In my quest for a download of ‘The Devil’s Picturebook’ (Derren Brown’s training video for magicians), I came across ‘Messiah’. I didn’t see this program when it was originally aired, but Lucy being a big fan of Derren Brown prompted me to find some of his programs on YouTube.
Derren travels to the US, where at the time of making the program he was almost completely unknown, on a quest to convince ‘genuine’ alien abduction experts, a psychic, a Christian minister and other big players in the new-age industry, that he is a new face on the scene, set to take the world by storm with his incredible abilities to talk to the dead, catch dreams, convert people to Christianity with a single touch and is in great possession of many super-natural gifts.
The twist, in case you’re not familiar with the common tread throughout Derren’s work, is that apart from being one of the finest illusionists in the world, he is also completely open about the fact that everything he is doing is auto-suggestion and psychological manipulation. All that any of the so-called experts have to do, in order to have him explain this about himself, is ask him if it’s a trick.
EDIT: Since posting this to reddit.com someone in the comments section there seems to have skipped immediately to one or two clips and failed to catch the actual point being made, so let me reiterate.
Derren does not use stooges. These people are simply being manipulated in exactly the same way all religions and cults, spirit healers and snake oil salesmen trick their audience into believing whatever they tell them to believe. That is the whole point of using people who are self-espoused atheists (in the conversion to God stunt). It was, I thought, obvious that the whole point of that particular illusion, was to say, “if you can do it to these people – you can do it to anyone”, but some people still seem to have managed to completely miss the point.
All I would say is watch that section again and you’ll realise he tells all of the people involved exactly what to do before they do it. They’re just so pre-programmed to take in the world around them in a particular way, he is able to slip in the back-door of their frontal lobe thinking and demonstrate exactly what all preachers, faith healers, psychics, mind readers and new age practitioners do all the time – often without admitting to themselves these are the techniques they use, or even might quite genuinely believe come from outside of the explainable – when they demonstrably do not.