Numerology (known prior to the 20th century as arithmancy) is the belief in an occult, divine or mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events. It is also the study of the numerical value, via an alphanumeric system, of the letters in words and names. When numerology is applied to a person's name, it is a form of onomancy. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology, and is similar to divinatory arts.
The term numerologist can be used for those who place faith in numerical patterns and draw inferences from them, even if those people do not practice traditional numerology. For example, in his 1997 book Numerology: Or What Pythagoras Wrought (Dudley 1997), mathematician Underwood Dudley uses the term to discuss practitioners of the Elliott wave principle of stock market analysis.
The term arithmancy is derived from two Greek words – arithmos (meaning number) and manteia (meaning divination). "Αριθμομαντεία" Arithmancy is thus the study of divination through numbers. Although the word "arithmancy" dates to the 1570s, the word "numerology" is not recorded in English before c. 1907.
The practice of gematria, assigning numerical values to words and names and imputing those values with religious meaning, dates back to antiquity. An Assyrian inscription from the 8th century BC, commissioned by Sargon II declares "the king built the wall of Khorsabad 16,283 cubits long to correspond with the numerical value of his name." Rabbinic literature used gematria to interpret passages in the Hebrew Bible.
The practice of using alphabetic letters to represent numbers developed in the Greek city of Miletus, and is thus known as the Milesian system. Early examples include vase graffiti dating to the 6th century BCE. Aristotle wrote that the Pythgoraean tradition, founded in the 6th century by Pythagoras of Samos, practiced isopsephy, the Greek predecessor of Hebrew gematria. Pythagoras was a contemporary of the philosophers Anaximander, Anaximenes, and the historian Hecataeus, all of whom lived in Miletus, across the sea from Samos. The Milesian system was in common use by the reign of Alexander the Great (336–323 BCE) and was adopted by other cultures during the subsequent Hellenistic period. It was officially adopted in Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (284–246 BCE).
In 325 AD, following the First Council of Nicaea, departures from the beliefs of the state church were classified as civil violations within the Roman Empire. Numerology, referred to as isopsephy, remained in use in conservative Greek Orthodox circles.
Some alchemical theories were closely related to numerology. For example, Arab alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan (died c. 806−816) framed his experiments in an elaborate numerology based on the names of substances in the Arabic language.
Numerology is prominent in Sir Thomas Browne's 1658 literary Discourse The Garden of Cyrus. Throughout its pages, the author attempts to demonstrate that the number five and the related quincunx pattern can be found throughout the arts, in design, and in nature – particularly botany.
Alphanumeric systems edit
There are various numerology systems which assign numerical value to the letters of an alphabet. Examples include the Abjad numerals in Arabic, Hebrew numerals, Armenian numerals, and Greek numerals. The practice within Jewish tradition of assigning mystical meaning to words based on their numerical values, and on connections between words of equal value, is known as gematria.
Pythagorean method edit
In the so-called 'Pythagorean' method (which uses a kind of place-value for number-letter attributions, as does the ancient Hebrew and Greek systems), the letters of the modern Latin alphabet are assigned numerical values 1 through 9.
Chaldean method edit
A lesser known method, more popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, is the so-called 'Chaldean' method; in this context, "Chaldean" is an old-fashioned name for the Aramaic languages. In the Chaldean method number 9 is not used in the calculations, at least in practice. It is left out because it is thought to be divine and sacred, and therefore unassignable.
This method is radically different from the Pythagorean (as well as both the ancient Greek and Hebrew systems) as letters are assigned values based on equating Latin letters with letters of the Hebrew alphabet in accordance with sound equivalents (then number associations being derived via its gematria) rather than applying the ancient system of place-value used by the Hebrew and Greek gematria (although 'place-value' is almost universally interpreted in the ancient world according to units, tens and hundreds, which nonetheless have the same digital root as place value); in consequence of this there are several slightly different versions, there being disagreements over some of the letter-sound equivalents (it doesn't help matters that the Hebrew alphabet has only twenty-two letters whilst the modern English alphabet has twenty-six).
