Watchtower & Scientology: Masters at Hypnotic Techniques

Watchtower and Scientology have much in common, especially when it comes to unduly influencing new recruits and their current members. But very little attention has been given to how both groups use hypnotic techniques to create and manage personality changes.

To learn more about this phenomenon, I attended a workshop in Toronto in June 2015 that was hosted by ex-Scientologist, Jon Atack. Jon, with help from Steven Hassan, Christian Szurko and Chris Shelton, explained how Scientology uses hypnotic techniques to lower the resistance of recruits. They demonstrated how human consciousness is not just our “rational” brain, but also a whole continuum of consciousness, much of which we are not aware.

At the normal end of the continuum, we are wide awake and fully aware of our surroundings. But if we add boredom, we will start to daydream, which is a normal dissociative state. Children are really good at it – especially if you try calling them for dinner when they are engrossed in a TV program or a video game. They don’t hear you, as they are so deeply involved in what they are doing.

Adults do it too. If we’re engrossed in a book or a task, we may block out all sounds and activity going on around us, focusing solely on what we are doing. This is perfectly normal and helpful. The continuum looks like this (click on chart to see full-size):


One common form of normal dissociative behavior is called highway hypnosis. We get in our car and drive home while totally involved in thinking about a problem we have. We can still be aware enough to stop at the lights and stop signs, obey the traffic rules, make all the right turns and be totally unaware that we are doing it.

Do you remember sitting at a meeting and thinking about what you had to do later in the day? Or found yourself counting ceiling tiles or how many times a certain word was repeated? Maybe you even occasionally nodded off? Those were all normal dissociative techniques to relieve us of boredom.

How You Can Be Influenced and Not Be Aware

Why am I explaining this?  Because those who use hypnotic techniques to get you to do what they want are unduly influencing you. They want to control your thoughts and emotions by deliberately trying to move you away from normal behaviorf towards abnormal forms of dissociation. They are trying to create a cult identity within you. In Jehovah’s Witness terminology, they are trying to get you to put on “a new (Watchtower) personality.”

During the session, while simulating how Scientology does it, our coach yelled at a student, poked fun and insulted him – anything to elicit a response. If the student broke the infamous Scientology “confront” stare they would start all over.

Some coaches have been known to be on the verge of sexually assaulting a student in an attempt to get a response without boundaries. Abuse is common and a student has to sit and take it. It is known as bull-baiting.

In my opinion, what the Watchtower Society does is far more subtle and, in many cases, more damaging and extremely difficult to identify.

How You Can Be Influenced

In Steven Hassan’s revised edition of Combating Cult Mind Control, he talks about the “cult personality” and the “true personality.” No one plans to become a cult member. People don’t go out looking for a cult to join. Cults find people and turn them into cult members. A new cult identity is “grafted” onto the existing continuum of identities that shape the personality. In comparison, the resulting new identity is two-dimensional and under the direction of the cult.

Additional simulated Scientology drills showed how students were purposely confused, as that is when recruits and members are most susceptible. If the coach can keep the person in a state of mental confusion, there is a better chance to gain further control and solidify cult personality in a recruit.

If you look at the continuum chart above you will notice a yellow box at the top. It says:

“Disconnect from at least one of:
– Mind (Thoughts)
– Emotions
– Body (Physical sensation)
– Will (Decisions and desires)”

When a person becomes disconnected in any one of these four ways, the cult identity takes control, repressing the true self. This is very important to remember when dealing with family members still in the cult. And, it explains why intelligent people join cults. They have no idea what’s happening to them.

How Jehovah’s Witnesses Use These Techniques

As Steven, Jon, Chris and Christian were demonstrating various Scientology drills, I thought about how Jehovah’s Witnesses conduct home Bible studies with potential members. Their technique is different, but the goals are the same: Get people to stop thinking for themselves. It’s formatted this way: Read the question. Read the paragraph. Read the question again. Find and repeat the answer. Move on to the next paragraph. In reality, all their studies are done exactly the same way. Expanding on the repetition aspect, recruits and JWs are advised to prepare by underlining the answers before for their meetings and studies.

There is no room for independent thought. You remove the person’s independent thought and replace it with the cult’s thinking and eventually the cult identity. The whole JW study program is geared towards repressing the “true self” and replacing it with the “cult self.” And Watchtower does this at every one of its meetings. Even the “public talk” is designed to be accepted by everyone without question.

What I found fascinating about the Scientology presentation, albeit different from Watchtower, was that both groups have effective methods for creating a cult identity that represses the person’s authentic identity. The good news is that it can be undone. It takes work, but the cult self or identity does not have to stay in charge.

But a word of warning: That cult identity can be easily triggered by other people. It does not disappear. It is still there and many ex-cult members get caught up quickly in other cults after leaving one. It is no different from the abused wife who keeps going back to her abuser – or sometimes just goes out and finds another person to abuse her. The cult of one (an abusive spouse) is the same as a relationship with any cult leader or group.

