I am currently reading a book called the Druidry Handbook by John Micheal Greer, and it has a lot of interesting things to offer. One of those is thinking about the numbers we think in, particularly in relation to our mythical and spiritual levels of thought. By mythical and spiritual, I simply(or not so simply ;)) mean those levels of thought which deal with deep connections, emotions, and unexplored realms of unconscious thought that drive our actions, that is my own definition of course, and free to be challenged.
I think that most modern, and indeed agricultural based thought deals in twos, sets of two diametrically opposed viewpoints and forces in direct of indirect opposition to each other, where one is ‘good’ and the other is ‘evil’. You can see this in civilized versus savage, god versus the devil, science versus spirituality, materialism vs transcendentalism, wilderness vs the city. Greer points out that thinking in twos can be useful to see the differences of two things, but as a thought system, it can be incredibly unbalanced to base your actions on. In ‘How Dependable is the Bible‘, at the God Delusion Pod at zaadz, Will Feathers has recently commented on the division between dark and light in the human soul, and how dark should be cast out, leaving only light. This is a perfect example of a two based statement, and while it has some merit, a more balanced three based statement (or one : ) yeah one!) might work better (see below).
Greer mentions that most new-age thought system have just turned the focus around and still think in twos, I agree, and I can see this in praising the savage instead of the civilized, wilderness instead of the city, spirituality instead of science. However, this makes the system still unbalanced, which is why Greer says that druids have turned to thinking in threes. He says that thinking in threes is finding the third force that balances the two opposing forces, and I can see that is a very balanced way of thinking, but I think that there is another path to turn to.
There is one sort of new-age movement that does not think in two, or threes, or anything like that that, but which returns to the most basic, the most prime (ha punny :)) number, one. This movement is animism, the belief that dualism is silly, because there is no basic difference between mind and body, spirit and mind. Thinking in ones focuses on similarities, and, though I admit that threes and higher numbers are useful, I like ones, because they have more possibilities. Thinking in ones can also be like thinking in uncountable manies, because the only way to describe a group of things that you can’t count, and that are so different, in so many ways, is to focus on the unifying similarities, and build from there. That is why I like ones, because it is so flexible, not defining things enough to destroy the meaning of the definition, as so many systems do, but simply acknowledging that everything is different but, by virtue of existing shares some basic qualities, which are very, very, general.
That is not to say that I don’t like threes, they have grown on me on the course of the druidry handbook, and all numbers are useful, I just had to talk about one because it so often gets over looked. This whole post is interesting because I have been doing a lot of thinking about meta-thinking recently, about how we communicate and formulate our ideas, I think it is a good idea to be aware of these meta-concepts.