Third Force

I have been reading a fair bit of Cynthia Bourgeault’s writing recently. One of the ideas which she presents in various ways is the idea of the third force.

We are so conditioned to seeing things in a dualistic way that we get caught in a fight between two poles – light and darkness; good and evil; victim and oppressor etc. In that two-dimensional realm there is nowhere to go and usually there is never an easy resolution.

But the presence of a third force can change the whole dynamic and affords the possibility of a whole new world not possible to envision from our dualistic battle.

Furthermore, as the dynamic takes hold, how we view the three components may change.

This idea resonates deeply with me as I consider my own journey with forgiveness. For years, I struggled with my pain, hurt and confusion and I built an identity for myself around being the misunderstood victim. Of course the person who had harmed me was cast in the role of villain.

It was only when someone else cast me in the role of villain did I begin to consider the possibility that things were not quite so black and white. Maybe my old nemesis was not such a nasty person after all. Maybe the wounding had not been intentional. With that I was able to genuinely pray for the grace of forgiveness and in time the grace was granted.

This, I think is something of the dynamic at play with the third force – for me the third force was the grace of forgiveness, and the dynamic was allowed to take hold when I no longer clung to assigned roles of myself as victim and the one who had wounded me as villain.

Just a few months later the whole situation broke open in a new way – reconciliation happened. And internally I was precipitated into a new way of looking at the whole of my being. It has been unsettling, but ultimately profoundly healing.

It is the presence of the breaking open of the latter that makes me wonder whether this isn’t something of what Bourgeault is writing about. It makes me think that in any situation where we are locked into a dualistic battle that we need to stop wasting time wishing away the opposition and begin to look for the third force. The thing which may look like very little but just opens us to new possibilities.

For Bourgeault, this dynamic permeates cosmology and theology in a beautiful synthesis. I am just dipping my toes into new waters, but it feels like there may be enormous possibility here and I look forward to the exploration. It feels a little as though I am passing white light through a prism rotating in the wind – the rainbow is evident but still elusive.

2 thoughts on “Third Force

  1. Wow… such a terribly insufficient word. I wish you the most grace in understanding, or at least just embracing the third force in our lives. Perhaps it is Sophia, wisdom, the Holy Spirit, or a previously un-named window of understanding that God has blessed some of us with. Thank you for continuing to make your followers peer into peepholes of grace that you have been blessed and tasked to share, without geographical boundaries. And also, should you wonder how I am doing….


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