Nonduality and the Three Principles Psychology as Teaching Models

An acquaintance from an online forum sent a message to me recently, with a good question about Sydney Banks, the enlightened man who inspired what became the Three Principles Psychology movement, and it’s relation to nonduality teaching (I’d sent him some articles about nonduality student’s experiences):

“Had a good read – very interesting docs . I have been to a Rupert Spira talk. Do you think that if Syd was alive today he would be like Rupert? Rupert doesn’t do coaching or training but my gut feel is non-duality is what Syd was talking about and Roger Mills and George Pransky turned it into a therapy? What do you think?”

That’s an interesting question. Thank you. This is a big topic (one I’ve written many notes on about before but not published), but these questions help to serve as a focus. Here is my (provisional) answer:

Mystics like Sydney are pointing to the same reality as teachers of the nondual understanding like Rupert (Rupert’s teacher was Francis Lucille, who was also my primary recent teacher).

Would Sydney have liked Rupert? Well, Sydney liked everybody. 😉 I’m sure he would have “approved” of what Rupert is teaching in general but I have no idea what he would have said. He was known to suddenly get all up in arms as it were, and tell practitioner that they didn’t understand the Three Principles. George Pransky at one point threw out all his old books and/or tapes after one such incident – because they were too much about the details of thought rather than the universal Sydney was wanting to point the world to – in order to start over with a simpler and purer understanding. In another incident, The Psychology of Mind Centre in Australia (based on an earlier form of the understanding called Psychology of Mind), which during the 1990’s ran seminars for business leaders, did coaching, put out a newsletter, and distributed Syd’s and other’s tapes, was all but shut down after Sydney proclaimed it was not authorized or legit somehow (again, I’m hazy on the exact details of history). Sydney would remind them that it’s spiritual, formless, and they are in their heads or caught in form…

In any case, there are no authorities — Sydney would be the first to say that – and to not listen to him (he did say that) and that it’s not in the words (he said that too). He also said “don’t quote anybody”. 🙂

All that being said, the nondual understanding, or Advaita Vedanta in the classical Indian tradition, is what you could call an advanced teaching. It’s for people that have already been through quite a lot (such as meditation or other practices, or life experiences and insights or “glimpses” and “openings” that have raised their level of consciousness, or surrendering much of their ego from suffering or through grace, etc.). They are ready for it, are ripe. In other words that have a certain spiritual maturity. It’s audience is very very small worldwide. Unfortunately there are a lot of “Neo-Advaita” teachers that don’t understand it as deeply as they should, and a shallow version gets taught, and it can be abused behaviorally, or just understood intellectually. The truth is, it’s not an easy road.

Nonduality is not a thing or topic but the very essence of, or pointing to the fundamental truth of, the spiritual traditions. As such it doesn’t have any trappings of techniques or models. But that essence-hood can make it very hard to understand. In addition there is the phenomenon of you get a lot of seekers gunning for enlightenment, an attitude which is goal-oriented and full of expectation (common in an ego, achievement and competition-oriented culture), which ironically keeps them from their goal. Advaita sprang up as a teaching, in a culture where non-worldliness was much more acceptable than in the West. One could experience extreme bliss, go sit under a tree, and folks would put garlands of flowers around your neck and feed you. Here you would be put in an asylum (that’s a joke, but there’s a grain of truth to it). We want something more “embodied” that we can live and still run in the world. On the teacher side of the equation, you have those becoming gurus where an ego is still involved, and there are abuses (of power: for money, sex, trappings of fame, etc). So you see the whole guru game, and the drawbacks of authority and organizations.

If it’s truly spiritual, it’s about Freedom. It is freedom, absolutely. There are no rules. You are your own guru, your own teacher. There is in truth only One teacher: Universal Intelligence. This may come in the form of life experiences, teachers, a guru, parents, lovers, kids, dogs, birds, flowers… a sudden insight from out of the blue. A glimpse of truth.

Nonduality in these paths (and I’m no authority on paths – I stumbled into it without much formal teaching or reading, because I was ready apparently) is approached by what’s called the “Direct Path” as contrasted with the “Progressive Path”.

The progressive path is the use of practices and behaviors to purify oneself over time – essentially rid the mind and body of the accumulations of past ignorance, to put it bluntly – until one is ready to take the final leap and see ultimate truth, the absolute, become one with the One, drop the self, die to the world, however you want to put it.

By way of contrast, the Direct Path says you are already there Now if you only knew it, or rather, realized it, so look at what’s in the way, which is all illusory. There is no path. It’s the pathless path. This is why Zen and Taoism (Lao Tzu’s teachings) are so similar. It tries to cut across time directly to Truth with a capital “t”, which is all-pervasive, eternal and unnamable. But the illusion of being a human and a mind and body and a doer are very stubborn.

In some ways what Sydney was saying in his early tapes reminds me of the Direct Path, in the way he talked about “find it Now” and cutting across time, and that you are what you are looking for, etc. But it came through his limited exposure to spiritual teachings and language. He came to Self-realization by grace (prodded by suffering) and not through some path, from what I know.

The charm of the Three Principles as I see it at moment, is it’s accessibility, it lack of trappings of technique, it’s secularism (it’s not an offshoot of an Indian religion for example), lack of history and therefore freedom from fancy language (Like Sanskrit which gets pulled out, such as to label a meditation and dialogue a “satsang”, which can sound pretentious to some). It is a teaching model associated with psychology, and you can follow it’s history. Syd’s insights “came through” psychology by fate or an accident of history, depending on your outlook. I don’t think anything’s an accident, so apparently it was a good vehicle. You can read about some of that history in Jack Pransky’s book (Paradigm Shift: A History of The Three Principles), or you can look at earlier versions of the model in books like “Sanity, Insanity, and Common Sense” (Rick Suarez, Roger C. Mills, Darlene Stewart, 1987) or Richard Carlson’s many offerings.

In summary, if you want to make money with with a teaching, or be a “coach”, the Three Principles may be more suited to it and more attuned to our psychologically-oriented culture and a larger audience. The spiritual roots are hidden under a secular guise of what looks like technique and psychology and is even sometimes peddled as “scientific”, which it is only in a vague metaphorical sense. The Three Principles appeals to the huge self-help culture of America and elsewhere. But the spiritual foundations are what give it power over psychology, since it is pointing beyond the mind and the personal self, where traditional psychology gets stuck.

