This essay was written for an audience of Freemasons. I must stress here that these ideas do not necessarily reflect the views of other Masons, nor are they Masonic "beliefs". They are strictly my own opinions.
Parts of this are more meaningful to Masons, such as the details of the Fellowcraft, or Second degree of Masonry. This degree shows the candidate the value of studying architecture, symbolism, and the seven liberal arts and sciences. Yet, the ideas are universal, regardless of religious, spiritual, or even atheistic convictions. The original title of this presentation was:
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines Trinity as “the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead according to Christian dogma.” It is partly because of definitions like this that most people regard the Trinity as some spiritual idea made up out of whole cloth by some ancient Christian committee to describe some esoteric concept.
It does not take much scholarship to discover that the concept of a Trinity as a model of the nature of the Supreme Being can be found in practically every culture and religion. There is a tendency for scholars to attempt to trace the genealogy of spiritual ideas, as if someone invented the concept in the dim past, and the ideas have been transmitted from culture to culture. This merely shifts the idea of the origin of the concept from being only a Christian idea to an earlier source, and does nothing to show the Trinity is more than some human invention. It is easy to find compiled tables of the Trinity through the ages, generally consisting of a Father-aspect (Osiris, Jupiter, the Sun), a Mother aspect (Isis, Hera, the Earth), and a Son aspect (Horus, Hermes, the Adam). This only provides symbolic Names, and still does nothing to show the Trinity is more than some human invention. But it does imply that there is an underlying truth, and underlying reality to the Trinity, which has been realized by various avatars throughout history. These individuals have had a mystical experience, and of course there is no objective vocabulary to describe such an experience. Filtered through their own background and command of language, the vision is inevitably described in anthropomorphic terms. As the experience is generally a religious one, the terms are usually of gods. If there really is an underlying reality to the Trinity, it should be manifested on Earth, and amenable to scientific inquiry, and even to common sense. As Hermes said, as above, so below.
One problem is that science has traditionally had no interest in investigating this concept. So let us investigate the Trinity, not as esoterica, but as a general principle. A teacher once told me that if you really understand something, you should be able to explain it to a six-year-old. From the viewpoint of common sense, that is, demonstrable to a six-year-old from observation, what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for life? As an experimental model, consider a seed planted in fertile soil. To prosper, there are needed exactly three fundamental items, each one totally unique and distinct from each other. First, we need the Earth and all its atoms. This includes the water, the air, the soil, all the molecules which exist. It is that which permeates and is within all things. Second, we need the Sun, the source which provides the energy, without which no life is possible. Third, we need the germ of life in the Seed. None of these three can produce any of the others, each is totally unique, and life depends upon all three, in perfect balance.
The Sun is like the Father, remote, powerful, yang, and potentially dangerous without the protection of the Earth. The Earth is like the Mother, enfolding, nurturing, yin, and potentially smothering without the energy of the Sun. And the Seed is like the Son, actively producing and communicating with other life, the channel through which free will operates, and so potentially good or evil without awareness of the oneness of the Trinity.
It seems clear that the Trinity is the foundation of life, but what about science? In the Fellowcraft degree, we imply that the seven liberal arts and sciences are on the pathway to light, but only dwell on Geometry. We do not relate the threeness to any of these seven, but encourage the study. Geometry is easy, as our world is only perceivable three dimensionally, and the triangle is the only stable figure. But the Trinity appears to also be the foundation of all the sciences. The following brief descriptions are offered as simplified metaphors which could lead the contemplative Mason to a deeper appreciation of the Universe and its great Artificer.
Grammar is the foundation of communication, and defines the minimum structure necessary to communicate a unit of activity, namely a Subject, a Verb, and an Object. In different languages, the order of these can be S-V-O (English, Indonesian), S-O-V (Japanese, Turkish), V-S-O (Welsh, Zapotec), V-O-S (Malagasy), etc., but three in most languages.
Rhetoric, the art of persuasion, perhaps of imposing the will, is a three-pronged tool, consisting of forensic (determining truth, or the strength of the argument), deliberative (whether actions should be taken, the wisdom of the argument), and epideictic (concerning praise or blame, the beauty of the argument) methods. This is Aristotle’s analysis, which I select here to illuminate its resonance with the three steps.
Logic, whether Aristotle’s traditional term logic based upon the syllogism, an inference in which a conclusion follows from two premises, or modern logic, which formalizes these propositions and operators and expands to include arithmetic and calculus, follow the same arrangement.
