a psychedelic cult working towards the secret of the universe


NLP stands for neuro-linguistic programming, a clumsy name for a science most elegant. NLP is a form of magick and quite a lot of magick is a form of NLP.

NLP is about using communication to influence the subconscious. While hypnosis sets the conscious mind aside by creating a trance and then directly addresses the subconscious, NLP allows you to communicate with the subconscious while the subject is in an ordinary state. This may be done with or without the subject being aware of it. NLP has massive potential for psychic influence, communication skillz, magick, psychotherapy and modelling the subconscious structure of talent. It is likely that NLP is studying stuff that shamans have been doing for millenia: getting inside people's heads by artful communication.

The presuppositions

NLP is founded on a set of presuppositions. Contrary to appearances, they are not meant to have cosmic significance. Note that they are 'presuppositions'; they are not claimed to be true, however, if you act like they're true, they allow you to acheive results. This pragmatic attitude to belief is in line with the idea of metabelief. Here are some of the more interesting presuppositions:

  • We live in consciousness, not reality. A nice phrase is, "The map is not the territory." We respond to the world as we see it, not as it is objectively.
  • People always make the best choice available to them. This seems odd until you realise that it includes subconscious choice. This presupposes that destructive or inappropriate behaviour is just the result of inappropriate subconscious strategies. People who act in seemingly irrational or insane ways are dealing with situations the only way they know how.
  • There is no such thing as success or failure, only feedback. This is a highly practical thing to believe.
  • Everybody has the resources they need, or is capable of obtaining them. This means that nobody is inherently better or worse at anything than anyone else. Differences in ability are merely the result of the choices we make, consciously and subconsciously. Mozart's mind wasn't any better at composing music than yours; he was just using a subconscious strategy that was more effective for the purpose of musical composition. If you could get inside his head and understand how he did it, then you could learn to do it too.
  • Every behaviour has a positive intention.
  • The meaning of communication is the response you get. Have you ever told someone a joke they don't get? That's what this presupposition is about. Your communication should aim to get a certain response from your listener, which is going to depend on their knowledge, worldview and personality. So gear it toward that. (Cf. It's only my room if you're in it.)
  • Having a choice is always better than not having a choice. NLP is all about generating new options, new strategies, rather than getting rid of old ones. Because "everyone always makes the best choice available to them", if a new strategy is created where an existing one was ineffective, the old one will go unused.

Neurological levels

There are six neurological levels, six things to consider about human action and thought:

  • environment
  • behaviour
  • capability
  • beliefs and values
  • identity
  • and 'beyond identity'

Again, this model is meant to be pragmatic, not objectively true.

Representational systems

The brain built up over the course of evolution from the stem out. The highest functions are on the outer crust of the brain, and the most basic near the spine. Lower animals have brains like ours at the core, but with layers missing from the outside. So evolutionarily, we built our higher thoughts on basic functions. Because of this, we understand abstract thought in metaphors of the body and the senses. (This is what Freud was getting at when he talked about 'anal' this and 'oral' that and 'genital' the other.)

To get to the point, we represent information to ourselves is sensory terms:

  • We can describe things in visual terms, and talk about them being 'clear', 'dim', 'brilliant', 'dazzling' etc. ("Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane.")
  • We can use auditory language to describe things as 'sounding right', 'ringing a bell', 'buzzing' etc. ("Exactly: and that is the ineluctable modality of the audible. Open your eyes. No. Jesus! If I fell over a cliff that beetles o'er his base, fell through the nebeneinander ineluctably.")
  • Or we can use kinesthetic terms like 'a good feeling', 'piercing', 'balanced', 'weighty' etc.
  • Olfactory and gustatory representations are less common, but they do occur: "I smell a rat." "It leaves a bad taste in your mouth." "Smells fishy." "He's a sweet/sour/bitter person."

Most people have a subconscious, habitual preference for one representational system. For homework, read a newspaper article and you'll notice a bias towards one kind of sensory description. Talking in someone's preferred representational system helps build rapport with them. So if you're trying to get your mate to come to a party, you need to pitch your persuasion to his preferred representational system. You might say, "This looks like it's gonna be brilliant" or "This sounds like a good laugh" or "I've got a feeling there'll be a good vibe there".


