The seed of the concept of number is buried in the impenetrable past of pre-historic time. Only the roots of number ideology and numerology may be traced. Inherent in the minds of our primitive ancestors lay the race experience of response to numerical vibration which time and culture have made explicit.
India was the birthplace of the ingenious mode of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols. Each of these symbols has an absolute value of its own and, in addition, each number has a relative value based on its position.
The ten symbols and the universal use of the decimal system give testimony to the ancient aphorism Man is the measure of all things. For it is incontrovertible that finger-counting, on his ten fingers, was man’s first arithmetic.
The systematic use of written numbers goes back to the ancient Sumerians, the Egyptians, and the Chinese. The Chinese arranged numbers on the Lo Chou or Holy Board. They considered that odd numbers connoted day, white, heat, fire, and sun. Even numbers were believed to signify night, black, cold, matter, water, and earth. They incorporated into their culture the Phoenician alphabet, and its sounds and letters as well.
In the course of the development of number concept, India, womb of culture, was once more the place of origin of algebra and the system of giving evaluation to a number according to its position. Prior to the latter discovery the abacus, or counting board, was used. Children today still use these boards with their wires and wooden beads as toys or tools of learning. The abacus permitted the concept of, for example, number 6 to be used alone, as 6, as well as in 60, 160, and so on, having a different value in each position. The word abacus derives from the Semitic abac, meaning dust, or its Greek equivalent, abax, meaning slab. The use of finger marks to tally on smooth sand was probably the first counting system.
The tenth symbol, zero, also had its origin in India. The Hindu word for blank was used to indicate this concept. Then the Arabs used their synonym meaning empty, the cifr. When this idea travelled to Italy, the Latinized version, zephirium (nothing) was used until it was Italianated into the vulgate, zero. In North Europe, the Germans converted the original Arab word into cifra, about the thirteenth century, and and the English into cipher.
Gematria was the earliest form of mystic connotation of numbers. Gematria ascribed to every letter two values: one of sound, one of number. Modern numerology follows this same pattern today, which was known to the writers of the Bible. An example of Gematria in the Old Testament is Abraham’s driving out 318 slaves and thus rescuing Eliasar. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Eliasar is equal to 318.
In Greek the numerical equivalent of the name of the great hero Achilles is 1276, which made him superior to Patroclus, equal to number value 87, and Hector, number value 1225.
Gematria continued as a mystic language through Christian theology. To the Beast of the Revelation was ascribed the number 666. Conflict raged over the interpretation of this number for decades. A writer named Peter Bungus, in a lengthy volume on numerology, ascribed number 666 to Martin Luther. In his reply, Martin Luther, also a student of Gematria, ascribed the number 666 to the length of duration of the regime of the Popes.
The landmark in the history of numerology is Pythagoras, Sixth Century B. C. philosopher, mystic, astronomer, astrologer and numerologist. The genesis of his mystic philosophy is still a moot question and a matter of controversy. About all that is definitely known is that he visited Egypt where he studied the mysteries to attain purification in order to escape the “wheel of birth.” Whatever the scource, he left a profound influence on Plato, Aristotle, and both Greek and modern thought.
The basic idea of Pythagorean philosophy was that man could grasp the nature of the universe only through number and form. The four elements: fire, water, air and earth, comprised the holy fourfoldness, or tetraktys, to which Pythagorians addressed their prayer: “Bless us, divine number, thou who generatest gods and men! O holy, holy tetraktys, thou that containest the root and the source of eternally flowing creation! For the divine number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, the all-abounding, the first-born, the never-swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all.”
The discoveries of the Pythagoreans were numerous. They postulated the ten fundamental oppositions: odd and even, limit and unlimited, one and many, right and left, male and female, rest and motion, straight and curved, light and darkness, good and evil, square and oblong. It was their contention that the universe is the realization of these opposites.
