The Number Three
One of the mysteries of Freemasonry is the incessant occurrence of the number three. From the very first step in Masonry (Three Distinct Knocks at the door) to the Three Step gesture offered Three times at a grave by two men and a third, the number three is scattered throughout Freemasonry.
How many threes can you think of off the top of your head? If you are a Master Mason, the number is staggering. Of course, it’s not just Freemasonry where the number three appears.
The trinity or triune god is just one example of a significant three outside the lodge. So, seeing as the number appears so many times, have you ever stopped to wonder: What is so special about the number three? Well, I want to share with you my thoughts on it. I hope it stimulates you to think about other “threes” and why they are so prevalent. I want to start small and build up, so let’s start with math.
- Three is the third whole number excluding zero.
- Three is the sum of the first three whole numbers.
- In the first three numbers, 0, 1, 2 all of the others are synthesized.
- From the union of oneness and duality (which is its reflection), that is, from triad, proceed all of the other numbers, and from this primordial triangle all figures derive.
- A triangle, with three sides, is the first closed two dimensional object.
- RNA has a triplet codon system.
- DNA has a triplet codon system.
- Human chromosomes can present trisomy. We are hard-wired for the number three.
- 3 mammalian Germ layers: Endoderm- Mesoderm- Ectoderm 3
- Principal stages of glucose respiration: Glycolysis~ Krebs cycle~ Electron transport chain.
As a symbol, it has particular power. We find the triad in all cultures to represent mystical power.
- There are three main Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Holy Trinity in Christian doctrine (or trinity in general), is God both as a single being and three persons: the Father, the Son and the Spirit. This is also known as tripartite division.
- Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.
- The Wise Men who visited Jesus after His birth left Him three gifts.
- Three Wise Men
- In Muslim devotional rites, certain formulas are repeated three times, and others thirty-three times
- A devout Muslim tries to make a pilgrimage to all three holy cities in Islam: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem
So, we are surrounded in life by the number three, its encoded in our genetic code, and it permeates all levels of our culture. It should not be surprising at all then, that we should see it in our gentle craft.
Now let’s look at a few examples of three in masonry.
- Three Grand Masters
- Three Principle Officers
- Three Great Supports of Masonry
- Three Great Lights of Masonry
- Three Distinct Knocks
- Three Degrees
- Three Orders of Architecture
- Precious Jewels of a Fellowcraft.
- Wages of a Fellowcraft Mason.
- The Villains
- The Deacons Raps
This is but a short list of the more obvious. How many more can you find?
So, what are we being taught in lodge by the number three? As we can see, the number three shows us there are at least sets of answers, from the outer portico, to the middle chamber, to the sanctum sanctorum.
I will not try to answer the question, but it is something that all Masons should contemplate… at least three times.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons, may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us.