Kissing a Sweet Goodbye to The Three Principles
From a recording: "If you're listening to this in your car and you find yourself in a beautiful feeling, roll down your window, pop the tape out of the tape player, and throw it out the window. Stay with the feeling, and it will teach you everything you need to know."
~ Sydney Banks
Dear Friend –
This was going to be a private message but got too long to send as a text, and will be the same for all my friends, so is going out as a blog post.
This is just a convenience notice for you regarding future communications, and an update, if anyone is interested, concerning these matters and philosophies.
I left the “What The F*#$ Are The Principles?” group on FaceBook, and similar 3P FaceBook groups (Three Principles Psychology – “3P” – spiritual psychology, life coaching, etc.). That is, I am no longer receiving notifications or seeing postings, or responding to posts.
The experience with the beautiful teachings of Sydney Banks, and its interpretation by various teachers and “practitioners", life coaches, authors, students and so forth, has served its purpose for me. The journey was was a great growth experience, for writing, reflecting and sharing... But I’ve “moved on” as they say, and this for the 3P community in general, unless people want to contact me. I’m not seeking or reaching out to help generally, unless asked (I also don’t look at the FaceBook news stream in general, so don’t know what’s going on with others).
We grow or achieve in whatever area we put our energies and focus towards. This in turn is a reflection of our worldview, values and goals, and what one perceives the purpose of life to be. I see the purpose of life as Happiness. This is the same as Self-realization, since true happiness is knowing who you are, in reality (and I can see happiness is certainly not in the objects, be it relationships, things, places…).
While the 3P purport to help in the direction of freedom and happiness, and are dramatically transformational for a few, my experience was that it can be extremely slow going, and that the form of the teaching can get in the way of the understanding. The student then feels they are not "getting it" or doubts themselves, or the teacher, or the teaching.
Part of the difficulty was that I'm an intellectual and had a large, stubborn ego around that perhaps... and using the intellect and philosophizing are strongly discouraged in the 3P movement, which I feel is a misdirection: the "Jnani" path (the path of knowledge) can be one of the most powerful and direct ways to realize Truth, if properly handled. However, students of the Three Principles are told it's a feeling you are looking for. What kind of feeling was never clearly defined.
As I see it, the intellect is just a tool, but a powerful one: reason can be used to dismantle the beliefs that hold unhappiness and a sense of separation in place. This is one of the several shortcomings of the 3P teachings (and of what has become of it as it has diffused out into the world) and similar "spiritual" or New Age belief systems: a fascism towards thinking and intellect.
Especially now that Sydney Banks has been gone for many years, the fate of the 3P has become like that of many revelatory religions and philosophies, where the meaning is up for grabs by various interested parties, schisms, and sects of it (such as the "Single Paradigm" offshoot). In any case, I've found there are other teachings and teachers that are vastly more powerful for me (and perhaps for folks like me), with more solid lineages of philosophical investigation and broader and deeper histories and understandings (e.g., Advaita vedanta – Non-duality).
A Little Bit of History
The recent experiences with a 3P online group (and some of the connections with related people, postings and groups), were the “capping off” of 21 years of involvement in the Three Principles community, starting with a dream in 1997 that revealed true innate Peace to me. Shortly after the dream, I happened to encounter Richard Carlson's book You Can Be Happy No Matter What, which spoke exactly to what I’d experienced in the dream. A footnote in the back mentioned a book, Sanity, Insanity and Common Sense by Darlene Stuart and Rick Suarez, Ph.D. Roger C. Mills, Ph.D., which I managed to track down at a university library... which led to finding the Psychology of Mind Centre (POM) in Australia and Oregon. (I have a blog posting about the book and the authors here) This led to going to a POM Conference in 1997, meeting Roger Mills (rest in peace) and Ami Chen Mills-Naim in Santa Cruz, as well as the eminent George Pransky (bless them all). I’ve written elsewhere about that involvement so won’t go deeply into it here. Also deserving mention from later years (in the mid 2000s or so) for their one-on-one coaching are George Pransky's daughters Kara Stamback and Erika Bugbee (briefly, via phone or email), and more in-depth on-going dialogues with Mark Howard and Annika Hurwitt.
Back to the Present
In any case, at this point I am not pouring energy into it, especially when it starts to feel serious (the ego getting involved) or is not making a overall difference: I was hearing lots of "noise" and/or lots of the same kinds of comments and questions on the forums, repeating the same confusions misunderstanding and lack of clarity, and spending lots of time and energy helping to clarify as best I could, or help folks see more directly. It’s like bailing out the ocean (of ignorance) with a measuring cup. (And my views on the 3P are available anyway, in various articles on this blog or posted on Group With No Name on Facebook).
