Sunday World Feb 24 1974
Yoga Cult Broke Up Her Home
By Sunday World Reporter
A disturbing incident arising from the practice of the cult of Yoga in Dublin has evoked the anxious attention of clergy and doctors.
A young family has been broken up after the mother, attending yoga classes, developed an obsession with the philosophy.
For several years the young woman had led a normal life with her husband and children and then began to attend the yoga classes. Her personality changed and now she takes no interest in her former life.
Her husband, a technician, has had to remove the children, one of whom is less than a year old, to his parent’s home.
His wife – who must be known as Mrs X rather than that family position be further aggravated – went to live in the Yoga Commune at Templeogue and only after many attempts to get her back, Mr X had to enlist the services of the Yoga leader, Tony Quinn, to persuade her to return.
At present she lives apart from her husband.
When the incident was brought to the attention of Sunday World, we tried to interview Mr Quinn, who is well known as an organiser of Yoga classes in Dublin and its suburbs.
We spoke to him on the phone at the Commune, which is a large mansion on Templeogue Road, formerly owned by the Columban Fathers, and in which it is said about 30 to 50 yoga devotees live together, practising their exercises and meditations. They are paying guests.
We asked Mr Quinn if the Yoga he is teaching , or preaching, was the same as the Hindu cult. This, according to encyclopaediac definition, ‘teaches a technique to free the mind from attachment to the senses, so that once freed the soul may become fused with the eternal spirit’. There are then seven levels with the eighth (Samadhi a ‘trance state which is a sign of the complete unity of soul with reality’.
The ‘Yoga Sutras’ are 2,300 years old, and even so were based on more ancient traditions.
Mr Quinn said that ‘there were other definitions of Yoga’. When asked where he himself had ever been in India, he said he had not.
‘Are there seven stages in Tony Quinn Yoga?’
‘Is there a Dublin Yoga as well as an Indian Yoga?’
He then asked if the reporter was doing an article for a newspaper and when told that that was the general idea, he said, ‘I am not a newspaper fan myself’. He added: ‘Sometimes there are stories that run down Yoga’.
When a reporter and photographer went to the commune building there was a long wait at the hall door. Then a small child appeared. Later a young girl. She was pleasant but said that Tony Quinn was not in and only Tony Quinn could talk about the commune.
When the photographer was taking pictures of the place, she with another girl, objected. But when the photographer persisted they both went back to their meditations.
Mr Quinn’s classes cost £5 per six lessons, with six lessons in each of the several stages. The story of Mrs X, which is perturbing suburban clergy, began when the housewife decided to attend a local session just for interest.
Mr X says he and his wife had had very happy relations before this. They had gone abroad and to parts of Ireland on holidays with the children and there were no money troubles.
Mrs X continued into the other stages of Quinn Yoga and thus, according to her husband, began to change. She ignores her children, and concentrates on reading books relating to the religion of the Essenes. She changed her diet according to the Yoga rules and dropped a stone and a half. She left home to live in the Commune.
After trying for some weeks to locate her, and on three occasions visiting the commune to be told Tony Quinn was ill and couldn’t see him. Mr X told the Yoga organiser that he held him responsible for his wife’s actions, Mr Quinn then convinced Mrs X that she should return home.
Following this she had to undergo medical treatment and arrange psychiatric consultation.
One of her obsessions was a refusal to allow one of her children milk in any form.
A meeting of Yoga in Dun Laoghaire was broken up when people who knew of this incident told the students there about it.
Clergy began to refer to Yoga in their sermons. A priest told Sunday World: ‘We have nothing against Yoga as an exercise and we have nothing against its teachings in the physical sense. But its philosophy may be dangerous for sensitive people.’
Some students of ‘Tony Quinn’s Yoga’ told Sunday World that they believe in reincarnation and that Yoga masters may be the reincarnation of Moses or the prophets.
‘Tony Quinn’s Yoga’, according to his advertisements, is designed to help people achieve perfect happiness. Mr X would not agree. But by his reluctance to explain his system, Mr Quinn leaves the public in some doubt.
Several persons who have attended Yoga classes organised by Tony Quinn told a Sunday World reporter that their personalities had changed too – for the better.
For instance, one UCD arts student, Nora Lennon said: ‘It has reduced my weight I am happy with my diet and I feel better all round. If people find something wrong with Yoga it must be that there is something wrong with themselves’.
Another young man said he had been cured of a speech impediment by, he believed, attending the Yoga classes.
Sunday World March 3, 1974
The ‘Aura’ World of Tony Quinn
Mrs X, the mother of two who left her family to live at the Yoga Commune in Templeogue, is back home.
An avalanche of letters, most of them from the house at Templeogue, arrived at the Sunday World building during the week, defending Yoga and its exponent in Dublin, Tony Quinn, on the issue.
They say that our story was unfair.
The similiarity of their content is rather remarkable. But they agree on several points: that Mrs X only stayed in the Commune for ten days; that her husband knew she was there and gave her money while she stayed; and that Tony Quinn persuaded her to return to her children.
All the correspondents agree that ‘Mrs X’ was, while at the house at Templeogue ‘in a state of emotional shock and expressed very little feeling for her husband and children’.
Many of them say that she was mentally disturbed before she went, but their explanations vary as to why she was allowed enter in that state.
One Yoga member said that many psychiatrists recommend Tony Quinn’s Yoga for such cases.
(Mr X told Sunday World he only met Tony on the third try. He was told twice that Mr Quinn was ‘sick’.)
The letters, some of which have also come from St Jude’s, Brookfield, College Road, Cork, as well as St Columban’s, Templeogue, (the Commune hold on to the name of the house they secured from the Columban Fathers), say the writers have benefitted in health and spirit from Yoga.
Only a very few anti-Yoga letters have come from homes from which family members have left for the Commune. These complain that persons have ‘lost their religion’ and ‘given up their careers’ having sampled the new philosophy.
Among the pro-Yoga letter writers were several with university degrees.
But cures from obesity, asthma, drug-addiction and depression are reported by people in various Dublin addresses, apart from the letters that came from the Yoga houses themselves.
An explanatory printed letter headed, ‘Who Is Tony Quinn?’ was circulated by Yoga devotee, Sean Nolan, in Dublin last August, a photostat copy of which has been sent to Sunday World. The letter was issued with a list of classes and venues, urging people to join the movement.
Readers may remember that Tony Quinn refused to be interviewed by us and was ‘not in’ when we tried to findhim at the Templeogue Yoga house.
The letter, however, seems to speak on his behalf. Here are some excerpts.
‘Two years ago, Tony Quinn started giving classes here in Dublin. As they were concerned with the ages-old idea of perfected man, they were called yoga classes. But they bore little resemblance to conventional yoga, or indeed to any system of spiritual development in the world. The classes were unique. And Tony was unique. He was taught by no man, followed no teacher, for he was born with certain abilities which made all of this unnecessary.
‘To begin with, there is the very cornerstone of Tony’s teaching – true meditation. Where other systems of meditation could be called passive, since they concentrate on blotting out the mind, this is active meditation. Everybody uses this type of meditation already, without realising it, but at a very low level. It is a system of getting information from that part of you that normally lies beyond your conscious mind.
‘Such people as Mozart, Leonardo Da Vinci, or Thomas Edison, all ascribed their creations and discoveries to this greater intelligence. Jesus, Buddha and other great masters of the past used it on a higher level again. Jesus in particular was the outstanding example of this positive meditation.
‘He did not retire to a cave to spend his life cultivating an empty mind. Instead, through his meditation, he was able to manifest the love, intelligence, and power of God for all men to see.
‘In the world today there is only one man who can practice this meditation at its perfect level – Tony Quinn. To watch him meditate at this level is an awesome experience. Myself and many others from the classes have seen it and would be glad to talk to you about it. What happens is the aura, or glow, around his head changes to pure white.
‘Then he seems to be transformed into light as the aura vanishes and the outline of his body becomes indefinite. The features of the face change also as it is transfigured with the power of this light shining from within. Those who have seen this count themselves among the most fortunate of people.
‘With these powers, and with the knowledge you will gain through meditation, you can at last be master of your destiny and discover true happiness. Positive meditation then, the key to Tony’s teaching is the gateway to the hidden but greater part of you.
‘I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of Jesus, the saints or other holy men with this golden or white glow painted around them. Of course, the aura around the head of an ordinary person would not be white or gold. It would be darker, perhaps blue. this is because they have a weaker connecting with God, who is the source of life itself.
‘I will explain this by saying that the energy which sustains man and the universe comes from God. Those who can accept this energy in its pure form have white auras, while those who cannot, reduce it to a lower rate of vibration. At this energy lowers its vibration it changes colour, hence the different coloured auras, since the aura is the radiance of this energy around the body.
‘The colours of the aura are, in seven descending rates of vibration: white/gold, gold with green/yellow, with green/blue, or violet/red or brown/grey or black.
‘I would like to mention here than Tony can also, if necessary, bring the aura down to black. This is because there are in the world, those who would exploit this idea of God, for money, possessions, or simply power. To capitalise in this way on the longing many people feel at this time for a teacher, is to sin to a far greater extent than the normal person could understand.
‘The way things stand at the moment, any guru-so-called can, if he knows certain techniques to show people a light, impress them to the extent that they will fall down and worship him as God. Taking all their money is nothing compared to the damage such an individual can do to the soul.
‘I have seen him heal the sick, cast out evil spirits (low forms of energy, which can live in the aura and control the person in that way – possessing him, in fact) and do many others things which I will not dwell on here, as I feel they distract from the greatest miracle of all, if your could only understand it, which is to change the aura.
‘The reason I’m telling you all this is to get you along to the classes. Tony wants the auras of as many people as possible improved. You have nothing to lose. Even in the 24 lesson preparing for having the aura changes, you will gain all the knowledge necessary to become happy.
‘Yes, it costs money to attend the classes. The world happens to run on it, so we need it. Even getting this printed for you to read costs money.
‘So now you have some idea of Tony Quinn, and what he represents. You may be wondering how somebody with a name like Tony Quinn, coming from a place like Ireland, rather than India, could represent anything. Two thousand years ago they were saying nothing good could ever come out of Nazareth. Or you may consider him an odd sort of fellow, suffering from delusions. It is we who are deluded. Tony is the perfect example of man as he should be, even at this stage.
‘He has a well-developed body and mind. He eats, drinks and does everything a man does, and does it well. But he is different in another important respect. Unlike you and I, he can change all this at will and become something quite different. Tony is a sane voice in a world of confusion. He offers real life – will you grasp it now, or forever turn away, never understanding?’
The author of the circular letter, Sean Nolan, whose address is at Kylemore Road, Bluebell Avenue, Dublin, told us that he has been with Tony Quinn, now for three years. The reason he thought that Tony did not speak to the reporter was that he had been on a ten-day fast, experimenting to discover suitable diets to eat after fasting.
Sean Nolan says that healing sessions are held each Sunday in the Templeogue House where many people have been healed of a ‘wide range of infirmities’.
Printed with this circular were venues for classes in various suburbs of Dublin and in Kildare areas.
The circular seemed extraordinary to us but one of the protestors from the Commune (among the many that jammed our telephone system for several hours) boasted that he had seen Tony Quinn in meditation and could bear witness to the aura that surrounded him.
He said that modern science was discovering more about his aura and especially the investiations were being made (and published) by Soviet scientists.
Others said that as far as they were concerned Tony Quinn Yoga was a matter of diet and the proper way to meditate.
Our telephonist noted that there were no concurrent telephone calls about Yoga, only consecutive ones. And some of the protesters began by saying, ‘I want to add my voice…’
It would appear that our aura with this group of disciples appears black.
Tony Quinn – a priest replies
Your article on Tony Quinn’s Yoga was referred to me during the week. Twice during the past year I have had to help people as a result of their participation in Mr Quinn’s Yoga.
In one case, the person involved suffered a mental breakdown and had to be hospitalised. In the other case, I had to call a doctor owing to the near physical breakdown of the person involved.
The person in the former case has written a complete testimony of her experience and it makes fascinating and frightening reading.
I think it is important that people know exactly what Mr Quinn is offering before they enrol as members of his group and I feel that you have done a service to the community to point out the possible dangers in these Yoga classes.
Martin Tierney CC
NEWS OF THE WORLD
CANCER CURE BLARNEY OF THE IRISH YOGA TEACHER
By WILLIAM RANKINE 26 March 1978
FOR £10, YOGA INSTRUCTOR TONY QUINN SAYS HE CAN TEACH YOU TO RELAX.
BUT HE ALSO MAKES A DANGEROUS CLAIM. HE RECKONS HE CAN CURE CANCER.
He boasts that he has healed more than a third of the people who have been to him with the killer disease.
“HEALING: All, regardless of membership in the classes, are invited to avail of the Healing and Yoga Therapy sessions. Results speak for themselves, detailed records are kept, over 94%, including those of a serious nature, show marked improvement, while 35% have been completely cured. Among the complaints successfully treated are: Asthma, Psoriasis, Migraine, Cancer, Varicose veins, Arthritis, Dermatitis, Poor Eyesight, Infections, Ulcers, Jaundice, Bronchitis, Mental retardation, Congenital Deformities…”
The leaflet: “Results speak for themselves”
And in a leaflet delivered to 100,000 homes, he claims he has also successfully treated heart trouble, ulcers and bronchitis. “Results speak
for themselves,” says the leaflet.
