By David Gosselin [originally published on Age of the Muses]

We suffer more in imagination than in reality 

In the last few weeks, recently-released footage of original January 6th events in 2021 sparked renewed questions concerning the role of intelligence operatives in manipulating government opposition groups and creating what would in conspiracy lingo be referred to as “false flags.” On a higher level, questions regarding January 6th center on the wider role played by Western intelligence agencies in crafting the narratives which shape popular opinion on all sides of the political spectrum. From stories about blood-thirsty dictators shelling innocent civilians to justify “R2P” humanitarian military interventions to enhanced surveillance programs enacted for the purposes of monitoring threats posed by “dissident political groups,” many of the most nefarious government-run policies have historically relied on the magic of narrative and imagery to win the hearts and minds of people. 

However, none of this is new. From ancient Babylon and its “magician” priests of Marduk, the rhetoricians of Classical Greece and Rome to MK-Ultra social engineers and their “mind control” programs, the art of using language and imagery to shape the inner worlds of people is hardly a new phenomenon. 

In his 1922 book, Public Opinion, Lippman described this age-old practice as the art of shaping “the images inside the heads of human beings”: 

The pictures inside the heads of human beings, the pictures of themselves, of others, of their needs and purposes, and relationship, are their public opinions. Those pictures which are acted upon by groups of people, or by individuals acting in the name of groups, are Public Opinion, with capital letters. 

Describing who controlled this “Public Opinion,” Lippman wrote that it was controlled by a:  

Powerful, socially superior, successful, rich urban social set [which] is fundamentally international throughout the Western Hemisphere and in many ways, London is its center. It counts among its membership the most influential people in the world, containing as it does the diplomatic sets, high finance, the upper circles of the army and navy, some princes of the church, the great newspaper proprietors, their wives, mothers, and daughters who wield the scepter of invitation. It is at once a great circle of talk and a real social set. 

This brings us to the curious story and events surrounding January 6th. Commemorating the scenes that transpired in the capitol one year earlier, President Joe Biden’s January 6th 2022 speech contained the following remarks: 

The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. We shall know the truth. Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol, the confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021. 

Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol, the confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021. 

What else do you see? A mob, breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol, American flags on poles being used as weapons as spears, fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. 

President Joe Biden—January 6th, 2022 

Despite the appearance of a simple set of vague but violent platitudes, in the few brief sentences above we can identify the use of various Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotic induction techniques. They include “framing,” “priming,” “anchoring,” “binds,” “embedded commands” and “visualizations.” However, when it comes to addressing the population and public messaging campaigns across the “Five Eyes” web, the current example (which we’ll examine in a moment) is by no means an exception. 

Previous articles have explored how these techniques were applied throughout the pandemic and how they continue to be used to frame the climate crisis using what behavioral scientists call “automatic motivations” and “mental shortcuts.” However, the January 6th speech offers an opportunity to revisit some of the particularly interesting efforts by 1960s MK-Ultra researchers to achieve one of the program’s most coveted goals: the creation of “false memories.” 

In his monumental 2019 book, Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, journalist Tom O’Neill recounts how the creation of false memories was considered one of MK-Ultra’s most coveted goals by one of its top researchers, Dr. Louis “Jolly” West: 

[…] West reported back to the CIA that the experiments he’d begun in 1953 had at last come to fruition. In a 1956 paper titled “The Psychophysiological Studies of Hypnosis and Suggestibility,” he claimed to have achieved the impossible: He knew how to replace “true memories” with “false ones” in human beings without their knowledge. Without detailing specific incidents, he put it in layman’s terms: “It has been found to be feasible to take the memory of a definite event in the life of an individual and, through hypnotic suggestion, bring about the subsequent conscious recall to the effect that this event never actually took place, but that a different (fictional) event actually did occur.” He’d done it, he claimed, by administering “new drugs” effective in “speeding the induction of the hypnotic state and in deepening the trance that can be produced in given subjects.” (O’Neill, 363) 

O’Neill points to never-before-seen correspondences by West in which he celebrates having at least partially succeeded in the program’s goal of creating “false memories” during the 1950s-1960s period:  

