The Art of Reading Minds
Although closely associated with traditional magic and magicians. Mentalism and mentalists have more in common with stand up comedians and present a truly interactive form of performance that has to involve the audience at all times.
Sometimes a mentalist may perform under a different title or demonstrate a different skill set or ability which they use to zero in on the audience’s thoughts.
Subliminal Suggestions to Influence an Audience
A good example of this and likely the most notable example in the public eye would be Mind Reader and Hypnotist Derren Brown. He claims that he uses memory techniques, body language reading, cognitive psychology ideomotor and subliminal suggestions in order to read and influence his audience.
Derren made his Television debut with his show “Mind Control” in the early 2000s demonstrating these techniques to the public.
Since then has been a household name in the UK and is likely to be the only modern-day mentalist the public would recognise. Derren has done an excellent job of reinventing the craft in the public domain and making the word mentalist, and mentalism a bit more understandable and recognisable to the British audience.
I don’t like the word Mentalist
I myself find it extremely difficult to use this word to explain what I do to the people I meet every day. In the UK, often being used to describe someone who is being unreasonable or someone who is mentally unstable.
Mentalism, however, did not start with Derren and predates his influences by a few thousand years, give or take.
A Brief History of Mentalism
Mentalism has been around since the creation of the written word, likely long before that even. Its early roots heavily stemmed from mythology and storytelling.
Ever since there have been stories of Mystics, Saints and Angels there has been mentalists. Those people have been able to view the inner turning of man’s mind and attempt to guide them.
Whereas nowadays it is purely a performance art. A long time ago those that practised the art used it to give wisdom and guide the people. Mentalists have made their impact in every age.
In the most recent past, around 1500-1700 this line began to blur as those that practised mind reading and influence fell into two camps. Those that performed to entertain and those that looked to manipulate people for profit.
Using Mentalism to create spies
Around this time Mediumship became hugely popular, people claiming they could speak to the dead and talk to departed loved ones. Spirit cabinets where a seer would be able to communicate a message across the aether.
As scientific research became more prevalent these phenomena were heavily researched especially during the second world war and during the cold war. Both sides had a heavy interest in using psychic abilities to infiltrate their enemies minds and learn their secrets.
Throughout all of this, a number of different mentalists have taken to the stage to perform fantastic feats of mind-reading, influence and hypnosis.
Perhaps you might be able to witness some of these feats?
How does Mind reading work?
I feel that mind reading is the most unbelievable feat that a mentalist can demonstrate. Yes, influence and hypnosis can be very impressive. However, we see the effects of influence all the time in our daily lives. Easy examples you can look to can be found in advertising and in sales calls.
Mind reading is very difficult to explain, and I can only tell you how it works from my own experience. At a very early age, I found that I was quite perceptive about people. I could almost entirely understand who someone was from the moment of first met them.
Now I didn’t claim to have any special abilities this wasn’t a feat of mentalism (although at this point I had no notion of what that was), this wasn’t anything supernatural or occult.
Mentalism is not Supernatural
It was my belief that this was purely psychological and that my innate sense of intuition about who people were was based on unconscious signals they were sending me.
That I was for all intent and purposes my brain was picking up on their body language, clothes they were wearing and the way that they spoke. Quickly making an assumption about who they were.
We all are capable of doing this. I know some of you will have experienced this those of you who work regularly at events. Such as weddings, parties or corporate shows and can immediately tell which guests are going to be trouble before they even step out of line.
Perhaps you work face to face with customers. Finding that you can regularly pick up on exactly what they are going to order before they even ask.
If you’ve never experienced this for yourself I’m sure you can now understand at least. What mind, reading feels like. It’s a process your brain does unconsciously.
I’m not going to reveal any big secrets here as these abilities can be dangerous in the wrong hands. However, there are a few comparisons we can draw between the unconscious processes your brain makes and mind reading.
For example, take this everyday illusion into consideration. Right at his very moment as you read these words you are unaware of something. Hidden from you in plain sight that is right in front of you.
Your nose, it’s right there just below your eye line and yet your brain automatically filters this information out from your vision unless you really focus on it.
The brain actually filters out lots of information because otherwise we would be overwhelmed by the sensory input our bodies receive, but that’s not the only shortcut our brains take.
An example of one of the processes our brains do without us even realising it, filling in the blind spot in our vision. Very similar to the nose filtering but far more interesting, every single person has a blind spot.
It’s hard to find if you don’t know what you are looking for, but there is an easy experiment you can try which will reveal to you where it is.
You’ll need a small bit of card around the size of a business card, on the right side you want to mark out a cross, like in the image above, and a small circle on the left.
Hold the card at arm’s length, away from you and level with your eye line.
Next, you want to close your right eye and focus on the cross with your left. You will notice you can still see the circle.
Focus on the cross and slowly bring the card towards your face, you will notice at one point in its travel the circle will disappear, this is because it has entered your blind spot.
Your brain will attempt to fill in this spot, in your vision with some information, the information it uses is the whiteness of the card around the circle making it disappear.
All of this your brain does without you asking it to, without you even noticing even if you look very hard.
Practical Applications of Mentalism
Can Mentalism be used in the real world?
This is where my road into mentalism and mindreading began, I wanted to train myself and perfect my ability to read people and began to read up on everything I could about the range of techniques that are available. To see if I could take it out into the real world.
Through keen study and lots of practice, I found that I could employ a myriad of other techniques alongside my natural intuition not only to read people and their thoughts and mindset but also to influence those thoughts and actions.
However with great power comes great responsibility, through learning these techniques I learned a great deal about some of histories most manipulative and evil people.
Those of which had initially started out with good intentions, and unfortunately been corrupted by their own ego and power. So while Mentalism does have some very real-world applications, it never seems to end well for those that seek to use them.
Mentalism is used to Entertain
Instead, I look to stay on the lighter side of things and use my skills and abilities purely for entertainment or to convey a theatrical message.
I find the best form of application for Mentalism is entertainment, as there isn’t any form of performance that affects the audience in the same way.
It’s unpredictable, personal and fully interactive. unlike film, theatre or even traditional magic. Mind reading requires an audience to interact with without it there would be no point.
It’s fantastic entertainment for those big life moments such as Weddings, Award Ceremonies and Parties. Creating memorable, personal unbelievable moments, that only could have happened with that specific audience.
Where can I learn Mentalism Techniques?
To take a page out of my own life, you can’t. There are a number of resources out there that can be used to learn how to read, influence and hypnotise people and some of these may work for you.
However, it is extremely difficult to filter out which of these resources is applicable to you, your mindset physiology and cadence.
The best and easiest way to learn how to read minds or influence people is to develop your own techniques that best utilise your strengths. Thinks back to a time when you picked up on what someone was thinking and try to replicate that scenario.
It’s a long road with lots of trial and error, if you have an interest in it the best place to start is with you, I’ve always said to be a good mind reader you first have to be a good person.
Be kind, attentive and ultimately take an interest in people.
Where can I experience Mentalism?
If you are looking to experience Mindreading, Influence or Hypnosis for yourself then there are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to witness me. The Saint in Scarlet at your event. Simply get in touch and let me know what event you are planning.
Booking a magician, mind reader is one of the best forms of live entertainment. I perform at a wide range of events from corporate product launches and trade shows to weddings, stag and hen dos, as a motivational speaker or live on stage. All of these are great occasions to use a professional magician.
Not only could I be the finishing touch that your event needs, but with my years of experience in the event industry, I’ll be able to help you with much more than entertainment, providing my insight and suggestions for your event on our very first consultation call.
So if you have an idea for an event why not get in touch today and together we can turn it into real magic.