And it claims that 94 per cent of Mr. Quinn’s cases, “including those of a serious nature,” show marked improvement. It adds: “Come
see for yourself-the proof of the pudding…”
But the News of The World’s medical expert David Delvin, says Mr. Quinn’s talk of cancer cures is heartless and irresponsible.
And he warns the yoga teacher who came to England from Eire six months ago: “It’s the type of blarney we can do without.”
Mr. Quinn, 32, says he launched 30 yoga groups in Ireland.
And he now runs five in hired halls in parts of North London including Muswell Hill and St John’s Wood.
Sometimes he packs in more than 100 people, charging £10 for a six week course.
But he says he cures for nothing.
He claims to heal by meditating with the sufferer. There is no physical contact.
The “patient” either goes to his home or stays where he is for what Mr. Quinn calls “Absent Healing.”
This means that he and Mr. Quinn meditate at the same time, even though they might be miles apart.
“I believe that inside everybody is this life force,” says Mr. Quinn.” Healing takes place by meditating on it.”
Mr. Quinn said all his cures had taken place in Ireland. He had not yet dealt with any cases in England.
He said his success rate for curing cancer was more than 35 per cent.
“I won’t make any rash claims,” he added. “But years ago one of the cases I did involved a woman who had discharged herself from a Belfast hospital.
“She had been in pain for five years and she had this terrible cancer in the stomach. The first healing I gave her, the pain stopped.
After the second one, she went home and spat it up. Someone I trained rang me up two nights ago and told me about two cancer cases he’d been involved in. One chap was down to six stone when the healing began. He had cancer of the stomach and of the head. Since he started on the healing about six weeks ago the cancer of the stomach has gone and the growth in the head is getting steadily smaller.” I asked Mr. Quinn about the danger of raising false hopes.
He told me: “That’s something I’m always worried about myself. I don’t like to do it – with cancer in particular myself.”
Mr. Quinn of Lyncroft Gardens, West Hampstead, showed me about 200 letters which he said were from grateful patients.
I read him a section from the Cancer Act, 1939, which says:
“No person shall take part in the publication of any advertisement containing an offer to treat any person for cancer.”
He told me: “I wasn’t aware of that. It was a genuine mistake.”
Evening Herald Damian Corless October 2001
A former close associate said: “From the first time I met him [Quinn]
he claimed he had healing powers, and I did see him make people feel better by putting them on a strict diet and fitness regime.” Quinn assembled a team around him. They would take shifts on O’Connell Street, parading a banner listing Quinn’s various abilities, including his healing powers. “Tony wasn’t exactly what you’d call charismatic,” said the former associate.” He came across as macho rather than sophisticated. I think he knew this and I think that’s why he’s so obsessed with amassing qualifications. What he did have was a huge ego. He felt nothing was beyond him.” Charismatically-challenged or not, Quinn drew a community of sorts around him. He moved people into his house, then houses.
One former assistant recalled: “I was being treated by Tony and I was approached by someone who said, “Would you like to join a house? We’ve brought your vibrations up as far as we can for now. The best thing is to move in with a group of like-minded, right-living people.” “Tony started with a house in Templeogue and then had a 16-room house in Howth with maybe three to a room paying rent. Living as a community we were more able to focus on diet and meditation, he added. But back in the ’70′s the Catholic Church didn’t smile on
Quinn’s community building. For some reason, the gardaí raided his house in Templeogue. There they found 50 people but no drugs, no orgies, and no reason to pursue the matter. By the early ’80′s Tony Quinn’s blueprint for living was plopping onto carpets throughout Ireland.
In late 1984 a doctor with the National Drugs Advisory Board, Dr. Allene Scott, raised concerns about some of the claims in its pages. Dr. Scott dismissed those for one anti-ageing product as “rubbish”. The doctor also took a dim view of an advert, which read: “Girls, WeThink Cocoa Butter Could Be The Answer To A Bigger Bust”. Sixteen years on, the publication can still raise an eyebrow or two. For example, readers can avail of Educo Postal Requests for a fee for £25 per month, or £40 for a family. Readers who want to secure a particular” goal/outcome” are invited to send details, together with a recent photo and acheque or postal order. The Tony Quinn Centre then sends out information on how to achieve the goal through mind-application. But there’s more.
Every day for a month Tony Quinn and his aide Aideen Cowman will help to achieve reader’s goals by “focusing one-directionally” on the desired outcome. This distance-assistance doesn’t just work between Tony and the subscriber. The method does the biz for third parties who haven’t a clue they’re being helped. “It is equally effective in obtaining results fort others who need not be aware of your request”, it is claimed. According to a former Quinn associate, the
basis of the Educo Postal Requests seems to be “absent healing”. “In the early days Tony did all the healing himself,” he recalled. “He’d tell people he was giving them a “healing blast”,and say he didn’t have to lay hands, but sometimes he would. Then he sort of delegated the healing. He made others healers. The postal requests seem to extend this into “absent thealing”.The Evening Herald submitted a list of questions to the Tony Quinn Centre. These included queries about how the postal requests work, about the commission paid to seminar sellers, and about claims made in the latest issue of his newsletter.
Senior staff declined to reply.
Ireland on Sunday
Is this pyramid selling?
By: Ronnie Bellew
HEALTH AND fitness guru Tony Quinn is allegedly operating a pyramid-style operation in the marketing of his £15,000 self-development seminars in the Bahamas, Egypt and other overseas locations.
Last week, Ireland on Sunday revealed that Quinn’s empire is turning over £1m a month.
A garda spokesman told Ireland on Sunday that Quinn’s marketing of the seminars “has all the hallmarks” of pyramid selling which was outlawed in this country in 1980.
Documents seen by Ireland on Sunday state that an individual can become an agent for Quinn’s two-week “Educo” seminars after paying out a minimum of £15,000 to attend a seminar.
The agent in turn receives £2,000 from the Quinn organisation for each participant he or she directly refers to an Educo seminar.
In a copy of the “agreement for engagement of independent agents” drawn up by Quinn’s Channel Islands-registered company, Human Potential Research Seminars Ltd, this is referred to as the “agent’s first level”.
The “second level” for the agent is an additional £2,000 from the Quinn organisation “in respect of each participant directly referred by a person who is in the agent’s first level”.
Under the agreement, an agent would need to sell a minimum of eight Educo seminar packages at “first” and/or “second” levels to recoup their initial £15,000 investment.
But the contract also stipulates that agents are “required to attend a minimum of one Educo seminar in every period of 12 months.
“The agent will be responsible for his/her costs (currently £15,000) in relation to attendance at each seminar”.
This indicates that agents would need to sell at least eight seminars per annum to break even on their original investment.
The agents are also required to participate in company marketing initiatives at their own costs.
One agent who participated in a Quinn seminar in Egypt attended by 70 people last Autumn, told Ireland on Sunday that he since left the organisation “because of the smell of money in it”.
“I found the seminar itself worthwhile but every person seems to be a potential profit centre for Tony Quinn.”
He also claims that businesspeople attending the high-powered £50,000 and £100,000 Educo seminars at the same locations, sign an agreement to turn over a third of any increased profits in their business once they return to Ireland.
“This is not directly stated in any of the Educo documentation but I know people who have handed over prior and post seminar accounts to the organisation.”
Another former associate of Quinn told Ireland on Sunday that he has been pursued for two years by an individual he calls a “Quinnite” attempting to persuade him to go on one of the Tony Quinn seminars in the Bahamas.
“He has even offered to organise a loan for me at a particular bank in Blackrock. Money isn’t a problem for people who follow Tony Quinn. I know people who have remortgaged their homes to go back to the Bahamas for a second or third seminar.”
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The Pheonix October 20, 2000
Educo and more
From two imposing Georgian buildings on Dublin’s Eccles Street, Tony Quinn’s so-called Blueprint for Living is operated, offering classes in yoga, keep-fit, dieting, etc, etc. However, these days you will not find Tony Quinn in Eccles Street, nor in his impressive Malahide pile. His booming business has led to tax-exile status for the former Mr. Ireland and a life in the Caribbean sunshine where punters pay big money to visit him and learn his secret route to happiness. The man who trained Steve Collins to win a world boxing title in Milstreet is now a in heavyweight league all of his own.
There are two sides to Tony’s business, both of them lucrative, although one has a more public face than the other. Up front is the Tony Quinn health centre operation which broadly encompasses the Eccles Street gym and 12 health store outlets around the country. Through these, Tony sells his array of life-improving products: videos, CDs, vitamin supplements and diet products. The other, more glamorous but low-key arm of the TQ empire is the off-shore life improvement “Educo” seminars which involve personal sessions with the great man.
Quinn has been making so much moolah that he has moved his business off shore and operates out of Jersey while living in the sunny Caribbean. Not surprisingly, tax-exile Tony’s name is pretty scarce on any paperwork in Ireland and the various health stores around the country Dublin, Cork, Galway, Dundalk, Kilkenny, etc are actually franchised operations which pay for the privilege of using the high profile Tony Quinn name. As franchiser, Quinn would receive a relatively modest take from these operations but profits from the individual TQ products sold there have made him a very wealthy man.
Many of these dietary supplements are imported to Dublin via Jersey which presumably helps minimise any tax implications. They all bear the Tony Quinn logo although obviously are sourced from a variety of suppliers and Tony is naturally anxious that his customers retain brand loyalty, warning against mixing and matching elsewhere. For example, his Weight Loss Guide notes that many of the products sold in the TQ stores are exclusive to the group and often made to its formula: Genuinely, we have often tried apparently similar products and not obtained the same results. Please don’t take any chances make sure that you are getting the right products A simple example: we mention the value of liver supplements in our other booklets, yet one of the most widely sold in this range consists largely of sugar”.
Tony Quinn is a valuable brand and promotion of the name and products through his Blueprint for Living publication is relentless. The current issue features stories on getting in shape, hormone replacement therapy, arthritis, mood changes and tanning all of which push TQ products. The Blueprint has been around for many years and many of the popular features crop up all the time, including the “Educo Postal Request” whereby readers are asked to send in a recent photo and £25 per month or £40 for a family), listing a specific goal they wish to achieve. In return, they receive information on how to apply their own minds while Tony Quinn (somewhere in the Bahamas) and his right hand woman in Dublin, Aideen Cowman, “apply our minds to the request for a successful outcome”.
Apparently it works and Blueprint has plenty of readers’ testimony to that effect (eg “my husband’s business is really booming and he’s also stopped smoking. I am much happier in myself and lots of things are turning around for me and my family” Mary, Cork). £25 – $40 a month is more or less the going rate in TQ’s book. For example, weight loss product (Amino-Or and Amino Energise) will set you back £30 per month while the much vaunted Life Extension Mix work’s out at £34..50 per month. The mix is promoted in TQ’s brochures by one Bob Delmonteque who, despite his name, is not a cabaret entertainer but a remarkably fit-looking 81 year old doctor who claims to have trained the erstwhile stars of Hollywood (including Rita Hayworth and Clark Gable). Quinn met him in the Bahamas and the two teamed up to promote their videos, supplements, etc.
Like all the best gurus, Tony Quinn inspires loyalty and his core team in Ireland are all old hands who have been with him for over 20 years. These include the likes of Osteopath, Martin Forde and his wife, Margaret, a holistic psychotherapist. Aideen Cowman who runs relaxation classes in Eccles Street and Hughie Chambers are also lifers with the latter now living in Quinn’s magnificent Martello Tower in Malahide, the setting for the annual TQ Christmas bash. This is the only time you can be sure Tony will be in the country.
Although only 31, Dave O’Connor has been the TQ operation for over 12 years and asked questions from the audience when Quinn appeared on the Late Late Show a number of years ago to demonstrate his powers. O’Connor is listed as a director of Tony Quinn Health Centres Ltd (accumulated losses at October 4, 1998 at £120,000) along with Colette Millea and accountant, Bernard Le Claire. However, Tony himself is not a director here and the only place he crops up as a director in Ireland is in a non-trading company, Educo Ltd, where his fellow director is listed as Margaret Forde.
Le Claire is based in St Helier, Jersey, which is also the address of Quinn ’s own company, Baringo Ltd. Another Jersey company with which Quinn is closely associated—as a consultant rather than director—is human Potential Research Centres Ltd, which organises the low-key seminars in the sun for which Tony has been raking in really big bucks for the last four or five years. Colette Millea and one-time electrician, Tony McKenna, [this is an error, the name is Tom McKenna] who runs the Tony Quinn gym in Eccles Street, handle these seminars in Dublin.
What is interesting about the personal Tony Quinn seminars is the manner in which they are sold. Unlike the myriad of TQ “mind power” courses, which take place almost weekly around the country, but which are taught by Tony’s acolytes rather than the man himself, the off-shore seminars are not promoted at all in the national and local media. Nor are they advertised in his Blueprint for Living publication where you can find the price of everything from a bottle of Brain & Muscle Complex (£29.90) or Bob Delmonteque’s Secrets Of A Long Life video (£34.50) to a course in psychotherapy with the so-called Irish Health Culture Association (£1,050).
However, Blueprint does include acres of gushing prose about how Tony Quinn ’s fabulous lifestyle in the Bahamas paradise island no less along with photos of yachts, catamarans and cruise ships “docked in this highly favoured destination of the rich and famous”. The text accompanying these colourful holiday snaps is made up of lengthy interviews with a sun-tanned Tony in which he outlines his philosophy “Q: How would you describe yourself? A: “In many ways a philosopher” and sells his “unconscious attention” (UA) seminars. UA is something Tony discovered when “working with a university (no name provided) … for this I received my Master of Science degree”. According to Tony, his techniques have proved successful and “people who have come to my seminars are now using more of their minds to a point where their living is almost effortless”.
