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Mind control summer camp

In a Greek Orthodox Church annex in suburban New Jersey, I’m about to start my first morning of a four-week mind control summer camp. It is 1980. I am 9 years old. The classroom resembles an industrial park conference room, not the cavernous place of worship or brain reprogramming lab I had been expecting. The dozen other kids, aged 9-12, show the lack of interest reserved for Sunday school or detention. Doodling on their notepads. Staring into space. Except for me. I’m tapping my foot, both nervous and excited, because when you’re 9 and a little daydreamy and accustomed to following directions, controlling other people’s minds sounds like the chance of a lifetime.

If you don’t already know, the Silva Mind Control Method was founded in the 1950s, but taught in the 1960s around the same time as the Human Potential Movement. The HPM was an American subculture that yielded "The Inner Peace Movement," thinkers like Alan Watts and Jean Houston, and the Esalen Institute. Even among such radical minds, Jose Silva’s research stands out as unconventional and exemplary. The self-educated American parapsychologist trained his own children in deep relaxation, visualization and ESP techniques in effort to help them in school, and noticed remarkable improvement. In a 1953 letter to Dr. J.B. Rhine, renowned parapsychologist of Duke University, Silva claimed his methods led to his children’s improved mental acuity and test scores, and suggested he had found a possible key to human psychic performance.

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