I’m one of those coffee shop writers. Over the years I have met individuals who have expanded my awareness and become connections for new jobs, events, and experiences, whilst enjoying the caffeinated brews. As a writer with an insatiable curiosity, I decided to use my networking skills to become the Coffee Shop Storyteller of New Orleans. All the stories shared here are from consequential strangers and newfound friends that I meet over a cup of joe.
I was writing at one of my regular haunts, Monkey Monkey in Mid City, when the conversation of two men sitting nearby distracted me from my work. I realized that perhaps the tingling I felt had less to do with caffeination than with realizing the makings of a good story. After brief introductions, Joseph Crown and Damien Atropa happily caught me up on their lives.
Joseph Crown, a self-professed Taoist, alternative relationship advisor, and master hypnotist, had recently released a book, The Tao of Relationship Maintenance for Mind Controllers: A Hypnotic Guide to Long-Term Care & Deliberate Change Management. Damien Atropa contributed with one of the bonus sections in the book, and he had me promise that I would refer to him as Master Atropa at least once in this discussion on erotic hypnotists in NOLA. Well, Master Atropa then told me he is a hypnotist, life coach, and a storyteller with a decade of experience in behavioral modification. He had come to New Orleans to visit Crown and to outline their work for the year. Both the men gave a nod and smiled as they informed me that they are full-time socializing agents and mind controllers as well.
At this point I must have looked doubtful, as Crown informed me that what they do is akin to modern day shaman, or Taoist Immortals, who seek harmony of expression to open up the routine thoughts, expressions, and existence that many of us lock ourselves narrowly into every day.
“We are all part of an ecosystem of spiritual, physical, and energetic destiny. You're here talking about this because something has tugged at you to focus in on the way you live, create, and experience the journey that you walk through this world," said Crown. "Something about what we said, and who we are, attracted you to connect here. In that moment, you opened yourself up to more than the narrow task based existence of a to-do list or thinking about current events reading the paper. There is nothing in this universe that is completely isolated from a connection to something more. We have found that like attracts like, and there are qualities that harmonize between us all. If this was not so, you simply would have ignored us and moved on.” Crown opened his hand and waved to Mr. Atropa, who nodded in agreement.
I told the duo that there was too much in what they just said for me to fully comprehend. I needed the pieces to be broken down. Atropa explained that they are erotic hypnotists who are part of the local community of Ownership and Possession. Meaning their relationship or lifestyle that they partake in is hierarchical. This lifestyle is more commonly referred to in the media as power exchange, Master slave (M/s), Dominance and submission (D/s), or Owner and possession (O&p). This community culture thrives not just in New Orleans — but across the world. it is a relationship choice and not subjection, or BDSM agenda. Individuals are increasingly creating lives that are meaningful to them and not every aspect draws upon socialized stereotypes of how those relationships should function. I hope you know the difference.
Before Fifty Shades of Grey became a thing, most people had some level of exposure to it, I told the two men and noted Crown’s smile and Atropa’s slight frown. Crown pointed to his colleague, and seemed to stifle a laugh at my statement or Atropa’s expense.
“Don’t get him talking about Fifty Shades of Grey, or you will get him telling you how that movie normalizes abuse. It doesn’t matter what relationship form a person has,” explained Crown. "All you have to do to see the potential abuse there is change Fifty Shades of Grey’s billionaire to some guy living in a trailer park, and see what that does for the story. Fantasy is reframed instantly. Yet as creators, we tell stories to explore boundaries and share aspects both good and bad. People don’t always agree with our choices, nor should we depend upon that approval. The Lifetime cable channel has made a name for itself by creating victim stories and calling them dramas for many years.”
I was curious about how hypnosis works into all of this. Mr. Crown stated that erotic hypnosis is a broad category that doesn’t include therapeutic applications. “We enjoy erotic hypnosis to explore the responses of our bodies, the desires of our mind, and the sensual potential that almost never can be fully expressed in modern life,” he said. "Think about holding a freshly cut lemon in your hand and softly rubbing it along your lips. Do you feel your mouth watering? Our subconscious mind is constantly communicating with our body and we respond instantly, very much involuntarily, and without the need for physical contact. Now think about all those wet dreams you’ve had growing up.”
Crown continued. "What erotic hypnosis becomes for any subject is a particular iteration of the very common desire for domination and exploration of experience. It is leading people through experiences that they are fully capable of and almost never access. Imagine sharing everything you enjoy and then I come testing, training, and exploring the voluntary and involuntary potential of your mind and body. Hypnosis demonstrates to us the influence of our subconscious on not just our behavior, but on the perceptions of what we believe we interact with as reality.”
But what does someone get out of this? It can’t be just mental play — can it? Mr. Crown laughed and told me his kink is the controlled merging of explorations of identity and training a responsive subject. “So much of who we are is the product of all we have thought, experienced, and been exposed to, that none of us knows exactly the depths that we may respond to at a key moment,” he said. "Something which a person thinks of in the moment, has the power to change what a person can believe for the rest of their life. Talking about what excites us without judgement is not always easy. Training and testing a woman excites me.”
