Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) --- Volume 6 Number 3, Jul. 2007
Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dark Side of Enlightenment
~ OR ~
Dispatches From the Mind Control Wars
(Part 2 of 2)
[If you haven't read part one, see the archives, listed at the end.]
THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN AFFIRMATIONS AND PRAYERS
Thou art God.
-- Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised by Martians
in "Stranger In a Strange Land" (science fiction novel,
1961) by Robert Heinlein
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0340837950/hip-20 )
It seems like everyone selling enlightenment or self-help or
transformation or therapy has to decide at some point whether
they're preaching a religious message or not. It has tax benefits
but it invites persecution, as a "cult."
The Maharishi said no, Transcendental Meditation (TM) is simply a
technique, like mental floss. Bob Dobbs said yes (or somebody
claiming to be him) and the rest is history.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subgenius )
Marshall Thurber said no and Terry Cole-Whitacre said yes.
Grinder & Bandler said no, even though Bateson said maybe. (I'm
reminded of the Buddhist joke, "Our God is so great he doesn't
need to exist"). And a science fiction writer named L. Ron
Hubbard said yes, this is a religion, and gave us Scientology.
It should not be news that the Church of Scientology is
controversial. I looked its founder up on Wikipedia,
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L_Ron_Hubbard )
and expected a blur, almost like an electron orbital, of
changes and counter-changes as the meme wars continue.
But I found a surprisingly stable article, which included
a pointer to another article about a church doctrine called
"Fair Game" which allows "dirty tricks" against their critics,
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Game_%28Scientology%29 )
which may or may not be repudiated, and because of it, I haven't
got a bad thing to say about them Scientologists.
THIS IS IT
If you keep saying it
the way it really is,
eventually your word
is law in the universe.
-- Werner Erhard, 1978
"If God Had Meant Man to Fly, He would Have Given Him Wings
Or: Up To Your Ass in Aphorisms"
( www.thedragonscave.org/archives/tdc/est/text_files/erhard_quotes2.txt )
Another guru who said no, it isn't a religion, was Werner Erhard,
founder of the est training.
Even back at Kresge there were people who had taken est and wanted
me to do it too. A couple named Harry and Tori come to mind.
I resisted because it seemed "culty" -- and I'd had a creepy experience
with some Moonies in Berkeley recently.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonies )
I'd also seen a portrait of est creator Werner Erhard in a "Rock
Dreams" -like book, I've forgotten the name, in which he is wearing
a really sharp black Nazi SS uniform, and behind him hundreds of
wizards with diplomas and hypnotized-spiral eyes blunder about.
I do remember at a college leadership meeting Harry gave a
presentation on the meaning of some words used by the est crowd,
including "assist," "clear" and "space." It had some useful
After college I kept meeting extremely talented software people,
including John G., Dan E. and Bob B., who'd taken est and recommended
it. Finally Bob got my wife and I to a Special Guest Seminar in
the summer of 1980, and we enrolled in "the training" as everyone
How was it? It was great. It was without a doubt the most
entertaining four days (2 weekends) of my life. (A close second
is the Six Day Event, an advanced est event which we participated in
in 1981.) It did wonders for my feeling of aliveness, my integrity,
my confidence and "mojo," my level of consciousness, and my
willingness to admit when I'm wrong. I'd recommend it to almost
Sometimes I say that est is like an oil change for your mind.
But a problem occurs if go down to Jiffy Lube and get an oil change,
and you like the oil change so much that you want to start working
at Jiffy Lube. This is what leads to the "culty" aspects.
When I took the est training I was asked to promise not to reveal
what happens in it. That was 27 years ago and the original organization
has dissolved and its founder vanished, so I suppose I could argue
that the agreement no longer holds. But I'm going to keep it anyway.
What the heck, it's more fun this way.
The one thing everybody seemed to get TOTALLY hung up on was
"Is it true they don't let you go to the bathroom?"
I can safely say that I had more opportunities to go to
the bathroom in the training than during a typical 5-hour
commercial airline flight from San Diego to Chicago.
I will tell you that I became a volunteer at Jiffy Lube, I mean the
San Diego Est Center, in 1980. I was there making phone calls
for a Special guest Seminar when we heard on the radio that John
Lennon had been killed. "Well, now it's up to us," I said.
One of the great things about volunteering -- they called it
"assisting" -- was that we had to agree to get more out of it
than we put into it. There was no building up a debt, even an
emotional one, that est owed us. That was a very interesting
context, and I took advantage of the opportunity to exercise my
phone skills, my organizational skills and my management skills
at the San Diego Est center, or "the center" as we called it.
During my stint as an "assistant" I was present when scores of
people signed up for -- or as we called it, "enrolled" in --
the est training. The seminar leaders told us that the moment
when a person enrolled, when they signed the card, they
typically experience about half of the total benefit they
were going to get from the training. It was the first step on
a journey. I observed that this was true in my experience. I
also observed that, as predicted, whatever reason a person had
for wanting to take the training -- problems with money, time,
relationships, whatever -- was also the reason they COULDN'T do
it, didn't have the money, or the time, or my spouse won't let me...
It seems to be a rule of human nature that organizations turn
against their given agendas and become obstructionist; I've
written of that in other issues of C3M. It happened with the
est organization of course. But what totally surprised me was
that Werner Erhard -- who we all called "Werner" -- noticed and
decided to do something about it. He abolished the est organization.
The centers became autonomous units. The intellectual property was
owned by Werner in an unincorporated sole proprietorship. I worked
in the supply room at the San Diego center and had to destroy and
replace dozens of types of forms, brochures and enrollment cards
with new ones lacking the est origination name and logo.
Some cynics in the press said this was probably all a dodge to
foil the IRS, but Werner sent out a video in which he explained
that most people seemed to think you could fix organizational
problems with good management, but he didn't think that was true.
He said you needed people who had a shared vision instead, and
that was what he was working on. When I told my dad about this
he was amazed and impressed (he hadn't had anything good to say
about est so far). "Nobody's ever done that before," he said.
Werner talked about integrity all the time. It was what
est was all about it seemed. We all learned to show up
on time. When Bucky Fuller decided to collaborate with Werner
on a series of public "conversations" he issued a press release
praising Werner's integrity.
Werner and Bucky also collaborated, as did others, in the
creation of the Hunger Project. They way it was explained
to me was that other hunger organizations existed to provide
hunger relief, but the goal of the Hunger Project was to END
hunger. It was acting longer term. At one time we knew we
didn't have enough food for all, but since then the "green
revolution" in the 1940s-60s and general technology-driven
productivity increases had resulted in enough food for all
being produced. Bucky said we reached this benchmark in 1969.
What remained, from a logistical point of view, was a distribution
problem. But the populations of the richest Western nations
had acquired "learned helplessness" on this topic. Thanks to
charity scandals and dire predictions like "The Population Bomb"
(book, 1968) by Paul Erlich
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000E1COTA/hip-20 )
they thought hunger was a hopeless problem. Jesus said, "There
will be poor always," and Andrew Lloyd Weber put it to music.
The strategy of Hunger Project, then, was to create the
POLITICAL WILL to end hunger, with the assumption that
once that was in place, the rest would be easy. People
were asked to "enroll" in the Hunger Project with little
cards a lot like the est enrollment cards. It didn't cost
money, you just affirmed your personal commitment to end
hunger. You were encouraged to invite others as well. Today
we would call it "viral marketing." It made good sense to me.
But form day one I was amazed how hostile the mainstream press
-- and the left liberal press, like "Mother Jones" -- were to
the organization, and what a "scandal" it was that we weren't
But I do believe we were saving lives. At one San Diego
Hunger Project meeting they told us that in congressional
offices a dozen letters on one topic was a big deal. They
told us that on that date a coordinated letter writing
campaign was happened across America at different Hunger
Project meetings. The issue was a Reagan administration
embargo of aid to Somalia because of their Soviet alignment.
