Chapter 6

Mind Tools

Mind Tools

Now we know something of the hypnotic state and how to induce it we can move on to examining its uses in some detail, including those uses that are not spoken of in polite company. The key to much of what follows are the notion of anchoring and conditioning.


Anchoring refers to the tendency for any one element of an experience to bring back the entire experience. An anchor is the stimulus that results in the conditioned response.
An anchor can be in any sensory format. That is, it can be a word, a sound, a piece of music, a smell, a picture, a gesture, a touch or a taste. Anchors are created all the time by the association of various stimuli to emotional states, some good and some bad. It might be the music we listened to that accompanied our first romantic kiss, or perhaps the smell of summer when we were young. Or maybe it's the sight of a flashing blue light that could trigger a series of bad memories and flashbacks to traumatic events. It's the reason TV programs have signature tunes and adverts have jingles and slogans. They are all trying to evoke a particular feeling in the shortest possible time by “pushing your buttons” as the saying goes. From our point of view we want to be able to deliberately set up anchors in both ourselves and others either openly or covertly in order to trigger preset states or responses. The trigger itself should generally satisfy the following criteria:

  • It must be specific or the subject will not sensitize to it.

  • It must be relatively unusual or the constant triggering will result in desensitization.

  • When it is being set up it must be applied intermittently, or again desensitization will occur and render it ineffective.

  • It must be anchored to a unique, specific and prompt reaction otherwise its effect will be diluted across many responses.

  • The reinforcements of an anchor should have a break between them.

You can use these processes to your advantage by creating anchors in your interactions with other people. When you meet someone turn the conversation to something that has created the emotional state you want to anchor in them. For example, get them to relive something that has given them a lot of pleasure. While they are in this state apply the chosen anchor. It can be anything, but a gesture, touch or sound is often used. At some point later, test the anchor by applying it and see if they can be brought back to that state. If there is time then the anchor can be reinforced every time the desired emotional state is evoked.
An example of
anchoring, pattern interrupt and temporary induced amnesia that is both simple and fascinating is performed by Derren Brown. He goes into the subway, stands next to people and asks them which stop they are getting off, which they tell him. He then asks if they remember how things are forgotten, like things that are on the tip of the tongue but cannot quite be recalled. As they access their memory of forgetting, he casually anchors the memory by passing his hand in front of their eyes. After asking for a couple more memories of easily forgetting and strengthening his anchor, he asks them what stop they will be getting off at. The instant they begin to access, he repeats the hand movements in front of their eyes, causing a pattern interrupt while simultaneously activating the established anchor of how to forget easily. The bewildered and sudden, trance type of look on the people's faces is remarkable because the entire process is done very quickly.
We can establish anchors in ourselves for a number of different states. The ones most discussed in self help literature are things like optimism, joy, creativity, energy, happiness and so forth. All the kind of ordinary positive attitudes that one only really recognizes when they are missing. Since these are covered in most NLP books I am going to concentrate on the ones that are of major use in a magickal setting. The essence is to choose the kind of states most likely to facilitate a successful working or ritual and find a suitable anchor. In group settings like the Owen Experiment one would wait until the correct “atmosphere” conducive to the manifestation is in place and operating. At that point one could, for example, choose either a word, a short piece of music, a body posture, gesture, an image or physical item to anchor the state. In the case of words what we are doing is creating the elements of a spoken spell capable of placing the group very rapidly into that same situation in the future. With the case of a picture we have the classical magickal Sigil which we will look at in far greater detail later. A physical item can be a talisman, charm or religious icon. What should be noted is that in general spells which are anchors will only work for those who have been through the corresponding experience. It may seem obvious, but that is why a spell will work for some people but not for others. The states associated with (for example) key words throughout a ritual would obviously correspond with the various stages, including (most importantly for novices) the final banishing. Needless to say, these have to be put in place by some serious planning and effort on the part of the group. Again, this is one reason why there are levels of initiation within occult organizations. It is not enough simply to learn the triggers if they actually trigger nothing at all except a feeling of self importance. The overall feeling of a ritual can be anchored by the sense of smell, which is why incense is used. Smell is one of the most primordial senses with deep links to the limbic system of the brain. As such it is a very powerful
anchor, but very broad and imprecise, which is both its advantage and drawback. Finally, do not forget to reinforce whatever anchors are chosen for the operations during the operations themselves. Obviously the reinforcement should occur only when there is something successful happening, otherwise you will begin to anchor to failure and mediocrity. Everything in ritual is chosen, basically, for its purity and ability as an anchor.
More ambitious is the
anchoring of states that are very unusual. For example, the timeless state that one enters at the height of an LSD drug trip. In such a state, where the experienced magician can do some really amazing things, there are typically two problems encountered. The most obvious one is that so much is happening in (apparently) zero time that the actual working can be done, and undone, multiple times. So we need to create an anchor to the “done”1 state. This can be accomplished by, for example, pressing a button which fires off the anchor. Immediately afterwards the magician must be distracted away from that line of thought entirely. This is where a sober and experienced assistant comes in handy. The second problem is the one most encountered by novices. It is simply that one gets lost in the peak experience which is so alien that after the trip is over it is rapidly forgotten. Having the peak anchored allows almost “on demand” flashbacks into that state. Indeed, a lot of unwanted LSD (or other psychedelic) flashbacks occur because of just such unwanted and accidental anchoring. At the very least it gives an element of access to magickal consciousness without subsequent drug use in a more mentally controlled environment.

