An introduction to the sacred science of numbers
The sacred science of numbers has nothing to do with numerology as it is popularly misunderstood. Numbers cannot be used for fortune-telling, whatever you may have read or heard to the contrary. If that is the reason you have stumbled on this article you may stop reading now, for nothing we have to say will be of the slightest interest to you. If you wish to have your fortune told or discover your so-called 'lucky' and 'unlucky' numbers, we suggest that you consult a gypsy who will be only too glad to take your money and tell you what you wish to hear! If, on the other hand, you are sincerely interested in learning what numbers really are and mean, this article will introduce you to one of the most important branches of the occult sciences. We emphasise 'introduce', for the science of numbers is exceedingly complex and intricate. To master it is the work of a life time, and anyone who tells you differently is a charlatan of the first water.
It is not generally known that the students of Pythagoras spent seven years studying the occult science of numbers in the famous college of Crotona. Pythagoras' school had several singular characteristics. New members were required to pass a period of five years of contemplation in perfect silence, only after this was any intercourse permitted between them and their teacher. This at once demolishes the presumption common among all too many seekers that numerology can be picked up in a few weeks or months by idly skimming a few books or watching YouTube videos.
The sacred science of Numbers
"Happy is he who comprehends the spiritual numerals, and perceives their mighty influence!" exclaimed Plato. And wise, we may add, is he who, treading the maze of numerical meanings and interrelationships, does not neglect to trace them to the invisible and unknown First Cause, which is as far removed from the Gods of exoteric religion as the glorious Sun is removed from a guttering candle in a dark cave full of bemused bats! Porphyry said that the numerals of Pythagoras were "hieroglyphical symbols, by means of which he explained all ideas concerning the nature of all things." We aim to prove this to you during the course of our discussion.
The sacredness of numbers begins with the great First Cause, the ONE, and ends only with the nought or zero—symbol of the infinite and boundless circle which represents the Kosmos, or universe. All the intervening figures, in whatever combination, or however multiplied, either represent specific philosophical ideas, spiritual and material laws, or definite moral or physical facts in nature. Numbers, when rightly understood in all their manifold permutations and interrelationships, are the master-key to the mysteries of creation and evolution, both in the Kosmos, and in Man, spiritually as well as psychically and physically.
All systems of religious mysticism and metaphysical philosophy are based on numbers. "God geometrises," said Plato. 2,000 years later, the Danish physicist, Oersted, who discovered—or we should say—re-discovered, the close connection between electricity and magnetism, said: "The laws of nature are the thoughts of God," adding: "therefore it is in the perfect harmony and equilibrium of all things that we must seek the truth." In proceeding from the indivisible unity, or the ONE, Oersted found emanating from it two contrary forces, each acting through the other and producing equilibrium, and the three were one, so confirming the age-old occult doctrine of the emanation and evolution of all things by and through numbers, beginning with the Pythagorean Eternal Monad, or number one.
With Pythagoras, the Eternal Monad arises from the primordial circle (or zero). The Monad, emanating Two, or the Dyad, forms Three, or the Trinity, which in turn gives rise to the mystic Four, or quaternary, the perfect square which is the symbol and foundation of the material, phenomenal world. The trinity combined with the quaternary compose the number seven; the most sacred of all numbers among the nations of antiquity, as we shall see in our afterword, when we discuss some of its attributes. In Lucian's Auction, Pythagoras asks, "How do you reckon?" The reply is, "One, Two, Three, Four. Then, do you see," says Pythagoras, "in what you conceive FOUR there are TEN; which make a perfect triangle." This axiom is expressed in the famous Tetractys; a triangular figure consisting of ten points arranged in four rows of one, two, three and four points respectively, as shown in the diagram below.
So we may say that the Tetractys or mystic Decad (1+2+3+4=10) is a compound numerical emblem which expresses the evolution of all things from the great First Cause. Thus, One is Spirit; Two is Matter. Three, combining the Monad and Dyad and partaking of the nature of both, or Father-Mother-Son, produce Four, or the Tetrad, the material, phenomenal world, whilst the Decad, or sum of these four numbers, involves the entire Kosmos. In the commentaries to one of the most ancient books of mystic lore, it is written: "The Circle is not 'one' but the All. In the higher heaven (or realm) the Circle becomes One because it is indivisible. In the second of the three worlds the One becomes Two (male and female) and Three (with the addition of the Son or Logos), and the Sacred Four. In the third (the lower world, or our earth), the number becomes Four and Three and Two. Take the first two and thou wilt obtain Seven, the sacred number of Life; blend the latter with middle world and thou wilt have Nine, the sacred number of Being and Becoming."
