Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Mystic Number THREE by Albert Mackey 1873

The Mystic Number THREE by Albert Mackey 1873

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The frequent recurrence of this number in the ancient mythologies, in the Bible histories, and in the Ritual of Masonry, is almost incredible to a person who has never examined the subject. Instances of its use can be multiplied until the mind grows weary. The following are given as examples rather than as any attempt to exhaust the subject. Among the ancient references to this number we find the following: Oracles were delivered from a tripod; libations were threefold; there were supposed to be three worlds; the magical rod of the Hierophants had three heads of silver; if any revealed the mysteries they were told they would die in three days; and in the celebration of the mysteries the Hierophant smote the coffin three times with his tripartite rod. The Greeks divided their gods into three kinds; and Democritus wrote a book called "Trilogenia," in which he endeavored to prove that all things sprang from the number three. Among the Druids the number three was held in the highest veneration, and was one of their most sacred symbols, and hence their use of the mistletoe and shamrock, because their leaves were tripartite. Of them a writer says: "They turn three times round their karns; round the persons they bless three times; three turns they make round St. Barr's church, and three times round the well."

The number three was a symbol of marriage, friendship, and peace, because it was said to unite contraries; it was also an emblem of wisdom and prudence, because men are said to order the present, foresee the future, and learn experience from the past. Its influence was said to extend to all nature, embracing the birth, life, and death of men and all living things, the commencement, middle, and end of all earthly matters, and the past, present, and future of universal space. In the same way, the universe was divided into three zones, the earth, air, and rest.

In the Bible history we find the following: The patriarchs held a threefold office; Adam, Noah, and Saul each had three sons, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were particularly blessed of God; Job had three friends; Ezekiel named three just men; three holy men were cast into the fiery furnace; and Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly. At the transfiguration three persons appeared with the Messiah; and he remained three days in the tomb. There were three orders of the priesthood, and three keepers of the door; the golden candlestick had three branches on each side, and there were three stones in each row of the High Priest's breast-plate: the oxen which supported the molten sea were arranged by threes; and the Jews were commanded to assemble to the temple three times a year, at the three grand festivals. Moses appointed by divine command three cities of refuge, forbade the people to use the fruit of their newly-planted trees till after they were three years old, and made three witnesses necessary to establish a fact by which the life or property of another was called in question. In the remarkable history of Balaam the ass spake after being struck three times, and the prophet conferred on Israel three separate blessings. Samson thrice deceived Delilah; Hannah offered a sacrifice of three bullocks; Samuel gave a sign to Saul consisting of a combination of triads; and David bowed thrice before Jonathan. David had three mighty of valor; and when he had numbered the people of Israel, he was offered three alternatives, viz: Three years' famine, three months' at the mercy of his foes, or three days pestilence. The principal religious festivals of the Jews were three; the camp of Israel was threefold, and the tribes was marshaled in divisions of three tribes each. There were three hallowed articles in the sanctuary, the candlestick, the table of shew bread, and the altar of incense. Elijah raised the widows' son by stretching himself upon the child three times; Samaria sustained a siege of three years; some of the kings of Israel and Judah reigned three years, some three months, and others only three days. Rehoboam served God three years before he apostatized. The Jews fasted three days and three nights before they overcame Kaman; their sacred writings had three divisions, the law, the prophets and the psalms; and they had three readings of Scripture, the text, the Mishna, and the Cabala.

In the Masonic ritual we find the following among many others: There are three qualifications of a candidate; and his assent is required to three interrogatories. The signs are threefold — the moral duties and the theological virtues are threefold. There are three qualifications for the servitude of an Entered Apprentice; three Cardinal virtues: and three things which make a lodge regular. The reports are threefold; three grand offerings are commemorated in Freemasonry; three places were the materials for the temple were prepared, the quarry, the forest, and the plain; three decorations to the pillars at the porch, emblematical of peace, unity, and plenty; three ways of preparing a brother; and three obligations in Ancient Masonry. There were three primitive lodges; three ways to advance; three temples, the first built by Solomon and the two Hirams; the second by Joshua, Zerabbabel, and Haggai; and the third by Herod, Hillei, and Shammai; three sojourners; three working-tools of a Royal Arch Mason; the temple had three apartments; and the length was thrice its breadth. There were three curtains in the temple, each of three colors; and there were three courts. There are three lessons thought, secrecy, morality, and good fellowship.

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