An Interview with Jose Silva
Jose Silva was an incredible man with so much to offer. Gain some Jose Silva wisdom from the Silva – McKnight interview:
This interview was conducted with José Silva in 1977 by Alice McKnight and appeared in the July 1977 issue of Counseling and Values magazine. It is reprinted with their permission. Figures and statistics in this interview were correct in early 1977, slightly more than one decade after the Silva Method was first made available to the public.
McKnight: Mr. Silva, will you please give us a few comments about the beginnings of the Silva Method?
Silva: The Silva Method was designed to be the American Dynamic Meditation System. As such, it is still in process, as all dynamic things are. We began the Silva Method in 1944, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that we began teaching the course to groups structured as it is today. Our original research had as its purpose increasing the IQ of individuals—in particular, children—but when we discovered during our experiments that we were achieving deep levels of the mind and our subjects were able to anticipate our questions—that is, they gave us answers before we presented the questions—we knew that we were on the threshold of a whole new dimension of mind and man’s control of his own mind.
When we had verified to our own satisfaction that the subjects in our research design were, indeed, using the psi factor—or psychic functioning—in answering unvoiced questions, giving us information about persons they had not personally met, and were doing this at a level of mind that can best be called subjective, we wrote a letter to a leading university then doing research in parapsychology. We described our work and results, requesting that a representative of the department come to observe our research. This was in 1953.
The reply was terse and to the point: We had apparently stumbled onto “natural” psychics because the psi phenomenon is not teachable, just observable. A little dismayed, but undaunted, we continued our mental training exercises with different individuals and groups of people continuing to prove to our own satisfaction that the psi factor is teachable and that it is learnable.
Since my background is in electronics, and since I had a wife and family to support while I was doing this research with the mind, I seemed to draw a logical connection between electronics and human brain-mind function. I studied Freud, Jung, Braid, Esdaile, Liebeault, Bernheim, and many others. I also studied the principles of yoga and hypnotism, and for a time was an active Rosicrucian.
In those early years, all that I read, experienced, and put together—what turned out to be a new arrangement and application of old concepts—has become, and is still becoming the Silva Method.
In the years since we began lecturing to the public, many other groups, academic and otherwise, have begun doing research along the same line. There are a number of “consciousness-raising groups” on the market now, and several academic and medical institutions are engaged in mind potential research. We like to think of ourselves—the method and the graduates—as being pioneers in the subjective education field.
We organized the Laredo Parapsychology Foundation, which we later named the Institute of Psychorientology, in 1944.
McKnight: What does the word “psychorientology” mean?
Silva: Psychorientology means: Educating the mind to function consciously within its own psychic dimension. It means becoming aware of the enormity of human potential and learning how to actualize this potential for the better of humanity. The main focus of our Basic Lecture Series is to acquaint students with the potential of their whole person and how, by using more of their mind, they can slough off limiting ways of thinking and unproductive habits to become, as we are fond of saying, “the beautiful people that they are called to be.”
If I may digress for a moment, I do want to say that the notion of being “called,” of being in touch with a higher guidance factor, is a central concept in the Silva Method. We shall not get into a theological statement because our collective semantics prove to be such stumbling blocks in the communication of humanly organized spiritual—that is to say, religious—systems.
Since we are dealing with human relationships and with improving the lot of humanity on this planet, we see in our work the mirroring of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of spiritual evolution and the striving toward the attainment of higher consciousness.
We believe that our concept of homo sapiens can only lead us to a more all-embracing concept of homo amans, which has essentially been the central message of the several avatars on our planet. Although historically it appears that humans have hearkened more to the “wars and rumors of wars” aspects of theological tradition, we have reason to believe that we are part of a new phase of human evolution on this planet.
McKnight: In what ways has the Basic Lecture Series—the BLS—changed during the past ten years?
Silva: The Basic Lecture Series as it is currently being presented varies little in design from the first presentation I made outside Laredo and Nuevo Laredo in 1966. We are presenting the same useful techniques for more successful living and the same mental exercises or conditioning cycles—with some constructive changes in wording—but we have expanded and broadened our lecture material considerably.
A graduate of the Basic Lecture Series from any place in the world can repeat at no additional cost the entire BLS any number of times anywhere in the world that it is offered. Currently, we have the BLS being presented in all states in the U.S.A. and in 31 foreign countries. (Editor’s note: As of 1995, the BLS is being presented in 103 countries and in 29 languages.)
