As a genuine mentalist whose only intention is to deceive,
here is my take on this...
It's Not All Mindreading
In the field of mentalism, there are effects that are mind reading, and other effects that have a "brainy" flavor but are not, strictly speaking, mind reading. I'll use "effect" from here on.
Let's take a closer look...
To be clear, I do not claim any psychic abilities.
I use only the psychological cues that audience members naturally leak and a bit of verbal kung fu to accomplish what seems like mind reading.
I'm using only my five senses. The sixth is an illusion.
Having two participants coincidentally (or inevitably?) somehow think of the same word is mentalism, but not mind reading. I’ll get back to this, but the effect as perceived by the audience was a unique coincidence.
Or the familiar mentalistic demonstration of rapid calculation.
Clearly impressive in any event, but not mind reading.
Then there are prediction effects. These, too, are clearly impressive, but not mind reading. To achieve a stellar prediction, the performer does not need the ability to read minds. He only needs to know the future.
It's that simple!
There are also telekinetic (aka psychokinetic) demonstrations, where the mentalist bends metal objects such as coins or spoons, apparently without force. I and other strict mentalists like Derren Brown and Patrick Jane disavow such vulgar demonstrations. They are closely associated with underhandedness, serve only to twist the thread suspending disbelief, and can border on outright vandalism.
I am not the best mentalist (or even in the top three), but I intend to show you how a mentalist reads minds. But before I share it with you, we need get some definitions out of the way...
It’s important to understand the fundamental difference between method and effect. Most people don't bother to think about it.
The term "effect" is often confused with “method.” Either can be seductive and either can be uninteresting. I'll go into a bit more depth in another post.
The reason it’s worth mentioning here is that, though the effect might be “coincidence,” or “prediction,” the method is often mind reading with something else tossed in (not necessarily authentic mind reading, or authentic anything, but once you can read a mind, you can present that in a variety of ways, effect-wise).
Want to know a secret? A clean prediction is the most arresting, memorable, and certainly impossible achievement available to the mentalist. Ironically, it is also the easiest to achieve (in my opinion). Surely it is more impossible to know the future than to know a stranger’s thoughts, yes?
Despite this, I personally strive to achieve the effect of mind reading, because this is--though more possible and believable than foresight--more challenging, practically speaking.
It all boils down to this...
Some effects are so spellbinding that the gasps give way to dumb, open-mouth expressions. It can be more moving and personal. One is like a transient cologne that smells wonderful for a short while but fades an hour later; the other is like a slow-burn oil whose aroma lingers even after several bubble baths.
It's possible to achieve both, and it's possible to fail at both.
In under a minute.
You Can't Read My Mind...I'm Unpredictable
Honestly, I knew you we're thinking that.
Still not convinced?
Either way, the logical objection to all mentalism effects is,
If you can really read minds,
if you know the future, why are you using this fantastic ability
to entertain us humans? Why not win the lottery or do something useful?
For the following reasons:
- The reliability of some methods tends to diminish as the personal stakes increase.
- The theoretical measurement obtained from mind reading in real time by a weak rotation of pi divided by two precludes doing most things useful.
(It's not that difficult to get your head around).
- The deal I made with these evil spirits on my shoulder
prohibits playing the lottery or any such distasteful abuse of my power.
We've all done it.
It's Not Simple Telepathy
Just as a magician uses one or a dozen mechanical techniques at his disposal either to force you to "choose" a playing card, or discover a card you freely selected, so the mentalist may be using one or a dozen cognitive artifices to read your thoughts.
At this point you probably realize that a mentalist does not read a mind like a book.
Sometimes it's that straightforward, but often, even usually, he needs a more reliable method. The larger the audience, the more reliable the method must be. Why would a mentalist performing a stage show night after night depend on a statistical 85% or 90% tendency? Every show must be performed as if it's his last.
The higher the stakes, same thing.
Reading a thought is more like reading a single, blurry word from a book while wearing sunglasses--or even seeing an image that's related to a word in a book, a book that's hanging in a cloud.
What Does An Ashtray Have to Do with A Bridal Gown, And What Does A Bridal Gown Have in Common with A Portobello Mushroom?
Ask that question of a dozen mentalists and you'll get a dozen different answers.
Rather than addressing that question, I'll discuss another.
The Physical Nature of Thoughts
As far as reading or guiding thoughts, mileage varies according to the participant's focus and memory,
and according to the mentalist's skill level.
The vast majority of people can focalize their attention on one thought for mere seconds.
When they finally do concentrate, even that image is partially wiggly.
Everything Is Mind Reading
Sounds stupid, right? Think about it like this...
Aside from the telekinesis effects, the prediction and strange coincidence effects are often just a creative wedding between mind reading and influence, or a corporate union between mind reading and mechanical chicanery--in disguise.
For instance, on the surface, what appears to be an uncanny coincidence of two participants thinking of the same number may, under the surface, be discernment plus influence.
It's pretty obvious when you think about it.
When instructed to think of a number, two people never think of the same number simultaneously. One invariably thinks of a number before the other does. The mentalist has only to discern the number of the first participant then subtly force the next participant to think of the same number. Elementary!
But there's one small catch...
The Two Method-Classes of Mentalism
Reliable mind reading must be always achieved in one of two ways
(or sometimes, a combination of both). Mind reading simply cannot happen outside these classes:
- The mentalist forces or influences the participant to think of XYZ thought from an apparently infinite universe of options, and the challenge for him is to achieve the illusion of a free decision.
This is like a magician or illusionist levitating--the challenge is not in figuring out how to float unsuspended, the challenge is to figure out how to hide the magnet, or render the cables invisible, or prove there are no wires or forklifts, etc.
- The mentalist permits a genuinely free choice from a truly infinite universe of options—such as imaginations of the past or memories of the future—and then, somehow via a variety of principles and techniques, discovers the free thought.
Stay with me, this gets better...
A combination of the above is, to my mind, the cleverest approach, which is to invisibly restrict the participant to decide on a thought from an apparently infinite--but really limited--constellation of options; then, either subtly force the outcome or (somehow) discover the choice.
There are too many techniques to get into here and I've already written more than most will read, so I won't bore you with the nuts and bolts.
The above are your two definite and exhaustive classes of methods.
Now, what about some secret techniques
you can go out and use today?
Since this is my first blog post,
it wouldn't be fair to the future readers to include such secrets.
Moreover, it wouldn't be fair to all the hard-working fraudulent mediums out there who are using some of the techniques on the vulnerable for personal gain.
Why am I doing this?
This is my first blog post and out of many thousands, you are among the select group of my first readers. Congratulations.
Naming this blog "epiblog" is oxymoronic, but it's not.
I can see that some of you are now in the future, and you are among my last readers.
Be honest. Is discovering this first post the single greatest honor you have ever received?
You have read this far (and you are still reading).
I apologize for making this post so long,
but I didn't have time to make it any shorter.
I hope that this has been as satisfying for you
as it has been for me stringing you along
all the way to the end of this sentence.