What is Mental Magic?

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Sep 2, 2007
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Would someone please explain to me what mental magic is? I keep hearing so called mentalists use this term when referring to magicians doing mentalism in their shows. Is there really a difference? I mean, as far as I'm concerned its all the same thing. Theodore Annemann wrote a book called "Practical Mental Magic" full of mentalism.
 
Sep 2, 2007
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Oh cool, then why do we have this forum? Oh wait, don't answer that, I'll google search it.

Maybe Google can answer this question too - why can't we have a single conversation on this forum without someone posting comments like above or ripping on each other?
 
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Aug 17, 2012
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My aim was not to 'rip' on you. If you look at a forum post called 'Before you ask' it explains my anger.
On second glance of your post above, it looks like you want a discussion.
But there are a lot of people who just post random stuff that is easier Googled then answered by people on the forum.

So my apologies go to you, it's just I'm sick of seeing beginners posts like previously described.
 
Aug 17, 2012
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But here is something I think on the topic, taken from an extract:
The key difference between the two seems to be the performer. The mentalist presents a persona and sticks to it, often 24/7.
 
Sep 2, 2007
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I see what you're saying, and the constant "what should I buy" posts are probably annoying.

Anyways, that would be the difference in a magician doing mentalism and a mentalist right? Not necessarily the difference between mentalism and mental magic?

I suppose a good example would be stigmata. I see mentalists hate on it and say it isn't mentalism but it clearly is. You're reading their mind, naming a person they're thinking of. I don't ever do the marks on the arm part but I play it up and have had people in tears
 
Oct 24, 2008
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I suppose a good example would be stigmata. I see mentalists hate on it and say it isn't mentalism but it clearly is. You're reading their mind, naming a person they're thinking of. I don't ever do the marks on the arm part but I play it up and have had people in tears

That's not Stigmata, then. That's just a peek. A very good one, though.
 
Sep 2, 2007
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Alright, so doing just the peek would be considered mentalism but adding the marks appearing on their arm would make it more along the lines of mental magic?
 

RealityOne

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Nov 1, 2009
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I suppose a good example would be stigmata. I see mentalists hate on it and say it isn't mentalism but it clearly is. You're reading their mind, naming a person they're thinking of. I don't ever do the marks on the arm part but I play it up and have had people in tears

I think the issue is with the picking a card and having it appear on your arm. The picking a card is magic and the having it appear on your arm is bizarre / geek magic. What you are talking about is closer to mentalism.

Mental magic is a magic trick with a mental presentation. Having a spectator pick a card and then naming it. Using ESP to find the spectator's card that is lost in the deck. The performer's treatment of the effect is similar to how a magic trick is presented... "look what I can do" with a presentation that is lighter rather than serious. Often the juxtaposition of effects that otherwise would be mentalism with magic effects weakens the effect because the audience thinks it is just another "trick."

Mentalism is the presentation of an effect that is solely mental. A drawing duplication, a Q&A, a book test, etc. The tone is more serious and the effect is presented as being real. I would include palm reading and tarot reading in this category. Mentalism often is performed with minimal props.
 
Oct 24, 2008
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Alright, so doing just the peek would be considered mentalism but adding the marks appearing on their arm would make it more along the lines of mental magic?

No, I'm just saying, that the Stigmata effect is specifically the reveal on the arm. Everything else about it is just moves and sleights. The Acidus Novus is just a utility, it's not what makes Stigmata "Stigmata." You can use the Acidus Novus for most any peek. But when you then reveal the information on your arm, THAT'S when you've performed Stigmata.

It'd be like saying, "I do an ACR, but I don't make it rise to the top, I just do the part where they think their card is lost in the deck."

But pertaining to the actual topic, I think RealityOne's got more information for you.
 
Sep 1, 2007
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Alright, so doing just the peek would be considered mentalism but adding the marks appearing on their arm would make it more along the lines of mental magic?

Stigmata is not even a mental magic, it's pure magic effect. They think of a card or initials and they MAGICALLY appear on your arm. That's magic effect. If you already had marks on your arm before they think of something, than it could maybe pass as a prediction effect, but in it's original form it's pure magic.
 