This is not to disparage the 3P movement – it serves its place in the grand scheme of things – or the many wonderful, loving, heart-centered teachers and students, practitioners and coaches I've seen. They all have the best of intentions and are doing the best they can. This innate innocence of all human beings (and other beings) is one of the things I gained from knowing wonderful 3P teachers, such as Robert Kausen (no longer with us) and Elsie Spittle.
On the forums I was seeing lots of entrenched positions, interests, agendas and egos. I saw politics arising, as if it were religious factions or schisms at war with each other (the ego at work: it has to maintain its separateness and it takes constant energy and repetition, recycling, to maintain the false and illusory).
FURTHER NOTES ON THE THREE PRINCIPLES AND NON-DUALITY
"The Three Principles Psychology is Non-Duality in a psychology suit."
Sydney Banks' teaching I would call a direct path one, with no practices except a direct pointing beyond thought to the universal nature of who we are, based in his profound non-dual mystical revelation experiences and insights. But it was a teaching without a tradition, definition, vocabulary or structure to ground it in – a charming 70's freeform creation. In my view it then turned into more of a "progressive path" one, in the sense that it became about something in the person rather than truly universal – an object, and purification or change for a separate entity – under the tutelage or work of psychologists. Sydney Banks was doing a dance with them of cooperation and conflict – a dance he innocently, naively instigated, as he saw psychologists as a "professional" way to get the message out to the world (see Jack Pransky's book on the history of the movement, Paradigm Shift).
A side effect of its origins was that there was no method of doing this nouveau-progressive path, since it was felt that understanding and the "feeling" alone would do it. There was a grain of truth to this, but students were left either on their own getting insights, or to invest in more books, tapes, seminars, classes, coaching, and so on; it played out into those who "got it" somehow, and those who kept trying.
For those with an intellectual bent, who were more suited to a "path of knowledge" (Jnani) and needed a way to answer questions, doubts, philosophical issues, as well as a method to address the feeling, unconscious level, they were left out. Dismissing intellectual questions, and being told to just "follow the feeling" didn't often help me: I'd only get the feeling after an insight. And, the ad nauseam repeating of the principles (a rigid formulation) only frustrates the lost. "Mind, Thought & Consciousness" start to sound like things, like objects, like an ontology. It forms a picture in the mind, but that picture is not It. And besides, aren't the principles truly all One? These kinds of questions would lead to very long discussions online, or with different answers from different practitioners. It got exhausting.
True, the teaching does sometimes facilitate one getting insights, and for some great transformations for a few lucky individuals, but it is very much up to grace, without a "ladder".
As time went on as a student of the 3P, and continued to have problems in my life and feeling I was not "getting it" – no matter how much time and money I put into it, and how much I paid practitioner (I consulted with two different psychologist who had known Sydney Banks at an hourly rate) – a thought occurred to me there must be something wrong somewhere: if not with the student, or the teacher (who seemed genuinely trying to help, innocent, intelligent, and with a stable and relatively happy life), or the teaching (or perhaps all three haha!).
So given the 3-level view I gave, what was "wrong" with the Three Principles Psychology? Of course there is ultimately nothing wrong anywhere in the universe: all is well and unfolding as it should (always start with the infinite and universal and see where we arrive, as that is more and more how I'm living my life).
In retrospect I see now that, for one thing, the teachers were not as happy or balanced as I'd thought. While they may have been relatively untroubled, or able to re-stabilize themselves, compared to most of the people one meets, and certainly happier than the clients they consulted with, they were not actually models of true freedom, liberation, self-realization, and unconditional happiness and abundance. In fact they would use examples from their lives of getting knocked off balance by small things as teachings models, to show how they got back on track. They would show how it was just "all thought" and they'd gotten caught taking their thinking seriously. They got back to their basic "grounding" in "the understanding".
Well this is all fine and good – and as I said, it's all part of the beautiful and perfect unfolding of life – and I would not have been able to hear anything deeper at the time. But the fact is, there is a deeper way: a way that can take you all the way (to the ultimate understanding). A way that leads back to the timeless fact that there is no "way". The gateless gate of knowing what you are: timeless, perfect, infinite, and ungraspable: beyond the mind (what this site is about). It's what Syd Banks the mystic was pointing to, or trying to, but it got lost along the way, when to put it in his words "fell on the ears of the listening mind".