They had us write our local congressman, in our own words,
whatever we thought of this issue, then address and stamp the
envelope, and hand them in to be mailed. (I think they then
passed the hat for donations to pay for the postage and supplies.)
Next month someone read a newspaper clipping about the embargo
being lifted. Looking back I don't think the whole goal there
was to feed the Somalis -- though there's nothing wrong with that
-- but instead I think it was a demo for the benefit of both
the Congress and the volunteer base of the Hunger Project's
growing political clout. Remember, their strategy is to
overcome learned helplessness.
But the media wouldn't let up. It's as if they came bursting
into an architect's office and said, "You people claim to
be building buildings but I don't see any cement mixers here!
Why are you wasting your time on blueprints? Why aren't
you pouring cement?" The only other place I witness this
idiocy is in the software industry, where they ask, "Forget
the spec, why aren't you writing code?"
One of the memes we promoted in the Hunger Project was the
analogy to smallpox. Once people thought it was impossible,
but the World Health Organization (WHO) declared smallpox
eradicated in 1977, and has offered a large cash reward since
for a patient with the disease, with no takers.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox )
We also made the analogy to slavery. A century and a half
ago people thought it was a necessary evil.
The Hunger Project didn't usually do much advertising but they
did make a television spot that shows a time-lapse of
a sickly, stick-then, bloated-belly child in time-lapse,
slowly dissolving into a healthy, happy kid. It fought my
own internal tendency to dehumanize the starving children and
reminded me that we can make a difference.
I learned that the best consensus on the measure of a country's
starvation level was its Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in deaths
in the first year per 100,000 live births.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_mortality )
As Donella Meadows explains in "The State of the World As Seen by
( www.sustainabilityinstitute.org/dhm_archive/index.php?display_article=vn786imred )
(based mostly on 1998 data), IMR is directly correlated with infant
-- and nursing mother -- malnutrition.
The Hunger Project once set an IMR value of 50 as an arbitrary
but reasonable target for all the world's nations. Below 50 a
country can be said to have at least basic social and economic
coherence. Above 50, a country that allows more than five percent
of its babies to die can hardly be called developed.
The good news, according to Wikipedia, is that:
For the world, and for both Less Developed Countries (LDCs)
and More Developed Countries (MDC) IMR declined significantly
between 1960 and 2001. World infant mortality rate declined
from 198 in 1960 to 83 in 2001.
The bad news is that the world average still includes African nations
as high as Angola's 187.49, contrasted with Singapore's low of 2.29.
There is more to do, and the Hunger Project is still working to do it.
( www.thp.org )
I think the greatest legacy so far of the Hunger Project is the
1985 "Live Aid" concerts, believe it or not. I think the "viral
marketing" of the Hunger Project laid the groundwork for it to
suddenly become "hip" among rockers and their fans to fight hunger.
MONEY AND YOU
I AM RICH
I DESERVE LARGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY
MONEY FLOWS TO ME EASILY AND EFFORTLESSLY
THE MORE MONEY I HAVE, THE MORE MONEY I HAVE TO GIVE
I AM A MONEY MAGNET
MONEY IS MY SERVANT
EVERY DOLLAR I SPEND COMES BACK TO ME MULTIPLIED
I CREATE BEAUTY, JOY, HEALTH, AND HAPPINESS WITH MY MONEY
-- affirmation first seen framed with a lot of cash
in a store window in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco
Seminars seemed to move through San Diego in waves, and as I
went to check them out I kept seeing the same people working
at registration tables and running microphones. They were
often held in the same venues -- the Community Concourse,
the Scottish Rite Temple, and the Al-Bar Shrine.
I told the story of one of these in C3M Volume 2 Number 11,
Nov. 2003, "War Games, Money Games, New Games and Meta Games",
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0211.txt )
in which I wrote:
In my late 20s I took a seminar called "Money and You" presented
by enlightened business practices guru Marshall Thurber.
( www.neillqualitycollege.com/edu_marshall_thurber.php )
It was a total immersion in the methodology of simulation games.
For about 14 hours a day we spent 50 minutes learning followed
by a 10 minute break, and almost never got tired. Each 50 minutes
was divided into about 30 minutes of playing a simulation game
followed by about 20 minutes of discussion of what we'd learned.
It was fabulous. One of the games we played early on Marshall
called "sharks and minnows," and it was a version of the Prisoner's
Dilemma. At the beginning he broke us into small groups and
announced that "high score wins." Each small group played only
each other within the group. We thought and acted like we were
playing as individuals. I have since learned that tournaments and
computer simulations have verified that a long-term winning strategy
is "tit for tat," where each turn you Cooperate or Defect based on
what your opponent did last time. We learned this experimentally
in this exercise, with a lot of angst involved, before finally
stabilizing on an all-cooperation mode. The final round was for
much higher stakes, and one of our group who had never Defected
before did so, and "cleaned up" on points, much to outrage of the
rest of us. After the game was over, Marshall totaled the points
won in each GROUP, and announced the "winner" was the group with the
highest total. Many people were chagrined. We learned experientially
the meaning of changing the definition of the "unit of evolution,"
and we remembered it much better than if we'd read it in a book.
It also made it clear to me why it is so important to create an
overriding context for cooperation.
A few months later I was invited along with some other "Money and
You" graduates to an evening of gameplay, on the occasion of Marshall's
organization testing some new games for possible addition to the
seminar. One stuck with me: we were broken into two large teams,
and each team was briefed on the rules separately. My team was
taught how to play a simple negotiating game for tokens. (Shades
of the youth retreat game!) We played with each other for a while
to get the hang of it, and then we were turned loose on the other
team. Things went awry immediately. Nobody would play, and after a
few attempts to engage them, none of them would talk to us. We spent
the rest of the game attempting to engage and being snubbed. In the
post-game discussions, we discovered the other team had been given
elaborate protocols for communication, including the importance of
introducing strangers to the tribal elders before any other
communication could occur, on pain of excommunication. Of course
with our totally different goals and values the two teams were
unable to relate. I mentioned how Bateson once said that, from
inside a culture there is no such thing as "outside the culture."
This is why the Japanese viewed the first English explorers as
untouchables, and why the other team in this game viewed us as
I urged my wife to take "Money and You" as well, and at her
graduation we met new age minister Terry Cole-Whitacre, who
ended up hiring my wife for a while to do word processing
(more on her later).
FEAR INTO POWER
Fear is nature's way of making sure too many people don't
get everything they want, hence stripping the planet of raw
materials too quickly. People who go to seminars and come
away from them thinking they no longer have fears are a real
nuisance until you find out how their old fears have
reconfigured themselves. Sometimes that never happens,
and they get to float to the grave thinking they're groovy.
Seminar people are a pain in the a##.
-- Douglas Coupland, 2006
"JPod: A Novel"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0747585873/hip-20 )
The crescendo of the waves of seminar leaders who "flibberty jibbed"
their way into San Diego was Anthony "Tony" Robbins, who made his
long-planned debut as a world class guru with "Fear Into Power:
the Firewalk Experience."
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Robbins )
I showed up for it. Yes, I walked on hot coals. I was
deep in a trance. Don't try this at home.
The firewalk was Friday night bait for a weekend seminar on NLP,
which I also signed up for. Some principles Tony imparted to me:
- what any human can do, you can do - Find people to emulate.
(This context also saves you from trying to jump
over the moon.)
- model the successful - Champion spelling bee winners all share
a strategy: hear the word, see the spelling, feel in
the gut if it is OK. Tony has applied modelling to
U.S. Army sharpshooters, with great success.
