3: The Perfect Number - Trinity Symbolism in World Religious Traditions

3: The Perfect Number - Trinity Symbolism in World Religious Traditions

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“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...”

The concept of a Trinity or triadic nature of the divine has been a part of our psyche for thousands of years, and has appeared in creation tales, myths, religious writings and holy texts the world over. Yet to this day, the Trinity is always thought of as having its origin in Roman Catholicism—most notably at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, the first ecumenical council of Christian bishops where the consensus of beliefs was decided upon for all of Christendom, including the Trinity as the three-fold nature of the persona of God.

A representation of the Christian Holy Trinity. The persons of the Trinity are identified by symbols on their chests: The Son has a lamb, the Father, an Eye of Providence, and the Spirit a dove.

A representation of the Christian Holy Trinity. The persons of the Trinity are identified by symbols on their chests: The Son has a lamb, the Father, an Eye of Providence, and the Spirit a dove. ( Public Domain )

Yet references to the Trinity or something like it occur in many major and minor religions. Scholar Elaine Pagels studied sacred texts and wrote in The Gnostic Gospels (1979) that early Christian concepts of the Trinity were molded from Judaic terminology for the description of a genderless God, later “masculinized” by the Christians. In the ninth century AD Celtic philosopher Erigena challenged Augustine’s rather anthropomorphic Trinity view of Three-Persons-in-One-God with his far more philosophical views of God as Nothing and Everything.

According to Karen Armstrong in her seminal A History of God (1994), Christian church leadership struggled to maintain control of the doctrine it would present to the public, including a comprehensible interpretation of the Trinity as the personas of God, despite the resistance of those not capable of seeing God as any structure or “personage.” This struggle continues today in churches where the concept of the Trinity presents a vague understanding of who God is and why God must have three different “faces.”

Triple-formed representation of the Greek goddess Hecate. ( Public Domain )

The Trinity has remained one of the most elusive of holy mysteries in the body of Christianity, and one that draws debate in Catholicism even today as modern church-goers seek a more foundational understanding of why God’s “person” is three-fold and not singular, yet containing all. All is One. One is All.

The Trinity in Global Religions

Interestingly, Judaism would reject the Trinity based on their belief that giving Jesus divinity at all was blasphemous. To the Jews, Jesus was a man, not a divine persona or aspect of God. Islam had its own Trinity in the Father, the Son and Maryam or Mary and is the only religion to include a feminine aspect of the divine Godhead.

Trinities appear in eastern traditions as well. Modern translations of The Tao Te Ching (1996); The Essential Kabbalah (1995); The Bhagavad-Gita (1986); and The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1994) all serve to provide unusual insights into how this concept of a three-fold nature of reality, and our role in it, is seen and understood. Eastern traditions remove the aspect of a Godhead, or divine figure described by the Trinity.

In The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the “Three Bodies of Buddhahood,” present triadic levels of existence. A person is responsible for his or herself on all three levels. As Buddhahood, the triad becomes the Three Buddha Bodies; ordinary body becoming the Emanation Body, speech the Beatific Body, and the mind the Truth Body. The three Buddha Bodies correlate with body, mind and spirit, and we might go so far as to say with the concept of the Father as God, the Son as personhood and the Holy Spirit as the process by which a person becomes one with God, and also suggest a more unified and process-oriented explanation for the Trinity.

Statue of Buddha

Statue of Buddha (Flickr/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )

We even see parallels in The Tao Te Ching in the “Three Jewels” or “Three Treasures” of the Buddha, the Dharma (law or action) and the Sangha (community). The Jains recognize the Trinity of samyag-darsana (correct insight), samyag-jnana (correct knowledge), and samyag-caritra (correct conduct). 

In The Bhagavad-Gita , there is the threefold nature of the Self, as told to Arjuna by the Hindu God Krishna, and in The Kabbalah , the mystical branch of Judaism, we find similar concepts of Holy Breath as necessary for union with the Divine, and the three original emanations from Ein Sof , All That Is - Nothingness, Wisdom and Understanding. These three emanations serve as the basis upon which all other existence upon the Tree of Life was formed and the essence of which followers were urged never to try to understand. Perhaps the vague nature of the Catholic Holy Trinity is something followers are not meant to understand either, at least not on a conscious level.

Comments

Barry Sears's picture

There is a massive amount of confusion with this subject. The idea that God has certain characteristics is one notion but the concept is much more interesting than this. The idea is a common theme for most cultures but the truth has become lost for many. The origin is much older and can be read easily in history once you understand the concept.
The idea is that God is a universal being and everything is part of God. This universal body as a structure is almost impossible to comprehend but the energy system is a creative template for life. Smaller structures are now recognisable as Galaxies and these have evolved to a creative pattern and we identify different phases of a galaxies life now. These Galaxies are traditionally titled a heavenly realm of which the next structure was cosmologically identified. This is the realm of the Father known as a Celestial body surrounding Earth. This body is a smaller version of the universal body. The next structure identified globally is Earth, known commonly as Mother Earth, the terrestrial structure is also a smaller version of the universal body. I could start quoting all of the global names for these recognised bodies but I wish to keep it simple, the universal body of God, the Celestial body and the World body. The next structure to life is all of the life forms on Earth.
The biblical trinity expresses that God the universal being contains all of these smaller bodies, likewise all of these bodies are just parts of God.
Biblically each of these structures are well defined and they are also then divided into smaller units, broken down into different attributes and each has it's own angelic order.
This concept dates back thousands of years and is recorded in some of the early vedas through a concept known as Purusha, Kaala Purusha, Kala Purusa. 
 

