Three Levels of 3 Principles (#972)

At a recent Time to Thrive small group intensive, I shared something I’ve noticed about the way that the 3 Principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought are being talked about in the wider world. While nearly every person I’ve spent time with in the inside-out understanding describes what they’re sharing as “the 3 Principles”, there are actually three different things that they’re referring to at different times. Each of those three things is valuable and important, but they don’t impact people at the same level and it seems to me there is a real value in separating them out…

Level One – the 3 Principles as an approach

In one of my first intensives as a student of the principles, my teacher told me that it was “impossible to give away what you don’t have”. While that is certainly a truism, he went on to say that “therefore, if you’re not already mentally healthy in yourself, you can’t help other people to find health in themselves.”

Having come from a field where some of the top teachers and practitioners (myself among them) had helped tens of thousands of people gain relief from suffering while still struggling with a variety of mental health issues in ourselves, I knew this to be untrue. But as our conversation deepened, I came to see what he was getting at.

When you use an approach with no techniques and no tools or practices for people to take away, the health and understanding of the helper is paramount.

The 3 Principles approach to mental health, high performance, and spiritual fulfillment is based on pointing clients towards a deeper part of their mind where they are already mentally healthy, in tune with their wisdom, and connected to the source of life itself. One of the key determinants in how effective this “pointing” is is the practitioner’s connection with this deeper mind, effectively giving their clients a “contact high” while simultaneously pointing out that the source of the mental clarity and good feelings they are experiencing is innate and unconditional.

While the 3 Principles as an approach is the most powerful and impactful way I have yet found to alleviate suffering and help people to be “awesomer”, I am aware that for certain people at certain times, they may get more immediate results by different means.

So to talk about the 3 principles as the “only real path to lasting mental health and happiness” at this level is to miss the point. A wonderfully effective approach is both wonderful and effective – it doesn’t have to also try to wear the mantle of “the one and only path”.

Which takes us to…

Level Two – the 3 Principles as a model

One of the things that drove me nuts when I was first studying the principles was everyone’s insistence that it wasn’t a model – it was true. As a long-term student of the structure of subjective experience, I knew that the very fact that we are describing something in language makes it a model – a linguistic representation of a universal or subjective reality.

When we talk about Mind, Consciousness, and Thought as the 3 principles underlying all human experience, we are using a model as a way of describing something which is fundamentally and observably true, in the same way as “centrifugal force” is a way of talking about the feeling of being pushed away from the center of the spinning wheel in a children’s playground.

The value in this model is that it follows Einstein’s dictum of being “as simple as possible, but not simpler”. When trying to explain the source and nature of the human experience, having a model which contains no inherent dogma or superstition is unbelievably valuable, as it allows people from every background, religion, and creed (including agnostics and atheists) to take a fresh look at what’s really going on behind the curtain of life.

So while the 3 Principles are still not “true” at this level of description, the conversation about them is incredibly valuable and seems to give us access to a deeper, more profound experience of life without adding in a lot of ritual and belief into our already full lives and busy minds.

The reason for this can be seen when we explore…

Level Three – the 3 Principles as the source of the human experience

Just because a model can’t in and of itself be “true” doesn’t mean that it can’t be describing something which is true. What in English we term “gravity” is called “atracción universal” in Spanish, “zwaartekracht” in Dutch, “ßa??t??”?? in Greek, and (according to my Babylon translator) “<span “rtl”=”” lang=”ar”>????? ?????”? in Arabic, but the force which keeps us from flying off into space as the earth spins beneath our feet is observable in any language.

So sometimes, when my colleagues and I talk about the 3 Principles as three “truths” or “spiritual facts”, we’re attempting to “eff the ineffable” and refer directly to the energy and intelligence behind life. Whatever it is that causes apple trees to bear apples, acorns to become oak trees, and separates the living from the dead is the invisible energy that runs through all things we’re pointing to when we use the word “Mind”.

When we speak of “Consciousness”, we’re trying to describe what it is that lets you hear my voice in your ear and make sense of the world in which we live – what it is that makes you “you” and me “me”. Whatever that capacity is in the universe which allows a thing to know itself at deeper and deeper levels is the very thing we are pointing to.

And “Thought”, which is both the simplest principle for most of us to recognize and the easiest one to get confused about, is just a way of talking about the universal translator, the capacity which allows us to create a million somethings from the single everything that our universe is made from. Thought creates our separate realities, turns molehills into mountains, inspiration into invention, and allows the universe to be in relationship with itself.

At this level, trying to get the words right is like trying to point to fire with ice – the closer you get to the truth the less you’ve got to work with. So when we speak about the 3 Principles as the three fundamental elements behind all human experience, we have to follow the path of the mystical poet Rumi, selling our cleverness to buy bewilderment.

There is a deeper feeling to the conversation at this level, like a wire becoming attuned to the electricity running through it or a light bulb with an inner knowing of that which causes it to be lit from within. We become less articulate and more present; less intellectual and more profound.


In bringing this week’s missive to a close, I want to point out that there aren’t really three levels of conversation about the 3 Principles – that’s just a way of pointing to the fact that people don’t always mean the same thing even if they’re using the same words.

Here’s how I would sum it up for myself:

  • As an approach to mental health, high performance, and spiritual fulfillment, pointing to the truth behind our lives that the 3 Principles model describes from the deepest place you can find inside yourself is the best way I have yet found to have a profound impact on others without losing yourself in the process
  • As a model, reducing the googolplex of possible human experiences down to the three fundamental elements which produce them all allows us to make sense of our lives without losing our bearings
  • As a truth about life, the 3 Principles are the spiritual essence and wisdom at our core, and can be found in nearly every religion and spiritual teaching since the beginning of time.

What does this conversation prompt in you? Please share your thoughts and reflections on the Inside-Out Community Facebook group…

With all my love,

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