Book Notes – The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity

Posted: January 29, 2014 by Todd in Books, Theology
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The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity

Cynthia Bourgeault – 2013, Shambhala Publications

Finished July, 2013.  This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  It’s a tough, but rewarding read.  Try your best to read it as a mystic for the best results.


Compares doctrine of the trinity to being like a gift that a couple assumed was a tea cupboard, but was actually a ham radio.

Chapter 1: Why Feminizing the Trinity Won’t Work
The trinity is an arcanum.
“Law of Three” is hermenuetical key to the acanum of the Trinity.
Summary: Trinity is more about process & movement than being. To freeze a member of the trinity into a gender role plays the ontology game rather than the game of an unfolding Spirit. [more…]

Chapter 2: Exploring the Law of Three
Foundational Principles of the Law of Three

  1. In every new arising there are three forces involved: affirming, denying, and reconciling (or affirming, denying, and neutralizing).
  2. The interweaving of the three produces a fourth in a new dimension.
  3. Affirming, denying, and reconciling are not fixed points or permanent essence attributes, but can and do shift and must be discerned situationally.
  4. It is always at the neutralizing point that a new triad emerges.
  5. Not any set of three items constitutes a trinity but only those sets in which the three can be seen to be dynamically intertwined according to the stipulations of the Law of Three.
  6. Solutions to impasses generally come by learning how to spot and mediate third force, which is present in every situation but generally hidden.
  7. New arisings according to the Law of Three will generally continue to progress according to the Law of Seven.
  8. The idea of third force is found in religion in the concept of the Trinity.
Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (pp. 24-25). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

“It does no good whatsoever simply to align oneself with one of the two opposing forces in an attempt to overcome the other. A solution will appear only when third force enters.” (625)

[Todd: Very similar to polarization theory & nonduality.]

“[Attune] oneself…to [the] third force and [strive] to midwife it in the situation at hand.” (625)

At a very broad level, the “law of seven” indicates that there are “stopinders” that are places on a scale or line where energy fades and impulses of energy are needed to push forward.

[Todd: This does seem to correspond to my experience of my fading energy at points of the day. Also, with stages of development. “sophomore slump”]

Law of Three > “World Creation”
Law of Seven > “World Maintenance”

[Todd: (reflecting on quote at 688 ): Is the search for the unified theory kind of the problem? It is a binary.]

[Todd: At 688ff, Gurdjieff sounds like “Rambaldi” from Alias]

Chapter 3: The Law of Three in Action
The third force combines with the other two forces and introduces something completely new.  “Surprise is almost always an element in a genuine LOT unfolding.

The third force is best accessed through an alert, flexible presence that can hold the tension of the opposites.  “Perhaps the most accuurate word to describe the delicate symbiosis at work here would be to say that third force is midwifed, and the midwife is our conscious attention.”

Chapter 4: The Law of Three and the Enneagram
The personality typing version of the enneagram isn’t well respected in Gurdjieffian circles.  They tend to see it more as representative of the LOT & the LOS (law of seven).  Bourgeault is sympathetic to Gurdjieffian laments here, but also holds both teachings in tension in typical nondual fashion.

Points 3 & 6 in the enneagram represent stopinders where energy breaks “and the additional energetic impulse needed to keep things proceeding on course is known as a conscious shock.”  These points are part of the original triangle.

Part Two: Metaphysics in Two and Three
Chapter 5: Blueshift
The “Great Chain of Being” of perennial philosophy is inherently a dualistic system, with God/spirit on one end and matter on the other end.  Christianity, claims Bourgeault, has another metaphysical dimension.  “God does not lose energy by plunging into form.”  If anything, the opposite is true.

Chapter 6: Dynamism
Recent theologians, particularly Bruno Barnhart and Teilhad de Chardin, have emphasized the dynamic ongoing creation God is involved in.
Barnhart: Divinity enters into earthly matter to initiate a new sacramental creation.
de Chardin: Cosmogenesis has become Christogenesis
Recent Trinitarian theologians have also leaned towards a more dynamic version of the orthodox formulation.  Catherine LaCugna, building on Karl Rahner’s assertion that “the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity” she sees the Trinity as the dynamic movement of God in the world.  Raimon Panikkar sees the Trinity as “an icon of the mind of Christ and extends that mind outward as a cosmic principle.”  Beatrice Bruteau sees three as the “prototype and prerequisite” for the expression of divine agape love.  Bourgeault builds on these with the LOT to suggest that “the interweaving of the three produces a forth in a new dimension.”  It adds predictive capacity.  It frees our metaphysics from anthropomorphic language.  Applies universally to all matter, ideas, etc…kosmic in scope. Gives a lens to correct/update orthodox Trinitarian theology bound to a dualistic metaphysic.