However if you are interested in learning more about these “Educo” seminars (eg the price) there is no coupon to fill out among the glut of BUY THIS NOW! Offers which litter the pages of Blueprint. Instead, you have to make a personal enquiry, which leads to a very, very hard sell by Tony’s Dublin office. The sales pitch has to be hard because the price for a two-week seminar in the sun (economy flights, twin-room sharing) comes to a whopping £15,000. So far this year, there have been three such seminars, including one to Egypt.
Most of the sales, however, come through existing seminarians anxious to get their money back and, according to the Educo booklet given to potential customers, “on completion of the seminar held in some of the most beautiful places on earth there is a unique financial opportunity available”. This refers to a commission scheme whereby the signing up of a new £15,000 customer generates a £2,000 cut for the person who made the introduction. If the newcomer subsequently sells a trip to a third party, the original agent receives a further £1,000.
From the original 15 who went on the first seminar in the Bahamas a few years ago, the number of sun-tanned Tony Quinn disciples has grown to almost 80 today and Tony hit the jackpot last month when over 70 fans travelled to Egypt for a two-week seminar at £15,000 a pop. Even conservative costings suggest a profit here of over £3/4 million. Next month, a smaller group will travel Paradise Island for their session.
The £15,000 price-tag is by no means top of the range. Some punters have parted with £50,000 each for smaller more concentrated seminars and Tony even offers a one-on-one sun session for a cool £100,000. Apparently, this kind of money has indeed changed hands and in one seminar booklet which Goldhawk has seen, it is stated that “private clients have paid £100,000 for this knowledge”.
Certainly Quinn is not worried about appearing greedy and his publicity machines has pointed out that “Tony Quinn is the highest paid person in his field in the world today” which would explain why boxer, Steve Collins, told the high court three years ago that he had paid Quinn £360,000 for his services. Of course, Tony got far more than money from his relationship with the world champion and the publicity associated with Collins’s title fights proved invaluable to Tony and led directly to the establishment of his lucrative sunshine seminar scheme.
While Tony Quinn did turn Collins’s career around with a tough training regime and strict diet, the media focus was on the mental aspect of the WBO world title victory over Chris Eubank in Millstreet. But was it a case of mind power or mind games? Tony Quinn would claim that Collins’s mind was primed by him to achieve victory and on the night, Eubank believed he was dealing with a hypnotised opponent. In his autobiography, Collins quotes Quinn as telling Eubank that “I’ve ensured Steve will not feel any pain”. However, the Irish boxer goes on to say: “On the way back to the safe house we rolled around with laughter. “We’ve fooled him,” I told Tony. “We’ve fooled the poser”.
But surprisingly, the relationship between Quinn and Collins didn’t survive the boxers dismissing of Tony’s super powers but the worldwide publicity generated by the two Collins-Eubank title fights has presumably helped make up for any subsequent lack of promotion by the Irish pugilist. Paradise Island is a long way from Quinn’s Arbour Hill childhood cottage home and the man, who won 12 titles, including Mr. Ireland and Ireland’s best physique, is in his best shape ever, financially speaking.
Bookings are now being taken for next month’s trip to the Bahamas for anyone interested in “the secret to happiness”.
THE MIGHT OF QUINN
Relatives of those who have become committed to Tony Quinn describe how it has affected their lives.
It was the last day of one of Tony Quinn`s £15,000 seminars. The exotic location this time was Paradise Island in the Bahamas, where Quinn has lived for the past five years. There were about 20 people on this particular trip, less than the usual attendance. Some have had up to 50 people attending, such as the one in Monte Carlo last year. As a special treat, the group was brought on a bus to Quinn`s residence, a sumptuous building with its own private beach, two swimming pools, and a garden stretching across many acres. It is worth many millions of dollars, according to a former associate of Quinn.
However, the group wasn`t allowed across the threshold of the great man`s house, but had to be content with being entertained on the patio. No one could go beyond the hall door, it was explained, because in the past people had pocketed items from the house to keep as mementoes or souvenirs of Quinn, relics of the true cross, as it were. There was, however, a consolation prize. Quinn posed for photographs with the group and then autographed cards for them, some of which bore a portrait of him in white-toothed Cheshire Cat mode.
“Your new life starts here,” he wrote on the cards. “Lots of Love, Tony xxx xxxx.”
A seminar with a tea party on a patio as the grand finale – accompanied by a card with seven kisses on it – might seem a pretty paltry return for doling out 15 grand, but for Tony Quinn followers, it`s more than enough. For many, even a few seconds with Quinn himself counts as an out-of-body experience. Quinn, as The Sunday Tribune has discovered, is believed to be the next best thing to God by some of his followers and, quite possibly, by himself. Some say he shares similarities with Jesus. Such a view was expressed on RTE Radio`s Liveline last week during a discussion on Quinn prompted by the first part of this Sunday Tribune investigation.
Others describe him as a genius. One of his closest associates, Colette Millea, told this newspaper he is a genius whose achievements, like others who have gone before him, will not be fully recognised in his own lifetime.
Whatever way they see him, however, one thing is certainly true – most of Quinn`s followers are extremely loyal to the man who promises them he can change their lives, even though all the evidence shows that he is not all he claims to be. While people would claim to have benefited from any involvement with Quinn, The Sunday Tribune has spoken to others whose lives have been turned upside down by what they see as his organisation`s less-than benign influence on their loved ones. They say that relationships have been fractured and people distanced from their families because of their involvement with Tony Quinn. And there are others who are opposed to what Quinn is doing. A number of former followers are disillusioned with the organisation`s relentless pursuit of profit.
In the most detailed exploration of Quinn`s background and way of thinking, which includes extraordinary details never before examined, it can be seen that there is a heavy dependency culture among some of those involved and, in a number of cases, their entire lives seem to revolve around Quinn.
Very few people are prepared to speak out against Quinn. Those who do will generally ask for their identity to be protected. Some do not want the Quinn organisation to know that they have a problem with it. Others do not want their relatives, who are involved in the organisation, to know that they are opposed to what they are doing.
Gerry Murphy, a GAA employee, is one of the few people prepared to speak publicly about the Quinn organisation. Neither Murphy nor his wife had ever heard of Tony Quinn until he became ill and was told by a surgeon that he would have to start looking after himself properly. “The first time I had ever heard of Tony Quinn was when we visited one of his health stores in Carrickmacross. I took home some of his supplements and started a new diet. After about a week I didn`t feel any better so I decided the diet was useless. I told my wife, stopped using the supplements and my direct involvement with the Tony Quinn organisation ended there. Hers, however, was only starting.”
Murphy`s wife started to attend Quinn`s classes. Within a short time, she began working for Quinn, using his products and believing strongly in his philosophy.
“Over the first two or three years, she changed in personality and in attitude. She became totally different to the woman I had married. Her whole life was dominated by Tony Quinn. She spent every spare moment working for Quinn at the expense of her family and friends. I wouldn`t see her from one end of the week to the other. She attended every seminar and travelled to Dublin all the time. In one six-month period, she clocked up 32,000 miles on the car. At the same time I noticed that no matter how much money we made, we never had any and I came to realise that the reason for this was she was spending huge amounts on Tony Quinn-related things,” he says.
Murphy said the problem came to a head when he decided that he could no longer cope with his wife`s involvement with Quinn. He tried to stop her attending a seminar and in the ensuing argument asked her to choose between the Quinn organisation or him. “It was Friday, 26 June 1992 and at 6pm she walked out the door on her entire life and within two hours was in Tony Quinn`s house in Malahide,” he said.
Murphy believes his wife is still involved in the Tony Quinn organisation. They are now legally separated. He has spent the last nine years trying to understand what happened and cannot come to terms with the level of loyalty his wife showed to the Quinn organisation or the level of control the organisation seemed to have over her. In that time, he has campaigned against what he believes is a harmful organisation and believes there needs to be government regulation of organisations like Quinn`s.
Murphy is not the only person who believes this. Two people whom we shall call Paul and Ann say that they have lost their partners to the Tony Quinn way of life and both tell very similar stories. Neither of the two will go on record about their experiences as their loved ones are still involved in the Quinn organisation – when they were interviewed for TV3, with whom this newspaper`s investigation was carried out, they both appeared in silhouette.
Paul`s wife has been involved in the Tony Quinn organisation for 10 years. The last four have been very problematic and his marriage has recently broken up. “Initially, when she became involved I had no problem with any of the activities, the gym, the healthy eating, the exercise. However, my concern developed over the years, when I came to understand more about Tony Quinn`s life-system and her involvement increased. At one stage, my wife, without discussing it with me, decided to leave her job to go to work for the Tony Quinn organisation. The move entailed a 50% drop in salary which just didn`t add up.”
He said his wife changed dramatically from this point on. “My wife became totally dependent on all Tony Quinn things and she became what I can only describe as de-personalised. It got to a stage where she would get up in the morning and take six or seven Tony Quinn supplements, listen to Tony Quinn tapes throughout the day, wear Tony Quinn t-shirts and use Tony Quinn shampoo. She would keep turning off the news because she had been told not to listen to negative information”
He explains that this dependence is part of the reason his marriage broke up. “Eventually, I asked her to make a choice either to take a break from Tony Quinn or risk ending our marriage. She said she would rather end the marriage than take a break.”
He denies that the break-up resulted from problems in his relationship that had nothing to do with Quinn. “There definitely was a total dependency. I know you can say that all husband and wives argue, and that is fair enough, but the Tony Quinn lifestyle also came between my wife and her family.”
Ann`s husband is a wealthy businessman who attended one of the £100,000 one-on-one courses with Quinn. She had never heard of Quinn but since her husband went on the seminar, she has been fighting to prevent other members of her family being recruited to the Quinn system. “When my husband returned from the seminar, he was very much unrecognisable from the man I married. He was emotionally withdrawn from both myself and the children. The changes in him had a major effect, our marriage broke up and the children were devastated.”
She said he seemed not to have control over his own mind. “I don`t know if I will ever get my husband back to his normal self. I am working very hard at it and I think I will eventually convince him to leave the Quinn organisation, because he does listen to me. At the moment, though, he is carried away on something that he has no control over.”
As well as Murphy, Paul and Ann, The Sunday Tribune also spoke to six other families, all of whom had similar stories to tell. One mother said her daughter changed for the worse after she went to a seminar and the problems this caused have devastated her family. Another woman, from a farming background, said her husband recently received a large amount of money in compensation and that he spent £15,000 to go on a course in Egypt. Her family is distraught about the changes they have seen in him and she said her marriage is now destroyed.
In response, however, representatives of the Tony Quinn organisation, Martin Forde and Colette Millea, say that the instances in question were unfortunate, but denied that Quinn`s system was to blame. They say marriage break-ups are a part of life and that their courses have been attended by numerous couples who have stayed together. “We expect from the training people receive that changes can happen to their levels of awareness. I am very sorry to hear that families can be unhappy with it. However, there are at least 50 examples where one member of a marriage has sent the other out on seminars. They are all very happy with what has happened for them,” Forde said.
Like the couples who the Tony Quinn organisation states are happy with the product on offer, there are plenty of single people who also find the Quinn life system to be of value. A large number of people use Quinn products, attend his courses or his gym and would say they have benefited greatly from the experience. “If I was to put a figure on it, the number of people unsatisfied it would be way less than 1%,”Forde said.
Shane Cradock, for example, is a chartered engineer. He said he went on a Quinn seminar in 1998 and found it “very helpful”. Since then he has left his job and set up a business of his own. He still attends Quinn courses regularly, he believes he now has more control over his life and, he said, his health has radically improved.
John O`Doherty owns a steel company. Both he and his wife have been on Quinn seminars. Since he went, he said, his business has trebled because he has been able to work to his full potential. He claims only a proportion of what he has achieved would have been possible if he had not gone on Quinn`s seminar.
On Wednesday of last week, three women, all of whom had gone on Tony Quinn seminars, were featured on Liveline. Catherine, Barbara and Simone all said that going on the course was one of the best things they had ever done.
“I saw the £15,000 as an investment. My story is a very positive one. I invested in my own personal development and I got a fantastic return from the seminar. I am involved in sales and I found it brilliant. You go on the seminar for the information, it is stand-alone information,” said Barbara. “I have to pinch myself in the morning – that is how good things are for me.”
TONY QUINN, MEDICINE MAN
Do you want to change your life? Well, Tony Quinn will help you for just £15,000. And don`t worry if you don`t have the cash because he`ll also help you to get that, too. In the first of a two-part series, The Sunday Tribune examines how his organisation operates and finds money to be a top priority
It drops through your letterbox a couple of times a year, along with all the unwanted flyers from auctioneers, Indian takeaways and late-night pizza joints. The first thing you notice is that vaguely familiar face that beams out at you from the cover – that long jaw, the neat beard, the damson-cheeked smile and that oh so 1980s coiffure. “Dr Tony Quinn,” it always says, “doctor of clinical hypnotherapy, Master of Science in psychotherapy.”
Blueprint for Successful Living. Only good news, it promises. There`ll be at least 30 photographs of people with chorus-line smiles. There`s always an interview with the great one on the cover, which reveals a man not overly familiar with the concept of modesty.
Q; How would you describe yourself?
A: In many ways as a philosopher… What happened in my own case is that I spent so much time trying to learn the secrets of life that I began to have insights.
The good doctor is always involved in some ground-breaking research that`s “causing a stir in scientific circles” In universities everywhere, academics are poring over his findings with barely concealed envy.
