The Magic of Numbers and Overcoming Gravity
There is an old saying that goes: “If you want the Devil to appear you need to call on him three times.” I am unsure of the truth of this—I leave it to your discretion to experiment with. However, crossroads are a bit cold, slippery, and busy this time of year so...perhaps wait until it's a bit warmer before you call on Old Nick. Maybe a more gentlemanly example might be found in Freemasonry. There is an old (rarely adhered to anymore) tradition that says if one wants to join a Masonic lodge, they need to ask three times. This does more than simply discourage the superficially curious; it dates back to when joining Freemasonry was a serious—at times a life or death—decision. “Once a Mason, always a Mason.” It is not something that can be “undone” or unlearned. This appearance of the number “three” in prayers, petitions, and invocations of all kinds is commonplace: it means that one has spent time in deliberation concerning what they want and are committed to its achievement. Or, in the words of Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond novels): “Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”
How much energy we put into something will define its outcome. The question is: do we have enough energy? Can we supply it at the right time and place for the desired outcome? Can I flap my arms fast enough to fly or should I buy a plane ticket? Should I purchase my tomatoes or build and maintain a small greenhouse so I can eat them in the wintertime? You get the picture. Without unlimited resources we need to pick and choose our actions carefully...or risk ending up either dead or with nothing to show for what we've done.
That is where the number “three” comes in. “Three” is about limits, the limits needed to achieve something. It is the triangle of manifestation. It is also related to Saturn, the lord of duality, the gatekeeper of the upper realms and the foundation and support of all manifestation. Without limits, it is all just one big puddle of mud, cosmic or otherwise.
Allan Miller (better known to most of you under his pseudonym, Dr. Christopher Hyatt) liked to quote Dr. Robert Lindner who postulated that there are three obstacles we as human beings must overcome: gravity, ignorance, and death.
Gravity we overcome every time we move, and when we stop moving—for good that is—gravity and death win. Ignorance we overcome every time we surmount a limitation, usually one within ourselves first, although it may also be the unintended result of an action. For example, “It was a good idea at the time” are famous words said by many an adolescent male to their school principal, their parents, the police, and the judge—you can throw in the attending emergency room doctor while you're at it.
Death is the last barrier to be overcome, and is the result of conquering the previous two first—after we have gotten off our Muladhara Chakra and done something, seeking the most effective and energetically efficient way to get it done (gravity's defeat), and after we have reasoned and reflected (by the use of the imagination) on our limits and how to vanquish them by ourselves or with the assistance of others (the overcoming of ignorance).
From this, the magic number of “three” goes from limiting us like a lid on a can of beans to becoming a channel,allowing us to concentrate our energy along specific lines of action whereby our mental creations become material manifestations and our emotions function as the fuel for our realizations.
Yet few people actually get what they want after asking three times—just ask the average child. Some adults who have never matured emotionally learn that throwing the equivalent of a hissy fit will get them attention and even some “bones” thrown their way to placate them. But in the end, they never really get what they want—only something to pacify them until next time. These people are looked upon and treated like children because they do not have enough self-discipline and self-reflection to take control of their own lives.
Which leads us to the next magic number...
Sir Martin Rees, Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University and holder of the title “Astronomer Royal,” points out in his book Just Six Numbers: Deep Forces That Shape The Universe that the universe is a finely tuned place where even minor deviations in six basic equations that define how the physical world works would result in a very different experience for all of us. One need not be a “Cambridge Don” to understand this. In Tibetan Buddhism, the apocryphal quote of Guru Padmasambhava is often stated, “While my thoughts are as broad as the sky, my actions are as fine as sand.” Think broadly, act carefully, as all actions have consequences—intended or not. This is in fact the nature of karma; karma is directly related to action, and by this we meanphysical action more so than mental action. Thoughts without physical action behind them are incomplete and therefore less significant in either this life or any possible future life. Thoughts backed up by action have measurable effects; these types of thoughts define who we are and who we will become. It is the number “six” that relates to the sphere of Tiphareth on the Tree of Life; it is this sphere of activity in mind and body that awakens us to our real self—it is “here” (in quotes, as there is no “here”—only realization, or wisdom, and action based upon it) that we overcome our ignorance.
