What would you pay for a $100 bill?
That might seem like a strange question. A $100 bill is worth exactly $100. Nonetheless, i once witnessed a famed hypnotist auction off a $100 bill. The winning bid paid $5,000. How is that possible?
The answer comes down to understanding the agentic state. The Agentic state as described by Stanley Milgram is a mental state in which all external reasons and references are halted in deference to something or someone else. This agentic state is the reason that war criminals will do terrible things and say “I was just following orders”. It is also the reason people under cult influence do the most bizarre and unreasonable actions.
In the case of the hundred-dollar bill being auctioned off for $5,000 it’s best to understand a context and the preparation that was made leading up to this event. The hypnotist, who shall be nameless, in every way speaks and demonstrates authority in his behavior. With everyone that he speaks with he looks them directly in the eye. He speaks confidently and in a command tonality and easily gives directives. He expects compliance.
A lot happens before anyone is introduced to the auctioning of a $100 bill. They begin by taking part in other workshops with him. From the very start and without their knowledge their conditioning to follow his authority begins. He reminds them repeatedly of the importance of being able to respond without thinking, a state that he refers to as “satori” or “being in the moment”. Throughout this beginning workshop he trains the participants to stand and spin in a circle every time he snaps his fingers. By raising his fist in the air it reminds people to take their seats because he is about to speak. They respond to this fist-in-the-air gesture by doing it too and racing to their seats. This is done under the pretense of preparing the participant’s to act quickly. By the end of this workshop, which is 3 days long, the majority of participants are thoroughly conditioned to respond instantly to his instructions. He has conditioned them to be in the Agentic state while in his presence. Under the pretense of “empowerment” they are encouraged/instructed to take his “Ultimate Persuasion” training. Most of them sign up immediately.
The persuasion training takes place during another three day weekend. It’s during this training that he demonstrates the power of his persuasive influence by auctioning off a $100 bill. It was amazing to see how deeply involved people would get the auction. If there were a pause in the bidding he would keep up the enthusiasm by saying “You can win if you don’t bid” or “One of kind! Fresh $100 bill!” and other cliche auction sayings.
Sanity overcame several of them early and they stopped bidding, but others seemed unable to stop. After about 5 minutes the bidding was well over $1000. The “winning bidder” got the $100 bill for $5000. She wrote the check in that moment and exchanged it for her prize. Afterwards, the instructor told how someone paid $50,000 before he closed the bidding. According to the story he encouraged the winning bidder reframe the $50,000 as a lesson that would change his life. I’m sure it did.
The point of this story is to illustrate how easily people can be led, and how far they will go, once they have surrendered their autonomy. More importantly this can happen to ANYONE, even you and me.
The book BUILDING YOUR CULT was written to help people understand how this type of authority is created and used. BUILDING YOUR CULT gives the steps used by cult leaders that creates UN-matched authority. To learn more about how to become leader click here.