- make lots of mistakes - Starting out Tony did as many seminars
as humanly possible, morning noon and night, in order to
make as many mistakes as possible in a short time
and thereby become really good.
- mirror people in order to read their minds - In his seminar
he broke us into pairs. One person recalled an
intense emotional experience, while the other person
mirrored them. When I assumed the posture and
breathing of the middle-aged woman sitting across
from me, I blurted out, "Your dog died!" And I was right.
- avoid the "coffee break seminars" - You know the ones, in the
break room at work: The boss is a jerk, life isn't
fair, an honest guy can't get ahead, diets don't work
(= "it's OK to stuff yourself"), and the opposite
(or preferred) sex is evil. Ten minutes a day of that
can guarantee a life of mediocrity.
I told Tony I'd been a student of Grinder and Bandler at Kresge,
and he was delighted; I then asked him what happens if two people
whop each know NLP try it on each other. "Oh, NLP Wars," he said,
and laughed. "The most congruent one wins," he added.
(Later in the business world I realized that the problem with
Jedi mind-tricks, as even Jabba the Hut knew, is if you only
get to meet flunkeys and hypnotize them, it doesn't really help
you much in getting to "Mr. Big.")
Soon Tony became renowned for the "Power Talk" infomercials,
selling a cassette tape course. (I have found this course at
my local library and listened to a number of them; they're great.)
But "sticking his head up" made him a target for derision.
In mainstream America, optimism is for idiots.
Still, Tony's optimistic approach got him a successful business,
a beautiful wife, and a landmark home, the Del Mar Castle.
Now, I don't intend to say anything critical of Tony Robbins,
but I did notice a downward drift in the logical levels that
NLP operates on, present in Tony's work. This is certainly
a function of client demand.
As John Grinder explained
in a 1996 interview by Chris and Jules Collingwood:
One of the expectations which I personally carried at the time
of discovery and development of NLP was that people interested
in our work would cleanly make the distinction between NLP and
applications of NLP. My hope at the time was that given this
distinction, there would arise a group of committed men and
women who would recognize the meta levels tools which we had
either discovered (the Milton Model.....), or created (the verbal
patterns of the Meta Model or Precision Model, Representational
Systems....), and go out and identify and create new models of
excellence to offer the world. This has not happened and is very
disappointing to me. NLP is popularly represented and commonly
practiced at least one logical level below what it was clearly
understood to be at the time by Bandler and me.
So to map it out, level 2 would be modeling any great healer.
G&B did this and taught this. Tony did this and used to teach it;
nowadays not so much. Level 1 would be modeling Erikson, and
doing classic NLP. Tony is doing this more and teaching it less.
Level 0 would be having NLP (level 1) DONE TO you, in order to
lose weight, quit smoking, etc. This where most of Tony's
infomercial audience is at. (It's also where a participant in the
est training is.) I'm not sure what is to be done about this.
THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING
Judge only by results.
-- Dr. Bronner's Bullion label
I'll reiterate what I said above: it all works, and it's all
better for you than broadcast commercials.
Yes, there are real limits, but most of us never get anywhere
near them because we're covertly "protecting" ourselves with
A recent buddy comedy was called "What's the Worst That Could Happen?"
I didn't see it, but the title made me laugh. I've long believed that
there is no lower limit, just as there is no upper limit to how
good it can get. Another recent movie I didn't see was "As Good
As It Gets." It reminds me of something the est volunteers used to
ask each other: "How good are you willing for it to be?"
According to "Sister to sister: in the days of Brother to Brother,
New York's wild women held their own"
by Etelka Lehoczky,
in The Advocate Oct. 26, 2004:
"Life should be ecstasy," the writer Margaret Anderson once
said to her lover Jane Heap. Heap replied, "Why limit me to
Or, as performance artist and musician Lori Anderson put it:
Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much,
There you have it, enlightenment in a Cracker Back Jox.
I similarly found NLP to work quite well every time I have had
need of it. Once at a party a woman named Megan asked me to
help integrate parts of her that weren't getting along. "So,"
I asked, "it's like this hand is one aspect of you," and I held
up her left hand in front of her, "and this hand is another
aspect of you," and I held up her right hand next to the left,
"and you're having trouble getting them together?"
"Yes," she said, and tried to bring them together, obviously
resisting. I grabbed both hands and forced them together.
"Wow," she said. "Now I feel completely integrated."
After completing the Fear Into Power seminar with Tony Robbins
I helped out a friend who had a phobia of missing buses.
I was able to cure her phobia in about 15 minutes, using
G&B's technique as taught by Tony. (The next day she missed a bus.)
On another occasion I was able to heal a relative of mine
who was having psycho-somatic nausea symptoms, using the
exact same technique. It did take several hours, but the symptoms
did not come back at least for the rest of the trip we were on.
AVERAGE FRUSTRATED CHUMP
Are there fluctuations in the sexual market ... perhaps tying
to prices in the Stock Exchange itself, that we clean-living
lot know nothing about?
-- Thomas Pynchon, 1973
From Mesmer on down until today people have equated hypnotism
with seduction. When I was a kid there were ads in the back of
comic books for the "HYPNO-COIN" that said:
NEW - POCKET SIZE INVENTION
HELPS HYPNOTIZE IN MINUTES
IT MUST WORK OR YOUR MONEY BACK
The accompanying picture -- of a man's hand holding the
coin while an attractive woman did a zombie walk -- made
it clear what the expected use of the product was.
So did sordid magazine articles.
When I was a teenager the sleazy classic "How To Pick Up
Girls" (book, 1970) by Eric Weber came out.
A decade later I found it in a used bookstore and read it.
It boiled down to, "Don't be shy, girls want to be picked
up." Ah, the seventies.
But I suppose it was nearly inevitable that somebody would
combine seduction with NLP. Well that person is Ross Jeffries
and his program is called "Speed Seduction."
This market demand for misogyny seminars has showed up
on the pop culture radar, and was the subject of the
Tom Cruise movie "Magnolia" (movie, 1999) directed
by Paul Thomas Anderson.
More recently an expose came out, "The Game: Penetrating
the Secret Society of Pickup Artists" (book, 2005) by Neil
Strauss, which I have not yet read.
I first stumbled on this stuff when I was working for a
dot-com in the late 1990s. My cubicle neighbor was a
vivacious 20-something woman who did our corporate
training. I asked her if she's heard of NLP or Speed
Seduction. She hadn't. I briefly explained them.
"This is why my dad tells me not to trust men,"
she said. I amended, "Some men." She countered,
"Why do you know so much about this?"
"Well," I said, stalling as I thought about my reply,
and then, "I use it on my wife. If this guy has a
kind of verbal aphrodisiac that makes women feel
sexier, then why not use it ethically?" Not that
this was true, but I thought it posed a nice dilemma.
Most readers of Jeffries stuff, I suspect, do not brake
for ethical dilemmas, and drive right on into Dreams
of Mind Control.
Among more paranoid Jeffries watchers there is the
so-called "October Man Mystery Technique" which
supposedly confers this Mind Control power on the user.
Apparently Jeffries only shares it with friends,
OR sells it at a steep price, depending on which
paranoid you believe.
All this folly reminds me of something I've observed
among guys without dates: some of them subscribe to
what I call "the Elephant Graveyard Theory of Hot Babes."
According to old Hollywood movie legend, big game hunters
searched for the mythical "Elephant Graveyard" where all
the old elephants instinctively went to die, and
the ivory from all those dead elephants could be taken.
In the "Hot Babe" version of this theory, there is a PLACE
where all the hot babes can be found, if only a guy could
locate that place, and he will spend time, money, risk and
effort in search of the place. At no time does it occur
to him to ask if he is BEING THE KIND OF MAN WOMEN WANT.
