Lesson 3: Trinary and Triplicities

“The Law of Synthesis, I can tell you but little. It is the law governing the activities of the Spiritual Triad, and the conditioning law of monadic living.”- Alice Bailey Daily

Welcome to Lesson Three. You will notice that I am fond of using italics and boldface to highlight specific words. Anything highlighted can be considered a vocabulary word or concept that I want to bring special attention to. Boldface is a topic that I recommend doing further personal research about.

The Magick of Mixing

Colors exist for us because of the way our eyes absorb light. If you mix black paint and white paint together, you get a mixture that is a shade of grey. The esoteric in me was absolutely fascinated when I began to play with image editing programs in the early 90s (back when the Internet was still NEW) and paid attention to RGB codes and Color Theory for the first time. Black has the RGB value (0, 0, 0) and white (255, 255, 255) which just emphasizes them as polar opposites. Where the RBG values extend equally between the two absolutes at (128, 128, 128) is grey.

There are three primary colors in nature: Red, Yellow, Blue. A primary color can’t be created by mixing other colors like I suggested mixing up some gray. We will just skip over the topic of whether or not black and white are colors for now; that answer depends on the context and who you ask. For now, just accept that red, yellow, and blue are assigned the quality of being primary colors and they can be mixed together to create other (secondary) colors. Smarter people than me should explain why web color is RGB and not RYB.

Both Black-White-Grey and Red-Yellow-Blue are examples of triads. There is a slight difference to each of them though. Black and white start binary then form a third component from themselves. Red, yellow and blue are trinary from start to finish.


The Dyad is asleep in the Monad. Awakened, it unfolds into the Triad so that the Tetrad is completed in the Decad. All things come from this and return to it again.” – Asa

In my own brain, I label RGB type triads as trinaries or trinities. Then I label black-white-grey style triads as modalities, borrowing from astrology. Most triads in esoteric tarot are modalities. They are what happens when the Law of Polarity is mitigated by the Law of Synthesis.

Many expressions of this kind of modality correspond well together. Creating a lasting synthesis out of a duality is typically the goal in esoteric systems. Sadly synthesis is usually fleeting lasts for reasons that I will talk about later.

Modalities In Esoteric Tarot

SystemYang AspectYin AspectMedian
PhilosophyThesisAntithesisSynthesis
AstrologyCardinalFixed Mutable
Hebrew Shin (Fire)Mem (Water)Alef (Air)
GnosticAlphaOmegaIota
AlchemicalSulfurSaltMercury
Egyptian/ThelemicOsirisIsisHorus
Electric ChargePositiveNegativeNeutral
Guna (Ayurveda)RajasTamasSattva
HorizontalRightLeftCenter
Vertical AboveBelowCenter
GenderMaleFemaleNon-binary/Gender Fluid
Common Modalities in Esoteric Tarot & Elsewhere

The Core Esoteric Modalities

Of everything on the chart above, the most essential to learning esoteric tarot are the astrological modalities. Fortunately, basic astrology has become so mainstream you’ve probably already got a pretty good idea what they are.

The Cardinal modality is associated with beginnings, actions, initiations, leadership and other similar Yang-aspected traits. Shin (Qabalah), Sulfur (Alchemy), and Rajas (Ayurveda) all correspond to the concept of Yang aka the dynamic force. The cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn) form the main axis on the zodiac wheel.

The Fixed modality is associated with security, stability, sustainability, containment and other similar Yin-aspected traits. Mem (Qabalah), Salt (Alchemy), and Tamas (Ayurveda) again just address the same archetypal concept and so its okay to say they all correspond to the concept of Yin aka the static form. The fixed signs (Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius, and Taurus) fall in the middle of the four seasons and by convention possess a lot of traits associated with the season itself.

The Mutable modality is associated with change, adaptability, flow, closure, transitions and other temporary or synthesizing traits. Alef (Qabalah), Mercury (Alchemy) and Sattva (Ayurveda) all correspond with astrological Mutability. The mutable signs ( Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces) are often associated with meditation, spirituality and philosophy.

One Final Topic…

I will simply be using the terms male/female/neuter or masculine/feminine/hermaphroditic when talking about polarities and modalities. As far as contemporary metaphysics is concerned? Polarities and modalities are conceptual. Think of yourself as a complex script of qualities that correspond to what the massive binary code strings for even the simplest computer programs look like as streams of 01011001011010s. Human beings are made up of a myriad of Yin aspected and Yang aspected qualities that make us too complex to be described so simply.

I believe that the ideas of both gender and race are social constructs with lots of biased and subjective associations misapplied as stereotypical attributes. How does this relate specifically to tarot? I direct you to books like Queering The Tarot written by my Twitter friend Cassandra Snow to explore that topic more deeply. For the time being, I simply avoid talking about the duality of female/male and feminine/masculine as Yin/Yang.

End of Lesson Exercises

Exercise #1
Watch this short (~5 minutes) YouTube video by Cinder Block Studios to see why there’s a debate over if black and white are colors. Write in your journal 2-3 things that you positively and negatively associate with black, white, and grey.

Exercise #2
Pick a religious or mythical trinity of your choice. Write them down as the top of three columns in your tarot journal and think make short lists of characteristics associated with each one that demonstrate either the black-white-grey or red-yellow-blue principle.

Exercise #3
Watch this video (~11 minutes) by Jonas Čeika – CCK Philosophy and decide if you feel comfortable with how it explains what social construction really means. Then draw a card at random from your tarot deck and write a paragraph or two about whatever social construct this specific tarot card brings to mind.



Lesson 4: The Four Elements And Quadrant Based Systems

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