Recently we began diversifying our lectures and conditioning offerings; for special needs we have designed special programs: We are manufacturing and marketing kits that contain pertinent literature and taped material. These are useful to the person who feels that he or she cannot take time out of a busy schedule to attend the class time required for graduation from the BLS.
Also, the taped programs can be useful to the graduate of the BLS for relaxation or reinforcement purposes.
“We are sincere in our belief that it is essential that every person be encouraged to realize that he or she can use more mind to make this world a better place to live in; we believe that the method of mental training that we have devised is the most efficient and effective means for doing this.”
It is the American Dynamic Meditation System, the Silva Method.
McKnight: Would you describe for us the content of the Basic Lecture Series?
Silva: The BLS is composed of four sections of twelve-hour sessions each: ∙101, Controlled Relaxation. ∙202, General Self-Improvement. ∙303, Effective Sensory Projection. ∙404, Applied Effective Sensory Projection.In the Controlled Relaxation lectures, the student learns how to relax physically, mentally, and emotionally, and how to reach in seconds a level of profound insight.
The intelligent use of the techniques presented in this section of the BLS leads to increased efficiency, concentration, expansion of learning capacity and self-control—all results of learning to relax the spinal and autonomic nervous systems at will.
Techniques presented and programmed in the Controlled Relaxation segment are Sleep Control, To Awake Control, Awake Control, Dream Control, and Headache Control. Students report an increase in vitality and energy, and a lessening of tension and stress from the practice of relaxing at will; from the feelings of well-being, they experience better self-management through applying the techniques I just mentioned.I could give you countless anecdotes attesting to successful applications of each technique, including the relief and eventual ridding of migraine headaches, but you can read testimonials elsewhere.
About ten hours of instruction and ten to fifteen minutes of practice every day provide the student of the first section of the Silva Method with the techniques to relax, and several useful formulas for successful living.The second section of the BLS is the General Self-Improvement portion.
These ten to twelve hours enable the student to make use of the expanded levels of awareness acquired in 101 for solving specific problems. Problems are handled as projects to be successfully completed, and the creative use of imagination and visualization are presented and reinforced as tools for achieving specific self-improvement goals.The organization of the material—the methodology—is a major factor in the success of the application of techniques.
During the course of our public lecturing, we have inspired——if I may demean the term—a number of spin-offs who present imitations of our system, our methodology. Perhaps we should be flattered at their imitation; as it is, unless they violate our copyright laws, we merely shrug our shoulders and say, “Do not forbid them, for whoever does good works in our way is with us.”
Naturally, we encourage our professional people to use the Method in their occupations, but hardly expect them to commercialize our methodology. Un-researched changes may degenerate the effectiveness of the course offering; thereby we may lose a valuable tool for helping humanity. And, of course, we prefer that our lecturers remain with us, participating in our goal of reaching all of humanity, because we believe that the original is superior to the imitation.
Be that as it may, to return to the content of the general Self-Improvement 202: Memory Techniques, the Mental Screen, Three Fingers Technique, Mirror of the Mind, Hand Levitation. Glove Anesthesia, Glass of Water Technique, and Habit Control are the techniques presented and reinforced for the students’ benefit.This segment of the BLS is particularly effective in enhancing a person’s creativity, be it in artistic or professional endeavors, or in everyday life.
Too, the student can learn greater control of physiological function and how to control pain. Extremely popular because of their success are the techniques for the elimination or control of unproductive habits and the development and application of productive ones. Again we have numerous testimonials in our files sent to us by appreciative graduates of the Method corroborating the effectiveness of the techniques.
In these first two sections of the BLS that I have briefly outlined, you can see that the “control” aspect of the Mind Development techniques have been largely objective. By objective, I mean that we have directed our attention to things that we perceive in the five senses world that we have long been familiar with—not really aware of, perhaps, before participating in the Silva Method—but conscious of their existence anyway.
Through the mental training exercises, the conditioning cycles, which are part of each series section, the Silva Method student learns through practice to enhance his or her powers of imagination and visualization. In short, he or she learns to be aware of his or her subjective life or inner world, and subjective education begins.