My experience is that if that hurdle is crossed, a guy can
find women who warm to him (if not Hot Babes) at the grocery
store, in jury duty or at church.
This whole Speed Seduction thing seems like another Elephant
Graveyard Theory to me, where a magic word-spell takes the
place of the "where."
But one thing that I find interesting to ponder: if there is
some way to control women's minds in order to seduce them,
why aren't women worried about it? Every woman I talk to
thinks these guys are losers who will keep striking out no
matter what seminars they take. I have never seen anyone
advertise a seminar for women on how to resist seduction
attempts that use NLP techniques.
A CONSPIRACY OF MEMES
The patterns delineated here have not yet been classified by
a Linnaeus of human bondage. They are all, perhaps, strangely,
familiar. In these pages I have confined myself to laying out
only some of those I actually have seen. Words that come to mind
to name them are: knots, tangles, fankles, impasses, disjunctions,
whirligogs, binds. I could have remained closer to the 'raw'
data in which these patterns appear. I could have distilled them
further towards an abstract logico-mathematical calculus. I
hope they are not so schematized that one may not refer back to
the very specific experiences from which they derive; yet that
they are sufficiently independent of 'content', for one
to divine the final formal elegance in these webs of maya.
A son should respect his father
he should not have to be taught to respect his father
It is something that is natural
That's how I've brought up my son anyway.
-- R. D. Laing, April 1969
I saw a video once of Werner Erhard talking about barriers to
transformation. He said people asked him how we get ourselves
into these self-destructive or self-thwarting patterns. He
said he'd given it a lot of thought, and concluded that "You
don't find them; they find you." The best metaphor he could
come up with was meteorology. I was reminded of hurricanes,
tornados and dust devils, which need precise rare conditions to
form but then can wander into other airmasses and "take them over"
for a while.
Of course, what he was grasping towards, as so many others have
(Eric Berne's "life scripts" come to mind), was the science
I've mentioned before how Dawkins coined the word in "The Selfish
Gene" (book, 1976).
Even before that, Ramon Margalef, in "Perspectives in Ecological
Theory" (book, 1968),
posited the existence of a separate chain of evolution of culture,
separate from genetic evolution, and a third, more primitive
chain he called "metabolism" if memory serves.
More recently an excellent examination of memetics,
by Susan Blackmore, has appeared: "The Meme Machine"
She goes beyond anything I've read up until now by spelling
out how -- once any form of replicator is created -- the message
being replicated ("memes" or "genes" or "computer viruses")
and the machines replicating them ("minds" or "bodies" or
"operating systems") form their own loop of coevolution.
In the case at hand not only do minds modify memes, but memes modify
minds. The whole dynamic takes on, quite literally, "a life of
This is useful in our inquiry into hypnotherapy and self-help
and mind control techniques, because there may be some effects
due to the cybernetics of "charismatic" communication --
seminars, tent meetings, rock concerts and even keynote addresses.
We may not have to explain everything in terms of adaptive value
to the gene pool, as a sociobiologist would.
"Names by themselves may be empty, but the act of naming
-- Thomas Pynchon, 1973
One thing that always seems to be a marker for the descent
into cults is creating and using a special slang. It
easily delineates insider from outsider.
One classic example is "The Farm" (in Summertown, TN),
founded by "Stephen" (Stephen Gaskin), which grew out
of his "Monday Night Class" (a free lecture in San Francisco),
which became "The Caravan" (a bunch of hippies in RVs) which
ended up in Tennessee, on "The Farm," guarded by "The Gate"
with a band called "The Band" and so on...
Later I was reminded of Gaskin's languaging when Microsoft
introduced a new Disk Operating System (at a time when
there were many) and called it "DOS," followed by a word
processing program called "Word" (at a time when
there were many word processors) and a windows system
called "Windows" (at a time when there were many windowing
In the est training and its support groups and guest seminars
there was a definitely a special slang used. Early in the
training the trainer says, repeatedly, "We speak a strange
language, we say what we mean."
Some of the "estisms" I remember are:
- the training
- to assist
- a process
- be complete
- be clear
(Est joke: "What's Werner's favorite color?" "Clear.")
When I worked at Walt Disney World in 1976 there was similar
languaging. We were not employees, we were "cast members."
The customers were always "guests." The guards were called
"security hosts" (and wore white spats!) Our tourist-free
work areas and break areas were "backstage." Our punch-in
time was the "curtain call." And the place we all worked
was called simply "The World" -- I was reminded of American
soldiers in Viet Nam in the 1960s, who called life back in
the U.S.A. "The World."
WHISPERING SQUASH: Howdy, everybody! Ah'm the Whisperin'
LONESOME BEET: And I'm the Lonesome Beet...
ARTIE CHOKE: And I'm Arti Choke! And we're just a joke...
W: And don't be afraid, Little People, 'cause we're just
CLEM [aside]: Great!
L: Yeah! But what about you, Pardner? What'ch you doin'
A: Can't be much, Lonesome. Nobody's workin'!
L: Nobody 'cept us and I'm gettin' tired of standin' here
with these geeks a-gawkin' at me!
A: Now you keep it sweet, Beet!
L: Listen here, Leafhead! I'm gonna pluck you five ways...
W: Now, now, boys! Fightin's out of style! Fun's where the
Fair's at--in the Future, that is!
A: You can bet your roots, Toots, it's Tons o' Fun!
L: And technical stimulation!
C [aside]: That's what I need!
W: And there's lots more of me where I come from!
L: In Gov'ment inflicted simulation!
A: The Future can't wait--no place to hide!
L: Yep! So climb on a board...
A: We're goin' inside!
-- The Firesign Theater, 1971
"I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus"
And speaking of the Walt Disney Company, they are the best
corporate hypnotists in living memory, if you ask me.
One obvious parallel between the est organization and the
Disney Corp. is how they PARK you when you show up, so
that you KNOW YOU HAVE BEEN PARKED.
Disney follows this always with "the voice" (one of several
talented voice actors, always men, of which Jack Wagner is
the most prominent example).
And "the voice" begins the trance induction.
If you fly in to the Orlando airport, you must ride from
your arrival gate to the terminal on a People Mover,
narrated by "the voice" of Jack Wagner.
The Orange County, California rock band No Doubt
came out with a song and an album named "Tragic Kingdom"
The song "Tragic Kingdom" begins with "the voice" from
the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride saying:
"Remain seated please. Permanecer sentados por favor."
Any Disneyland fan will respond to this anchor, and it
triggers a return to the emotional trance.
(That last bit always sounded to me like "Terminus centavo,
My favorite Walt Disney biography is the first one I ever read,
"The Disney Version: the Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt
Disney" (1968) by Richard Schickel,
"widely acclaimed as the single most illuminating work on America
and the movies" according to one reviewer.
In it he describes Disney's unusual personnel goals and methods:
... Even the cops at Disneyland are a new breed -- generally
moonlighting schoolteachers, with physical-education instructors
predominant among them.
Disney himself once commented: "The first year I leased out the
parking concession, brought in the usual security guards --
things like that. But I soon realized my mistake. I couldn't
have outside help and still get over my idea of hospitality.
So now we recruit and train every one of our employees..."
The aim of the staff is to keep everyone in a spending mood
without ever once overtly suggesting that Disneyland is, in
the last analysis, not a charitable enterprise. The trick is
not to harass the visitor into spending but rather to relax
him to the point where the inner guardians of his frugality
are lulled into semiconsciousness.
Among the best cultural critiques of Disney Corp. is "The Paradise
Program: Travels Through Muzak, Hilton, Coca-Cola and other World
Empires" (book of essays, 1972) by Anthony Haden-Guest,
cousin of Christopher Guest of SNL fame and British royalty to boot.