Q: Tony, you`ve just completed what has been hailed as ground-breaking research.
A: Yes, the study took place in conjunction with a university and under university research conditions.
The strange thing is that there`s one thing that`s never advertised among all the seminars, and ki-therapy courses, and successful living tapes, life-extension mixes, postal requests and slimming formulas that fill the space in Blueprint. Strange, because it is the one vehicle that has elevated Tony from being merely rich to being a multi-millionaire, living in the tax haven of the Bahamas, the “highly favoured cruise destination of the rich and famous”, as Blueprint describes it so eloquently. We`ll phrase it in Blueprint`s own inimitable style:
Q: How did Tony make his millions?
A: By getting hundreds of people to go on his Educo seminars at £15,000 a pop.
Sometime between the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tony Quinn – former apprentice butcher, former body-builder, former yoga guru – reinvented himself. Armed with his doctorate, and later his masters, he devised the “Educo” system, which he described as new mind technology. His “mind-training” of boxer Steve Collins when he became world champion gave the Educo system a huge – and continuing -advertising boost, though Collins wouldn`t share Quinn`s view of his role. “He was one of many people who helped me on the way. He was useful for a little while. I used a couple of hypnotists to help me focus. In my opinion, the best of them all was Tony Sadar,” says Collins.
The connection did Quinn no harm. In the past four years, his courses have mushroomed from short local seminars to two-week courses in exotic climes, run on an almost monthly basis. In the same period he has built up a following of what may be thousands of supporters, some of whom believe him to be world`s best life coach. An estimated 600 of these – some sources say many more – have gone on these £15,000 seminars, some more than once, where he promises to dramatically change your life by using “unconscious attention”.
Quinn says he has developed a breakthrough system. He claims to be more than a new age or alternative therapy guru and can point to 18 qualifications, to his systems and theories which he says are validated by original research carried out in conjunction with universities.
However, an in-depth investigation by The Sunday Tribune (in conjunction with TV3`s 20-20 programme) shows that Quinn`s organisation is a business empire with financial gain a priority, using hard-sell techniques that push the concept of OPM (Other`s People`s Money) to its limit, and includes sell-on procedures that are designed to increase recruitment. The investigation also shows that some of his qualifications are not all they appear and that elements of the research and the theories he has built his system on have little scientific basis, according to two of Ireland`s leading academics.
The one aspect of Quinn`s organisation that is never advertised in his Blueprint for Successful Living are his seminars – the mainstay of his business for the last number of years. The basic one costs £15,000 for a two-week course held at a sunny resort. It is believed there are more expensive options where the customer receives one-on-one attention from Quinn. Representatives of Quinn say that the seminars are advertised within the organisation and that news of them is spread by word of mouth.
The Sunday Tribune, however, has for the first time secured tapes of what is said at these seminars and found them to be sold on a hard-sell basis. There is evidence that Quinn tells people, while under his influence at the seminars, that the best way for them to realise the life of their dreams is to sell his seminars to others. And it can be shown that whether or not you have the finance to attend is not a problem as Quinn`s organisation can point you in the direction of someone who can lend you the money.
Money, and the attainment of it, in fact, is one of the recurrent themes of all Tony Quinn`s seminars. You can get that sport`s car, that holiday, those riches, that successful life you dream about, he promises. “Imagine the following ideal scenario,” he says in one seminar. “You have left your penthouse on Paradise Island and you are out in your yacht on the bay… You are sitting with a group of friends and they are envying your lifestyle. They ask how you achieved it. You talk about the seminar and how you went from fixed to flow and self-expression; of the exciting adventures you are having since living outside of thought.”
It`s almost as if Quinn is describing himself. The man born in a small cottage on Arbour Hill in Dublin 55 years ago now lives in a luxurious mansion in the Bahamas, a tax haven. The company that runs his seminars, Human Potential Research Seminars Ltd, is registered in St Helier, Jersey, and thus is not subject to Irish taxes.
A lifestyle like that of Quinn`s is what he promises his followers. In a tape recorded at one of his seminars, Quinn, having put his audience in a relaxed state, tells those attending to picture an exotic island with a cave in the middle. He then tells them to go into the cave where they find jewels and riches. Listeners to the tape can hear hysterical calling out, loud laughter and shouts of joy from those at the seminar who are clearly under Quinn`s influence. His talk is delivered in his slow voice and strong Dublin accent.
“And go inside now, go inside now and see this incredible treasure. Wow, look at that treasure, look at all those gold bars, aren`t they beautiful, see all those jewels, wow, run over there and run your hand through all those jewels. And look as far as your eye can see, all that treasure, mountains of it, it`s beautiful, wow it`s beautiful. It is all yours. You are going to mine all of this. And it is unlimited and never ending,” he states.
Not everyone who attends can easily afford £15,000, but it appears this is not an obstacle. Representatives of the organisation, in an interview with The Sunday Tribune, say it is often the case that people are advised to borrow money to go on one of Tony Quinn`s seminars and readily admitted that they can point people in the direction of specific money lenders that have a working knowledge of Quinn`s system.
“Look at it this way,” says Martin Forde, a spokesman for the Quinn organisation. “What`s it going to cost you to buy a car? What`s it going to cost to take a year out and do a university course?… Some of the guru business people, Tony Robbins for example, cost much more. The level at which it`s pitched is comparable to all other types of mid-life reorientation training.”
Some of those encouraged to go told The Sunday Tribune that the enthusiasm shown by Quinn`s supporters made them feel compelled to attend, even if they couldnt afford to. One woman, Kathleen White from the Lough area in Cork, says she was advised to remortgage her house to find the £15,000 seminar fee.
Some former Tony Quinn staff members say that they also came across hard-sell techniques. They say that other members of the organisation aggressively marketed the seminars and would go out of their way to convince others to go on them. Two people to whom The Sunday Tribune spoke severed all connections with the organisation soon after the £15,000 seminars were introduced because of their unease about the manner in which they were being promoted.
During this investigation, a reporter built up a relationship with an employee of Quinn`s, who runs one of his health stores. The woman heavily promoted the seminars when the subject was raised and suggested the reporter borrow from a bank or a credit union to finance his attendance. She said not to tell the institutions what the money was really for but to say it was for a car or a holiday.
She said the money could be made back easily. The Tony Quinn organisation admitted that people are encouraged to tell other people about the seminars and that some people may do so a little too enthusiastically. “The best way to have the life of your dreams is to show people how to live the life of theirs,” is one of the points made. However, Quinn`s representatives, Martin Forde and Colette Millea, say people would never be encouraged to lie to financial institutions.
They confirmed, however, that there is a financial incentive which effectively encourages people to sell the seminars. “We know the average person can`t pull £15,000 from their back pocket,” said Forde. “What we will say to you is that you are likely to be able to pull it back very well and that will apply for promotion in a job, starting a business or expanding an existing business. Or if you decide that you can send a couple of people out, you could do that.” They also confirmed that there is an official system in place whereby people can sell seminars to others. They said, however, that only people who request to be part of the system are included. A person who has attended a seminar is urged to get others to attend subsequent ones. If a new customer signs up for a £15,000 seminar, the person who made the introduction gets £1,000, and if the newcomer then introduces a new customer, the original agent gets a further £2,000. The agent, however, must commit to going to at least one Quinn seminar a year.
“Many people find that everything can expand if they get other people to go out [to the seminars],” said Forde. “People will be encouraged to talk about it, to actually give it away… That`s the phrase that`s used, to give it away.” According to the Quinn organisation, a person can make their money back in this way with little effort. It is described as a unique financial opportunity – a statement repeated over and over again.
Also central to Quinn`s theory is the idea of OPM (Other People`s Money). Quinn claims that anyone who has become rich and famous has done so using OPM or credit. He says that people like Aristotle Onassis and Richard Branson became rich through using other people and he and his organisation use this idea to promote their seminars and to encourage people to borrow money to attend them.
The Sunday Tribune has obtained a copy of a document entitled “Onassis: living in the money flow” and another called “Financial Freedom”. They are clearly marked with a special note which states that they are “intended only for people who have completed at least a two-week seminar”. In the Onassis leaflet, OPM is explained and the idea of paying as little tax as possible is outlined. “By using other people`s money and in turn paying minimal taxes, Onassis accumulated a stupendous fortune,” it states.
The financial freedom document is described as a blueprint that can take a person “into another dimension of living”. “I believe that when you experience the results of the seminar, you will want others to share in the benefits,” Quinn is quoted as saying. But it would seem that the main motive for sharing the dream with other people is to get them to go on the seminar as well.
“…You can do the perfect work of helping people and have the life they want. This gives you an ever-growing circle of friends who truly owe their lives to you. In addition, you have ever-growing financial freedom to practise the art of ultimate living in any country that you choose.”
These documents reveal the emphasis put on sales techniques and of encouraging people to sell the seminars. However, they only give a small indication of the out-and-out hard-sell spin Quinn has used in at least one of his seminars that The Sunday Tribune knows of.
In the tape mentioned at the beginning of this article it is apparent that the people Quinn is talking to are under his influence. There are hysterical sounds from the crowd. At the beginning, Quinn makes them concentrate on relaxing. When they are relaxed, he then sets about explaining the selling technique that “never fails” and tries to convince those present that the only way they can live the full life of their dreams is to sell the seminars to other people.
Sean Collins is a hypnotherapist and president of the Irish Institute of Counselling and Hypnotherapy. Having listened to the tapes, he said: “It sounded as if [the people] were in an altered state and [Quinn] was guiding them into some sort of delusional place because he was absolutely leaving out any possibility of failure and possibility of negativity. This is always worrisome because the reality is that things go wrong in life.”
Spokespeople for Quinn denied that negativity and the possibility of failure were excluded from the seminars. They said what Quinn does is stack the odds in people`s favour. They also said that the people on the tape may have requested the seminar.
The following is a sample of some of the things Quinn tells those attending: “So just close your eyes now and let yourself begin to relax. That`s it. And let yourself now become more and more relaxed. As if you were going to just blend into the seat. And realise now that your mind is going to absorb this material and it will absorb it so much that you won`t really have to do anything about it. It will just start happening to you” It is so wonderful to be able to just walk up to people, which you can now do, and you can now say “I have the answer for you”. You can say “If you want that life of your dreams and you want to be able to mine your unlimited treasure, then now is the time”. You can tell them to take that ultimate adventure and really live, to really take that chance, that brave step and do the seminar. Of course, you know in reality that they are not really taking a big chance. They are just spending the price of a car. So let them see that you have done the seminar and reached a point that they can reach, the same point that you are at… where you are demonstrating to them now the selling system that never fails. You are demonstrating that to them. That`s it. To achieve that state of mind the seminar will help them to go from the point where they are at to the point where they want to be Let them see that you have this ability to operate this mental state of mind.” That`s it and in this way now, you are doing the same work that I do. And from now on with each second you are gaining greater, financial freedom. And you are beginning to have the same lifestyle as I would have.”
It should be noted also that during the seminars Quinn refers to opposition and negative thoughts. He tells those attending that they must block out all opposition and negative thinking and not allow it to stop them in their mission to sell his seminars so others can have the life of their dreams.
When he was a teenager, Tony Quinn idolised Charles Atlas, the puny kid who overcame getting sand kicked in his face to become Mr Universe. Quinn has said that he had exactly the same dimensions as Atlas at one time and refers to the fact that he has won “about 12 body-building contests in total including Mr Ireland”.
If you flick through Blueprint, you quickly notice an almost obsessive interest with the body beautiful and with the ageing process. The most extreme example of this is Bob Delmonteque, an 81-year-old man with a bodybuilder`s body.
The second obsession seems to be with Quinn himself. His smiling image is pervasive, he is always interviewed in the magazine, his name crops up more often than a Murphy in Cork. Some former employees and observers say that there`s a messianic aspect to Quinn and that something of a cult of personality has grown up around him.
But Forde and Millea emphatically deny any suggestion of cultish characteristics. “We are a business operating a service. We reject that allegation entirely. As for the interview with Tony, we like people to know where Tony is, what he`s doing, what approach he`s taking and what services are operating.”
To the allegation that some subscribers to Tony Quinn`s life-changing programme consider him a guru, Forde says: “People are prepared to go on seminars because they think that Tony has something to offer. You have to ask yourself what allows a person to be anaesthetised. He has a capacity for original work in the academic sense. He has a capacity to help people use their minds.”
“Also,” adds Millea, “a guru is one who points. He points to them.”
Quinn is a master of the metaphor and we will end this article with one of his classics:
“Have you ever been interested in cracking the system – so you can live life outside of it on your own terms? My whole life, this has interested me at all levels. I have always described it as the rat in the rat race that stops and sits looking for a hole in the wall through which to escape. At first there is only the solid wall, so it just sits there, looking. Then one day the hole just appears and the rat is free.”
It`s the way you tell them, Tony.
This investigation was carried out in conjunction with 20/20, a current affairs programme broadcast on TV3.
20/20`s documentary on Tony Quinn will be shown this Friday, 2 March, at 10pm.
Tony Quinn`s qualifications
The walls of Quinn`s occasional residence in Ireland, a Martello tower in Malahide, are festooned with framed certificates of his myriad qualifications, 18 in all. When you look through them, many are diplomas for practices that are beyond the fringes of conventional health studies – naturopathic medicine, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotism. However, two degrees, in particular, are used to validate and give ballast to his self-styled “new mind technology” programmes.