Using hypnotic suggestion, he claimed, “a person can be told that it is now a year later and during the course of this year many changes have taken place… so that it is now acceptable for him to discuss matters that previously felt he should not discuss… An individual who insists he desires to do one thig will reveal that secretly he wishes just the opposite. (Ib., 364) 

Apparently, questions about installing false memories were especially of interest regarding how they might be used to create, among other things, “programmed assassins.” While O’Neill describes the destruction of most MK-Ultra files by former head of the CIA, Sydney Gottlieb (nicknamed “the Black Sorcerer), O’Neill writes: 

As for those sixteen thousand new pages, they were mainly financial records, but a few more tantalizing documents found the CIA explicating its ambitions. “Can we obtain control of the future activities (physical and mental) of any individual, willing or unwilling… with a guarantee of amnesia?” they asked. “Can we force an individual to act against his own moral concepts?” And: “Can an individual… be made to perform an act of attempted assassination?” (Ib., 357) 

Finally, O’Neil observes: 

Agency officials claimed the program had been a colossal failure, leading to mocking headlines like the “The Gang That Couldn’t Spray Straight.” Perhaps the agency wanted the world to assume that MK-Ultra was a bust, and to forget the whole thing. (Ib., 365) 

While the official MK-Ultra program was said to be terminated, experiments using various forms of suggestion, drugs and hypnosis to shape the “images inside the heads of human beings” appear to have continued, as has apparently the research into “false memories.” From Hollywood A-list celebrity handlers like Harley Pasternak having a shady background testing the effects of novel drugs on the mind for the Canadian military to the promotion of psychedelics to change the way we think about death and government-assisted suicide, perhaps MK-Ultra has, if anything, simply been formalized and mainstreamed? 

Repatterning the Past 
With this in mind, let us revisit the curious January 6th, 2022, speech commemorating the now infamous events of January 6th, 2021. The address contained the following remarks: 

The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. We shall know the truth. Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? 

Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol, the confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021. 

What else do you see? A mob, breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol, American flags on poles being used as weapons as spears, fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. 

President Joe Biden—January 6th, 2022 

As we’ll see, these few sentences contain many of the basic formulas used to create the hypnotic sequences and trance inductions that shape stories on both the Left and Right side of the mainstream political spectrum. Before instructing viewers to “close your eyes,” the preceding sentences make use of the words “the Bible” and “truth.” The word “truth” is repeated three times. Doing so ensures “the Bible” and “truth” are prominently placed in the listener’s psyche right before the induction begins. Listeners are then instructed to “Close your eyes. What do you see?” The instructions are followed by a guided visualization in which people are asked to imagine “rioters rampaging,” “the confederate flag” and an all-out “Civil War.” 

Primed with the word “truth,” listeners were invited to engage in a guided visualization where they would be invited to imagine various scenes and be anchored to a set of violent images. Interestingly, in his Guide to Trance Formation: How to Harness the Power of Hypnosis to Ignite Effortless Change, Richard Bandler—considered one of the world’s leading hypnotists who also happens to be a former UCLA student of leading MK-Ultra researcher, Gregory Bateson—dedicates an entire chapter to “the magic of false memories”. Also interesting, Bandler uses the example of people remembering being abducted by aliens to discuss the creation of “false memories”: 

It’s very easy to lead people in ways that get them to “remember” things that never happened, especially if they’re very young or in an altered state. I remember watching those old films of a hypnotherapist regressing people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, and they always followed a certain pattern. 

The hypnotist would say things like, “So, it’s warm night on July 5th, and you’re asleep in your room, right? And, suddenly you hear a noise—you remember that, don’t you?” 

The subject would say, “Uh-huh. Yeah. I guess so…” 

“And you become aware that whatever is making that noise is in there with you near your bed, don’t you?” 

The person would say with greater conviction, “Yes. That’s right. Near my bed.” 

“That’s right. Near your bed. Noises… and how many aliens are there in the room?” 

