There is a crater on the moon named after William Francis Gray Swann. He is widely recognized for his research into cosmic rays and high-energy physics. His book, The Architecture of the Universe, was published in 1934. In that seminal work Swann, referring to chemical elements, made the statement:
Starting from any one of them, and noting some property such as the melting point, for example, the property would change as we went along the row, but as we continued it would gradually come back to the condition very similar to that which we started … The eighth element was in many respects like the first, the ninth like the second, the tenth like the third, and so on. Such a slate of affairs point[s] not only to a varied internal structure, but also to a certain harmony in that variation suggestive of some organized plan in building the atom.
The uniqueness of the individual elements and the recurring features that Swann describes are similar to the way our seven note diatonic scale plays out within our musical heritage, together with seven named colors of the rainbow. Of course there are other ways to segment a musical scale and the colors of the rainbow are clearly in the eye of the beholder. The naturally occurring and recurring relationships in chemistry and those that can be attributed to human preference may be worlds apart. But, why do we have such an affinity for sevens?
We have seven days in the week, seven wonders of the ancient world, seven seas, seven continents, seven deadly sins, seven years of plenty and seven of famine. Shakespeare advanced a theory about the seven ages of man. There were seven sages of Greece, and seven hills of Rome. Atlantis reputedly comprised seven islands, and the Spanish thought there were seven cities of gold.
According to a poll of thirty-thousand people, seven is our favorite number. They play lucky seven. Sinbad the Sailor had seven voyages. There were seven brides for seven brothers. And, lest we forget, Snow White ran off to live with seven dwarves. What is so special about the number seven? To understand the answer to that question one must acknowledge there is also something very special about the number three.
From the Hindu Trimurti to the Christian Trinity there has always been a qualitative conception of the powers that be. Deity has been understood to consist of three primary personalities, each with their own emphasis while we mere mortals engage in a seemingly endless exercise of transactional analysis. Add to this, the self balancing and self-correcting nature of the child’s tricycle, the three legged stool, and the surveyor’s tripod. You have, what the betting man would describe as, a trifecta.
Threes and sevens make for a lousy poker hand. The superstition among doctors, that deaths comes in threes and sevens over the course of a day, is only reinforced by a statement in the Book of Numbers that reads: “He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.” John, Matthew, and Mark each quote Jesus as saying: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Indeed he did, for on the third day he rose from the dead.
Just how does the finite attain the embrace of the infinite? How does the temporal even begin to comprehend the eternal? When the Son of Man, as the Son of God said: “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” the art of the possible came into view. Just as true art serves as a prelude to a higher reality, Jesus lived his life in such a way as to stimulate the imagination, challenge our discrimination, and provoke our critical thinking.
The parables of Jesus represent the highest and best teaching technique for it can appeal to the widely varying intellectual and spiritual capacities of a diverse group within the human family. A parabolic analogy always consists of a directing arc and a focus.The focus is, of course, the love of God. At times, Jesus arrayed three glimmering pearls along the directing arc, such as the qualities of eternal truth, all encompassing beauty, and infinite goodness.
Throughout his sojourn, as a mortal of the realm, Jesus was always mindful of the qualities inherent in the Universal Father, the Eternal Son, and the Infinite Spirit. Working in concert with such a trio ultimately leads us to an understanding that sometimes all three will take part. Sometimes they work individually. And, at other times, any two of the Divine Personalities may decide to work together. This gives rise to seven possible combinations of Supreme Deity expression.
The handiwork of God the Sevenfold is real. And the three personalities of Deity left a spiritual birthmark that is now evident in our music, the color spectrum, and even the Periodic Table of the Elements.