I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
- John 14:6
God is difficult to understand
for God is first One, then Three,
and then Seven.
– ancient wisdom saying, quoted in Commentaries,
“The Law of Three,” Vol. 1, p. 115
As we begin our study of cosmology in the Work, we open the door to the grand scales of macro and the micro, universal and psychological. In exploring the depths and heights, we are invited to approach these wondrous mysteries with awe and wonder – to soar both with directed attention and with creative imagination, for though these liminal spaces may seem too fine and limitless to describe, the journey through the cosmologies is a profound means for Self-remembering.
In the next two sessions we will begin to unpack two universal laws – the Law of Three and the Law of Seven – both which have very practical applications to ourselves and everyday life, while at the same time providing ways of understanding the workings of the universe.
"[W]e live in firstly a created and secondly an ordered Universe. If the Universe were chaos, there would be no order and no laws. Cosmos literally means order as distinct from chaos. If the world were chaos, the study of the laws of matter and so on would be impossible. Science would not exist.
"The Law of Three is the Law of the Three Forces of Creation. … Every manifestation in the Universe is a result of the combination of three forces:
Active force or first force or Holy Affirming
Passive force or second force or Holy Denying
Neutralizing force or third force or Holy Reconciling
"First force can be defined as initiating force, second force as force of resistance and third force as balancing or relating principle or connecting force or point of application.
"These three forces are found in Nature and in Man. Throughout the Universe, on every plane, these three forces are at work. They are the creative forces. Nothing is produced without the conjunction of these three forces … which … constitutes a triad. One triad creates another triad, both in the vertical scale and in the horizontal scale of Time. In Time, what we call the chain of events is the chain of triads.
"Every manifestation, every creation, results from the meeting together of these three forces, active, passive and neutralizing. [None of the three forces can] create anything by itself. … Nor can any two of the three forces produce a manifestation. It is necessary that all the three forces meet together for any manifestation or creation to take place."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Law of Three," Vol. 1, pp. 108-109
In her book, The Work: Esotericism and Christian Psychology, Rebecca Nottingham provides this practical example of the Law of Three at work:
"Suppose you want to improve your education. That would be first force. Whatever opposes your desire to do so – for instance, you have no time to devote to classes, you have no money to pay for them, you're too lazy or too intimated to try something new – this is second force, the force of opposition. If 'life' is third force for you any outcome is possible, good or bad, depending on your relationship to life issues. But without third force you will keep going back and forth between first and second forces with no results. …
"[I]f the Work becomes your third force then you will be under different influences from a higher level and the quality of manifestation will be at a higher level. For the Work acting as third force means that the Holy Spirit is the reconciling factor and any manifestation will be in harmony with the Kingdom of Heaven. This is our aim in the Work because, after all, what should be your deciding factor in any circumstance? Shouldn't it be God's will and not your own? …
"How can you choose from your small perspective what would be right action? You can't. That's why putting yourself under the third force of the Work is the only path to a right resolution. And, to be quite clear, you can't hear from the Work as neutralizing third force – meaning the reconciling factor of the Holy Spirit – unless you are in some condition of purification. The corruption of negative emotions … is not a receptive environment conducive to anything holy. This is why the Work says we must prepare our ordinary centers for the reception of higher centers which is the Kingdom of Heaven within you."
Cynthia Bourgeault distills these foundational principles in The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three:
The idea of three forces is found in the trinitarian theologies of many religions.
Not any set of three items constitutes a trinity – only those in which the three are dynamically intertwined.
The aspects of affirming, denying and reconciling are not fixed or permanent essence attributes of any one thing but can and do shift and must be discerned situationally and based on point of view.
The interweaving of the three forces produces a fourth on another level – the new "something" that has come into being through the interaction of three forces is not merely a continuation of a sequence. In her example of a braid, the fourth is not merely another strand of hair, but a whole new category of "thingness," e.g. seed/earth/sun = sprout; plaintiff/defendant/judge = resolution; flour/water/fire = bread.
