Sydney Banks, with Dean Rees-Evans, and Dr. Roger Mills.

In 1973, Sydney Banks, a migrant welder from Scotland living in Canada, had an extraordinary experience that changed his life. After a chance meeting with a psychologist at an Encounter Group event for couples, where he and his wife had gone in the hope of sorting out their marital problems, Banks had a discussion about his personal insecurity and general unhappiness in his life, especially about his past, that he had been an orphan, had very little education, and that he didn’t really like life too much. After a short discussion with the psychologist about how he felt the same way and was insecure too he added that all of Banks’ insecurities were all just coming from thought. The words had a profound effect on Banks and he did not sleep for several days while pondering on this extraordinary ‘thought.’ At which point he had what he describes as an epiphany (Banks 2007) during which he saw clearly where all personal reality is created; from Three simple Principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought. Banks (2008a) describes these principles as ‘Mind, which is the source of all intelligence, Consciousness, which allows us to be aware of our existence, and Thought, which guides us through the world we live in as free-thinking agents.’ As summarised in the statement:

The Universal Mind, or the Impersonal Mind, is constant and unchangeable. The personal mind is in a perpetual state of change. All humans have the inner ability to synchronize their personal mind with Impersonal Mind and bring harmony into their lives … Universal Mind and personal mind are not two minds thinking differently, but two ways of using the same mind. (Banks 1998 pp 31& 33)

In explaining Consciousness Kelley (2004 p260) states that:

At the realm of form, consciousness transforms thought, or mental activity, into subjective experience through the physical senses. As people’s thinking agency generates mental images, these images appear real to them as they merge with the faculty of consciousness and register as sensory experience.

In other words consciousness makes thought appear real to each person in the moment, and therefore individual reality is created via the medium of personal mindsets and thinking.

The understanding that began to emerge within him led to Banks feeling better about himself and his life, as Pransky, G (1998 p3) explains ‘…Syd Banks was transformed from a shy, insecure person to a person with uncommon well-being, vitality and wisdom.’ At first Banks was not sure what to do with his experience, and continued to go about his life as usual, but he found as he talked to people about the Three Principles it seemed to have a similar effect upon them; people started changing, feeling more relaxed about life, found that their relationships began to improve and a deep sense of well-being began to unfold in a way it had never done previously in their lives. Initially Banks just spoke to groups of people from Salt Spring Island his home, but before long people were beginning to come from wide and far to listen to what he had to say. It is interesting to note that Banks claimed that he had no idea how people knew he had experienced his epiphany and why they were coming from so far away, and these were not just ordinary people. Banks explains how there were Buddhist monks from Tibet, gurus from India, some who claimed to be enlightened teachers with followers (Banks 2008b). Two years passed as Banks worked independently then two psychologists Dr Roger Mills, working for the University of Oregon with a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (Roy 2007), and one of his employees Dr George Pransky came across his work and became intrigued. Their key focus was to look at programmes that addressed the issue of the promotion of mental health rather than looking at pathology. They began spending time with Banks talking about his work and questioning him on his ideas surrounding the therapy that they were using with their patients. They were curious how this ordinary, untrained, virtually uneducated man was getting such extraordinary results with people, and were not entirely happy with the answers they received.

It took time for Pransky, G and Mills to able to integrate their developing understanding of the Three Principles into their work. For a time Pransky G, (1998) felt insulted by Banks’ ideas as it went against all he had learnt about human psychology, but at the same time was compelled to learn more of Banks’ understanding. Mills (Mills & Spittle 2001 pp20-21) also felt dubious because it went against the current thinking about human psychology, stated ‘[e]ven as I remained sceptical and confused, I began to change. I noticed that I was feeling quieter inside and taking things more in stride…[as] my mind quietened down, some of my insecure thoughts, expectations and habits of judgement seemed less important to me.’ The two psychologists continued to be fascinated by Banks and decided to spend a summer with him to continue a more in-depth investigation.

Mills and G, Pransky began to experiment using the Three Principles, despite their reservations and they began to get exceptional results. G, Pransky (1998 p19) talking of his improved relationship with his wife states ‘[o]ur friends and colleagues noticed the change in us and referred their friends that needed psychological help. This client base gave us a chance to use this new understanding and develop methodology.’ Pransky (1998 p234) adds that although they had enough people interested to keep their practice busy, there was still a general resistance to the PBM as therapy because to most people ‘the process sounded too abstract and mysterious.’ Some years later Suarez and Mills (1980) wrote a joint publication on the method, showing initial results of research, received a letter from the ‘national psychological accrediting body [for the USA]’ appealing that they ‘cease and desist’ because their conclusions did not accord with the recognised structure of psychological theories and approaches.

In an attempt to bring clarity to the Three Principles being used in clinical settings, they have gone by numerous names over the years. McMahan-Wonies (cited in Roy 2007 p19) explains that its history can be divided into approximately four chronological time periods ‘“New Psychology/Psychology of Mind period (1977-1982),” “Neo-Cognitive/Psychology of Mind Period (1982-1987),” “Psychology of Mind (1988-1998),” and the “Current HR [Health Realization] Theoretical Framework and Principles” which arose around 1998.’ Unfortunately this search for a way of categorising the Three Principles did not bring the precision intended. As Kadin (cited in Pransky, G p30) explains, the number of therapies available doubled from 200 to 400 in the decade of 1980-1990. Additionally, a new period for the PBM emerged around 2005 where it became simply known as ‘Principle-Based’ but unfortunately, any search of the literature will not return productive results, as ‘Health Realization’ is still the dominant point of reference despite proponents of the model advocating otherwise.

Banks (2008b) has never been supportive of any of the above terms and suggests that labelling it simply causes confusion, explaining that the ‘Three Principles’* are the subject matter therefore calling them anything other than the ‘Three Principles’ just doesn’t make sense in the context of teaching or sharing them with others. This process of renaming or attempting to define them detracts from the simplicity of their application because, as Banks insists, they are universal constants, like gravity, and thus are the same in all contexts in which they can be spoken of (Banks 2008b).

* As of the present (late 2010) the leaders in the field of the Three Principles have created a corporation to standardise the image of the PBM, entitled Understanding the Human Experience, and also have a forum, with the same title for discussions between facilitators in the various professional fields


Banks, S (1998) The Missing Link, International Human Relations Consultants, Salt Spring Island, Canada

Banks, S (2001) The Three Principles

, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Canada

Banks, S (2007) ‘I Don’t Read … I Write’ The Vancouver Sun, Saturday January 20th, Vancouver: pp. B1-B3

Banks, S (2008a) Retrieved 20.01. from www.sydneybanks.org

Banks, S (2008b) Personal communication, 21.01

Kelley, T M (2004) Positive Psychology and Adolescent Mental Health: False Promise or True Breakthrough?, Adolescence, 39 (154): pp. 257-278

Mills, R, Spittle, E (2001) The Wisdom Within, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Canada

Pransky, G (1998) The Renaissance of Psychology, Sultzburger and Graham Publishing, New York

Roy, A F (2007 Unpublished) An Examination of the Principle-Based Leadership Training and Business Consultations of a Group of Private Practice, Doctoral Dissertation, Boston: Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology

Suarez, E M, Mills, R C (1980) Sanity, Insanity and Common Sense: The Missing Link in Understanding Mental Health, Med-Psych Publications, West Allis