Just then, Atropa looked around the room and pointed to an attractive woman in her late twenties sitting with a friend. Crown nodded and his friend went off to talk with the two women while Crown explained to me what is going on.
“Damien wants to answer your question by showing you. When one or both of them come over here watch their faces. Before and after the demonstration. There will be a significant difference.” Sure enough, in five minutes Mr. Atropa explained they were being interviewed, that they were hypnotists, and that they were wondering if one of them might be interested in demonstrating a quick hypnotic technique. The two women sat next to us and Atropa instructed the first woman told her to extend her hands, explaining that one of those hands had a thick, dictionary sized leather book. Along her other arm he made the motions of tying a balloon to her wrist. He told her not to help him, but to close her eyes and see what was about to happen. The woman smiled but looked doubtful, Atropa instructed her to just let her body do what it was going to do.
He talked to the woman about the heaviness of the book and the lightness of the balloon tugging in different directions. He also interspersed statements about comfort, safety, and feeling really happy and curious as her body worked as it naturally did. As the woman sat there for a minute, one hand floated up and the other moved as though weighted down. Mr. Atropa told the woman to open her eyes and see what happened.
Mr. Atropa repeated this process again with her friend, but this time included statements of happiness and pleasure from taking part in trance and watching it happen. “This is the calibration and collaboration phase. It’s where we get rapport and they learn what’s possible by working with us,” Crown whispered, directing me to observe the other woman now watching her friend.
In about a minute, the second woman had her eyes opened and they asked what was next. Atropa held up his finger and whispered in the woman’s ear, her eyes quickly closing. He repeated the same thing with her friend. Atropa turned to me holding out his pointer finger on each hand and then turned back to touch each woman on the knee. I watch the women’s eyes flicker as he spoke of confidence, pleasure, and happiness, as he was counting upwards to five. The women seemed all smiles as Atropa spoke about feeling refreshed and tapping into a secret pleasure that would “stay with them even as they sleep and dream.” When they both opened their eyes, they looked at each other and then to us. They seemed to want to explore deeper. Atropa gave them his business card and they went back to the chairs in the corner of the coffee shop.
Mr. Atropa settled in again with us and told me that hypnosis is important for all of us because everything we do in this world begins with — and is interpreted by — the mind. It is in our minds where pleasure begins and like Milton said, “heaven can be made a hell, and hell a heaven.” I understood the draw of discovering the self in a new way, or interacting with the world with different hypnotic eyes, but how is this experience put together with Taoism or alternative relationships?
Joseph Crown noted that he is asked this question often and in many different ways. “I seek to build a space where people may serve me in order to express themselves in a way that society does not always recognize as valuable and worthwhile,” he said. "For me, I have lived my story and guided those I lead into an authentic life. It means what has been created speaks to the service of living in harmony with a person’s own nature. What we do isn’t entirely cookie cutter here and our relationships are co-created experiences just like everyone else’s. The difference here is that we do not feel trapped in stereotypical expectations to express our love, relationship roles, and commitment to each other.”
“We all seek to have good lives, but not many reach for, or attain what they want,” Atropa responded, tapping the lip of his coffee cup. “We are people who seek to inspire, inform, and offer an opportunity to live another way. We are not content in a cookie cutter world, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our time within it. We MCs wear many hats, have great responsibility, and dare to design lofty lives which are as authentic, and as valid, as any other way to live.”
Both Crown and Atropa refer to each other as MC’s or mind controllers. When asked about this they said that being an MC could be thought of as jargon that identifies them as part of a group, and as individuals who seek to develop themselves even as they work with others.
Though by no means a mainstream community, Crown said that it is not hard to find people interested in hypnosis in New Orleans, pointing again to the women in the corner still smiling from their hypnotic session. “We offer something unique. We offer a chance to explore something that crosses into every boundary and area of life. We aren’t trying to convert people to anything. We are seeking to train, inspire, but we only enjoy a chosen few.”
Atropa informed me that there is often, in fact, too much of a demand for their time. They make money training others, and seek to do more work that challenges them and these skills. He exclaimed, “I am having trouble finding the time to coauthor a book with Joe! These are things that are important, but so is enjoying the experience that is here and now. None of us get these moments of time back.”
I wondered, if almost anyone can benefit from hypnosis — is there an ideal audience? “I like working with CEOs and executives. When you teach a person to hone this art magic happens in their life. It’s like they wake up to explore the world in a new way,” said Crown.
For Atropa, the next step in his work is to integrate his art into virtual reality experiences. That new frontier of technology is something that both Crown and Atropa get excited over, but they feel that the technology is not quite accessible and affordable for most people yet.
I left this interview feeling like I just scratched the surface here. I wanted to know more, knowing I could have easily talked with these two for much longer. I just may have to return to tell another story with these two one day. I’m already out there enjoying a cup of joe and looking for the next story to share with you.
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The text above is a column and expresses only the opinion of the author, not NOLA Defender or NOLA Defender’s Editorial Board.
If you would like to learn more about Joseph Crown or Damien Atropa, visit here.
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