
    Maaz Hasan likes this.
  5. That intro is by Craig Browning, not Kurt. Tsk tsk.

    There's one easy way to differentiate mental magic and mentalism.

    Mental magic, like all magic, creates the suspension of disbelief. Mentalism actively creates belief.

    Anything a mentalist does, he does it as if it were real. This can be psychological (Derren Brown) or supernatural (Uri Geller). It requires a different theatrical approach, because everything has to revolve around claims that make sense, internally. Everything is based around specific claims. For myself, I'm a modern day Witch Doctor. I explore the potential of the human mind, energy work, and there's an under current of a deep understanding of human behavior because of those studies. Everything I do revolves around those concepts, and is presented as if I'm really doing what I claim to be doing (which, in many/most cases, I am)

    Mental magic is generally mentalism watered down to be more commercial. It takes the basic ideas, but turns them into tricks that always work. Basically - if the audience leaves wondering if you've shown them a genuine phenomena, you're probably in the realm of mentalism. If they walk away talking about how amazing your tricks were, you're doing mental magic.

    So it is largely based around presentation, but it's also the entire theatrical approach. Mentalists don't actually get to be "off". If you claim to read minds, then you better be prepared for someone to ask you to read their mind when they randomly run into you at the grocery store. Luckily, much of the work for mentalists is genuine skills, and the "tricks" tend to be systems that can be employed in a huge variety of ways once the performer has learned them properly.
    Maaz Hasan likes this.
  6. Figure skater... mentalist.... same thing.

    Speaking of that... I miss reading Craig's posts and, in a different way, miss @Steerpike (stumbled across a couple of his old posts list night). Do you keep in touch with either of them?
  7. Not super close. I'll PM you.
  8. Thanks guys! I get it now.

    Technique wise, since some things are essentially the same trick with a different presentation, I could try effects with both styles and figure out which one I like better.
  9. Yes, sort of.

    This is a little more difficult to explain until you experience it. If you're not committed completely, it's not mentalism. Two performers could do the same routine and one come across as "Real" and the other come across as "tricks" - depending on how committed they are to creating the presentation that comes across as genuine.

    So - the thing is - if people know you as a magician, you have to take that into consideration when creating a presentation. You have to acknowledge that they know you as a trickster - and convince them that this is different. It's not impossible, but you do have to think about that. Otherwise it will come across as more magic.

    Derren Brown addresses this in ... one of his books, regarding when he was transitioning to more pure psychological presentations. He'd do a set of card magic, and then say something like, "When a magician starts out, they learn sleight of hand, card tricks, that sort of thing. When they continue, they learn .... deeper secrets." That is extremely paraphrased but I think you'll see my point.

    The problem most magicians have when trying to perform mentalism is that they do it like it's another trick. You have to develop the inner script that you are doing this for real.

    I have taken straight up silly tricks and turned them into a display of mentalism. It's not the method, it's the theatrical approach.
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  10. This is pretty much exactly why I've been hesitant to jump into it. I have access to a mental magic book called "Easy-to-Master Mental Magic" by James Clark from my library, which is where I think I'll start before I move into other books like Practical Mental Magic and Bob Cassidy's Fundamentals, just so I can see if I really like it or not.

    I love watching people perform both mental magic and mentalism, but don't know if I'll necessarily enjoy performing it. If I don't, I'll be happy to continue just watching and let the magic happen.

    Thanks for the help guys!
  11. I am in the process of learning and understanding the distinctions between mental magic and mentalism, whereas for a long time, I believed (incorrectly so) that it was nothing more than a semantical difference. I believe, and I welcome others more knowledgeable than me to correct me if I am confused, that one of the important differences is that, in mentalism, the audience would be unlikely to attribute the mental-type effect they have witnessed to sleight of hand or to a particular prop.

    Consider the Invisible Deck (ID) as an example. The effect in an ID routine is that the performer reveals that the spectator's "thought-of" card is the only face-down card in the deck. In the ID routine, because the magician learns the identity of the spectator's card before the reveal, the spectator might understandably reason (albeit wrongly) that the effect was accomplished by deft sleight of hand ("I didn't see him do it, but somehow he flipped that card over when he was spreading the deck. The hand is quicker than the eye, you know.") Or certainly, the spectator could rationally deduce that the effect was accomplished due to the nature of the prop, in this case, the deck. However, let's say the performer reveals that there is one card face-down in the deck and that it is, in fact, the spectator's thought-of card, and that the performer is confirmed to have correctly made this revelation without first being told what the spectator's "thought-of" card was. (This happens to be a presentation of the ID that I have been working on, although I do not honestly know whether or not it is exclusively my own creation or someone else may have independently come up with the same idea). In any event, I am thinking that such a presentation is not one that could be chalked up to clever "sleight of hand" or to the "prop," and would therefore fall into the mentalism category, as opposed to the typical ID presentation, which would be mental magic. One would be considered a good, even a great "trick," while the other is likely to be perceived as the performer truly possessing ESP or some clairvoyant powers.