Sep 1, 2007
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Mentalism is the presentation of an effect that is solely mental. A drawing duplication, a Q&A, a book test, etc. The tone is more serious and the effect is presented as being real. I would include palm reading and tarot reading in this category. Mentalism often is performed with minimal props.

To expound on that, mentalism is purely implicit. In order to create realism, the mentalist has to struggle in a way the magician doesn't. Magic is best when it is sublime, like a force of nature. Mentalism on the other hand is better when it's not always right. The struggle, the drama, the effort to pull off even the simplest of mind reading effects. Magicians are not allowed to be wrong.

I see way too many magicians who buy a copy of Stigmata and think, "Yes, now I'm a mentalist! I will get all of the titties!" Crude, yes, but I'm trying to make a point here.
 
Dec 18, 2007
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As I explain in my intro to Mentalism treatise as well as the intro to Bizarre Magick, "Mental Magic" are routines/effects that obviously look "rigged" from the on-set and more often than not, involve a physical prop of some kind. Great examples would be Mental Epic and most any of the Smash & Stab routines of current vogue as well as Larry Becker's Casino Royale. IN other words, it's a magic trick with a Psychic-like theme to it. BUT, there is another side to this factor and that is where bits like Smash & Stab or the Mental Epic have been seen so many times in a Magic Show that they are no longer viable when it comes to presenting them as plausible paranormal phenomena or mental prowess a.k.a. what was once great Mentalism that magician's ruined for mentalists.

I was recently talking about "visual" effects for mentalists to which most would instantly talk about PK type phenomena. The problem is, we have clowns doing spoon & fork bending on the streets, as part of a close-up act in which they just did sponge balls and a Magic Ding Dong kicker or they're twisting balloons . . . I'm not putting magicians down but I am pointing out how they have little regard when it comes to crossing over into mentalism and "borrowing" the good stuff. . . Greg Arce has a famous parable of sorts that basically states that a magician attending a Mentalism program will see a routine that gets huge audience response so he figures a way of doing it and puts it into his show. Yet, you won't seen a devoted Mentalist doing Assembling Aces or a Dancing Cane in his act. . . it just wouldn't fit, now would it?

A lot of what has become "Mental Magic" has known this particular path to destruction . . . it's why I and a growing number of others, encourage folks to pick one or the other. It's more convenient for the talent buyers to know so they can book you with confidence and it keeps you from looking like a hack that will do anything for a C-note.

There is one other circumstance that creates Mental Magic and that's the one we have no control over; social education.

The people my parents generations were ultra-religious for the most part, many had less than a high school level worth of education and they lived in an Ozzie & Harriet world in which cops & politicians were honest servants of the people and priests were so holy that they wouldn't hurt a fly (nuns on the other hand, would beat anyone to a pulp). I'm not saying that they were gullible but they were far more trusting and willing to take a person at their word than we are today; they didn't have a reason to be jaded and distrusting of persons of "authority" and when you consider we'd not yet shot the first rocket into space let alone land on the moon. . . well, it really was a different kind of world and as such, seeing a Pseudo-Psychic experiment involving a deck of playing cards was acceptable and quite believable. Today however, that same demonstration wold be faced with heightened cynicism in that today's culture is far more educated, suspicious and not nearly as religiously oriented as they were then.

Since the latter 1970s the majority of your top rated Mentalists did all they could/can, to avoid material that looked like a possible magic trick/Mental Magic which includes some wonderful card routines that worked in the 40's, 50s' and 60's but barely scrape by now days . . . even in the 1980s they were being seriously challenged BUT, when the facade of Playing Cards were replaced with photos or post cards the believability factor returned to the very same effect born within a deck of traditional cards.

Not all of us are 100% against playing cards, but a lot of us recognize how said vice comes off to the public mind more than not. We also know how the yet recovered Mage who wants to do Mentalism, has such a terrible time waking up to the fact that most Mentalism done with Playing Cards are viewed by the laity as a CARD TRICK and not something miraculous e.g. they fit the mold of being Mental Magic.

