There Is No Such Thing as Artificial Intelligence: Notes On The Myth of AI

“Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved: there is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.” – Stephen Hawkin

(Note: I wrote this article on the morning of March 14, 2018, and referenced Stephen Hawking, who I hadn’t written about or thought about in years. In the evening I learned that he had died that day. Another of many serendipitous events in my life recently.)

I spent decades studying, researching, thinking and discussing the general philosophical problems of artificial intelligence (AI), as well as working in the computer field. I studied with some of the most brilliant (yet controversial) minds around, such as the neurophilosopher Pat Churchland and the philosopher of science Paul Churchland, renowned philosophers of mind, as well as panel discussions with cognitive scientists.

There was a point at which however, I realized that there was a huge flaw, a blindspot, or an ignoring (“ignorance” in the Sanskrit sense) that was common in all their outlooks. They placed analytical thought, or problem solving, as the nature of human thinking, the epitome of intelligence, and therefore all their models reflected the kind of thinking that was used to make them. The powerful intuition I had towards the end of my time in the philosophy department, was that *intuition* is the central faculty of us sentient, aware, intelligent beings. This however, one cannot prove, except anecdotally, and can only be discovered from first-person point of view. This kind of knowledge is self-evident. Therefore this “revelation” shall we call it, to sound more colorful, placed me outside the academic temple. It also placed me outside of the scientism that rules academia and society in general: the materialist religion. However, the name of and the depth of this belief system I was unaware of, other than as a vague and all pervasive knowingness and even fear (because of its implications, which I write about in a dystopian science fiction novel in 1991 called “The Web“, then renamed “The Zero Point” ).

“Machine learning models such as deep learning have made tremendous recent advancements by using extensive training datasets to recognize objects and events. However, unless their training sets have specifically accounted for a particular element, situation or circumstance, these machine learning systems do not generalize well.” – Dr. Michael Mayberry, Intel Corporation

True AI = A generalized intelligence machine.
AC = Artificial Consciousness.

My thesis is that you cannot have true AI without AC.

But is AC – artificial consciousness – possible?

AI systems (and therefore robot minds) are brittle. Another way of saying this is that they do not fail gracefully.

Because computer intelligence such as neural nets uses systems of bias (pre-judging, using memory-based processing thinking), based on correlation they are inherently unable to generalize. If if they are not rule-based like expert systems, they are using past knowledge, not direct knowledge.

My father used to say, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” (My retort is “If you’re so rich, why aren’t you happy?” But that’s another essay…)
If AIs are so smart, why aren’t they writing our software? The demand for software engineers and programmers, IT people, etc. are growing at a tremendous rate: evidence not only of technological expansion, but of the fact that computers do not write software, human creativity and intelligence creates software.

Comment I wrote in response to a YouTube video:
“The Hanson Robotics CEO misspoke. He should have said “simulate” being as conscious, creative as a human. He’s playing into the mass ignorance about the nature of AI and computers, which are mechanical, adding-machine based entities. All the creativity and consciousness comes from their creators. That’s the “art”. The burden of proof is on him. He is either dumb, gullible, or irresponsible. (I recommend “What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason” by Hubert L. Dreyfus, MIT Press – one of many good books on the philosophy of AI).”

Myths or Erroneous Assumptions About AI and “The Singularity
1. That if you just get enough of a lower-level machine intelligence together then at some point it will reach critical mass of higher-level intelligence that will result in self-awareness, independent thought, creativity, and other elusive qualities we experience. This is a common trope in Science Fiction scenarios of AI, including (one of my favorite classic science fiction movies about computers) “Colossus, The Forbin Project”.
2. This previous assumption is also used to fuel the idea that this critical mass will become a runaway-AI and get smarter and smarter…
3. Which in turn stokes the notion that this runaway intelligence, like a star collapsing under its own gravitational weight until it sucks light into it and forms an event horizon, sucking in more and more matter in a runaway process, compressing down into an infinity dense thing called a singularity (the end-game of a black hole), could thus becomes a super intelligence.

These are all false notions, because they build this house of computerized cards on the erroneous assumption in #1. Simply put, more and more stupidity does not add up to an intelligence that equals real intelligence, much less self-awareness. Even an astronomical set of neural nets, that get very smart at doing a variety of tasks that brains do, is still just garbage in, garbage out in relation to true intelligence. This is because of the ignorant assumption that real intelligence and consciousness arise from brains (are an emergent property, like wetness is an emergent property of water molecules), whereas in fact there is no evidence for such an assumption that is not circular. This property of an idea – where no matter what evidence there is, it is held onto defended as if for dear life – is itself evidence of the interwoven set of dogmatic, religious ideas that underpin much of society and science when one reaches the limits of it’s understanding. (These materialist assumptions about intelligence is such a deep and ingrown belief in modern culture that it takes quite a long essay to untangle – I hope to write more on that soon).

