Derren Brown Investigates The Bronnikov Method

A Martial Development Meta-Investigation

I can see inside Vyacheslav Bronnikov’s head.

Not because I possess the disputed X-ray vision skills–though if I did, I would probably keep quiet about it. No, I’m just saying that I may understand what Bronnikov was thinking when he did what he did.

I should back up, and tell the tale from the start. Derren Brown is a renowned ‘psychological illusionist,’ a performer who combines magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship in order to seemingly predict and control human behavior. Imagine a younger, more talented, and more personable version of James Randi…

For the past ten years Derren has created TV and stage performances that have stunned audiences, debunked the paranormal and encouraged many to improve and enhance their own mental abilities. His first show appeared in 2000, Derren Brown: Mind Control, and followed with Trick of the Mind, Trick or Treat and a series of Specials including the controversial Russian Roulette and the hugely popular Events.

In the second episode of his latest television series, Darren Brown Investigates…, the illusionist set out to test The Bronnikov Method of human potential development. Created by Vyacheslav M. Bronnikov, this system–based in ancient Tibetan Yoga–promises to awaken dormant human skills and abilities, among them the ability to see while blindfolded, or indeed with no eyes at all.

Derren traveled to a Bronnikov seminar in Belgium, accompanied a woman who has been legally blind for more than a decade. As for what happened next…I’ll let you watch the episode, which was broadcast in Britain but is now available on YouTube.

Derren Brown Investigates…The Man With X-Ray Eyes

Interview transcript

Darren Brown: After four days of attending courses in his method, I was anxious to meet the legendary founder, Vyacheslav Bronnikov. The superhuman figure revered by so many, who has reached the exalted heights of level 6, and even mentioned that he could levitate, and that we could too.

I began by asking him how he came up with the method.

Vyacheslav Bronnikov: Actually, my story…I had twelve teachers. I was absolutely loaded with knowledge. Overloaded maybe even, but in a very potent way.

DB: And you were how old?

VB: It started from three years old, but if I take the question more seriously, I came consciously into this body. That was my choice. I actually was aware about coming into this life before I was born. And when I was born, I had a lot of capacities already.

DB: We’ll talk about the ball of energy for a moment. When you do this [rubs hands together], you feel a tingle in your hands, and your muscles kind of create a sensation of pulling away. So I can understand how you can imagine that might feel like a ball. I don’t understand how you make the leap from an imaginary ball–a sensation in your fingers–to then placing that somewhere where other people can feel it, and touch it, and move it around.

VB: I guess you didn’t understand anything. When we wrap our hands between two parts of the brain, we create a connection. And this connection actually works. And transforms. And everything else is secondary. Individual. Everything works inside of the brain.

DB: I would love to see the evidence. I really would love to see the evidence.

VB: Let your scientists organize an event. Let them organize a scientific commission. We’ll come, and it will work. And you will study from the very beginning, to the very end.

DB: Maybe my problem is, that I haven’t seen someone who can really look at a box, and see something that’s inside it. Is it possible? [Pushes sealed cardboard box forwards.] I don’t want to embarrass you but, is it possible for someone at level 6 and your skill level to be able to do the test–they were doing the test earlier in the workshop: they were looking at a box, and seeing what was in it. Is it possible right now?

VB: Unfortunately, you create a negative documentary. You create problems for yourselves. You don’t have a scientific approach, and you don’t have basic knowledge of this technology.

DB: I don’t understand…

VB: Do you understand what you are talking about? What do you want?

DB: I’m trying to understand. I suppose maybe I’m being naive, and if I am I apologize, but I guess I want to see a result.

VB: First of all, you create advertisements for your own…you show yourself not to be a serious organization. Will I be playing circus here, stacking boxes and things? This is not serious.

DB: You teach people to do this…

VB: You want science? Let’s do science.

DB: You teach this at level 3.

VB: I am not playing anything with you. And I won’t prove anything to you.

