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Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Conversation about Three

by Sam Huntington

Why is the number three so significant to human societies? We may credit Pythagoras ( a2 + b2 = c2), but if the Egyptian pyramids suggest anything at all, the notion appears to have been around for a lot longer than that. What may make this significant in terms of human society are its several applications —beginning with the three great pyramids.

We also find the number three manifested in the doctrine of the Trinity, which defines God as three divine hypostases: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery of the Christian faith, for while they are each distinct, the fourth Lateran Council declared, “… it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” Its origin comes to us in the synoptic Gospels which tell of the Baptism of Jesus of Nazareth. “And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the spirit of god descending like a dove and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’"

In Hindu metaphysical tradition, Chakra is points in the human body that are vital sources of energy to the human body and spirit. The name derives from the Sanskrit word for wheel or turning, but in in yogic context, a better translation might be vortex, or whirlpool. Its source of energy is “the third eye” depicted in many ancient Indian Hindu drawings. Chakras also play an important role in Tibetan Buddhism toward the realization of a clean light of bliss and fulfillment.  We also apply this notion of a third eye to the pineal gland, from which we derive the hormone melatonin and that many claim is the origin of mystical awakening, enlightenment, clairvoyance, and higher states of consciousness. 

The eye of providence (or in some uses, The All-seeing Eye of God) is a symbol that shows an eye often surrounded by rays of light or a glory and usually enclosed by a triangle. It is sometimes interpreted as representing the Eye of God watching over humankind—divine providence. The most notable depiction of the Eye of Providence in modern society is in Free Masonry, and on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, which appears on the United States one-dollar bill (now worth about ten cents).

We can trace imagery of an all-seeing eye back to Egyptian mythology and the Eye of Horus. Buddhists refer to the Buddha as the “Eye of the World.” An all-seeing eye is also used to depict the image of God in Caodaism, which originated in Vietnam in 1926. In Medieval and Renaissance European iconography, the all-seeing eye was an explicit image of the Christian trinity … and so now we have come full circle —almost.

The number three was again revealed in 1961 when scientists James Watson and Francis Crick first discovered the structure of human genetic code (DNA). Now let me introduce George Gamow (1904-1968), a theoretical physicist and cosmologist and an early developer of the Big Bang Theory. Gamow postulated that sets of three bases must be employed in order to encode the 20 standard amino acids used by living cells. He was correct.

What is the point of this? Some people suggest that the frequency of the number three is merely coincidental. Others suggest that its frequency of use in science, mathematics, and religion renders such claims irrelevant. The number three symbolizes the unity of body, mind, and spirit —but is also universal, found throughout history and in many (if not most) human civilizations. It points us to what is real, essential, perfect, substantial, complete, and divine.

After giving this some thought, what is your opinion?


  1. "The Magic Three" in essay writing: introduction, body, conclusion.

    "The Magic Three" in fiction: plot development, climax, resolution.

    "The Magic Three" in musical compositions: ternary form.

    Other manifestations....

    "Get ready, set, go."

    "On the count of three..." (always used with stroke patients to get them to stand up, transfer, etc.)

    Is this prevalence of the number 3 related to the doctrine that God, a triune God, created mankind in His own image?

    Bilateral symmetry appears over and over again in nature. Is the number 3 another kind of symmetry?

  2. The number of licks to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop if you're an animated owl. /badjokes off
    I enjoyed this post, but it was the only '3' count I could think of that wasn't already mentioned :)

  3. It's simply a "reflection" of the inherent structure of the human mind.

    1. Joe,
      Yes, there is indeed evidence of the triune brain.

  4. "Is this prevalence of the number 3 related to the doctrine that God, a triune God, created mankind in His own image? "

    Only in the Western world.

    Musical composition, fiction ... perhaps one of the reasons for a revolt against "modernity" (for lack of a better word) is it's violation of many of those rules.

    Whatever they are for poetry, painting, film, photography the trinity either doesn't exist or has been subverted.

    The three laws of thermodynamics.

    Maxwell's laws ... ooops

    1. Duck,
      I had "the West" or "Western" in my comment, but must have deleted that portion by accident. Laptop keyboard and crazy bubbles (at least 12) moving all around inside my eye!

