Trinity and the Law of Three
Christianity’s Hidden Driveshaft
Friday, March 17, 2017
Guest writer and CAC teacher Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring Trinity and the Law of Three.
Ternary metaphysics shift us away from the comfortable and static dualistic operating system that we’ve grown accustomed to using—with its corresponding polarities of in/out, right/wrong, matter/spirit—and places our reality into forward drive and dynamism. In a ternary system, in place of paired opposites, the interplay of the two polarities calls forth a third, which is the “mediating” or “reconciling” principle between them. The crucial part of a ternary system, and what sets it apart, is that it mediates creativity.
We can see the Law of Three in action in our everyday lives. Twofoldness leads to cyclic recurrence. We get locked into “this” or “that” thinking, and so the pendulum swings back and forth or stays stuck at an impasse (think of every argument or conflict you’ve ever been in). All progression, however, or forward motion through time, operates under the Law of Three: the impasse between two opposing forces is mediated by a third force that causes a new creative arising to emerge. It’s not quite the triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, because the “third force” is always an equal player (not a combination of the first two oppositional energies). There is no progression apart from the Law of Three and no Law of Three apart from progression.
This deceptively simple point is actually at the heart of Christian metaphysics, if only we knew how to tap it better. The Law of Three is, I believe, Christianity’s hidden driveshaft, and its presence so far has only been intuited, never explicitly identified by theologians. Comprehensive, profoundly original, and like all drive shafts—concerned with forward motion—it is Christianity’s authentic temperament, the key in which theory and practice come together, and in which all of Christianity’s teachings hang together.
The sacred mandala of the Trinity compels us to understand that this is what God is always doing. God has basically one agenda, which is to widen and bring into new, creative, diverse manifestations the flowing love of the Trinity. This is the Trinitarian believer’s opportunity: to bring third force into all sorts of situations, to make it appear like magic where it never appeared before.
Gateway to Silence:
Behold, I make all things new. —Revelation 21:5
Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala Publications, Inc.: 2013), 3, 16, 18; and
The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinity, disc 4 (CAC: 2004), CD, DVD, and MP3 download.