Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Forty Days and Forty Nights: The Rule of Three

Christ in the Wilderness (1872) by Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887). Image Source: Wiki.

For Christians, this is the season of Lent, a period of contemplation on sin, repentance and atonement, which lasts for 40 days. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the number 40 appears repeatedly, often as a measurement of time. How and why do forty days and forty nights unite these three faiths? Wiki also records the number's occult astrological dimension:
The planet Venus forms a pentagram in the night sky every eight years with it returning to its original point every 40 years with a 40 day regression (some scholars believe that this ancient information was the basis for the number 40 becoming sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims).
Many occult websites claim that Venus traces a pentagram path through the heavens as viewed from Earth.
Scientific astronomical sites do not appear to discuss this phenomenon. Video Source: Youtube.

In religious texts, the number 40 simply came to mean 'a lot.' But the number is a third multiple of the 'Rule of Three,' which makes it fundamental to the structure of creative expression, philosophystatisticscomputing, investing, diving, military strategy, and aeronautics. When you see any number repeated in many sacred texts across thousands of years, it is worth asking if some innate knowledge is passed on in the mythological cryptics. Even a secular outlook can decode the idea of religious fasting periods. The basic notion is that sensory deprivation quiets clamour and distractions. Hunger makes you think about the eternal! Stop feeding the senses, and let them redirect toward the big picture. Finally, one focuses to hear and see the truth in things. And there sits the number 40, in plain sight, at the end of Lent. What does it mean?

Satan's famous declaration after being cast out of heaven in Paradise Lost (1667), by John Milton (1608-1674). Image Source: Little Blog of Letting Go.

The rule of three is commonly used in politics, law-making, speech-writing, electioneering, advertising and public messages to provide quick turns of phrase that people always remember:
Triads are so ingrained in human thought processes that career and life coaches use them as rule of thumb for helping people work on and accomplish goals (as here). It is supposed to take forty days to change a habit, or at least become conscious of it (mad, bad and dangerous to know).

Mozart's Symphony #40 in G Minor (1788): "he uses the Rule of Three on two levels. He begins with a three note idea (1) which repeats (2), but the third time surprises us by leaping up to the Bb (3). He then uses that whole motif to set up the same structure. Bars 5-8 (B) are a repetition of bars 1-4 (A) but with changes in pitch. Even though the repetition is not exactly the same, notice that you still feel a sense of a pattern being established. Playing the motif twice is just enough times before we're pulled forward in a new direction (C). Mozart uses this technique constantly; once you start listening for it you'll hear it in almost everything he writes."

The number 40 behaves mathematically in mystical ways, being subject to the 'Rule of Three':
"If you have a topic which is broken down into three sections, each of these is broken down into three sub-sections and each of these three sub-sections is broken down into a further three sections (three generations using the "rule of three") gives you a total of 40 sections (1+3+9+27)."
I once encountered some economists who did not think that art followed measurable, rational rules (the way economics does). Aside from their ignorance of art, that showed their odd lack of awareness of artistry in their own discipline, since economics as well as the arts can be broken down mathematically. The 'Rule of Three' or 'Rule of Thirds,' is used in literary writing, art and design, film and music to give creative pieces underlying structure.

The Rule of Three, used three times, where the third repetition introduces innovation. Mozart Symphony #40 in G Minor, K 550 - 1. Molto Allegro. Video Source: Youtube.

In folk tales and fairy tales, the rule of three is often negated twice, so that the rule repeats three times. This is why one finds the neglected youngest son in a family coming forth to become the triumphant hero where his two older brothers failed, or Cinderella stealing the prince's heart from her two older step-sisters. Wiki:
Vladimir Propp, in his Morphology of the Folk Tale, concluded that any of the elements in a folk tale could be negated twice, so that it would repeat thrice. This is common not only in the Russian tales he studied, but throughout folk tales and fairy tales—most commonly, perhaps, in that the youngest son is often the third, but fairy tales often display the rule of three in the most blatant form.
This 'third time's a charm' idea, where the Rule of Three is repeated a third time after it fails the first two times is a code for evolution and even revolution. It reiterates a familiar pattern (blah, blah, blah) and then introduces inspiration, enabling the mind to accept transformation on the third repetition. You might fail the first two times you try to understand or accomplish something, but the third time you repeat the effort or the configuration, you see the way out, or the way through the problem. This is why innovators need three generations of the Rule of Three, to reconcile the established order with novelty. Or sometimes, there is a fourth element (40) that ensues in relation to the three, as in Goldilocks and the Three Bears or your classic twelve step program.

The next posts in this series examine how the number 40 appears in different faiths, mystical traditions, and today's secular disciplines as a code for established values and change.

Image Source: The Helpful Art Teacher.

Image Source: Miyabi Aqua Design.

See other posts in this series:


  1. Another fairy tale is 'The Love for Three Oranges'. And then Prokofiev. And then a frightening thought flashed across my mind: Is a Third World War inevitable?

    1. Thanks for your comment Anon, I hope the jump to WWIII only demonstrates our instinctive sense of the completeness of threes, rather than any certain prophecy!