News from David Stevenson:
I knew Joe and Monica, and sat in on sessions, for several years while I was teaching at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. More info here.
Andrew Selby writes:
Where to start? He was such a large and important part of our lives between 1980 and 2000 – an absolutely amazing man.
We first heard about him on an interview on Radio London, sometime in late 1979 – it was all very fascinating and at the end of the programme, listeners were invited to write in if they were interested in getting involved in Hypnotic Regression. Marguerite, my wife did so and some weeks later we received a letter from Joe inviting us to set up a Regression Group giving us the names of a few other interested people around London. We did and the “group” went on for nearly 20 years (however I say “group” as it was like the proverbial workman who said he had had his broom for many years, but it had 6 new heads and 7 new handles!). There were however a number of people who came to the group for the majority of that time.
Anyway, my memories of Joe coming down to us so many times, fall into perhaps a number of categories, first as a friend, second as a hypnotic therapist, third for his sessions on Regression and fourth, but not least, for exploring the unconscious minds of various members of the “group”. When he came, we typically had the Regression session on the Saturday, often going through most of he night and then on the Sunday, Joe would spend the day seeing people for hypnotherapy, often finishing just before we took him to the station for his train back to Liverpool.
We initially held the sessions either at our house in Harrow or at a friend’s (who was member of the “group”) or at my mother-in-laws house. But then in 1985, we moved to Kings Langley and we always held what he called the “London” sessions there. Typically he would come down monthly, but on occasions it would only be a fortnight or three weeks between the sessions.
During the Regression sessions, Joe would sometimes go straight into regressing an individual, but oftentimes would spend time (sometimes hours) clearing one or more mental blocks – typically a formed in their early life. He was very patient at doing this and the “group” became experienced in questioning the individual, when he was hitting a “road-block”, ie the person unconciously avoiding re-experiencing the issue – I was fortunate to have a number of blocks removed this way.
We had a variety of Regression characters, ranging from Ray Bryant (who sadly died some years ago) who regressed to “Wilfred” a coachman and also to a soldier, “Reuben Stafford” in the Crimean War (whose service record I found); to Joan Ffoulkes who regressed to “Alice”, a strong-willed youngster around the early 20th Century; to Marguerite (my wife) as “Susan” a strong-willed lady in the 1920’s, who ended up being rusticated from Girton college after an “affair”.
I spent quite a fair time, particularly in the early years trying to track down a number of these and other Regression characters, but it was only Ray’s character “Reuben”, for whom I actually found any tangible evidence. The others eluded me and I could only find very general things out about the area they “lived” in, but nothing about them or anyone they mentioned (typically we would only get a first name). It is worth noting in particular that with Ray’s “characters”, Joe could never cause an anachronism, by suddenly dropping in question containing the details that we either had as evidence (ie “Reuben’s” record) or from what they had told us in a prior session, to one of his other characters (eg “Wilfred”). Joe tried this on a number of occasions, without warning, but the characters didn’t take the bate and fall into the deliberate trap. Joe also tried this out (again without warning) with other Regressees, but again they didn’t fall into the trap – typically they would not respond.
As I mentioned, during some sessions, Joe would spend some hours exploring the unconcious minds of one or more of us, which in many ways I found more intriguing than Historic Regression. In particular he would put the individual into a deep hypnotic state, so that he and others in the “group” could talk directly to that person’s unconcious. Now you might say, well how could you tell, but from the answers we invariably got there was a typical theme – the person’s unconcious ranged from stating that it had little time for it’s own concious mind, to all but being highly derogatory about it. This happened time and time again and really interestingly with new people who had not been before and absolutely didn’t know what was coming – perhaps this says much about the human condition!
In my own case, I had two main characters that Joe drew out: “Geoffrey” who was apparently quite seriously physically impaired and another “Tim” who was a young ditcher from Ware, Hertfordshire in the early 1900’s, who later ended up catching a bullet in the World War I trenches, but survived. I never “saw” anything during the sessions, but I responded to questionning and in particular experienced the physicality (in Geoffrey’s case) and emotions for both.
