Normally, when we try to define the “recreational” practices related to the world of magic, two main words come to mind: the trick and, of course, the figure of the magician as master of ceremonies. Only the initiated or those with more knowledge in the field (or the recalcitrant skeptics) will talk about illusionism and illusionists. Indeed, if we analyze the very nature of the trick concept, we find ourselves talking, without any doubt, about a “deceptive action”, a game of perceptions, a ruse of both mind and senses… we’re talking about an illusion. The truth it’s been a long way and, especially in our days −and leaving aside superstition and religious beliefs−, the audience who attends a magic performance is fully aware that what they are seeing is not a supernatural manifestation, but a sensory challenge, a demonstration of ingenuity and how to trick human brain.
We all find it impossible, implausible, unlikely… and, nevertheless, we all want to know “how do they do it?!“, despite the fact that, deep down, we are also aware that something fishy is going on. This is illusionism, our dear friends: being victims of an illusion and, at the same time, passionate about this sweet deception. Sharpen our senses in each number but let ourselves be carried away by the emotion of being surprised once again. Truth is blunt: best magicians do not sell hype; not even magic: they sell illusion.
Today we are introducing an often misunderstood branch of this great art illusion is: mentalism. Well, yes: when the matter is discussed we all think of spoon-binding, mind-reading and corpse-possession, but reality tells us that it goes way beyond a some sort of Jedi knights earning a bonus… Some practitioners, in fact, claim that as scenic art we find ourselves before a spectacle different from that of illusionism, since it implies a component of para-scientific skill which transcends creativity when it comes to deceiving the senses.
Broadly speaking, a mentalist is someone with the ability to use their mental capacity to generate (often by means of suggestion) an illusion of mind control, either on the physical world or over other beings (object moving, telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, divination…). The figure of the mentalist is very old and we could go back as far as the fifteenth century to find the first written references, but first we need to introduce an important nuance: the one that differentiates them from the psychics. A psychic believes he possesses these powers, whereas the mentalist is aware of his abilities and the use he gives them to make it appear that he possesses a power, but being aware of the theatrical or dramatic inner element… That is, the difference between playing the role of God and believing God yourself.
We’ll continue talking about this matter…