Being reflective creatures, we are all capable of bringing to mind a distant person, event, or place by simple recall; by utilizing memory, imagination, and visualization we are able to educate ourselves subjectively, to project our minds to wherever we have points of reference. Our method of training for consciously tapping deep levels of awareness is the most successful yet devised for productive value.
Again, I repeat: the Silva Method is a dynamic meditation system.
McKnight: Mr. Silva, what do you mean by “deeper levels of mind”?
Silva: I have made reference several times to deeper levels of mind. In our Basic Lecture Series we utilize a chart to illustrate applications of our techniques and to show the brain wave cycles—the electric impulses of our brains. Since we understand that a higher intelligence, through mind, controls and alters the brain’s manner of functioning—that is, the brain is a function of human intelligence through mind—we have correlated brain wave frequencies with mind activity and named the levels of mind accordingly.
Researches in the brain-mind field follow the model passed on by Hans Berger in the 1920s that names Beta waves those brain frequencies above fourteen cycles per second, called cps; Alpha waves at seven to fourteen cps; Theta waves as four to seven cps; and Delta waves as one-half to four cps.During a twenty-four hour period, individuals generally experience each of these cycles.
Research indicates that when the brain expresses Beta waves, a person is at the five senses level of awareness; when the brain expresses Alphawaves, the person has “turned down” the external world, is still, and is tuned in to a focal point of mentation; when the brain expresses Theta waves, the person has withdrawn from virtually all external stimulation, and is in what has been described as a contemplative or mystical state of mind; and when the brain expresses Delta waves, the person is totally unconscious; that is, unaware of himself and his environment.
It appears through current research, however, that man can learn to be conscious at Delta. These words that I used to describe the Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta states of mind as expressed in brain wave frequencies are purely descriptive. Other scientists might express the concepts differently; I am merely making the point that our research has shown us that it is from deeper levels of mind that our motivations spring, and from which we can effect beneficial changes in habitual thinking and behaviors.
Hence, the importance of the Controlled Relaxation segment of the BLS, and also the importance of our having planned the series in a sequential order—of 101 before 202, for example. The organization and sequential presentation of the material, the methodology, are vital to the success of the Silva Method. The movement from objective awareness to subjective awareness through the blending of the two consciously, what some scientists call “altered states of consciousness,” is a kind of taking from the outside in and bringing from the inside out—a total experiencing, a true awareness that we and our graduates can utilize in everyday experience.
The third section of the BLS, Effective Sensory Projection, focuses the attention of the series participant on direct experience of his or her internal sensing faculties through psyche-orientation, that is, on the validity of his subjective perception. The student projects mentally into metal cubes for the purpose of establishing points of reference in the inanimate matter kingdom, into leaves of plants for establishing points of reference in the animate matter plant kingdom, and into animal life for establishing points of reference in the animate matter animal kingdom.
The student’s practice in achieving increasing awareness at deeper levels of mind, and his developing skill in imagining and visualizing gained in 101 and 202 increase his confidence so that the student sees himself or herself as a more aware and perceptive individual. Then the student begins to use his intuitive faculty to aim him in the solution of problems: the mechanic, to solve inanimate matter problems, the farmer to solve plant life animate problems, the animal lover to solve animal life animate problems.
Human life is, of course, included in the animate kingdoms; and we progress to the more complex problems, which we call projects, in the human realm in stages, just as we move from 101 and 202 in consecutive order.
McKnight: The notion of doing things in order seems central to your methodology.
Silva: It is. Observing, participating, and absorbing the material presented are the means by which the student acquires his subjective education, much as in the way he acquires his objective education. The difference lies in internal focus rather than external focus. Subjective education involves the discovery, appreciation, and application of the kingdom within for successful living, whereas objective education concerns itself with the discovery, appreciation, and application of the external world for successful living.
To our way of thinking, a harmonizing of the two makes for a more balanced human being, the education of man’s inner life has for too long been in bits and pieces. The Silva Method offers a successful means by which persons can educate themselves subjectively through psyche orientation at their own pace.
The BLS consists of as much as forty to forty-eight hours of class time; but the use, application, and practice of the concepts and techniques presented—these are the hours when the individual educates himself subjectively.Just as the parent holds the hand of the toddler learning to walk, and the toddler releases the hand when he becomes sure-footed—so it is with subjective education—the principles are instilled, and they become manifest in practice.
