|Derren Brown: Inadvertently teaching us Catechism?|
The premise of the programme is that the arch-magician-hypnotist can take a man whose personality is rather inhibited, reserved and easily frightened and turn him into a man who can, under hypnosis, land a plane using one of those flight simulators, convinced that the pilot has fallen seriously ill. I guess he's the kind of man who would argue that the Apostles gained the courage to leave the Upper Room and proclaim the Resurrection by the power of suggestion, rather than the Holy Spirit.
I found the programme seriously disturbing. I know that hypnosis is not mentioned in the Catechism, but I really do feel that Mr Brown falls into that category of persons to whom the following can be attributed:
Divination and magic
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
We can, of course, all fall prey to it, but it is the 'desire for power over time, history and in the last analysis, other human beings' bit that I think is important in this case as is 'even if this were for the sake of restoring their health'. Hypnosis, and the power of putting people into a trance like state and using psychological suggestion sounds all very innocuous, but I do not believe that the power that Derren Brown holds over his 'subjects' is Christian in any sense or good. Derren is, as a matter of fact, a lapsed, baptised Catholic, but he seems to have got awfully wrapped up in the mysticism of the occult, as well as the psychological manipulation of others.
The way in which he just 'zaps' people into trance reminds me of those fundamentalist Protestant charismatics who can just 'make' people go down on the floor as they are 'slain by the spirit' (quite what kind of spirit it is is open to interpretation) as they are whipped into a frenzy of religious hysteria. Only after the 'miracle', in many cases, do doctors find that there is significant damage to the individual who had been 'healed'.
As you watch the documentary, you can see more and more that Brown is on a massive power trip. He takes this shy and retiring man and moulds him into his 'creation'. He basically thinks he is God, which is never healthy.
The touching thing about the programme is the good faith of his 'patient' who, when on the plane is seen making the Sign of the Cross several times and kissing his Rosary. Much like the 'healing' services of Protestant evangelicals, Brown's methods concern me. It makes for interesting entertainment (and money in the pocket of C4 and Brown) but it makes a farcical gameshow of a man's life by means of quite foul deception. It is as if he is constantly between fantasy and reality. You can see how, during the show, the man is being exploited (though he has given his permission) in being Brown's showpiece. He believes he is a great hero and fully believes that he has just landed a plane which could have gone down in disaster, only to be told that though Derren is 'proud of him', it has all been a fantasy in a flight simulator. We don't know whether he has actually got over his fear of flying afterwards. It's just entertainment for us.
There is also this sense that Brown is playing God, when he appears to the man physically by putting him into a trance while he is sleepy, taking him outside and talking to him while he is in a 'sleepwalking', dream-like state. Derren becomes the man's alter ego, or ID or sub-conscious self or something. Just to develop the well-known argument that 'God-like powers' are dangerous in the hands of those who have not been given them from on High for the Salvation of Souls (like several Saints down the ages have been) Derren takes the man to a railway track, binds him to the track in a hypnotic state and allows a train to come along the track and just manages to help the man to save himself from being killed by the on-coming train. When you watch it, you think to yourself, "Who has put this psychopath on TV?" Well, you might not but I did. Unlike Derren, I don't know what you're thinking.
I watched it and several times wanted to kick in the screen. If I had these hypnotic talents and could use the power of suggestion to Derren Brown I'd be tempted get him to lay down on a couch and say to him:
"You are Derren Brown. You are a dangerous individual. You have abandoned the Faith that was given to you when you were baptised into the Life of the Trinity and have since left the Fold only to become a occultist and all round psychic hobbit. You are perhaps the most sinister man on television, dressing evil up as good, fooling your victims by methods of deception, usurping the role of God in a person's life and ambivalent of the consequences as long as you get your paycheque. Return to the Faith that was given to you when you were young and do not consider yourself to be the master of anyone's destiny. Now 'wake up' lest the Devil seize your soul and drag you down into the fires of Hell with all of those fallen angels who disobeyed Him and now know only His wrath. Oh and do go to Confession."
But I don't have those powers of suggestion and what is more I am not Derren's Maker and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, to Whom belongs all power, times and seasons, everything and everyone. Only God can change Derren Brown and only with Derren's free will and co-operation. There is a realm that belongs to God alone and this is one of them. I know that Channel 4 thinks this is great TV and hypnosis is popular and all that, but at the end of the day, do we know how this individual copes with the aftermath of such a treatment? How do we know that he isn't going to have a nervous breakdown having been put through this pressure and psychological manipulation? What if, one day, thinking himself a 'hero' he puts himself in a dangerous position that he should not as a 'successful' policeman instead of the 'normal' insurance broker he was before? I'm sure there are heroic insurance brokers out there in a different sense. What if God gave that man the personality He gave him for his own good and God's good reasons, rather than Derren's?
Even if his 'treatment' has 'worked', is it not quite wrong for an individual to have such autonomy and power over another's life and personality? I wonder if Channel 4 will do a programme in which they make a gay man straight with Derren's superpowers? I know that wouldn't be popular, about as popular as the suggestion that sex education is sexualising children but hey, Derren 'can do all things'! Magicians (in the programme Derren describes himself as such) are 'anti-Priests'. They wear black for a reason but it isn't a good one. They are anti-Church and anti-Christ. What Derren does, though it is dressed up as virtue, is deceitful and very wicked and if you decide to watch the programme then you'll see what I mean. But that's just a suggestion.