Now the World is: Vacationland, which you may inhabit for days
Does it seem too ambitious? Too heavy a project to control
with the precision that characterises Disney operations? Nothing
is impossible, nothing. Brood upon the geometric conditioning
of the Radial Plan.
The Radial Plan was not invented by Disney -- Stonehenge is
rumoured to have controlled psychic energies in this manner,
and there is always Corbusier's LA VILE RADIEUSE -- but
certainly it is Disney that has put the concept to the most
Radial Planning was pioneered out at Anaheim. As was our own,
otherwise untidier world, the Magic Kingdom was designed with
but one entrance. This, of course, simplifies keeping out
longhairs and assorted undesirables, but the Radial Plan
exemplifies a subtler control pattern that this. Namely, if
we enter and move clockwise, as nature inclined us to -- we
are born like screws with a right-hand thread -- we can can
stroll up, down, up, down, and cover a maximal area, with
minimal fatigue to ourselves, and maximal profit to the Kingdom.
This plan has been applied to the Theme Park in Florida, and not
just the Theme Park. The satellite industrial complexes have a
similar radial design as -- most tightly of all -- do the
projections for EPCOT. It will lend the terrain an arresting
look from the air. In ironic proximity to the cybernetic slums
of the aero-space industry and the [sad] ramshackle iconography
of Cape Kennedy here will lie the interlocking circles of the
STUPOR MUNDI like the exposed works of a watch. After all,
the antique Deist concept of God-as-the-Great-Clockmaker should
allow Walt's World at least the spick-and-span eye-appeal of a
Mickey Mouse watch.
It's a bit like a stroll through somebody's head. Walt Disney's
head. There are times when the Magic Kingdom, for instance,
reminds me of that kitchen-Freud entertainment in which one
describes a journey. You describe the woods, castles, boats,
thereby indulging in crude self-analysis for the merriment
of others. But in the Magic Kingdom, the journey has already
been prepared for your. The images are safe, and clean, and
bright. The mirth will be your own.
Nor is this image all that esoteric. As a matter of fact Poe,
that other native American fantasist, has a poem "The Haunted
Palace" wherein he describes a head in Gothic castle terms.
With a pedantic whimsy, not unlike Walt's own, the eyes become
two luminous windows and the hair is pictured as "Banners,
yellow, glorious, golden," and so on.
Now, of course, Walt has a world to play with.
* * * * * *
Walt Disney was not a man to accept the dark side of fantasy.
His dreams are clean dreams. There is a breakdown of the
mechanism in Poe's "Haunted Palace," as you may recall.
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh -- but smile no more
the piece ends.
Disney is not about to let this happen. No hideous laughs for
them. Smiles, smiles forever.
Perhaps the most appropriate head of all to serve as an image
for the Walt Disney World is the one they created themselves for
this purpose. This was designed by Bob Moore, who is in charge
of the advertising art over in Burbank, and it appears literally
everywhere, from door-mats to drain-covers. It shows the World,
griddled geometrically into longitude and latitude, and adorned
with Mickey Mouse ears. A planetary concept that says it all.
As an up-to-date curriculum of a student of NLP, I would recommend
getting Disney's latest DVD promoting its theme parks and the "Year
of a Million Dreams" campaign, called the "Vacation Planning DVD"
on the Disney web site.
I snagged a copy of the banner:
Your assignment is: catalog the trance induction techniques
used in the DVD.
LEADERS WANTED, APPLY AT GALLOWS
"Boom Dot Bust" [is] a mind-blowing comedy masterpiece set
in the heartland town of Billville. The residents are all
named Bill, and there's a long history of natural disasters
and lynching politicians ("I am the mayor. Re-elect me or
hang me! That's the will of Bill!"). ... It's a CD-length
story, told Citizen Kane-style through a hilarious labyrinth
of infomercials, talk shows, flashbacks, specialty cable
channels, and a sermon from Rev. Barnstormer of the First
Reformed Church of Science Fiction.
-- Amazon.com review of "Boom Dot Bust" (comedy album, 1999)
by The Firesign Theatre
The Firesign Theatre's mythological tale of Billville, a town that
always seems to ending up hanging its mayor, serves as a reminder
of America's obsession with Leader Killing. Lately I've been
finding myself saying, "We need to have more compassion for our
political leaders when they are driven mad by power."
In an interview which was later quoted in a documentary,
rock star Bono of U2 said:
I'm not a hero. I'm a rock'n roller. I'm spoiled rotten.
I'm paid too much for what I do. I'd do it for nothing.
You know what I mean? It's like... You people -- You need
heroes. The people want... The media want to create heroes.
But if I agreed to the job, you'd kill me. So I'm backing
(Bono spoke these words to Bobbie Battista of CNN at the beginning
of the ZooTV tour. Quoted in "The Importance of Being Earnest:
An Appreciation of U2's Dismantled Image" by Sarah Masen.)
The jury is still out on Bono's success as an anti-hero, but
it is illuminating to look at the tragic falls of nearly everyone
described in this month's 'Zine:
According to his Wikipedia entry,
Mesmer was hounded out of his practice:
In 1784, without Mesmer requesting it, King Louis
XVI appointed four members of the Faculty of Medicine
as commissioners to investigate animal magnetism as
practiced by d'Eslon. At the request of these
commissioners the King appointed five additional
commissioners from the Royal Academy of Sciences.
These included the chemist Antoine Lavoisier, the
physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, the astronomer
Jean Sylvain Bailly and the American ambassador
The commission conducted a series of experiments
aimed, not at determining whether Mesmer's treatment
worked, but whether he had discovered a new physical
fluid. The commission concluded that there was no
evidence for such a fluid. Whatever benefit the
treatment produced was attributed to "imagination."
In 1785 Mesmer left Paris... His exact activities
during the last twenty years of his life are
Reich's entry in Wikipedia
has these passages:
Reich was investigated by the FBI when he arrived in
the U.S. because he was an immigrant with a communist
background. The FBI released 789 pages of its files
on Reich in 2000...
Reich wrote in "Conspiracy. An Emotional Chain Reaction":
"I would like to plead for my right to investigate
natural phenomena without having guns pointed at me.
I also ask for the right to be wrong without being
hanged for it ... I am angry because smearing can
do anything and truth can do so little to prevail,
as it seems at the moment."
On February 10, 1954, the U.S. Attorney for Maine,
acting on behalf of the FDA, filed a complaint seeking
a permanent injunction under Sections 301 and 302 of the
Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, to prevent
interstate shipment of orgone-therapy equipment and
literature. Reich refused to appear in court, apparently
believing that no court was in a position to evaluate his
Because of Reich's failure to appear, Judge Clifford
granted the injunction on March 19, 1954. His ruling
ordered that all written materials that mentioned
"orgone energy" including papers and pamphlets, and
ten of Reich's books were to be destroyed. It further
stated that additional copies of his books, including
revised classics like "The Mass Psychology of Fascism,"
could not be published unless all references to "orgone
energy" were deleted.
In May 1956, Reich was arrested for technical violation
of the injunction when an associate moved some orgone-
therapy equipment across a state line, and Reich was
charged with contempt of court. Once again, he refused
to arrange a legal defense. He was brought in chains to
the courthouse in Portland, Maine. Representing himself,
he admitted to having violated the injunction and ...
was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
On June 5, 1956, FDA officials traveled to Orgonon,
Reich's ... estate near Rangeley, Maine, where they
destroyed the accumulators, and on June 26, burned
many of his books. On August 25, 1956 and again on
March 17, 1960,  the remaining six tons of his books,
journals and papers were burned in the 25th Street
public incinerator in New York's lower east side...