An important technique or creative application of the method presented in this third section involves the subjective creation of a complete laboratory for problem solving.It is well known that solving major problems and developing new ideas is due to the extension of controlled awareness into the so-called subconscious realm of mind. We call this inner consciousness.
This is the intuitive field, the inspiration area, the realm of creative understanding, Jung’s “collective unconscious” of which we, as human beings on this planet partake, according to our own desire and understanding of it. Creating through one’s own imagination a productive setting for optimum functioning at a subjective level of mind is both an exercise and a reward for the individual; it is the working place in his kingdom within.
All theistic systems that I am familiar with anthropomorphize their deities, and in a somewhat similar fashion we “create ”—we “recognize”—our inner conscious powers in terms that we can express effectively. We become aware of and identify for ourselves our own counselors or guides in effecting work in the “kingdom within.”
The concept of guardian angels is a similar but more limited notion.
McKnight: What kind of work does the Silva Method student do in the laboratory that he or she creates?
Silva: The work that the student does in the laboratory is what the first three sections of the BLS have prepared him for, and what the final section enables him to prove to himself: That he has increased his intuitive potential and is using more of his mind to solve problems.The student has learned to actualize for the good of humanity, in intuition.
In 404, Applied Effective Sensory Projection, the student is presented with problem cases. The student then becomes aware of actual existing problems at a distance through the psyche orientation of his or her subjective senses, and the ability to do this, the positive results, convinces the student of the marvelous power of his or her subjectively educated mind.
McKnight: Just how do the students do this?
Silva: By establishing points of reference at subjective levels.At the conclusion of 404 graduates have successfully learned to psychically function at the Alpha level of mind. Some are functioning at the Theta level. All our students are individuals, all have different goals and objectives. What they have in common is a belief in the possibility of bettering themselves by using more mind—and therefore, bettering humanity.
“The Silva Method is a goal-oriented pragmatic system designed to enable people to develop positive mental attitudes. Much of our instruction consists of helping people to stop setting limits to their achievements, and thereby defeating themselves before they get started. Our method is geared to show people how to achieve specific goals by recognizing and reconditioning their self-image.”
By way of analogy, you might say that 101 and 202 enable people to light a candle, and 303 and 404 enable them to trim the wick and set it out, not under a basket, but on a housetop.
Being a collector of insights is not sufficient; utilizing insights for the betterment of self and humanity are more worthwhile projects. Because of the heightening of visualization, the graduate can set before his mind’s eye the desired result of having worked a case or having solved a problem of whatever nature, and it can become done on earth as it is in the “kingdom within.”
McKnight: What kind of response has the academic scientific community given to the Silva Method?
Silva: That depends on whether you mean the ones who have taken the course work, or the ones who have not. Of the scientists who are graduates, several are using the Method in their work, some are researching and validating objectively our subjective work. Of those scientists who have not personally taken the BLS there are two groups: Those who admit the possibility of the success of the Method, and those who consider us and the Method to be fraudulent. It’s the same old story; our severest critics are those who know the least about us.
The interesting thing, though, is that the laboratory studies about the brain and mind being published by biochemists, psychologists, neurophysiologists, and physiological psychologists are all supportive of our work. We are well aware of synaptic junctures, of the electrochemical processing of energy, and of the mind that directs the embryo before the brain is formed; it is not necessary for us to ground our graduates in current brain-mind theory, just as it is not necessary to understand electricity in order to turn on a light switch.
I am not belittling research—I consider myself to be a research scientists, and I know whereof I speak.
“The point is that humanity can improve human life on this planet and the lives of everything else as well by turning on the light switch, because the electricity is all around us just waiting to be put to good use.”
McKnight: Following your analogy, could somebody get “shocked”?
Silva: Quite the contrary. What is shocking is that some people believe that knowledge of self-management and internal controls is suspect and should only be in the hands of the educated few. Better that the many be educated to their potential and how to activate it for their own benefit and for the benefit of their loved ones than that they be victimized by their own self-ignorance.
These are scientific times, and it is good that this is so. The wisdom of the ages about humanity is being corroborated by modem scientific research, by empirical knowledge. Socrates’ admonition, “Know thyself,” is coming to pass in this technological age for the betterment of more people with the aid of humanity’s own technology.
McKnight: You don’t think that people are deifying their own technology?
