A Brief History of Numerology

Buy Book Here:There are several forms of NUMEROLOGY.  I am familiar with four of them and will begin with the style used by most modern Numerologists: PYTHAGOREAN.  The Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, best known by modern people as the Father of Geometry is also called the Father of Modern Numerology.  The Pythagorean may not appear to be easily related to other types of numerology, yet there are links that connect to practical situations and psychological matters.

Since Pythagoras’ teachings were not written down, and his commentaries were probably lost in a fire lit by a mob angry over a political disagreement with his non-democratic position, his actual teachings have been lost to the world.  What we know is based on what his students revealed about him and passed on to their students.  We know Pythagoras was born in Samos, Greece around 580 BCE.  He was taught about the transmigration of souls in his early years by Pherecydes, named one of the seven Wise Men of Greece, who had learned about reincarnation from the secret books of the Phoenicians.   Pythagoras was also a student of Anaximander, called the Master of Physical Matter.  Rather than believe, as the Egyptians and Babylonians, that everything was caused by the gods, Anaximander also moved away from the universal belief of the time that the earth sat on water, embracing the idea that everything was neat and orderly since it was surrounded by numerous fire wheels.

            According to Porphyry, who wrote more than six centuries after Pythagoras’ death, Pythagoras received letters of recommendation from Amasis, the king of Egypt, to learn from the priests of Heliopolis.  The Egyptians did not have much regard for the Greeks, thinking them ignorant.  Educating Pythagoras in the House of Light was considered a nuisance.  The priests of Heliopolis sent him on his way to bother the priests of Memphis, who in their turn sent him to the temple in Thebes.  The Theban priests must have been more fearful of alienating the Pharaoh and decided to educate Pythagoras. However, by using teaching methods which surpassed his basic knowledge, they made it difficult, hoping to scare Pythagoras off.  Instead, he applied himself and did so well that he ultimately impressed the priests and stayed in Egypt for twenty-two years learning geometry, astronomy, and the symbolic methods and mysteries of the Goddess and God, Isis and Osiris.

            During a Babylonian invasion of Egypt, Pythagoras was captured, taken to Babylon, and while confined there, studied with Zaratas, a Zoroastrian priest, learning of the Harmony of the Universe.  While studying music he discovered that various lengths of string related to the pitch of sound, thereby reducing music to numerical ratios.  Expanding on his theories he determined the world is round and may have been the first person to suggest Earth is a sphere.  

            Pythagoras traveled extensively to Arabia, Syria, Phoenicia, Chaldea, India, and Gaul, not only as a student, but also a Greek diplomat.  Ultimately moving to Crotone in Southern Italy, he founded the Pythagorean Brotherhood.  An early proponent of equal opportunity, his school included both men and women, but believing women had a natural function separate from men they were given additional instructions concerning maternal and domestic duties along with philosophy and literature.  He felt strongly regarding the virtues of marriage, but he burdened women with most of the responsibility for the congeniality within a household. 

When entering the Pythagorean Brotherhood, a student was not allowed to question or make remarks for the first five years of study.  Purification of the student’s mind and body included abstinence, self-control, and scientific study.  There were two types of students, with only the esocterici receiving the secret wisdom from the Master.  The Brotherhood, based on the principles of communal living, has caused Pythagoras to be called the original communist.  It is believed the Essenes, sometimes called the first Christians since Jesus was supposed to have spent some time with them, took many of their communal practices from Pythagoras’s teachings.

                Not eating meat, eggs, cabbage, or beans, and prohibiting any foods that caused flatulence or indigestion, was because those stomach conditions affected discipline.  His preference that everyone drank water rather than wine had to do with his main objective that everyone in his school maintain balance: not be over joyous or solemn.  At the end of each day everyone was to examine any wrong they may have committed, duty left neglected, and any good done.  But what was eaten also related to his beliefs in the transmigration of souls.  Often telling others about his past lives as a courtesan and soldier, he believed the wheel of becoming was stopped—with no need to enter a new body—upon living a life that was completely virtuous.