Personally, after 20 years studying and using the Three Principles approach or understanding, I felt it was limiting, without embedding it in a larger understanding. To try and untangle some of my issue with it, here they are:

1. It was too complex: there is really only one “principle” in reality, the unnamable Divine one. The notion of a principle tends to obfuscate, to me, rather than clarify. As a description and not prescriptive model, principles serve as metaphors, but are too easily construed as concepts or even quasi-techniques, and often taken aboard as beliefs. Indeed, beliefs are precisely what one wants to drop on the spiritual unfolding of knowing ones true nature. Admittedly replacing one set of beliefs with another can be a natural pitfall of all teachings and paths, but “principles”, though fairly neutral sounding, is a double-edged sword, because they sound quite solid, like things, and are even misconstrued as being “laws”. They are often compared with the law of gravity, which is yet another misunderstanding of science, using a metaphor of “law” in a crude and opaque way. Spiritual reality is beyond all rules, laws (scientific or otherwise) or intellectual understandings.
2. It was potentially confused in some aspects of its basic ontology. For example, is Thought, one of the Three universal spiritual principles, universal or personal? The personal mind, where thoughts arise, is only universal in a generic sense that body and everything is part of the universe, whereas Universal Consciousness and Universal Mind are truly universal, timeless and impersonal spiritual principles. (The Three Principles also branched off into the “Single Paradigm” teachers, focusing on Thought as the key to human experience, which further confused the scene).
3. It had become too much entangled in marketing to see the forest for the trees. By the time I saw postings on a Three Principles FaceBook forum touting coaching services aimed at helping someone write a Three Principles book, no matter their level of understanding, and at the same time no substantive discussion or dialogue on the forum other than advertising yet more seminars, retreats, online courses, books, etc., I abandoned it as a source to deepen understanding of truth for myself.

4. Inaccurate understanding: as I mentioned above, it is often touted as a “scientific” understanding. This is a misunderstanding of science at a deep level. Western science is about phenomena: that which is observable by the senses or instruments. Spiritual understanding is a subjective, experiential knowing of the essence of reality, invisible to the senses and outside the domain of science. For example, what does science have to say about the experience of beauty, love, or absolute truth? You might find neuroscientists claiming they find such things in the brain, but these are hypothesis or stories made up starting from an unproven and ultimately unprovable assumption (namely that consciousness is brain-based), not known facts. These assumptions are pasted onto observations such as CAT scans, which merely proves some vague correlations and not causality. Spiritual realization is knowing there is no such thing as causality anyway: causality depends on time and space, which are created by universal mind (as Sydney pointed out)! Science is designed to examine that which can be seen inter-subjectively and tested and repeated. It also cannot approach one-off phenomena like miracles and moments of grace. It can’t go there. Period. It’s not the instrument. Science and its handmaiden of technology are about the world — they are very powerful in that domain — not about ultimate questions. In short calling the Three Principles “scientific” is a silly bit of marketing hyperbole, or simply ignorance.

A further mistake is equating intellect with ego (ego being the false self, or a thought-created self-image that is falsely identified with as the real self). While the intellect, can certainly be used to defend ignorance (ignorance in the spiritual sense), and feed an ego, particularly if it’s an ego that prides oneself on intellectual knowledge (which is limited and relative, unlike ultimate knowing), the intellect can nonetheless not only be a tool in one’s liberation — using the mind to undo the mind’s false notions — and post-liberation, an entertaining way to celebrate life, in playing with ideas. The intellect is limited to conceptual thinking and tends to think in terms of cause and effect, and is a useful tool in practical matters, but can’t see beyond its own limited way of understanding (indeed permanent happiness has to by nature be acausal or causeless, that is, beyond the world of cause and effect). However it can be used in service to spirit, life, God, however you want to say it, both during the process of transcending the ego and once transcendence is more established. In short, intellectual activity can be either a block or a friend on the spiritual path. Like any tool, it depends on how it is used.

5. I experienced quite lot of an anti-intellectual attitude, almost fascist in character. Whereas intellectual enquiry is encouraged in Advaita/Nonduality (when taught properly) as a way to cut away false beliefs (such as in a separate self), in the Three Principles world it’s frequently shot down, discouraged or dismissed, often followed with the quasi-compassionate backup notion that “it’s about the feeling”. The psychological truth this reflects however is that feelings can be useful barometers of the quality of one’s thinking, but this understanding got misused socially. This anti-intellect attitude becomes a cop-out with respect to answering good but difficult questions, in my view, and can often be a reflection of a dogmatic and defensive outlook. The intellect is an important if not essential tool for the truth seeker. This of course depends on your inclination: some characters are more heart-oriented, thus by way of comparison the Hindus have the Bhakti (unconditional devotion, which is heart-centered) vs. the Jnani (ultimate Knowledge) paths in Indian yoga, among others. They both lead Home. Are the Three Principles a heart-centered teaching? It may be in essence, given Sydney’s inclinations, but it clearly isn’t only devotional in terms of a teaching model.

One must understand two circumstances that factor into the context of what Sydney Banks was trying to do and what he was up against. It can be hazardous duty to try and communicate what were essentially mystical revelations to a broad audience, given how they will inevitably be misinterpreted “when they fall on the ears of the listening mind” as he once said. In addition, he didn’t have an educational background to articulate it in a refined way or a manner that addressed the potential intellectual questions. In fact he was even promoted as being a welder with “only an 9th grade education“, perhaps suggesting an innocence or trustable lack of sophistication. One article in a small Vancouver newspaper from 2009 quotes him as expressing this simplicity of background as the fact that he claims “He wrote more books than he read”.

The philosopher and mystic Franklin Merrell Wolff, Harvard-trained in philosophy (and formerly a mathematics teacher at Stanford before he chose to pursue enlightenment), had some pertinent observations about mystics with limited tools of expression:

“He may even Know, and know that he Knows, without being able to concieve of what he inwardly Knows—for conception in these matters requires the skill of a superior intellect, and it appears that skill of this sort is by no means a condition of introceptive [a third mode of knowing, beyond sense perception and cognition] awakening. Hence we have many inadequate interpretive statements from those who have attained some degree of this awakening.” (Wolff, p. 121).

