In my first blog The Myth of Brainwashing and Thought Reform – Esther Rockett Acupuncturist does not know anything about cults – Part 1, I explained how there was no credible evidence of any techniques that resulted in thought reform or brainwashing. In fact, this theory was no more than a science fiction fantasy, developed by the CIA to ensure the American public were not demoralized by POW taking up the beliefs and values of their communist captors. This fantastical theory was then adopted by the anti-cult movement as the perfect ruse to validate their kidnapping and ‘deprogramming’ of those they believed they were ‘rescuing’ from dangerous cults. There was no basis to this theory and its main proponents pretty much wrecked their careers promoting this nonsense (Anthony, 1999).
Another part of the discredited CIA theory is that there are powerful covert hypnotic techniques that overwhelm free will. Esther Rockett claims that Serge Benhayon’s lectures and meditations are hypnotic and put his audience in dissociative states that then allows him to control thoughts, beliefs and behavior.
Esther Rockett repeats the word dissociative in numerous contexts, perhaps with the view that if she repeats it enough she might be believed. Esther Rockett suggests that various practices can result in dissociation, from hands on healing techniques to ‘recitation and repeating affirmations’ and have no doubt where she is leading with this – she states that these become techniques ‘for indoctrination and thought reform’.
Esther Rockett has absolutely no evidence of any such effect and has absolutely no professional basis upon which to make assessments of dissociative states. She also has no person that has been so effected – it is all innuendo and false assertions. Esther Rockett Acupuncturist is not a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist and has no training whatsoever to make a psychiatric diagnosis of dissociation.
However compelling Esther Rockett’s presentation is, it has absolutely no basis in fact. Volumes have been published discrediting various aspects of brainwashing theory, claims of dissociation are simply another way of stating the same theory. No scholars since the 1980’s have seriously supported these claims (Melton, 2004). The claim that brainwashing is accomplished through dissociation originated in the work of Joost Meerloo (1956) and Aldous Huxley (1958) who (along with Edward Hunter) popularised the CIA brainwashing myth in works of pure fiction. Margaret Singer on whom Esther Rockett relies was one of the key players in the US anti-cult wars and was a staunch advocate of the view that brainwashing by cults for the purposes of religious conversion was accomplished by dissociation. Courts around the world have rejected brainwashing theory, including the assertions that it is accomplished through dissociative states, as unscientific and without any merit whatsoever.
What is more, there is no such thing as covert hypnosis. The consensus of scientific opinion is that hypnosis cannot be used to overwhelm free will and is ineffective in getting anyone to do anything that they do not want to do. What is more hypnosis cannot make anyone believe anything they do not want to believe (Anthony, 1999). The most eminent scientific researcher on hypnosis has said that the imagined ‘coercive’ power of hypnosis is nothing more than a cultural myth that has been used in the propaganda war against new religions (Spanos, 1991, 1996).
Now the irony is not lost on me that Esther has attacked my credibility through my understanding and beliefs around energy and has made constant attacks on Universal Medicine students for their beliefs. However, to hold personal religious beliefs is a fundamental human right and generally is not something that is regarded as hindering great intellectual prowess, you only need to look at the examples of John Locke, Isaac Newton, Leibniz, Rousseau, and Kierkegaard to know this – all men of religious conviction and great contributors to their respective fields. It is a different thing however to promulgate science fiction as a scientific theory. Is this a fraud upon her readers or simply evidence of her limited intellectual understanding of the matters that she is now suggesting to the public she is an expert in?
It appears that Esther Rockett is very gullible, she cites Derren Brown as proof of hypnotic power Oct 12, 2012, as it is only populist mythology that she can hope to rely upon, since there is actually no such thing as covert hypnosis.
Just to show how gullible Esther Rockett is, she appears to have adopted hook, line and sinker the science fiction version of brainwashing described in The Manchurian Candidate (Condon, 1959; film 1962) – yes that is a fictional book and a fictional film. In that film the main character is triggered into hypnotic automaton states that turn him into an assassin by words that trigger this state. It was a work of pure science fiction, the idea of which was given to the author by the CIA propaganda machine. (Scheflin and Opton, 1978, Marks, 1980), It is apparently a fiction Esther Rockett believes. She states:
November 11, 2012 07:20AM VenusDarkly
‘What this tells me, is he is definitely using hypnotic techniques and may only need one or a few trigger words or phrases to switch the trances off or on. If the susceptible person knows the words and have the will power, it’s possible to resist. The problem is, so many students have been deceived and are utterly enamoured of him, they don’t’
To back up her fictional account Esther Rockett refers to Derren Brown. For those of you who do not know, Derren Brown is a ‘stage’ hypnotist who does some TV shows where he supposedly shows a number of people doing acts ‘against their conscience’. He is a pesuasive performer and his TV shows make compelling viewing. However, they are not actually showing what the audience is led to believe. Derren Brown is an illusionist, not a master hypnotist – what you see in his shows is what he wants you to see. So it is of some concern that Esther Rockett exhibiting signs of being both gullible and stupid suggests that Derren Brown supports her crazy hypothesis that Serge Benhayon wields control by hypnotic suggestion. Esther Rockett refers to Derren Brown as if he is a credible source for her assertions. After referring to a number of his feats of persuasion, she writes as Darkly Venus Jan 15 2013:
‘I think hypnotist, Derren Brown did a Game Show episode where he gradually manipulated an audience into ruthless acts. In a similar way, Serge gradually manipulates his followers to believe they are acting in loving ‘truth’…’
It might enlighten Esther Rockett to read some accounts of those who have participated in Derren Brown’s productions – it appears that participants will go along with the directions given to them by Brown as being directed by a TV director, no more than that! There are no magic hypnotic feats, the man is a master illusionist. In an interview with one of the participants of Deren Brown’s shows, writer and journalist Tom Law illustrates that what appears on the screen to be amazing feats of hypnosis are merely staged and directed entertainment – there is no super power or covert hypnosis, not even manipulation, except in the power of participating in a TV show – it is Esther Rockett who is gullible, not the students of Universal Medicine. The participant reports being more like an actor in a show than a hypnotised subject:
“The reality is nothing like what you see on screen. With me, they made it look like I was being secretly filmed during my day-to-day life. It’s something they often do. But that was all planned and pre-arranged with the production team. They told me where to go and what to do. There was a man lugging a big camera around right in front of me – so it was hardly secret.
