III. The Triad - The Treys


The Triad comprises the Monad and the Dyad. The Active Triad uses the Passive Monad to impose limit and form on the Passive Dyad. Thus the Active Triad is the principle that bridges the separation of the Dyad, and so restores the unity of the Monad, but without abandoning the differences created by the Active Dyad. It creates a Harmonia - a Joining, as of Boards - which is the Passive Triad.

Active Triad

The Active Dyad created a Goal or End by distinguishing it from the Impulse or Beginning, and the Active Triad is the Agent that creates a Way from Beginning to End, from the Impulse to the Goal, and thus is the Initial Completion of the process or action that reaches the End or Goal. In this way the Active Triad creates the Passive Triad, which is the Initial Completion and First Perfection of the Passive Dyad.

The Active Triad is also the Principle of Mediation, which creates a Mean between the Extremes of the Passive Dyad, thus producing the Passive Triad, which is a Harmonia (Joining), a structured unity, the Rebis (Two-thing), a synthesis of the opposites (Coniunctio oppositorum) of the Dyad. This is the Alchemical Wedding, in which the alchemical Mercury (Triad) unites the alchemical Sulphur (Monad) with the alchemical Salt (Dyad); the result is the Living Gold or Philosophers' Stone.

The Triad corresponds to the Second Cosmological Stage in which some Active Agent (e.g. Eros) causes Earth and Sky to mate; thus was Enlil born of An and Ki; He is the Air, which fills the Gap between Heaven (An) and Earth (Ki); He establishes the Bond of Heaven and Earth (Dur-An-Ki).

In summary, the Active Triad is the principle of initial completion, joining, mediation, synthesis, compromise, moderation and unification.

Passive Triad

According to the Pythagoreans, the Triad was the first Actual Number, that is the first actualization of the potentialities of the Monad and Dyad (which, properly speaking, were not Numbers). Thus the Passive Triad is the first completion of the process of Number Generation, the Firstborn of Zeus (Monad) and Rhea (Dyad). The Passive Triad represents Formed Matter and the Embodied Spirit (alchemical Mercury), in relation to the Monad (Form, Spirit, Sulphur) and the Dyad (Matter, Body, Salt). The Triad is the progeny that results when the opposites of the Dyad are united by the Monad. The Passive Triad is the First Completion, with Beginning, Middle and End, the First Perfection. The Passive Triad is the first Meeting of Impulse and Goal, the first milestone, the first climax; a taste of victory, the first kiss, the first coniunctio oppositorum (conjunction of opposites). The Pythagoreans called It Prudence, Wisdom, Harmonia, Peace, Marriage and the Mean. They also called the Triad Hecate, for She is known as Trivia, the Goddess of the Three Ways (tri-via); so also is Artemis called.

Wands: Accomplishment

In the Trey of Wands the striving towards a goal represented by the Deuce of Wands has reached its first fruition. There is more to be done, but a good start has been made, and the satisfactions of accomplishment can be felt, which brings justifiable pride, but also perhaps hubris. The (over-)confidence of the novice, "beginner's luck." A Goal has been reached.

Image: A caduceus between and above two inverted flaming torches form an inverted Y (yellow torch on left, light blue on right, green caduceus in middle).

Commentary: The inverted Y suggests the instability of the Threes, which will be corrected in the Fours. Blue and yellow are complementary colors, which are reconciled in green (= blue + yellow). The third wand is the caduceus of Mercury, who is the reconciler and leads us across boundaries. Likewise, among the Three Principles of alchemy (sulphur, salt and mercury), mercury unites the other two. As the yellow and blue torches are associated with fire and water, respectively, so the green caduceus is associated with air (the element through which Mercury flies). Air (which is wet and hot) combines the (blue) moisture of water (which is cold and wet) with the (yellow) heat of fire (which is hot and dry), and thus reconciles their opposition by combining their powers. By combining blue and yellow, green symbolizes the unification of heaven and earth in mysticism, and of cool intellect and warm feeling in wisdom and hope (Cooper s.v. Colors), but green is also the color of inexperience (Biedermann s.v. colors).

Swords: Separation

The Trey of Swords is a difficult card. Because the Swords are fundamentally divisive, the Trey represents an initial completion, climax or culmination of the separating, discriminating and dividing processes that the suit represents, which may manifest, for example, as intellectual, emotional or physical separation. Thus the "initial completion" represented by the Trey may manifest in Swords as interruption, disruption, separation, removal, opposition or strife. In all cases the split has reached a climax. Lines have been drawn.

In intellectual realms the Trey of Swords can simply represent the initial completion of some analysis, that is, of some discriminating or judgmental process. This accomplishment is often followed by overconfidence in one's conclusions and the feeling that one has all the answers, and that they're unassailable because they've been "proven by logic." As a consequence, opinions harden and arguments can become vicious as intellectual antagonists begin to doubt their opponents' honesty or motives. In general, winning the battle may be mistaken for winning the war.

Image: Two upright swords crossed over a third, inverted sword; yellow hilt on left, blue on right, green in middle; all on a background of clouds.

Commentary: The crossed swords show the engagement in strife. The third sword, inverted like a dagger, suggests treachery. This, plus the obscuring background of clouds, suggests that victories are less secure than they seem. Since the opposed swords are crossed over the green sword, the image suggests the current situation (including any apparent victory or resolution) is still within the shadow of conflict.

Cups: Fulfillment

With the Trey of Cups the relationship has been established and acknowledged on all sides, and it has reached its first climax. Shared feelings (= com-passion): happiness, but also sorrow; likes and dislikes. The joy of a new friend, lover, etc., with no clouds on the horizon. Celebration, carefree happiness, pleasure, emotional fulfillment. "The first kiss," "young love," "newlyweds." A Connection has been made.

The Trey of Cups can also represent the successful re-establishment of a relationship that had previously disintegrated. Thus, reconciliation, emotional healing, resolution of differences.

Image: Two cups (yellow on left, blue on right) pour their contents into a third, green cup in the middle below them. A golden fluid comes from the yellow cup, a silver fluid from the blue. The background is dark blue.

Commentary: The third cup mediates the relationship between the other two, which pour out into the relationship the unique gifts they have to offer. The third cup is below the other two, which gives a more stable configuration than that of the Threes of the other suits.

Pentacles: Success

The Trey of Pentacles represents the first major success in a material enterprise. The project has successfully passed its first milestone; the craftsperson or artist has become satisfactorily skilled; the business has become profitable; the athlete has won a contest. Victory has been tasted.

Image: A green pentacle is supported by a yellow pentacle (left) and a blue pentacle (right) in an inverted V formation on a dark brown background. The pentacles are engraved with the alchemical symbols for sulphur (yellow), salt (blue) and quicksilver (green).

Commentary: The green pentacle represents success, but its high position is not supported securely, so the victory is not secure. As indicated by there symbols, the pentacles represent the Three Principles of alchemy (quicksilver being the mediator that joins the salt and sulphur). The green color suggests comfortable material prosperity. The dark brown background represents the fertile earth.

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Last update: Sat Jul 3 18:18:18 EDT 1999