Plato shows the deity geometrizing. What did he mean by that? Let us see by considering the phenomena of heat. Science tells us that the motion of atoms and molecules creates a form of energy called heat. Now, it is a physical and mechanical law that particles or bodies in motion assume a spheroidal form, and this applies to planets as well as raindrops. But as soon as motion ceases, every body assumes a geometrical shape. We may observe this in snowflakes, which along with crystals exhibit every geometrical form in Nature. As soon as motion stops, the spheroidal shape alters; it first becomes a flat drop (the number two), then the drop forms an equilateral triangle (three), a hexagon (six) and so on and so forth. Scientists, who have studied the breaking up of ice-particles in a large mass, observed that the first shape the particles assumed was triangular or pyramidal, then cubical and finally hexagonal. So we see even modern material science corroborating Plato and the laws of occult science.
From this it is clear that there is a harmony of all numbers in nature, in the forces of attraction and repulsion—wrongly called 'gravity' by material science—in the planetary movements, in the laws of heat, light, electricity, and chemical affinity, in the forms of animals and plants, and in the perception of the mind. H. P. Blavatsky called the numbers 3, 4 and 7 the sacred numbers of Light, Life, and Love, especially in this present age or Life-cycle; of which seven is the special representative, or the essential number. This is true, for three is the first number that forms a geometrical figure—the triangle. This is followed by four, the square, and the triangle placed above it with the apex upwards, forms the glyph of the sevenfold principles of Man and the Universe.
This fact is corroborated in mineralogy, botany and geology. When molecules of salt cluster together and they begin to deposit themselves as a solid, the first shape they assume is that of triangles, in the form of small pyramids and cones. The second geometrical figure in manifested Nature is a square or a cube, such as we find in many crystals. Snowflakes, viewed under a microscope, all form a double or a treble six-pointed star, with a central nucleus, like a miniature star within the larger one.
The arithmetic of numbers
The first principle of numbers taught by Pythagoras was their natural division into even and odd. Even numbers being those which are divisible into two equal parts, without leaving a monad between them, such as four, which divides into two parts of two. Odd numbers, when divided into two equal parts, leave the monad in the middle between the parts, such as five, which divides into two parts of two, leaving one between them. All even numbers (except two—which is simply two unities) may be divided into two equal parts, and also into two unequal parts, such as 8, which can be split into two parts of 4, or 5 and 3. But odd numbers are only divisible into unequal parts, and one part is also a parity and the other part an imparity; thus 7 into 4 and 3, or 5 and 2, in both cases unequal, and odd and even.
The ancients also remarked the monad to be 'odd' and to be the first 'odd number,' because it cannot be divided into two equal numbers. Another reason they saw was that the monad, added to an even number, became an odd number, but if evens are added to evens the result is an even number. All this is fraught with deep significance and will repay careful study.
The monad, then, is the first idea of the odd number; and so the Pythagoreans speak of the 'two' as the "first idea of the indefinite dyad," and attribute the number two to that which is indefinite, unknown, and inordinate in the world; just as they adapt the monad to all that is definite and orderly. They also noted that in the series of numbers from unity, the terms are increased each time by the addition of the monad, which lessens their ratios to each other; thus 2 is 1 + 1, or double its predecessor; 3 is not double 2, but 2 and the monad, sesquialter; 4 to 3 is 3 and the monad, and the ratio is sesquitertian; the sesquiquintan 6 to 5 is also less than its forerunner, the sesquiquartan 5 and 4, and so on through the series.
They also noted that every number in the natural series is one half of the total of the numbers about it; thus 5 is half of 6 and 4. And also of the sum of the numbers again above and below this pair; thus 5 is also half of 7 and 3, and so on till unity is reached; for the monad alone does not have two terms, one below and one above; it has one above it only, and hence it is said to be the "source of all multitude."
'Evenly even' is another term applied anciently to one series of even numbers. Such are those which divide into two equal parts, and each part divides evenly, and the even division is continued until unity is reached; such a number is 64. These numbers form a series, in a duple ratio from unity; thus 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32. The term 'evenly odd,' applies to even numbers like 6, 14, and 28, which when divided into two equal parts, are found to be indivisible into further equal parts. A series of these numbers is formed by doubling the items of a series of odd numbers, thus: 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 produce 2, 6, 10, 14 and 18.