The problem is, almost no one (in the Western world especially), understands what real or natural intelligence is. That is, they don’t have an adequate definition, because the cultural orientation, the social programming in life does not allow one to see it without immediately dismissing or devaluing it. For example, one suddenly understands a problem whose solution was eluding you: an Aha! moment of illumination. The whole thing is seen in a flash. Such timeless moments don’t compute to the mind: it cannot hold or grasp the open limitless freedom from which they seem to appear “from nowhere”.

On the other hand, we don’t want to leap farther than our understanding justifies and say we *know* for sure what true intelligence or consciousness is (other than that we experience it now, or in flash of intuition or self-evident truth, such as in mathematical discovery or understanding). The best and most honest path is to admit what we don’t know, and from that solid foundation, we can step forward and hopefully make progress.

Underpinning the thesis is that to create (or foster the creation of) a genuine AI, one must have artificial consciousness (AC) is the fact that the two ultimately cannot be separated. To have the properties of general intelligence, the property of consciousness must be present. The relationship of one of a triad or trinity: the apparent duality of matter and mind is resolved when the trans-real substratum of consciousness is taken into account. This is the “dual aspect theory” of Spinoza’s philosophy applied to a real-world engineering problem. However, consciousness is not an emergent property of brains, but is a general or unified field, of which a brain could be thought of as akin to a receiver.

The analogy of brain-as-receiver works like this: if one is, for example, watching a television program about politician, and you don’t like the politician, would you go buy a new television in order to have a better politician – in other words to change it to a show you like to view – on the TV? Likewise, that thoughts seem to correlate to the functioning activities of a brain (and lack of thoughts or coherent thoughts in a damaged, dragged or asleep brain) does not prove that the TV program arose from that brain.

The analogy breaks down however in that radio waves and television programming are still in the same level of reality: objects. That is, they are physical phenomena and are measurable and detectable. Consciousness is not on the same level of perceptibility: it is not a phenomena. Consciousness is the witness of phenomena. This is basic.

Unfortunately, while sentience (being awake or asleep) are detectable, as are attentional mechanisms and types of brain waves associated with *states*, consciousness is not. In other words, that which experiences states is not detectable. We do not have instruments for detecting the presence of consciousness, and we probably never will. From where we stand today, in our scientific outlook, consciousness is not amenable to the scientific method, except with regards to second-hand evidence (such as verbal reports of other humans), or as subjective experiences and reports that can only be inter-subjectively evaluated. Likewise, you cannot open up a persona’s head and find consciousness in the brain somewhere (despite stupid claims of finding centers of consciousness in popular articles, which always turn out to be based on mental actives or attentional mechanisms, not consciousness). Why? Because consciousness is not a phenomena. It is not part of the universe of experience out there. In other words, the universe is experienced *in* consciousness – as is the body, thoughts, sensations, feelings, thoughts –  or is inferred to exist in other beings (such as humans or animals, or possibly aliens), as a separate quality of that being, because that’s what we assume for ourselves.

Another way of describing consciousness is, what is it like to *be*: for example, that which is reading these words right now: that reality. It is always in the absolute present, and ultimately intimate. It is the context or ground for an experience-having reality, or even feeling or seeming to have a sense of reality. For example, even dream is a *real* dream. The content of the dream is illusory, but the fact of experiencing it is real for the experiencer. That is the reality we are pointing to here: the reality of the experiencer. It is full-stop subjective. It has no objective properties. It is radical.

So how does one encode that in a computer? How can a piece of software embody that? It can’t: they are both content, not context; they are both part of the material world, both objects. They are not subjects. They are not experiencing.
But could they? Could there be an aspect of experience, that like other beings (humans and animals etc.), seems to have consciousness, yet is an object we created, or got underway through an engineering project?

The key concept here is “seeming”: how does one discern the difference between a simulation and the real thing.

To be continued…


Intel’s New Self-Learning Chip Promises to Accelerate Artificial Intelligence, By Dr. Michael Mayberry

Stephen Hawking: ‘Transcendence looks at the implications of artificial intelligence – but are we taking AI seriously enough?’

