Trinity and the Law of Three
The Tea Cupboard
Monday, March 13, 2017
I’ve asked Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, to share some of her insights on Trinity and the Law of Three over the next two weeks.
With so many urgent practical issues facing humanity, why waste time with the Trinity, a doctrine that most of the world (and even much of Christianity) regards as contrived and irrelevant?
By way of response, let me offer you a story that was told to me by my longtime friend and teacher, the Abkhazian dervish elder Murat Yagan.
In the years immediately following World War II, Murat recounts, he spent time in a remote corner of eastern Turkey. There he became friends with an elderly couple. Life had been good to them, but their one sadness was that they missed their only son, who had left some years before to work in Istanbul.
One day when Murat visited them, the old couple were bursting with pride, eager to show him the new tea cupboard that their son had just shipped from Istanbul. It was indeed a handsome piece of furniture, and the woman had already arranged her best tea set on its upper shelf. Murat was polite but curious. Why would their son go through such an expense to send them a tea cupboard? And if the purpose of this piece of furniture was storage, why were there no drawers? “Are you sure it’s a tea cupboard?” Murat asked. They were sure.
But the question continued to nag at Murat. Finally, just before taking his leave, he said, “Do you mind if I have a look at this tea cupboard?” With their permission, he turned the backside around and unscrewed a couple of packing boards. A set of cabinet doors swung open to reveal inside a fully operative ham radio set.
That “tea cupboard,” of course, was intended to connect the couple to their son. But unaware of its real contents, they were simply using it to display their china.
To my mind, that is an apt analogy for how Christians have been using the Holy Trinity. It is our theological tea cupboard, upon which we display our finest doctrinal china, our prized assertion that Jesus, a human being, is fully divine. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But what if inside the Trinity is concealed a powerful communications tool that could connect us to the rest of reality (visible and invisible), allow us to navigate our way through many of the doctrinal and ethical logjams of our time, and place the teachings of Jesus in a dynamic framework that would truly unlock their power?
It is simply a matter of turning the tea cabinet around and looking inside. I know that there is indeed a ham radio concealed inside this Trinitarian tea cupboard. At a time when spiritual imagination and boldness are at an all-time low and the Christian church hovers at the edge of demise, perhaps now more than ever the time is ripe to remove the packing board from this tea cupboard and release its contents.
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), 1-2, 10.