Aside from the notion of invisible compromise, 1 would also like to spend some time dealing with the alternative to what one might call 'blind' mentalism: by which I mean that type of performance that could run as a safe and solid routine from start to finish and where the performer needs only to rely on the mechanics of his sleights and props to achieve success. While many of my working routines are solid in this way, I will be talking much about the use of subtle cueing and attention to minimal clues from the spectator, and the possibilities of learning to be responsive and adept in this area. If I do not explain a little now, you will read some of the effects as pipe dreams, which they are not. Everything in this book is thoroughly worked through, ironed out and audience tested. On the other hand, it is in the nature of effects that use this type of work that they do not have to be perfectly successful all the time.
This type of work will be impossible unless you learn to pay attention to what the spectator is doing. As you become more adept at learning to follow the mental processes of the spectator, you will find that a beautiful range of subtle mindreading opens up before you, enhancing your performance beyond recognition. A good starting point is the area known to Neuro-Linguistic Programmers as 'Eye-Accessing Cues.' NLP is a communication tool that blends aspects of Behaviourism and Chomskian Linguistics into a highly evangelical package. It has built around itself a rather creepy scene and in a rather dubious and unchecked way has become a massive industry in the worlds of trendy management-training and alternative therapies. Having trained with the highly likeable founder of NLP, I find it a mixture of sensible and appealing methods for dealing with low-level pathologies such as phobias and fears on the one hand, and sheer daft nonsense and massive rhetoric on the other.
The Eye Accessing Cues described in the early NLP literature will appeal to many, but have limited use. I describe them here because they do tie in with an area to which I would like the reader of this book to pay move attention-, subtle, unconscious movements on the part of the spectator that give you information that she is not aware of imparting.
Study the following diagram:
vis t/AL vlsoAL
vis t/AL vlsoAL
This shows the eye movements as you see them performed by someone opposite you. The eyes will move up and to the side when she is visualising, straight to the sides when she listens for sounds, down and to the left when she is talking to herself internally, and down and to the right when she is checking kinaesthetically, or paying attention to her feelings. This diagram and the thinking behind it is credited to Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of NLP.
There is no doubt that, to a point, much of this is well observed. If you catch yourself making pictures in your head or watch others as they talk, you will see that these patterns are indeed quite common. It is also the case that we generally sort from left to right when we deal with images showing past, present and future.
This is perhaps tied in with the way we read. So often if one is remembering an image, the eyes will move up and to the left. Constructed images relating to future speculation will generally be placed up and to the right - or can be easily made by staring straight ahead.
If you wish to test this, seat somebody before you (without telling her what is expected), and ask a series of questions that force her to use these internal representations. "What colour was the front door of your last house?" (remembered visual), "Can you hear that clock ticking?"(external auditory), and so on. You can ask for more complex tasks and you should see the sequence of eye movements accordingly: "Picture someone you're close to and then hear him say your name in an intimate way. Then notice how that feels."
The trouble with this technique of testing the theory is that once you know the system, it is easy to believe you know what people are doing internally when you may simply be wrong. You may decide that someone made a picture and then checked it with her feelings, but if you are wrong, or if the system is, it would be difficult to tell. One more worthwhile way of testing it, and something that is closer to our work as mentalists is to use it as a lie detector. Here, you ask someone a series of questions about a previous event, such as what he did yesterday. Instruct him, however, to lie at one point. Now, if you ask visual questions, you will force him to access remembered images, and you will see a consistent eye movement preceding each answer. When he lies, however, the eye movement will be the odd one out. He may look up and to the right, or he may look straight at you and answer. Generally the latter is the case, as people will try not to break eye contact if they think you are looking for a lie. I demonstrated this before a group of students after a show recently and after I correctly named the lie, I asked the group if they knew how I knew. One girl answered that when the chap had lied, he had not maintained eye contact. Of course this was the absolute opposite of what had happened. It is very interesting how much people miss these very obvious movements.
It is important not to become dogmatic about the diagram: it is not fully rehable. There is really no substantial support for the specific claims that NLP makes and much of it can be dismissed as vacuous nonsense. But the ideas there triggered in me an interest in exploring these kinds of signals, and now [ am pushing my performance closer into these areas.
