The Theosophical Forum – August 1936



This symbol is usually shown as an equilateral triangle with an apex up, or the same with an apex down. In many respects it represents the Triad or group of three, and is often used synonymously therewith; but it includes more than a mere triad. For it has three points and three lines, which, with the figure itself, make up a septenary. This in mathematics represents the number of combinations of three things, represented as a, b, c; ab, bc, ca; abc. This can be applied to show how a septenate is derivable from a triad, how there are two triads, either of which, by the addition of the monad, becomes a quaternary. The triad is in one sense the first number after unity; for no sooner do we conceive a duality, than we get a trinity by thinking of the unity and the duality together.

A trinity stands at the head of every cosmogony and theogony; it really represents the limits of our thought. Everything which we know of in this world is dual, a pair of opposites; yet we are compelled to think of unity as underlying every duality. Thus hot and cold are the two extremes of temperature, positive and negative are the two poles of magnetism, every straight line has two ends, etc. Thus we have a trinity consisting of a duality and its underlying unity. If we consider life and death as a duality, we may well ask ourselves what is the unity of which they are the opposite phases. And we may ask similar questions as to light and darkness, and many other dualities. We find at the head of cosmogonies the One Life, a Monad or Unity, from which springs a duality of Spirit and Matter. The duality may be expressed in many ways, as Male and Female, Energy and Substance, Force and Matter, etc., etc. The one is the basis of all active powers throughout the universe; the other is the basis of all receptive, formative, or substantial potencies. But this duality springs from a unity which contains both — the Spirit-Matter or unitary source of all. But besides this trinity we find another, denoted by Father-Mother-Son, of which the symbol would be an inverted triangle. Here we see Spirit and Matter and their offspring, the Son, which is the Universe, or Man, as the case may be. Egypt has it as Osiris, Isis, and Horus. It is seen in the triad of Will, Thought, and Act, the last being the offspring of the two former. The Father is the Universal Spirit; then comes the Great Mother — Nature; from these are born (macrocosmically speaking) the worlds; and (microcosmically speaking) the Christos, the real Man. This is the real meaning of the saying that the Christ is the Son of God; but it is the Christ in all men, not in a particular man. The theology of today makes insufficient provision for the Mother; if the symbology has a Father and a Son, a Mother would seem to be indicated. But it has somehow vanished, and the trinity has been made up to number by the inclusion of the Holy Ghost. One church makes a great deal of the Virgin Mary, who is an adaptation of the Pagan Magna Mater; but she is not a member of the Trinity.

The triangle is often used in conjunction with the square to signify a triad and a quaternary, the former of which symbolizes the higher world, the latter the lower. Thus we have the seven principles of man so divided into two main parts. As was stated under the Cross, a group of four often implies the lower manifested world, or what is sometimes called "matter" as opposed to spirit; for the number four is characteristic of material shapes and groupings, as are also the numbers six and eight, derived from it. We read in The Secret Doctrine, II, 79, that, in order to make complete septenary man, the gift of Fire had to be made; this Fire was in the possession of the Triangles, free Intelligences, Flames. Atma-Buddhi-Manas is a triad, and when it imbodies it becomes a quaternary, and the imbodiment is itself fourfold, which makes seven.

The triangle symbol is not always used in the ordinary geometrical sense, wherein any of the points may be an apex; but it is considered as having a top and a bottom; the apex then represents a logos, from which emanate twin rays, the sides of the triangle. These rays, united at their upper extremities, are spanned at their lower ends by the base line, which thus signifies the universe created by the interaction of these rays. In a similar way, a distinction is made between a triangle with the apex up and one with the apex down; the former being Fire, the latter Water, or again Spirit and Matter. The interlacing of these two makes Solomon's Seal, the interlaced triangles, the star hexagon in geometry; and this signifies the blending of rupa and arupa, spirit with matter, making, with the central point, or with a circumscribed circle, the septenate. So this is a symbol of a complete man.

A pyramid with a square base, such as forms a well-known architectural symbol, shows rays proceeding from a point of union and diverging as they descend, until they compass a square at the bottom, while triangles define the sides; this is an elaboration of a symbol just mentioned. The tetrahedron is bounded by four triangles, thus combining these two numbers; and the cube has square faces and three dimensions; and many interesting things can be learnt by the study of geometrical shapes.

When a monad becomes dual it passes from latency into activity, and when the duad becomes one, activity ceases on the plane of that duality. The duad signifies vibration, and the monad is the neutral center. He who realizes this possesses the power of balance and is no longer drawn from side to side. But it is important to observe that the real point of equilibrium is not the mere center of the line, halfway between the ends; it is not on the same plane. A pair of opposites is reconciled by a unity on a higher plane. This shows the distinction between a state of mere apathy or indifference and the true state of balance. Thus pleasure and pain are two poles of sensation; and the conquest of them does not mean a state of sensation which is neutral and indifferent, but an escape from the plane of (that kind of) sensation altogether, onto a higher plane of fuller life.

The Theosophical Forum