So, ironically, it's the thinking that's destroyed the message. Ironic, because the newest newfangled derivatives of the Three Principles are now the "Single Paradigm" where they try and focus on Thought as the key!
In truth, the bar is lower for being a life coach or psychologist compared to being a spiritual teacher. The stated goal of a coach or psychologist is not to take the student to wisdom, but to cope better, be happier and more "successful" as a human. Most people see this as "practical" whereas in fact, pure uncaused happiness is the most practical in reality. But that's usually only discovered after most avenues of worldly or mental happiness have already been exhausted ...
In any case, ultimately, in reality, there are no students and no teachers. There's only One teacher, and She Is the same as the student. There's only One teaching, and that's the One, universal and omnipotent and omnipresent, expressed as love and bliss, sitting eternal: common ground for the no-things that seem to exist. This is the joke, if you see it ...
Peace, Love, Beauty and all that good stuff,
Thank you for your perspective Eric and best wishes in your journey and contentment.
Came across your posts as I have been chewing on this very issue -have been a student of non duality for almost 20 years but was drawn to 3 p about two years ago primarily drawn to the piece on thought and feelings but began to beat myself up that I wasn’t able to “let go of my thoughts” nor ever capture the ” feeling ” even on salt spring island -I have come back to studying non-duality again primarily Rupert Spira-and feel home but also hate to give up the 3p people I have met and the conferences so who knows but thank you for your writing -makes me feel not alone -pat
Thanks for the kind remarks Patricia. You are never alone in the Self.
A greeting, I have two concerns, the first I would like to know what the expression “the Progressive Path” in the sentence means to you: The simplest expression I’ve heard is that as long as you believe yourself to be a separate entity, you’re on the Progressive Path.
And the second in relation to the following sentence: “In any case, I’ve found there are other teachings and teachers that are vastly more powerful for me (and perhaps for folks like me), with more solid lineages and broader and deeper histories and understandings”, without any commitment on your part, could you relate names or give me references teachings and teachers.
I thank you for your attention, and answer
Hi Julio – “Progressive” and “Direct” refer to the starting point, depending on one’s spiritual maturity. A crude metaphor would be a mountain, with various climbers hiking up it (the seekers of Self-realization). The goal is the top of the mountain. Those on a direct path are told, or realize, they are in a real sense already at the top of the mountain, and just need to clean up the rough and dirty path of the residues of unawareness in their bodymind. They have a glimpse, or intuitively know this. And they may very well need assistance keeping on the path so they don’t stray off into side roads of feeling, thinking and acting like they are human beings.
On the progressive path, there has not been a glimpse of the fact that they are already at the top, but believe the only way is to climb the slow winding road of cleaning up the rough and dirty residues of unawareness in their bodymind to get to a state (such as “enlightenment”) and realize their true nature. Those on the progressive path do not realize that human beings do not become enlightened, and it’s not about states, but the donkey with a carrot dangled in front of him may still by causeless grace be opened to see what they are, and be a nice clean donkey in the bargain.
So the direct path folks see (in a timeless instant) the optical illusion of being separate for what it is, an illusion. The progressive folks are still taking the illusion seriously and are diligently working on it.
From the outside it looks like they are both doing the same thing: climbing up a road and clearing the way – but from the inside they are looking through different ends of the telescope.
Seekers are not necessarily changed by telling them this – in other words it’s not a tool so much as a description, a road marker. If you tell a student who is on a progressive path and religiously attached to it, it probably won’t change them but rather be absorbed into their belief system. It’s a matter of experience and grace, not a ladder.
Every metaphor has its limits of course. If you ask “who is on the direct path ?” it all becomes ambiguous, paradoxical.
Regarding: “…references teachings and teachers”
Whoever resonates with you, sparks your enthusiasm, is the best teacher of the moment. There is nothing wrong in any path, as they all play a part in the cosmic game of unfolding, ultimately.
I liked the following beacons of Truth, but your mileage may vary. Best to find a living one, otherwise it’s just intellectual and may merely feed the ego rather than dissolving it.
Sydney Banks (early tapes, pre-3P)
Atmananda Krishna Menon
Bernardo Kastrup (for the scientifically-minded)
When a friend gets groomed and messed about with by Ian Watson a 3p therapist you hAve to question its professionalism, no one I know has been taught about professional boundaries etc within practice and yet they say it’s okay to teach as soon as you’ve realised something for yourself which is hugely irresponsible and guess what anyone you complain to doesn’t want to do anything about it- needs really looking into and being made to comply to ethics etc in order to make safe for people.
