Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Mystical Number Three

Dear George,
My brother Peter was always more receptive than I to esoteric philosophies and ideas.  I was more of a nerdy science type (social science anyway), while Peter was more drawn to  philosophy and cosmology.  He had abiding interests in matters like Zoroastrianism, reincarnation, Buddhism, etc., and regularly strived to make sense out of the mysteries and puzzles of life.  Now that I’m approaching maturity, I appreciate that Peter was on the right track -- life gets more intriguing we’re open to new possibilities.  A good example is the number three.  When I was younger, I never gave hardly any thought to the meaning of three.  However, now that I’ve been looking into it, it turns out that three has been a mystical number in human cultures since the beginning of time.  One theory that goes all the way back to the ancient Babylonians and Celts is that three is at the very essence because the miracle of birth turns a couple (two) into three.  Thus, three represents the deepest aspects of human experience -- birth, life, continuation of the species.  And there are many other implications.  God is said to have three attributes: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.  Time is divided into past, present, and future. There are three primary colors in the spectrum (red, blue, and green), and the physical world has three dimensions (length, width, height).  There are three kingdoms of matter: animal, vegetable, and mineral. Plato divided his Utopian city into Laborers, Guardians (warriors), and Philosophers (rulers).  The Greeks used three even more: the three Fates, three Graces, three Furies, three Gorgons.  Cerberus was a three-headed dog; Apollo’s Pythia sat on a three-legged chair. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung proposed that three symbolizes the merging of the will with the heart and soul.

Threes occupy a central place in most world religions.  In Christianity three represents the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).   There were three gifts of the Magi; three members of the Holy Family; three crosses at Calvary; three Marys; three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity); and three realms of the afterlife (Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory).  Even the word “sex” appears in the Bible three times.  In Judaism there are three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob); three sections of the Tanakh (Torah, Mev'im, and Ketuvim); and three main divisions of Jews (Kohen, Levi, and Israel).  Three precious gifts were given to Israel (the Law, the Land, and the World to Come), and three men handed down ancient wisdom and Divine secrets (Adam, Enoch, and Seth).  According to Muhammad, there are three holy cities of Islam to which pilgrimage should be made: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.   In Hinduism, God appears in three manifestations: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer).  The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha's teachings), and the Sangha (the community of enlightened beings).  In Norse mythology (the closest to my Scandinavian heart), the three Goddesses of Destiny are Urd (Fate), Verdani (Present), and Skuld (Future). 

Both good and bad happenings are believed to occur in threes.  On the bad side, British soldiers in the Crimean War (and soldiers in every war thereafter) believed that if three cigarettes were lit from a single match, one of the soldiers would be killed.  That’s because a sniper would see the first light, take aim with the second, and shoot with the third.  If a famous person dies, people expect two more deaths soon after.  Drowning persons are believed to surface three times before going down for the last time.  In Vietnam it's bad luck to take a photo of three people because the person in the middle is more likely to die.   

Three is also a "lucky number".  People believe that something will succeed even though two previous attempts have ended in failure ("third time lucky"). We give three cheers to successful people and groups.  Wiccans perform white magic more often than black magic because they believe that everything they send out will come back threefold.  Superstitions hold that you will receive great wealth if you wash your hair on the third day of the month; three-legged dogs bring good luck; and spitting three times wards off the devil.  

The number three is important in sports.  Three strikes in a row in bowling are called a turkey; 3 strikes and the batter is out in baseball; a shot behind the 3-point arc in basketball is worth three points; a field goal in football, 3 points; scoring 3 wickets in a row in cricket is a hat trick; a triathlon consists of 3 swimming, bicycling, and running.  Famous literary threesomes include: the Three Musketeers, the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, the Three Blind Mice, Three Sisters (Chekhov), the three witches in Macbeth, the three parts of Dante's Divine Comedy, and the three Rings of Power in the Lord of the Rings.

For myself, I feel a special connection to the number three because, as a firstborn child, my family constellation initially consisted of my parents (one and two) and myself (number three).  Once I reflected on my growing up, it was amazing to realize how much my world has been organized around threes.  Here are just a few examples: 

