There's No Such Thing As Hypnosis
Jonathan Royle Seminar

Reported by Paul Maverick

Know Such Thing As Hypnosis. A couple of years ago, Jonathan Royle, the bad boy of stage hypnosis, decided to get into the training game and he now promotes several different events a year. Last weekend I attended his “There’s No Such Thing As Hypnosis” seminar in Birmingham. However, before I could do so, I was obliged to watch the fifteen (yes…fifteen!) DVDs that he sends out to participants beforehand, which include a previously filmed version of this seminar as a ten DVD set, a three disc set entitled “Secrets of Professional Stage Hypnosis” upon which he demonstrates no less than eighteen different rapid induction techniques (amongst other things) and his two disc “Secrets of Professional Hypnotherapy" course.

It’s as well that I was diligent enough to watch these DVDs in advance, as Royle had decided that since everyone was getting the entire seminar on disc, he might as well give them a completely different one, meaning that although there was some crossover, delegates effectively got two seminars for the price of one. Good value by most people’s standards…particularly considering that before lunch on Saturday he succeeded in deconstructing much of Derren Brown’s repertoire…not that he stopped there…just for good measure, he also threw in a demonstration of how to give cold readings.

Saturday afternoon moved on to selling oneself as a hypnotist/’psychic’/mind magician, covering radio and television interviews, the internet and psychic fairs, it included a screening of his now infamous appearance on Channel Four’s “the Darker Side of Stage Hypnosis”. This is where things started to get really controversial, not just because of his past, but also because of his premise that ‘there’s no such thing as hypnosis’, which is central to both this seminar and the DVDs.

According to Royle, all hypnosis is at worst little more than a trick based upon a mixture of social compliancy and “the karaoke effect” and at best, self hypnosis…if you believe in self hypnosis. Regardless of whether you disagree completely with him or not, it’s easy to see how he may have formed this opinion. Having made his stage debut at the tender age of three and a half, courtesy of his veteran entertainer father Les, he grew up around circus performers and magicians, and has performed magic since his childhood, so to him everything including stage hypnosis is an effect…or to use his technical term, a “con”…at least that’s what he says…some delegates took him at face value while others attempted to read between the lines.

Rounding off the first day, to a big laugh, he opened a flipchart revealing the eighteen (yes…eighteen!) certificates that participants take away from this training…with a huge caption stating “this is bull****”, then proceeded to use them as a metaphor for creating one’s own niche market.

Sunday morning was even more controversial, courtesy of ‘CMT’, his own unique brand of therapy, which incorporates close up magic to good effect (pun intended). Now he’s smoking…literally…whilst demonstrating how to stop people smoking…and talking about ‘cognitive dissonance’… Some of the therapists in the room (which contained a mixture of wannabe and working stage hypnotists, magicians, hypnotherapists, psychotherapists, NLP practitioners and even a psychiatrist) were not amused, considering him to be wildly irresponsible and totally unethical, but by the end of the day, most had changed their minds, feeling that whatever he may or may not be or believe, he had succeeded in teaching them some powerful lessons.

Hammering the point home, in a Robert Anton Wilsonesqe manner (though I doubt that he’ll like the comparison), he tells his audience “everything I’ve said this weekend is bullshit…if you want it to be…and everything I’ve said this weekend is the truth…if you want it to be,” before returning to stage hypnosis, which he demonstrated at length, with the help of volunteers from the audience. The day then ended with a question and answer session during which he dealt with, amongst other things, professional insurance and Equity membership.

Unsurprisingly, as an experienced performer, Royle makes an engaging and amusing presenter. Admittedly he’s not for the fainthearted…or for those who are afraid of having their belief systems challenged, but his knowledge of magic, mentalism and hypnosis is extensive and together with the DVDs, in which he teaches ways of circumventing the 1952 Stage Hypnotism Act, ‘hypnotricks’, suggestibility tests and his psychology of stage hypnosis (and the accompanying CD Rom which contains his various e-books, seminar notes and more), this training makes a formidable package that will be of great interest to many stage hypnotists, magicians, mentalists and therapists..

For anyone who can’t wait until the next seminar, the DVD sets mentioned above can be purchased from Royle’s website which also contains information about forthcoming events.


© Paul Maverick, June 2005