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MENTALISM: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Human Mind

Updated: Jan 25

Throughout the course of human history, the human mind has consistently yearned to understanding its own intricacies. Mentalism, a captivating discipline, represents an art that intricately melds psychology, illusion, and perception. While frequently linked with entertainment, mentalism is more than mere magic tricks. It encompasses the artistry of simulating paranormal and extraordinary capabilities through the faculties of observation, suggestion, and a deep comprehension of human nature. Let's explore what mentalism is and how this enthralling form of entertainment works.


Patrick Jane. The Mentalist.
Patrick Jane. The Mentalist, a television series.

What is Mentalism?

Mentalism is a performing art that employs observation techniques and psychological knowledge to create the illusion that someone possesses extraordinary mental powers. Unlike traditional magic, which relies on physical tricks and object manipulation, mentalism focuses on the spectator's mind, performing acts that appear to reveal thoughts, predict the future, read minds, and accomplish feats suggesting supernatural abilities.


History of Mentalism

Mentalism has a long history dating back to ancient civilizations. For instance, in Egypt, records have been discovered of diviners claiming the ability to read minds and predict the future. However, mentalism as a branch of today's magic began to take shape in the 19th century with Harry Houdini's acts of spiritualism and mediumship in the 1920s. In the 1930s, Joseph Dunninger captivated audiences with revelations involving words, numbers, and objects.


Houdini gives a public demonstration of his interactions with mediums at The Library of Congress.
Houdini gives a public demonstration of his interactions with mediums at The Library of Congress.

Following these iconic figures, mentalism continued to evolve and gain global popularity. In the 1970s, Uri Geller astounded the world by supposedly bending spoons using the power of the mind. Modern mentalists like Derren Brown, Max Maven, Banachek, Lior Suchard, and others have elevated this branch of illusionism to new heights, combining observation, psychological skills, and hypnosis techniques with high-tech effects in impressive mentalism acts.


 British mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown
British mentalist Derren Brown.

Ethics and Differentiation of Mentalism

It's essential to note that mentalism is considered a form of entertainment and should not be confused with genuine psychological practices or predictions. While many mentalists claim to read thoughts, predict the future, or influence decisions, these feats are all the result of a profound understanding of human psychology. Moreover, some mentalists, such as Derren Brown, emphasize that their performances are illusions meant to entertain and astonish, not to deceive the audience.

Techniques of Mentalism


Surprise and astonishment

Mentalism techniques involve a series of methods that create the illusion of extraordinary mental abilities. Some of these techniques include:


Cold Reading

Mentalists often observe a person and make assumptions about their thoughts, personality, or personal history, creating the illusion that they can supernaturally read minds. For example, noticing a strand of hair on a man's clothing might reveal the hair color of his partner.


Suggestion

Through suggestion and influence, mentalists can make people think or act in a certain way without them realizing they are being influenced. An example of this is asking a person to quickly respond with a tool, a fruit, and a color, and the vast majority will answer "hammer, apple, and red."

Observation

The ability to notice subtle details in people's behavior, including facial microexpressions systematized in the 1990s by Paul Ekman, is crucial for mentalism. This allows them to make astonishing claims about their audience.


Hypnosis

Some mentalists practice hypnosis to induce people to perform unusual actions or experience phenomena that seem supernatural, such as momentary loss of a vital ability. One of the most recent examples is an act by Lior Suchard, where the person affected by his hypnosis cannot move or speak. The books on instant hypnosis as a performing art usually circulate only among mentalist circles.

Preshow

Ethically, mentalists can gather information from publicly available social media profiles about the interests, personal experiences, and other details of their audience's lives.



Where do I start to become a mentalist?

To begin, I recommend reading books about face reading, an ancient Chinese art. One of the most popular authors in this field is Lillian Bridges, who for many years was a consultant for the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. Unfortunately, she recently passed away, but she did leave us her books and webinars to master the art.


Regarding non-verbal communication and other observation techniques, you can start with Paul Ekman's books on microexpressions, such as "Telling Lies" or "Emotions Revealed". Additionally, there are several resources available to learn instant hypnosis, a technique practiced by mentalists in their performances, without the need to induce the subject into a trance.



Lior Suchard, an Israeli mentalist.
Lior Suchard, an Israeli mentalist.

The International Federation of Magic Societies (FISM) founded in the year 1948 is best known for hosting one of the premier magic conventions in the world, the triennial "World Championship of Magic" (WCM), which includes contests for mentalists among other forms of magic. The most recent winners in 2022 were Anca and Lucca from Austria.


Anca and Lucca, winners of FISM in mentalism in 2022 in Quebec.
Anca and Lucca, winners of FISM in mentalism in 2022 in Quebec.

In my opinion, mentalism will continue to be an exciting form of entertainment. Creativity and the use of technology have become crucial in evolving mentalism to higher levels and will continue to astonish audiences worldwide.


Welcome to the new MYSTERIUM theater,

the theater of magic in Mexico City!


To live the experience of magic and mentalism, we invite you to the Mysterium Theater in Mexico City, which will open its doors at the end of March 2024.

1 Comment


Tania Bouirs
Tania Bouirs
Sep 25, 2023

i want to be a mentalist to read my husbands thoughts. Is that possible?

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