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The Silva Method (formerly Silva Mind Control) is a self-help program which claims to teach one how to increase one's IQ, develop clairvoyance and use the mind to heal the body and find some sort of god, among other things. The program promises to teach you to "use the untapped power of your mind to accomplish whatever you desire."* The program is a hodgepodge put together by trial and error by José Silva (1914-1999), an electronic repairman who had a voracious appetite for literature in psychology, parapsychology, and religion. He studied hypnosis, hoping to use it to increase the IQ of his children, but became interested in developing psychic abilities after he became convinced that one of his daughters was clairvoyant.
According to Silva, he began using his method in 1944 on family and friends, but the program that now goes by his name started in the 1960s. He called his program "subjective education" and psychorientology, which he defined as "educating the mind to function consciously within its own psychic dimension....becoming aware of the enormity of human potential and learning how to actualize this potential for the better of humanity."
The instruction emphasizes positive thinking, visualization, meditation, and self-hypnosis. One key element of the course "consists of 'visiting' absent persons imagined by students and performing diagnoses on them" (Randi 1995: 218). Silva became convinced that most personal and world problems are due to "using only logical, intellectual, objective means to correct problems."* He claimed that "only 10 percent of humanity think with the right brain hemisphere" as well, and these 10 percent are geniuses. The other 90 percent "use only the left brain hemisphere to think with. They do both their thinking and acting with only the left brain hemisphere."
Silva seems to have based his notions about the split-brain on the work of Roger Sperry and his colleagues. Silva, like many others who latched onto this split-brain model, seems to have modified it to his own purposes and beliefs. Much work has been done on the brain since Sperry. Without putting too fine a point on it, nearly everything Silva said about the brain is wrong. For a more accurate picture of what scientists think about this split-brain distinction see "Left Brain Right Brain" by John McCrone (New Scientist, July 3, 1999). The truth is that nobody thinks or acts only with their left hemisphere unless the right one is damaged or gone. In any case, it seems that Silva latched onto the split-brain theory after he had developed his subjective education program.
So, Silva not only had found the method to make people smarter, healthier and happier, he also found out why his method works. It is because he is training left-brain people to think with their right brain as well.
Those who think and act with only the left brain hemisphere get sick more often with psychosomatic health problems. They are more accident prone. They make more mistakes. They are less successful in life. When people think with the right brain hemisphere and act with the left, the results are just the opposite: They are healthier, less accident prone, make fewer mistakes, and are more successful in life.*
How he knows these things is not clear. He claims that leftbrainers are functioning at the beta wave level, while rightbrainers are at the alpha wave level. Silva believed that alpha waves are significantly better than beta waves. Actually, alpha waves increase in meditation and under hypnosis, indicating lack of focus or visual stimulation, not some higher brain activity. They are also produced by both sides of the brain. Beta waves are evidence of concentration and heightened mental activity. If they are too extreme, they can be indicative of stress. But no one in his or her right mind should want to eliminate beta waves, unless you are trying to relax or go to sleep, in which case you would want fewer beta waves and more alpha waves if you want to relax and more delta waves if you want to sleep.
Silva claimed that right brain thinking
changes the sub-conscious into an inner-conscious level. This allows people to also use the information stored in the subconscious, consciously.
Right brain thinking — through intuition (ESP) — connects us mentally with all information on this planet, so that we can use this information to correct problems.
It also connects us with higher intelligence, so that we can get the guidance and help that we need.
It is his claim that he found a gateway to the subconscious, the psychic and to a "higher intelligence" (which he also refers to as "Christ consciousness") that sets the Silva Method apart from other self-help programs such as Landmark Forum or Neuro-linguistic Programming. The claim to be teaching a way to get connected to that "higher intelligence" is what led some critics to think that the method is actually a religious movement.
Despite the fact that the Silva Method is promoted with hyperbole worthy of FOX promoting the notion that aliens have been autopsied by military doctors, it has many satisfied customers. Some claim their backhand in tennis has improved, others claim they were able to quit smoking or lose weight because of the Silva method. Still other say that they are happier and healthier than they've ever been, thanks to the Silva Method. It's been around for over forty years and claims to have instructors in 107 countries. Weekend seminars run about $350 dollars [from http://www.silvacourse.com/whatis.html]. (It should go without saying that since the founder is dead and the program is taught in more than 100 countries, it is likely that what is taught in each individual program is somewhat unique and will not match exactly all the things I have outlined above.)
For those who would like a cheaper method of improving your mind, especially your problem solving, and who would like to become more creative and effective as a thinker, I recommend Conceptual Blockbusting by James L. Adams. It's a lot cheaper and it will show you that there is a time for visualization and there is a time for logic and language. Knowing when to use which is the key to solving problems quickly and effectively. And it won't waste your time chasing after supposed truths in your subconscious. Nor will it mislead you with exercises for unleashing your psychic powers or for developing your Christ consciousness, which are more likely to lead your mind to delusion than to truth. Unfortunately, it is not likely to raise your IQ significantly or help you quit smoking or lose weight. But it will offer you some practical advice on how to use your mind more effectively.
The "Science" behind the Method (testimonials and proof that Silva students do have brain waves)