The Mind of a Mentalist; What is Mentalism?

Mentalism is an art form that is hundreds of years old. It remains a popular form of magic to this day, as a good mentalist can boggle the mind and make people think their mind is being controlled against their will!

Here we will explore the common approaches to mentalism, and why they have kept us fascinated all these years.

What is mentalism?
Put simply, mentalism is the magic of the mind. A good mentalist appears to have developed their mind, intellect, and intuition in near superhuman ways, giving them access to powers such as:
 Clairvoyance
 Hypnosis
 Precognition
 Telepathy
 Divination
 The ability to commune with the dead

The best mentalists seem to control your mind, read your thoughts, and know what you will say even before you say it.

The history of mentalism
Accounts of some forms of mentalism go all the way back to ancient Greece and biblical times. Forms of seers or oracles were popular in myths of the time. While these early forms of mentalism have more of a connection to the supernatural via deities and spirits and the like, thousands of years later, mentalists have developed their skills to fit in a more modern era. Modern mentalism often focuses on the power of the mind itself.

The style of mentalism
Modern mentalism is still hundreds of years old in practice, and by now is a highly refined form of magic.

The modern mentalist will often use other magical tools at their disposal, such as:
 Suggestion
 Sleight of hand
 Feints
 Misdirection

Each individual magician will develop his own way of amazing an audience, and the style a performer chooses is entirely up to them.
Some mentalists choose to keep their entire process a secret. They may tell their audience that their powers were gifted to them through a divine process, supernatural training, or other form of mental gift.

Other mentalists may add another layer to their performance by telling audience members up front that everything they do is an illusion. While this seems straightforward, it is another form of misdirection. Being “up front” in this way may help the audience put their guard down, making it all the more shocking when the mentalist’s true powers are revealed.

The important distinction
There is one important distinction when it comes to mentalism. A mentalist will typically not mix forms of magic in their act. They may use certain aspects of other types of magic, such as misdirection or suggestion. However it is unlikely that you will see a mentalist pull a rabbit from a hat, for instance.

This helps set them apart from other acts. With that said, many popular names will mix some forms of magic, but it is all within the realm of
mentalism in a way. For instance, a mentalist may show off their ability to telekinetically transport an object from one box to another. While this may fall under different umbrellas of stage magic, it still works within the realm of mentalism, as it serves as a way to show the mentalist’s supernatural
powers with their mind.

Could you be a mentalist?
Mentalism still sets itself apart from other forms of magic. While many people understand the “smoke and mirrors” aspect of many performances, mentalism retains much of its mystery to this day.
The basic concepts of mentalism can make it seem as if the performer actually has these supernatural gifts, making it much easier to suspend our disbelief and take the journey with the performer.

This is no easy feat. On the plus side, mentalism doesn’t rely on sleight of hand. So it wouldn’t take hours and hours learning to master a single trick in a very precise way.

On the other hand, the audience must believe these powers are yours to possess and manipulate. This does require study in skills like cold reading and human psychology. More than anything, it requires the attitude that you know you are a mentalist.

Additionally, like any good mentalist you need to find yourself a reason for your powers. Maybe they come from the ancient texts. Maybe they run in the family, or were passed down from Zeus, or you found them in a magic chest under a bridge.

So, well studied and powers in hand, it’s time to get out there and try your first mentalism trick!