A Three Fold Paradigm

Our natural tendency is to see things dualistically as pairs of opposites, like black and white, good and bad, body and mind. To a large extent this governs our thinking, and perhaps distorts it.

In practical terms for example, we either believe something or we disbelieve it. In fact, a third attitude is possible, and in many cases is more useful to us - an open minded approach. The fact that we don't have a common word for 'neither believe nor disbelieve' is a good illustration of our more general blindness to this third aspect of things.

A couple more examples of this blindness (think about it before you peek at the answers!):

That last example illustrates the subtlety of the third aspect. It is often something we take for granted or overlook, and yet it is crucial to a real understanding of the situation.

There are threenesses in many traditions, and the three go under various names: active, passive and neutral, or affirming, denying and reconciling. All three are equally important to an event.

A Physical Example

The most basic physical interactions occur when two things get near to one another. When this happens, the form of the things may change, and their energy states may change.

For example two billiard balls collide, changing their path and momentum; two hydrogen atoms form a chemical bond, releasing some energy; a photon of light strikes a hydrogen atom causing the electron and proton to part company, absorbing energy from the photon; in a later interaction the proton and electron may rejoin, releasing energy in the form of a photon.

The three elements of this type of interaction are:

In the moment of interaction, the material form and the energy state are usually transformed. The physical proximity remains unchanged by the interaction (even though they may be moving apart, the two things are still next to each other directly after they interact).

In this case physical proximity is like a catalyst, something which is necessary for an interaction to take place, but which is not changed by the interaction.

What would the world be like if physical interactions were possible without the necessity for physical proximity? Everything would interact all at once, and the result would be an instantaneous steady state, the entropic 'heat death' of the universe. It would be like all the balls in a game of billiards coming to a halt immediately after the cue ball strikes, instead of bouncing around as they slowly lose energy through interactions. Catalysts make the universe interesting.

Perhaps catalysts are an example of the third aspect (reconciling, unifying, neutral) in action.

This page, and all contents, are Copyright (C) 1996 by Saros. The material may be used freely providing the source is acknowledged.

Question: How many sides does a coin have?

Answer: Three: obverse, reverse and the milled edge. (OK, so the analogy is a bit forced, but is it semantics or mind-set that makes us think two?)

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Question: What is required for a relationship? A man, a woman and...

Answer: What if the man is Charles Dickens and the woman is Madonna? They need to meet in order to have a relationship.

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