I also started to see what were essentially religious attitudes in online meetings, promoting and defending the Three Principles or Sydney in an agitated way. Getting religious about it misses the point, and would have upset Sydney no doubt! Getting religious reflects ego and insecurity, is a narrow and rigid way of seeing it, mistaking the form for what the forms are pointing to, which is absolutely universal. It’s just a path, a tool, a model. It’s ultimately a metaphor. It’s not about a person (Syd) nor The Only Way nor We Are Better Than Thou. I realize this does not condemn the whole field or it’s practitioners, it was just my particular experience. The Three Principles model has helped a tremendous number of people, in very diverse fields. It’s an applied or embodied understanding, whereas Advaita and Nonduality can seem extremely esoteric and impractical (it in fact is very practical, especially as taught by my Western teachers – I didn’t really get a foothold in success, peace and happiness until I got involved – but, as I said, it’s definitely not for everyone).

Now that I’ve gotten some of the problems I’ve perceived with the Three Principles as it has played out in the world, off my chest, I’m going to outline what I think the strengths, utility and beauty of this understanding is.

It’s a revolution in comparison to traditional psychology and psychotherapy. It’s a 180 degree turnaround from the medical model and the attempts to be scientific that got particular emphasis from Freud. Hundreds of schools of therapy exist, and are based on the idea of problem solving, looking at the past, analyzing family dynamics, building coping skills, adding techniques and ideas, labels and diagnoses, finding patterns, trying to change behavior, reactions, or manipulating the contents of thinking, or social or material circumstances… all based on the assumptions that human beings are separate, material entities, at bottom biological machines, thinking machines, like fancy social robots that evolve through time and and learn and must make an effort to be better selves. They also all have in common the fact that they are based on theories: concepts or opinions by theorists and practitioners, the totality of which do not form one coherent, unified understanding of psychology.

Further there is an assumption that is one feels bad, or is suffering, or very disturbed then there is something fundamentally wrong, that one is damaged in one’s substance or at minimum the programming of the machine, and either you are doomed to a life of patching up that damage (with drugs and techniques and circumstances, etc.) or to make efforts to change the programming.
Now while it is true at one level that looking at us as mind-bodies in world, that we are in a sense products of genetics and past “conditioning”. However, what is doing the looking? Science has not been able to answer that and usually will not even look at or admit to the problem. Consciousness is at best, the “hard problem” in philosophy (Chalmers), or at worst, completely dismissed as non-existent (Churchland).

In this atmosphere it is understandable that some practitioners (in the 1990s I believe), such as Roger Mills, labeled this understanding and organizations to teach it, “Health Realization”. They recognized that in reality, we are ultimately healthy and happy behind the screen of Thought, if we could only realize that truth. Nothing can damage or hurt us. What we are is imperturbable at bottom. This has been an outstanding realization for countless people touched by this understanding. They have found greater happiness, health, creativity, resourcefulness, resilience, and common sense, to lead practical, engaged lives.

While there are some changes happening at the fringes and the leading edge of psychology that recognize there is some reality and value to spirituality informing psychology, most psychology sees spirituality as akin to religion, or as simply beliefs. So in a almost dismissive or patronizing sense, the person is seen as taking on notions that are comforting or valuable but only in a personal and arbitrary way. The beliefs don’t reflect reality and don’t reflect truth, nor are spiritual experiences seen as ultimately much more than hallucinations, though they are sometimes admitted to be valuable, mysterious and even life-changing (such as in psychedelic therapy). There is still the assumption it’s brain-based.

In this context, it can be experienced as a complete revolution to point out the fact that reality, as experienced, is an “inside-out job”, as a function of the power of Thought to create the appearance of form, and of Consciousness to make it a real experience, and Mind as a unlimited intelligence, and these universal powers, which are really One, to be ultimately universal spiritual realities. That’s a pretty mind-blowing revelation, and counter to almost everything in the therapy and psychology culture.

In a culture awash in materialism and scientism (the religious assumption that science and objectivism and reason gives us a complete picture of reality) the pursuit of external solutions to suffering and dis-ease – countless schools of therapy, techniques and motivational models, drugs and on and on – the Three Principles offer a simple model for looking within. In the simplicity is the power and sometimes a difficulty for the human mind, given how the mind wants something to grab onto, process, analyze, study, evaluate, compare… the process has to be more one of letting go of assumptions and beliefs than an additive one of taking on more learning of pieces of knowledge. In this respect it is very much like traditional wisdom teachings, which point to one’s ultimate nature and the futility of of gaining ultimate wisdom from the knowledge the world outside programs us with. All these schools tell us to look within for the answer. It can be difficult for Westerners to even make sense of that phrase “look within” for the answer, especially when it can threaten their cherished notions of reality.

Three Principles teachings also wisely point out that it’s the “grounding” or wisdom and understanding of the teacher – who they are, their love and understanding — that makes healer and a helper or guide, and not any particular knowledge. Their “presence”, their happiness and peace, in itself says more than a million words could. This is in parallel with other wisdom schools, which recognize that only someone who has been fundamentally changed and realized truth can actually transmit something, and that what they transmist is often or basically wordless, akin to an “energy” or field of knowing awareness. A higher energy if you will (though that way of saying it starts to sound too New Age to me!)

Another charm of the Three Principles is their accessibility and approachability. Although the flip side of this is what you could call a diluted wisdom and a commercialization (one friend, a former British Jungian therapist and Buddhist practitioner, and intellectually brilliant, laughed it off, calling it “Bastardized and Americanized Buddhism”), it at least does not appeal to a spiritual ego as much as esoteric teachings from foreign lands with complex histories and terminology. It’s more easily swallowed, and can be like a spiritual tricycle ones rides until you’re ready for deeper layers, deeper unfolding of consciousness. It allows wisdom to get a foothold via a psychological vehicle. Furthermore, there are very few bells and whistles to the Three Principles. Some of the original teachers, those who knew Sydney Banks, were influenced by his repeated urgings to keep it simple and that it’s spiritual.