            Many have remarked that Pythagoras could not have believed in the things ascribed to him by those most concerned with the transmigration of a soul into an animal, plant, or rock.  The battle of where a soul has come from and where it goes after death of the physical body may be a big part of why Pythagorean Numerology is based on the practical aspects.  In its current form it is not intended to be spiritual.  

            Iamblichus, of the Neoplatonic School, strongly affected by Pythagorean thought wrote around the same time as Porphyry, calling Pythagoras the Father of Philosophy.  Pythagoras possibly coined the word philosophy, because Sophia—wisdom herself—was too lofty, so he preferred to say philosphia, meaning the love of wisdom.  The Greek attitude increasingly related everything to matter, even abstract concepts. Thus Pythagoras’s training in mystical beliefs caused him to divide the soul into three parts: feeling, intuition, and reason.  Feeling was governed by the human heart. Intuition and reason could be found in the human brain.  Feeling and intuition were within both mankind and animals, but only humans could reason.            

            Five centuries prior to Pythagoras’s birth, the Greeks began to distance themselves from the mysterious religions of their past, favoring astronomy over astrology.  But not all Greeks completely divorced themselves from the knowledge of the Egyptians and Persians, or that the goddesses and gods were part of this world making it possible to have regular contact with them.  Western thought, based on the later beliefs of men such as Aristotle, caused God to become distant and separate from mankind.  Still, throughout the millennia there have been numerous attempts to bring our Western culture back to the basic need to maintain all physical, mental, and spiritual parts of ourselves in balance, preventing one part from taking precedence over another.  Knowledge of our physical world is important.  Using our minds to recognize the physical reality of our world prevents the mystical experience from being frightening.  Yet we do have a spiritual aspect that is not understood by restricting our understanding exclusively to physical knowledge.

            Those such as Carl Jung, the eminent Swiss psychoanalyst, who studied the spiritual aspects of Pythagoras, made an effort to also take the theory of numbers out of the realm of mysticism and into the field of psychology.  Jung said the movement from the trinity (3) to the quaternion (4) was to allow for the realm of God and spirit to also include physical reality.  The Gnostics taught that the triangle of the three equals God and that one is man—thus the four is God in man. Several ancient philosophies taught that the soul is symbolized by the number four.

Some Greek philosophers became opposed to any magical or poetic philosophy because of its threat against their strong belief in logic.  Therefore, we have received from Pythagoras what is termed as the mundane or worldly aspect of numerology.  Pythagoras said, “the world is built on the power of numbers”, but keep in mind that a crucial attribute of the Hellenistic wisdom was that it had to be intensely practical, and that is why it is important to understand in Pythagorean Numerology there is less of a feeling that we create our lives and more that we are managed by fate or logic. 

            In numerology all numbers are generally reduced down to a single denomination.  The Pythagorean calculations reflect vibrations or energies felt by a person during a nine year period that is called an Epicycle.  The first year contains elements of new beginnings.  Then each subsequent year brings a different energy which promotes continuing growth.  At the end of the Epicycle, the final energy felt contains elements of loss and endings, either helping or forcing the removal of that which is no longer needed to continue personal growth.  Although there are nine years in an Epicycle, there are two special numbers that may be used instead that are not reduced.  The number two may be replaced by the number eleven and the number four by the number twenty-two.  Thus we have eleven numbers, with nine of them used, during the nine year period.  The practical aspects of life that include romance and relationships, physical health, work and business concerns, vacation and excursions, and the energy of colors appropriate to the year are discovered by reviewing the energy felt during each of the months of every year throughout the entire nine year Epicycle.

The next numerology form to look at is called CHALDEAN.   This word is misleading.  The ancient occult systems of Mesopotamia—those of the Fertile Crescent—occurred millennia before the Chaldean tribes arrived in the region and then began their rule around 600 BCE.        

