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Mentalism

Discussions about Psychics and Psychic Phenomena, Extra Sensory Perception, Telepathy, Psi, Clairvoyancy, 6th Sense, Psychokinesis, etc.

Re: Mentalism

Postby Craig Browning » 14 Mar 2010, 21:42

Hmmm... how did I miss this? :twisted:

I've been involved with Magic since 1964 and slowly shifted from classic "Blackstone like" Magic into Mentalism starting in the early 80's, taking the final step away from magic in the early/mid-90s. The point being, I was working with it as well as bizarre magick long before David Blaine's first big special and the on-set of the "trend" we've seen over the past 15 or so years.

I will take exception to some of what's been stated here but only because I'm picky :o

Mentalism is a HUGE category ASSOCIATED with Magic... it's not one in the same though many a cynic will attempt to tell you otherwise for some very loose reasons.

Mentalism has NOTHING to do with the Fox Sisters and the out-growth of the Spiritualist movement even though it did, to some degree, grow out of that arena. Fortunately, there is much more the craft than that :lol: Even in the days of Elizabeth I there were Mind Readers and according to certain research the practice of such demonstration (as an amusement in court) goes back to at least the time of Cleopatra. But, this is where we find the first fine line in the sand too.

Much of what skeptics use as "explanations" behind certain phenomena was very much seen and known of as part of the "Magician's" craft (think Wizards, Shaman, Priests of all kinds not the buffoons working birthday parties and the Vegas strip). In fact much of the world's population in which little to no Western European influence has infected the way of life, this is still the reality. It was the auspices of early Christianity within Europe that forced the standing segregation simply because "The Church" had to prove all "Miracles" and "Magickle" things outside of what a church cleric or high patron made manifest, was deception... the devil's work... a lure to take the gullible into "darkness" etc. Even to this day certain facets of Christianity have taboos towards even watching a magic show let alone studying the art.

The Renaissance of Europe took us into the age of Intellectualism and even though this allowed the auspices of Science to resurface (after generations of oppression by the good folks that brought us the "dark ages") it is likewise an era in which Magick was being rediscovered and on multiple levels. The goals weren't to disprove the claims of things miraculous but rather, to understand them.

Understanding this side of the back-story we must ask ourselves when Magic, such as we see done on stage, stops existing as an enchantment to our mind? Is it just because we know the method (or think we do)?

I don't think so in that I've watched (from within the audience as well as in performance) too many folks gasp when the two halves of that young lady are separated or when she's floating 12 feet or more in the air... even in the late 20th and early 21st century when so many people know the basic principles associated with an illusion, it's still magical to their mind... what right does anyone have to take that from them?

With Mentalism we invoke belief rather than suspending disbelief as would be done in a magic show. The true Mentalists requires a high degree of belief or "investment" from the audience in order to create the EXPERIENCE they deliver; Mentalism is an experiential art form and not observations as magic tends to be 90% of the time. But I'm over simplifying things because we have two modes of performance...to completely different philosophies when it comes to the craft; Old School vs. New School.

Truthfully "New School" has been around for some time, the father of which is debatibly the great Joseph Dunninger who cleverly blended traditional magic with Mental demonstrations/tests. Like many of his day and even a bit before, Dunninger was an established magician that presented this style of performance as a kind of public address program -- look how real the fake psychic can be. Dunninger's approach was far more analytical, a model that would later be echoed by his faux successor Kreskin; they both borrowed from the analytical world and related research on the mind, human potential as we mastered the various hidden talents/senses that science was just then discovering, etc. It was almost mysticism coupled with intellectualism -- Sci-fi made real!

The New School mode or "Dunninger Mold" leans heavily on "Mental Magic"... a form of effect that retains very strong ties and feel with Magic (stage magic). Not so surprising this mode is far more commercially viable because it comes off as "safe" and not overly mystical boogiemanesque.