These days, Quinn styles himself as Dr Tony Quinn, Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy (DCH). Such a lofty distinction was conferred by the American Institute of Hypnotherapy (AIH), based in Santa Ana, California, which awarded most of its degrees by distance learning.
However, nowadays when you access the AIH website, you are redirected to the American Pacific University (APU) in Hawaii. When contacted, the AIH said it was not “actively encouraging” any new students in California but would be offering DCH and PhD degrees by distance learning. An APU employee told The Sunday Tribune that the PhD could be done in two years by correspondence.
Dr John Bear, based in California, is the leading authority in the US on non-traditional education, ie private degree-giving schools. His guide to non-traditional colleges (the best and worst) is in its 13th edition and has become the standard work. He has given expert evidence on behalf of the FBI in cases involving unaccredited colleges and qualifications. In the 10th edition, he described AIH thus: “Offers doctorates in hypnotherapy, entirely through correspondence study. Students are encouraged to finish their PhD in less than one year… Authorised to grant degrees by the state of California.”
In the early 1990s, the college`s own prospectus said that because continuity of learning was important, students were encouraged to complete their doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy in a year or less. The fee was $3,300.
Bear told The Sunday Tribune that state approval did not mean that a college was accredited. Approval is regulated by the Office of Consumer Protection in California. However, accreditation means recognition of the degree as a doctorate by an agency approved by the US Department of Education. Bear said that the AIH was not accredited by any agency or organisation recognised by the US Department of Education. An AIH employee confirmed that the AIH has never had accreditation.
Sean Collins of the Irish Institute for Counselling and Hypnotherapy attended the AIH in the early 1990s and also received a DCH qualification. He was living in California at the time and spent two and a half years attending courses at its campus in Santa Ana. He said that he found the course to be very beneficial. He accepts that the doctorate would not have the same status as a conventional post-graduate doctorate from an established university. “It is a non-traditional route,” he says. “It was the only place at that time that was offering training in hypnotherapy. I accept that it`s not a Trinity College PhD or an Oxford PhD. I must point out that the standard of lecturing was very high.”
The other qualification that Quinn most proudly advertises is a Masters of Science Degree from the University of East London (UEL), which he was awarded in 1995. However, he claims that it is an MSc in clinical psychotherapy. According to the UEL, it is an MSc by independent study. His thesis was entitled “An Investigation into the Hypnotic Effects of Hypnotic communication on the IndividualÕs Subjective Experience of Pain”. Quinn`s research involved the hypnosis of four patients undergoing elective, and minor, surgery (a video of the operations was shown on The Late Late Show).
Quinn makes extraordinary claims about the qualification and its significance to the pool of learning. In the latest Blueprint, he has this to say. `Working with a university, I discovered what has now become known as unconscious attention. For this I received a master of science degree, the highest award to date for original research in the area of “how to use more of your brain and mind” Unconscious attention proved to be THE breakthrough and has since played the key role in all of my work.`
A spokeswoman for UEL said that it would be impossible to comment on his claim without revisiting his thesis. However, she pointed out that the claims were stated in the passive voice (without reference to who considered it to be THE breakthrough) and seemed to be his own interpretation of the significance of the degree.
There is no reference to unconscious attention in the thesis title. Martin Forde, a spokesman for Tony Quinn, explains that for academic reasons the title of the thesis was confined to hypnosis. (Incidentally, the use of hypnosis in surgical procedures is nothing new – it was used extensively until it was superceded by anaesthetics.) There is some confusion as to what comprised Quinn`s research for the thesis. He has stated more than once that the operations were part of his research for the MSc. However, Forde now says that the operations formed part of research work undertaken after Quinn had completed his masters.
Quinn continues to work with a university (presumably the UEL) on “ground-breaking research which is causing quite a stir in scientific circles”. In one study, sales revenue increased by 70% in a company when sales staff used unconscious attention. The results were monitored by Price Waterhouse. The company which achieved this amazing result was, in fact, Quinn`s own health stores, selling Quinn`s own health products. Hardly objective research.
Forde responds: “Tony had not been involved with the companies for some years. We had taken on new staff as well as old staff. There were about 20 new staff. It was with those staff that the great leap forward was made.” Forde also said that Quinn was currently working towards a PhD.
The Educo System and what the experts think of it
“Simplistic in the extreme and without any acceptable research,” is how one of Ireland`s leading academic psychologists, Professor Ciaran Benson, describes Tony Quinn`s Educo “breakthrough”, developed in the early 1990s. For most of his life, Quinn says he had “researched the mind”. Somewhere along the way, eureka!, Educo was born.
Quinn sets out his stall for it in an extraordinary 1993 tape, a mishmash of metaphors and “insight” that spends almost two hours explaining his “new mind technology”.
The formula that underlies Quinn`s Educo system is set out in a mantra: “If you want something believe that you have it without any inner doubt and it will come about.”
One piece of research that is repeated ad nauseam is that humans use less than 10% of the mind – “now it`s sometimes said to be as little as 1-3%”, Quinn states confidently. He claims he can tap into the unconscious. Likening the mind to a computer, he says our true selves have been ruined by thought programmes. “To the self, thoughts can be added and subtracted. Thoughts can be in the form of education, experience, conditioning. They can be beliefs, worries, phobias, creeds, complexes, etc. These solidify into what we call our personality… This programmed personality is not yourself.”
Quinn`s solution is that we step out of thoughts, “anti-life programmes” as he calls them, and install new programmes instead. If you can get your whole mind to accept a goal that you have, he says, then it will come about effortlessly. You get into a state of “unconscious attention” where everything is effortless and you can be 100 times more aware than ever before; you can then “photograph” your goal or install a new programme (frequently expressed in terms of riches and material success) and you will instinctively follow that goal like a heat-seeking missile.
Benson, the head of the psychology department in University College Dublin, was already familiar with Tony Quinn`s philosophies before he was approached by this newspaper and had this to say after perusing extensive material on Quinn`s Educo system, including the Educo tapes. “I have read all the documentation supplied by you and on foot of it, whatever persuasiveness Mr Quinn has, it has nothing to do with his grasp of psychology. I found it simplistic in the extreme and without any acceptable research support.”
He continued: “If he is persuasive with some types of people, it is a persuasiveness which seems to be based on identifying such peoples needs and distresses rather than on any scientific or theoretical understanding of contemporary human psychology. He purports to give people an understanding that he has developed on the basis of research that he has been conducting for most of his adult life. Nothing of what I have read shows anything other than the most banal and superficial understanding of psychology or of other human beings.”
He describes Quinn`s theories as primitive. “His use of key concepts such as self and mind is extraordinarily primitive and confused. His metaphors such as `thought programmes` are very misleading. They obscure more than they reveal. In his talk, he moves from one crude metaphor to another. These metaphors have no defensible relationship to a scientific or philosophical understanding of human psychology,” he says.
Some of the psychological propositions and research that Quinn uses simply do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, according to both Benson and Professor Ian Robertson, head of the psychology department in Trinity College, Dublin, and the director of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. Robertson had not heard of Quinn before The Sunday Tribune approached him and had never seen any of his materials. He answered specific questions that were put to him about the brain without knowledge of, or reference to, Quinn`s claims or activities.
To the notion that humans use less than 10% of their minds, he had this to say: “This idea that we only use 10% of our minds is a modern myth without any scientific foundation. There are no areas of brain tissue that are lying dormant, waiting to be awakened. There are no magic bullets here.”
Asked about research that Quinn claims shows the unconscious to be a site of a far larger portion of mental life than Freud ever envisaged, Robertson said this proposition could not be substantiated. “Much of our brain`s activity goes on outside of consciousness and we can be influenced by events and stimuli of which we are not aware. The nature of this unconscious activity studied by experimental psychologists is, however, quite different from Freud`s notion of the unconscious and there is no evidence that it is greater in scope.”
Another piece of research, quoted by a tutor at Quinn courses, is a study said to have been carried out in an old person`s home that showed that the majority of people who were senile had been exposed to people who were senile when they were children. The children unconsciously “photographed” the memory which became a blueprint that continued into old age. The basis for this, according to Quinn, is a study called Mindfullness carried out by Ellen Langer at Harvard and Yale universities.
However, Robertson refutes this. “Senility is a layman`s term for a range of brain diseases that are determined by molecular changes in the brain and could not be affected by early exposure to people with dementia. There is no scientific basis for such a statement,” he said.
In the latest Blueprint for Living, Quinn says that he can help people become two or three times more aware than they normally are. Benson says that this is ridiculous. “In psychology you can rarely say that any capacity is two or more times as much as some other capacity. To make such statements presupposes being able to specify what zero capacity is. It is in the nature of most psychological functioning that this cannot be done. To claim to be able to do so is either to betray a profound ignorance about the use of numbers in psychological research or to deliberately mislead.”
Quinn also operates an extremely profitable postal requests system that is linked to Educo. His literature says that the Educo system can be used to obtain results in every aspects of a person`s life from business, health, healing, success to self and life improvement, and can even be used to achieve results for people who are not aware that they are the subject of a request.
The postal requests have to be accompanied by a cheque for £25, or £40 for a family, and have to be renewed monthly. Quinn invites people to write down their goals and to send them in with a photograph. Alternatively, you can ring them in. He and a long-time Quinn associate, Aideen Cowman, promise to apply their minds for the desired outcome.
“Often I find I receive requests for third parties who don`t know of the request, yet it still works,” Quinn has said of the system. “In fact, if the request seems impossible, like a terminal illness, then I always advocate third parties making a request not to tell the person concerned in case they include my prayer in their anti-life thought programmes. I truly feel that it is better if they don`t know and it increases the chances of a positive outcome.
When I put my hands together and I really believe wholeheartedly in truth, effortlessly expecting a result, I notice that a feeling of energy comes from inside me, runs down my hands and into the request. I really do feel like that magician pouring that magic energy into those requests.”
Asked could the human mind work in such an extraordinary telepathic capacity, Robertson simply replied “No”.
Martin Forde says that postal requests involve Quinn working in conjunction with the requester but agreed that when a person was seriously ill, they were passive. He said that these things were the subject of much research, which would substantiate the practice. He also said that Tony Quinn absolutely stands over everything he says and is in a position to back it up.
State body warns health guru over food products
The government`s state regulatory body on drugs has warned lifestyle guru Tony Quinn about the over-the-counter selling of two of his food supplement products and is considering similar action in relation to a third.
The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has told Quinn to make changes to two products in the past year which were making medicinal claims, or being sold as medicines, without its authorisation.
The IMB is examining another Quinn-labelled nutritional product, a life-extension mix, which is currently on sale in Tony Quinn health stores, on similar grounds. Legally, a medicinal product cannot be marketed without authorisation. If it is categorised as medicinal or makes medicinal claims, the manufacturer must apply for a product authorisation from the IMB and the board undertakes a stringent assessment to ensure it lives up to its claims.
A spokesman for Tony Quinn`s organisation, Martin Forde, said that it has never sought authorisation because it has no wish to sell any products as medicines, but only as food supplements, which do not require a licence.
In the case of the first product, a liver supplement, the IMB warned that the Tony Quinn group was making medicinal claims in its literature for the product. It asked the group to either change the product`s contents or stop making medicinal claims for it.
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Forde said the company had changed a statement on the product so as to remove any suggestion of a medicinal claim. “We do not wish to make medical claims for any of our food supplements. We do not want any to be licensed as medicines,” he said.
The IMB wrote to the Tony Quinn group last September about another item in its range, a “mind alert” product, asking that it be either reformulated so it would no longer be deemed a medicine, or reclassified – a process that would require authorisation from the IMB.
Forde said the “mind alert” product fell foul of the IMB because the product`s old brochure, which made reference to St John`s Wort, was produced before the herb was reclassified as a prescription-only ingredient. Forde said this was “entirely an oversight”.
The third product, which the IMB considers to be a medicine, is a “life extension mix” which, like the others, is sold in Quinn`s health stores and advertised in his newspaper Blueprint for Successful Living. In its advertising, it quotes a BBC documentary on ageing in which “some experts in the field suggested it was the most advanced product of its kind available”. The IMB believes this is a medicinal claim but would not elaborate any further to The Sunday Tribune.
Some of the products sold in Tony Quinn health stores are in the so-called “borderline” category: vitamins or mineral-containing products which occupy a position between medicines and food supplements.
Among the products sold is creatine, a food supplement currently sold without licence, but which may become subject to new directives on food supplements and traditional medicines which are currently being prepared by the EU.
Among the measures being explored are regulations on maximum allowances, labeling requirements and licensing requirements.
Quinn “spoke with voice of Jesus
Film director Jim Sheridan was “unnerved” by meeting, write Richard Oakley and Harry McGee
Award-winning film director Jim Sheridan has claimed that controversial lifestyle guru Tony Quinn told him that he once had a vision in which the voice of Jesus was coming from inside him.
In an interview with The Sunday Tribune, the director of Oscar-winning movies such as My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father said Quinn approached him two years ago through a mutual friend who was involved with Quinn`s organisation.
Quinn, according to Sheridan, wanted to make a film about a hypnotist. They met in the Malahide home of the figurehead of the positive living group, whose activities have led to concern among the families of some of those involved.
“I had met him before and I was once interviewed for his newspaper. I agreed to meet him because a friend of mine asked me to. He started telling me all about himself and the idea for a film he had about a hypnotist.”
“He was telling me all sorts of stuff about himself, some of which I couldn`t believe. He told me he was walking along one day when all of a sudden a group of some sort of Middle Eastern people appeared to him.