The Conditioned Response

The definitive pioneering work in conditioned response was that done by Pavlov in the 1930s in Russia. The use of his name has since become a byword for mindless or involuntary reflex actions triggered by some arbitrary stimulus. Consequently his work has been linked to the emergence of what was termed “brainwashing” and similar techniques developed initially in the USSR and now relatively commonplace either in their virulent military form, the civilian religious milieu of “cults” or the more innocuous worlds of advertising and psychotherapy. However, the essence of the original work is quite simple. Pavlov struck a tuning fork (modern folklore says rang a bell) every time he fed his experimental dogs and discovered that after a while simply striking the fork, without feeding them, led to them salivating – a physiological response in the dogs triggered simply by the sound. This became the archetypal experiment in the field of conditioned response. Essentially, repetitive stimulation leads to a largely involuntary response that is in turn anchored. When the anchor, in this case the bell, is activated the response is triggered without the original stimulus being present. Such behavior is clearly defined in animals but becomes far more complex when attempted in Humans, partly because we can analyze what's happening, but also because the desired response is often intellectual rather than physiological.
There are essentially two forms of conditioning, comprising positive and negative reinforcement. The first rewards the required behavior and the other punishes undesirable behavior and both are as old as Humanity. However, in normal everyday life, and even under medical therapeutic conditions, they are often not accompanied by deliberately
anchored triggers in the sense we have been using the term. The situation is its own anchor.
Probably the most powerful overall conditioning that all of us experience every day is unquestioning obedience to authority. In fact, it is such an automatic reflex by now that just reading this probably conjures up entirely the
wrong image. For example, of some petty official throwing their weight about in an arbitrary and easily challenged manner, countered by a defiant “fuck you!” Or perhaps some politician telling you to vote for them, with a similar witty response from the listener. However, that is a response to transparently false authority. True authority is so overpowering we often do not even think of questioning the orders given. This is because long experience and conditioning have shown that the punishment for disobedience is swift and sure, either in terms of crude physical violence or loss of opportunity to the extent that it makes the defiance not worth even consciously contemplating most of the time. In short, most of us most of the time unconsciously balance possible gains with probable losses and decide that it is a very unequal equation. So unequal it is not worth thinking about.
What is an “authority” in these cases? An authority is someone, or something, which is strongly believed to exercise superior power or possess superior knowledge or control that is directly applicable to the immediate situation being experienced. So, let's look at some examples of the kind of authority we obey without thinking, and the consequences of disobedience. First, how long would someone survive if they decided that they were not going to be told what to do by colored lights? The answer is “not long”. The chances of driving through even a small city while ignoring every traffic light without crashing is small, as is doing so without attracting the attention of the police and losing ones license or worse. We obey that authority because we recognize it is in our interest to do so, despite its inconvenience. The overwhelming punishment for chronic disobedience in that particular case is death, injury, major financial loss, possibly coupled with a prison sentence. The gain is a few seconds knocked off travel time. Or consider another order almost all of us obey almost all of the time. A shop or mall is closing and the manager asks everyone to leave. How many people insist on staying, and what happens if they do? Or perhaps the police cordon off an area for some reason – how many people try to force their way in to see for themselves what is happening?
These are all examples of authority that cannot be disobeyed without serious direct consequences of a massively disproportionate nature. On the other hand, let's look at authority we can disobey without that authority punishing us. Perhaps we hear on the car radio that a certain road we intend to travel upon is blocked by an accident. Do we think “
