Who Was Syd Banks?
Mind and wellbeing, of course, come under health. Feeling good in your head is just as important as the endorphin rush of working out or stepping on the scales and seeing you’ve lost 15 pounds!
What triggered today’s thoughts was reading a capable new book by Michael Neill. It’s called The Inside Out Revolution (published by Hay House, 2013).
The whole book is to introduce a little-known spark of psychology (even I had never heard of it) called “The Three Principles”. It’s nothing to do with the Three Commitments of Pema Chodron or The Three Agreements of Don Miguel Reiz. Let me explain.
This new psychology was founded by a Scottish welder called Syd Banks (the other Scottish welder we all know is comedian Billy Connolly, right?) Apparently Banks had an enlightenment experience and was able to pass this on usefully to others; not all gurus can. Michael Neill came across the teachings and went off to the commune training in Canada. Apparently he found it really good. I know Michael Neill’s work and so I read the book with a receptive mind.
I’m not going to try and précis the work of Michael Neill or Syd Banks. But I will share with you The Three Principles, because I find them inept and a little confusing. Perhaps there is something in the way it is taught that makes them so successful in practice. I do not dispute that they work well for those engaged in the work; many healing transformations have taken place.
The “principles” are actually elements or essences: mind, thought and consciousness. It would have been better to go a bit cultish and give some special names and definitions to these terms, as they are being used by the proponents of The Three Principles. Otherwise, it gets confusing because everyone has their own idea and understanding of what these three words mean. For many people, all three might cover a similar experience.
But in Banks’ teaching, The Principle Of Mind is about the all-embracing wisdom of the world, that makes everything happen the way it should; The Principle Of Consciousness is our human awareness, that we all share; and The Principle Of Thought is that we experience only what we think we think we are experiencing, there is no “absolute reality’, only our thoughts about it.
Syd Banks once remarked his psycho-spiritual insights added up to “the greatest breakthrough in the history of psychology and psychiatry.” Lest you think this is all puff and conceit, let me quickly point out that his teachings have reached tens of thousands of people throughout the English-speaking world, in large part through a loose network of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, police officers, business people, doctors, mental-health professionals and others in the social services.
His philosophy has been picked up by leading civic officials in major cities throughout the USA, where thousands of people, including prisoners, alcoholics, the homeless and drug addicts, have been drawn to his route to ending inner pain and finding happiness [from Banks’ obituary, http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2009/08/03/sydney-banks-obituary-full-version/]
The overarching conclusions are that:
- living is from the “inside out” meaning that we are not subject to outward circumstances but to the life we create for ourselves from within
- and that ultimately we create our world and all that’s in it; we impose our mind reality on the world and not the other way round, as most people try to live
Nothing much new there, then. It’s all about how it is taught and used. I have great respect for Michael Neill and his book contains some pearls of wisdom.
Neill also introduces some interesting techno-metaphors, which I have at once stolen and adopted! For example, getting “online” with Higher Power or Source, as we all should be; his belief that our “factory setting” is happiness and abundance; and that all we need to regain our wondrous state of love and joy is in occasional “reboot”. In other words, our hearts and minds are wonderful, self-correcting mechanisms.
But I can’t abide the terminology as it is. My own researches over the years have led me to the certain belief that what we call “mind” has many layers or levels. I believe my view extends the model that Neill shares in his book.
At the top, of course, is consciousness. No arguments there. Consciousness to me is being there: the awareness of being aware. This is the highest state of our being, or the expression of it.
Trouble is, it’s rather hard to capture in words. Like the knife that cannot cut itself, words about consciousness are not really about consciousness but about a substitute precept. Real consciousness is actually an experience and cannot be captured in words. Hence the Zen metaphor of the finger pointing to the moon. The word “moon” is just a word, not an experience. All the talk does not capture what it means to be conscious and aware of being aware.
Below that level comes thought. This is where words come in: concepts and ideas. Syd Banks had a great saying, which is, “Happiness is just one thought away”. If you think your life isn’t so good, think a different thought, “My life is great!” And it all changes.