Cross-sensory descriptions tend to have particular impact as they engage more of the mind. Think of the phrases "a piercing sound", "a cold stare", "sweet-sounding". Those are pretty evocative expressions, aren't they?

One application of this effect is mnemonics. There was some Russian cat named Shereshevsky and the thing about Shereshevsky was that he remembered everything. EVERYTHING. He could remember every word of every conversation he'd ever had, every piece of food he every ate, every... (OK, I'm not gonna list all the things he remembered. He remembered everything - got it?) Shereshevsky's memory was due in part to intense congenital synesthesia. For example, he'd link everything he saw to a smell or a feeling or another modality. This made his memories more vivid and easier to access. Nikolai Tesla was also a synesthete, no doubt a contributing factor in his powers of memory and imagination.


Submodalities are qualities of thoughts in a particular representational system. Visual submodalities include size, brightness, colour, movement and focus. Auditory submodalities include volume, pitch, tempo, cadence, timbre and apparent location of source. Kinesthetic submodalities include temperature, vibration, weight, pressure and pain.\ An understanding of submodalities is useful in letting us meta-program the affective quality of thoughts. Everybody has 'critical submodalities' that determine how powerful a thought is to them. Imagine a picture that scares you, then imagine it small, blurry and in black-and-white and notice how it affects your state far less.\ The next time you have to talk yourself into doing something you don't want to do, make your inner voice as loud and excited as you can and make a big, bright picture.

Try making a list of things you like and a list of things you don't like. Think about each of these things and note what representational systems and submodalities these thoughts occur in. Now take one of the things you don't like and reimagine it in the manner in which you think of the things you like. What happens? (You can also try this with things you think are true/things you think are untrue, things you're good at/things you're bad at etc.)

Association and dissociation

Imagining something from a first-person point of view in which you see the mental images through your own eyes has a very different psychological impact from imagining it from a third person point of view in which you watch yourself.

Accessing cues

You may have noticed that people move their eyes in certain ways when they try to think of something. Following are the eye movements corresponding to different kinds of thought. This pattern holds for about 90% of people. Some people (especially left-handed people) have mirrored eye accessing cues and some people (especially Basques, for some reason) have completely different patterns. ('Left' and 'right' here are from the point of view of the person thinking.)

Right and up - Visual constructed\ Left and up - Visual remembered\ Right - Auditory constructed\ Left - Auditory remembered\ Right and down - Kinesthetic (including emotional 'feelings'), smell, taste\ Left and down - Internal dialogue\ People's voices tend to rise when they think visually and fall when they think kinesthetically. People's nostrils will always flare when they imagine or notice a smell.


A 'strategy' in NLP refers to the subconscious process used for a particular task. For example, when given a proposal, someone might say, "I can see it happening" - showing their strategy is to construct an image in their mind. Or they might say, "It doesn't feel right to me" - showing that they use a kinesthetic representation to make the judgement. These two people might well be experiencing the same internal experience, but are using a different strategy.

For a given task, there are good strategies and bad strategies. For example, people who spell well always make a visual image and then check how they feel. Musically 'talented' folk first get a feeling for a piece as a whole, visualise a complex map of the piece (like a waveform or notation). Bad martial artists often visualise and look when they should be feeling and sensing.

Time Lines

Do this for me, love:

  • Think back to when you brushed your teeth this morning.
  • Think of when you brushed your teeth yesterday.
  • Think of yourself brushing your teeth a week ago.
  • Think of yourself brushing your teeth a month ago.
  • Think of yourself brushing your teeth five years ago.
  • Imagine yourself brushing your teeth two weeks from now.

Did you notice differences in how those thoughts presented? Did you feel your body in your memories? Did you hear sounds? What about in the future? Did you see the memories of the more distant past in a different place in your head? Were they brighter? Less bright? More colourful? Black and white?

Many people will see the past as stretching away to the left and the future over to the right (particularly those of us whose native language is written left to right. Native speakers of, say, Arabic or Hebrew commonly have right-to-left time lines.) Other people see the past behind them and the future in front of them. Others will have different kinds of time lines: top-to-bottom, front-to-back or whatever.

