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
by Cynthia Bourgeault
Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2013
Reviewed by Jacqueline Leksen
From the solitude of her seaside hermitage, and drawing on her work as an international retreat leader, modern-day mystic and Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault brings us her most recent writings, the result of ten years of intensive research. Bourgeault, founder and director of the Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School, is the author of The Wisdom Jesus, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, Centering Prayer, and Inner Awakening. She invites readers to join with her in recovering the tradition of the ancient Christian contemplative Wisdom path “in the midst of this long winter of our Christian discontent” (10).
Bourgealt approaches the complex subject of the Trinity with a keen intellect that weaves together theology and metaphysics, drawing on principles of math and science. She writes that the culminating chapters in the third part of the book “emerged, pretty much as is, from a single, very intense spate of visionary seeing” in which she was given “a breathtaking glimpse of the journey of divine love into time, through time, and out of time” (7).
Citing extensive research springing from work done by G. I. Gurdjeiff in the late 1800s to mid-1900s, referred to as the Gurdjieff Work (3, 4), Bourgeault makes the case that the Trinity holds within itself “a powerful metaphysical principle that could change our understanding of Christianity and … reunite our shattered cosmology, rekindle our visionary imagination, and cooperate consciously with the manifestation of Jesus’s ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ here on earth” (2).
It is Bourgeault’s belief that the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—is not about persons but about process, encapsulating “a paradigm of change and transformation based on an ancient metaphysical principle known as the Law of Three” (15), which she names as “Christianity’s hidden driveshaft” (3). Hints of the Law of Three can be found in mystical streams of Christian thought, especially in the work of the German mystic Jacob Boehme and the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin (3). The Law of Three and the Law of Seven, cosmic laws interwoven in the symbol of the Enneagram, are thought to have their origins within the ancient Eastern Orthodox Church. They have helped to foster Bourgault’s own inner awakening.
While much of the language of metaphysics has historically been couched in terms of paired opposites such as the yin and yang and dark and light of stable binary systems, Bourgeault explains to her readers how the ternary system of the Law of Three is asymmetrical and innovative, dynamic and creative, moving things forward, bringing a new rising (81). It is a “mandala of love in motion” (82). As Beatrice Bruteau, philosopher and mathematician, declares, there is “a Trinitarian template built right into the dynamics of the universe itself … that presence of the Trinity … that makes the universe the manifestation of God and itself sacred and holy” (87).
Spiritual directors will be especially drawn to Bourgeault’s timely and prophetic words, particularly to her vision of “The Unfolding Trinity” in part three and to the excellent Enneagram discussion in chapter four.
Jacqueline Leksen provides spiritual accompaniment in Seattle and Lynnwood, Washington, USA, where she companions people from a wide variety of spiritual traditions and life circumstances, including those who struggle with homelessness. She completed a master’s degree in transforming spirituality at Seattle University.