Agrippan method edit
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa applied the concept of arithmancy to the classical Latin alphabet in the 16th century in Three Books of Occult Philosophy. He mapped the letters as follows (in accordance with the Latin alphabet's place-value at that time):
- When representing the u sound, as in Ulysses
- When representing the j sound, as in John
- When representing the v sound, as in Valentine
- When representing the j sound, as in Jerome
- When representing the w sound, as in Wilhelm
Note that the letters U, J, and W were not commonly considered part of the Latin alphabet at the time.
Repeating digit numbers edit
"Angel numbers" are supposedly numbers consisting of repeating digits, such as 333 or 1111. As of 2023[update], a number of popular media publications have published articles suggesting that these numbers have numerological significance.
English systems edit
There are various systems of English numerology, sometimes referred to as English Qabalah,: 24–25 that are related to Hermetic Qabalah. These systems interpret the letters of the Roman script or English alphabet via an assigned set of numerological significances.: 269 The spelling "English Qaballa", on the other hand, refers specifically to a Qabalah supported by a system of arithmancy discovered by James Lees in 1976.
John Skelton edit
Willis F. Whitehead edit
The next reference to an English gematria found in the literature was made by Willis F. Whitehead in 1899 in his book, The Mystic Thesaurus, in which he describes a system he called "English Cabala."
Aleister Crowley edit
In 1904, Aleister Crowley wrote out the text of the foundational document of his world-view, known as Liber AL vel Legis, The Book of the Law. In this text was the injunction found at verse 2:55; "Thou shalt obtain the order & value of the English Alphabet, thou shalt find new symbols to attribute them unto" which was understood by Crowley as referring to an English Qabalah yet to be developed or revealed. In one of the Holy Books of Thelema written by Aleister Crowley in 1907, called Liber Trigrammaton, sub figura XXVII -- Being the Book of the Mutations of the Tao with the Yin and the Yang, are 27 three-line diagrams known as 'trigrams', which are composed of a solid line for the Yang, a broken line for the Yin, and a point for the Tao. By attributing 26 Roman script letters to the trigrams of this work, Crowley felt that he had fulfilled the injunction to "obtain the order & value of the English Alphabet", as noted in his 'Old Comment' to The Book of the Law.
John Hughes edit
In 1952, John P. L. Hughes published The Hidden Numerical Significance of the English Language, or, Suggestive Gematria, based on his lecture delivered at Holden Research Circle on July 4, 1952.
James Lees edit
English Qaballa (EQ) refers to a system of Hermetic Qabalah that interprets the letters of the English alphabet via an assigned set of values discovered by James Lees in 1976. Like most of the systems developed since the death of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), it was created with the intent of gaining a better understanding of the mysteries elaborated in his inspired works, especially those in Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law. According to scholar of necromancy Jake Stratton-Kent (died 17 January 2023), "the English Qaballa is a qabalah and not a system of numerology. A qabalah is specifically related to three factors: one, a language; two, a 'holy' text or texts; three, mathematical laws at work in these two."
William Eisen edit
William Gray edit
William G. Gray proposes another system in his 1984 book, Concepts of Qabalah, more recently republished as Qabalistic Concepts. This system includes correspondence attributions of the English letters to the positions on the Tree of Life.
R. Leo Gillis edit
Another system for English known as Trigrammaton Qabalah (TQ) was proposed by R. Leo Gillis and published on his website, Trigrammaton.com, starting in 1998, and subsequently released as The Book of Mutations. This system is based on one of the Holy Books of Thelema written by Aleister Crowley in 1907, called Liber Trigrammaton, sub figura XXVII -- Being the Book of the Mutations of the Tao with the Yin and the Yang. Liber Trigrammaton (aka Liber XXVII) was called by Crowley "the ultimate foundation of the highest theoretical qabalah". Trigrammaton Qabalah gematria values are as follows:
A=5 B=20 C=2 D=23 E=13 F=12 G=11 H=3 I=0 J=7 K=17 L=1 M=21 N=24 O=10 P=4 Q=16 R=14 S=15 T=9 U=25 V=22 W=8 X=6 Y=18 Z=19
Correspondences are created with some of the major forms of divination such as the I Ching, Tarot and runes, as well as Greek and Hebrew alphabets, the Tree of Life, Western and Vedic astrology, magic squares, and the Platonic solids. A primary feature of this qabalah is a new understanding of the Cube of Space and its 26 components of edges, faces, and vertices, which equal the number of letters in the English alphabet.