In March 1957, he was sent to Danbury Federal Prison...
Reich died in his sleep of heart failure on November
3, 1957 in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg,
Pennsylvania, shortly before he was due to apply for
parole. Not one psychiatric or established scientific
journal carried an obituary.
Many have found Reich's life to be tragic. New age mystic
Robert Anton Wilson (who died this year) wrote a play called
"Wilhelm Reich in Hell" in 1995,
examining his tragedy.
In "Psychology 5 - Humanistic Psychology" at UCSC, Dr.
Michael Kahn taught us about Reich, and concluded: don't
mess with the physical body, "sexual energy" and electro-
magnetism (what Emerson called "the body electric").
The forces of the state-sponsored morality and reality
policing will shut you right down.
According to his Wikipedia article,
Hubbard was embroiled in accusations of scandal.
In 1967, L. Ron Hubbard further distanced himself from the
controversy attached to Scientology by resigning as executive
director of the church and appointing himself "Commodore" of
a small fleet of Scientologist-crewed ships that spent the
next eight years cruising the Mediterranean Sea.
The time and manner of his death remain unclear.
* Dr. Michael Dean, Gaslight Supper Club, San Diego
Even Dr. Dean has had his share of problems. In
the article "General Semantics and the Chicken Suit
Murders - The hypnotic realities of Dr Ronald Dante
and Dr Michael Dean" by John-Ivan Palmer, March '05
the twisted tale is told of Dante's murderous envy of Dean.
* Timothy Leary
Let us not forget that Leary was framed for a pot rap
and sentenced to 20 years. Sprung from jail by the Weather
Underground, they got him to Algiers, where Black Panther
Eldridge Cleaver kept him under house arrest, and he eventually
ended up in Switzerland, where he was illegally kidnapped by
Nixon's FBI and brought back to the U.S. to serve his
sentence. The Carter administration let him out after
having him testify before a grand jury against the people
who freed him in order to discredit him with the radical
left. (No one was ever prosecuted for the jailbreak.)
* Werner Erhard
It seems to me that Werner's story is another
tragedy. After he personally -- or through trainers he
recruited and trained -- delivered the est training
to a claimed three-quarters of a million people, and
then the Landmark Forum he founded trained a reported
880,000 more, he cashed out and fled the country in
1991 on the heels of a "Sixty Minutes" report that made
him out to be a mentally unstable megalomaniac molester.
Once, in a speech against gossip on video, Werner Erhard
said "I'm clear that everyone knows everything. But there's
a difference between everyone knowing everything and public
information. When you gossip it can become public information."
I still feel some anger about Werner's disappearance
from public life from 1993 until 2004, leaving us who
endorsed him to defend his good name. Ambrose Bierce,
in "The Devil's Dictionary" (book, 1881),
gave this definition of "absent":
Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction;
vilified; hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in
the consideration and affection of another.
In his absence Werner has made it easy for himself
to be vilified with "public information."
Looking for answers, I read the book "Outrageous Betrayal:
The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from Est to Exile" (1993)
by Steven Pressman.
Afterwards I felt like I needed a shower, because the
author's approach was so sleazy. A reviewer on Amazon
had a similar reaction to mine:
I found the book disappointing. Pressman has clearly only
told one side of a complex story, and his subjective,
sensationalist style serves only to make the intelligent
reader wonder what the other side of the story is. The
author clearly started his "research" with the fixed
outcome (i.e. "Erhard is a bad guy") in mind, and one
strongly suspects that he was very selective in those
he interviewed and spoke to. I know from personal
experience that some of the key information in his
book is simply incorrect. Several hundreds of thousands
of people around the world clearly benefited from Erhard's
extraordinary work -- and anyone, however skeptical, must
admit that it can best be described as extraordinary. In
summary, Pressman appears to be a typical journalist of
the cheaper variety: never let the truth get in the way
of a good story. I wonder which influential figure he
will choose to attack in his next book?
But because Werner has abdicated in any discourse in the
public sector, only unenlightened "dirty laundry"
journalism like this is available as a historical record.
* Robert Allen
He's doing OK these days but at one point he
lost a highly-leveraged house in the Rocky Mountains
to an avalanche, which insurers claimed was an
"act of God," and he ended up millions in
debt. Years later he'd dug out and once more became rich.
* Marshall Thurber
In his seminars he's told the story of how he and his
closest friends and family -- acting on his advice --
lost a fortune on the Chicago Board of Trade options
market when "they changed the rules."
* Tony Robbins
Tony has told the story in his cassette tape course
"Power Talk" how he had a business manager who
embezzled from him early in his seminar leader
career, and he turned it into a positive and grew
his business to cover the shortfall. More recently
his marriage ended in divorce and he decamped from
San Diego to Florida. I don't know why. He still
sells seminars and life coaching on the web.
* Terry Cole-Whitacre
A close relation once worked for TCW and though she hardly
ever saw Terry, she said some of the other people she dealt
with had odd ethical lapses.
According to the San Diego Union,
she also scrammed one day.
La Jolla evangelist Terry Cole-Whittaker announced
that she was shutting down her popular TV ministry
and moving to Hawaii. A former Miss California,
Cole-Whittaker was dubbed a "Yuppie evangelist"
after she took over the La Jolla Church of Religious
Science in 1977 and established a nationwide
following for her ministry preaching prosperity
as a divine right.
But in the new millennium she is back, with a new book,
"Every Saint Has a Past, Every Sinner a Future" (2001).
* Grinder & Bandler
G&B's tale is one of the most tragic of the bunch.
It is also one of the most contested. While poking around
in Google and Wikipedia researching NLP, I found that an
unusually high number of people have been banned from
posting edits to articles because of abuse on this topic.
Last time I told how Grinder lost tenure and G&B turned
to seminars as a way to make money. One newsgroup
poster told a tale that concluded:
For a while, Bandler and Grinder thought that they
could turn NLP into a product which could be promoted
to the general public for a lot of money. I'm sure
that they must have had the examples of L. Ron Hubbard
and Werner Erhard in mind.
One of the earliest "red flags" I saw in their
relationship was a constant positioning for credit.
It is traditional with professors and their students
that the professor gets top billing in publications.
But if you look through this 'Zine from last time and
this, the list of books by the two alternates the order
of precedence. I just took it right off of Amazon.com
A lot of stuff "went down" while I wasn't
paying attention. Digging on the web I found
ann excerpt from "The NEW YORK TRAINING INSTITUTE FOR
NLP - INTERVIEW & ARTICLES - An Interview with AnnÃ
Linden: The First Lady of NPL"
In which she describes the unravelling of the NLP community:
We held conferences annually. But the culture of
NLP in the US is, unfortunately, one of camps and
competition. One faction wanted a professional
organization with ethics and standards. The other
faction wanted an open organization which anyone
could join. I was vice president for a number of
years and put on four conferences. Eventually with
all the politics, I got very discouraged and became
less involved. In the early 90's, the organization
died because of backbiting, bad feelings, and nastiness.
In addition to the community breaking up, so did the
team of Grinder and Bandler. Bandler went bankrupt,
sued Grinder for stealing his ideas, and ultimately
left Santa Cruz for London, but not before being
tried for murder and having it televised on Santa Cruz TV.
"Mother Jones" magazine ran an expose article,
which began with these lurid words:
The Bandler Method
by Frank Clancy & Heidi Yorkshire
Corine Christensen must have been terrified, for she
scrawled a cryptic, pleading note before she was
murdered. Her life had once been threatened by
Richard Bandler, but a jury later acquitted the therapist.
New Age therapist Richard Bandler believed that anyone
could change with the right stimulus. Even if that
stimulus was a gun.