What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason” by Hubert L. Dreyfus, MIT Press

What is Money?

Notes on the Nature of Money and its Future

What is money? We use it almost every day, but like the air we breathe, we hardly ever look deeply into what it really is. This is my initial exploration of the question.

The dawn of and expansion of Bitcoin and the phenomenon of cryptocurrency has also spurred these reflections (I will discuss Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies at the end of this piece). In any case I’ve often pondered the nature of money. It seems to have a powerful grip on our minds.

Recently some have criticized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin having no intrinsic value. But does any type of money (or investment for that matter) have an intrinsic value?

The short answer: Money is a store of value, by the implicit or explicit mutual agreement of the agents of use. The valuation of anything is contextual by nature, and therefore money has no intrinsic value in itself. Money is most often used as a medium of exchange, but this is not an intrinsic property. It is ideally a unit of account.

Money is a vastly useful tool for storing and trading value. Imagine having to engage in barter you had every time you wanted something. Let’s say you needed a stick of butter, and what you happened to have in surplus were a collection of fine, healthy Philodendron plants to trade. You go to the dairy, but the butter maker says she doesn’t want Philodendron plants, but she does need some hay for her cows. So then you need to go find someone with extra hay who wants philodendron plants. Or you will need to find whatever you have you can part with that they happen to want – maybe a pile of bricks or some apples or bricks or a carburetor – if you can even find such a party.

In contrast, money can be traded for anything, because the receiving party in turn can trade it for anything. It’s universal (at least within the culture it’s accepted in, as long as it still has significant value).

By way of evidence, one could do a thought experiment about a type of money, a coin that had value but is never exchanged. For example was held onto and ended up never being traded: let’s say a giant circular stone in your front yard that represents the deed on your house (such as the Yapese have traditionally used on the island of Yap – see below), and that is agreed upon by the entire community on your little island society. And if anyone from that society is given, buys or inherits that coin, that represents owning the house, by deed of giant stone-coin. In fact the entire island has houses of this type and a deed-coin in front. However, for some odd historical reason, no one has ever used them for exchange! It’s an unlikely scenario, but the point is it is possible. In other words, exchange is not a natural, inherent, God-given property of money. Strange but true.

But the converse scenario also makes little practical sense: a currency that has no value (by agreement or intrinsically) but was exchanged profusely. That would be a potentially comic situation: one could imagine all these clowns running around making exchanges with each other furiously with, let’s say, pieces of paper with printing on them, but nothing could be done with the papers except exchange them: one could not use them for any practical material purpose (even toilet paper, because of the printing or type of paper), one could not exchange them for anything else except other pieces of the paper, and one could not convert them to other types of money. It would be farcical.

Some no doubt will say this is the situation with some cryptocurrencies currently! But most cryptocurrencies can be exchanged for other currencies, and do have some, however debatable, intrinsic value as a unique implementation of an instance of a useful class of technology.

Philosophically of course, there is no ultimate inherent value in any money whatsoever, no matter how brilliantly conceived, engineered, or widely adopted. Money only has the value it is given by the psycho-social milieu of assumption, faith and trust of the society in which it exists. In other words, it is a projection. This is easy to demonstrate if you do a simple thought experiment or two.

Let’s say a race of powerful aliens came to Earth, godlike in their intelligence and capabilities, and they had a technology, programmed with a fully advanced neuroscience of human minds coupled with a superintelligent computer system, and some kind of brainwave projector that re-aligns human thoughts along whatever lines is programmed into the machine. They decide to play a joke on humans and re-program everyone on the planet into forgetting what the US dollar is and what it’s for, no matter if its paper currency or numbers on a screen. They program humans to forget that it has any value (to keep it simple we won’t worry about automated exchanges, and just look at a very short term scenario). They do the same for gold, silver and platinum – both the physical metal and representations of it – just for extra fun and to make sure their little joke works.

Zap! Suddenly this money has no value. So why would anyone choose to exchange it, or even care about it, except as a curiosity? It has no inherent value, other than for the physical money for kindling or paper, or paper weights or ballast (especially coins), or for its fiber content or the uses of the metal in engineering. The entire currency collapses. The same would be the fate of Bitcoin or any alt-coin or cryptocurrency, if the aliens decided to zap human minds about it. The companions and communication over the internet would continue to happen, and there would be information in crypto wallets, but it would have no social or psychological value, and therefore no exchange value, because that projection was zapped. One would look at some numbers on a computer screen or in a hardware wallet and they would be just numbers, with perhaps an engineering or historical interest. In the longer run of course things would resurrect themselves and the system would be built back up, and value restored once the mental map was re-learned by individuals and groups. But the point is made.