As I see it, since this wisdom came thorough psychology and psychologists out into the world, there was tendency to embellish out and make it into a psychology. For example there used to be four principles in the early days (useful and revolutionary as they were) that were formulated by Rick Suarez with help from Darlene Stewart and Roger Mills (Sanity, Insanity and Common Sense, 1987), and picked up by the popularizer Richard Carlson. To their credit they realized psychology should be based on principles rather than concepts. The ones they formulated were the basis of what was called “Psychology if Mind”:

Thought Systems
Separate Realities
Thought Recognition
Levels of Consciousness

These four principles were later refined or simplified into three (by who I’m not sure, but Sydney was no doubt involved): Universal Thought, Universal Consciousness, and Universal Mind. From then on, Sydney talked of the Three Principles endlessly.

In the final analysis, none of this really matters. Why? Because, what’s the goal: It’s happiness. If you were to be asked to pick between enlightenment and happiness, which would you choose? It’s permanent happiness we want, or happiness that’s realized enough of the time such that you don’t care if you’re “enlightened” or understanding some ultimate truth. It doesn’t matter where we that happiness is coming from, what reason or unreason seems to cause it. What we seek is causeless happiness, because it’s the only kind that can be counted on, ultimately. Happiness, peace – that is, being worry-free – is the goal, and this can only happen in the present Now, because your are established in some eternal presence that goes beyond your little self. That’s it. What more could you want? If something still feels missing, you are still seeking, and that’s OK. And even when you have realized quite a lot of happiness and truth and peace and love, it’s still an endless journey and infinite depths are possible (“There is no end to Consciousness” Sydney said once in a talk).

Follow your enthusiasm, your love, not what you “should” do. If it’s boring, do something else. If you are happy doing something (or in not doing something), that’s your path. But if you are doing it *only* for the money, watch out, misery-lane lies ahead (unless making money is what makes you truly happy – there *are* people that love business, working and money-making more than anything). If you are doing it for some other object in the future in order to get something or be something that you think will bring you happiness, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness, investing your happiness in something outside yourSelf. It has to come from the heart. It’s about giving, not a getting. And, not everyone is born a teacher or coach, or even a truth lover. Some beings express themselves as writers, or artists, or car mechanics, or gardeners, or don’t talk about Truth at all, they just live it – there are no bounds, no set way to embody happiness, truth, peace, love – it’s totally free.

Be Happy, Be Free

References

“Sydney Banks – wrote more books than he read”, by Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun, August 3, 2009.

Transformations in Consciousness: the metaphysics and epistemology, by Franklin Merrell-Wolff. State University of New York Press, 1995.

Depression And Anxiety Are Springboards To Happiness

April 2016

Recently, at a question-and answer session with a spiritual teacher, I heard them say that pain or difficult states of mind were “springboards”. That was an intriguing statement.

I could say depression and anxiety were springboards to spirituality and psychology for me around 28 years ago, and this understanding we now call the Three Principles Psychology about 18 years ago, but honestly when you look at depression (or any feeling) it is a label we place on a range of experiences. In fact it was a label I had to learn. I didn’t know I was “depressed” or give much thought to that word until a therapist told me I was.

It had started off and on roughly 5 years earlier while I was in a difficult relationship with a restricted, conditional love feeling, then a breakup triggered a break with my own self-feelings of care and natural self-love.

Then it got worse and I just felt terribly hollow or empty and lacking in something that felt essential: I was unable to focus, and everything feeling difficult, like moving through molasses. There was an energy drain, like something was terribly *wrong* with *me* but I couldn’t put my finger on it, or settle my thoughts, which were in a thousands states of argument and conflict with themselves. (Looking at it now, you could call this “resistance”). I felt a deep unnamable dread, as well as a speediness that went around and around in circles, a form of what I learned was called “stress”; I was disconnected, fragmented, alienated such that when I was asked how I felt I could not answer. I didn’t know how I felt. Feeling was alien territory for me.

The ego dynamic — the false, thought-created self, the constriction of energy — both drives a draw towards reality (spiritual truth) and in a depressive response, a pulling away from reality, a withdrawal from.

A side story is that I had a spiritual opening (in the form of an NDE — Near Death Experience) at, you could say, too early an age — 21 — to know what to do with. I had no context of understanding, or a way to integrate it. For a little while I was unusually peaceful, loving and relaxed. But then the world began to weigh heavily on me. I had to form a structure around this sensitivity you could say, because there were still the inherited patterns from the past, in the body and subconscious. This manifested in the form of seeking experiences, using drugs, getting into intense sexual relationships, getting depressed, philosophically obsessed (so much so that I got a degree in it), and all the overly critical and analytical argumentative habits that kept the game going.

I lived in my head, trying to solve my problems, with a critical and analytical mind. This was most intense in the college years. I started seeing a therapist after failing some classes towards the end of my time there, but didn’t feel like she helped much. However I did have a huge moment of philosophical illumination (I was a philosophy major obsessed with what the nature of intelligence and the mind) in the experience of seeing the limitations of the thinking I’d been involved in — what all these professors were doing with their theories and arguments — that it was all made-up models of the mind, made out of the same kind of mental mode that was trying to solve the problem! I had a huge intuition. My big intuition was that intuition was the way to go, not their problem-solving cognitive process, as if we were in essence just computers, doing processes in time. Intuition and vision were the central faculties we have, I saw. But that just did not fit into the academic world of philosophy. Long story short, I left that field, at least as far as formal academic study.

A year or so after that, while taking a painting class with a teacher into Zen and yoga, I start exploring, studying, and practicing Zen and had a tremendous opening of awareness and burst of creativity. But I would still go through moods and had great trouble with relationships and work and in other areas of life. It was turbulent. I got into a long-term “serious” relationship with someone who despite their wonderfulness, had some underlying troubles of their own, and a work situation at an unhealthy corporation (not unusual!). I was not a happy camper. At least for any significant period of time. Oh sure, I found pleasure in activities that were creative and free, like gardening and painting and hiking in nature or laughing with friends, or helping nice clients in my consulting business. But they were very ephemeral. Something was out of synch with the inside and the outside. This creative force, the light of intuitive knowing that comes and goes, was not the answer, in itself.

