Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mentalism Magic and how Human Nature Leads us to Superstition and Exploitation

Mentalism is a form of magic. Instead of using objects or slight of hand, mentalism seeks to trick, deceive and lead the mind. Ideally it is meant for entertainment and can be a very fun thing to watch.

Some people get carried away with the craft of mentalism however and get caught up in the power, fame and status it bestows on them. Those people then use that power to exploit others. Mentalism is possible, because most of us are extremely unaware of ourselves, life or liars and can't anticipate exceptional deceptions which might be perpetrated upon us by predators. Most of us who watch mentalism for entertainment can walk away from the experience more aware of ourselves and possible scams we might encounter in the future, but there are others who are not so fortunate. Some people can't watch magic or mentalism and learn from it. There is a part of the population that can not separate reality from fantasy. They will be fascinated by the show and want to believe in 'magical' and 'mystical' things no matter what. These people will be convinced that all the tricks were spiritual and supernatural paranormal events, even if you tell them otherwise. It is our human nature to be amazed and believe in spiritual things, even if they are not logical, real or provable.

I recently listened to a science podcast which discussed this very aspect of our human nature.


Web Page

"Lewis Wolpert - The Evolutionary Origins of Belief"

In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Lewis Wolpert explores the evolutionary origins of belief, and argues that atheism is unnatural while belief in gods is not. He details the relationship between tool-making and belief in God, and shows how human primates are unique in this regard. He explains why he thinks it is so hard for people to give up their unbelievable beliefs. He shares his views on organized religion, including how it benefits believers, and examines if the same tools of science and reason can equally be applied to beliefs about the paranormal. He also debates the usefulness of argumentation with believers.

We are hard wired to believe in God and supernatural explanations which might prevent us from discovering the true causes of events. If indeed this is our default behavior as humans, then it follows from this, that those humans who can restrain their human nature, think, study, research and test their beliefs will learn more about 'true reality' than the untrained humans. Those who can restrain their silly human nature will then easily be able to manipulate and control those people who are less knowledgeable and undisciplined.

Lewis Wolpert is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London, focusing his research on the mechanisms involved in the development of the embryo. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Literature. So feel free to listen to the expert discuss the matter on his MP3 interview.

Below is a six part video from the BBC which will explain mentalism and how it works. All of the experts admit that tricks and deception can be used to bring about any sort of belief, worship or devotion. Reality and fact are of no issue, but only the audiences perception plays a role. If you can anticipate peoples thoughts or make them believe that you are doing things in an extrasensory sort of impossible way, then you will blow them away and fascinate them. Some people will be entertained and amazed, but others will be convinced you have supernatural powers. Once people start believing you have supernatural powers, anything could really happen. One lady explained how the press began wildly exaggerating stories about her skills and her credibility kept growing and growing beyond what she had truly done. Yuri Geller happened to pawn himself off as a sort of Miracle Worker (through tricks and deception) in a time of chaotic turmoil in the world and gained a nearly instantaneous and world wide following overnight. People wanted and needed to believe in a person with a supernatural and 'non-human' ability to solve problems. Later it is explained how 2 women started the spiritualism movement in the USA through simple deception and trickery, and people wouldn't believe them when they explained how they conned everyone. There is an inner nature inside of us that wants to believe these things. Once a person is exposed to something like magic, mentalism or powerful 'spiritual experiences' like they happen in Warriorschool it can short circuit our logic and reason and we can fall into a sort of mindless devotion. It is spooky, but once you see it at work you might be able to gain some perspective or wake up a little. When Jeff Prather was teaching us martial arts, meditation, or Warriorschool stuff he was 20, 30 or 40 years ahead of us. He knew a lot about human nature that most of us were ignorant of. He could anticipate our thoughts and behavior. He didn't have to read minds, he just had to recognize the conclusions we would be coming to. Those conclusions would be obvious if you had enough experience. Just like the mentalist he would have been able to use this 'wisdom' or knowledge to his advantage. Jeff Prather and Budo Taijutsu both claim that we have supernatural psychic powers and that played into his hands as well, giving him the credibility of a mystical spiritual authority. He become a sort of miracle worker to us and his abilities were wildly exaggerated. He received all the feedback that a scam artist and fraudster can elicit through tricks. That should make you suspicious right there.

Watch and learn:

If you notice in the last few videos Derren Brown is on the train and makes a man forget where he is headed. Then he touches his head and helps him remember. These are types of things that Jeff Prather would do to us during martial arts or with the God Hand exercises. He showed us he had abilities we never knew were truly possible. He would tell us things and show us things that would absolutely fascinate us and that takes you out of the boring and mundane. His teachings transported you back to that time when you were a child and you were utterly amazed by life. The person who can do that to you, becomes immediately powerful in your eyes. If you can't explain what is going on, but enjoy the experience, then that person can then take advantage of you, which is what Jeff Prather is doing.

Some people accuse the astrologers, psychics and religious/spiritual hypocrites of this world for being complete frauds, scammers and without a conscience. Although it might be absolutely true for some it might not be true for others. I know when I was heavily involved with the spiritual life, I actually was convinced that spiritual realities were at play. I engaged others on this level and truly believed I was bringing these spiritual treasures to them. Looking back on it all, I don't hold it against myself. It was absolutely natural, absolutely convincing and absolutely exhilarating. Although I was wrong, I am glad I went through this whole experience. It was worth it. Now that I know better I am glad I came out the other end free and intact.

Here is a quote from Michael Shermer who is explaining what Skepticism and Science are:

"The default position in science is that: whatever it is you think you believe in, it is not true, unless you prove it otherwise"

In other words, humans are stupid and wrong. Their natural tendencies will lead them astray. Only science is a true guide in separating superstition from truth, and reality from fantasy.

Steven Pinker said:

"The first few years of college are designed to merely unteach everything the students think they know from personal experience, feeling and folk wisdom, because it is most likely completely wrong". That is a paraphrase.

I wish I had learned more about mentalism, magic, science and skepticism as a kid. It would have saved me a lot of trouble. It isn't too late. We can keep educating ourselves.

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