A less exotic example can be imagined. As the reader may or may not be aware, on the Island of Yap in Micronesia, traditionally the Yapese used large circular stones as money, called Rai stones ( These could stand for anything from the ownership of a house or the smaller ones could be used for the purchase of food. Since the stones are for the most part too large to move (and subject to damage if moved), they are kept in place, and the ownership is recorded orally. Nothing is written down. The “ledger” is in the minds of the Yapese. Now let’s say, back in the day when the island was unknown and there were no other currencies from the outside world in use (these days the Yapese use dollars and Yap are used only occasionally or ceremonially), some plague wiped out all the inhabitants. If a ship of Europeans, or anyone really – for example a boat full of Micronesians from another island with no cultural exposure and no use of stones as currency in their society – were to land on the island, they would not place a monetary value on these coins and not consider them standing for anything, unless they decided to start doing so (for example they might be taken as valuable museum pieces, or the quartz mined from them for various uses).
So one can see it is the social matrix that gives money its value ultimately, and the individual programming of the members of that society.

Money cannot by nature have any inherent value.

This can also be seen if you hand a hundred dollar bill to a Bonobo Chimpanzee, our closest relative genetically. They are a very intelligent sentient being, and their groups have their own culture and means of communication (though it is not a written one). They might sniff it, look at it, play with it, throw it, wipe their ass with it, but they are not going to use it for money, no matter how long you give them money and no matter how much. It’s possible I suppose that a researcher could train them do trade money tokens for food, but as far as I know this has not been attempted.

As a side note money also depends on the concept of counting and numbers, and this is not inherent – despite what Chomsky theorized – even to humans, as proven by the the anthropologist Daniel L. Everett and his patient work with the internet outage (not an uncommon occurance) or one is not on the internet, or some kind of catastrophe occurs, or even a programing or configuration error – a bit or two, out of place, the wrong comma placed in a line of code – the whole silicon house of electric cards comes crashing down, or at least screeching to a halt (as has happened with cloud storage such as AWS outages on occasions).

As a concluding note, since much of my blog has to do with the philosophy of happiness, and “spiritual” or psychological topics, the facts and notions outlined in they essay regarding the nature and power of money, do not imply or mean that money is required for or coupled with happiness. They are on quite independent axis, as will be discussed in an upcoming article.

Thank you for listening.

Be Free, Be Happy.

Notes on Psychological “Boundaries”

Boundaries are often talked about in behavioral terms: don’t cross this boundary, or I feel like my boundaries have been violated, or the respect for boundaries must be enforced or known for oneself so as to stop or remove oneself from a situation. But there is another dimension, an inner or psychological dynamic that I’ve seen in my experience.

I will share my experience with the boundary issue and how I perceive it as having to do with what we call the ego and expansion of falsity, meaning a false sense of self. About 30 years ago I rescued a friend from an abusive relationship with her husband, only to fall into a relationship with her, in which some of the same dynamics came out. Looking back this was an opportunity to see this dynamic. I’ve also had people and whom I did business and in my family of origin with that were extremely dominating and controlling, that gave me further practice in seeing beyond illusion and finding love within.

It is because the suffering, fearful ego-ic sense of self feels so severely a sense of separation and lack that it thus perceives boundaries or limitations of others – in reality there are no others but otherness is felt so strongly – that they must force or manipulate themselves through or over to overcome these boundaries, this alienation. You could see it as living a far deviation from one’s divinity, out on a limb in delusion, blind to it. This ego can even be a spiritual ego, in ordinary seekers or in the most extreme cases being some gurus who take advantage of there position to get sex, money, to abuse and belittle others and so on.

Unconsciousness or self-blindness or lack of insight is another way to put it: at-effect rather than at-choice, even though at some level it is a choice that knowingness knows about in the depths of oneself.

What I saw was an inflated and brittle false self that needed propping up with a sense of control and dominance, covering an extreme insecurity, and a compensation by this constant effort to be what one is not, but think one should be. The lack of respect of boundaries had to do with seeing another person as an extension of one’s own ego, one’s own sense of separation and lack, such that if a perceived other does or is perceived to do something contrary to what the enforce rigid rules and feeling of control dictated, a reaction ensued arising out of this old inherited mechanism: fear, judgement, jealousy, anger… and a sense of unworthiness that is projected outward and blamed on some cause out there, even though it is not out there.