(Bandler, 225-226) 

That many of the same MK-Ultra-linked UFO Disclosure Project initiatives involve the accounts of people remembering being abducted by aliens or that a sudden surge in UFO sightings and conspiracies have become a hot topic for discussion even among many major media and podcasts like the Joe Rogan Experience is beyond the scope of this article. However, Bandler in his book explains that the sort of language used in the above-cited example can be extremely powerful because it operates on a subconscious level. He gives the simple example of someone being told “don’t think about the color blue” but then doing just the opposite. Aided by drugs and various other forms of mind-altering practices, one can imagine people remembering some rather strange things. Or we might consider what Bandler describes as “stacking realities,” a technique which involves telling a story within a story within a story within a story. In this case, the speaker might be saying one thing, but actually be talking about another, or saying something very different, even contrary. Which details belong to which story may be confused on a conscious level, but with the proper “nesting” and “sequencing,” clients can be left with a set of instructions which they naturally carry out on an unconscious level.  

As Bandler writes: 

Once you have moved through several levels of realities, you can begin to embed process instructions about what you want the client to do. Any of the reelevant language patterns, particularly the Milton Model “Quotes Patter” may be used, as can the various techniques outlined in this book. The client is likely to be especially compliant—and will also, almost certainly, have amnesia for precisely what the instructions were. But, expect his experience and behavior to change, apparently spontaneously. (Ib., 173-174) 

Was Louis “Jolly” West studying similar things when working on the MK-Ultra program? Surely, if such techniques in their most modern form can be used for good (remember that time you lost weight and gave that great speech?), then they could, hypothetically, be used for bad, if fallen into the wrong hands? In such cases, we could imagine a scenario where people start remembering all sorts of strange things from their past. 

But we digress.  

Going back to Biden’s speech, the guided visualization framed the events of January 6th using a series of images, including mobs breaking windows, “American flags on poles being used as weapons,” fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers, and ostensible Trump supporters stomping on the heads of the very law enforcement officials they supposedly supported. While many of the scenes may or may not have been accurately described, why they happened, or how, and what various agencies might have aided and abetted “dissident groups” is never brought into question. 

“What do you see?” began the induction and served as what hypnotists call “embedded commands” (written in bold). “What else do you see?” functioned as a “bind.” For, the images of insurrection were never called into question, only how many. These binds create the “illusion of choice”—a common tactic used throughout MSM narratives and political speeches. 

As Bandler explains: 

You become aware that it’s near, don’t you?”–all these statements function as commands to do something embedded within a seemingly innocent sentence. The listener’s unconscious mind hears them as injunctions rather than questions or statements, and then it experiences them as “true.” (Ib., 226) 

Various techniques and modern forms of hypnotic language are found in the work of Bandler, the earlier work of Milton Erickson, Gregory Bateson, and other hypnotists and clinicians—some of whose work goes back to experiments with “shell-shock” victims in the war and post-war years. Notably, Bandler described Ericksonian hypnotic language as “artfully vague, but systemically so.” For, language that is “artfully vague” allows one to use ambiguity, the gaps in descriptions, and the overall power of hypnotic suggestion to create the appearance that listeners are freely providing their own meaning and naturally filling in the gaps—the “illusion of choice.” All this has the effect of solidifying beliefs into the “deep structures” of the psyche.  

Regardless of whether the remarks in the president’s January 6th speech were completely accurate, priming listeners with words like “the Bible” and “truth,” instructing them to close their eyes, giving various suggestions and asking them to visualize a set of emotionally-charged images in their imagination with the purpose of creating an “altered-state” or trance, and then finally suggesting the statements were true has the effect of “anchoring” the images in the mind. The fact that “the Bible” was invoked makes the intended audience of the speech clear. 

Now, if the speeches of American presidents can contain overt hypnotic inductions, it begs the question: what other governments, institutions, or entertainment industries might be using similar practices to shape “the pictures inside the heads of human beings” in regard to, say, climate changehealth care and government-assisted suicide, or even banking and cyber-security? How often are we asked to imagine various sorts of scenarios and led down various paths within the mind—much of it without our conscious awareness? 