DB: OK. So there is something called Charles Bonnet syndrome, which is where blind people can hallucinate, and think they are seeing things on the outside world, and it’s very convincing for them. Now do you think it would be unfair if blind people were being persuaded that it was actual vision when it was just a hallucination?

VB: We don’t do healing here at all. We don’t do healing. We deal with human development. I want to make that clear.

DB: When we think about self-improvement, then to me, becoming better people is about becoming…kinder…I think that is important. Do you think it’s kind to tell a 16-year-old boy with cerebral palsy that he will walk, and maybe develop superpowers?

VB: First of all, we’re not talking about healing, because we don’t heal. Maybe you frame information in the wrong way. I speak of a system of development. And ‘system of development’ means that if you stimulate the correct development of certain functions of the brain, you can…improve things. We normally want to work with normal, healthy people, who use the training techniques for self development. So I state again, we don’t deal with ill people. When we design a system for ill people, this is for use by doctors only.

DB: So the slogan, ‘World Without Blindness’, is that misleading to blind people? Should it be something else?

VB: It is working, and the results are there. Is that clear? I see that you are trying to find weak points. And I guess it’s fine, because you’re from England. But at Rostov-na-Danu–it’s a city in Russia–there is a boy, and he was born without his eyeballs. Nobody told him he was blind, and he can see better than you. Think about it.

DB: There’s a boy in Russia who has no eyes, and he can see perfectly? You’re saying that is true?

VB: Definitely, I’m saying what I say.

DB: Do you know his name? I’d love to…I want to find out about this man. Do you know his name?

VB: Well, I don’t have this information. Just ask around, it’s in Rostov-na-Danu. And this is not the first case.

DB: I’ve spoken to a scientist who says that science doesn’t take the Bronnikov results seriously, who doesn’t take the Bronnikov system seriously. Why is that, if the results are real?

VB: From one point of view, I am happy that you in England have no understanding of new technology–scientific, psychological human development. And it’s very nice that Russia, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union are on the first wave of telepathy study.

DB: I just want to ask you one more thing, just going back to this [cardboard] box for a moment, because I want people at home to understand that, if it is not appropriate for you to do this–which is fine–I want to know why, so that they understand.

VB: You’re not a scientist. Why do you do this? You’re not scientists.


VB: You don’t deal with proofs, and usually create refutations, and this is your job, and you know where you belong. You do what you do. Let’s do the exposé. This will not work. Actually, for us, these types of shows are even better than real promotions. Make your documentary.

[awkward silence]

DB: Thank you very much for your time. Thank you very much for having us here, and allowing us to film everything.

VB: Next time, we will participate in your circus. Don’t worry.

Derren Brown and Vyacheslav Bronnikov

Based upon the contents of this show alone, it would be reasonable to conclude that Bronnikov was unnecessarily hostile, intransigent, and most likely a fraud. That is the conclusion I would have drawn after watching it, had I not once been in Darren Brown’s position myself.

The details of my story were just slightly different. I was not visiting Bronnikov, but instead a man with an even greater reputation. I was not a professional illusionist; but as an engineer who had already spent years studying the “Dao of Deceit” through the martial arts, I was nobody’s fool either.

Most importantly, I had no agenda other than to investigate the possibilities, and I was under no pressure to deliver a verdict within the span of a single week. For this and other reasons, I am well-qualified to provide some context, which is sorely lacking in Derren Brown’s presentation.

  • Bronnikov’s final brusque observations were correct: Brown was simply not equipped to conduct any sort of respectable scientific investigation, only a quick debunking.

    When scientists assert the primacy of repeatability and careful controls, it is only an illustration of their confusion and vanity; the primary issues are faith and trust. If you cannot trust, at some basic level, in the honesty and competence of others, then you cannot build upon their work, and instead are forced to repeat it at your own time and expense.