In order for the techniques that 1 shall describe here to work, the spectator must be in a responsive mood. Your first task then is to recognise the non-verbal cues of responsiveness as opposed to detachment. This is not difficult to spot. If you ask for a volunteer and one girl raises her hand eagerly and leans forward while a chap half raises an arm while keeping back in the chair, the correct choice is clear. Next you must retain this absorbed state in the spectator so that she responds correctly to your cues. I will do this by sitting close to them, staring right at them, and placing a hand on their shoulder. Sometimes I switch my gaze so that I am focussing through them, which can render them a little confused and therefore more responsive.
A good exercise is to tell a spectator to think of a card and then for you to see how quickly you are able to name it. Here you can try and force a card through words and gesture (without using any real cards) and then fish by watching only for minimal cues. Later I will describe two pretty reliable forces, but let me deal with a third scenario here by means of illustration. You have secured an eager volunteer and can tell that she will be responsive. You will try and force her to think of the Seven of Hearts. How? You say to her, "Okay, let's go. There are four suits: Clubs, Hearts, Spades and Diamonds. Think of your favourite suit/' The word 'Hearts' is slightly emphasised through tonality and a 'soft point' with the hand at the spectator. You have also asked for her favourite suit. You continue, "Then think of a number between one and ten..." you click your fingers to suggest that she do so without thinking, "... for the value. Got it?"
This is the force that I use in 'Plerophoria.' In that effect, however, I also pen read what she writes to confirm the success of the force. Here, however, let us continue with the theme. She now has a card, and the odds are very much in favour of being the Seven of Hearts. You say, "Now, I want you to transmit the card to me. Can you do that? Picture the colour of the card on a screen? Yes? Just the colour..." As you say this, you raise your eyebrows and nod your head, which will push her into responding affirmatively. The aim here is to keep her nodding. "Can you send it to me? Make it bright and colourful and vivid so I can see it clearly." Watch to see if her nodding affirmation is interrupted by that instruction. If it is, she probably has a black card. If she continues to follow along, then presume she went for the Heart. Next say, "Now place the card on the screen. The number... high, yes? High up in the corner of the screen." Here you watch for her reaction to the word 'High.' If she stops and looks negatively at you, then presume that she has a three. You will see her eyes shift to her mental image of the card if there is any doubt in her mind. There should be a little doubt about the Seven, for it is neither high nor low. If she eagerly nods her head when you say, 'High,' then presume that she has chosen the Nine. Now name the card accordingly. If you are wrong, you will only be a little way out, and all will be impressed. If you are very wrong indeed, then shrug it off to those assembled, but keep working at it. It all depends on the choice of spectator and securing a certain state of mind from her. This fishing works a little like contact mindreading: you are feeling where she wants you to go, and noting her resistance.
Hand gestures can also be put to good use. Casually drawing the suit of a card in the air as you ask a spectator to draw one in her mind can be quite effective. Also, ask a spectator to imagine a clock face in her mind. Draw the circle of the clock in the air with your forefinger and then as you say, "... with the time on it," place your forefinger and thumb at the four-o'clock position in the centre quite emphatically. The key is placing the emphasis with just the right balance between over-subtlety and obvious blatancy. This comes from sheer confidence in using these techniques - they are not for the meek. I use such techniques to try and force the Queen of Hearts that is engraved on my lighter, the Seven of Hearts for the 'Plerophoria' routine, and the Three of Diamonds and the Jack of Spades are forced more reliably as routines in themselves.
I have developed this interest through paying close attention to the non-verbal patterns offered to me by my spectators. Learning these techniques is immensely rewarding, for 1 develop a genuine power of influence. I am not just relying on sleights and props: I am actually developing the skill that I claim to be utilising. The spectator, in turn, will often report feeling influenced and directed, which will further attest to my skills. I find this more interesting than the standard process where the mentalist ensures that someone feels that she has had a free choice that he could not have influenced. I want people to think that I can influence their choices. That, I hope, makes me more compelling as a performer, rather than the possibility of whether or not a random event can be predicted.
Once again, let me say that these subtleties are immensely enjoyable to explore, and perfectly workable in commercial situations. I hope that they will enhance your performance in the way they did mine.
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