What is so difficult with the understanding that God was made known in the flesh and seen of angels? Why do people confuse titles with individuals and count them as separate entities. I am a father and a son who can also be describes as an invisible soul wrapped in flesh......spirit if you will. Does that mean there are three of me? The fact that Jews rejected Jesus as God manifested in flesh has no bearing on the singularity of who he is. If you wanted to be technical, it was the Spirit that overshadowed Mary.......so the third person is the father if you go down false religions path. There is a reason why the child born and the son given is the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father. There is no other one......emphasis on One.

Moonsong's picture

That’s it? How about the trinity in the Old Pagan Prehistoric religion of Fertility, that is, the Maiden, Mother and Crone? Depictions of this trinity have been found all over Europe. The Greeks and Romans had many female trinities embedded in their culture, like the three Furies, the three Medusas and the three Fates. And what about the Celtic female trinity of the Goddess of War/Justice – Macha, Badb, Nemain? I feel that this article has left a lot out, and also that it is pretty inaccurate as the notion of the Divine Trinity is much older than the religions mentioned, going back to prehistoric times.

- Moonsong
--------------------------------------------
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world ~ Oscar Wilde

Hi, Moonsong. Thanks for the comment and yes, we explore the trinity much more deeply in our book, THE TRINITY SECRET. But for this article we had a very strict word count to stick to and could not possibly cover every example of the triune nature of reality in one short piece. I do hope you'll read the book as we cover everything you said and more!

Hi, Moonsong. Thanks for the comment and yes, we explore the trinity much more deeply in our book, THE TRINITY SECRET. But for this article we had a very strict word count to stick to and could not possibly cover every example of the triune nature of reality in one short piece. I do hope you'll read the book as we cover everything you said and more!

The 3 treasures in Chinese Medicine that the author refers to are known as; 1) JING- essence of life (resides in the kidneys), 2) QI- energy (resides in the spleen), 3) SHEN- mind/spirit (resides in the heart. The Jing mixes with the Qi (which in this case are the forms of energy that enter the body- air, food, water, sunlight), all of this is mixed and is transformed into the Shen- mind/spirit.

The body is seen as a functioning whole comprised of various systems. In the NEI JING SU WEN it is written that these systems are " inter-related, co-dependant and born of each other".

That is another wonderful example, thank you!!! We were not able to include them all, but I love learning about new "trinities" that exist in religion, myth, nature, science, even our fairy tales and dramatic writing! Thank you for commenting!

Barry Sears's picture

Stonehenge is part of a traditional global design representing one of the zodiac signs. It is understood that the zodiac corresponds to the parts of the Celestial body of which each sign is an anatomical zone and all together make up the complete body. We now know that there are also Earth zodiacs with the corresponding signs generally represented with animal figures correlating to anatomy. 
The Father as a body is rather obvious and well defined, although traditionally this was considered a full body surrounding our planet and is more obvious through neighbouring cosmology. Biblical scripture took on a stance and worked with the acceptance of gender opposing the Egyptian Nut as a Celestial Mother and defined the Celestial body as a Father figure. This also simplified the concept as far as structure, placing a singular God as a universal structure. They however express the big message and acceptance of the Earthly anatomy as Israel being the zone of the womb and the Virgo region of anatomy. 
The global anatomy is one of the most lost messages, so obvious once seen and is expressed as the Holy Spirit; all references are terrestrial and refer to the spring of all life forms on Earth.

Quote
One text is the Gospel of Thomas which is part of the newly discovered Nag Hammadi texts (discovered 1945-1947).  Most are composed about the same time as the Biblical gospels in the 1st and 2nd century AD.  In this gospel, Jesus declares that his disciples must hate their earthly parents (as in Luke 14:26) but love the Father and Mother as he does, "for my mother (gave me falsehood), but (my) true Mother gave me life."  In another Nag Hammadi discovery, The Secret Book of James, Jesus refers to himself as "the son of the Holy Spirit." 

These bodies are well recorded globally; the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Please refer to the gallery pictures for zodiac anatomical pictures.
 

Regarding trinities there is the shamanic triad in Egypt's initiation texts, too. Here they are Asar (Osiris), Ra, and Hor (Horus). The initiate is Asar which is why he is portrayed as a mostly mummified person, excepting his head. That is, his body is dead, but his consciousness survives. Asar is in transition. That his consciousness persists after initiatory/actual death is why he is colored a fecund green.