In addition to these relatively simple terms, numbers are also susceptible of being regarded from several different points of view, such as 'first and incomposite numbers.' These are 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 19, 23, 29, 31. No other number measures them but unity; they are not composed of other numbers, but are generated from unity alone. So you see, the subject of numbers is not so simple after all! You will now realise why it took the students of Pythagoras so many years to learn the basic arithmetical principles of numbers, never mind the metaphysical truths behind them nor how to apply this knowledge to unravel the mysteries of Life. What is more, we have not even touched on such terms as 'Perfect', 'Deficient' and 'Superabundant' numbers. We must leave arithmetic behind us to consider how the ancients employed numbers to encode and decipher the hidden meaning in words.
Fyodor Bronnikov — The Pythagoreans salute the Sun — oil on canvas, 1869
The Magical use of numbers
Through the association of numbers with the letters of the alphabet, the planets, stars, zodiacal signs and other astronomical terms, a form of divination arose among the Hebrews and Greeks, by which they attempted to foretell the future, life and death, good and evil fortune, etc. This system consisted of three complimentary processes known as Gematria, Notaricon, and Temura.
Gematria can be traced back to Assyria and Babylonia, whence the Jews derived their divinatory form of it. Gematria works on the premise that the letters of the alphabet can also be used as numbers, and therefore words and phrases acquire distinctive numerical values. A well known example is that of God, whose name spelt in Hebrew, is IHVH. The values of these four letters are 10, 5, 6, 5, which add to 26, and reduce to 8. By following the analogy of numerical equivalence, this means that the Hebrew words AHBH and AChD (Love and Unity) are identical with God because the letter values of these two words also add to 26.
Notaricon, a word derived from the Latin notarius, a shorthand writer, is a method of constructing a word from the initial or final letters of the several words of a sentence, or vice versa, so as to form a new sentence or idea. For example, the word 'Amen' is derived from AMN, the initials of which form 'Adonai melekh namen, ' ADNI MLK NAMN, meaning 'The Lord and Faithful King.'
Temura means Permutation; sometimes the letters of a word are transposed according to certain rules, and within certain limitations; at others each letter of a word is replaced by another according to a definite scheme, forming a new word, of which permutation there are many recognised forms. We have neither the time nor space to go any further into these processes as we have yet to consider the symbolism and significance of the individual numerals. Interested readers can easily find further information about Gematria, Notaricon, and Temura in the Qabbalah.
The individual numerals: the number One
The number one or Monad is so called because it always remains in the same condition. Its attributes were defined by the Pythagoreans as follows: it is called mind, because the mind is stable and has pre-eminence; odd and even, for being added to the even it makes it odd, and to the odd, even; God, because it is the beginning and end of all things, but itself has neither beginning nor end; good, for such is the nature of God; the receptacle of matter, because it produces the duad, which is essentially material.
The mathematician Theon of Smyrna said the monad was "the principal and element of numbers, which while multitude can be lessened by subtraction, is itself deprived of every number and remains stable and firm"; hence as a number it is indivisible, it remains immutable, and even multiplied into itself remains itself only, since once one is still one, and the monad multiplied by the monad remains the immutable monad to infinity. It remains by itself among numbers, for no number can be taken from it, or separated from its unity.
The number Two
The Pythagoreans revered the monad but despised the number two or Dyad, also called the Duad, because it was the symbol of duality, separation and differentiation. By the power of the dyad the material world was created, in contradistinction to the spiritual. This duality is echoed in Genesis, chapter 1: "and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night."
Two was called 'Audacity,' from its being the earliest number to separate itself from the Divine One; it was called 'Matter' as being definite and the cause of bulk and division; it was called 'the interval between multitude and the monad,' because as Proclus observes, "The dyad is the medium between unity and number, for unity by addition produces more than by multiplication, but number by addition produces less than by multiplication; whilst the dyad, whether added to itself or multiplied by itself, produces the same."
The number Three
The number three or the Triad is the first odd number as the monad is not considered a number, but the father of all numbers. The qualities of the triad are said to be friendship, peace, justice, prudence, piety, temperance, and virtue. It is called wisdom and understanding because it symbolises the trinity of Father-Mother-Son as well as the trinity of the three higher principles in man. The sacredness of the trinity in almost all religious systems is derived from the fact that the number three is made up of the monad and the dyad. The monad is the symbol of the Father and the dyad of the Mother.
The Druids paid a constant respect to this number; and even their poems were composed in Triads. The Pythagoreans said that "three is the cause of good counsel, intelligence, and knowledge, and is a Mistress of Music, mistress also of Geometry, possesses authority in whatever pertains to Astronomy and the nature and knowledge of the heavenly bodies, connects and leads them into effects."