Magician's Habit, such as leaning on Playing Cards, creates a psychological association in the mind of the audience that also causes their entire show to come off as being "Mental Magic". Understand, this is not all bad in that Mental Magic is far, far more entertaining and lucrative than pure Mentalism. The habit however, of always having a successful outcome hurts more than helps; psychologically the public views the performer that "always wins" as being a fraud while those that have close or even totally wrong hits tend to be given credit for being the real thing.

No, I'm not saying you "must" screw up . . . trust me, Mr. Murphy will give you more than enough situations to have a miss or worse. But take a look at the top two person teams out there and how there is almost always a mis-call on an item or other type of deliberate "mistake" that will later get corrected in some bassackward manner.

Mentalism in its purest form can be down right boring. When it comes to creating a solid 45+ minute program you MUST include bits of Mental Magic (a.k.a. ENTERTAINMENT) mixed with the less easily discovered stuff, like a Q&A or Psychometry demonstration. I've done some very BIG production bits in the show for the sake of Production Value and Amusement; Doing a Blizzard & Chinese Snow Storm as a bit of Mentalism. . . Staging a Poison Monte routine as a Game Show . . . using medieval era sets & costumes in a comedy "Banknight" type sequence.

While these things do reveal my previous incarnation as a stage illusionist, they are each examples of Mental Magic done "right" -- used as a way to punctuate your program and give it character. . . an approach worthy of some time for pondering upon. . .
 
Sep 1, 2007
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Would someone please explain to me what mental magic is? I keep hearing so called mentalists use this term when referring to magicians doing mentalism in their shows. Is there really a difference? I mean, as far as I'm concerned its all the same thing. Theodore Annemann wrote a book called "Practical Mental Magic" full of mentalism.

Looking back at this thread, there are a couple of things I want to quickly address that I didn't before and should have.

First of all, the "so called mentalists" remark comes across kind of rude. Don't do that.

Second, anytime someone says, "As far as I'm concerned..." the followup question is usually, "And who the hell are you?"

Finally, Annemann did not publish that book. Practical Mental Effects was a compilation of his work from sources such as The Jinx and was originally published in 1944, which was 2 years after his suicide. How do I know this? Bob Cassidy's Fundamentals mentions it. Had you actually read it as I recommended you to at one point way back when, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

My recommendation then is to stop demanding to be referred to as a mentalist and actually read some books on mentalism so that you have a shot at actually earning the title. My biggest concern is that, if I recall your posting history, you're all over the place. Mentalists tend to develop a single primary talent (mind reading, clairvoyance, PK, foresight, human lie detector) and one minor talent that they only show occasionally. I have yet to see any proof that you've found a niche you can work with. It seems to me like you want to be a mentalist so you can say, "Look, look! I do this other thing too! Look!"
 
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Tricks are not classified as mental magic or mentalism. The PERFORMER is classified as mentalist or mental magician based upon their character and delivery. Further I'll go ahead and add that if you don't know what the difference between the two is already, then you are NOT a mentalist. A mentalist requires a hell of a lot more acting skills than most people are willing to put themselves up to. It's not an act that ends when the spot light turns off. It's a lifestyle.

As a great man once said: "Give a magician a nail writer and he'll use it to do some stupid card trick. Give a mentalist a nail writer and he'll start a bloody religion."
 
Sep 1, 2007
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Oh My. . . Steerpike is trying to out curmudgeon me!

That's a scary thought. Years of therapy, gone in an instant.

So, would you classify Psycho by Spidey as mentalism or mental magic?

I don't own the effect, but it looks like it's being presented as mental magic. True, it could be performed as mentalism. But more often than not, it won't be.

There is no methodology that is exclusively magic or mentalism. The separation is in performance theory rather than mechanics. And this is why many guys are wrong when they call themselves mentalists. They bought 13 Steps and think, "Now that I can do a center tear, I'm officially a mentalist!" Then you watch them perform and it's just magic all over again with a theme of mind reading instead of color changes.

Guys, I like Derren Brown's stuff too, but he's not the only mentalist in the world. Honestly, how many of you bothered going through Bob Cassidy's bibliography? Or Max Maven? Who of you has actually heard of TA Waters? Or Bruce Bernstein? Learn your basics, then you can worry about what to call yourself.
 