Yet that reaction that created drama also fed the unstable false self, because that which is unreal needs constant energizing since it is fundamentally a lie. That false self projects onto other selves, and if the other self is vulnerable to taking it on, that feeds the loop. This dynamic can also be seen in other forms, such as the politician or actor who needs the “love” of an audience to feel a sense of worth, yet privately collapses into despair, depression, drug use, has trouble in relationships, etc. It is an addictive process, a self-reinforcing loop.

Truth needs no support outside itself and is effortless power. But what is not real has to be a maintained through effort. So it’s a magnification of the usual false self-ing process. TO see it in a more innocent way, consider how we have evolved from animals, and how animals have a mind, alert and active, seeking food, pleasure, fearing and protecting, but also reactive, automatically. This same reactive mind has evolved into a more sophisticated form in the human ego. But we can evolve further than that…

What can you do? The mind may not have the answers, but can be pointed towards what does have the answer. Bring consciousness to whatever is perceived, whether it is within oneself or an “other”, and expand to what surrounds it. It may sound simplistic, but the consciousness that we are knows no boundaries or limits, contains all experience, and holds within it an intelligence far beyond the intellectual machine or the automatic reactions. It is in fact what you are, beyond beliefs and past, which is only memory now. This benevolent observer, this awake awareness is always present, always secure, always available, beyond the mind, merely covered over by personal filters (habits of thinking). It is unattached to any situation or outcome because it is beyond time and place, personal meaning, value and significance, yet contains all in it’s embrace. Perfection knows no limits. Always new, always fresh, clean of the past, happy and free.

You can love them (as a friend) and still leave the situation if they don’t change (and more often than not they won’t) – at least you will feel better. By love I mean in a detached benevolent way, see that they are fearful and suffering – it is more objective and understanding, and automatically loving yourself – difficult to describe but you are in touch with your true self, which is free. The whole dynamic changes all by itself then. They are still, or may be at times, bound up in their false self and reactions, controlled by inner unconscious demons. But at minimum your situation will change once you free yourself. Don’t focus on them (I can’t emphasize that enough), or what they did, or the past. Work on yourself. The only freedom you have is now, to choose, within. This is not selfish but benefits the totality. If you see yourself truly now, you can see others truly now. The whole game is about finding out who you are, now, and freeing yourself. That’s it.

Note: I would suggest something experiential to bolster all this theory and talk. My friend Laura Lucille recently published a new meditation about experiential (direct) knowledge. Sit quietly and listen:
Exploring Experiential Knowledge – Meditation

If Life is a Game, Make Sure You Are Playing The Right Game

What kind of game do you want to play in life? How do you see the world: as a bunch of separate material object or things, of which you are one – sort of a meat robot that has to fight and struggle to survive, and beyond mere survival, get more of the pie, or be a victim or disappointed or frustrated or angry if you aren’t getting what you want?

Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina (2015) • Photo by Universal Pictures International

Articles like these an old friend from the past sent me (asking what I thought) — The Jordan Peterson Moment or The Atheist Who Strangled Me – are more of the realm of opinion-ating, and the battle for mindshare. As a wise young friend, Andrew Hewson pointed out, this is an extension of the animal mind, the primeval survival “ego”, into the human mind ego. Or they are self-advertisement of the author, or entertainment, like much of the news. A way to get your attention. Which generally is a waste of your attention.

But what really matters? Does matter matter?

Who cares what such and such says? What you want is to find Truth. Why because you want happiness. If the battle for things or ideas isn’t bringing you happiness but at best a promise for future happiness or mere temporary pleasure, are you going to settle for that? Do you really believe in your heart of hearts you are that small?