    Even putting aside the shabby controls around his “look into my cardboard box” experiment, the fact is that the public will not accept the scientific determinations of a mere “magician” such as Derren Brown, especially concerning an issue of this magnitude.

    There is ample evidence for this in the literature, some of which I have previously featured on this website. Odds are that you discounted those eyewitness testimonies as untrustworthy, as most others have, using any convenient justification–understandable, but it clearly demonstrates my point. Such improbable events are rarely disputed; they are maliciously dismissed, with the personal and professional reputations of the plaintiffs serving as a rationale.

  • Nevertheless the Bronnikovs did agree to “scan” a sick patient that Brown provided. Brown brought her into the examination room in a wheelchair, wearing dark glasses. After she was diagnosed with poor eyesight and a misaligned spine, Brown complained that the results were obvious (eyes) or incorrect (spine).

    Vladimir Bronnikov

    Here Derren Brown fails on at least three counts. First, he condemns the experimental controls he himself designed just a few hours earlier. Second, he evaluates Bronnikov’s current description of the spinal vertebrae against an old X-ray, seemingly oblivious to the fact that these bones naturally shift–has he never heard of chiropracty? Third, he disregards the precedents for verifying these claims.

    Yes, believe it or not, many of us have already run this test against alleged masters of third-eye kung fu–and we had the common sense to test against diseases without any obvious external indications (e.g. the specific location and shape of tumors), obtaining diagnoses which could be subsequently vindicated or refuted using the Western scientific paradigm (e.g. radiology). None of this cheap “Can you guess I’m blind?” nonsense.

  • After you have seen this pattern repeated time and again, you begin to understand that these are not really meant to be objective investigations–they are religious rituals, intended to end in a sacrifice. But having noted that point, we may as well ignore it henceforth, and charitably accept the premise of the documentary at face value, as a show of good sportsmanship. This is, after all, just a game. This is also, I believe, a cause for Vyacheslav Bronnikov’s outward hostility towards the end of the show.

    From a martial arts perspective, he executed a canny reversal on the show’s producers. First, he consented to filming, because there would certainly be no documentary otherwise. Second, he pulled the plug halfway through, incentivizing them to finish production on the episode, even without access to the crown jewels–his training methods. (This was explained as a wish to protect his trade secrets–which would make sense, expect that he didn’t “realize” it until the film crew had arrived and started their work!) Third, he flatly refused to describe the contents of Brown’s cardboard box, while reasserting that he could do so at his pleasure, for a more worthy audience.

    In the end, Bronnikov gets all the publicity at no real cost to himself. Those who are already inclined to attend his training will find Brown’s show “inconclusive” or “mean-spirited”, and the opinion of everyone else probably hasn’t changed, and doesn’t matter. This is black belt Aikido with a slight Machiavellian touch, and I tip my hat to his superior execution!

  • Derren Brown came to the training with the expectation that he would be shown convincing evidence, for the validity of these purported supernatural skills. (Sure, the evidence might prove fraudulent under his trained scrutiny, but at least it would be offered as a token gesture.) Instead, he was treated to a room full of credulous bon vivants, few of whom suffered from the disabilities (such as blindness) that the Method promised to cure–and whose enthusiasm was entirely unjustified by their own apparent results following the Method. Oh, Derren Brown, how I have felt your pain!

    Darren Brown

    Brown explains that seminar participants feel considerable social pressure to admire the emperor’s new clothes, whether or not they can actually see them. This is absolutely true. (Unfortunately, he doesn’t take the next step of considering his own peer group and social identity, and the pressures they continuously exert upon himself to reach a different conclusion, whether or not these peers are physically present in the room with him.)

    His further point that participants paid considerable sums for their tuition, and are influenced by this fact to assign an otherwise unwarranted value to the course, might be correct also–but it is prematurely surmised, and a cheap shot. The value of the course is evaluated on an individual basis, and based not only upon its direct promises, but also in “off-label uses” to which Brown (as an outside observer) must remain completely unaware.