“He said he became aware that he was walking on sand and he followed the people to the top of a hill. He said there were thousands of people there and that he thought he heard Jesus speaking to them, but then he realised it was him. That is verbatim what he told me. I found the whole meeting unnerving.”
The Sunday Tribune asked representatives of the Tony Quinn organisation if the event occurred. Tony Quinn was uncontactable but a spokesman spoke to someone who was present at the meeting. He confirmed that Quinn had an idea about a film and described it as a “sci-fi” one. However, he denied that Quinn referred to himself as a Jesus-type figure or told the story recalled by Sheridan.
Dublin-born Quinn is now a multi-millionaire thanks to his £15,000 “life-changing” seminars. Some of Quinn`s own clients told RTE`s Liveline programme last week that Quinn had similarities to Jesus.
However, this claim has been denied by Quinn`s organisation. “Tony Quinn does not have an identity crisis. He does not think he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ,” the spokesman said.
Sheridan said yesterday that after the meeting he made it clear that he did not want to have anything to do with Quinn. He said he was approached again about the project but that he refused to get involved.
“An enigmatic character with huge powers of persuasion and influence”
Though his organisation purports to be nothing other than a business, there is much evidence, not least from Quinn himself, showing how it operates as a cult.
There are aspects of Tony Quinn`s organisation that certainly appear to have more than a passing resemblance to those of a cult. And the more you delve into how he managed to build it into what it is today, the more similarities emerge. It is clear that he himself has grappled with this question. In an extraordinary tape never publicly revealed before, but a transcript of which has been obtained by this newspaper, Quinn tells those attending a seminar in 1994 about how he sees himself and in the process poses the central question.
“You might say, Am I trying to start a cult, am I trying to be a leader of something?” I don`t know. But if you have any suspicions about me, the beauty of it is that you are totally safe and you won`t line up with me anyway.
Mike Garde, a field worker with Dialogue Ireland, an independent group which monitors religions and cults, believes the Quinn organisation is a cult and says Quinn himself shares similarities with other cult leaders.
According to Garde, the aspects of the Quinn organisation which share similarities with a cult are its strong figurehead, the elimination of opposing thought, the unswerving loyalty of enthusiasts to Quinn, and the view that those who criticise Quinn do not fully understand and their objections should be discarded.
Spokespeople for Quinn`s organisation vehemently deny this, pointing out that it is a business offering a service which people can take or leave. They say that Quinn`s image is used to promote products and services that he originated. They particularly object to the use of the word “organisation” because of any connotations it may suggest.
Quinn`s detractors believe, however, that he has a strong messianic streak and that his personality dominates the lives of some of those who subscribe to his Educo mind-technology. The 1994 seminar espoused a philosophy that needs those who adhere to submit themselves totally to Quinn and align themselves to the force that Quinn claims exists within him.
The seminar is littered with religious metaphors and concludes that only submission works. “If you were to relate to me, by that I mean give up all your resistance, give up all your ideas that are in the way and align yourself to me, then I can bring out all the Self and put in a programme that you and I believe was best for you and give you this perfect life,” says Quinn.
Later, he says: “Something in them, which I believe is their force, recognises the force in me and they instantly, quite frankly, would do anything that I told them and there is no problem.”
Quinn refers to himself in terms of being a leader of some kind of movement, all aligned to the internal force which he has discovered. “I think that in some way I am meant to work with a large group of people – it could be millions.” He speaks of how the force has made him into a healer, capable of making others into healers. “If I can line up enough people with me and keep it pure, I can change the world,” he promises.
However, there was some levity. He came across, he says, as a “Dublin fellow who comes from Ireland, is a bit of a peasant, a bit of a thicko, says silly things, does silly things and has these childish hobbies where he believes that he must be faithful to his heroes”.
His spokesman Martin Forde rejects that there is any element of proselytising in Quinn`s message or in the methods in which his Educo system is sold. But it`s clear Quinn claims a greater role for himself than the mere jawboning of business gurus who goad you to even greater selling techniques.
“This brings me back to whether I would see myself as some type of leader. There, I would say that my answer is yes. I have always felt that in some way I would be involved in great change in the world.”
In 1972, when he was bringing yoga to the masses, Quinn had already assembled a loyal core of followers, some of whom have remained faithful to him to this day. He set up communes in suburban homes in Kilbarrack and Howth, where people could step outside ordinary existence and experience yogic states of being – the different states of existence, past lives, auras and karmas. Two people who were heavily involved with Quinn in those early days say that there was a messianic aspect to him, that some believed he was a reincarnated Jesus. Certainly, it is clear that he spawned a loyalty that bordered on devotion. Quinn enthusiasts nowadays often drive Japanese sportscars on the basis that Tony likes sportscars; they put a huge emphasis on the body beautiful (Quinn is a body-building enthusiast); and use the full range of Quinn food supplements and vitamins. There also seems to be a predilection for a certain type of look with Quinn enthusiasts – one former employee described what she saw as the “women in black” phenomenon, whereby some women involved with the organisation wore black clothes, a lot of make-up, and short skirts.
The loyalty has extended to being involved in many of his research “breakthroughs” – “working under strict university conditions”. Three of the four patients who underwent operations without anaesthetic – one of the marketing bulwarks for Educo and described as “unremarkable” by experts – were employees of Quinn they included Colette Millea, and Imelda Farrell who runs the Tony Quinn Health Centre in Cork. The research “breakthroughs” involving dramatic improvement in sales were achieved in Quinn shops with Quinn employees. Some of the “before” and “after” pictures used to publicise his gyms and slimming products also use Quinn employees, such as Maire Lalor, an Educo seminar tutor.
The Sunday Tribune has spoken to six people who were involved with the Quinn organisation, some for protracted periods. All spoke on the basis that their anonymity would be guaranteed. All describe Quinn as an enigmatic character with huge powers of persuasion and influence. Some attributed it to a nebulous form of psychic powers, others to an ability to relentlessly focus on people, others to his ability to hypnotise. “I definitely believe he has a psychic power, a hold over people,” said one, who was deeply involved with Quinn in the 1970s.
Quinn himself variously describes this power as a force, an energy, a healing power. “I noticed… that this force seemed to touch off some people and cause great changes in their lives,” he says during a seminar in 1994. “I used to find that people might literally fall down and when they got up again they felt that they had an understanding, an awareness, an experience that was greater than anything that happened to them before and it changed their lives. It was as if their personality was overcome by this force.”
On his Educo tape, he explains the effect that he has on the people at his seminars. “People speak of happiness, even euphoria, with their minds feeling crystal clear. People often talk about a brightness in their head. Some claim they get an increase in energy, that it feels like energy circulating through their body and going out to other people.”
The thrust of one of Quinn`s 1994 seminars is submission to him and obeying the force – “lining themselves up” with the force that emanates from Quinn. Independent thinkers need not apply and it`s clear that the great man isn`t a fan of feminism.
“With fellows, they may want to be very egotistical with me. In other words, they want to be better than I am and once they are into that mode it won`t work because they are making great effort. I may sit down with girls and they are into something like women`s lib and again we are into problems. I reject all these things. I will shock you because sometimes I say to people, `Do what I tell you and if you don`t know what it is, ask me`. What I tell people is, `just line yourself up to me`.”
There is no shortage of newcomers prepared to align themselves to Quinn, as testified by the numbers attending his seminars. However, some of the families of these people are concerned that the changes have adversely affected their relationships with spouses and families. These people firmly believe that Quinn`s organisation has had a cult-like draw on their families, which has caused a rift between them and their loved ones.
A former associate says: ÒI spent most of my adult life with Tony Quinn, believed everything that he said. Tony Quinn was my entire life. But Tony was obsessed with money and very few others within the organisation made any real money at all. They were collecting huge amounts of money from the postal requests, the health products, the gyms and the seminars, but very little of it was filtering down. Nobody ever questioned him.
“When I left, the shutters came down. I was excluded. You were either with Tony or you were completely out in the cold. That’s what happened to me.”
Two others spoke about how they became personae non grata with the organisation once they had left, or were asked to leave. One expressed doubts about the necessity of selling seminars at £15,000 and was asked to leave shortly afterwards. Quinn, in his 1994 seminar, explicitly states that those whom he works with must align themselves to him and the force to which he speaks directly. In the mid-1990s, people who had lived in a communal house owned by Quinn for 20 years were asked to leave both the house and the Quinn organisation – some were said not to have wholeheartedly embraced Quinn`s relatively new departure into the Educo system.
“I am totally convinced that is the real problem that happened even in the organisation I was with – that people did not fully accept what I am outlining to you here. I am moving away from that at this stage. I don’t want to do this, but I feel that I must just work with whoever totally accepts what I call the Educo philosophy.”
DR QUINN MEDICINE MAN?
BY DONAL LYNCH © 17 OCTOBER 2004
Lifestyle guru Tony Quinn made his name by flogging everything from pills to philosophy to the famous Blueprint for Successful Living. But what was he really selling? In Part 1 of a LIFE magazine investigation, Donal Lynch uncovers the mystery man’s early years
Before I began researching these articles, I was only vaguely aware of Tony Quinn. Every so often, one of his flyers would fall through the letterbox, promising me anything from dramatic weight loss to a more successful lifestyle if I only bought a few pills or swallowed some of his hazy philosophy. Or I might have seen him on the TV, peddling the dubious merits of hypnotism and distance-healing. It all seemed harmless enough. I viewed him as part of the ignoble tradition of showboating hucksters who stood on podiums at 19th-century fairs (or, in his case, on podiums at self-help seminars in the RDS) and asked people to “roll up, roll up” and buy their special tonic. Maybe he can help that one that’s born every minute, I thought to myself.
But as I began to delve deeper into what the man is about, I realised that Quinn cannot be laughed off as a benign new-age life coach. The truth is much darker than that. Strange tales I have heard, of fanatical devotees and broken marriages. And, at the heart of it all, a self-styled evangelist who denies reports that he has spoken of himself in comparison with Jesus.
One would think that “a genius who, like others before him, has not been recognised in his own lifetime” (or so says Colette Millea, one of his closest associates) would welcome closer scrutiny. But at every turn of this investigation I was thwarted. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I was asked again and again. Many of Quinn’s former followers wanted to speak, but were reluctant to do so. “I have a wife and kids,” Gerry Kerr, who has gone on Liveline to talk about his experiences, told me. “I have to think of them as well — we’ve been through enough.” “Who mentioned my name?” was the constant refrain from others. Even when I posted a message on an online discussion forum asking for help in researching the piece, I was met with a wall of silence — followed by a rash of new messages, questioning whether my Yahoo email address was secure enough for such incendiary material, and whether I was in fact a plant from the Tony Quinn organisation.
I could not get close to the big man himself. Media-shy but notoriously publicity-hungry, he sent word through his agents that he would not be available for interviews in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, by speaking to friends, former friends and many of those who have devoted their lives to his teachings, I slowly managed to trace Tony Quinn’s metamorphosis from skinny teenager to the egomaniacal leader of a pseudo-cultish new-age empire.
Tony Quinn was born into a working-class family in Arbour Hill, on Dublin’s northside. He was a skinny, gangling young man and, by his own admission, sought to emulate Charles Atlas, the American bodybuilder who had famously gone from nerdish schoolboy to Mr Universe through sheer hard work. By his mid-teens, Tony was already working out heavily. He left school early and found work, first as a salesman for HB ice cream and then, when he was 17, as an apprentice butcher in a slaughterhouse in Phibsborough. All the while he retained his passion for fitness and the body beautiful, and eventually found work as an instructor at the Grafton Health Studio. With his physique developing nicely, Quinn also found part-time work as a bouncer with Club Go Go on Dame Street. Those who trained under him at the gym remember him as a magnetic character. “I had never met anyone like him,” says one former student. “He had women falling at his feet, and could wrap anyone around his little finger.” Tony began to compete at bodybuilding competitions. He was remarkably successful, winning 12 titles at national level. According to one man who competed in these competitions, Tony steadfastly refused any steroids which might have given him a greater winning edge. Bodybuilding was still a very embryonic sport in this country at that stage, but, some 30 years later, Tony’s pamphlets and brochures would show what appears to be present-day Tony’s head attached to a mass of striated, overly tanned muscle, boasting as if he had just won an Olympic title. At the advent of the Seventies, Tony was becoming interested in yoga. He began teaching Ireland’s first-ever classes in the now-popular discipline in 1971, at a modelling agency, and then at 23 St Stephen’s Green, before moving on to 20 Baggot Street. However, it was only in 1974, when the operation relocated once again, this time to Terenure, that the public began to take notice. A report appeared in the Sunday World with the headline “Yoga Cult Broke Up Her Home”. It told the story of a woman who had become immersed in Quinn’s version of the yogic philosophy and had left her husband. This was long before the practice had received any celebrity endorsement (yoga, that is, not leaving your husband) and the hackles of Catholic Ireland were raised. Miles away in Cork, Bishop Lucey even denounced Quinn from the pulpit.
But if the cleric had known the full truth of Quinn’s domestic set-up, he might have been a good deal more outraged. Some newspapers claimed that Quinn’s acolytes lived together in a commune where the women all wore black. In fact, followers from the early days speak of a highly unconventional domestic set-up. Quinn has denied this, though he does recall a time when his lifestyle invited ricidule and suspicion.
For most of the Seventies, Quinn lived with his followers in Howth or in another commune in Kilbarrack. They were a self-sufficient, insular community, united by their belief in Quinn and the power he had over them. “He was a very charismatic character,” says Joe Hoey, a friend of Tony’s and former commune-dweller. The people in the commune had plans to buy property in Meath, but there was very little money (“Sometimes there was barely food on the table,” confirms another former commune-dweller) and, to the disillusionment of some, it became clear that this was not going to happen.