            The term Mesopotamian gets a bit confusing because it encompasses many peoples and its name is often used indiscriminately as Babylonia and Assyria.  Ancient Mesopotamia geographically comprised the land between the Upper Tigris Valley, the Arabian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and the Mediterranean Sea.  Babylonia referred to the southern portion of what is known as modern Iraq.  Assyria was the western part of the entire territory.  The Sumerians were the original empire builders in the Fertile Crescent, and beginning with them, the Mesopotamians were excellent astronomers and astrologers.  They did not see any difference between the heaven and earth that was part of a single realm, trusting equally in the signs received from either place.  Time was not considered linear.  It was cyclical and the present was thus affected by the future, as much as the past.  When various Semitic and Aryan people took political and economic control of Mesopotamia, then calling themselves Assyrians and Babylonians, their fearful attitude about the world caused the belief that the will of the gods often needed to be changed, which they were able to accomplish, through certain rituals of sympathetic magic. 

Merging several beliefs together, mankind then became a part of the divine scheme and humans were obligated to serve the gods.  Although a person was issued an allotment of good and ill fortune at birth, the god’s decisions about the distribution could be avoided—not changed—through magical rituals.  Diviners were highly trained into specific specialties.  Some were trained to see omens and portents in the winds, thunder, lightening, earthquakes, floods, shooting stars, and animal innerds__just about anything.  

            Mesopotamian texts have been discovered that provide details about mystical numbers for each of the gods, plants, metals, precious and semi-precious stones.  Numerical values assigned to letters in the alphabet were used by the Babylonians as early as the 8th century BCE.  Numerology assigns an energy value to both numbers and letters.  In Chaldean, values given to some letters are different than in the Pythagorean.  Another difference is the numbers ascribed to the letters in the alphabet in the Chaldean form never include the number nine.

            In the Chaldean form, the single numbers one through nine relate how people appear to others, denoting their individuality and personality. The compound numbers are the hidden influences that foreshadow the future as mysterious currents of destiny. The Chaldean also strongly urges that a person’s name and birthday number be in harmony.  Usually birth dates cannot be changed or determined, so the letters in a person’s name is considered especially important.

Chaldean numerology remains rather harsh and predictive.  Count Louis Hamon, known popularly as Cheiro, was a 19th century Norman French nobleman.  Thought of as one of our modern day seers, he stated that the Chaldeans and Egyptians were the supreme masters of the occult mysteries and the hidden meanings of numbers.  To show the difference between interpretations of numbers, here is the description of the number 22 in Cheiro’s Book of Numbers: “The number 22 is symbolized by a Good Man blinded by the folly of others, with a knapsack on his back full of Errors.  In this picture he appears to offer no defense against a ferocious tiger which is attacking him.  It is a warning number of illusion and delusion, a good person who lives in a fool’s paradise; a dreamer of dreams who awakens only when surrounded by danger.  It is also a number of false judgments owing to the influence of others.”

In their Numerology and the Divine Triangle, Faith Javane and Dusty Bunker wrote: “22 is a master number and the ancient numerical value for a circle.  As such it implies completion, fulfillment and cyclicity.  Under a 22, you are reaching your goal; the fulfillment of your secret desires can become a reality.  Success on a huge scale and attainment of those impossible dreams are very possible.  You should make those big plans, dare the mighty deeds you have only contemplated…”

No longer strictly predictive in their interpretations, Javane and Bunker are also able to show the modern connection between the Chaldean and yet another form of numerology.  

This form of numerology is related to TAROT.  The history of Tarot cards include theories of it originating in Egypt, India, Persia, and Greece. Those who opt for India say it moved into other lands through Gypsy migrations. The most popular stories have it coming from Egypt—still allowing the Gypsies to be its outward bound carrier.

            Accounts of when the gypsies first appeared in Germany state they were called Egyptians because they claimed to be exiled noblemen from Little Egypt, alleging a card game called Faro, meaning the Game of Kings, was named after the Egyptian Pharaohs. Another gypsy legend says they first brought the Tarot from Chaldea and Egypt into Israel, then on to Greece.  Their tradition indicates the Hierophants, who were the priests of the Eleusinian mysteries, handed their knowledge over, intending they transmit it to the worthy.  Still, most evidence indicates the gypsies actually came from India, possibly carrying their Hindu sacred booklets as packs of cards.