      Still, there are indeed manifestations of "The Magic Three" in non-Western cultures as well.

  5. Actually, the response “Only in the western world” is inaccurate. No surprise there. In Islam (a religions largely plagiarized from the Torah, while Mohammed was drinking Mushroom Tea), God created man in his own image. This is what is says in the Torah, the Old Testament, and what it says in the Qur’an and none of these are credited to Western civilization.

    It is possible that some could argue that the Trinity has been subverted, but it is only true in the eroded mentalities of persons who internalize destructive ideas. Many modern societies call this communism, which has become a god for some people and—as I said, a destructive one.

  6. Jack, I won't even go into what the Torah was based on.

    Anyway, the Buddah, Taoism, Hinduism, the Manichee?
    One, two or very many. No three.

  7. I was wrong about Hinduism.

    While there is a multiplicity of gods there purpose is represented in creation, maintenance, and destruction.


  8. I'd say coincidence, but I don't believe in coincidences ;-)

  9. Another example of three:

    ME, MYSELF, and I

    heh heh heh

  10. The truth will soak your feet.November 15, 2013 at 7:24:00 AM CST

    Better look out New Yorkers, you are in for. Another Bill an Hillary, Barack and Moochelle team. With your new Mayor and his #%%#$& wife.

  11. The rule of law is crumbling .November 15, 2013 at 8:32:00 AM CST

    In today’s news, there’s an interview with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, where the Commissioner says he felt betrayed by the Democratic mayoral candidates, who he claims used him and the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy as political footballs

    Ray Kelly seems like the adult in the room. We need more Ray Kelly's and fewer Liberals like Bill de Blasio.

    Kudos, Ray Kelly! He is the last, real man, standing in New York City. Go take a well deserved vacation Ray, they don’t make them like you anymore!

    When the minorities stop committing the majority of violent crime in NYC, then and only then, will they not be the subject of stop, question and frisk. Blame your fellow minorities and not the police for actually trying to do something about the problem do decent people of ALL races can walk the streets in safety. Blame the Rappers and the Black Basketball and Football players for being the worst role models possible.

    The Dimocrats and those “progressive” nutcase’s count on low IQ voters and minorities to get things their way, like some who post on some of these blogs. Good bye NYC, it was nice knowing you.

  12. The rule of law is crumbling when any government decides to stop and frisk citizens without probable cause.

  13. I hope all the liberal bastards choke to death on the POS Obozocare! You Communist SOBs

  14. Thank you, Sam, for a most interesting, intriguing post -- a refreshing treat from the usual political axe-grinding and stultifying cliché ridden rhetoric most indulge in these days.

    I found your observation about the "circle" being more of a whirlpool or vortex especially stimulating, since I, myself, often think of the historical cycles we know about to be more like SPIRALS (usually downward, I'm afraid) than true circles.

    "What goes around may come around," indeed, but always in an altered or modified form. God is capable of making infinite variations on any and every theme He chooses.

    As for the symbolism apparently inherent in THREE, I do believe that ALL cultures, even the most primitive, have had SOME idea -- some GLIMPSE -- of the presence of an Almighty and Ever-Living God.

    I do NOT believe that The FINAL, ULTIMATE, and ONLY REVELATION of TRUTH came to us solely through the JEWS. I believe our understanding of Reality (God) is most definitely "a work-in-progress."

    That makes me a "heretic," of course, but like Joseph Campbell, I have always sensed that TRUTH (God) is present in ALL manifestations of Reality.

    The notion of EXCLUSIVISM is UNGODLY in and of itself.

    The universal attraction to THREE may very well give good evidence that humanity -- collectively -- is essentially the SAME at root -- and has been striving towards "The Light of Truth" -- each segment in its own peculiar way -- since Time began.

    There is a MYSTERY about God I doubt we will ever solve, until we know "even as also we are known."

    1. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. -- 1 Corinthians 13:12

      That particular chapter, of course, is about faith, hope, and charity (love). We are incapable of loving completely in this life.

  15. PS: I wish all comments unrelated to the topic at hand in every blog post would automatically DISAPPEAR, as if by Magic.

    Wouldn't that be loverly? ;)-

    1. Loverly indeed!

      Of course, time constraints are involved.


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