Chapter 7: Jacob Boehme, Ternary Master
Jacob Boehme posits something relatively close to the law of three and sees a tertiary structure to the generative love of God that brings all things into being through an interactive process.

I don’t quite understand all the stages of Boehme’s cosmological vision as Bourgeault explains them, but at some level it is a creative process like the law of three.

Bourgeault sees Boehme as articulating the  LOT (law of three) giving rise to a fourth thing, which plays a role in the next tertiary structure.

Chapter 8: Seven Properties, Three Forces
This chapter directly connects LOT to Boehme’s cosmology.

Boehme’s anguish/fire stage links to the third force and is where consciousness arises.  Boehme’s light is the new arising.

According to Boehme, the light is a “counterstroke” – an authentic double of God, now in the dimension of separability.

To prevent something similar to the dualism inherent in the Great Chain of Being, Bourgeault uses the unity (God) as a constant denier position in the next 2 tertiary arisings which works perfectly with the enneagram and LOT/LOS.

Chapter 9: Counterstroke
In Bourgeault’s application of Boehme, the counterstroke is the new arising that also serves as a force in the next tertiary arising.

Part III: The Unfolding Trinity
Chapter 10: The Essential Ground Rules
  1. The interweaving of three produces a fourth in a new dimension.
  2. New arising from the former triad becomes holy reconciling in the new triad.
  3. Holy denying (second force) will always be played by the divine Unmanifest.
  4. New arising in any triad is a counterstroke of the now-displaced holy affirming from the former triad.

Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (pp. 131-132). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

Chapter 11: Stage 1: The Proto-Trinity
In undifferentiated unity, there is no self-awareness. The yearning for full divine self-awareness is the “driveshaft” of the divine movement towards outward manifestation.

Boehme: the perceiving of the Unity is called love.

“Consciousness is born on the rack of desire and its frustration.”

Chapter 12: Stage 2: The Primordial Trinity
Triangle can be read here as Father (denying), Spirit (affirming), and son (reconciling)

Also, Unmanifest (d)
Manifesting (a)
Manifested (r)

Word emerges as counterstroke to desire.

God as unmanifest always retains denying position,  which presents an emanationist creation.
Perceptivity follows quickly.
What Boehme calls light/love, Bourgeault calls “Heart of God”
Boehme’s term Christosophia

Chapter 13: Stage 3: The Sophianic Trinity
Word becomes manifested (r)
Heart of God manifesting (a)
Substatiality is new arising.

Heart of God (love) is now what calls all things into being.

Citing Tomberg, B suggests science will ultimately reveal not just that matter is condensed energy, but also of condensed consciousness or spirit, but wants to “blueshift” this claim.

The initial Incarnational move into the created order is mercy.  It is an actual substance, a very subtle energy, the very foundation of our souls.

Extended Merton quote on the spark of Divinity within.

Related to Tomberg quote, Holy Substantiality is the counterstroke of perceptivity.

Chapter 14: The Incarnational Trinity
In the 4th triad, we are in time.  Jesus is the new arising, substantiality is (r), word/Spirit is (a).  Jesus is the counterstroke of love.

B sees HS & Father & Mary (immaculate conception) as containing metaphysical truth.

Chapter 15: The Messianic Trinity

5th trinity assumes orthodox filioque position.
“Pneumatic corporeity”
In spring, nature prepares “the nuptial banquet” of the manifestation of the HS in the 10 days of the Ascensiontide.
The Ascensiontide is the “Harrowing of Heaven” – a parallel mirror to the “Harrowing of Hell” – “he descended into hell…”
“Ever hereafter in the realms of being, the encounter with the Holy Spirit will be a personal encounter with Jesus.”

Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (p. 168). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

“Transfigured eros is the immortal diamond fused at the very heart of the density of this world. It can be fused only here, under these extreme conditions of density and pressure.”  (TNH: Is this what Tomberg and B mean when they claim that matter isn’t simply condensed energy, but also condensed consciousness)

Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (p. 169). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

Chapter 16: The Pentecostal Trinity
Kingdom of God is the new arising, HS is (r) & Son (body of Christ) is (a)
See several highlighted quotes in book
Chapter 17: The Economic Trinity
Oikonomia, or divine plan, is new arising.  KOG is (r), HS is (a)
(TNH – There is something similar to dispensationalism about all of this…)
We’re moving towards a subtler form of corporeal existence.  Blueshift movement compresses the raw materials of physical time and space into “spiritual artistry.”
“We do not begin our journey with a soul, but end up with one.”
We lose nothing of our body in entering the more subtle realm of spirit.
Chapter 18: The Reflexive Trinity

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