Assessing Our Own Beliefs

As ex-Witnesses, we need to take a good look at the things we were taught. While some of it was true, much of it was blatant misinformation. Internalized beliefs and fears that are the result of Watchtower propaganda, and we must find ways to discover what those beliefs and fears are and rid ourselves of them.

The age-old question: “Who am I?” needs a good long examination because many things we were taught to believe were actually half-truths and outright lies. It isn’t enough to just walk away from the Witnesses. We also have to work to eradicate those Watchtower beliefs and phobias because they will affect the choices we make as we move forward in our lives.

The Toronto seminar/workshop will be available on Vimeo Pro in the near future. For details, you can contact Professor James Beverly at

Watchtower doing what it does to suck a recruit into its JW cult identity.

Watchtower doing what it does to suck a recruit into its JW cult identity.

A Scientologist coaching a recruit to think like other members of the cult.

A Scientologist coaching a recruit to think like other members of the cult.

Here is where many Scientologists are unduly influenced.

Here is where many Scientologists are unduly influenced.

This is a link to Jon Atack’s best seller in the 1990s on Scientology

This is a link Jon Atack’s December 2014 book Scientology

This is a link to Steven Hassan’s 2015 book on Cults and Mind Control

This is a link to a video that Chris Shelton produced after the June workshop in Toronto.



Posted on by August 18, 2015

About Lee Marsh

Ex-JW. DFed. A survivor of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse. Survivor of spousal abuse - sexual, emotional and financial. Survivor of sexual assault. And one last one - survivor of ethnic/political abuse. Left the first husband (JW) and lost my home. Left the second husband (never a JW) and lost my home. Wound up homeless for 9 months living out of one tiny room at the YMCA. But I still survive and thrive.


Watchtower & Scientology: Masters at Hypnotic Techniques — 24 Comments

  1. good morning

    in all fairness, I understand what is being said. but didn’t Jehovah to instruct his people to read over and over so as to not forget? I remember one time I was at a book study, studing the book of Daniel
    when it came to the one who would change laws and times I wanted to speak about the Pope. my daughter we are suppose to read only whats in the study article. I responded that its not really a Bible study. so today I continue to speak up on many questions. I have learned a great deal from the WT. but I also listen to the views of many others such as 7th day Adventist etc. I don’t agree with everything I hear. but I listen to as why people have different opinions while still holding on to the Bible. I find out articles on vaccines, piñata’s , blood, military, voting etc have changed. the question is always why. both opinions still use the Bible. as long as I can speak I speak. I use the Bible as the best I can the truth always stand on its own. I purposely hold no positions in the congregation. they cant take away what I don’t have. yes some refuse to conversate with me. but I always make sure they know I know what im talking about. yes I have been told by some that you spend too much time researching and should spend more time at the meetings. or satan is trying to side track you. some of the responses are unfounded. but I have many brother and sisters always telling me how much I know. and call me for advise. remember we cannot fight against Jehovah.
    the powers that be control by means of money, influence. I personally know this from own big business experience. you will no my people by their fruits. most witnesses are unaware. they don’t even remember the bad articles that are printed. I just try to tell them to be watchfull. cause they be able to deceive us in the end .. such as sunday laws.. weather it is by law to or not to. it seems they are about to enforce it. the question then is what to do. do you say well we have been always worshipping on sunday. but do you separate yourself from the pope and his worship day. a decision will have to made

    • Bill You are not the typical Witness. Most will obediently refuse to read non-WT material. Staying within the tiny box constructed by men who claim infallibility is a very dangerous path to follow. Keep doing your research. You have a mind that is well-fixed on the broader issues.

    • hi

      true love conquers all, persevere and don’t give up. they will see. the very things they preach against they do themselves. I never read that they are like the pope infallible. actualy I saw a video of GB member stating they were not. I realize were can and times do exactly what the preist did and make up many rules and take away the spirit of the law. time will tell more. the pope is making his rounds and that will be very interesting on what side of the issue they will take a stance

      feel free to write any time

      sincerly bill swift

    • The GB members saying they are not infallible is like the liar saying they do not lie. If you are expected to accept every word they say as absolute truth then the coinciding belief is that they must be absolutely correct. Isn’t that what infallible is. They don’t make mistakes? In reality they never would admit they were wrong about a teaching. Instead they just get :new light”. So they weren’t wrong. They just didn’t have the whole story yet.

      Bill Go read Matthew 23 and see how much applies to JWs. – Honestly. No “if…” or “yes but…”.

    • yes your correct. double talk
      all I can say is stick to the word. that is hard too. with all the elites owning the printing presses with different versions and translations. I read your profile. I am sorry to hear about your hardships. I really don’t know what to say. but persevere and continually pray for there is comfort in that.
      also one thing I know for sure. the powers that be want everybody to give up on their faith. so after so much pain you will have no choice but to chose what is store at the end.
      I will pray for you if its ok.

      a friend in the faith
      bill swift

    • hey james,
      of course that statement is true. but there are to many open questions with that. if it were only that simple. please allow me to try to explain. you have 50 people reading the Bible. how many people do you think will have the same opinion on just one scripture? now multiply that by thousands of scripture. yes some are simple and some you scratch your head. everybody studying are sincere. but still different of opinions. that is now problem number one.