  • Again, I have felt the pain. I might have abandoned the practice after a few days too, purely out of disgust with these other participants, if not for my martial arts background. Thankfully, though, this foundation helped me to set appropriate expectations.

    I cannot speak for Bronnikov Method in particular, but in my limited experience: these systems are nothing like a modern certification course, wherein a few dozen hours of instruction are followed by a written exam that 95% of the students are expected to pass, thereby earning the right to assert they “know” the subject. No, the purpose of the formal instruction here is simply to teach you how to learn, and to provide the inspiration and confidence necessary to undertake the extraordinary burden of time and effort that this material truly requires.

    After successfully graduating the course, you are basically left to succeed or fail on your own merits, with minimal ongoing interventions from the master. A lucky or talented few may really be able to perform at the end of the introductory weekend; others will measure their progress over months and years; and a few others will never get anywhere. It is no fault of the material that not all spectators are invited to become students, and not all students are equally capable.

    Personally, it took me nearly ten years to get an inkling of what it means to “see without eyes” (and I still have no idea whether Bronnikov can indeed do this himself).

  • Bronnikov fervently insisted that his is not a system of healing. In case you were wondering, this is to forestall the criminal charges of impermissible or “unlicensed medicine” that have been used previously to destroy Wilhelm Reich and others. In other words, it is more a political statement than a scientific one. It is an act of self-defense.

  • I offered Bronnikov HQ, and his United States affiliates at the Neurovision Academy, an opportunity to respond to this documentary, and to my comments here. So far, they have not accepted the invitation. On the chance that they will change their minds, please feel free to submit any questions or comments for them below.

  • Despite all of the above, I still like and respect Derren Brown. It is no doubt easier to enjoy his “investigations” when one has no knowledge of the subject he pretends to investigate.

18 comments on “Derren Brown Investigates The Bronnikov Method”

  1. You can feel bioenergy from the first employment!

    One of the most effective the technician of development:

    * sensations of Bioenergy in a body, sensations of Bioenergy? of other people and subjects;

    * development of direct vision by a brain blindly (Clairvoyance);

    * technicians of work with global Essences, Essences of five animals, formation of essence of the Dragon in a body.

    bronnikovmethod . com

  2. You know that the third-eye or etheric sight…can’t see through glass, right?

    DB use cardboard to block the physical eye, and a glass box to block the third eye…

    VB knows that DB knew this…it is very occult what they were REALLY debating…

  3. Stu, please tell us about your personal experience informing this statement.

  4. Бронников метод не видеть сквозь ящики, но читать, помогать слепым детям только.

    Bronnikov method is not to see through boxes but to read, help blind children only.

  5. No art-form is ever what it is related to. Tai Chi Chuan is the outward form of the state of harmony between the greater and lesser. Many attributes exist such as fast sets, slow sets, energy drills, along with interpretations on types of push hands interpretations. Every area of practice involves assumptions.

    Then enters the bureaucrats which want to enforce sport fighting with assuming actual fighting to not be about taking other’s resources while preserving one’s own. Actual fighting only gains feedback through actual fighting. Bureaucrats libel me to make it look as though I would desire sport fighting such as Brazilian Jujitsu then those stalkers that attack as a group accuse me of cheating.

    Plenty of people want to take a piece out of Brazilian Jujitsu types by returning the group against one approach to them. The proclaimed BJJ-Approach to self-defense is to pull one attacker to the ground then to enjoy being stomped to death. Clarifying what people are actually proclaiming is important with any testing.

  6. You said in your description “…seemingly oblivious to the fact that these bones naturally shift–has he never heard of chiropracty?”

    I’d just like to point out to you here that chiropractic is also a pseudoscience. You may be surprised by this since chiropractic is extremely prevalent. Most chiropractors combine their techniques with proper physiotherapy which is great, however the majority of their claims, including the misaligned spine pinching a nerve, which they call “subluxations”, don’t exist, nor does their “life force”.

