The triad in its totality

It is said, “Two is company, three is a crowd.” This finds expression in innumerable Hollywood, Bollywood and Kollywood films with Hum-Tum-Woh (I-You-S/he) themes. The “third” person is always portrayed as hindrance to harmonious twosome bonds. However, no twosome relationship is complete unless it opens out to a “third”.
“Three” is special in religious consciousness. The Babylonian triad was of Anu-Bel-Ea, and in Egypt it was Father, Son and Ka-mutef. The Wicca tradition has Maiden, Mother and Crone. Hinduism has Trimurti and Sachidananda. Mahayana Buddhism speaks of the Trikaya. The Christian God is Trinity. Indeed, Christians celebrated “Trinity Sunday” yesterday.
Psychologist Carl Jung sees triads as archetypes that provide religious communities pregnant possibilities to describe divinity. By contrast, based on infighting among three persons locked in a room, in his play No Exit Jean-Paul Sartre asserts: “Hell is other people.” I disagree. Triads, however, can either create community or cause conflict.
Twosomes could contain seeds of selfishness or self-interest. Unconsciously, we often develop “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” relationships that masquerade as true love. However, the arrival of a “third” is the acid test of the depth of a relationship.
Marriage is incomplete unless the couple’s love overflows into a “third”: the child. While this “third” brings happiness, it could also create conflict since either parent could now exclusively love the child and consequently forget about the other spouse; or the couple could continue its twosome intimacy rather than care for the child. Indeed, in any combination of two persons of this triad, there’s bound to be tension; yet, the possibilities for fulfilment are immense.
The Christian belief in the Trinity (Father-Son-Spirit) in no way implies that God clones Godself into three demigods, but that God eternally exists as Tri-Une Community. God is neither an isolated Monad (One) enjoying heavenly bliss, nor a Couple (Two) whose love remains locked within Godself. Rather, God is Divine Communion, not mere “Being” but a Life who embraces all peoples in Divine Love.
Triadic thinking is not acceptable to people of all faiths. It needn’t be. However, all believers can at least hold that there’s something unifying our common humanity (One), which must never make us reduce reality into simplistic opposites of good/bad, right/wrong, pure/impure (Twos). But, our triadic conceptions of divinity must inspire us to be open to some “third” — be it person, opinion, worldview, ideology, religion and so on.
“The Spirit blows where it wills” says the Bible. God is Spirit. We will perhaps know God fully only in some afterlife. Till then, let’s pray like that uneducated, but wise, family of three: “O God, we are three, You are Three. May we know and love You a little more, today!”

Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He can be contacted at

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