Your actions, not your thoughts, will ultimately define your path. Your thoughts are only important insofar as they take shape in your inner (subjective) and outer (objective) worlds.
Tiphareth sits at the center of the Tree; in it, all the forces of the Tree are connected. It is the cosmic version of the party game “Six Degrees of Separation.” I don't know if you will find Kevin Bacon there, but it is only when we start realizing our connections to others that we can realize our own authentic self. Life is the mirror of our mind. If you want to see something beautiful and meaningful, it is up to you to build it. This building, more often than not, cannot be done alone, but needs to be done in connection and co-operation with others.
Six is also the key to our transformation—not just in abstract terms of mysticism, but in a very real sense. In marketing, it is said that, for the average person, the message of change or action you want them to undertake must be seen or heard a minimum of six times. Again, ask any parent how often they need to ask their child to do something, and I will safely bet the answer “six times” comes up more often than two or three. The latter just gets their attention; it takes another two or three times to get them moving. Overcoming gravity in ourselves and others is an energy-demanding task until new, energy-efficient habits are formed.
On yet another note, if we take nine steps outside of our daily lives, we begin to enter the Path of Return. It is no coincidence that “nine” is important across various systems: there are nine vehicles in Nyingma Vajrayana, nine degrees in the old Rose+Croix system, nine feet in a magic circle, and nine squares in the so-called Square of Saturn found in Western magic and in Taoism.
“Nine” is about teachings, or levels of teachings. It is the number of symbolic steps or realizations we need to have to complete the Work. The most important realization we need to have is that of cause and effect (or karma). Avoid the Bad, perform the Good, and learn how to overcome both without falling into the error of self-absorption or blissful ignorance and oblivion. Learn to understand yourself and the world as it is and to do good when and where you can—but realize that establishing Paradise on Earth for everyone is not in your capacity, job description, or even set of possible options without the consent and cooperation of “everyone.” Through your own awakening you will become “the change you are looking for,” one that will inspire and help others—but only those who want it, and then only within their capacity. Teachings are like diets, or as Jesus says in the Gospel, “Milk for babes, and for you strong meat.” Each can only learn according to their capacity; that capacity is limited only by their own personal effort. Yet change takes effort—personal effort—born of personal necessity and desire. If there is no perception of need, then no effort will be put forth, and change will come very slowly. If by force or by reason we could get people to “avoid the negative, perform the positive” then there would be no reason for me to write this letter to you.
You will remember that I previously wrote two letters to you asking for your assistance in bringing some rare and important teachings to print so that others can benefit from them. What was your reaction to the first letter? It was a rational appeal. Did it strike you? Did it move you to act? We both know it did not. But only you can answer why. Then there was the second letter. This had more of an emotional appeal. Did it move you to act? Regardless of your answer being “yes” or “no,” reflect on why you responded the way you did.
Finally, I ask again for your support. Why? Because the goal has not yet been reached. We have eight weeks to this campaign, and it takes a minimum of six requests before most people will act. So only by reminding you each week of our needs, and the positive role you can play in bringing the Institute's goals to fruition, will our combined objectives be achieved.
Because you are reading this, to a greater or lesser degree I am functioning as your “friend and guide” on this path;you are part of the fellowship that we call the Institute for Hermetic Studies, whose teachings in practice and transmission is in part your responsibility. I am asking each of you personally to reflect upon this and to assist me, as well as your Brothers and Sisters—known and unknown, existing now and in the future—by financially supporting our publication projects so that we can make more information available to you and others on the Path of Return.
Please go to the link below and make your contribution today.
Together, we can make three the magic number.