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    • What the Church has taught about Jesus has remained constant for two thousand years. It is by revelation not reason alone which is why Russell got it so wrong.

    • plenty of people have had revelations, dreams, etc. some good some bad. it is said that raveness wolves would enter the church. but either way. yes their are problems. we cant be discouraged. we must take the lead and encourage others to listen. your reward is in heaven. do not be discourage.
      Satan will be successful if you allow him to

  2. I think that there really is a type of hypnotism it the religious obligation that we are referring to . And it’s ironic that the WTO condemns hypnotism / hypnotherapy . But that organization has always been into CONTROL ! It took 22 years for me to wake up & leave .

    • Have you ever noticed that almost all speakers have the same rhythm to their speech? A certain way of talking that often lulls people into a half sleep state. That is a form of hypnosis and it is very effective. And the only reason to use it is to like you said CONTROL people. Glad you are fully AWAKE

    • So THATs why they use horrible droning speakers! Once in a while you would get someone who was very animated and kept your attention. But the majority, especially since WT started putting Talks into manuscript form, do bore you to sleep. Reading the same scriptures over and over again, and then criticizing you for not looking them up tho you know them word for word.

    • hello mr Dan

      question: if you thought the Bible was the word of God. wouldn’t that be the reason you believed in paradise? why would anyone believe in a age old trick as you see. the art of teaching is not as easy as one thinks. just look at the public school system. some teachers can grab the attention of students and some not. so the question is how do you drive the point home about the paradise? you have many religions who teach that. but many have different lures to try to appeal to people. some for good and some for not good. I think making the truth your own if you want it should be goal of determination of yours and not let anyone come between u and the Christ

      brother in the faith

  3. Yes . An old “kingdom ministry school teacher” friend of mine . . who taught our class of new elders in 1974 . . . once said to me : ” Watch out for those onstage who speak differently with a microphone than they do off stage . “. That was good insight . . . . so right !

  4. He added : . ” sometimes those thoughts sink into the publishers’ heads . . their human thoughts that are not according to the Christ ” .

  5. Very interesting article! I was thinking back to my ‘bible’ studies when I was first becoming a JW; is used to get annoyed at time for having to repeat the answer from the book – I guess it was an internal warning of sorts that they were forcing me to accept their thoughts. I specifically remember when we were studying about marriage – already had an abusive husband (not a JW) and I told her, if I do what they book says, he will treat me worse – and he did. I was only 16 then and didn’t have a shred of critical thinking skills. However, the reason that I allowed myself to change, was for the ‘paradise.’ If I’d only known that it was just an age-old trick of cults to lure people in, that’s one of the reasons people will give up their ‘true self’ – for hoped for false promise.

    • I am so sorry you got caught in the marriage with an abusive husband with JWs telling you that you had to stay in it.

      They use “hooks” to lure people in and the idea of a perfect world is … well… a hook. Nothing more. Hopefully you are out of the marriage as well as the JWs.

  6. Yes , I’ve also listened to the same old pace , from speakers who were trying to spoon feed us Watchtower doctrine . . prophesy . . revised prophesy . . revised doctrine . . new rules . . new ways of viewing “acceptable” associates . . unacceptable associates . . ! Enough was enough ! It wasn’t our Saviour Christ’s direction so much . Just reading the Scriptures away from them was better . . I will better get to be with Yeshua in his kingdom without the WT influence . . They taught me several good things . . . misled me a bunch . . . . still love them all . . Even though they hung me on the stake/cross with my big Brother . . 🙂

    • I still love many of them too even though they would cross the street if they saw me coming. The constant rule changing confused me. If it was right then wrong then why would become right again. Utter nonsense. The color of a man’s shirt, whether a woman should scream when being raped and whether that meant she was “agreeing” to the rape.

      Their explanation of “tacking into the wind” was a crock. They weren’t tacking. They explained tacking as a sidestep but still moving forwards. They were going forwards then backwards then forward again

  7. Preparing, reading, repeating, and summarizing all from the Watchtower’s own words. Boorish and elementary school minds. I hated it. It’s one of the main reasons my mind moved on when I got into the 11th grade. It seemed like those in, while adults, were infantile in reasoning ability. I counted everything; chairs, people, book bags, and stared endlessly at the patterns of the hairs on the heads of those in front of me. I always hated getting to the meetings, but was so glad it was over. See, then, I could stand up and talk to people. Chit chat. Then that got to be the same old, same old. So, I’d leave and feel GREAT to be on the way home. Was it the meeting that picked me up, or my ESCAPE from the meeting’s boorish ways. It was the Escape.

    • Trudy I could not even begin to recall the number of things I counted. There is a reason most Jehovah’s Witnesses will almost verbatim repeat the same quotes. Doesn’t matter where they live or what country they are in, they all repeat the same words. That isn’t “unity”. It is undue influence. Years and years of repetition has resulted in people who cannot think for themselves. Who can’t even explain their own beliefs in their own words.

      Yes Freedom is OUTSIDE the Kingdom Hall

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