    Additionally, I am convinced that the context in which an effect is done is vitally important to the audience's perception. Even an effect that might otherwise have all the attributes of mentalism is likely to be written off as a "trick" if it is sandwiched in between, for example, a cards across routine and a cups and balls routine.
  12. That is part of what I mean by "encouraging belief". They have to believe that it's possible you really are doing what you say you are doing/have done.
    Maaz Hasan likes this.
  13. Yes, it makes a lot of sense. I appreciate that you and also Reality One have helped to enlighten me on what mentalism is about and how it clearly differs from mental magic. After decades of performing "magic," I am finding myself being drawn more and more toward mentalism.
  14. Greetings, all...I just joined. A brief word, to start: I was at a workshop a few months ago at which a major voice in magic told the collected attendees to stay away from forums (sigh). It seems to me that one of the benefits of forums is to allow us to have a modicum of contact in our often "lone ranger"-like lives.

    The mentalism/mental magic issue is of great interest to me, and not easily resolved. Reality One's definition above is a good one. It's a direction with more than one path...

    Case in point: If you haven't seen Luke Jermay's 45-minute demo of his Marksman Deck, you can find it at Vanishing, Inc. It's worth watching as he clearly crosses the line between the two paths. Jermay's exposition prior to all his effects with the deck easily demonstrates his desire to make the path one of belief (mentalism). I can tell you, though, that as purchaser of the deck (which, due to my poor vision, I won't be able to use), and having watched and read his included instructional material, the effects are card effects. Even excluding the fact that the deck is marked (a fact unknown to the spectators involved in the video), there are other card trick skills/prep involved. Again, I urge you to watch his approach and method. He is an experienced mentalist, and it is possible to look at the effects he performs as "beyond" the scope of card "tricks".

    Second case in point, and an interesting one: Scott Creasy's website is titled "Mental(Magic)ism". (How about that??) Creasy has one of the most applauded Q &A methods (mentalism) out there. And yet...he offers an e-book on cartomancy in which he explores adding mentalism elements to standard card tricks (mental magic??).

    On one hand, I don't mind either of these things. Does the definition matter for those of us who are seriously interested in both, and know where the line is--for us as performers? I guess I see the line as arbitrary. It's like Osterlind's admonition, in one of his videos, that mentalism is no place for comedy. And yet...I do Shawn Farquhar's "Sheer Luck" comedy book test. It's not a huge laugh-getter, but the blank pages shown to the crowd always get the "Whaaa?" response with smiles. Is Osterlind "right"?

    I enjoy close-up mentalism effects. Ronjo's "Emojination" is a fun, all-ages spin on ESP card prediction. For a more "serious" ESP demo, I use Max Krause's "Which One Will You Pick?" cards for a one-on-one effect. These are marked decks. Does that make them "mental magic", automatically, or is it in presentation where I prove unclaimed abilities?
  15. @tomyleft

    Welcome to the forums! I think you will find the feel of this forum a bit different than most others. The Magic Cafe and Genii forums have their uses (for me, typically researching the history of effects) but they also have their share of drama. The T11 forums have a higher number of users that are younger and that are new to magic. The ones that want to learn more than the secret to the latest trick tend to stick around and ask good questions (like this thread) with the goal of gaining a better understanding. There is a good mix of knowledgeable guy who have been around a while and who are willing to help out. I hope you stick around -- your first post tells me that you would be someone that would really add to the forums.

    The line between mentalism and mental magic is quite fuzzy when it comes to analyzing specific effects. Even T.A. Waters argued that you could use playing cards in mentalism. What I think makes the difference is how it is presented and what comes before and after the effect. A tossed out deck, followed by a Q&Q, followed by a drawing duplication done in a manner to encourage belief --- mentalism. A tossed out deck, followed by linking rings, followed by prediction effect, followed by a card to wallet all done as "tricks" -- mental magic.

    With that being said, any effects that I perform tend to be more mental magic because of the other material I present and how I present the material. I just want to be sure that nobody takes away that one is better than the other. There just are two different ways of presenting the material.
  16. @Tornyleft, welcome to this Forum. I believe that you will find it to be a special place. As that "major voice" in magic fades further and further into the distance, there will still be many people on here willing to share their thoughts, their knowledge, their experience, and even videos of their work. They will also guide us to source materials from which we can learn if we so choose. Each individual on here brings a unique perspective from which we can all learn and benefit. When people ask questions it challenges us to think and analyze and discuss. Same when people express their ideas and opinions. When we read and write on here, it not only gives us the opportunity to help others, but it forces us to think, and to evaluate and to re-valuate our tricks and routines and scripts and presentations, and to grow way beyond where we could have had we stayed, as you put it, "lone rangers." And the only cost is to have an open mind...
    RealityOne likes this.
  17. Many thanks, Reality One and Al e. While not a young man, I'm a "young" magic student, having only been in the field of study for a few years. Due to a background of being a performing musician, a teacher, and raised in a theatre family, I pay attention to performance issues. I like interaction with audiences, and this has probably led me to mentalism more than anything else (and, to be honest, I trust my mouth more than I trust my hands to carry off a difficult sleight in front of a crowd). I agree with Osterlind and Darwin Ortiz that magic must have meaning for audiences, and nothing does that like a genre that focuses on them.