Silva: In some quarters, undoubtedly. Whenever you have a society where creation is more valued than the creator, you have this situation. Look back through history. There are countless illustrations. In our time, however, psychorientology is educating persons to the significance of their own inner being, is teaching them to use more mind, is educating them in a practical fashion to actively participate in the spiritual evolution of the planet.
One of the maxims of our organization is: “Welcome to the second phase of human evolution on the planet.” We are quite serious when we speak of psychorientology as “the science of tomorrow today.” Since we structured the class presentation and began teaching outside of Laredo in 1966, our graduates keep increasing in numbers at a very rapid pace.
People are eager to be a part of a movement dedicated to the uplift of the planet. The days of esoteric societies, cults, and covens and numbered. What was hidden is being shouted from the housetop; all that is necessary is that people have eyes to see and ears to hear.
McKnight: Isn’t the Silva Method itself believed by some to be occult?
Silva: As I understand occult, it refers to information that is secret, mysterious, and supernatural, and—as I just said—our movement is the very antithesis of that. The Silva Method is a technique designed to enable people to use more of their minds to make themselves more effective in making this planet a better place to live. There are no secrets, no initiation, no dramatic rites or trials to be met and scaled. It is purely and simply the most effective way yet devised and available to all to make one’s self a more effective human being on the planet.
McKnight: You say that the Silva Method is available to all, but you charge money for the courses. Why don’t you give it away like the teachers of old did?
Silva: By teachers of old, I presume you mean the likes of Confucius, Buddha, Socrates, or Jesus. Each of these teachers lived in a different economic system from the one we have, and each was recompensed for his services in accordance with the customs of the times. Free enterprise is the prevailing custom of our time and locale. As a matter of fact, we did offer the Silva Method to the federal government free of charge in 1965 but were turned down.Having invested over half a million dollars in the method myself, it seems reasonable to me that making it available to the public via the free enterprise system is the best way to ensure its development and dispersion.
Besides that, people tend to attach little value to something that they get for nothing.There are hundreds of Silva Method lecturers all over the world. Many are still active earning their living by presenting the Silva Method. We have printed material, tapes, and electronic training equipment for the use of our students and graduates; we have a staff to support. Money is the current means of exchange for services rendered, it is the way that our economic system is set up.
We have in the past, and are still conducting special projects, whereby certain groups are offered the Basic Lecture Series at no cost to them. Copies of such completed research projects are available to interested parties. We offer the Basic Lecture Series to schools—elementary, secondary, and colleges—and have had only success where it is accepted.
Our only requirement is that research be conducted and that we be allowed to use the published results in our promotional work. This method has also been presented in various types of rehabilitation centers, prisons, and social service programs. Let us put it this way: For the needy, the Silva Method is available in accordance with ability to pay. You might be interested to know that there is a money back guarantee. We respect federal laws in that regard. In fact, we were using the money back guarantee before those federal laws were enacted.
McKnight: Do you have additional courses besides the BLS that you can describe for us?
Silva: Yes. There is the Graduate Lecture Series which three other lecturers and I present to graduates of the BLS, and there is our Executive 500 Series which is a program using the Silva Method tapes and trainers. This series is the result of our ongoing need to diversity through research and development. We are diversifying our offering so as to reach a wider spectrum of humanity.
McKnight: Would you tell us something about the corporate structure of your organization?
Silva: The parent organization is the Institute of Psychorientology, Ltd., governed by a board of directors. The teaching of the Silva Method Basic Lecture Series is done through Silva International, Inc., and the manufacturing of electronic equipment is handled by Silva Sensor Systems.
McKnight: Since this interview is being conducted for publication in Counseling and Values, whose readership is in the educational field, would you direct some remarks to them specifically?
Silva: It is clear that some degree of personal involvement is necessary in anyone whose occupation involves consultation.The person who is trained in subjective communication and awareness has obvious advantages over those who are not so trained. Psychic growth and development can be valuable tools to educators at all levels—particularly so to counselors and all human relationship personnel.
“We consider the Silva Method of psychorientology to be the best system of mental training available for developing inner awareness. It is subjective education, and the person who is subjectively educated is dynamic, activating his or her own potential, and is better able to help others to realize their own potential.”
Why not discover more out about Jose Silva? You can by reading How Did Science Discover Jose Silva