Cut to 9 years later when I had a dream that set me on a course that changed everything. The dream was about a natural, internal, unshakable peace that was so obvious and central to what we are that it could not be explained. Shortly after that I saw a book in a New Thought church bookstore – my eyes went right to it and I knew the instant I saw it, it was what about I’d experienced — there was a quiet recognition. The book was “You Can Be Happy No Matter What” by Richard Carlson. It was pointing to the basic fact of there being something inside that was always there that was “healthy”, as well as the thought-feeling connection (which I’d seen in an instant huge “Aha!” from cognitive therapy, but could not hold onto with all it’s exercises and efforts).

But Richard Carlson was not a satisfying read to me — it seemed watered down somehow, and I had to find out where these ideas came from. I found a footnote in the back to a book by Roger Mills, Darlene Stewart, et al, of an article entitled “Sanity Insanity and Common Sense”. I managed to track it down with some effort, via a graduate student friend. That led me to the watershed read of “Realizing Mental Health” by Roger Mills, the tapes about depression and the busy mind by George Pransky, then going to the Psychology of Mind Conference in Santa Cruz in 1997, meeting Ami Chen Mills and George Pransky, Annika Hurwitt and others. The rest is on-going history.

I can’t seem to get away from it, happily. It’s gone so far as, in the last couple months, to have dived head first (heart first?) into non-dualism study and I’ve signed up for a retreat with Francis Lucille. He’s not a Three Principles teacher but it’s all the same, isn’t it…

December 2017

As I see things now, the central problem is the ego. Having said that, I have to untangle the mess, because there isn’t really a thing called the ego, and there isn’t really a problem!

The ego is merely a believing, a movement of thought, and a contour of energy. The activity of believing is one of holding something to be true that you don’t have any evidence for. In the case of an ego, a self is learned when one is young. You learn that you are a body, a name, and various attributes that go with that identity: preferences, activities, family, friends, maybe religion, and ways of thinking, talents and work and career and on an on. At some point you start to defend that “I thought”. And you repeatedly talk to others and oneself with the “I” pronoun, solidifying it’s seeming reality. After all, your perspective of the senses seems to be a body, and you are told there’s something called a “mind” that lives inside something called a “head” that lives atop this thing called a body. And we are told it’s a universe of things, and you are living in this universe but all these things are material and separate from each other and you are separate from other things too.

So this whole set of positionalities and opinions grows up. It wants thing, it gets things, it doesn’t get things, it fears things, it desires things. But it’s in a problematic position because as a seeming thing that’s separate from other things, and underneath wanting to overcome this sense of separation and feel love, be it in relationship, or in activities or substances, or to “be somebody” it can never overcome the underlying presumption of who it is. …So the seeking goes on and on, and sometimes it all seems to go around and around in circles. Moments of clarity then getting lost again. It takes an effort to be a somebody, because it’s not an actual reality, and must be maintained by the activity of thinking. But it is a very deep habit.

Sometimes people – these apparent entities associated with bodies – have to go through tremendous suffering to see through and let go of the illusion of being somebody. We’ve heard the stories of drug addicts and convicts in prison having awakenings. Or some folks have them spontaneously, out of the blue seemingly, and become sages. Other work very hard over decades and slowly or suddenly see what they really are. There is no one path to Truth.

In any case, what I have found is a background of happiness and peace more and more pervades, such that the moods and disturbances seem more like what they really are: waves on the surface of an ocean, and ocean that is always there. The body may go through things: after drinking a lot of wine, the brain and body are more tired and not quite as sharp as tools or instruments. But that’s all they are: instruments. For service or celebration. They are not ultimately who I am. Who I am cannot be described or named (as Lao Tzu so widely pointed out thousands of years ago — “the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao”) but you can look at what you are not, by looking closely and clearly at what you *think* you are, what you assume you are, what you believe your self to be, and over time, it will dissolve, crumble, be seen for the mythical beast it was.

Then the fear, the negativity that was learned, the habits and tendencies associated with this false belief, this notion of a self that doesn’t in reality exist, will start to be replaced. What will it be replaced by? Happiness and peace: Love, Truth and Beauty to put it more classically, as the perfume of the essence. But the essence in itself is hard to point to, especially when our identity and culture is based on a view of reality that is one of phenomena that can be described by a science with limited scope.

A useful line of enquiry can be observing the movements of “energy” in the body — which is really just sensations experienced by awareness – and see that what we have labeled “anxiety” or depression” are just various kinds of tensions and movements in the body. Nothing more nothing less. Except that thoughts may be triggered, and thinking may trigger them, in a circle of reaction. But both of those can be observed, and in the observing, their power is diminished. We no longer identify with them. They are not given energy. The come and go.

Mystics point to something that cannot be grasped by the mind. However, it can be experienced. It that sense it is “subjective”. But not subjective in the pejorative sense of something that is arbitrary and made up in the mind, as if it were a hallucination, but rather one finds it’s actually quite logical that there is something that must always exist, and that we are conscious right now (conscious of reading these words). In that experience is a starting point to enquire as to what is real: this temporary phenomenon witnessed everywhere: body, world, mind, or the possibility of something universal, ever-present, ever knowing, without boundaries. Be open to the possibility.

You start to see that there are no problems in reality. Why? “Problem” is an interpretation. Good and bad are products of the mind of a judging entity who evaluates. Because what you took for “reality” was not reality. And what can be called reality can always be counted on. It’s a change in the coin of the realm as it were. Stop believing and start knowing: what you are, what this world is, what your mind and body are. Put the relative in its place and the absolute in proper relation. “Render unto Caesar what is due Caesar and to god what is due god”. See where your values lie and priorities lie in your life.

This takes some courage and strength. The world does not embody this understanding at this point in history to any great degree, and we are awash in “noise” to the contrary: messages about the body, the self, about acquiring objects, about who we are and should be, about what to want, what you should do… what happiness supposedly is and where it’s found. There is much suffering and turmoil, and you must transcend that. Only you can find what you re looking for. But you can find guides and pointers along the way.

Start to live with this knowledge you’ve gained by insight, such as *there are no others” in reality. And you will see how it plays out, proves itself. For example, real love doesn’t come and go — the invisible sense of connectedness you feel at moments, whispers of the timeless — but appearances and wanting come and go. The false will come and go and the true will be confirmed. Likewise, experience of great beauty: is that “out there” or “in here”, or somehow both and neither? And if something is really true, will it only be true only at some time and place, or eternally, in every Now? Ask yourself these questions.