Dec 18, 2007
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Tricks are not classified as mental magic or mentalism. The PERFORMER is classified as mentalist or mental magician based upon their character and delivery.

Not exactly true, William. . . effects like "Casino Royale" are obviously a trick when presented as are things like the Master Prediction Chest, Dream Vision, etc. in that they are prop heavy for starters and obvious production pieces. But as I said earlier, a smart performer will use this type of material so as to add production value to their program. . . fill up the stage, as they say. Hell, I'd still do Copperfield's Graffiti Wall if I were touring a big show.

. . . A mentalist requires a hell of a lot more acting skills than most people are willing to put themselves up to. It's not an act that ends when the spot light turns off. It's a lifestyle.

This is very important to note while the "Lifestyle" side of things really depends upon which school of thought you embrace; those in the "New School" mind-set are far more free in their ability to walk away from the image post show, looking at what they do AS A SHOW vs. a commitment. I don't mean they aren't dedicated to what they do, most are; but, they still view what they do in the same way they view doing a Magic Show -- "It's just a show/an act" and they leave it at that.

Those of us that embrace the older traditions of Mentalism live it! We aren't pure "entertainer" but the modern equivalent of being a Shaman and as such we are "on" 24/7. We are the guys that, as an impulse, do a quick and simple Palm Reading while standing in the check out line at whatever store we happen to be in or while on the bus. We are the one's that deliver proper home PSI Parties in which Readings are the focus or more so, we present workshops, lectures and even sell legit books that we've written on topics tied to divination and metaphysical life. As I've told a lot of people over the past year, take a look at the Neal Scryer books and take note of all the contributors; these are all people with an Old School mentalism focus vs. the commercial clap-trap that's become so abundant in recent times. . . a lot of it due to external forces applying political & quasi-intellectual "opinions" to the situation. A great demonstration of this is how the definition of "Cold Reading" has been changed in the past two decades vs. what it was in my younger adult years (pick up John Rigg's "Cradle to the Grave" DVD series if you want to learn real Cold Reading as it was).

A dedicated Mentalist need very little to create a full show. I've made many posts discussing how I can deliver an easy 30+ minutes at a Starbucks before I introduce the first billet or have need of any sort of device. That's how Mentalism works; it's knowledge and foundation skills such as being able to Read others, understanding the many things you can do with Ideomotor factors, the nuances of psychology be it in how you use a force or how you manipulate a person's thinking. . . or even the power of suggestion/hypnosis. A solid student of mentalism can do 30+ minutes in the nude if need be and by the end of that performance, people will want to join his church. . . btw. . . Jerome Finley has been known to do 2 hours of nothing but Q&A without using a single billet, pre-show, etc.

I hope that clarifies some things.
 
Sep 2, 2007
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Houston, TX
Finally, Annemann did not publish that book. Practical Mental Effects was a compilation of his work from sources such as The Jinx and was originally published in 1944, which was 2 years after his suicide. How do I know this? Bob Cassidy's Fundamentals mentions it. Had you actually read it as I recommended you to at one point way back when, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

My recommendation then is to stop demanding to be referred to as a mentalist and actually read some books on mentalism so that you have a shot at actually earning the title. My biggest concern is that, if I recall your posting history, you're all over the place. Mentalists tend to develop a single primary talent (mind reading, clairvoyance, PK, foresight, human lie detector) and one minor talent that they only show occasionally. I have yet to see any proof that you've found a niche you can work with. It seems to me like you want to be a mentalist so you can say, "Look, look! I do this other thing too! Look!"

Does it REALLY matter where exactly a book came from? Is it REALLY a huge deal that I didn't know that Annemann didn't publish the book?

Also, who said I was demanding to be referred to as a mentalist? I damn sure don't want to ONLY do mentalism. And why is it a problem that I'm "all over the place"? I enjoy MANY different types of magic and mind reading. I pick what I do and don't like. If it fits me, I'll perform it. If it fits the theme of my show, I'll put it in.
 
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