            One Egyptian account says that after the Library of Alexandria was burned, Fez, which is currently Morocco, became the intellectual’s capital, but there were so many languages a common method of communication was needed. Thus the Tarot was created.  Another story of it having Egyptian roots is that it was formed by Thoth.  Thoth, being the counselor and scribe to the god Osiris, was the measurer of time, the inventor of numbers, and the god of wisdom and magic. That story claims the Major Arcana, which is twenty-two cards of the seventy-eight card deck, was part of the initiation rites of the Egyptian priesthood.  The Greeks called Thoth, Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, who supposedly wrote a text from which the cards were formed.

            The oldest decks of Tarot cards seen in museums are dated at 1390 CE, but there are claims there were much earlier versions.  First painted on parchment or thin sheets of ivory, silver, or gold, the designs on the very expensive cards were drawn and colored by hand.  By 1430 the cards were made of cardboard and the designs printed from hand-carved wooden blocks, reducing the cost to make them, but also lessening their quality.  A set of expensive cards was made for Charles VI of France.  The English king, Edward IV forbade their import into England. 

            There are seventy-eight cards in a Tarot deck.  Fifty-six of them are similar to a modern deck of playing cards.  The other twenty-two cards are called the Major Arcana, arcana being the Latin word meaning secrets.  There are no corresponding cards in a modern deck that relate to the Major Arcana which are illustrated with images of universal symbols from philosophies—religious or magical—that have occurred throughout countless ages.  They are: the cipher, which is said to represent the soul seeking understanding; cards one through nine correspond to the Pythagorean Epicycle and each of the compound numbers ten through twenty-one are directly and specifically related to each of the single numbers; numbers ten and nineteen are connected with number one; eleven and twenty to two; twelve and twenty-one to three; thirteen to four; fourteen to five, fifteen to six; sixteen to seven; seventeen to eight; eighteen to nine.

 0 Fool (The soul)         

 1 Magician/10 Wheel of Fortune (Wheel of Becoming)/19 Sun (Prince of Heaven)

 2 High Priestess/11 Justice (Illumination)/20 Judgment (Awakening)

 3 Empress/12 Hanged Man (Sacrifice/Victim)/21 World/Universe (Crown of the Magi)

 4  Emperor/13 Death (Transition/Consciousness) 

 5  Hierophant (Constructive Freedom)/14 Temperance                                  

 6  Lovers/15 Devil (Bondage)                                 

 7  Chariot/Charioteer/16 Tower (Shattered Citadel)

 8  Strength and Lust/17 Star (Star of Venus/Star of the Magi)                         

 9  Hermit (Guide)/18  Moon

            If the Tarot did come from the Egyptians we need to understand their belief that the technical creation of our world came about through the spoken word. Hieroglyphics were not a social communication device, but rather a reflection of the basic energy which sustained the universal order—a Cosmic force. Only definitions of the complex symbolism of the Major Arcana are used in numerology. Not used for mundane fortunetelling, in Tarot numerology, it is the spiritual aspects depicting the evolutionary challenges of the soul that are significant. The symbolism of the Major Arcana expresses the language of the unconscious.

Curiously, there are questionable claims that the gypsies are the guardians of the final numerology form we will look at.



The last form of numerology I will briefly review is related to the Hebrew mysticism of the KABBALAH, specifically THE TREE OF LIFE. Again, we don’t know the origins.  There are some who claim it came directly from the biblical Garden of Eden. Others, basing their thoughts on rabbinical concepts, say it is the secret knowledge that was given to Moses when he met with God on Mt. Sinai right after the Exodus from Egypt.  Still others say it is based on Gnosticism.  Whenever or wherever it began, it was part of the Hebrew Oral Tradition until The Book of Creation was composed sometime between the 4th and 6th centuries of our current era. 

