Magic Numbers & Their Meaning



Certain numbers and their combinations were held to be of magical power, by virtue of their repre­sentation of divine and creative mysteries.

The doctrines of Pythagoras furnished the basis for much of this belief. According to his theory numbers contained the elements of all things, of the natural and spiritual worlds and of the sciences. The real numerals of the universe are the primaries one to ten and in their com­bination the reason of all else may be found. To the Pythagoreans One represented unity, therefore God; Two was duality, the Devil; Four was sacred and holy, the jiumber on which they swore their most solemn oaths; Five was their symbol of marriage. They also attributed certain tiumbirs to the gods, planets and elements; one represented the Sun, two the Moon: while five was fire, six the earth, eight the air, and twelve water.

Cornelius Agrippa in his work Occult Philosophy pub­lished in 1533, discourses upon numbers as those characters by whose proportion all things were formed. He enu­merates the virtues of numerals as displayed in nature, instancing the herb cinque foil, which by the power of the number five exorcises devils, allays fever and forms an antidote to poisons. Also the virtue of seven as in the power of the seventh son to cure king's evil.

One was the origin and common measure of all things. It is indivisible; not to be multiplied. In the universe there is one God ; one supreme intelligence in the intellec­tual world, man; in the sidereal world, one Sun; one potent instrument and agency in the elementary world, the philosopher's stone; one chief member in the human world, the heart; and one sovereign prince in the nether world, Lucifer.

Two was the number of marriage, charity and social communion. It was also regarded sometimes as an unclean number; beasts of the field went into the Ark by twos. Three had a mysterious value as shown in Time's trinity —- Past, Present and Future; in that of Space—length, breadth and thickness; in the three heavenly virtues -— faith, hope and charity; in the three worlds of man- — brain, the intellectual; heart, the celestial; and body, elemental.

Four signifies solidity and foundation. There are four seasons, four elements, four cardinal points, four evangelists.

Five, as it divides ten, the sum of all numbers, is also the number of justice. There are five senses; the Stigmata, the wounds of Christ were five; the name of the Deity the Pentagram is composed of five letters -- it also is a pro­tection against beasts of prey.

Six is the sign of creation, because the world was com­pleted in six days. It is the perfect number, because it alone by addition of its half, its third and its sixth reforms itself. It also represents servitude by reason of the Divine injunction "Six days shalt thou labour."

Seven is a miraculous number, consisting of one, unity, and six, sign of perfection. It represents life because it contains body, consisting of four elements, spirit, flesh, bone and humour; and soul, made up of three elements, passion, desire and reason. The seventh day was that on which God rested from his work of creation.

Eight represents justice and fulness. Divided, its halves are equal; twice divided, it is still even. In the Beatitude eight is the number of those mentioned—peace-makers, they who strive after righteousness, the meek, the perse­cuted, the pure, the merciful, the poor in spirit, and they that mourn.

Nine is the number of the muses and of the moving spheres.

Ten is completeness because one cannot count beyond it except by combinations formed with other numbers. In the ancient mysteries ten days of initiation were pre­scribed. In ten is found evident signs of a Divine principle.

Eleven is the number of the commandments, while Twelve is the number of signs in the Zodiac, of the apostles, of the tribes of Israel, of the gates of Jerusalem.

This theory of numbers Agrippa applied to the casting of horoscopes. Divination by numbers was one of the favourite methods employed in the Middle Ages.

In magical rites, numbers played a great part. The instruments, vestments and ornaments must be duplicated. The power of the number three is found in the magic triangle: in the three prongs of the trident and fork ; and in the three­fold repetition of names in conjurations. Seven was also of great influence, the seven days of the week each repre­senting the period most suitable for certain evocations and these corresponded to the seven magical works; 1.—works of light and riches; 2.—works of divination and mystery; 3.—works of skill, science and eloquence; 4.—works of wrath and chastisement; 5.—works of love; 6.—works of ambition and intrigue; 7.—works of malediction and death.


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