The Mentalist’s Handbook: An Explorer’s Guide to Astral, Spirit, and Psychic Worlds, by Clint Marsh
Weiser Books, 9781578634217, 196 pp. (incl. indexes), 2008
“Above, below, and throughout the world you and I call home, the aetheric plane dwells also.”1
In this book Marsh helps the explorer, the “mentalist” in his language, learn to command the aether inside of and around them to access and manipulate various layers of reality. While this is a modern book aether and psychic abilities, much of Marsh’s attitude and language draws from and is an homage to the writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, admitted even in his use and spelling of aether. He also admits having ideas influenced by the Theosophist which is clearly shown in his use of the Dweller on the Threshold and Secret Masters, and his writing is in “the grandiose style of a master mentalist, one who already had all the answers”2, not because he believes he has those answers, but because he was so influenced by the authoritative writings of early psychics in secret societies. If he did not admit to this attitude, and its origin, this book would have been a lot more difficult to read, but as he is consciously aware of his writing style it allows one to work through the book with less apprehension toward his attitude.
When Marsh says aether he means something that is “more than just a substance. It is also a force, like wind or ocean currents, like magnetism or infatuation.”3 He describes it as the omnipresent building block of reality, to which humanity is blind in our natural state, but can be trained to perceive and manipulate. A trained person, can see into the aether, get pre- and post-cognitive visions, send and receive telepathic messages, and astral travel. The range of abilities he attributes to mentalists does not end there. All the aforementioned skills are in Marsh’s language “passive psychisms”, but he goes on to say that “Active psychisms are equally fantastic and include… telekinesis… teleportation, levitation, invisibility, and time travel.”4 Personally I think the notion of teleportation is a bit more fantastic than seeing a glimpse of the past, and while it would be nice to believe he was talking about these on an aetheric level, not on a physical level, but early on in the book, he suggests that Vampires and Werewolves are mentalists who have gained enough control over the aether to physically shapeshift.5
Of all the more “fantastic” abilities attributed to active psychisms, telekineses is the only one that is touched on, with a simple exercise of trying to move a coin. It is later pointed out that when dealing with things like telekineses that “The wise aspirant realizes that such feats are less desirable than the more subtle effects telekinetic ability can have on our inner life”6 which I thankfully feel is a more balanced approach to attempting telekinetic experiments, that more important is the discipline and focus it takes, rather than being able to slide a penny to the left without touching it.
The Mentalist’s Handbook is filled with many exercises for developing visual abilities, memory, projection, and clarity of thought, and several are unique or uncommon exercises for developing psychic abilities. The exercises themselves are perhaps my favourite part of the book, covering the basics of meditation and focus, progressing up to astral travel, and the manipulation of internal and external aether. In with the exercises were several physical experiments, meant to illustrate to a beginner the nature of the aether, including dropping sugar cubes in water, illustrating how thoughtforms dissolve in the aether, and dropping ink into water to show how the mind of a mentalist influences the aether around them, and how it can interact with the mind of other mentalists. I personally enjoyed “The Aetheric Dozen”7 a twelve step exercise of awakening your aetheric body and aetheric centres (of which there are ten), collecting personal aether, projecting it out into the world, manipulating it and reabsorbing it. I feel the Aetheric Dozen is a great exercise for both beginners and people more advanced who just want to keep their mental/aetheric abilities in shape.
Unlike the majority of psychic books published today, Marsh does not take a “peace, love and happiness” perspective, believing that nothing will try to hurt you, and that nothing can. He outright says, in the melodramatic tone of the book that “there are many who desire nothing more than your utter destruction”8 referring to encountering other mentalists and aetheric entities. He also does not fall back on the notion that you can’t be harmed, just use simple purple (gold or whatever) shields to be safe, but stresses your ability to assert your will in a stronger way, as well advocating just running away and retreating back to the safety of your body. I found this perspective refreshing, as I feel it does a disservice to people new to such thoughts, to coddle them in ideas of infinite strength and safety, and that the universe is only filled with love and light.
While I did like this book, it did have problems with the format. The section on working in aetheric theory in with your religious (or non-religious) nature, and on ethics comes at the very end of the book, whereas if aetheric thought conflicts with your beliefs, it would be better to read ways of integrating it sooner rather than later. Marsh advocates strict journaling, and even sending him your results, citing it is more scientific to record your experiences. Sadly though, nowhere does he advocate testing your experiences, no projecting to a place you’ve never been then visiting it, or getting verifiable information from the dead spirits you talk to, instead he seems to put forth it is more important to record the results.
As long as you can deal with the tone of the book (which reading anything similar from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century will allow you to do), I think this book is a great read for people wanting to learn some of the basics of focus and psychic abilities.