Mentalism is a type of performance art which has increased in popularity during the last few years in part to more modern mentalists such as Criss Angel and David Blaine. This type of mental magic deals with using the principles of stage magic to present the illusion of hypnosis, mind reading, ESP, pre-cognition, clairvoyance and mind control.
Most of the mentalists acts can be traced directly to acts of supernatural powers that were under taken by mediums, spiritualists and psychics during the 19th Century.
The history of Mentalism
The actually history of Mentalism however goes back even further. Girolamo Scotto a sleight-of-hand magician in the 1500′s was the earliest record of a mentalism act.
There are many different ways in which mentalism as an act can be portrayed. Performers such as Uri Geller, and James Van Praagh, claim to actually possess supernatural powers such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, or telekinesis.
There still remain some people who firmly believe that Geller and similar practitioners are actually demonstrating supernatural powers, but always there are scientists and skeptics who are ready to disprove such claims.
Many contemporary mentalists, such as Richard Osterlind and Derren Brown attribute their results to skills that are far from supernatural: rather the proficiency to read body language and to manipulate the subject subliminally through psychological suggestion.
Mentalists and magic tricks
Mentalists generally don’t combine “standard” magic tricks with their mental Acts. Doing so associates mentalism a little too closely with the theatrical trickery used mostly by stage magicians. Many mentalists claim that they aren’t magicians at all, arguing that it is a completely different art form altogether.
On the other hand, magicians such as David Copperfield, David Blaine and Criss Angel characteristically combine aspects of mentalism with their magical illusions.
For example, a mind-reading stunt would also involve the magical teleportation of two different objects. Such fusion, is being referred to nowadays as ‘mental magic’.
Mentalism and mental magic often require performers to exude an authoritative, commanding and charismatic stage presence and sleight of hand.
But for those who are interested in the more mysterious and supernatural origins of mentalism, there are two tests still in general use today which can determine if you posses the abilities of a mentalist or not. They are the book test and the living-and-dead test. In the former, a book is chosen at random by an a member of the audience and opened at a random page.
The examiner would then concentrate on a word, sentence or paragraph of his or her choice. If the mentalist can read his thoughts, apparently using only “mental powers”, then he passes the “test.” In the living-and-dead test, the name of a deceased person is mixed in with the names of people still alive, all written on identical slips of paper. Apparently using mental powers alone, the mentalist must separate the living from the dead.
The mentalists we see these days are a far cry from their fore-fathers. Gracing the covers of magazines and tabloid columns and every t.v screen around. Most notably in the lime light are Criss Angel and David Blaine. But many are following in their foot steps and taking mentalism or mental magic to new heights. But nonetheless they continue to take our breaths away with their impossible to comprehend, visually confusing and awe inspiring mental magic. One thing for sure is, mentalism is here to stay.