            The word Kabbalah means receiving.  Before I go into any more detail of its origins, it will help to know what the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life entails.  Sometimes it is said to be the body of God, but generally is depicted as a many branched tree.  The branches contain specific concentrated energies which connect or flow into one another.  The entire group of energies is called Sephiroth while the ten specific and individual energies are Sephirah that connect to each other to form the twenty-two connections.  These are related to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and are called Life-Paths.  Actually, there are thirty-two Life-Paths; however, the first ten are the Sephirah. 

This aspect of kabbalistic mysticism comes directly from The Book of Creation which describes how God created the world using the Hebrew alphabet and the Sephiroth.  Many believe the numbers of each of the Sephirah and the structure of the Cosmos were developed from Pythagorean mysticism.  Plato, one of the best known Greeks by modern Westerners, and whose beliefs were in harmony with the Pythagorean Movement, wrote about what he learned throughout his lifetime that included the soul being immortal, reincarnation, astrology, the Tree of Life, and the mathematical harmony of the universe.  He believed that everything was the creation of a Divine Architect.  The Divine Architect was also the basis for Alchemy and Freemasonry. 

The Kabbalists, like the Egyptians, believed the world was originally created in perfection.  The Egyptian Priests, representing the Pharaoh, who was thought to be the earthly physical incarnation of God, spent all of their time keeping chaos in check.  However, rather than being in battle with chaos, the Kabbalists indicated it is every person’s responsibility to recover the state of perfection. And they maintained this occurs by recovering our cosmic consciousness without renouncing the physical world since the soul comes into it to learn and when becoming perfected can then return to God.

            Kabbalists state there is unformed energy above the Tree of Life called Ayin that cannot be grasped by the human mind at our current level of evolution.  Kabbalists call it Nothingness, or say it means, I am becoming.  Each of the energies depicted above and within the Tree of Life are the same, yet have varying characteristics.  They each come from or out of the other, filtering down, yet maintain the same essence. 

            Rabbinical concepts indicate God is dynamic and is always becoming, thus is has both masculine and feminine parts.  While on earth the soul uses the energies of the Sephiroth to experience emanation, creation, formation, and actualization.  Our souls enter our bodies to use it as an instrument, a tool to display power through actions, thus becoming perfected by obtaining whatever is lacking.

A fashionable French fortuneteller named Ettilla suggested a link between Tarot, Astrology, and the Kabbalah in 1783.  Then in 1854, a French Roman Catholic Priest, Elipihas Levi, put forth his theory about the relationship between the Tarot and the Kabbalah, tracing a connection between the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. We also know the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an esoteric society established in England in 1886, created practices and ceremonies for their brotherhood to follow which were based on the group’s and individual member’s meditations and visualizations of both the Tarot and the Kabbalists’ Tree of Life.  They developed the Table of Paths, which list the Path Number, connections of the Sephirah, assigned Hebrew letters, Tarot keys, and Astrological signs.

            Pythagorean Numerology is meant to be practical.  Chaldean Numerology has been rejected by many because it is too harsh and predictive.  Tarot Numerology is intended to be spiritual.  Even more so is the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life which is used to express that while on these Life-Paths, we as humans always create our own lives.  We are learning to be creators who are both willful and purposeful.  We are here on Earth—the learning planet—to gain wisdom through our experiences.  We learn to take purposeful actions, ultimately learning to be willful creators of our own lives.  We create our reality. 

            The major purpose of symbols and archetypes is for our conscious minds to accept and understand unconscious knowledge.  In numerology each letter and number contains its secret message within color, tone, and vibratory tempo or force.  The energy of the vowels label the path and the consonants register the material urge.  Numerology goes beyond our modern technologies and techniques of psychology, taking into consideration our spirituality as well as our minds and bodies.  As we recognize that we do go through cycles, numerology helps clarify the emphasis needed to more easily learn our current life-lessons that we are now experiencing.  Numerology can help us understand our spiritual lessons through the practical aspects of life that include romance and relationships, physical health, work and business concerns, vacation and excursions, and the energy of colors.  And most importantly it also helps us recognize that whatever we do believe makes an effect on our physical reality.

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Subpages (1): 2016 Energies