I managed to come up with a clearer question around what I'm trying to ask about the Law of Three. Why do we need to name points one and two? Gurdjieff calls them Holy Affirming and Holy Denying. They're the two forces in the deadlock that are at the bottom of the triangle, pulling on each other. Without the third, neutralizing force, there's no way out of the deadlock besides compromise or one side overpowering the other, both points leading to unsatisfactory conclusions. When there's a deadlock in life, the only way to a graceful conclusion that satisfies both parties is to bring in point three, allowing the situation to unfold at a higher level of consciousness, point four.
How this gets fancy, and I don't get why, is that we have to apparently allocate the first two points to either "Holy Affirming" or "Holy Denying", or we could call them the Active and Passive points, although this has nothing to do with the gendered use of those terms, like the active point isn't necessarily the masculine point like we've been trained to think, and the passive point doesn't necessarily have to do with anything feminine. Neither is one necessarily the good or bad point. I'll repost this video of Russ giving his talk in Paris that I like. He doesn't talk about naming the points, and I wonder, "isn't it enough just to hold the tension between the two points in the body? Who cares which point is Holy Affirming and which is Holy Denying?" In Cynthia Bourgeault's book, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, she seems to say that if you've set up your triangle and nothing "clicks", try reversing the two bottom points- they might be in the wrong spot. OMG.
So here's another example of the law of three at work from her book.
One of our group members found herself immersed in exactly this learning when she took as her area of research her ongoing struggle with dieting, particularly her attraction to a certain "rich, fatty food" that had so far bested all of her efforts to resist it.
"When I first set this up as a Law of Three triad," she reported, "I naturally chose as 'affirming force' my desire for sensible eating habits and as 'denying' the bad, fatty food. So of course, third force was my willpower."
But, of course, willpower was not really third force at all but merely the servant of her desire for a better body image. Her conflicting desires- for the satisfaction to be had from that "rich, fatty food" and at the same time a good body image- were simply self-canceling, which is why her ongoing efforts at dieting all wound up in frustration.
Then she hit upon her brainstorm. What if she reversed first and second forces? Saw "affirming" as her body's authentic desire for a savory treat and "denying" as her personality's concern about self-image? Suddenly the whole picture shifted, and she could instantly spot what true third force might be: "I decided to enter into a conscious relationship with that rich, fatty food: not to treat it as the enemy, but to honor my body's desire for it and to satisfy it-- but consciously."
This shift in perspective initiated a domino chain of results as she saw her relationship shifting not only with this one particular food but with all food and with eating itself. In this more conscious relationship with her embodiment, she has so far managed to keep the weight off.
OK so again, I'm happy for this lady, but what if she hadn't named the two points at all- would it have made a difference? What if she just felt the tension between her craving and her desire for a healthy weight, and THEN decided to enter into a conscious relationship with the food? There is clearly meaning attributed to the terms Holy Affirming and Holy Denying that aren't explained in the book that made a difference to her mindset. I'll have to look them up. If anyone knows, please comment.
But just one more thing. There is one quote that comes from a Maurice Nicoll that I like later in the chapter that tells me there is something important about the correct allocation of the two points.
The potential reversal of the roles of first and second in the Law of Three was particularly intriguing to Maurice Nicoll, who returned to it again and again in his teaching. His thinking here is encapuslated in his oft-quoted dictum: "When life is Neutralizing Force, personality is active in a man and essence is passive. When the Work is Neutralizing Force, the position is reversed- namely, essence, or the real part, becomes active, and personality, or the acquired part, passive." While the "fourth in a new dimension" is clearly the emerging true self, or "Real I", the reversal of first and second forces is both a harbinger of its emergence and a significant breakthrough in its own right.
Anyway, very curious. Something to think about.