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Law of Three as Skillful Means

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

The Law of Three in Action

Law of Three as Skillful Means
Thursday, March 23, 2017

Guest writer and CAC teacher Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring the Law of Three in action.

Sometimes an infusion of third force arrives quite directly. One of my students recounted how in a heated business meeting that was spiraling out of control, he was able to open himself directly to a Wisdom that seemed to come from beyond him and speak through him.

“I stepped onto air, and it held me up,” T. said, recalling the moment when he knew intuitively that the baton had been passed to him. Up to that point, he had been watching almost as a spectator, with an unusual sense of detachment. He was prepared in the sense of an inner openness but not in the sense of having cognitively prepared anything to say.

What followed was pretty much a third force classic: “I spoke for a few minutes. The words came out. Everything shifted in the room. Anger and opposition left. Others began to make comments, and we left with the creative proposal intact but, more importantly, with the client relationship restored. A complete impasse had become a doorway.

“This may have been third force,” he reflected later. “Why? Because the words supplied were objective; they seemed to be devoid of a need to win an argument. They were not combative. Without denying or amending anything that had been said earlier, they ushered in something new.

“This idea of ‘objective’ seems to me a useful field mark for identifying third force. Third force contains transformative power because it does not take sides. It doesn’t have a dog in the fight. Could it be said to be compassionately indifferent?”

Whether it’s a matter of salvaging a client relationship, shedding unwanted pounds, analyzing a piece of literature, or exploring the mystery of the Trinity, the Law of Three is applicable across such a wide range of disciplines simply because it is, in fact, a cosmic law—an organizing principle. The fact that it is equally adept in the domains of psyche and matter may contain an important clue toward the healing of the split between science and religion that has tormented the Western mind for more than five hundred years.

The Law of Three is good to know about simply because it’s such a useful tool. Once you get the hang of it, it has remarkable leverage to bring to bear on any situation where process and change are involved, and it is particularly brilliant in situations that appear to be at an impasse. You might consider it the Gurdjieff equivalent to what the Buddhists call skillful means. Learning to wield it is in itself a path of conscious transformation. The conscious energy that it seems to infuse into any situation is itself a precious energetic boost to a world dashing itself to pieces on the rocks of either/or.

Gateway to Silence:
No resistance, no new arising!

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala Publications, Inc.: 2013), 46-47.

Image credit: Praying Woman (fresco detail), Catacomb of Callixtus, Rome, early 4th century.
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