A strange feature with Regression, that occurred to at least two individuals in the “group” was that they would regress time and time again over years and then for some reason or other their unconcious mind stopped them being able to go back and bring out these characters – who knows why?
I have just given a flavour of what we experienced, much of it now growing dimmer as it was happening to us between 12 – 30 or so years ago. Those were really heady days, some sessions being extremely interesting, others much more mundane – but always fascinating.
I am really indebted to Joe and his memory is still so strong in my mind.
Simon Petherick writes:
I was first introduced to Joe by the publisher John Hale, who ran Robert Hale, in 1986. I was working then as a freelance writer and editor, and was asked whether I might like to collaborate with an interesting-sounding man who was a successful hypnotherapist. Apparently, Joe Keeton had a story to tell, and wanted a writer alongside to help him tell it. I was intrigued, and agreed to do it.
Joe had already assembled a lot of information and thoughts, both about his own theories behind the workings of hypnosis and hypnotic regression, and about the experiences of people who had undergone hypnotic regression with him. One of the first things that was very striking about him – apart from his physical presence, which we’ll come to – was his lack of dogma, his very open curiosity and his refusal to believe that he knew all the answers. He knew what effect he had on people, he had helped thousands of people by that stage to deal with personal demons or physical ailments through the process of hypnosis. But he didn’t dare to suggest that he knew how it worked.
Meeting Joe at one of the all-night regression sessions he held in Kings Langley was both formidable and comforting. Formidable, because he was a big man in every way: not just an imposing physical presence, but also one of those people who dominated the room when he came in. Comforting, because he had the ability to communicate very directly and immediately with you without any sense of discomfort or embarrassment.
It was fascinating to watch one person after the other sit in the chair and be guided into the hypnotic state by Joe. Those who had worked with him before could fall into that state in an instant by his use of a single trigger word; others who were new soon lost all sense of trepidation as he explained that hypnosis was really a self-induced state which enabled the person to access a way of being which modern man has forgotten to access.
I remember two particular things that night. Remember this was the mid 1980s, so the anti-smoking laws hadn’t been born yet. Joe was a big smoker, and I smoked then too, so the room was pretty filled with cigarette smoke and overflowing ashtrays by the time that dawn broke. But at one point – and I was deliberately staying quiet during the evening in order to watch and make observations – Joe came over to me and pointed at my chest, and said: ‘Do you ever get pains in your chest?’ As it happened, I had felt them a little over the previous few months. ‘I thought so,’ he said. ‘I could feel your chest pain a moment ago. Smoking’s not for everyone. I think you should give them up.’ He wasn’t saying that everyone should give up, just that, for some people, they weren’t a good thing. Soon after, I gave them up, and apart from the occasional relapse over the years, have taken his advice.
Then, towards the end of the night, he asked if I wanted to try and experience hypnosis. I seem to remember there wasn’t too much time left, but I agreed, and he suggested we just try a simple test to demonstrate to me how the process worked. Not everyone was able to be hypnotised. Sometimes, he said, those who most wanted it found that they couldn’t be hypotised, while some of his best subjects turned out to be those who initially were most forceful in their doubts about it all. He relaxed me, and then suggested that when I came out of the relaxation I was in – which I don’t remember as being a specifically different state of mind, just a relaxed one – I wouldn’t be able to lift up my left hand. Hah, I thought, this is ridiculous. It will be embarrassing, but I will have to show him that of course I can lift up my left hand – what a shame that it will have to be me that punctures the evening with a bit of sense. So out of relaxation I came, and try as I might, I couldn’t lift my left hand off the arm of the chair. ‘You didn’t want that to happen, did you?’ he said, smiling; he could tell exactly what had been going through my mind.
After that small demonstration, Joe showed me, as he would show everyone who asked, how to self-hypnotise, a skill that 25 years later I can still use if I wish. At the moment, I am using it to try and encourage my slightly ageing body to repair some of the damage which too much sport and running over the years has done to my knees. I think it’s helping. I hope that on these pages we will be able to record other peoples’ experiences both of hypnosis under Joe and of the self-hypnosis he taught.
All I know is that my brief time with him taught me more about human potential than most books have been able to teach me since. He truly was a memorable and unique person.