The Old School evolves directly out of Spiritualism but not in the crass sense of attacking it, such as the New School tends to do, but actually invoking the ideas tied to the older way of doing things. The majority of Old School performers do legit Readings (not the same as Cold Reading, I can assure you... I've written a few books on both topics, so trust me) they likewise work the private market such as Home PSI Parties, workshops, lectures, etc. Most Old School practitioners are partial believers... that is to say they don't completely side with the extreme views held by the Cynics, leaving the door open to probability. In fact, many a noted "Skeptic" has found himself shifting more into this arena of thought, than not... than those that evolved towards rationalism from the planes of belief.

Old School Mentalism, as Stephan Minch once put it, belongs to those that are willing to walk with one foot in the realm of theater while the other is firmly stuck in the world of the charlatan. We are willing to stoop to any low required for maintaining our one and only illusion -- the idea that we really are as we claim... that is why most old school legends were booked as Telepathists, Mediums, Clairvoyant, etc. for decades... well into the early 1970s.

But what about the disclaimers?

They used one and only one disclaimer... the fact that they were an obvious show biz ACT. To say more, they believed, was to insult the intelligence of the public while robbing them of the experience they paid to witness... as one famous performer put it "No one wants to pay to see a fake mind reader..." :roll:

The issue goes much deeper but this is a fair overview to things.
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Re: Mentalism

Postby ciscop » 15 Mar 2010, 23:48

no one wants to pay for a fake mind reader...


nice!!
For every person who reads this valuable book there are hundreds of naïve souls who would prefer to have their spines tingled by a sensational but worthless potboiler by some hack journalist of the paranormal. You who now read these sentences join a small but wiser minority. Martin Gaardner (Psychology of the Psychic)
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Re: Mentalism

Postby ciscop » 16 Mar 2010, 01:57

by the way Craig
i like your post
it was very informative

still i think that mentalism as an art has its roots on the spiritism era
but i do understand why some folks that perform mentalism wanna go ancient
some magicians do it.. jeff mcbride on his turn and restore bill says his ancestors where the druids (i didnt know druids backpalmed a deck of cards but all right...)

pretty much like the Masons
that have their roots on the medieval era
but they insist they are as old as the pyramids... yeah right.. .
For every person who reads this valuable book there are hundreds of naïve souls who would prefer to have their spines tingled by a sensational but worthless potboiler by some hack journalist of the paranormal. You who now read these sentences join a small but wiser minority. Martin Gaardner (Psychology of the Psychic)
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Re: Mentalism

Postby Craig Browning » 16 Mar 2010, 02:45

:lol: Yea... for the longest time Jeff's ancestors were Gypsies :lol:

Much of what we know today as Mentalism did ooze out of the auspices of Spiritualism; two primary avenues which evolved into the "schools of thought" mentioned above, but there was one other face to things which ultimately became part of the New School thinking.

Harry Kellar was the first big name performer to feature any kind of staged demonstration & "expose" of mediums though it would be Houdini (nearly a generation later) that would get all the glory... what can I say, Houdini was a great promoter :lol:

If you look at things historically you will find two "high profile" styled Mentalist types; the "Professor" or "Expert" such as you might equate Brown to in his Muscle Reading demonstrations or even Mesmer. These are the acts that seemed to teeter-totter between the Old & New philosophical ideas but by the late 40s the majority of this kind of act had either sided with the Older School approach to things or they had literally been run out of business by aggressive magicians striving to make a name for themselves ala old Harry or, because some of them were snake oil peddlers, the tar & feather found them.

The other type that came out of this division was the tinkerer... the progenitors of what we'd now classify as "Mental Magic" because they would come up with some very clever (frequently mechanical) tricks based on what they knew about magic technology. This is where we get things like the Psychic Card Stars, Mental Epic and a myriad of other such contraptions INCLUDING the wonder Spirit Cabinets and related periphery. For the most part, the Tinkerers were simply trying to ride the wave of the times (much as we see happening at present).

