Top critical review
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Interesting, but very weak in some aspects.
on September 3, 2000
This is the kind of book I would probably never buy, but my mother did for some reason and I found myself reading it.
This book describes José Silva's method of mental development and stress control. Silva, a TV repairman started studying the electrical activity of the human body under certain conditions (meditation, hypnosis). Over several years, Silva noticed how the stages of lower electrical activity would mean a higher capacity for storage and attention and figured out that if he managed to control his awareness and remain conscious, but free of such electrical noise, following few steps would allow the development of certain 'extraordinary' skills. These, he claims, can change your reality, depending on how you use your mind; including improving your health, reducing stress, improving your memory, and allowing you some abilities like perception and a distance and perception through time.
Silva's teachings are based on one single aspect: The way you think about your reality, the way your mind is lead eventually influences your material world, especially your own body. As Emile Coué said many years ago, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better", and Silva's followers agree. If you keep that spirit and follow Silva's procedures, you will notice improvements in about everything in your life.
To keep it short, that is what the book claims, or at least, that's what I got out of it. I was pleased with it in several ways, but a few problems are present... 1) Silva's book is very poorly written, I found the book to be miserably organized, from the first page to the non-existing glossary, giving it a very amateurish look, far from the scientific flavour that Silva would probably sometimes want us to notice.
2) Silva's claims are extraordinary. From amazing memory skills to eradication of nasty physical illnesses, this book makes it sound as if developing, experiencing and controlling these phenomena is something as easy as learning how to drive or playing a musical instrument. I found this approach extremely negative, as it reduces some of my belief in the whole book and leaves the reader wondering if there's anything really going on or if it is just a festival of wishful thinking and self-delusion. People who enthusiastically subscribe to New Age beliefs will be delighted, but sceptics will promptly use it to throw Silva's book in the pile of pseudoscience junk. It is a pity that those claims are so excessive and "easy". Silva is right, something is definitely going on, and leading-edge science is now becoming aware of radical new theories on the horizon about consciousness and matter; it can no longer be denied, but making it sound as something you can understand and control so easily is as dangerous as refusing it completely.
3) And for all those extraordinary claims, where is the extraordinary evidence? This book has a few case "studies" and reports, but hardly anything you can check for yourself. Silva offers very few connections to real documents, does not point to any studies most of the time and just expects you to accept the claims on some sort of faith. You get no notes and the References section is pathetically small. Major claims, little evidence. Even when the book was first release this would be a major problem, and now it is embarrassingly bad, when compared to similar titles.
4) The book is plagued by self-promotion. Not to Silva himself, but to the course. From page one to the end, you will constantly be reminded about the course, what students do there, you even have a few pages with the detailed schedule for the course, including coffee breaks. I don't mind having the address mentioned and a few contacts, but after a while, it gets a bit too much. I know about the course already, get on with the book.
Now the good parts: Well, I didn't hate it. I actually enjoyed reading this book. The paragraphs explaining you how to meditate and ridiculously simple, in fact, you get about one page telling you how to do it. Hardly effective, but it might be perfect for some people wanting to start it as quickly as possibly and later dwell deepen into it with the help of other titles.
I believe in the main argument of this book, your will somehow shape your physical reality, but not to such extent. The effects are still not really understood, very subtle and very hard to control at all. Still, even with all the exaggeration, the book will probably help you to get rid of your stress and it is surprisingly fun, you will very probably find yourself trying to do the meditation exercises, and will very likely feel better doing it.
If you require some proof to believe like I do, stay away from this book, or complement it with a scientifically solid work, especially material that covers mind-matter interaction effect studies involving living systems. I recommend "The Conscious Universe" from Dean Radin" for a start. If you don't need proof, well, believing in yourself is the main ingredient, so it will probably work for you. Also, if you want to learn more about meditation, you better look somewhere else, as Silva will give you NO details at all about it other than a quick how-to. "Full Catastrophe Living" by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a great book on this subject, which will definitely help. Religion is not directly mentioned and I don't think it will damage your interest in the book, no matter if you believe or not. Some religions will perhaps feel that the amount of control and power Silva says you can have is pretty close to heresy, and the book is closer to Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism, but it is not oriented to any specific faith.
Overall, an interesting book, based on some good arguments, but now very dated (1977), completely fails to show solid scientific evidence (many more studies and meta-analysis are now available) and lacking organization.
Still fun if you don't take it too seriously and are prepared to complement it with other titles, but lacking in many areas if you expect it to be complete and updated. Give it a try.