If Asar (i.e. the initiate) continually rises toward/surrenders to the golden light (Ra) and he becomes Ra then he returns to earth as someone enlightened/initiated, or Hor (Horus). Both Ra and Hor are depicted in exceptionally similar ways...as falcon-headed humans. The idea here is that the falcon touches both the earth and the sky. The falcon can fly toward the light, yet land back on earth again. Falcons have keen sight and have the perspective of the eye in the sky, and the earthly realm. This is the famous "Eye of Hor (Horus)" that is the "third eye" of other religious systems. The difference between Ra and Hor is that Ra remains in the sky, as father, while his newborn son, the initiated, Hor, returns to earth as son. Asar, of course, is "Holy Ghost."

Yours, in service,

Jason

hi. great subject matter, and respect shown by members to each other

Barry Sears's picture

Most cultures have a cosmological structure and this correlates to the bodies of life represented in a level of the trinity. It is apparent many trinities are evident of which I am familiar with the progressive structures and bodies traditionally and globally described. Bodies are different from personalities of one. The Universal design known by many names is macro cosmically projected by studying life closer to home. As life forms on Earth are a product of parental figures, it was traditionally projected that life as larger structures were to.
I can appreciate that we can be both Father and Son, we can be Mother and daughter, we can't be Mother Father and Son and Daughter. Father here refers to the heavenly or Celestial energy of our surrounding body who is a traditional partner to the Earth body. These are physically recognised by studying life. I love the Geb and Nut example, although I am liberal with gender. The Celestial body of Nut is broken down into anatomical signs represented by Earthly observations. These two structures are compared to the form of the human body and this is considered the Universal template.
The same template or pattern passes through each of these structures like a Russian doll similarity. The Geb and Nut concept is well known but the zodiac signs are all individual anatomical parts and together form the full body. The Earth zones are the same and were recorded by ancient civilisations confirming global communications. Look at my picture and look at the twelve zones around the equator of Earth. The heads of Easter Island, to Stonehenge as Cancer, to the Sphinx as Leo, the Virgin Mary and Christ as Virgo, the scales of Buddha and other Icons. These examples correlate to the same Celestial order, considered a full body broken down into anatomical parts.  ( please refer to the gallery for numerous pictures )
The human body representing life on Earth blends into the World body and correlates to the Celestial body; a cosmological trinity each as a different scale of the Universal pattern and each only a part of the Universal structure.   
Quote "the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God."
 

I suggest you do more research on the perception of the Trinity taught as part of the Catholic faith.
There is not " much frustration and debate in the Catholic Church", iIt is one of our cannons and doctrine.
Take a banana, peel it, put your finger at the top and gentle push. The banana will split evenly into 3 parts. Each separate, yet all banana. Got it ?
God is three persons in One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit..............Amen
Interesting parallels with other 'religious' teachings.
Martha

Barry Sears's picture

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Barry Sears's picture

It is a fascinating concept and I believe there is interpretation variations as with everything, especially when you look globally. The most efficient research on the subject is to captivate the messages from the time and the cosmological beliefs from around the whole region. By gathering these stories then you can grasp the messages of the era. I fully respect the multiple ideas we give the stories thousands of years later. Hopefully I am able to open the doors to the possibility or consideration to another interpretation. Once you are familiar with this message then many other messages become logical and clear also. 

Traditionally the study was about establishing an understanding of life and how it works or evolved. This was studying the relationship of life on Earth with the motion of the Earth itself. The Earth passes through different zones or energy systems as it rotates through it's circular path. 

Beside Israel is Egypt and it is recorded, by studying life on Earth you obtain information about the corresponding connective regions of our Celestial order. The zodiac is about body parts and Earthly observations, they all combine together to represent the complete body from head to toe. The twelve regions of the Earth connect to the twelve regions of our Celestial surroundings and these connect to the twelve parts of our body. This was established by thousands of years of previous observations and research. The concept developed and the human form was used to represent the connections and so each realm became human personalised. The Holy spirit is well seeded as Mother Earth the life force to all of life on Earth. The Father is clearly defined as living or residing in the Heavenly realm. These are clearly defined as only parts of God, but by removing the cosmological structure to life it is easy to amalgamate them.

I am fully aware of this interpretation and it is fine but it is my mission to let you know it is not necessarily the true original intention. Mr Christ defined the land of Israel as the land of Virgo, this sits beside Egypt the land of Leo. These are anatomical regions defining the zones of Mother Earth, the Holy spirit. The great debate that gathered priests and experts from around the World for the Trinitarian Homoousian God of Nicene Christianity discussions, didn't complete the discussion and the subject about the Holy spirit was missed. The emphasis was given to focusing on the Son of God. 

I also fully agree with the comments that they are all parts of God, but these are also clearly defined as cosmological parts, images of God. They, as parts, can also be considered like specks of dust if you consider God to be the complete Universal structure of which there is only one, as we know the size and vastness of the Universe today.

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