Peace and Love my friends.

A Christmas Note from Laura Lucille

On Christmas day, in a spiritual psychology forum online, I wrote, regarding Sydney Banks, the enlightened man that started the movement way back in the 70’s:

“Did you know Sydney Banks used the words ‘Christ Consciousness’ in his early tapes?
This makes much more sense to me now. It’s the same consciousness we all are. Christ (not Jesus the man) realized that and so did Syd. Giving-ness and love are the same and in the spirit of this eternal one.
Having overcome the illusion of a world their cups runneth over with healing and joy.

Merry Christmas everybody!”

I also received a letter from my friend Laura Lucille, who is a spiritual teacher and has been very helpful in my journey:

Dear Friends,

Inviting you to read the following message from Lester Levenson on Christmas as it appears on the book Keys to Happiness. The truth being timeless. This message is just as appropriate now as it was when these words were spoken in the 1960’s in New York city.

“It is now the Christmas season; so let us direct our attention toward Christmas. Maybe I ought to allow you to lead me into what you would like to hear about Christmas–or should I just talk? All right.

Christ-mass, the day when the masses look toward Christ, when mass is held in reverence to Jesus. When I interpret the Bible, it’s the way I see it, not the way I’ve read it or someone else has said it’s so. Christmas is related to Christ. Christ is not the man Jesus. Christ is the title of Jesus who has attained the Christ Consciousness. And I think if you separate the two, Jesus and Christ, you will far better understand the meaning of His words and the meaning of the Bible. When He says, “I am the way,” He doesn’t mean Jesus, He means Christ. So, first I’d better explain what I mean by Christ and Jesus.

Jesus was a man who was born on this earth approximately 2,000 years ago, who, through righteousness, or right-useness, rightly used the world to attain the Christ Consciousness. In so doing, He showed the way to immortality that each and every one of us must take. We must die to death, i.e., eliminate from our consciousness all thoughts of death and hold in its place only eternality and immortality. In order to show us, He allowed Himself to be crucified so that He could prove immortality by resurrecting Himself. He was a way-shower and dedicated and gave His life only to show us the way.

Christ Consciousness is the consciousness that saves us from all this mess that we find ourselves in when we try to be worldly man. It is the attaining of the Christ Consciousness that saves us from all the horrors and miseries of the world. It is the Christ Consciousness that gives us liberation from all difficulty and leads us into our immortality. If we were to try to be Jesus, we would have all the trials and tribulations that He went through. However, when we become the Christ, by being Christ-like and thereby attaining the Christ Consciousness, we eliminate all and every misery and have nothing but infinite joy.

So, Christhood is a state that was attained by the man Jesus. He attained His Christhood before He was born, and He came back to show us the way by actual example. And if you will keep these two in their meaning as you read the Bible, I believe it will make much more sense. Christmas is known mostly by the spirit of givingness, of good will toward all men. Locked up in that word “givingness” is the key to all happiness. It’s in the spirit of givingness that we have and experience the greatest joy. If you’ll think back, you’ll see that when you were giving, you were most joyous.

“Love” and “giving” are two words that are synonymous. It’s in the spirit of givingness that the secret to joy lies. When we fully have that, we want to give everything that we have to everyone we meet, and we have infinite joy. It’s so important. It’s in the spirit of givingness, it’s not in the givingness of things, unfortunately, because Christmas is a great time of gift-giving. People are giving, giving, giving. But it’s not in the givingness–it’s in the spirit of givingness that the joy lies. The feeling of the spirit of givingness is felt more around Christmastime by more people than any other time of the year. It’s a wonderful thing.

We should make every day Christmas. When we get full realization, we do just that. There isn’t a moment in which we’re not wanting to give everything we know to everyone…”

Lester Levenson.

Much Christ-mass

🙏 Laura Lucille

Notes On Saving The World

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus (John 16:33)

If I see a worm on the sidewalk, I put him in the grass.
If I see a man passed out on the sidewalk I call for help. I do what I can, because I care, and then forget and enjoy the beautiful day, learning and creation.
If a friend calls me with a problem, I say what I can out of whatever love and wisdom I can find in my heart.
I don’t think about it or brag about what I did.
I was inspired to help a community garden because I loved it and I cared; I was made Chair and I helped and created things, working around the politics and egos.
I just did what needed to be done.
I got involved in a forum on the homeless because they needed some reason and intuition and I did some clear thinking for them, but without strife. Then I left the forum and never looked back.
I don’t get stimulated by the drama or politics or feed my ego. It happens and then it’s done.
I am not trying to save the world.
The world is constant change, contrasts. Ups and downs. Good and bad. Duality. That’s what makes it a world.
And when you look you can find all the drama, conflict, suffering of all kinds, lack, tribulation and gnashing of teeth, turmoil, strife and distress, and as much wailing and lamenting about it that you could possibly want. If that’s what you want…

Reality is Not Lacking

It has been said that whatever you pay attention to grows. Whatever you think is important, becomes important to you. So ask, what is your god, is your god the world, your body and your mind, or is your god the real god beyond conception: consciousness, your true nature, the inner “god” of happiness and peace?
Water seeks it’s own level, and does what it was meant to do in this world.
If you think you know better than the universe, be careful. Those that try to save the whole world like the Hitlers and the Pol Pots are surrounded by change and suffering.
If you really want to change the world then become happy and free and you will be the greatest service.
You are connected, are everything, like a ray in a hologram. This is your world and your universe. It flows outward, like ripples in a pond.
Be Self serving, not self serving. The former is the way to glory, the second the way to misery and destruction.
How do you do this? By knowing what you are. Stop believing your thinking and feeling.
Observe and find out what you are, not what you think you are.
Meanwhile, if you see some suffering you want to alleviate go for it. Live according to what you think is real. You don’t have any choice anyway. But you have a choice whether to react from programming, or to see and respond in the moment, from your best and highest notion of what’s universal and true for all. The first way is bondage, the second way is freedom.
You aren’t responsible for the universe; you are responsible for yourself *as* the universe.
Love the world as yourself.

Twenty-nine

“Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.”