The number Four
The Pythagoreans called the number four or the Tetrad 'the greatest miracle,' and 'God after another manner,' 'a manifold divinity,' the 'fountain of Nature,' and 'Justice' as it is the first evenly even number. Almost all the ancient peoples possessed a name for the Deity consisting of four letters, and many of them considered 4 to be a Divine number. In Hebrew we find YHVH and IHUH; in Assyrian, ADAD; in Egyptian, AMEN; in Greek, ZEUS; in Latin, DEUS; in Arabic, ALLH. Whilst in modern languages we find GOTT in German and DIEU in French.
As we learned earlier, when we discussed the Tetractys, the number four or tetrad was esteemed as the root of all things, the fountain of Nature and the most perfect number. The tetrad is also the first geometric solid which connects all beings, elements, numbers, and seasons. There are 4 known elements (Fire, Air, Water and Earth); 4 qualities, cold, hot, dry, damp; 4 seasons of the year and 4 cardinal points; 4 Evangelists and 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); 4 sacred animals related to the four fixed Zodiacal signs (Man to Aquarius; Lion to Leo; Bull to Taurus; and Eagle to Scorpio). Finally, we cannot resist adding that there are four sorts of pupils who study occult science. Those who learn but won't teach; those who teach but won't learn; those who both learn and teach; and lastly, those who won't learn and can't teach!
The number Five
The number five or Pentad is the union of the first odd and an even number (3 and 2). Evolution progresses in five stages: stone, plant, animal, man and God. There are 5 senses in the human body, 5 appendages from the torso; two arms, two legs and a head, and 5 fingers on each hand and foot. One of the main divisions of flowering plants is characterised by a predominance of the number five. Five was called 'Equilibrium', because it divides the perfect number 10 into two equal parts. Also, 'the Privation of Strife,' because it unites in friendship the even and the odd, or 2 and 3.
The Pentalpha or 5-pointed star was the emblem of health and vitality. It is also called the Pentagram and the Seal of Solomon. Being formed by the union of the first odd and even numbers, five was considered of peculiar value and used as an amulet or talisman to ward of evil, and when inscribed on a portal, or before any aperture could repel evil spirits, and so it can when it is employed correctly.
The number Six
The Pythagoreans called six or the Hexad 'the Perfection of parts', because it is formed by the multiplication of the first (beyond unity) odd number and the first even number (2 and 3), and so resembles the union of Male and Female. The Hexad is also the symbol of marriage, because it is formed by the union of two interlaced triangles, one masculine and the other feminine. When multiplied into itself, like the pentad, six also always has itself in the unit place, thus, 6, 36, 216, 1296, 7776.
The circumference of a globe has been fixed at 360 degrees, six sixties; the hour divided into 60 minutes, each of 60 seconds. The Tartars had a period of 60 days, the Chinese also; and the Asiatics generally a period of 60 years. Under this number we must not omit to mention the symbol of the double triangle, or Hexalpha, sometimes referred to as the Star of David. This should not be confused with the aforementioned Pentalpha or Pentagram, which is the true Solomon's seal. The Hexalpha has also been used as an emblem for the union of Fire and Water; for the early symbol of Fire was a triangle with the apex upward, and that of Water, with the apex downward.
The number Seven
The Heptad or number seven was the sacred number par excellence among all the civilised nations of antiquity. As we discuss this number in our afterword, we will say no more about it now for we must first conclude our survey of the numerals.
The number Eight
The Ogdoad or eight was considered sacred by the Pythagoreans because it was the number of the first cube, which form had eight corners, and was the only evenly-even number within the decad. Thus, the 8 is divided into two 4's, each 4 is divided into two 2's, and each 2 is divided into two 1's, thereby re-establishing the monad. Among the principal keywords of the ogdoad are love, counsel, prudence, law, and convenience.
The number Nine
The Ennead or number nine is the first square of an odd number (3). It was said to be like the ocean flowing around the other numbers within the decad since no further elementary number is possible, hence it is like the horizon because all the numbers are bounded by it. It is an apposite emblem of Matter, which, ever varying, is never destroyed; so the number 9 when multiplied by any number always reproduces itself, thus: 9 x 2 are 18, 9 x 3 are 27, 9 x 4 are 36, 9 x 16 are 144, and 8 plus 1 are nine, and so on and so forth.