Arithmetic, of course, explicitly manipulates triplets. We all remember the components of division, the dividend, the divisor, and the quotient. And the components of subtraction, the minuend, the subtrahend, and the difference. As this science progresses to algebra, we see that expressions, operated upon by functions, yield solutions, written in general as y = f(x), where f is the function which operates on the value x to produce a new value y. In rocket science, a vector which defines the state (position and velocity) of a spacecraft, is operated on by a matrix which defines a maneuver (a translation and rotation), to produce the desired new state, the propagated vector. Even the classic inventory uses this fundamental principle, in which an old list of items (products, quantities, prices) is acted upon by a transaction file (adds, deletes, changes) to produce a new list of items. This is the basis of fourth generation computer languages, and the reason why it was invented. In fact, this is the reason for the explosion of personal computers in the world. Before this realization, the president of IBM thought there would only be need for perhaps ten computers in the entire world.
Geometry, the basis upon which the superstructure of Freemasonry is erected, has already been explained to you by your guide. (This sentence is recited to the candidate). The lecture on geometry is part of the Masonic ritual of the second degree. Nothing mysterious, but it contains beautiful symbolism relating the wisdom, power, and beauty of the Great Artificer Of The Universe to the creation as we perceive it.
In Music, each major chord consists of exactly three notes, called the First, the Third, and the Fifth. For example, in the case of the C major chord, the first is the C note, the third is the E, and the fifth is the G. The C is the root note, which defines the chord and names the key. It determines the entire scale of seven notes. Three, five, and seven, how very familiar.
Astronomy studies celestial bodies, their motions, and constitution. All measurements are founded on geometry, of course. The motions of the bodies are described using Kepler’s three laws, which he deduced from observation. His laws can be derived using Newton’s three laws of motion. The constitution of stars is especially interesting from a Trinitarian viewpoint. The material of the star, that which is acted upon by the two other principles, is hydrogen, the simplest “seed” atom, consisting of only one proton and one electron, from which all elements are created. This mass is gathered toward a common center under the influence of gravity, a very weak force compared to the force between oppositely charged particles, and especially compared to the force which binds protons together in all other elements despite their powerful electrostatic repulsion as charged particles. But gravity eventually overcomes all these forces, and as the hydrogen is drawn in and compressed, the temperature rises to millions of degrees. If unchecked, gravity would cause the atoms to collapse into neutrons, and eventually into a black hole. This is evocative of an extreme dysfunctional female principle, an unbalanced yin force, where nurturing devolves into suffocation. When the temperature reaches a critical value, the hydrogen atoms begin a process of fusion, similar to the thermonuclear fusion of the H-bomb. This violent process, evocative of an extreme dysfunctional male principle, an unbalanced yang force, where action devolves into destruction.
Fortunately, when these two forces are perfectly balanced, we observe a beautiful star. Our personal star, we call the Sun, an interesting coincidence. It is interesting to compare this idea with that of the middle pillar as the balance and control, standing precisely between the two pillars each time we were received in the Lodge. It is also interesting to compare this idea with the lesson of the 32 degree. Pike goes to great lengths to describe the profound implications of this Royal Secret of equilibrium and balance of the two forces. He uses the Kabalah to illustrate how the mystery of the balance is relevant between the pairs, such as Wisdom and Power, Justice and Mercy, Necessity and Liberty, and applies this principle to all our actions in the world.
Many years ago, when I was an undergrad in engineering school, I was intrigued by a paragraph in an electronics book which remarked, as an interesting coincidence, how the basic Ohm’s law of electricity, E = IR, had the same exact form as the equation describing viscous fluids. I eventually came to believe that this similarity was a fundamental principle of the universe.
Looking at Ohm’s law a little closer, we observe the similarity between the three elements of the equation and our familiar Trinity. The term “E”, which we always call Voltage, in honor of the physicist Alessandro Volta, really stands for EMF, or Electromotive Force. This is the force that causes the electrons to move through a wire, or speed towards a television screen. It justifiably has the reputation: “Danger, High Voltage”, and is truly dangerous, like the Sun. The term “I”, which we always call Current, because the electrons flow like a river, and some call Amperage, in honor of the physicist Andre Ampere, really stands for Intensity. Electrons permeate and are within everything, of course, like the atoms and water and soil of our first example, and the current is the gushing flow of these electrons. The term “R”, or Resistance, is so evocative of the third of our Trinity, represented by Man. The higher the resistance to the flow, the hotter the resistor becomes, and the more the flow of current is impeded. A current can be induced in a closed loop of wire, but as soon as the Electromotive Force is removed, the resistance in the wire will cause the current to be dissipated as heat. A superconductor has no resistance at all to the flow. Once a current is induced, it will flow continuously. The Trinitarian might envision that everyone has more or less resistance to the Current, or Holy Spirit, that attempts to flow through us, with One exception, a Superconductor through whom the flow never ceases.
The more your education progresses in math and physics, the more compelling the examples become.
There is a compelling reason to adopt the model that the Trinity is a fundamental principle of the universe. Since it applies to both esoteric and exoteric landscapes, perhaps it will help to dissolve the assumed barrier, and the incidences of hostility, between science and religion.