In school we are taught, subtly or overtly, that life is a competition, and this instills fear. Fear can get people moving, but is a double-edged sword and one can react in ways that can be non-productive, self-destructive, or other-destructive, or that merely don’t bring you closer to Truth. It leads you around in a circle at the same level of life satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Fear closes down the openness to being receptive to what is, and makes one more obedient to thoughts that are like parasites on the soul. What you want is not only freedom from those thoughts, but from any thought: to know you are not thoughts and not feelings. However these are worshipped, and there is widespread, nearly universal addiction to thinking and feeling: just look at the state of psychology, therapy, or the symptoms of depression, substance use, greed for money, power, objects, experiences…

There can be game-like aspects or elements of life, at the level of the body or mind, and these can temporarily be worthwhile to engage in to have an advantage on circumstances that are overall conducive at a certain level. For example, there is an apartment I want to rent that fulfills my optimal design for quiet and light, I make sure I get there in time and communicate clearly to the owners the advantages of renting it to me. When acquired, game over. It was meant to be. This can be fun and exciting, but it’s not the end of the world or to affect my happiness if I don’t get it. The universe is a big place and you don’t know what will pop up. You are not dependent on circumstances, but why not optimize them, not from fear but from joy, from opportunity from saying yes to life, to celebrate? Don’t just see “bad” things but allow “good” things too. Pay attention not just to lack but to the totality of what you are.

If Life is a Game, Make Sure You Are Playing The Right Game

The goal is happiness, here and now.

There may be a movement of things in that space, this life, just as there is metabolism going on in a plant or animal: out with the old crap, in with the new crap. I have some money, so I buy a new pair of shoes because the old ones were cramping my feet. I throw out or donate the old shoes, and wear the new ones. But I was happy in the old shoes, they were just uncomfortable at times and inconvenient. Or I get a car that’s better on the freeway for going to visit happy friends, faster smoother and quieter, more efficient. But I’m happy in my old noisy car, which has it’s own charms, like good visibility and spaciousness, and good offroad, but now I can celebrate the drive in a car that goes faster and quieter, in certain circumstances. But I’m happy either way. It’s just an experience, stuff, things, coming and going. There is not net gain in life or net loss: overall everything is still the same universe, the same consciousness, the same here-now-ness, seeing things come and go. People, noises, objects, thoughts, feelings in the body…

Occurring to who? You may *think* you know but do you really know who you are? What you are?

People ask, “What do you believe?” but they are missing the point. Beliefs will get you nowhere, or not very far at all indeed. Except to more beliefs, and a battle of beliefs. With no end in sight. You could spend a lifetime refining and searching and compiling beliefs, ideas, opinions. Or several lifetimes. Or perhaps an infinite number of lives. Like in one of those computer games that simulate life, with all the little critters moving around gobbling each other up and spawning new ones, and going through mutations and endless changes and groupings and ungrouping. Does the mass get closer to beauty love and truth? Or just variations on the same ol’, same ol’.

The real game, if you are fortunate to get that far, is to pop out of the game board, or the simulation screen and look down on the whole thing (yes The Matrix, but translated to life and transcendence) – not in the manner of superior and inferior but as transcending so one can see it – is to see the game for what it is, and not take it seriously. Before you had been lost in the game: you thought you were one of the players, the objects, the little critters moving around on the screen, gobbling and being gobbled. You were totally identified, anxious and on a mood swing, depending on how well it did. Manic if it was eating up all the other critters and getting fat, or depressed if it was getting gobbled and smaller and threatened by death, not reaching its objectives, or dying. Blip, poof, critter number 9,072 pops out of existence from the memory cell.

Interestingly though, no matter what, the game goes on. You are watching it are you not? Someone, or some thing is watching it. Who is that?

You see there are an infinite number of games. Can you enumerate the possible number of games in a universe? And are you attached to an outcome of any one, now, or forever. If it’s just a game does it have any substantial reality.
These are questions that are not asked or that feel too unanswerable, so you go back to playing the game, getting lost in it, being identified with one of the players, or the pieces in the game, the little critters.

And the game goes on.

The choice is yours.

Why reader, do you choose struggle: do you love the drama and violence, limitation and restriction? If it’s in your life, it’s been chosen at some level, even if you claim you don’t choose it – not as a separate tiny thing, separate, tiny alone in a harsh and unforgiving blind cosmos, a machine of gears ruthless turning and beset with other people wanting things or doing things to you.

But there are no victims in reality, and I realize you may not cognize that just yet … I have great empathy and love for those that are suffering – especially since I went through years of intense suffering myself – even if it’s seen for what it is: unreal and all part of the game. This is all paradoxical to the mind and may take a very long time to comprehend, and even sound offensive, or not PC, not popular… ignorance is very fetching to most humans alive today. It’s the name of the game for most of 7.5 billion.

But, you may ask: “How do you find happiness then, if it’s not in the game and I’m not this critter, or what it does, or gets, or… wait, what are you saying? Are you saying give up, or don’t play the game, or quit, or die or what?”

