Threes and Sevens in World Myth, Religion and Folklore
Julian Websdale, Contributor
The best known example of the triad is the Father (Godhead), Son and Holy Ghost of Christianity. But there was also the ancient Egyptian divine triad of Osiris, Isis and Horus, and the ancient Druid holy triad of Beli, Taran and Esus, not to mention the three great gods of Greece – Zeus (the sky), Poseidon (god of the sea and the power of the earth) and Hades (the underworld), mirrored in the Roman Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. Hinduism has the triad of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer.
The Egyptian trinity of Isis, Osiris and Horus is linked with the Knights Templar and the figure of John the Baptist. The Templars were accused of worshiping the ‘evil’ image of a human head – a carved head reliquary – which they called ‘Baphomet’. This head has been described as having two faces back to back, or perhaps three heads or faces – two faces back to back with a third placed centrally (like the three-headed Celtic god Bran). Some say that Baphomet had the face of a man or woman or both. But if it had two faces, then it was most probably a head with a male and a female face back to back, in which case it is more than likely that it was modelled on the two-faced Roman god Janus, the god of new beginnings and/or endings, of spiritual portals and gateways. Janus was also the god of change, transition or transformation from one condition to another and one ‘world’ to another, which relates to the midpoint between the opposites being a gateway.
The Baphomet figure is based on the ancient Egyptian triad of Osiris, Isis and Horus and other triads. These tricephalic (three-headed) images symbolize the three forces in consciousness – positive, negative and neutral – whether or not the midpoint is clearly indicated by a third face or not. The probable reasoning behind this is based on the alchemical symbolism of the androgyne, the union of male and female opposites. The chief male god is almost always associated with the sun or sky and the chief female goddess with the moon or earth. From the union of these deities comes forth the ‘son of the sun’: a trinity is created.
The Three Jewels
The triad is also, and ultimately, based on the three organs in the brain. In Jainism’s Sacred Book of the Jains, it is stated, “One should ever make his own self radiant by the light of the three jewels.” That is, truly to understand, to see the light – to be enlightened – we must utilize the ‘three jewels’. It is highly likely that these three jewels represent the three organs in the brain: the pineal and pituitary glands and the central thalamus.
These three jewels are also the three golden apples located at the top of the tree in the Greek myth of the Garden of the Hesperides – the tree guarded by a serpent named Ladon. The tree is the same seven-levelled tree or ladder representing the spinal column. For the Druids this same triad was symbolized by three white berries from the mistletoe of the oak – the gods of the tree of life, the spirits within the tree. Buddhist belief also has three jewels which release us from the clutches of rebirth on the material plane. The initiate will say, “I go for refuge to the Buddha [the initiator], to the Dharma [the teachings, the word of the Buddha], and to the Sangha [the initiated as a body].” They are the path to enlightenment: the father, the son and the spirit. The three jewels, apples, or berries correspond with the male (pineal) and female (pituitary) opposites and, more importantly, the neutral point (thalamus), where the two are united as one.
There are many more correspondences. It is possible that the concept of the trinity and everything related to it emerged from the collective unconscious. However, for the idea to occur on such a global scale shows more than just a dissolution theory – it shows a well thought out plan, a plan which is subtle and almost hidden, but not from those with the eyes to see.
Seven is the symbolic number of the universe, or macrocosm, with the human as the microcosm, so it was therefore connected in numerology to the perfect man. It is also the number attributed to Mother Earth, safety, perfection, plenty and fecundity.
Most importantly, seven was deemed important in the process towards the enlightenment experience. Three signified the heavenly part of the seven, and four the earth and human part. Only together would they unite as seven. In other words, one climbed the tree or ladder – the four lower chakras associated with the external material realm – to reach the three organs or glands (power centres) in the head associated with the internal psychical realm. There were seven in all. The chakra system is the ultimate source of the significance of sevens in myth, legend and mystical and spiritual systems the world over. Here are just a few of the correspondences:
- Seven chakras (‘wheel’ vortices), reflecting the seven levels of consciousness and existence. The reality limit of these seven levels is demonstrated in the piece of paper that cannot be folded more than seven times.
- Seven elementary hues to the spectrum, blending to form white. This has correspondence with the climatic phase of the kundalini awakening, the explosion of ‘bright white light’ at the centre of the head.
- Seven notes on a scale.
- Seven electron orbits, levels or ‘shells’ of the atom.
- Seven days in a week.
- Seven days of Creation.
- Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church.
- Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Virtues.
- Seven Last Words of Jesus. The gospels record seven ‘words’ or utterances of Christ from the cross before his ‘death’ and ‘resurrection’. The cross is the shamanic world tree or axis mundi and therefore also the human spinal column. Speaking seven times from the cross/spine symbolizes the seven chakras, and the culmination of all seven is the ‘feigning death’ experience that leads to the ‘resurrection’ of enlightenment.
- Seven Joys and Seven Sorrows of Mary.
- Joshua walked around Jericho seven times before the walls fell down. (Jericho was the first civilization, according to some, and was home to a large group of shamans.)
- Seven heavens (Qur’an, Bible, Book of Enoch, shamanic and Druid belief).
- The ‘seventh son of the seventh son’ in several traditions is believed to have great healing and psychic powers. Native Americans determined actions based on its effects ‘unto the seventh generation’.
- Seven steps to heaven – a popular belief, as features on ziggurats, pyramids and other artificial mounds based on the shamanic world mountain or primordial mound of creation.
- Seven Sages or Wise Men of Greece.
- Seven Ages of Man.
- Seven senses, according to the ancients. These are under the influence of the seven planets of classical times. Fire moves, earth brings sense of feeling, water gives speech, air taste, mist sight, flowers hearing and the south wind smell.
- Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Islam.
- Seven Sages or Shining Ones of ancient Sumer and elsewhere. The seven sages of different cultures symbolized the seven chakra levels, and their final deification as a pantheon of seven refers to the human becoming divine through ascending each level and reaching the source of enlightenment and illumination.
- The Seven Champions of English legend.
- Seven Japanese gods of luck.
Gardiner, P. & Osborn, G. (2006). The Shining Ones. London: Watkins Publishing.
About the Author
Julian Websdale is an independent researcher in the fields of esoteric science and metaphysics, and a self-initiate of the Western Esoteric Tradition. His interest in these subjects began in 1988. Julian was born in England, received his education as an electronic and computer engineer from the University of Bolton, served in a Vaishnava monastery during 2010, and has travelled to over 21 countries. Julian is also a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
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