Imaginal Resolution — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Imaginal Resolution

The Law of Three in Action

Imaginal Resolution
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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

A new arising is not always the same thing as a solution. “But wait a minute!” you might be saying. Didn’t I list as our leading Law of Three principle, “When three come together, there is a new result in a new dimension”? Yes, and that is so. But the catch here is that this new dimension is not always a physical solution to the problem at hand—a deus ex machina or rabbit out of the hat. Sometimes it is simply the infusion of a more subtle quality of aliveness in whose light the real meaning of the situation is transfigured (or at least made clearer). It is a resolution at a more subtle and imaginal level.

This important nuance is perhaps best demonstrated in a well-loved Christmas story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. The tale tells of two newlyweds, poor as church mice but madly in love, who, unbeknownst to each other, sell the one precious thing each owns to buy a Christmas present for the other. He pawns his valuable antique pocket watch to buy her combs for her beautiful long red hair; she shaves her head and sells the hair in order to buy him a chain for his watch. On Christmas Eve the newlyweds stare at each other blankly, almost numb with shock, trying to compute the meaning of the “useless” presents they have just exchanged.

The story proves to be a classic Law of Three triad leading to this more subtle resolution. First force (holy affirming) is the couple’s love for each other; second force (holy denying) is their poverty. Third force (holy reconciling) is contributed by their willingness to sacrifice their most precious possessions for the sake of that love (kenosis or self-emptying). The new arising is indeed “the gift of the magi”—as the story is so appropriately named—the reality of their love for each other transformed into pure agape and made manifest in a whole new way.

Jesus’ death on the cross also exhibits this more subtle Law of Three configuration. No leagues of angels arrive to snatch the beleaguered Son from the cross. And yet, when the holy affirming of redemptive love meets the holy denying of human hatred and fear in the reconciling ground of Jesus’ surrendered heart—“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)— there is, indeed a new arising. It begins right there at the foot of the cross, heralded by a new quality of presence already caught by the centurion in his hushed exclamation, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). In the moment of Jesus’ death, the innermost essence of divine love was released into the planet as a palpable force that continues to make its energetic presence directly known. That is the imaginal resurrection, the real and ongoing source of Christianity’s redemptive power.

Gateway to Silence:
No resistance, no new arising!

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala Publications, Inc.: 2013), 43-44, 219-220.

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