Ah, I’m glad you asked. It means you’re still paying attention, or are at least pissed off or skeptical, or disagreeing. That’s a good start.

What I’m saying is, you’ve already won but don’t know it. Another way of putting this, since there’s nothing ultimate to win per se, is that you are already happy, because it’s what you are.
Bullshit you may say.
But let’s look at it: let’s say it’s possible there is something we could call “causeless happiness”, or a joy that is being in its own nature. Pure, unadulterated peace, love in a absolute or complete sense, not human or any other form but all those forms… sounds crazy, theoretical, pie in the sky New Age, crap… let’s get on with life and the game we’re wasting time, us hardened and smart ones who know what it’s all about (heck if it’s working for you and making you happy, go for it, until it stops working, then you will start seeking again, or in another way. It doesn’t matter, it all self-adjusts to innate perfection of the totality).

If there is this causeless joy or happiness, it would mean that we are spending a tremendous amount of time and energy playing a game that isn’t getting us closer, but just tempts us or goads us on with little bits and fragments of pleasure or temporary relative peace or relative happiness compared to other times. We still need more time. Time, money, energy, thinking, work, hard work… and meanwhile the body ages, things change. So what do we conclude? Time to go faster, work harder, get more, get fatter? Get more lost in “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”. Well whatever floats your boat but be honest with yourself and eventually some light will get through and you get tired, sick and tired of being tired. You’ve tired out the engine. The computer is running slower. Maybe you discover it actually feels better when the computer in the head stops for a moment.

“Thoughts and feelings are lies, because what you are is a lie. So it must lie to keep going.” – Laura Lucille

Then you are on the right track. Notice how good ideas, insights, bright lights sneak through the cracks? Did you will those into existence? Moments of causeless wonder, energy? Do you will your ears to hear, go to hearing classes, or will your vision to see something when you take up in the morning? Do you know the next thought that’s coming or what you will be thinking 5 minutes from now? You feel your body now even if you don’t make an effort.

Things to take into account my friend.

This may sound like a recommendation or being an advocate of being passive. In fact, at every moment, there is an intention, a will (willingness would be a better term) and choosing. But this is not forced but in fact totally free, whether it is conscious or not. (I notice this can be hard to accept by many). Perhaps I will cover this in another essay.

Enough for now…

Be Happy
Be Free

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


“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.

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 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.

Spiritual Reflections on The Three Principles

I would like to offer a set of reflections on The Three Principles, a spiritual psychology teaching that originated in the mid-70s and has spread globally, and with which I’ve been involved for about 19 years. This view is from, and as, a spiritual perspective. I don’t really like the word “spiritual” since it always bring to mind images and ideas, all of which are not “it”. But it’s a starting point.

When we read or listen to something about the The Three Principles understanding (or anything else) there can be a tendency to hear from an agree/disagree filter – in other words, from a point of view.
But in presence there is no point of view, as it is within what all points of view appear, and disappear.
What we are has no borders, no manifest containers or boundaries. In a borderless, effortless space, things appear, such as our lives. A sense of self, of motion, of love for ten thousand things, the objects of consciousness, awareness.
In this space, any image of what this space is, is only an image, passing and vulnerable to revision. Another word for that is “illusion”.

True intelligence begins and ends with knowledge of one’s nature. The three principles offer a shortcut, a stepladder to the formless.
It’s a form that says there’s no form: a pointer. It’s a tool. Why is it important to see it as as tool? Because there is a tendency to take a tool too seriously, to focus on that which has already been formed, on memory. These tools were formulated (by psychologists such as George Pransky and Roger Mills, with Sydney Banks as a guide) in order to be able to communicate, teach, to convey a teaching, to repeat an outcome in time.

True understanding happens outside of time, in an instant the mind cannot create, since the mind is a machine that creates nothing, only repeats what was input, like a computer.
The gift of understanding comes unbidden, like a long lost relative showing up at the door, happiness on both sides, which is One happiness.

The word spiritual can also seem to imply there’s something that is not spiritual. Or something to do to be spiritual. Or someone to be, some kind of person, a spiritual person. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You can’t help but be spiritual. In fact the more you do, the less you are, even though you are anyway – a paradox, because there’s no way the mind can get this.

So treat the The Three Principles lightly, like a good friend, and not like they are your master. In fact that goes for any spiritual teaching.