We can rewind to various moments in America’s history where fending off the specter of “foreign threats” and “Godless communists” threatening our “freedoms” and “democracy” were regularly invoked to justify violent military interventions, surveillance, and the firebombing of women and children in countries across the globe. All these various slogans and buzzwords functioned as religious or ritualistic mantras, serving as natural “anchors,” “cues” and other devices for eliciting and directing “altered states” in the population. 

As a general example of anchoring in therapeutic settings, a hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner might assist a patient in overcoming a phobia by first instructing them to close their eyes and imagine a previous time in which they found themselves in a state of complete calm, ease, and safety i.e. an “altered state.” The practitioner can then have their client describe the scene, its sights, sounds, and the many sensations associated with that memory. For example, imagine a warm beach with the sea-salted breeze gently blowing around you while you relax under an umbrella; now, you can hear the waves crashing on the shore, with the sound of happy children playing in the background. Now, remember the first time you felt that pit in your stomach. 

Since memories have a physical component, including muscle memory, by invoking a particular memory or image and having someone visualize a scene, clients can be made to feel the sensations felt in the original experience. Memories can be revisited and reprocessed. Once the scene and those memories appear in the body, an “altered-state” or “trance-formation” can begin. So, a hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner might then proceed to guide a client towards phobia-triggering images, with the safe, warm, and happy anchored images functioning as a “resource.” Clients can then be guided into visualizing themselves experiencing phobias and acting out the scene in new and more adaptive ways on the stage of their imaginations. Having played out the new scene to completion, the real-world experience of the same phobia-triggering events or trauma may “magically” disappear. Different kinds of traumas or memories will be dealt with using various methods. 

As mentioned, many examples of these techniques can be found in their most distilled form in the work of hypnotist and NLP co-creator, Richard Bandler. Studying at UCLA, Bandler himself was a student and collaborator of none other than linguist/anthropologist of MK-Ultra LSD and mind-control notoriety, Gregory Bateson. Notably, in the 1960s Bateson was the director of research at the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto, California. There, he oversaw many MK-Ultra experiments using mind-altering drugs and hypnosis. With a vast pool of trauma patients, researchers like Bateson were afforded the opportunity to conduct countless experiments to study “behavior change” and radical transformations in belief, identity, and morale. 

Bateson, along with Aldous Huxley and others took great interest in the use of hypnosis and drug use to induce “altered states,” whether in individuals, large groups, or societies as a whole. British wartime psychiatrist and psychological warfare expert Dr. William Sargant also took great interest in hypnotic phenomenon and the control of altered states and trance, which he wrote about in two well-known works, The Battle for the Mind: How Evangelists, Psychiatrists, Politicians, and Medicine Men Can Change Your Beliefs and Behavior and The Mind Possessed: A Physiology of Possession, Mysticism and Faith Healing. 

Take some of Dr. William Sargant’s reflections from his latter 1973 work, The Mind Possessed. The book involved his field work and travels across the world where he studied primitive tribes and religious groups to observe how their various voodoo, religious and ritual practices allowed shamans, witch doctors and fundamentalist preachers to effect “conversions” and fundamental changes in the belief structures of individuals and groups of individuals.  

This first passage recounts the settings in which hypnosis, altered states, and trance were initially studied in patients and trauma victims: 

The origin of this book dates back to the Second World War and the treatment of battle neuroses—psychological disorders stemming from horrifying and mentally overwhelming experiences of war. Soldiers who had broken down, in combat or afterwards, sometimes became totally preoccupied by their memories of what had happened to them. In other cases, these memories had been repressed into the subconscious mind but were causing feelings of depression, fatigue, irritability, irrational fears or nightmares. (Sargant, 3) 

Commenting on the direct use of hypnosis, Sargant wrote: 