Those who stayed at the commune were generally paying members, but Quinn financed his purchase of the buildings from his yoga classes. Throughout the Seventies and early Eighties, Quinn continued to expand the numbers taking the classes. Mike Garde of Dialogue Ireland, an organisation which specialises in counselling ex-Tony Quinn fanatics, offers a succinct critique of Quinn’s yogic philosophy: “If traditional Indian yoga can in general be described as otherworldly, then Tony Quinn’s yoga is most definitely ‘this-worldly’. Objectives such as business success and having thicker hair would sound very strange in a traditional Indian yoga centre.” His website goes on to point out that Quinn’s teachings are much closer to contemporary new-age western culture than any of the eastern religions which form part of yoga. Quinn’s preoccupation with the body beautiful and worldly riches even alienated many of his early followers. Joe Hoey says, “It [his association with Quinn] was a great apprenticeship for me, but in the end we had a difference of philosophy. I had to get out.” One woman I spoke to, whose marriage broke down partially as a result of her husband’s heavy involvement in Quinn’s growing empire, was also relieved that she got out early. “Thirty years ago I was naive, and I thought it was wonderful,” she told me. “But I had a small child, and as things got more and more heavy I knew I had to get out. I told my husband it was me or Tony Quinn, and I think it’s pretty clear which choice he made.” Although relatively insignificant in the context of broken marriages, a sticking point for some people is that Quinn does not have an officially recognised qualification from the Irish Yoga Association, founded in 1978. Joanne Douglas, herself an experienced yoga instructor, remembers taking a course that was offered by Tony Quinn in the Seventies. “They were giving a class for pregnant women and recommending a position which tones the pelvic floor. In fact, that would be dangerous for someone carrying a child.” Nevertheless, is there not a grudging respect for Quinn, who, after all, brought yoga to Ireland, I ask. “People were practising yoga privately even before he came here. He’s a great self-promoter, but I’d hate people to think that that’s offered in Ireland,” she says.
Quinn’s lack of official recognition is a subject that rears its ugly head time and time again. He promotes himself as an academic expert, but he left school early and most of his qualifications are of a highly dubious quality. In the Seventies he attended the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy in London, but inquiries reveal that the college has no record of Quinn as a graduate. According to his own literature, he claims to have earned “a doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy and counselling, a master of science degree in psychotherapy and numerous qualifications in mind technology, holistic medicine, nutrition and exercise”. Richard Morrissey, an employee of Quinn’s, told me that “he is the world’s leading expert in the area of the mind, recognised by all the top universities in London.”
In fact, Quinn’s doctorate was awarded by the somewhat less-than-prestigious American Pacific University, now based in Hawaii, which specialises in distance learning. When I rang this college, none of the course directors was actually on site (there is no campus as such). By Irish academic standards, a doctorate would represent an original piece of research, which should be fit for publication in an academic journal, and which, crucially, has been defended in person by the scholar in a viva voce presentation. Dr Quinn’s thesis has never been published anywhere, nor was he required to defend it in person before a board of experts in the field.
Rhoda Draper, spokeswoman for the Irish Institute of Counselling and Hypnotherapy, maintains that, by its very nature, hypnotherapy is unsuitable for distance learning. “Hypnosis is a very easy thing to learn,” she says. “The reason people need to attend courses and spend time is because of the ethical concerns involved. We have been involved with helping individuals who were previously devotees of Quinn’s.”
All of these caveats to his doctorate would have been too cumbersome on a flyer (not that Quinn is averse to small print; early copies of his promotional literature contained the fine-print warning “Results shown may not be typical”) and by the late Eighties he had a veritable alphabet of letters after his name and was putting his newly-acquired skills to good use on television. In an effort to gain a truly national profile, he hypnotised a series of patients who, live on the Late Late Show, then underwent their procedures without the benefit of anaesthetic. The show was without doubt the first of many PR coups for Quinn but, according to Draper, his results were not surprising. “It has been well documented that certain people who are especially susceptible to the suggestive nature of hypnosis can be placed in a trance-like state where they will not feel pain,” she told me.
What the audience also wasn’t told was that two of the ‘contestants’ were actually employed by Quinn. Colette Millea is the most notorious hard-seller of Quinn’s services and, with Tom McKenna, forms the first power couple of the Quinn empire. She worked with an accountancy firm in Dublin, advising Quinn on legal tax avoidance before coming to work for him. Demonstrating ‘the power of the mind’, she had her ears pinned back with only Quinn’s heavy Dublin accent to soothe her.
Using paid guinea pigs has long been a standard Quinn trick. Personal testimony was crucial in launching his own branded range of supplements in the late Eighties and early Nineties. The pamphlets would boast that “none of those sharing their experiences were paid” but, in fact, many were not just paid, but long-time employees on the payroll. On one of the more recent brochures displayed prominently outside the Tony Quinn outlet in the Stephen’s Green Centre, we are introduced to Martin who, through the use of Tony Quinn products and supplements, went from flabby and out of shape to tanned and muscular. What we are not told is that Martin is actually Martin Forde, longtime senior associate of Tony Quinn. As one former follower of Quinn remarked, “It would be like the senior stylist at Peter Mark saying, ‘I only ever get my hair done at Peter Mark.’”
“Truly Amazing Results” such as these were featured alongside a host of Quinn services in his promotional newsletter, the now-infamous Blueprint for Successful Living. This was a magazine delivered to homes throughout Ireland from the mid- Eighties. It promised that, unlike all other newspapers, it contained only good news. And some of the news was so ‘good’, one had to continue to remind oneself that it was verified by numerous (unnamed, always unnamed) university studies, and therefore entirely believable.
We learned of the fascinating Educo Postal Report System which “allows you to make a request for yourself for success, healing or self-improvement. Working with the photograph of the person on a daily basis we use the Educo system. This can take place without us and the person meeting and can be conducted by post.” Readers were invited to enclose £25 (£40 for a family) and Tony and his team would use their “positive mind power” to bring health, wealth and new-age happiness to your nearest and dearest. The new service was a remarkable success and one former associate of Quinn’s spoke to me of “envelopes full of cash piling up on the mat each morning”.
But though distance healing and vitamin pills were nice moneyspinners for Quinn, they would seem almost quaintly low-key when compared to the new line of business which would eventually win “the world’s leading expert on the mind” infamy and adoration in equal measure. Because by the early Nineties, Dr Quinn’s star was rising and he had found a much more lucrative and controversial forum for his brand of messianic proselytising: The Educo Seminar.
Next week, in part two of LIFE’s special investigation: Tony Quinn goes mainstream, deciding “Ireland is ready for him”; he becomes a boxing guru; how he helped get Steve Collins a world title; and former devotees speak out
CHRIST ALMIGHTY IT’S TONY QUINN
BY DONAL LYNCH ©
PART 2 OF LIFE’S INVESTIGATION 24 OCTOBER 2004
Tony Quinn’s advertising promises personal and financial success, but
despite the achievements of winners like Steve Collins, there are those who are less enthusiastic. Donal Lynch hears the tales of some unhappy people who have undergone his courses.
In the 1970s, anything even vaguely ‘new-age’ was viewed with suspicion. The Catholic church had exclusive custody of our spiritual lives and the competition was denounced as charlatans from the pulpit. The words ‘yoga’ and ‘cult’ seemed to belong naturally together in a sentence. But by the 1990s Ireland was a very different place. Yoga was suddenly cool and self-betterment was the new religion. The clergy were in turmoil and the market was open for a different style of preacher, someone with big muscles and infomercial charisma, to come to our spiritual rescue. Tony Quinn’s time had come.
By this stage, Quinn had gone mainstream. His shops were occupying shopping-centre units alongside Boots and Marks & Spencer, and the Tony Quinn branded health supplements were big sellers. He was also achieving vicarious legitimacy by his faint association with various Irish success stories. The increasingly slick looking Blueprint for Successful Living (Quinn’s promotional newsletter) included unctuous interviews by Tony with celebrities such as Niall Quinn and Gabriel Byrne.
However, Quinn’s greatest publicity coup occurred in 1995. Middleweight boxer Steve Collins enlisted his services for his world title fight with Chris Eubank in Millstreet. In the run-up to the fight, Collins talked publicly about his work with Quinn while Eubank claimed that it was unfair to fight a man who had — supposedly — been hypnotised to believe he could not lose. Collins, of course, won on points and Eubank later admitted that Quinn’s involvement had played on his mind. In photographs taken after the fight, Quinn is to be seen in nearly every shot. The running joke was that he was to Collins as Charlie Haughey had been to Stephen Roche when he won the Tour de France in 1987. An innocent bystander could have mistakenly believed that it was the guru, or the politician, who was the real world champion.
Quinn boasted it was actually possible to make Collins bleed less and to prevent bruising and swelling, but this claim was dismissed by others. Harry Mullan, then editor of Boxing News, said: “That’s rubbish — the skin does not have an intelligence of its own. You can’t tell it to heal itself.” Others such as Paul McKenna and John Butler, a consultant at the Royal College of Nursing, criticised these aspects of Quinn’s practices.
Quinn’s role in Collins’s success was somewhat disputed. Quinn claimed he had not merely helped to psyche Collins up for the fight but had also negotiated the boxer’s contract with promoter Frank Warren. In an excerpt from Collins’s autobiography, (available, naturally, from the Tony Quinn online health store), which Quinn quotes in his promotional material, Collins wrote: “Tony explained to me that most people, despite having the potential to realise their ambitions in life, never do . . . once a person is taught to take full control of his mind then his inner potential can be drawn out.”
However, more recently Collins has taken a few steps back from this statement and
has been quoted as saying of Quinn, “He was one of many people who helped me on the way. I used a couple of hypnotists to help me focus. In my opinion, the best of all was Tony Sadar.” Collins would continue to defend his world title without Quinn’s help. Nevertheless, Tony Quinn was able to leverage his new status as guru to the stars to bring his message to an even wider audience. The Blueprint for Successful Living newsletter had begun to advertise classes where people could get techniques on giving up smoking and “learn to use more of their mind”. The classes were a huge hit. In venues such as the RDS in Dublin, hundreds of people from all walks of life would gather and watch rapt as Quinn stood on a podium and delivered blustering speeches on self-improvement.
But although the classes were successful they were in reality no more than a recruitment drive for his latest venture: the Educo Seminars. These were two-week courses held in exotic locations around the world where, for £15,000 each, participants could “learn to realise their potential and achieve their goals”. People were told that if they really wanted to solve their problems, the seminar was the ultimate one-stop solution. At the end of the Dublin classes, a group of suntanned Educo converts would take to the podium to gush about how Tony had helped them change their lives and Quinn’s associates would then aggressively market the seminars to those present. Possible candidates were told that they would be provided with information “so vital you can’t truly live without it”. Those who had completed the seminars had “increased their ability to achieve goals by up to 67 per cent”. Their businesses apparently increased their turnover by an average of 360 per cent and if you still weren’t fully convinced they were shown a graph which indicated that upon completion if the seminar their “satisfaction with life could increase by up to 55 per cent”. All of these statistics, they were told, were “researched under university conditions”. The university or body which researched them was, as usual, not named.
Many people balked at the amount of money involved but were told that it was a minor investment when measured against the benefit they would receive. Those who could not afford it were urged to get a loan but advised that it might be a good idea not to tell the bank manager what precisely the money was needed for. Others were warned that their family and friends might express misgivings or be against the idea of going on the seminars but this is because they were “living in fear”. They also learned that there was the added incentive of “a discount” of several thousand euro if they could recruit others to go on the seminars.
The seminars have been highly lucrative for Tony Quinn. Each seminar yields over €1m, with the potential for much more if more than a handful of the participants avail of one-to-one sessions, which cost €100,000. Quinn pays no tax on these monies as they are channelled through an offshore company called Human Potential Research, which is based in Guernsey.
In the course of researching this article, I spoke to many people who had actually been on these seminars. Most refused to go on the record and told me that they wanted to put the whole thing behind them, but one woman has courageously and for the first time agreed to speak about what it was like on one of Tony Quinn’s seminars. To protect the privacy of her family, she requested that I only use her first name. Caroline first came into contact with the Tony Quinn organisation when she attended a six-week course at the Spa Hotel in Lucan, Dublin. She had undergone numerous operations and was having trouble sleeping. “I would wake up absolutely terrified, covered in sweat,” she told me. “I was approached after the classes by a woman called Yvonne. She told me, ‘Tony will be your saviour.’ I wasn’t sure about the whole thing but, bearing in mind that I was desperate, I agreed to go on one of the seminars.”
In the summer of 2000, Caroline’s ticket to Cairo was delivered by courier. “Yvonne flew with me because I am afraid of flying and I had missed the first flight. We travelled to Heathrow where Martin Forde [a long-time associate of Tony Quinn] and his wife Margaret met us. We left Yvonne there and they travelled on with me. As soon as the plane took off, I became upset again.”
When Caroline got to Egypt, she felt she had already been earmarked as a troublemaker and was totally ignored by Tony Quinn staff. Despite the hefty fee of over €15,000, she discovered she would have to share a bungalow with others. But that was the least of her worries. As soon as Quinn came to address the group, Caroline knew she had made a mistake.
“He just wasn’t making any sense,” she told me. “He was talking a load of crap about leading the life of your dreams. He was speaking very slowly to us, telling us we needed to ‘get in the flow’. We were encouraged to get up and start screaming and roaring, and nearly everyone did. I didn’t know what to do so I got up and went down the back. It scared the life out of me, I can tell you.”