    The fact is that some people’s spines can become misaligned and pinch a nerve, particularly from car accidents for example. However we have a word for this condition: paralysis. If you come across someone in a car accident with a pinched spinal nerve the last thing you want to do is forcibly manipulate their spinal column.


  7. very interesting insight. thank you for sharing this, it has given me a different perspective. and i do agree on certain points you described. the thing is, that even if it is possible or even if Bronnikov truly believes in the abilities featured in the film, or if he is a fraud – either way, more than anything else im taken aback by what seems to me like a height of arrogance and egocentrism. but thats just my opinion.

  8. Your evaluation of the program is offensively askew:

    • “Bronnikov’s final brusque observations were correct: Brown was simply not equipped to conduct any sort of respectable scientific investigation, only a quick debunking.”

    — This is incorrect. Bronnikov’s claim—that he can see without the use of his eyes—is itself not scientific, and thus does not warrant a “respectable scientific investigation.” A “quick debunking” would have been more than proof enough of Bronnikov’s claims, for or against. Can you tell me what’s in the box, or can’t you? It really doesn’t get simpler than that. However, I’m sure that if his claims were held to a more rigid scientific standard—whatever that may be—the outcome would be the same: his claims are absurd.

    • “If you cannot trust, at some basic level, in the honesty and competence of others, then you cannot build upon their work.”

    — Bronnikov’s “work”—if one can refer to it as such—is not demonstrably scientific, and thus, cannot be built upon scientifically. Bronnikov’s refusal to offer any kind of verifiable output only highlights the absurdity of his claims.

    • “In the end, Bronnikov gets all the publicity at no real cost to himself. Those who are already inclined to attend his training will find Brown’s show ‘inconclusive’ or ‘mean-spirited’, and the opinion of everyone else probably hasn’t changed, and doesn’t matter.”

    —I found Brown’s approach to be overwhelmingly conclusive, and not at all mean-spirited. Considering the ridiculous nature of Bronnikov’s claims, Brown could have been far more critical of his “teachings.” The burden of scientific proof resides squarely on the shoulders of the claimers, not those seeking to disprove their claims. Bronnikov can provide nothing beyond anecdotal evidence supporting the validity of his claims, and as such, he emerges from the program as the defensive party.

    How one could arrive at the conclusion that Bronnikov’s teachings represent anything more than exploitative, praying, profit-driven rubbish is beyond me, and should seek to have their brain examined. Scientifically.

  9. “”Bronnikov’s claim—that he can see without the use of his eyes—is itself not scientific, and thus does not warrant a “respectable scientific investigation.”””

    its easy to defend dogma by declaring the opposition to be anathema.

    “”However, I’m sure that if his claims were held to a more rigid scientific standard—whatever that may be—the outcome would be the same: his claims are absurd.””

    thats because your belief system is based on faith, not actual science.

    “”I found Brown’s approach to be overwhelmingly conclusive, and not at all mean-spirited. Considering the ridiculous nature of Bronnikov’s claims, Brown could have been far more critical of his “teachings.”””

    revealing, considering Brown didnt actually demonstrate anything at all. based on no evidence, you conclude that your prejudices were correct. should anyone wonder why Bronnikov didnt deign to entertain Brown’s test?

    “”The burden of scientific proof resides squarely on the shoulders of the claimers, not those seeking to disprove their claims.””

    thats not true. “disproof” is a claim of sorts as well, and necessitates that one shoulder the burden of proof. science proper is necessarily agnostic and open minded. what you refer to as “science” is more properly call “scientism” and “pseudoskepticism.”

    “”Bronnikov can provide nothing beyond anecdotal evidence supporting the validity of his claims””

    actually all that we can say is that Bronnikov DID NOT provide such, not that he CANNOT.