A state of heightened suggestibility, intense sensitivity to one’s surroundings and a readiness to obey commands even when they go against the grain, is one of the most striking characteristics of hypnotized behavior, and hypnosis has given its name to the ‘hypnoid’ phase of brain activity. […] this phase can be caused by stress and creates a state of greatly increased suggestibility in which a human being uncritically adopts ideas to which they would not normally be open. Breuer was interested in this phenomenon at the end of the last century and his findings, reported in a masterly chapter which he contributed to a joint book with Freud, were repeatedly confirmed in our experience with drug abreactions during the war. Breuer begins by quoting Moebius as saying, in 1890: ‘The necessary condition for the (pathogenic) operation of ideas is, on the one hand, an innate—that is, hysterical—disposition and, on the other, a special frame of mind… It must resemble a state of hypnosis: it must correspond to some kind of consciousness in which an emerging idea meets with no resistance from any other—in which, so to speak, the field is clear for the first comer. We know that a state of this kind can be brought about not only by hypnotism but by emotional shock (fight, anger, etc.) and by exhausting factors (sleeplessness, hunger, and so on).’ (Id., 32.) 

In another revealing passage, Sargant writes: 

An actor, who had what he himself described as a ‘histrionic’ temperament, told me after the last war how, as a prisoner of the Japanese, he had to go each day to receive orders from the local Japanese camp commandment. He never knew whether he was going to be beaten up or praised or just ignored. When he was beaten up, which happened frequently, he found that if he could succeed in fixing his thoughts on a certain mountain in Wales, and keep his mind completely concentrated on it, he could often inhibit much of the physical pain of the beating. Pain and other strong sensory impressions can sometimes be completely inhibited in a moment of great crisis, with its heightened state of nervous excitement, and also in states of hypnosis. With the mind entirely focused on some present danger, it is possible to remain unaware that you have been seriously hurt at the time; you only realize it afterwards. (Id., 72-73) 

To call the use of NLP, hypnosis and trance-inductions by top government officials subversive is an understatement. However, while some of these techniques may serve as powerful anchors and tools for behavior change, their “magic” lies in their subtlety. For, one of the key insights from hypnosis is the power of suggestion. Artfully vague narratives can give a target audience or patient the impression of naturally arriving at their own conclusions when messages are in fact carefully framed to specifically target unconscious processes, introduce new commands and thought patterns. However, with even rudimentary knowledge of these techniques and formulas, it becomes hard not to notice their application in virtually all areas of public messaging, including healthcare, the environmentclimate change, and international banking

Lest We Remember? 

People who’ve experienced trauma may continue to experience and relive events and the related emotional turmoil long after the initial experiences have passed. The memories and scenes may be anchored deep into the unconscious psyche, bubbling up to the surface in all sorts of seemingly contradictory ways. Even in the complete absence of similar events, victims may continue to act out scenarios as though the traumatic events were still unfolding. Many of their present decisions will continuously be defined by the persistence of still imagined threats or dangers—often not consciously thought, but deeply felt. A significant number of such victims will act as captives of their own imaginations, prisoners of the past—whether real or imagined.  

Going back to WWII, researchers like Sargant recognized that traumatic events did not actually have to be real; they could be induced using various language patterns and imagery, especially when introduced within the right environment, or after the administration of drugs. Under such emotionally heightened conditions, “magical” transformations could occur.  

With memories and images anchored deep into the psyche, behaviors and states of affectation could be continuously altered and influenced by eliciting earlier memories. Previously anchored events and images could be “linked” with new current ones, coloring one’s perception of past, present and future, leading to new patterns of thought and behavior. 

Whether in the case of genuine trauma hiding beneath the worlds of “make-believe” which we created at some earlier time to protect ourselves from a chaotic and seemingly senseless world, or fears and recollections that caused us to suffer more in imagination than reality, we one day realized that writing the next chapter in our lives required knowing what had really happened up until that point.  

Finally, healing began when we actively revisited our story. No longer the hostages of imagination, ready to let go of the many false beliefs that we had adopted about ourselves, others and the world at large, we became ready to write new meaningful chapters. 

One day, we started to see what had always been there. 

Works Cited 

Bandler, Richard. Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formation: How to Harness the Power of Hypnosis to Ignite Effortless and Lasting Change. Health Communications, Inc (2008).  

Sargant, William. The Mind Possessed: A Physiology of Possession, Mysticism and Faith Healing. Heinemann (1973). 

O’Neill, Tom. Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. Little, Brown, and Company (2019). 

Leave a Reply