“When it came to the final scene I was supposed to have been ‘programmed’ to act in a certain way by various subliminal messages and triggers, but that was just part of the misdirection for the benefit of the viewers. The way it actually worked was that Derren was off-camera and giving me directions, telling me what to do.
“Before the filming had started he’d been through a hypnosis routine with me; although this was never mentioned or shown in the finished item. I never felt hypnotised but I went along with it.
“And after a couple of minutes Derren seemed to drop the pretence and switched to more of a work mode. When it came to the filming he was directing me from off-camera – not much different to how a producer would direct an actor.
“It was all slightly disappointing. I’m not sure what I’d expected exactly but I just thought there would be more of a ‘trick’ involved. It blows away the mystique – but it’s the viewer the illusion is being created for.”
As Tom Law concludes: “The thing that needs to be understood about Derren Brown is that he’s a mentalist… It’s a brand of magic which sells the tricks and misdirection as demonstrations of a genuine power.” In reality there is no such thing as the power of hypnosis to change someone’s beliefs.
Professor Chris French, a leading skeptic and Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, London, explained that Derren Brown does science a disservice, since the ‘psychological effects’ are not as ‘powerful’ as Derren Brown makes them appear…The effects are subtle, mild and unreliable and of little use from the point of view of a television performance.’ Tom Law, Science Trick or Treat?
As another part of her anti-cult arsenal Esther Rockett trolls that Universal Medicine students undergo radical changes in personality. Now Esther Rockett has no evidence whatsoever of this – she refers to ‘many readers’ observing such changes, yet she has no evidence whatsoever, none exists. She writes:
‘Many readers will have observed personality changes in their loved ones who are UM students, and the most remarked upon change is regression to unfeeling, non expressive, uncommunicative and often paranoid states. Bearing in mind Serge’s use of trance induction/hypnosis techniques, the content of the following passage may give some clues as to how this has occurred.’
There is no such thing as ‘trance induction/hypnosis techniques’ (these are all the fictional creations of Margaret Thale Singer and her band of anti-cultists) and there are no direct witnesses attesting to such ‘regression’ and ‘paranoid states’, and particularly no professionals doing so. What Esther Rockett claims is simply unsupportable. She uses these compelling words to suggest credibility for her cause – yet when it is examined it falls to dust. Esther Rockett and Lance Martin are deceiving their readers.
That brainwashing could impose a false personality is also the work of fiction and so far-fetched that it only occurs in works of science fiction such as The Manchurian Candidate. Sound research has shown that the personality is robust and does not alter in response to changes in belief or religious conversion (Paloutzian et al., 1999).
We conclude that Esther Rockett has no evidence of what she is espousing. She appears gullible and open to suggestion, especially if she believes what she sees on a TV show. What is more there are no covert hypnosis techniques that produce dissociation and as a result thought reform – this is pure science fiction – and it is highly manipulative of her readers to present this material and suggest there is any basis to it – it was dismissed in 1980, and thus Esther Rockett needs to come into 2014. There is a duty to tell the truth, a truth that is for all and not just a fabricated truth that suits Esther Rockett’s and Lance Martin’s misguided crusade.
Further Reading in the Myth of Brainwashing and Thought Reform Series:
Anthony, D. (1990). Religious Movements and Brainwashing Litigation: Evaluating Key Testimony. In T. Robbins and D. Anthony (Ed.s), In Gods We Trust . New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. pp 295-344
Anthony, D. Psuedoscience and Minority Religions: An Evaluation of the Brainwashing Theories of Jean-Marie Abgrall, Social Justice Research (1999), Vol 12 Issue 4, pp 421-456
Condon, R. (1959). The Manchurian Candidate.
James, GG. (1986). Brainwashing: the myth and the actuality. Thought: Fordham University Quarterly, LXI(241): 241-257.
Huxley, A. (1958). Brave New World Revisited, Harper Bros., US.
Paloutzian, RF., Richardson, JT., Rambo, LR. (1999). ‘Religious Conversion and Personality Change.’ Journal of Personality. Vol 67(6). Pp 1043-1079.
Marks, J. (1980). The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, Random House, New York.
Meerloo, J. (1956). The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide and Brainwashing, World Publishing Company.
Scheflin, A., and Opton, E., (1978) The Mind Manipulators, Paddington, Washington, DC.
Spanos, N.P. (1991). ‘A socio-cognitive Approach to Hypnosis.’ in Theories of Hypnosis: Current Models and Perspectives, Eds. Lynn SJ. And Rhue, JW.
Spanos, N.P. (1996), Multiple Identities and False Memories: A socio cognitive perspective, American Psychological Association.