Related to this: The new arising is not a compromise, but a whole new ball game.
The new arising is not always an obvious solution. 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 level.
It is always at the neutralizing point that a new triad emerges.
How can we apply the principles of the Law of Three in our own Work?
Sleeping humanity lives in opposites and is blind to third force, as we can verify in our own tendencies to either/or thinking and ways of being. To move beyond the level of polarization requires a willingness to see and understand at a different level.
One of the most common misperceptions is to think of second force as negative, detrimental or an indication that something has gone wrong. On the contrary, the energy of second force is indispensable for manifestation and for our transformation. Cynthia Bourgeault offers this understanding and encouragement:
"The single most liberating insight [is] the realization that what appears to be the resisting or opposing force is never actually the problem to be overcome. Second force, or holy denying, is a legitimate and essential component in every new arising: no resistance, no new arising! That realization in and of itself radically rearranges the playing field, shifting the focus away from trying to eliminate the opposition and toward working collaboratively for a more spacious solution. According to the Law of Three, once an impasse has constellated, it can never be solved by going backward but only forward, into that new arising that honors all the players and brings them into a new relationship. (Einstein seems to have been on to this insight in his famous dictum that a problem can never be solved at the level at which it is created.) … One can only imagine how greatly the political and religious culture wars of our era could be eased by this simple courtesy of the Law of Three: (1) the enemy is never the problem but the opportunity; (2) the problem will never be solved through eliminating or silencing the opposition but only through creating a new field of possibility large enough to hold the tension of the opposites and launch them in a new direction." (The Holy Trinity and Law of Three)
With an understanding attitude toward second force, we can begin to Work with the Law of Three in the following ways:
We ask: What is it I want (first force)?
"People do not even know that first force is in themselves – that is, they do not know what they really want. … You must be sincere in noticing what you really want. If a man pretends he want something, and really does not, his active force is what he really wants. He is lying to himself." (Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "The Law of Three," Vol. 1, p. 112)
We ask: What will resist or prevent this (second force)? We learn to calculate second force: when we make an aim, or embark on anything new, we are advised in the Work to anticipate what second force might arise internally and externally and then be prepared to bring in the neutralizing/reconciling principles of the Work (the infusion of the Holy Spirit) as third force, instead of actions at the level of life.
After identifying the first two forces, then third force can be discerned. We ask: Am I operating out of acquired conscience of life (crystallized attitudes, mechanical behaviors, societal conventions)? If so, I would wish to Self-remember by asking for divine help and jumping for the rope of Work principles, such as applying first conscious shock or remembering that negative emotions distort and lie.
Again, Cynthia Bourgeault: "Solutions to impasses generally come by learning how to spot and mediate third force, which is present in every situation but generally hidden." She describes the outcomes of third force from Higher Centersas "surprising, satisfying and elegant." We are shown the way – one that is revealed not by pushing harder through or at something or someone, but by asking for and receiving the promptings of the Spirit. "Third force is best accessed through an alert, flexible presence that can hold the tension of the opposites. … What does not work: judgment and a rigorous adherence to a desired expectation or outcome. … [T]hird force is midwifed, and the midwife is our conscious attention." A student of Cynthia's adds: "[Objectivity] 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?" (all excerpts from The Holy Trinity and Law of Three)
"Whether it's a matter of salvaging a client relationship, shredding 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 … Once you get the hang of it, [the Law of Three] 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. … [Y]ou 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, and the conscious energy that it seems to infuse into any situation it touches is itself a precious energetic boost to a world dashing itself to pieces on the rocks of either/or."
- Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three
Holy-Affirming, Holy-Denying, Holy-Reconciling, Transubstantiate in me For my Being.
- G. I. Gurdjieff, All and Everything
- Study the Law of Three at work in your life or events. Identify the various forces at work. Cultivate a friendly and curious attitude toward second force.
Attend tonight's class: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only.