– Lao Tzu, Verse 29, The Tao Te Ching

Notes On Personal and Impersonal Love

Love of a person is not love, it is a projection onto an appearance.

There is no person in reality – no person or persons – so love of a person is love of an illusion.

Yet behind that illusion is reality – the reality of the true Self. So the love is both real and unreal. If e are aware of this, here it is coming from, it can help keep us out of trouble.

Love of an illusion a projection and temporary. An illusion by nature is something that comes and goes and had no substantial reality.

If you have an image of a person in your mind, is that the person? The image is constantly shifting, fading in and out, morphing. When you see the person, they are always looking different, depending on endless factors. So both the appearance when you meet them and the appearance in your imagination are changing all the time.

How can you know them or know their true nature by this appearance?

If a human being were an object like other objects, treating them as such would be unproblematic. But we are of two natures: objective and non-objective. Likewise, one cannot treat or think of oneself as an object, for who or what is perceiving the object?

There is a sense in which life is both real and unreal. We must come to grip with this. It’s a mistake to see it as just one or the other. It would be delusional to say life is totally unreal. Obviously, we are having an experience. The experience is real. At least we know that for certain! Even if this were a dream, it is a real dream: there is a reality to even a dream, in that there is an experiencer experiencing it. There is a someone or something having the dream. There is a dreamer.

However we would not want to say the persons, places and objects of the dream are real. If someone in the dream gives us a diamond, and we place it in our pocket, we do not wake up with a diamond in our pocket, unless that diamond already happened to be there by coincidence.

Likewise, we meet a person, talk to them, encounter them, have an experience of them: it would not be entirely true to say they are a complete illusion. Nor would it be entirely true to say are absolutely real, when we have no idea what that means. Even if we were some super scientist with a mind like a god that could divine the state of every quantum wave in their body, and read their encephalogram, would that be their real nature: quantum states in a space? Or the sum of their conditioning and genetics playing out in the moment? Is that what’s “real”? Or is what’s real the sound of their voice, the appearance of their body and movement, gestures and the complete impressions and feeling you get? How much of that is your subjective projection and interpretation. How much is an idea you have of the person from previous encounters: in other words memories of opinions, thoughts, evaluations, concepts, summaries, judgements etc., *about* them. Is that them? Do you see where this line of inquiry is going? You have no objective basis of knowing someone.

And what is a person? Is it a body (there are bodies in morgues), a name, a profession, a place they live, where they have been or where they are going in time and space? A family (living or dead? how distant a relative?), a set of friends (current? what is a “friend”?), a set of posessions, constantly changing, a bank account and a paper record, a education and a set of clothes, a thousand other things… we could say it’s a sum of that, but if you put all that together there is still no living separate entity called a person, and no unhanging substantial reality. It is all concepts, without Life…

This is the outward form of applying the same process of investigating ourselves, and finding there is no unchanging thing, other than the experiencer – whatever that is – so we see that other’s nature must be the same. This opens the possibility of meeting in un-knowing.

Love for the other is love for the Self, in disguise. In other words, it’s hidden form of only one true love, which is Love itself, the un-manifested Being-ness of time, timeless…

Notes on Nonduality

One day, after a satsang, a friend asked me at lunch, “So what is nonduality?” The satsang — a meditation and dialogue — was with the (unorthodox) spiritual teacher Francis Lucille. I just gave a basic, dictionary definition. Later it occurred to me she might have been asking more; after all, it was her first time there, and she may not have been able to absorb much, given her stress level and the seeming complexity of the questions and answers.

I’d merely said, somewhat glibly, and not wanting to overthink it, that nonduality means “not two,” and that we normally see things as duality: up/down, right/wrong, good/bad. I said nonduality is pointing to the underlying reality that is Consciousness.

What follows is what I wish I’d said, and so I wrote this for her and for others who might appreciate it.

Nonduality is about recognizing who, or rather, what you are: not an object.

It’s about having the courage to stand alone, but knowing that in the aloneness is true unity with everything and everyone. There are no “others,” really. It’s having the courage to question, see through and drop the societal or personal beliefs and demands that we’ve taken on, and living according one’s inner truth, the quieter sense within.

It’s about seeing and feeling only what is actually present in the moment: bodily sensations, thoughts, images — and knowing that really, it’s all that is happening.

We become aware of what is not present — what is not now — such as when we project into the future or past mentally, or think and act from habit. We realize it’s not us, but rather the false self, the illusion.

It’s about accepting the illusion, that those thoughts and feelings are lies in a sense, and being OK with it.

It’s about recognizing perceived limits and realizing they are not real, but only projections and beliefs.

Ultimately, once “what is” is glimpsed, even human thought, activity and all the illusions are what Is. Life is both real and unreal.

It’s about happiness — it’s about recognizing more and more often, on this crazy path, that life is not serious. It’s an adventure. It’s to be celebrated.

It’s about spiritual maturity.

It’s about going directly to who and what we are: a self-aware, awake, real experiencer, rather than searching endlessly and indirectly through practices like meditation. It’s pointing to the pathless path.

It’s about that which is timeless and always present, but at times seems invisible: Love, Truth, Beauty, evidence of a deeper universal intelligence.

It’s about dying to the false and unreal, surrendering the superficial and realizing the extraordinary: a spark of the infinite.

It’s about our fundamental nature and the extraordinary paradox — that it can seem very hard to just be what we already are: effortless, infinite, boundless consciousness.

It’s about seeing what not to trust — the beliefs we assumed about ourselves and the world — and trusting Life. Trusting that behind the appearances all is perfect and unfolding as it should. That all is well.

It’s about realizing how small and insignificant one is as a body-mind, and accepting a humility towards the unfathomable power and mystery of what Is.

It’s about seeing what is transitory, fleeting, changing: all the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and experiences of the world, every thing in the world, all relationships and anything that we call human life, and finding what doesn’t change, what is immutably present and Real.

Its about waking up from the dream: the dream of being a body, a human being, a world, an actor on a stage, a doer and changer.

It’s about Being, not doing.

It’s not about any thing. It’s about no thing.

It’s about realizing there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Though life goes on for the body and the mind ¬— and doing and thinking happen — it’s about responding rather than reacting, being in harmony. It’s about seeing desire for what it is: a belief in lack because one believes or feels one is separate.