Bandler got himself into what almost sounds like a
classic Minute Mystery "locked room" story: 2 men and
1 woman went into a room with a lot of cocaine and a gun;
the woman was shot. Due to reasonable doubt about
who the murder was, no one was punished.
Two different former students of G&B told me that
Richard Bandler once bragged that he could talk
his way out of a murder rap. (Both asked me not to
use their names!)
A note to aspiring magicians out there: be careful what
you wish for. Having magic so great you can beat a
murder rap is a lousy goal. How about magic so great
that you are never a party to violence?
THE EXCEPTION THAT PROVES THE RULE
The more we control our environment the less possible it is
to experience novelty...
-- Philip Slater, 1975
I've mentioned before that most of the faculty at Kresge who I
hung out with left the college under unhappy circumstances.
Even Gregory Bateson, who was crowned Regent by Gov. Jerry Brown,
was forced to stop teaching by his health problems at the end.
But one notable exception was Philip Slater, mister "leader
killing" himself, who -- like Bono before him -- backed out.
After I returned from my bike trip across America in 1975-76,
I found out Slater was living in Santa Cruz, and I went to see him.
I told him I wanted to be his student. He said he wasn't looking
for students. He was going to become a playwright.
And he did.
I also should note that although Reich was crucified for
offering an electro-magnetic form of liberation, and Leary
for a chemical form, and Erhard for a seminar with cultish
overtones, our society chose to embrace and hero-worship
that former acid head and guru-chasing geek who offered
us an ELECTRONIC form of liberation: Steve Jobs and
his Apple of knowledge.
LIKE A TON OF BRICKS
Obviously the truth is what's so. Not so obviously,
it's also so what.
-- Werner Erhard
What are we to make of this cacophony of tragedy?
I once heard a sermon from a Presbyterian minister who was
raised the son of an orthodox rabbi. He read from the
new testament, the gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
Using his knowledge of the Greek this was translated from,
he explained that the word for Word was "Logos" which also
meant "knowledge learned from words." It contrasted with
"Gnosis," "knowledge learned from direct communion." In the
time of Jesus there were those who believed it was possible to
know God through direct experience, the "Gnostics," and those
who believed you had to read it in the "Good Book," or else
"Hear the Word of the Lord." The gospel of John begins with
a manifesto for Logos against Gnosis.
There is a tendency for Gnostics to be secretive. Since you
don't need to "spread the word" anyway, and each is a sort of
a religion of one, why invite trouble?
Timothy Leary explained in his autobiography that the history
of enlightenment and "the mind's true liberation" is cyclic,
and there times when the establishment's wings of Church and
State are more tolerant of the Gnostics, and times when they
come down harder. I've known since 9/11 that the pendulum
was swinging away from the Gnostics for a while...
Modern mystics like Gurdjieff,
and his student Ouspensky,
have preached the Gnostic-like ideas that most people are
sleep-walking through life, and only a select few get to learn
the truth, but must be taught in code to protect the secret.
The purpose of publications is to inspire and perhaps recruit,
but not to inform.
But is this explanation enough? Are all these would-be
messiahs victims of societal persecution?
YOUR BRAIN IS NOT THE BOSS
An extreme rigor is sure to arm everything against it.
-- Edmund Burke, 1780
"Speech on presenting to the House of Commons
a plan for the better security of the independence
of Parliament, and the economical reformation of the
civil and other establishments"
Somewhere on the web -- I've lost track where -- someone was
summarizing the history of NLP and talking about how Bateson
retracted his endorsement of NLP because Grinder and Bandler
got the context wrong. Now, that sounds kind of abstract and
vague, but when you think about it that's really what happened.
Erickson and the other hypno-therapists had the context of
healing to work within, and it established a relationship
of trust and an ethical framework. This unraveled as the
uses of NLP moved downwards in respectability, to SELF-HELP,
which has always seemed boorish to the upper classes,
to SALES, which may seek to empower (see Zig Ziglar's approach to
sales as service) but often seeks to rip-off, then to SEDUCTION
and its predatory assumptions, and finally to MIND CONTROL with
its sociopathic impulse.
When Hollywood finally tossed off the Hayes Office censorship
and adapted the rating system that allowed them to start making
adolescent fantasy movies with profanity and nudity, the theme
of mind control kept emerging, in movies like "Zapped!" (1982)
and "Weird Science" (1985),
and before that in spy movies like "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)
and "The Ipcress File" (movie, 1965)
and in horror movies like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956)
and "The Day of the Triffids" (1962).
But the horrors of Hollywood pale in comparison to one of the
most shameful chapters in U.S. history, the CIA's covert
mind-control experiments with LSD, torture and other tools
in Project MK ULTRA.
The whole horrid tale is told in "Journey Into Madness: The
True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse"
(book, 1989) by Gordon Thomas.
What got these guys started was the significant number
of U.S. soldiers who came back from the Korean War apparently
"brainwashed" by the ChiComms. They seemed to really be
Communists too, joining the party and working for the Workers
Determined to find out how the trick worked, our paranoid 1950s
Cold War government told the CIA to do "whatever it took" to
figure out the secret of MIND CONTROL, and turned them loose.
Argh. The next thing you know they had a bordello in San
Francisco with one way mirrors, and colluding with the
prostitutes they were dosing with LSD and secretly observing
Of course what those sneaky Chinese were doing was to
use good old Operant Conditioning, as taught by the father
of the behaviorists, B. F. Skinner. Each day each prisoner
could get an extra helping of food if the wrote a short essay
about one small thing that was wrong with America. "Surely
America cannot be perfect," the interrogators would say.
And so on. I dare say dog trainers would've done a better
job than the CIA in figuring this one out.
One guy who DID figure out how to use LSD for Mind Control
was Charles Manson. He took homely young women whose
parents hadn't treated them well, and gave them LSD and
performed oral sex on them for dozen hour marathons.
They became his slaves, willing to commit grisly murders
for him. This is all narrated in "Helter Skelter: The True
Story of the Manson Murders" (book, 1975) by Vincent Bugliosi
and Curt Gentry,
though I suspect that what really went down was far crazier than
Buglosi's bogey man tale.
Not long after was the nutty tragedy of heiress Patty Hearst,
who was kidnapped by revolutionaries and then became one of them.
The scary moral of the Patty Hearst parable is that if an heiress
born with a silver spoon in her mouth can be be brainwashed into
becoming a bomb-throwing Marxist revolutionary, then none of us
is safe. But as Leary pointed out in an article in Larry Flynt's
"Oui" magazine and later reprinted in "Neuropolitics: The
Sociobiology of Human Metamorphosis" (book of essays, 1977),
the really scary thing is that we are pretty much all brainwashed
pretty much all the time.
IT HEARD THE WORD POWER AND RESPONDED JUST LIKE WE DO!
The researchers went on to theorize that getting power
causes people to focus so keenly on the potential rewards,
like money, sex, public acclaim or an extra chocolate-chip
cookie -- not necessarily in that order, or frankly, any
order at all, but preferably all at once -- that they
become oblivious to the people around them.
-- Richard Conniff, April 4, 2007
"The Rich Are More Oblivious Than You and Me"
NY Times op ed piece
In trying to make sense of all of this, I remembered that one
of my friends from Kresge was a student of Grinder and Bandler's
who later became a therapist. I Googled her and found her --
I'll call her Joyce M. -- and we had a couple of great phone
calls bouncing around ideas.
I asked her if she used NLP in her therapy. Very rarely,
she told me. Sometimes a person might get stuck in some
verbal loops and she might pattern break. Mostly, she
told me, she wasn't looking for gimmicks to trigger some
sudden change in the client, but rather worked with them
to find their own resources to solve their problems.