    That said, I could watch Eric Jones do coin magic all day. I told Jones once that watching him was like watching "hand ballet". I'm not above practicing coin effects for fun, but performing them... (I do need to find more opportunities for doing close-up mentalism effects. Banacek's "Unlimited" and Peter Turner's "Instant Knockout" are two impromptu effects ready to go)... I digress: I asked Jones about establishing a "context" for magic. He replied that, for him, it was more about establishing an "environment" for magic. I think I know what he meant, but I think we were just missing each other semantically. It seems to me it would be harder to say to a walk-up spectator on the street, "Can I show you something weird about money?" and do a coin trick, than to walk up to the same person and say, "Do you mind if I try to read your mind?" These examples are a bit simplified, but you get the point, I hope. Mind-reading doesn't need nearly as much of a context as a coin effect in the real world. A woman may have spent all day wondering what her boss was thinking, and would love to be able to read his mind; she wasn't spending her day wondering if a flipped coin would disappear.

    I hope to be a worthy contributor here. I have mostly bailed on my local "magic club" (you can guess who I mean) for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a lack of mentalists to talk to. Consequently, the opportunity to have a "place" to come, such as this forum, is welcome.
    Al e Cat Dabra likes this.
  18. @tomyleft wrote: "A woman may have spent all day wondering what her boss was thinking, and would love to be able to read his mind; she wasn't spending her day wondering if a flipped coin would disappear."

    Now that is a thought-provoking point. And clearly very true. Also the idea that "magic must have meaning for audiences, and nothing does that like a genre that focuses on them," is a concept that has been on my mind for quite some time now. (Yes, I know that @RealityOne knew I was going to say that LOL)
    I have a little story that seems
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  19. Whoops, sorry, I had some sort of technological meltdown. Here is the continuation of my post:

    I have a little story that seems appropriate to tell here. I was performing at a private residence in Jupiter Florida many years ago. It was a Super Bowl Sunday Party. At halftime, I did a routine for a woman. I happened to know that she was unmarried and unattached. Essentially, it involved taking the King of Hearts out of the deck, seemingly at random, and doing a quick "cold reading" (I said something along the lines of, "You will meet a special man this year and enjoy romance beyond what you could have dreamed possible. He will be the king of your heart."). The card (apparently the king) was placed face-down in her hand. I then did three more cold readings, each time with an apparently random card (e.g. the 7 of clubs - "you know in Ireland, the club is a shamrock symbolizing luck, and you will be having some very good luck financially in the near future.") After each cold reading, the (apparent) card was placed in her hand, until finally, there were 4 face-down cards in her hand. At that point, I said, "Each of those cards individually told us something about you, but the four cards all taken together tell me one more important thing: As I turned them over to reveal she was holding the 4 aces, I said, "That I would hate to play cards with you."

    Then in a couple minutes, she brought a friend over so I could "read her fortune, too." Before long, there was a line of women in the room - no exaggeration probably 8 to 10 of them, waiting eagerly for me to read their fortunes. Now, what's really interesting is that I had combined mentalism and mental magic, but I had no idea as to the distinction at that time. The clairvoyant part, the foretelling of their future, was the mentalism aspect, while the change into the aces at the end, was the magical component. What I came to realize was that, while they were surprised by the transformation, to them, it really paled by comparison to the part that entailed telling their fortune - which meant a great deal to each of them. None of them mentioned, "Can you change the cards in my hand like you did for my friend." It was always, "Can you tell my fortune?" To that point in time, I had never had people seeking me out anything close to resembling that at a close up gig; it was typically me strolling about and approaching them.

    Food for thought, yes?
    RealityOne likes this.
  20. Yes, indeed, Al e. The (natural!!) serendipity of mentalists, and here's why: I have spent the last two weeks investigating the possibilities of the very thing you just reported--adding standard deck cold readings to my close-up repertoire. Scott Creasy tells a very similar story about what happened to him the first time he added a card reading to a bachelorette party he was working. "Ambitious card?? Who cares? Just read my fortune!" I just received two books on cartomancy, one lay and one for magicians (Creasy's). Any advice on this topic is welcome!

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