Your time line affects how you deal with time. People with side-to-side time lines are typically more organized with regard to time, whereas people with back-to-front time lines are more 'in the moment'. People whose time line passes by them - rather than through them - have less vivid memories. People with the future behind them will find it hard to get concerned or excited about the future.

As with preferred representational systems or strategies, time lines are not hard-wired. The advantage of learning all this neurolinguisticprogamming business is that you can choose the strategy that suits you best.

Pacing and leading

To acheive rapport with someone, copy their body language, move in sync with them. Ideally you should even match their breathing with your own. Don't be obvious about it; keep it so that they only notice subconsciously. To do this, you may need to do something different from them, like moving your finger as they move their hand, or moving your head as they move their body. Try this out - you'll be amazed how well it works. The druids said that if you stare into someone else's right eye with your right eye and breath along with them, you become anam cara, friends of the soul.

Pacing and leading works on many methods of communication. You can match somebody's tone of voice, match the representational system they talk in, match their posture, match the content of their conversation, match the style of their language, match their facial expressions etc. In every case, after you pace them for a while, you can start to lead them.


Does the name 'Pavlov' ring a bell? When a certain stimulus is repeated enough along with a certain state, the stimulus comes to trigger the state. One very useful and very simple thing you can do is anchor good moods or resourceful emotional states to stimuli you can later induce. For example, every time you feel euphoric, squeeze your left wrist with your right hand and breathe in. Pretty soon just doing this will be enough to trigger the euphoria. Reinforce the anchor about 23 times, concentrating on the feeling you're anchoring and imagining its effects visually, auditorily and kinesthetically.

In conversation, make a certain gesture every time someone laughs and you'll soon be able to make them laugh just by smiling and making the gesture.

If you want to quit smoking, pinch yourself real hard every time you smoke, to associate pain and cigarettes.


I call these rituals partly for the sake of irony, but see the article on the similarities between NLP and magick. NLP books would usually call them 'patterns'.

Cure for phobias and past traumas

If you have a phobia or a memory of a past event that affects you unpleasantly when you remember it, try this to get rid of it. First, re-imagine the incident as vividly as possible: feel what you felt then, see what you saw then in big, bright, colours, hear what you heard then and hear it loudly, taste and smell what you did then. (For a phobia, if you can remember the initial experience that cause the phobia, great. If not, just think back to its first occurance.) Note the reaction you have: changes in your heartrate and breathing, sensations in your chest, solar plexus, palms, throat or anywhere else, pupil response, perspiration etc. Now break state, typically with a laughing fit. (Another good way to break state is to do twenty burpees.)

Now you're going to re-imagine it again, but in a way that takes away its power by means of dissociation and use of submodalities. Step aside from the spot you were in when you first re-imagined it, but imagine yourself still in that spot and watch this self (self B). Across the room from self B, imagine a video playing the incident in your past, so your past self (self C) is on the screen from a third-person perspective. (It helps to use an actual screen, say a cameraphone or digital camera display, or else something like a small pictureframe that you can imagine is a screen.) Make the video small, grainy, out-of-focus, black-and-white, mute or whatever it takes for you to go through it without feeling the reactions you noted earlier. (If you do slip back into that response, break state and start again with a smaller, fuzzier picture.) When the video ends, go over to the screen, and pull self C out of the picture and reintegrate him (or her) into your body. Then go to where self B is sitting and reintegrate with self B.

Ta da! Abracadabra! Miaow! Ha! You are now able to relive the memory, or experience the phobic trigger, without having the reaction. Try writing down a list of everything embarrassing, painful or traumatic that you can remember happening to you, and run this pattern on them all. You'll feel much better afterwards.


Described here. A pattern that manipulates submodalities to banish an old thought or behaviour or belief and replace it with a new one.

Visual Squash

Described here. A technique for reconciling two opposing desires.

See also


  • 'Frogs Into Princes' by Richard Bandler and John Grinder
  • 'Reframing - Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Transformation of Meaning' by Richard Bandler and John Grinder
  • 'Using Your Brain For A Change' by Richard Bandler
  • 'Persuasion Engineeering' by Bandler. NLP applied to sales and manipulation.
  • 'NLP Workbook' by Joseph O'Connor\

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