Caroline was appalled to find that any kind of dissent was discouraged during the talks by Quinn. “I went to put up my hand and one of the people organising it motioned to me to put it down again. A guy came up from behind me any told me that it was being filmed so we weren’t allowed to ask questions.”
Caroline noticed that the staff and the participants on the seminar revered Quinn. “He was spoken about like he was Jesus Christ Almighty. I spoke to one guy — John was his name — who told me that he had come out there [to Cairo] to find out Tony Quinn’s answer for Ireland. The women worshipped him. I was standing waiting to go to the ladies on the first week when Tony Quinn happened to walk by on his way to answer nature’s call. The girl beside me grabbed me on the arm. ‘Did you see that?’ she said. ‘It’s Tony Quinn and he’s actually going to the toilet!’ I was amazed. ‘What did you think he does?’ I said. They didn’t believe he was flesh and blood.”
Caroline could feel her health deteriorating and, isolated from her family and friends, she felt helpless and alone. “I had a sort of breakdown,” she told me. “I was left in a room on my own for days on end. After a few days, two men arrived in a white van at the bungalow. They took me to a hospital in the middle of the desert. I was incredibly upset at this stage, crying and everything. They sedated me.” Caroline’s husband had not been informed of her exact whereabouts or condition. She was eventually flown back to Dublin. “When my husband met me at the airport my clothes were dirty even though I had packed more than enough for the two weeks,” she recalled.
Caroline still can’t quite believe what happened to her. “It took me a long time to come to terms with it. That’s why I’m only speaking about it now.” She still gets the odd Tony Quinn flyer in the door. “They go straight in the bin, I can tell you. People need to know what they’re getting into. I hope you’re going to write that in your article.”
When asked about Caroline’s account of her experiences at the seminar, Martin Forde said: “There was clearly a pre-existing medical condition — which you, not I, mentioned —which is obviously inseparable from the rest of what she says.”
However, it seems clear from what Caroline says that she was not properly screened before being allowed to participate in the course. This was long been a concern of those who have followed Tony Quinn’s progress.
In a letter which has been seen by LIFE, Dr Robert Verkerk, a research scientist at Imperial College London, submitted a number of findings at the request of the Tony Quinn organisation. He suggested that Tony Quinn should open channels of communication with Dialogue Ireland, a body which offers “pastoral support for people who have returned from Tony Quinn seminars and are feeling disorientated or are in some form of distress” and for family members “who are coping with behavioural or other changes in their loved ones”. He went on: “The codes of conduct relating to the public demonstration of catalepsy are published by some major, internationally recognised professional bodies (eg International Society for Professional Hypnosis) and these should be heeded as far as possible.” He also suggested that the School of Psychology at the University of East London (UEL) should become involved in the editing of material to ensure its scientific accuracy. He received no response to this letter.
Verkerk mentioned UEL presumably because he knew that Quinn, the man who modestly calls himself “a philosopher”, is currently a student of that college. Professor Brian Clifford is supervising Quinn’s doctorate on Educo. I spoke to Professor Clifford who told me that Tony Quinn’s claims for the Educo systems in his business life were of no concern to the college. When I asked whether Dr Quinn’s previous doctorate from the American Pacific University would have an impact when this one was being awarded, Professor Clifford told me, “No, we don’t count that one.” He also revealed that Tony Quinn’s thesis had just been returned to its author with heavy notations, and that I could “read into that what you will”. He added that he hoped and expected that Quinn would eventually get his doctorate from UEL.
As Quinn continues to add to the alphabet of letters after his name (some of them meaningful), in the last few years he has once again complemented his seminar work with some celebrity pet projects. Last year, he famously met with Jim Sheridan, whom he knew through Hugh O’Donnell, father of Quinn’s girlfriend Tara (who, posing as a member of the public, gives yet another glowing testimonial on Quinn’s website), with a view to making ‘a sort of sci-fi film’. Sheridan had met Quinn once before when he was interviewed for the Blueprint for Successful Living. On that occasion, Sheridan noticed nothing untoward, but this time around Quinn’s tone was different. Sheridan was quoted as saying: “He was telling me all sorts of stuff about himself, some of which I couldn’t believe. He told me he was walking along one day when all of a sudden a group of Middle Eastern people appeared to him. He told me he was walking on sand and he followed the people to the top of a hill. He said that there were thousands of people there and he thought he heard Jesus speaking to them, but then he realised that it was him. This is verbatim what he told me. I found the whole meeting unnerving.” Needless to say, the ‘sci fi film’ never made it off the ground and Sheridan has severed contact with Quinn.
But not everyone in showbiz was immune to Tony’s charms. Marcus Henry Fearon was a waifish, bespectacled redhead who had won young Person of the Year for his charity work with Concern. After attending a Tony Quinn seminar, he decided that he wanted to be a superstar and went on a strict diet with the goal of building his slight frame into something more photogenic, just like Tony Quinn himself once had. With the financial backing of fellow Tony Quinn enthusiasts, whom he met at Quinn’s Educo seminar in the Bahamas, Marcus travelled the world in pursuit of his dream, dismissing lavish recording studios because the vibe was not right or there wasn’t enough gym equipment. While most aspiring pop stars were queuing in the rain to meet Louis Walsh and Phil Coulter, the man referred to by fellow Quinn followers as “an enigma” was hanging out at the prestigious Abbey Road studios in London where he told an astonished producer that money was no object.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Marcus had two problems that no amount of seminars or money would fix: he did not look anything like a pop star and, in the words of producer Bill Hughes, “hadn’t a note in his head”. However, thanks to Tony Quinn, he did have a surplus of groundless self-belief. Viewers of an RTE True Lives documentary on Marcus winced in embarrassment for him as he was filmed singing out of key for Michael Jackson’s voice coach and patronising Will Smith’s well-meaning stylist in his thick Dundalk accent. At meetings to discuss Marcus’s potential, his minders and handlers would freely quote Tony Quinn to each other. Marcus himself gave an unconscious parody of the seminar speak: “I think if I live the life of a star I can train the mind to think it’s successful, even if . . . maybe . . . it’s not.” His financial backer, also a Tony Quinn devotee, invested over €1m in him but to date the closest Marcus has ever come to stardom is that painful-to-watch documentary.
Although Tony Quinn’s Educo system claims it can open the door to worldly success and increase turnover, not everyone is so successful. It was recently reported that the group of companies owned by Galway-born builder Brian Cunningham owed First Active €29m. Cunningham’s group had been involved in several high-profile developments. He owns Salthill Properties, which developed the €30m Bailey Point Project in Salthill. First Active foreclosed on the group and now Cunningham is suing them. Cunningham had gone on a Tony Quinn seminar and, to the distress of his family, had become very committed to Quinn’s philosophy.
Strangely, stories such as those of Caroline, Marcus and Brian have never made it into those glossy pamphlets that stand outside Tony Quinn’s shops. No amount of negative publicity seems to quell the demand for his slick snake-oil salesmanship. (As I write this, a group has just returned from the isle of Capri and another seminar is planned for November).
Quinn has written of his ability to reverse the ageing process — and, at 56, he shows no signs of slowing down. The literature he has produced throughout his career shows him one minute as a respectable retailer of health supplements and the next moment as a charlatan making occult claims such as those relating to distance healing. Quinn has been issued with a warning by the Irish Medicines Board for making medicinal claims for his food-supplement products, but the dubious benefits of his seminars have never been investigated by consumer watchdog groups.
Despite the gardai being quoted as saying that Quinn’s method of offering ‘incentives’ for people to recruit friends to go on Tony Quinn seminars “bore all the hallmarks of pyramiding” (a type of financial structure illegal since 1980), they have never prosecuted Quinn. The aftercare for those who react badly to his public displays of catalepsy falls to voluntary bodies like Dialogue Ireland and individual hypnotherapists and counsellors like Sean Collins.
Tony Quinn, from his mansions in the Bahamas and Miami, runs an organisation which, according to his critics, bears a strong resemblance to a cult. For his supporters and employees, Tony is “a saviour” — someone who can help to “uncover the new human being” inside. To them, the evidence outlined above must be weighed against the word of “the world’s leading expert on the mind” and all that “research carried out under university conditions”.
And anyway, they know that you only read negative stuff in newspapers like this. It says so in the Blueprint for Successful Living.
THESE ARTICLES APPEARED IN THE LIFE SECTION OF THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAYS 17 & 24 OCTOBER 2004
The Sunday Times September 25, 2005
Lifestyle ‘guru’ who claims to help youngsters pass exams, for €18,000
Richard Oakley and Enda Leahy
TONY QUINN, Ireland’s self-proclaimed lifestyle guru, is attempting to expand his cult-like organisation to Britain.
Quinn, a former mind-coach to the boxer Steve Collins who, he claims, he helped to win fights, is trying to convince people in London to spend £12,000 (€17,700) on two-week “life-changing” seminars. Up to 30 British residents have attended introductory meetings, and his organisation is building a following with weekly “top-up” sessions where new members have been recruited.
A Sunday Times reporter who infiltrated a meeting last week found Quinn’s organisation was not only promoting the same material that has caused controversy in Ireland but is now advising parents to include the “scientifically proven success system” in their children’s education.
Complaints about Quinn’s techniques surfaced in Ireland in 2001 and his teachings have been dismissed by experts. Claims about his research and qualifications have been shown to be exaggerated, and relatives of course participants have complained that family members have been brainwashed.
Quinn, a qualified hypnotherapist, promises people “the life of their dreams” with great material riches. Each week in the Jurys Great Russell hotel in London, Quinn’s most recent promotional film is shown for new members — who are brought in by invitation only.
The film shows a teenager who is at first unable to recall material for a history exam, and who suddenly remembers all about the Spanish civil war after a few minutes’ hypnosis by Quinn. The narrator says the Quinn system can “offer you the chance to create the life you want for your child”.
One of the organisers said about 2,000 people around the world have now attended Quinn’s seminars, and she defended their cost.
Members pay into a sort of pyramid-selling system that involves commission payments for recruiting others. To get commission, they must pay for one seminar a year, which ties them into a circle of paying out large sums and having to find more people to recruit.
Quinn’s seminars, attended by up to 70 people a time, have been running since the early 1990s in resorts in the Bahamas and Egypt. Participants are introduced to Quinn’s Educo life-system and are believed to undergo hypnosis.
At last week’s meeting in London, our reporter was encouraged to borrow the cost of a seminar when he said he couldn’t afford it. “It costs €18,000 — about the price of a small Japanese car,” said one of Quinn’s disciples. “Which would you prefer, a new life or a small Japanese car?”
Quinn tells people they use only a small percentage of their mental capacity and he can help them discover how to use more of their mind. He calls this “unconscious attention” and claims it “enables the mind to function at its ultimate potential effortlessly”.
Families of those who have attended seminars have complained that their relatives developed a strange devotion to his organisation that they say is “cult-like”. They listened to a tape of Quinn each day and devote large amounts of time to convincing others to attend his seminars. Quinn’s tapes tells them that the best way for his teachings to work is if a person sells his seminars to others.
Quinn’s theories have been criticised by leading psychologists. Ciaran Benson, a professor of psychology at University College Dublin, said some of his claims were “simplistic in the extreme and without any acceptable research”. Professor Ian Robertson of Trinity College said the idea that humans only use a small amount of their minds was a modern myth.
IRISH INDEPENDENT Tom Lyons
Tony Quinn firm racks up loss of €1m
Monday October 3rd 2005
SELF-STYLED mind guru Tony Quinn, who claims that his techniques can double revenues for clients, has seen his health retail empire rack up losses of almost €1m.
It appears that as losses mount at his company, Tony Quinn Health Centres Ltd, it could fail to meet the qualified hypnotherapist’s own exacting standards.
In his promotional literature, Mr Quinn claims that he has carried out a study that proves he can “on average” double revenues in companies who follow his teachings over three years.
However, with a deficiency of assets of €276,000 during the year to the end of October 2004, Mr Quinn’s company appears to be lagging well behind average.
TQHC is ultimately controlled by Baringo Trading, a Jersey, Channel Islands-based entity.
Mr Quinn is not listed as a director of the company he founded. Its three directors are: Jersey-based accountant Bernard Le Claire, Malaga-based consultant Joseph Savage, and long-standing follower Wicklow’s Tom McKenna.
TQHC is just one of many sources of revenue for multimillionaire Mr Quinn, who makes most of his money through running seminars abroad.
The former apprentice butcher and mind-coach to boxer Steve Collins, turned lifestyle entrepreneur, is currently running a two-week seminar on the up-market island of Capri, off Italy.
Participants pay €18,500 a pop for a two-week course, and are promised daily five-hour long sessions with Mr Quinn.
They can also expect various other things for the price of a down payment on a one-bed apartment, including notebooks “full of life-changing information” and a personalised CD conducted by Mr. Quinn.
He recently has been pushing into the UK with seminars promising people “the life of their dreams”, and the ability to improve their children’s memories by following his mind programmes.
Down the years, Mr Quinn has build up a raft of glowing testimonies from attendees of his seminars, including Boyle Sports managing director John Boyle who hooked up with Mr Quinn through his centre in Dundalk, Co Louth.
However, Mr. Quinn has also attracted criticism such as from UCD psychologist Ciaran Benson, who said some of his claims were “simplistic in the extreme”, and cult-watchers Dialogue Ireland which has questioned some of his practices.
Filed under: Tony Quinn