…you're probably lying – I'm going there anyhow”? In general, we believe what we are told by the authority and act upon it in for own best interest. We expect that easily checkable information from an authoritative and trusted source is accurate. In fact, the more authoritative the voice and source of information the more accurate we expect it to be and the more likely we are to act upon it without question (although maybe not without complaint). Conversely, we are also likely to obey an authority that is far from being known as trustworthy if the consequences for ignoring it, if it is correct, are overwhelmingly catastrophic. Examples include people shouting “Fire!” or claiming to have planted, or found, a bomb.
Another source of authority that most people will obey is one that they believe is able and willing to negate any personal adverse consequences from their obedience. Namely, that the authority will take responsibility for the actions being ordered and that the person who is “just obeying orders” will suffer no detriment by their obedience. This lies at the heart of a classic experiment in social psychology carried out by Stanley Milgram of Yale University in 1961
Volunteer subjects were asked to participate in an experiment concerning the effectiveness of pain stimulus in a learning situation. Each volunteer was introduced to
The Experimenter who would oversee the experiment, and The Learner who was connected to an electric shock apparatus. The Learners were actors, and whenever the Experimenter commanded the volunteer to administer an electric shock the actors pretended to suffer. As the experiment proceeded the volunteer was ordered to turn up the voltage progressively into the red-marked danger zone until the actor was screaming and begging to be released. After this had gone on long enough the actor remained silent, no matter how severe the “shocks”, as if to suggest unconsciousness or death. Although many of the volunteers were clearly disturbed by the effects of the experiment, they continued to obey though they had to be constantly reassured, or pressured, that the Experimenter knew what he was doing, and that he would take full responsibility. In fact, 26 out of the 40 volunteers administered the shocks up to the maximum level, even after the actors had feigned losing consciousness – that's 65% of participants! In further experiments, in which Milgram used a wide variety of subjects with different economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds, the results were the same. He wrote2:

The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subject's strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”

This is worth bearing in mind when it is said that people will not do anything that goes against their moral or religious principles while in a hypnotic trance. The reality is that 65% of people are willing and able to torture someone to unconsciousness or death without even the excuse of being in a trance state and that the particular authority can be established either voluntarily, such as in the case above or involuntarily in far more coercive situations.
A good example of subtle mass conditioning was demonstrated by the mentalist and magician Derren Brown in the Whitgift shopping mall in the UK. He used a series of announcements over the public address system, totaling around half an hour. The essence of the script is captured in the very last offering:

“…we hope your shopping experience is an uplifting arm and I would like you bring to your pay attention to some very special offers today. Details of our special offers can be found handily by the lifts, so why not come right arm up and see for yourselves. These offers will only be available for a short period of time so all customers wishing to reach up and grab this exciting opportunity should do it NOW!”

Whereupon a significant percentage of the crowd raised their right arm, for reasons unknown to them. As he says:

I used the [public address system]... as a subtle form of authority, as people are not really paying much attention to it, their unconscious takes over.”

We will see later that such conditioning is quite benign compared to what can, and has been done to people in the past. For now though, let's return to the more conventional hypnotic technique known as...


1This will only really make sense to people who have already done it

2 Stanley Milgram "Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View" (1974).

3 Stanley Milgram "The Perils of Obedience" (1974)