-In childhood I had:
            -Three siblings: Steven, Peter, Vicki
            -Three familial uncles/aunts: Kent, Karl, Martha
            -Three living grandparents: V.A., Olga, Guy
            -Three best friends: Frank S., Skipper B., Jimmy J.
            -Three residences in Menominee: Ogden Ave., Sheridan Rd., Quimby Ave.
            -Three schools I went to: Boswell, Washington, Menominee High
-Our twin cities of Menominee and Marinette had:
            -Three bridges: Interstate, Menekaunee, Hattie St.
            -Three high schools: Menominee HS, Marinette HS, Lourdes
            -Three banks: First National, Commercial, Stephenson
            -Three parks with swimming beaches: Henes Park, Marina Park, Red Arrow Park
            -Three golf courses: Riverside, Little River, North Shore
-When we moved to our family home on the Menominee River in 1946 we:
            -Had a family of three brothers (David, Steven, Peter)
            -Lived in a three-bedroom house
            -Were three miles from downtown Menominee and downtown Marinette.
            -Were three miles from the river’s mouth at Green Bay.
            -Had three neighbors: Orths, Meads, Shaver
-In college I:
            -Had three majors: engineering, literature, psychology           
            -Lived in three dorms           
            -Had three freshman roommates: Les S., Bob P, Ted R
            -Played three intramural sports: basketball, football, tennis
            -Had three lit profs: Drs. Miller, Judson, Maurer
            -Had three psychology profs: Drs. Leuba, Eng, John
            -Had three off-campus coop jobs: Madison, NYC, Connecticut
-Katja and I:
            -Dated for three years before marrying
            -Have lived in three cities together: Yellow Springs, Ann Arbor, Cincinnati
            -Lived in 3 residences in Cincinnati: Williamsburg, Clifton Ave., Ludlow Ave.
            -Had a three-person family: Katja, our son J, and myself
            -Had three annual vacation destinations: Menominee, Philadelphia, NYC

Numerologists note that every person has a personality number which reveals his or her traits and styles of interacting with others.  One’s personality number can be determined from their birth date.  To find out what it is, you first add up the numbers for your birth month, day, and year.  For myself, this is: 7 + 21 + 1937 = 1965.  Then you reduce that sum as follows: 1 + 9 + 6 + 5 = 21.  Then you reduce that total again to get your personality number: 2 + 1 = 3.  Omigosh, I’m a 3!  I should have known that. Various numerology websites give interpretations of number personalities.  According to, numerological 3 people, during positive periods, become optimistic, creative, good-natured, and helpful (though they also may have tendencies to be naive and give promises easily).  During negative periods, on the other hand, they tend to become nervous, downhearted, insecure, lonely, jealous, and overly critical.  I’m not sure if that’s conmpletely accurate, but when I asked Katja she said it sounded very familiar.

Now that I know I’m a number three person, my next step is to reorganize my life appropriately.  In the next few months I plan to add a third sheepdog to our pack, have a third grandchild, take three trips to exotic places (e.g., Santa Cruz), devote three hours a day to working out, and increase my 5 p.m. red wine intake from two glasses to three.  Right now I feel pretty optimistic and good-natured about this (though next week I will likely be nervous and downhearted).  In any case, once my numerology quest is firmly in place, I’m planning to move on to Scientology.

Sources:;;;;;;;;;; (“3 [number]”)

G-mail Comments
-Donna D (10-28): I’m a number 6.  What does that mean?
-Linda K-C (10-25):  All I know is 7 is not lucky for me, wonder why, but it remains  a mystery. 
Oh, I am excited about you having a third grandchild, but wouldn't that give me a third one too, I don't feel that comfortable you making that decision on my behalf. I think they have their hands full and if you mention this to j and k they will start searching for a very needy child.
Up your uptake of wine from 3 to 6 and leave the grandkids alone. 
Another dog, do as you wish , but the effect on three grandkids could have a negative effect on 3 plus 3 plus 3 people. For instance ,on Leo,  vida, k, that's three , Katja, Ted , me that's three, jayme, Ben , theo, now maybe you and Justin are one on this three plan, but I think you are carrying this too far.
For instance none of these affect you dramatically, extra dog maybe, but not much else, I don't see you imposing three wives on your self, or marrying someone with two children so you have three kids,  the uptake of wine is best idea, I support that. 
You must go see movie " the master " with Oscar award performance by one of the phoenix siblings, you may have been brainwashed by recent readings 
Meanwhile, take 3 bennies, take a walk for 3 hours, help Katja for three hours, and go and collect post cards for three hours
Really David, take three hours and get a grip.  (I would really like to know what Vicki and Katya think of my statements.)
I would however love to join you on the exotic trip to Santa Cruz so our families could get together, that seems like a good idea for L and V, especially since L is looking at my family pictures and asking who is family, who are friends.
I actually really like you and your  family , and I see no reason you wouldn't like mine, so if we took that oh so exotic adventure to Santa Cruz , V and L would see what strong support they had in family.
Not that I think V needs any particular attention in that area of emotional stability, but I do feel sensitive to sweetheart Leo's early abandonment , and I think we can't deny the effect on him.
So we've talked about this before, 3 times I am sure,  so get back with me in three days please.  Grandparent in law. Linda 

-Gayle C-L (10-26): David,  Awesome.   What a great piece!!!!  I ll have to work the math for my special number :)  Keep up the good work );).  Love. G

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