The dependence of intervals on certain ratios of lengths of string at the same tension was another discovery of Pythagoras. Thus, 2:1 gives the octave; 3:2 the fifth, and 4:3 the fourth. This led to the idea that all things are numbers. The Pythagoreans supposed the elements of numbers to be the elements of all things and heaven to be a musical scale and a number.
The nature and quality of numbers was also a subject of study in the school of Pythagoras. Even numbers were considered soluble (which they are), and consequently ephemeral, feminine, and pertaining to the earthly. Odd numbers, being indissoluble, are masculine, and of a celestial nature.
Each number was identified with a human attribute: 1 with reason, being unchangeable; 2 with opinion; 4 with justice, forming the perfect square and being the product of equals (2 times 2); 5 with marriage, being the union of the first feminine and the first masculine number.
The greatest disciple of Pythagoras was Philolaus. He reaffirmed all the principles of the school, and he summed up his creed in the following statement: “All things which can be known have number, for it is not possible that without number anything can be either conceived or known.”
Nicomachus, who followed the teachings of the school and founded the philosophy which succeeded in time, bore testimony to the belief in the mystic connotations of numerology. This concept is pithily stated in his own words: “All things that have been arranged by nature according to a workman-like plan appear, both individually and as a whole, as singled out and set in order by Foreknowledge and Reason, which created all according to number, conceivable to mind only and therefore wholly unmaterial; yet real, indeed, the really real, the eternal.”
From these early days when Numerology was taking root until the present time, a whole tradition has grown up regarding the interpretation of numbers. For their historic interest, some examples of the ancient connotations of numbers are given here.
According to all ancient interpretations, this number is the symbol of the cosmos, or of the diety; that it would take an infinite number of steps to evaluate this ratio only lends power to this ancient interpretation, for the infinite, too, is an atribute of God.
A material principle, according to Pythagoras. The second day of the second month of the year was sacred to Pluto, and hence esteemed unfortunate.
A perfect number, according to the ancients, expressive of beginning, middle, and end. Mythology ascribed the rule of the world to three gods: Jupiter (heaven), Neptune (sea), and Pluto (Hades). Jove holds the three-forked lightning, Neptune the trident, and Pluto the three-headed dog.
The number of letters in the word Lord, for God, is the same in countless ancient and modern languages. For example, there are four letters for this word in Deus, Latin; Dieu, French; Adat, Assyrian; Godt, Dutch; Gott, German; Godh, Danish; Soru, Persian; and so on, in Greek, Hebrew, Swedish, Cabalistic, Egyptian, Sanskrt, and many others for which words the characters do not exist in English print shops.
This is the pentad, or great mystic number, because it is the sum of adding two, the first even, and three, the first odd number, together. All the powers of nature are contained herein since 1 is unity, 2 diversity, 3 their compound, hence – 5, all the principles in operation.
“Six is a perfect number in itself, and not because God created all things in six days; rather the inverse is true; God created all things in six days because this number is perfect, and it would remain perfect even if the work of the six days did not exist.” – St. Augustine.
This was considered a holy number, for there are seven days in creation, seven days in the week, and seven phases of the Moon. In the Bible, Pharaoh saw seven kine and seven ears of corn in his dream, and also “For seven days seven priests with seven trumpets invested Jericho, and on the seventh day they encompassed the city seven times.”
The number of the beatitudes in the Book of Matthew. It is also the symbol of the sign of opposition.
A mystical number, being thrice three, hence the perfect plural. It represents perfection or completion.
And so we end the investigation of the roots of numerology with the number of completion, and the immortal words of Pythagoras: “Number rules the Universe.”
Gifted channel or clairvoyant, seeks to express higher consciousness, unites spiritual Truth to material plane; inventive, visionary leader.
Integrates higher wisdom into organizational administration, is in control of self and environment, puts universal goal ahead of self-pride; a practical mystic.
Sympathetic, is a good counselor (often psychic or spiritual), has concern for welfare of masses; a kind of cosmic parent or guardian, creates harmony at home and work, leader in institutions of positive welfare and human service.