We touched on the significance of the number nine earlier when we mentioned that it was the number of Being and Becoming. The sacred time cycles found in the Hindu Scriptures are all based on this number. These are the periods of sleep and wakefulness to which every Kosmos (and every Universe in a larger sense) is subjected. One of the main divisions of these cycles is a 'Day of Brahmâ' which lasts for 4,320,000,000 mortal years. 4 + 3 +2 = 9. This 'day' is divided into 1,000 Maha Yugas, or great ages, each of which lasts 4,320,000 years, which again adds to nine.
The significance of the number 432 is not confined to the time cycles of the ancient Indian Sages. There are 86,400 seconds in a day (twice 43,200, which number also adds to nine). The diameter of the Sun is estimated to be 864,000 miles whilst the diameter of the moon is 2,160 miles. In Man—the microcosm—we find that the human heart beats on average 72 times a minute, and we need hardly add that the average period of human gestation is nine months!
The number Ten
The Decad, or number ten meant 'all complete' or fully accomplished' with the Pythagoreans. It is the grand summit of numbers, which once reached cannot be passed; to increase the sum we must retrograde to the monad. It was further called 'Deity', 'Heaven', 'Eternity' and the 'Sun'. As we discussed previously in our review of the Tetractys, ten is the sum of the units of the number four, a holy and Deistic number, thus 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 are 10, and thus ten gains splendour from its parentage.
Pythagoras called ten 'the fountain of eternal nature,' because if we take the half, five as the middle number, and add together the next above and the next below, viz., 6 and 4, we make 10, and the next two in a similar manner, 7 and 3, also make 10; and so do 8 and 2 and 9 and 1. All nations reckon by the Decimal scale of notation.
Numbers in the Bible
Let us now turn to the Bible to see what it can tell us about numbers and their hidden significance. The first thing we notice is that, on average, one in every five verses contains a number. The next is that numbers are consistently associated with particular phrases or individual words, and that these often form repeating patterns. The more we study the Bible intuitively the more apparent this becomes.
We will begin by surveying the frequency with which the numbers 1-9 occur in the book. The number One occurs over 2,000 times. Two occurs about 1000 times; three and seven, 500 times; four, 400 times; five, six and eight around 300 times each; and nine less than a 100 times. So we may say that the most important numbers in the Bible in order of frequency are 1, 2 and 3. This is exactly what we should expect to find based on what we have learned about the attributes of these numbers. The prominence of the number one or monad requires no further comment, since, as we have seen, it stands for God, Oneness, Unity and the beginning and end of all things. The Bible is divided into two main books; the old and new testaments. Jesus is crucified between two thieves. In Genesis chapter two, man and woman, though two in number, are made one by marriage. The earth was created on the third day, Jesus was tempted three times by Satan, taught for three years and rose from the dead on the third day.
We find the number 150 mentioned no less than 500 times in the Bible. We will take just one occurrence of this number, where it is combined with the number THREE, the only time this particular combination is mentioned in the entire Bible, to see what we may learn about it. "Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was the net not broken" (John 21:11). Why there should have been exactly 153 fishes in the net is a question which has puzzled commentators from the earliest time. This suggests the number has a hidden meaning, and so it has, as we shall see.
The first thing that strikes us is that 153 is the sum of the first 17 numbers. Now 17 is composed of 10 and 7—both numbers of great significance as we have seen. 1 + 7 also adds to eight, the only evenly even number within the Decad, or mystic 10. Moreover, as H. P. Blavatsky tells us, 888 is the special number of Jesus Christ in his character of the Resurrection and the Life. In other words, the power of seven is brought to completion by the one, for in the Biblical parable, there are seven fishers of men (the disciples) with Jesus, by the shore of the Sea of Tiberias.
The next thing we discover is that 153 is equal to the sum of the cubes of its digits. For those who are not mathematicians, this means that 1 x 1 x 1=1; 5 x 5 x 5=125; and 3 x 3 x 3 = 27. If we take 1+125+27 it adds to 153 again. Five is the number of expiation and of sacrifice, the number of the senses of man, and the five wounds of Christ. There is no need to dwell on the significance of the number three which is a symbol of Eternal Order. So may say that the hidden meaning of 153 and the verses within which they occur is that the journey is nearing its goal—spiritual illumination and liberation from rebirth is within sight.
Here we must draw our all too brief survey of the sacred science of numbers to an end. We hope it has been as profitable for you to read as it was enjoyable for us to research and write it. If it encourages you to begin your own researches into this important branch of the occult sciences, our efforts will be well rewarded.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 24 October 2016. Updated 12 February 2023.