You will also notice that this era (from the post Civil War into the latter depression era) was when Mitt Joints were most popular at Carnival and Circus exhibitions ( :shock: I keep seeing a drunk wearing a blindfold... bad things happening... abuse of the gift... carnies surrounding him) and too, there were the famed Tea Rooms in which a House Reader could be found along with regular demonstrations of Telepathy, Spirit Talk, etc... and we're talking about some very high end resorts that supported such things because they were so popular (Larsen mentions this in his book of Magic & Mentalism).

As you can see, Spiritualism lent to us a cornerstone of sorts via which a defined art form was created. Though quite diversified, all of it Mentalism just different modes of presentation and/or philosophic views.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: even though I've leaned towards the macabre and surreal most of my life (Richiardi was one of my early influences in magic) it wasn't until I was more or less forced to completely let go of all the big toys (grand illusions) that I became aware of how "rich" mentalism was and how foolish I'd been over the years, just dabbling in it... especially when you must consider the fact that I had people like Max Maven telling me that it was the direction I really needed to go in life because it "fit me" better than the big boxes.
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Re: Mentalism

Postby ciscop » 16 Mar 2010, 04:04

big boxes ... ughhh :? !!!

ill take slates, envelopes, drawing pads and billets any day of the week


now im off to buy an australian parekeet
im thinking in adding a animal production in my show just for the kids
For every person who reads this valuable book there are hundreds of naïve souls who would prefer to have their spines tingled by a sensational but worthless potboiler by some hack journalist of the paranormal. You who now read these sentences join a small but wiser minority. Martin Gaardner (Psychology of the Psychic)
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Re: Mentalism

Postby Craig Browning » 16 Mar 2010, 23:56

One of the neatest Parakeet productions I've ever seen was Doug Henning's bit...

He shows a relatively small (14-16 inch) silk with a picture of the parakeet painted to it. He'd then roll it up, and drop one end while holding a corner... as it unfurled you'd see the bird emerge and walk up the length of the silk to Doug's hand... he'd then open the scarf to show the picture gone.

I still think it one of the cutest and most clever bits when it comes to budgies.


As much as I love those big wonderful boxes every time I think of them today every muscle and joint in my body aches, reminding me of the price I've paid for said fun and games... and to think that it took most of two decades to wise me up :lol:
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Re: Mentalism

Postby ciscop » 17 Mar 2010, 02:33

funny thing you mention doug henning..

that guy was in the top of the world being argueable the best magician
and left all that out to go to meditation and search for ¨real¨ magic
i hope he found what he was looking for and he is happy where he is
For every person who reads this valuable book there are hundreds of naïve souls who would prefer to have their spines tingled by a sensational but worthless potboiler by some hack journalist of the paranormal. You who now read these sentences join a small but wiser minority. Martin Gaardner (Psychology of the Psychic)
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Re: Mentalism

Postby Craig Browning » 17 Mar 2010, 05:39

Doug was a very sweet guy, I was fortunate to have met him his last year out with the show via Harry Blackstone. But his leaving magic had nothing to do with TM but just business. Copperfield had stolen his thunder and was tenacious when it came to one-ups-man-ship... a game Doug didn't play well. He was very clam, passive... hell, he was a Hippie :lol: The way he saw it, he had his day in the sun and it was time to move on to other things... other passions. Though he helped with the theme park and American TM Center's development Doug was also a successful Politician in Canada for a number of years.

What was funny is that we're talking about a guy that was all of 5 ft 3 in. and yet he owned some of the biggest props going... I've owned several of them and helped more than a few others over the years... Damn! :lol: (But no one's as bad has Harrary)

Doug did believe in magick but not in the way so many think. It was a childlike view of the world and an appreciation of things, seeing creation and life as being a magickle thing... which it is... but then, according to most Eastern Occult teachings, life itself is just an Illusion ;)
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