Mentalism is a form of entertainment in which the performer simulates supernatural mental abilities.
These supposed 'psychic' abilities include:
- Extrasensory Perception (ESP) such as telepathy, clairvoyance, remote viewing and precognition.
- Spirit communication and channelling.
- Divination and psychic readings (e.g., using tarot, runes, crystal ball).
- Mental influence on material objects or physical processes (psychokinesis or PK), such as object movements, levitation, metal bending, seed germination, stopping the heartbeat, and anomalous photographic effects.
Mentalism has its origins in the 19th century movement known as Spiritualism (or Spiritism). In the early 20th century, stage magicians began to introduce simulations of spiritualist phenomena into their acts and this led to a burgeoning of popular interest in such 'psychic entertainments'.
At the same time, others seized the opportunity to promote themselves as genuine 'psychics', often using exactly the same methods to achieve their effects as those employed by magicians.
Today, there are four main types of 'psychic' exponent:
- 'Psychics' who claim to have genuine powers. Some may be honestly convinced of their own abilities.
- 'Mentalists' who demonstrate supposed psychic phenomena, or enhanced mental capabilities such as lightning calculations or extraordinary feats of memory. Mentalists do not generally claim supernatural powers, and may remain deliberately ambiguous or evasive about the source of their abilities. Mentalists also usually prefer NOT to mix demonstrations of 'psychic' phenomena with traditional magical effects such as card tricks.
- 'Mental Magicians' who are relatively open about using psychological or magical techniques to produce apparently 'psychic' effects. Unlike mentalists, mental magicians will sometimes incorporate non-psychic themed magic into their performances.
- 'Magicians' who mainly perform standard magical effects, but who may also include occasional demonstrations of mental magic.