It’s about the paradox: here we are, trying to perfect the nature of Love, though it’s already perfect. It’s about growth and evolving the conscious experience of life.

It’s about setting aside the noise of the world, looking within, discovering, uncovering, though grace: the seemingly undeserved, unexpected, perfectly timed divine moment.

It’s about going beyond all our small selves, giving and being of service, in the transcendent joy and love of Being.

It’s about letting freedom and simplicity run your life. Living inside-out instead of outside-in.

It’s about realizing nothing is separate.

Beware of the Spiritual Path: It’s Not About *You*

The “spiritual path”, though it is about happiness – causeless, innate, not from objects (situations, people or things) – is not about feeling good all the time, while you are on it, because it’s about seeing oneself from a true and honest perspective, which can be shocking or not comfortable at moments… and it’s not even about changing something or fixing something, it’s about surrendering who you are, or rather think you are.

By nature we do not know what we are getting into: the Unknown. You get deep into it and you realize you’re on a ticket with no return trip except to go back to your old self – in other words stay stuck on the old flight or jump out the door! Then why do it? For the ego, there is no-thing to be gained. There’s nothing in it for the little, limited “me” — the image I have of who I am — unless I want to gain a spiritual ego. Pride. Pretension. Pretending. That’s a dead end too. A cul de sac, leading to the same: ups and downs, happy/not happy, problems, solutions, setbacks, progress, delusion, enlightening moments, pain, pleasure… duality in other words.

If we see someone, or meet someone we don’t like, or some situation that irritates us, or makes us angry, remember: they are you, and it is you. They are literally you, projected from your mind, reflecting what you don’t want to see. The plank in your eye, as it says somewhere in an old wise book… And that situation is you: you give everything all the meaning it has. That is an absolutely comprehensive statement. Sorry for the bad news! But it’s good news in reality. All is well and unfolding as it should.

The body is involved too. It’s not just the mind that is in the spotlight. If you were living from the mind, and that starts letting go, the body gets involved, in the play of life (will update you n this “revelation” when I can).

I’m always a beginner at this…

The good news is that, at some point, someone can swap out the old “Life’s a Bitch, Then You Die” bumper sticker with, “Life Is Fun And You Never Die”!

Laugh a lot…!

The Final Frontier Is The True Self

Joy arises, and astonishment, spontaneous freedom… then you discover you got more than you bargained for, or rather, less than you bargained for! You thought you could take “you” with you, be a new and improved self, get recognition, love, real love for being enlightened, wise… but here now, having to face the fact there’s no luggage allowed on this flight. Not even the clothes on your back.

And even though you’re being served champagne on this airline, it turns out you’re invited to sky dive without a parachute.

But you know in you’re heart it’s OK, there’s nothing real to hit. But the illusion sees illusions.

Have fun on the fall …

If someone were to ask me, “How are you Eric?” I would say, or could say, “However you are, is how I am.” with conviction, because whether it’s from the mind or from the self, it’s true: they are seeing themselves, and I am seeing myself.

So as one of my wonderful teachers – Laura Lucille – has said, “no one can help you”. Meaning, in absolute terms, especially on that final mile, that ultimate jump. You have to step off that plane yourself and fly through the air yourself. The baby hawk has to step off the branch and actually fly for itself. And thank God for that, since as long as there are persons to help that need help, and helpers, you’re helpless.

You don’t need anyone because you literally are everyone, and whatever you need will come along, in perfect synchrony with true need, love, Consciousness, or life, however you want to say it, saying, “I am here. Have no fear, I am near. Nearer than near, I am you, already.” It’s pre-destined.

And also true, the body does what it does, but it’s not a problem, because it’s just happening, whatever it is, now, and takes care of itself, through whatever means necessary now, including using these arms and brain and eyes and legs… it’s very intelligent. Or using other people, who are not really others. Funny how that works.

Everyone wants to be special. And everyone is, but only as themselves, the same as everyone, canceling out a special specialness above any other specialness. I’m being treated very well, or ignored, or even spurned, “rejected”, in my mind at least.

But what is exposed is this investment, an unwise investment. And the more unwise the investment, the greater the pain perceived when the inevitable loss is perceived to occur. As another teacher once said – George Pransky – pain is a measure of ego, of who you are not, and are trying to be – that which is of true value can never be lost or gained. Gain or loss are ideas predicated on a game of desire and fear.

My teachers were telling me all this all along, but I wasn’t hearing it, or rather able to really take it in, see it as fact, with the “filters” of the mind guarding, holding court, holding out, safety straps in the face of the unknown…

The Direct Path: What It Isn’t and Is

It’s not about a mental state; it’s the clarity of seeing What Is. Since there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, a description is offered.

It’s not about psychology: the absolute subject is eternally free from psychological activity.

It’s not about experiences, it’s about the one experiencer that exists.

It’s not about being spiritual, it’s being natural, open and accepting of what is real.

It’s not about knowledge of the known, it’s about living knowing knowingness.

It’s not about becoming enlightened, it’s dissolving the illusion of there being someone to enlighten.

It’s not about gaining anything, it’s life in it’s natural rhythm refreshed, cleared by stillness.

It isn’t a serious undertaking; it stands alone: an earnest cosmic lark masquerading as you and a world.

It isn’t about love, it’s love itself: infinite and ungraspable.

It isn’t about changing anything, it’s about uncovering what’s changeless.

It isn’t about peeling away layers to uncover a true self, it’s selflessly surrendering a will that never existed.

It’s not about living a better movie, it’s seeing that it’s a movie and enjoying it all the same.

It’s not about finding a balance, it’s letting go of the branch, finding your wings flying free.

It’s not about togetherness or community, it’s standing alone in the family of the unknown.

It’s not about anything, it’s no thing writing this and reading this now.

Poem: My Head Is Gone

img_5437_fly-free__cropped_1200

My Head Is Gone

Went home and discovered
My Home is everywhere
Sand blasted through time
My foot is a radio
Picking an Infinite line
Zero definition
But so sublime
Quiet body, Quiet mind …
Love is an Atheist
Utterly blind
To conditions
Right left forward or behind
Scriptures flow fast away like rain
God only knows
I have no brain
Images lightly seen
Space creating
An empty happy peace
No need you see
Self existing
Timeless
Free