Other systems edit
Related uses edit
Scientific theories are sometimes labeled "numerology" if their primary inspiration appears to be a set of patterns rather than scientific observations. This colloquial use of the term is quite common within the scientific community and it is mostly used to dismiss a theory as questionable science.
The best known example of "numerology" in science involves the coincidental resemblance of certain large numbers that intrigued mathematical physicist Paul Dirac, mathematician Hermann Weyl and astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington. These numerical coincidences refer to such quantities as the ratio of the age of the universe to the atomic unit of time, the number of electrons in the universe, and the difference in strengths between gravity and the electric force for the electron and proton. (See also Fine-tuned universe).
British mathematician I. J. Good wrote:
There have been a few examples of numerology that have led to theories that transformed society: see the mention of Kirchhoff and Balmer in Good (1962, p. 316) ... and one can well include Kepler on account of his third law. It would be fair enough to say that numerology was the origin of the theories of electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, gravitation.... So I intend no disparagement when I describe a formula as numerological.
When a numerological formula is proposed, then we may ask whether it is correct. ... I think an appropriate definition of correctness is that the formula has a good explanation, in a Platonic sense, that is, the explanation could be based on a good theory that is not yet known but 'exists' in the universe of possible reasonable ideas.
See also edit
- Biblical numerology – Numeric symbolism in biblical texts
- Enneagram of Personality – Model of the human psyche used as a personality typology
- Methods of divination
- Number of the beast – Number associated with the Beast of Revelation
- Numbers in Chinese culture – Numbers in Chinese culture
- Numbers in Egyptian mythology
- Numbers in Norse mythology – Significant numbers in Germanic paganism
- Numerology and the Church Fathers – Numeric symbolism in biblical texts
- Sacred geometry – Symbolic and sacred meanings ascibed to certain geometric shapes
- Significance of numbers in Judaism
- Synchromysticism – Belief system attributing meaning to coincidences
- Synchronicity – Jungian concept of the meaningfulness of acausal coincidences
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Works cited edit
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Further reading edit
- Bullinger, E. W. (1921). Number in Scripture. Eyre & Spottiswoode (Bible Warehouse) Ltd. Archived from the original on 14 October 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2008 – via Philologos.org.
- Crowley, Aleister (2004). The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis. Red Wheel Weiser. ISBN 978-1578633081.
- Lees, James (2018). Thompson, Cath (ed.). The New Equinox: The British Journal of Magick. Hadean Press Limited. ISBN 978-1907881770.
- Phillips, S. M. (2009). The Mathematical Connection Between Religion and Science. Antony Rowe Publishing. ISBN 978-1905200856.
- Schimmel, Annemarie (1993). The Mystery of Numbers. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-87-516422-6.
- Stratton-Kent, Jake (2011). The Serpent Tongue: Liber 187. UK: Hadean Press. ISBN 978-1-907881-07-7.
- Thompson, Cath (2016). The Magickal Language of the Book of the Law: An English Qaballa Primer. Hadean Press Limited. ISBN 978-1907881688.
- Thompson, Cath (2018). All This and a Book. Hadean Press Limited. ISBN 978-1-907881-78-7.
- "History of Ciphers" (part 1) - The Ciphers of the Illuminati - first of article of a series
- Number symbolism on the Encyclopædia Britannica
- Media related to Numerology at Wikimedia Commons