    “”How one could arrive at the conclusion that Bronnikov’s teachings represent anything more than exploitative, praying, profit-driven rubbish is beyond me,””


  10. I use his method and it works in different situations. There is nothing to believe. Just practise it enough and you will have the results.
    Ignorant journalist are on earth to spread lies.
    Wise people try first before they judge.
    Some people did martial art for years but they still don’t feel the energy after 4 days of workshop. I was at the workshop and experienced the film crew.
    If I do a serious documentary I would train myself 1-2 years and visit other students of this method. Proofs are there. I have my own and from other people.

  11. In viewing the interview, reading the comments below and knowing nothing about the subject. I can give you a strictly observational point of view. DB was effective, if Bronnikov had merely stated what was in the box he would have had me believing.

  12. This post makes no sense.

    You seem to have missed the telephone conversation that Derren Brown had with the doctor in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bronnikov was supposed to be tested by the Russians, but always backed out. Would being tested by actual doctors have been scientific enough for you?

    Even if the phone conversation was staged, what about the following:

    If I told you I can lift a 10Kg dumbbell with my left hand and you suddenly put a 10Kg dumbbell in front of me and asked me to lift it, would you defend me NOT lifting it if I claimed it is not scientific?

  13. Hammid,
    Junior skeptics love that burden of proof concept. I dare say it is their favorite game rule. Nothing to do with science really, but it makes their self-appointed jobs much easier.

    Darren Brown wanted 47 minutes of reality show content, against which his business partners could attempt to sell 13 minutes of commercial sponsorship and turn a profit. Vyacheslav Bronnikov wanted additional publicity at a lower cost than direct mail or Facebook ads. That was their successful economic transaction.

    Brown erected a flimsy backdrop of compassionate scentism, and Bronnikov burned it right down. That was their fractious political transaction.

    There was no scientific transaction to evaluate. Here I definitively part ways with the junior skeptics. They say: if you prove it to me, using means and methods I accept, than you shall enjoy the priceless reward of my acceptance. I say: baby needs a new pair of shoes.

  14. Bronnikov is a typical scammer feeding off people’s insatiable need for the supernatural.
    It’s a total scam

  15. To be honest, the whole Bronnikov thing was the biggest cringe fest I’ve ever seen. He told a kid with cerebral palsy he’d be able to walk again if he used the methods, charged the family thousands for it, and then when Derren called him on it he flat out said they couldn’t heal any people.

    Second, Derren didn’t say it was a controlled, scientific experiment. It didn’t need to be. If you are the crown master of this method of sight, but you can’t even see through a cardboard box… well, that speaks for itself. No need to go setting up a controlled environment if you can’t even do it on your home turf. At least frauds like Geller and others could do SOME demonstrations, but Bronnikov couldn’t even do that.

    The guy actually claimed he could levitate. Lol.

    Lastly, the entire thing is laughable because, you’re paying thousands for a BEST CASE SCENARIO of being able to walk around with a blindfold on all day. OK.

    Bronnikov also claimed that they could make blind people see, and then contradicted himself later, couldn’t even recall the name of his star student in some Russian village who had success.

    It was actually so cringey on Bronnikov’s part that my wife and I could barely finish watching it.

  16. Credulous fool. Next you’re going to tell me that no legitimate psychic has ever needed money, and THAT’S why the million dollar prize has never been claimed from the James Randi institute. Bearing in mind that the participant AGREES with the testers on how to conduct the test- as opposed to having the testers dictate how the test will be conducted- there is no system that could be more fair to the claimed psychic than the ones offered by James Randi for 30 years.

    I’ll tell you what: When I see the headlines:
    “Psychic banned from playing Lotto!
    … and lotto officials simply can’t afford to keep paying out these vast sums to [insert imaginary psychic here], as she’s already won the jackpot 5 times in as many attempts. Thus the lotto office has banned her from playing and refused to pay out any prize money if she does play…”
    When i see those headlines, I’ll be inclined to think that psychic talent might be a real thing.

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