It’s true that our experience of reality is entirely dictated by how we respond to events. We create our experience from the inside out and we are not really the victim of outside events, unless we make conscious choice to be a victim of outside events. Most people do make that choice but it’s a simple switch to stop it: change your thinking. A better version of reality is just one thought away, as Syd Banks said.
Next in my hierarchy is something not touched on separately in the Three Principles teaching; that’s emotions. I think it is a definite level of conscious experience and, considering the vast majority of people actually live at this level, it needs clearly recognizing for what it is.
People identify so completely with their complex emotional world that the usual manner of speech is to say that I AM angry or I AM sad, or you ARE antagonistic. In actuality it would be better to say, “I am doing happiness” or “I am doing anger” because that’s the truth of emotions: we generate them ourselves, in order to experience them.
It’s absurd to say to someone “You upset me” or “You make me angry”. You do it to yourself and then (usually) complain about it!
Below that is another level of thought experience that is bio-energetic in nature, and that may be called neuro-network mind. It’s partly biological but not entirely. When you consider the effect of brain stimulation, through drugs, entrainment devices and so on, it’s obvious there is an important layer of conscious thought experience sandwiched between spirit and body mind. It can be manipulated, changed, or overridden but it’s there.
It particularly stands out to me in the matter of sex. The arousal of heart and mind that gets engaged with making love to that special partner has many of the hallmarks of the physical sensations I’ll talk about on the lowest level of thinking but there is definitely a higher process, in the way one’s brain activity changes. In fact changes in consciousness run all the way up to the spiritual during sex, as we all know.
Sex is capable of changing one’s entire thought landscape, at least short-term. How long that interval is depends on the relationship but, as I wrote in my tender piece “Waves That Thrill”, the slow build of up of rapport can take place over days before the actual act and the sighing echoes of it can linger and slowly dissipate for days afterwards.
That’s not just pure thought, which changes instantly. It’s neuro-network thinking.
Finally, there is the animal or physical level of thinking. Some of it is reflex and instinctual. But it’s a broader concept than that, meaning the animal part of us, or what I call “creature”, has its own agenda and it has nothing to do with spirituality or purpose. In fact it’s all about staying alive: eating, safety, procreation and very little else.
As I often point out, most of the confusion in physiology, psychology and philosophy comes from the failure to recognize we are entities in two halves: the spirit being and the biological creature. These two halves do not readily reconcile and harmonize; in fact they are often in direct conflict. Thus the Catholic priest, supposedly celibate, who ends up molesting young kids. His creature half starts to over-ride his spiritual half and tragedy is the result (comes from setting impossible spiritual goals, which fail to take account of the fact that we are all creatures).
The Glass Elevator Model
Michael Neill introduced yet another interesting techno-metaphor; that of the glass elevator. It starts on the ground floor, with just the basic, unrefined view of things, which is what we experience is the truth of what is.
But as this glass elevator starts to climb, we gain a higher and higher viewpoint, seeing more and more how our thoughts actually create our own reality. Until at the top floor level, it becomes obvious to us that what we experience depends entirely on our choice of what we want to experience.
All the “law of attraction” phoney-baloney taps into this concept, which is that thoughts create our world. What the wannabe gurus forget is that you have to have the elevator! You can’t fly in at the top floor level and that’s the truth!
I hope my little scale of awareness and climbing perception is valuable to you, as a structure for your own glass elevator. Learn to live the metaphor. Always look higher and higher. Try to see the world from a viewpoint above the one you are currently occupying and you will soon see that, as if by magic, your experience of reality gets better and wiser.
To re-phrase the old saw, “The higher they climb, the harder they fall” (more pain), it is better stated as, “The higher you climb, the less likely you are to feel pain.”
Here’s the scale as I have stated it (top to bottom):
- Consciousness (spiritual)
- Thought (mind)
- Emotion (mind and body)
- Neuro-Network (special case)
- Animal (physical-physiological)
This article is Keith Scott-Mumby’s view but you can follow up on Syd Banks’ teachings with Michael Neill himself (www.supercoachacademy.com) and also George Pransky PhD (www.pranskyandassociates.com)