Does one take the time to imagine herself as a bird and see if one exists? Does one imagine the state of the mind of God? These questions are difficult, however, and many people have been successful. According to the psychoanalist Alfred Adler, however, they are not difficult at all. He writes:
“I cannot know the innermost recesses of a person… but I can look at their state of mind… and, using my own experience, draw a few conclusions.”
The author adds one final point:
“The reason that one cannot know the innermost recesses of a person is because each of us must think our own inner selves in order that we may become what we want to be; because in order to find a place in the universe – or even as close as this world – one must think of oneself as an individual.”
Perhaps “individuals” is not appropriate. However, what makes Adler’s words compelling is that they show that mentalism is not an intellectual endeavor, but one rooted in a more emotional experience, and in the belief that someplace in one’s mind is a mirror of all experience. The mentalist attempts to imagine oneself as a bird or a fish, and then, by imagining, she can discover the innermost workings of her own self. Adler’s own experience suggests that he was right: mentalism is not an intellectual endeavor. It is an experience, and it is grounded in the belief that one can find a place within this world, within the universe, by imagining oneself as an organism. This experience informs the way she understands herself as an individual, and as a thinker. That is why she can think of herself as a bird or a fish, and she can think of herself as God.
To begin, let me emphasize that this essay is not meant to provide an exhaustive statement of the evidence, nor should it be treated as a complete account from beginning to end. Rather, I just highlight some of the most promising aspects of the evidence, while acknowledging that more research is needed. The same goes for the section on psychoanalysis, which would be better served by a more extensive summary. What I am doing here is sketching the evidence, and then showing some of the strongest and most consistent effects. For this reason, I am making two main points:
First, that mentalism is grounded in an emotional sense of self. This is not a claim that all mental phenomena have an emotional component, but a claim
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