Hi Jess – I am not familiar with the phrase “gets groomed and messed about with”. Perhaps it is a Britishism. Can you explain what you mean please – is it sexual harassment, intimidation or domination… ?
Hi Eric, I just found this article. I have been aware of the 3P’s since Michael Neill, release his “Inside Revolution”. After reading that book, I sat for a while and could only ask “so what”? I didn’t know if I was to do something? Was I to pray? Was I to continue researching? I was lost and confused. I ordered everyone of Syd bank’s books and read them all, twice. I enjoyed most of them and found them relaxing and a refreshing change from my usual reading. I’m still lost, when it comes to the 3P’s. I have seen dozens of online courses promising to educate me on the 3P’s and how to get “results”, “create the impossible”, effortlessly get anything I want. I have a bookshelf loaded with the more popular books about the 3P’s. I have read them all. I must be a real thick-head because I just don’t get it. I finally came to a conclusion the the 3P’s were nothing more than “The Secret”. They are a way to make money while selling nothing and requiring that you travel to get trained on how to do it.
You mentioned Lester Levenson. I have studied the Sedona Method and the late Larry Crane’s teachings on releasing. The book “Happiness is Free” recently released by Hale Dwoskin(2020) was helpful to me on my journey.
As far as the 3P’s, I had an enjoyable time reading Syd’s books and watching a variety of 3P teachers on YouTube and I learned that I am too dense to grasp the value and purpose of the 3P’s. Maybe if I had shelled out lots of money, time and travel to the available training, I might be able to say I get it, it works, look at these results? Probably not.
Thank you for your articles. Peace!
I very much appreciate what you have put forth here – very, very much.
As someone who came across the Principles in the early 90’s (they were alternately “Psychology of Mind” or “Health Realization” back then) who is also possessed of a lively intelligence, who also has sought out and studied with basically everyone in The who’s who of the 3P community (Robert Kaiden was an original mentor) I wish I had a quarter for every time I was vilified for asking a tough question. I would inevitably be presented with that misty, far-away look – the “if-only-you-could-see-what-I-see-it’s-the-feeling-dummy” default. And always I wanted to counter with “Yeah, this feeling feels like a snow-job, to be blunt” but then I never could, because, unlike them, I never met Syd, so what do I know?
A few months ago I really had the last straw, or perhaps the coup de grace, delivered by another original friend-of-Syd mentor, who publicly shamed me, repeatedly yelling “Molly, just let go!” with all the heat of her thirty years of frustration with me. It worked. I let go. Of her, of the Principles, the whole scene I was ready to flush down the toilet. Just after, I spoke with someone who witnessed the incident, who also got exasperated with me, saying “Oh, I can see there’s no point talking with you” I started to cry, saying from my very depths, “I’m not trying to be clever – these are real, legitimate questions I’m asking here!”
The antidote soon arrived in the form of an advanced retreat with Hale Dwoskin. I had also given up on the Sedona Method, calling it “contrived” even though I always felt strong kinship with Lester (we share a birthday – tomorrow actually) But there I was, signing up, seeing that Hale had dispensed with the Method in favor of clear seeing. This was the direct path, plain and simple – so refreshing! No more beating my head against the wall, no more “poster child for not-getting-the-Principles”.
Hi Molly – Thanks for the note. And I agree, “these are real, legitimate questions.” A good, or the right teacher, will be able to answer them for you, and not just avoid them and appeal to feelings or the Principles (running behind a fog, or fascism, dogmatically). A sharp mind demands sharp answers. There is nothing wrong with the intellect. It’s all part of this beautiful creation, and very useful (unless improperly used). It’s also enjoyable to use the mind. Can that be faulted?!
I know of Hale Dwoskin, but not anything about what he’s doing these days. I used to listen to Lester but without much interest or use for a method derived from his teachings. When I did try a method, it didn’t work or stick. However, whatever lights your lamp is good.
I sometimes hang out with and listen to a friend, Laura Lucille, who was a long time student of Lester (from something like age 17 until he died I think). While she is not one to get into intellectual or conceptual issues (there are other good teachers for that), she is *very* direct and refreshing, and has no Principles or method. Although at times she can seem a little too harsh or direct – tough love, haha – there’s no doubt in her openness and freedom. Overall it is a very fun and en-lighten-ing experience…it lightens the load – as it should. :))