She found this way produced more lasting change. "One
way I think about what I'm doing," she said, "Is that when
they lose touch with their ability to heal themselves,
I hold if for them for a little while."
She wanted to know what I thought.
I told her I thought that the thing missing from NLP was the
respect for the patient. I mentioned the book "I and Thou"
(1971) by Martin Buber,
which I've never read, but I saw it listed in the "Whole
Earth Catalog" and I always liked the name, which implies
a sort of "I am you" identification.
She told me that thing that bothered her about G&B, and the
reason she moved away from their circle, was that they seemed
obsessed with power.
There was that flawed metaphor again.
I told her about Bateson's paper, "A Formal Approach
to Explicit, Implicit, and Embodied Ideas and to Their Forms of
Interaction" (1976), reprinted posthumously in "Sacred Unity: Further
Steps to an Ecology of Mind" (1991) edited by Rodney E. Donaldson,
(I didn't recall the title on the phone, but I found it later)
in which he explained that around 1960:
I withdrew from the field of hospital psychiatry into wider
fields . . . . I must also confess that I was bored and
disgusted by the ... muddle of conventional psychiatric
thinking, by my colleagues' obsession with power,
I remembered Bateson had told his students about how warped he
found psychiatry to be in the 1950s. There was this notion that
you had to control the patients in order to cure them.
After the conversations, and during the writing of part one,
I thought about the epistemological errors of NLP, and here
is what I've come up with.
If you're going to believe in "power," and seek power "over"
other people by using NLP or similar techniques, I see three
main problems before you:
1) Practicing NLP requires that you have control over what
say, as well as how you say it. This is actually harder
than it seems. Experimental cognitive scientists
consistently demonstrate that what we call "consciousness"
trails our behavior by a second or two, making up
reasons why we do what we do but not steering it.
Operationally, it can be very hard to track someone's
eye movements and the sensory modes implied in their
verbal communication, while mirroring them and pacing
their breathing, AND ALSO managing to carry on a
conversation containing an ostensive, overt meaning as
well as hidden communications like embedded commands
2) Supposing that your execution is perfect, and the
techniques you were taught are effective. Well, that
means you can have WHATEVER YOU WANT, doesn't it? This
places the point of failure at your ego, as it attempts
to manifest your will. If you don't know what you
want, or don't want it enough, or or don't think you
deserve it, your -- perhaps neurotic -- self-sabotage
is amplified by your abilities, and is dumped into your
social environment to feed back to you in unexpected
and worrisome ways. Another danger is thoughtless
envy -- if you don't know what you want, it's still easy
to envy those who do, and get it.
3) Of course, the greatest danger is that your tools use
you. Tolkien, in "The Lord of the Rings" (myth, 1937++)
teaches that the ring of power corrupts those who use it.
If power is an illusion, the corruption still is not.
Another cautionary fable is King Midas, who having turned
his loved ones into objects he can manipulate and own,
I'm very clear about lies. Lies persist, and the truth doesn't.
-- Werner Erhard
One of my readers, when I asked for input on what to write about,
I definitely vote for you to address NLP. John Grinder is
now submitting abstract papers to Bateson conference sessions,
so he's back. (The papers aren't justifying NLP though.)
Bateson wrote the intro to Structure of Magic I so Bateson
is still on the hook somewhat for NLP as they use Bateson
to justify themselves, also Virginia Satir and Milton Erikson.
But the focus on control in NLP is so out of whack with
Bateson's own warnings on the problems of conscious purpose.
This raises an interesting question, which is what are we to make
of his new work? I read "Steps to an ecology of emergence" by Malloy,
T. E., Bostic St Clair, C. & Grinder, J. (2005) in a special edition
of "Cybernetics & Human Knowing: A Journal of Second-Order Cybernetics
Auto Poiesis and Cyber-Semiotics" (v. 11, n. 3) devoted to "Gregory
Bateson -- essays for an ecology of ideas."
and found it to be excellent, lacking only a connection to the
work of Wolfram.
But still, I need more context to evaluate this new emergence.
I Googled around and filled in some missing history.
According to "Interview with John Grinder" (1996)
Grinder took a new tack in the 1980s:
John Grinder began collaborating with Judith DeLozier; between
between 1982-1987 they began developing the New Code of NLP,
they were heavily influenced by anthropologist Gregory Bateson,
and a desired to create an aesthetic and ethical framework for
the use of NLP patterns. Their recode was presented in a series
of seminars, titled "Turtles All the Way Down; Prerequisites to
Personal Genius," transcripts were published in book by the
same name. In the 1980s, Grinder ceased providing public seminars,
to pursue cultural change in organizations. During this time he
held few public seminars, while he continued to refine the New
Code of NLP with his new partner, Carmen Bostic St Clair. They
published recommendations to the NLP community to become a
legitimate field of study, in their work, "Whispering in the
I wonder how much that critique I gave him in 1975 influenced this?
At this point I'm willing to give John Grinder the benefit of the
doubt. Perhaps Bandler suffered the Bonfire of the Vanities for
Grinder's sins, I don't know, but his new work seems to be coming
from a good place. Stay tuned.
AND STILL THEY PERSIST
"In the daily newspapers, you find people talking
about 'space' and today everyone knows what that
means," Erhard told an interviewer in late 1988.
"In the last few months, there have been four major
business books talking about transformation. There's
no question that a lot of the principles that we
developed in our work in the '70s have found their
way into the mainstream."
-- William Gaddis Annotations, 2005
Now don't be afraid, here in the "Nude Age," because there's
a seeker born every minute.
-- The Firesign Theatre, 1974
"Everything You Know Is Wrong"
There are still people out there hanging out shingles saying they do
"NLP." I get unsolicited email from several them, including Jim Accetta,
and Ellen Gifford, The Learning Path in the U.K.
I also get "spam" from a guy claiming to follow in Werner Erhard's tradition.
I can't vouch for any of their ethics or competence, and I'm sure
you can find at least dozens more in Google.
BE CAREFUL OUT THERE
Just because you're paranoid
doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
-- '60s bumper sticker
If you're not going to "practice" NLP and other behavior-altering
techniques, is there any point in studying them? I say yes.
I leave you with these wise words from the above-quoted article
by Timothy Leary on meeting Manson in Folsom:
The disciplined study of advanced levels of consciousness
and brain change inevitably leads to a consideration of
black magic, which at Millbrook was defined as the use of
neurological techniques to obtain power over others. Leri
decided at that time that he would have nothing to do with
black magic and deliberately refused to learn anything about
satanic rituals. He was operating on the tar-baby assumption
that any admission of black magic into consciousness could
contaminate and make one susceptible to it.
Later, after belatedly discovering that he was being hexed,
vexed, perplexed, painted into pentagons, exposed to Kali
death-goddess mantras and flashed by charms and jujus, he
decided to learn enough about the dark arts to recognize
and react--not so much for self-protection, but to defuse
misguided practitioners. By the use of white magic --
neurological techniques that enable people to understand
and to control their own nervous systems--he neutralized
occult power moves. He became adept at sensing precisely
how realities are created at the beginning of an interaction,
of how realities are subsequently imposed on others and of
how reality invasions can be checked. He developed dozens
of simple, humorous and aesthetic protections against
black-magic reality take-overs.
One example is the Buddhist mudra -- or hand movement --
which means "have no fear." The thumb and index finger are
joined to form a circle; the three remaining fingers are
extended, as in the American OK sign. The circle thus
formed can be used to focus consciousness. Through the
circle, one sights the person who is projecting an unwanted
reality. Then one shifts focus to one's own hand, and the
person splits into two peripheral fuzzy optical blobs.
And one's attention is centered on one's own ability to
maneuver and control one's own consciousness.
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