We have tendency to get lost in psychology. And this is especially true with a teaching that is used to address psychological issues, or social issues, and focuses on the idea of thought and thinking in order to transcend thought and thinking. Many “get it” right away and free themselves from the tyranny of the small mind (“mind” is just a word or concept for a collection of thoughts, images and sensations – all thought-like), but others are fascinated, or frightened, or puzzled and full of questions, or in some way paying attention to and focusing on thinking. It’s our biggest hobby. We play with it all day long, and into the night, pick it up first thing in the morning. But …
Who are you?

Once you kick the ladder out, or let it fall away, the question has a different meaning. You’re all things, in a sense, and no things. The unknowable knower… words fail. And the mind falls quiet. You might laugh, or smile. It doesn’t matter – there’s no real mattering going on. There is this un-graspable simplicity. Quiet.
So Mind, Thought and Consciousness mean the totality of what is, and that’s the way Sydney Banks meant it, or Lao Tsu, or any other sage you want to name. Let’s not get hung up on names, but have fun along the way, playing with them, as they come and go, friends. Be happy, be free.

Do Circumstances Cause Feelings?

Dear Eric, thanks for your reply to my enquiry about meditation. Perhaps you might clarify something I’m also struggling with. I really don’t get this 3P [Three Principles Psychology] idea that it’s never the circumstances that cause our feelings. If I were in Auschwitz, or had a relative murdered in Orlando, or was wrongly imprisoned for 30 years, wouldn’t these dreadful circumstances not cause me to feel sick, disgusted, angry, suicidal etc ? If you can help me understand this I’d be really grateful. Also don’t you find that the 3P world is turning into a bit of an industry these days ? Like TM it seems to promise the earth !
Thanks. Keith

Hi Keith – Your question has two parts.
1. Do circumstances cause feelings. This is easy to discredit if you notice how different people react entirely differently to the same circumstances. If it were the circumstances, you would have consistent responses, but in fact you see as many versions of “reality’ as you do individuals, as a function of the thought systems they’ve developed, and thinking in the moment, to use the language of the Three Principles (3P). As further proof of this, there was a gentleman (Jewish) who found profound meaning amidst his experience at Auschwitz and later wrote about it: Viktor Frankl.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor Frankl

Another way to put it is, there is a third factor between “you” and “the world”: the reality that your brain and consciousness (or whatever one points to as the “manufacturer” of experience) has constructed.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Viktor Frankl

We don’t know the true or ultimate nature of these things (nor of anything) – brain, mind, consciousness, etc. (despite the claims of many to the contrary!) – but we do know our personal experience is an illusion. In other words the reality you experience is a construction, not reality. We don’t even need to delve into “what is reality – consciousness or material reality?” Leave aside philosophy for now. However, *that* you experience is not an illusion: you are conscious. That’s the starting point of your investigation.
The awareness of this fact may or may not free you instantly or over time. The ego is pernicious.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
– Viktor Frankl

That’s a short answer. I did not talk about grieving, which is a good topic to look at (don’t hang onto personal thoughts of loss – for longer than their shelf life anyway – that’s ego again!). This whole topic you bring up is very deep and is at the heart of many of these teachings.

I also did not mention that there are what you could call automatic, physiological reactions to circumstances that are wired in for the survival of the body (whatever a body is – we don’t know). An example would be: you step out in the road and truck is bearing down on you and there is a reaction to step back (even physiological response can potentially be controlled however such as the yogi who controls his body temperature – that such a possibility exists is good to know about). However the response we are talking about that are problematic – the ones that cause you to seek help or change – are psychological in nature. They are arbitrary, learned, self-made and maintained, and ill-adaptive. They are what stand between you and permanent peace and happiness, the foundation that is our Being.

2. The Three Principles Psychology industry. Yes I do find that. It’s double-edged sword in that it helps spread “the message” but it does get watered down and misunderstood and become more and more a packaged product (and sometimes takes on the character of a evangelical religion: dogmatic and world-saving). However, I originally learned of it from one of the very early “packagers”: Richard Carlson. He didn’t call it “The Three Principles” or as something that was inspirited by Sydney Banks, but he was a great popularizer. It was too watered down for me, so I was fortunate to find a footnote at the end of his book about a book by Roger Mills (Sanity, insanity and Common Sense, by Rick Suarez, Ph.D. Roger C. Mills, Ph.D., Darlene Stewart, M.S.), that led me on a journey through “Health Realization” as it was called then.


Dependent on circumstances is no happiness at all
Re-creating the spark from circumstances doesn’t work
Manufactured happiness is elusive

Deep connection, from phenomenal to present

The spark not a product of the objects