Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Mystic Number Three, 1897 article

The Mystic Number Three, article in Public Opinion: A Weekly Review of Current Thought and Activity, Nov 12 1897

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THE number three possesses so many peculiar properties that it is no matter of surprise that the ancients came to look upon it with a sense of profound admiration. In a paper lately published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Mr. S. C. Laharry describes a few mysterious and unaccountable properties of the number; and in themselves they are sufficient to surround it with an atmosphere of superstition. To begin with, when any number is multiplied by three or any multiple of three, as six, nine, twelve, &c., the separate figures in the result, if added together, give a total of three, or a multiple of three, thus:

4 multiplied by 3 gives 12, and 1 + 2 = 3
5 multiplied by 3 gives 15, and 1 + 5 = 6
17 multiplied by 9 gives 153, and 1 + 5 + 3 = 9
22 multiplied by 12 gives 264, and 2 + 6 + 4 = 12

Another noteworthy property of the number three is that when thirty-seven is multplied by three, or any multiple of it up to nine times--that is--twenty-seven--the results consists of three same figures, this:-

37 multiplied by 3 gives 111
37 multiplied by 6 gives 222
37 multiplied by 9 gives 333
37 multiplied by 12 gives 444

Peculiarities of this kind make three a remarkable digit, even mathematicians admit, so it is not surprising that the number plays an important part in traditions everywhere, but more especially in Asiatic countries.

In the English language, expressions in which the number three occurs, such as “Three cheers,” “Sisters three,” “Three sheets to the wind,” “Three estates of the realm,” and the like, are very common. The Chinese assigned mysterious properties to the number, and founded upon it their famous Triad Society, the management of which is vested in three chiefs or Elder Brothers; and the nations of Rome, Greece, Egypt, and India attributed a triplicity to the deities of old.

That the Druids favoured the number three is believed by Mr. Laharry to be shown by the facts that there were three degrees in Druidism—(1) Bards, (2) Prophets, and (3) Druids, or sanctified authorities—-and that the colours they used were white, blue, and green, emblematical of light, truth, and hope. Under each Arch-Druid there was a trinity of ministers. The Egyptians had their trinity in Osiris, Isis, and Horus; in Scandinavia the trinity of deities consisted of Odin, Vili, and Ve; while the Gothic triad was composed of Woden, Frigga, and Thor. Ancient Greece honoured Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades; while ancient Rome was not content with a single trinity—Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto—but four times three deities presided over their spiritual and temporal rites.

The Hindu trinity consists of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva--representing creation, preservation, and destruction; and expressions like the “three Fates,” the “three Muses,” the “three Furies,” and the “three Graces” are all found in the Hindu vocabulary. The primitive Aryans accorded a kind of pre-eminence to triads of natural objects, such as the sky, atmosphere, and sun; and give many proofs of their preference to group the objects of their adoration in triple combinations, to which a sacred significance not unmixed with superstition was attached by the primitive races of the East. The Muslims have also shown that they do not look with disfavour upon the triple arrangement of everything material. All these instances and many others brought together by Mr. Laharry, when considered with the Trinity of the Christian faith, show that the mystic number three has had a very distinct influence upon the thoughts of the nations of the world.

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