Brief History of Numerology

Mathematics is often called the universal language. The physical laws that govern the universe are constant throughout the universe, and mathematics is intimately connected with physics. For numerologists, numbers are also a constant in the universe, but in a different fashion. Numerologists take this scientific relationship a step further and argue that numbers themselves have a metaphysical aspect also. Numbers have distinct vibration (call it an energy if you like) which can be calculate and used to find compatibilities, constants and when properly interpreted can help predict probable outcomes in the future.

The modern concept of numerology

Numerology is defined as the use of numbers and mathematical calculations to determine the most probable future outcomes in the future. There is more to it than that, however. Numbers tell a numerologist the ‘vibrational quality’ of a person, location, even of a particular day. Numerologists use a wide variety of methods to derive readings for their clients. These calculations can involve a persons name and date of birth, then the numerologist can examine what numbers are compatible with the client, what dates and locations are beneficial and much more.

The most popular and well known numerological methods involve replacing letters with numbers and primarily make use of the client’s name. For example, the letters A, J and S might represent the number 1; B, K and T the number 2; and so on. Important personal numbers might also include one’s birth date and the dates of birth or death of parents and other close family members. The relative importance of significant dates and other numbers are usually judged by the reader on a case-by-case basis, but most numerologists seem to agree that the numerical value of the client’s name is always important.

Often when a numerologist makes a reading for a client, he or she typically starts by converting the client’s name into a numerical value, takes that value together with other numbers personally important to the client and performs calculations that are meant to reveal something how certain future events will likely unfold. For example, should the client take a job with a particular business by examining the numbers involved with the businesses name and address. Are there particular dates when the client will have good fortune (some say these are a clients lucky days) or what date is best for romance (say, to ask someone out or to propose to someone).

Most methods of numerology typically define particular numbers as meaningful. The end result is a reading akin to a horoscope. In fact, some numerologists and astrologers believe that the two methods of divination are linked and assign numbers to each of the astrological planets. What makes numerology so fascinating is that numbers are everywhere and involve everything. To numerologist, all these numbers underline not just a physical world, but also what the Divine is doing and saying.

Where does this system of number-based form of divination come from? While modern numerology got its start in the 20th century, the idea that numbers have a mystical connection with the universe has its roots with some of the most influential thinkers in ancient history.

Pythagoras, Father of Numerology

In the 6th century B.C., the Ionian Greek philosopher Pythagoras formulated theories that linked the substance of the universe (as expressed in numbers) to the metaphysical operation of the universe. Unfortunately, almost all of what we know about Pythagoras and his teachings is filtered through the works of later philosophers and mathematicians. We do know that he left the world with the Pythagorean theorem, which states that the length of the longest side of a triangle, when squared, is equal to the sum of the squared lengths of the two smaller sides. Pythagoras’ equation a2 + b2 = c2 is fundamental to the principles of geometry and the whole of mathematics.

Pythagoras’ teachings did not end with pure mathematics, however. He also believed that every principle in the world could be reduced to numbers and formulated the tetractys, a triangle figure composed of ten interconnected points with one point on the first row, two on the second, three on the third and four on the fourth, adding up to the “perfect number”, ten. Pythagoras led a committed following of students, part school and part religious community, who built upon his works after his death in 495 B.C.

Many modern numerologists attribute the creation of numerology to Pythagoras and even use a method called the Pythagorean square to derive their readings (which, despite its name, was not created by Pythagoras or his followers.) While we don’t know enough about Pythagoras to confirm this belief, there is no doubt among historians that Pythagoras had an enormous impact on the development of both mathematics and the later concept of numerical mysticism.

Isopsephy and Gematria, Letters to Numerology

The historical roots of numerology begin with isopsephy and gematria, two ancient Greek and Jewish systems of linking numbers to letters.

The ancient Greek and Hebrew languages both assign numerical values to each of their letters. In both languages, each letter represents a value of 1 through 9 in the ones, tens or hundreds place. The Greek letter alpha and the Hebrew letter aleph both represent 1, the Greek beta and the Hebrew bet 2, and so on. This practice predates later mystical traditions. Greeks and Jews for centuries used the numerical values of their letters primarily to add up values and keep accounts. Eventually, though, the Greeks and Jews both began to use their number-letter systems for more esoteric purposes.

In the Classical Greek world of the 4th century B.C., writers and poets began to construct “hidden messages” in their texts that could only be read by replacing letters with their numerical values. This practice soon became common in political criticism of the sort that could get the writer in serious trouble with the authorities. The Greek practice of isopsephy later joined the Jewish practice of gematria, which scholars began to use for religious purposes in the 1st century A.D.

The most famous use of gematria is contained in the Biblical Book of Revelation, which uses the Greek name of the Emperor Nero converted into Hebrew to derive the value 666, the number of the Beast. Gematria has also been used to attempt to discover hidden messages in the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament. In modern mainstream Judaism, this system of number-letter replacement is generally regarded as an interesting and culturally important word game. Gematria is a very important aspect of the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah, however. To this day, the practice is still used as a form of Biblical analysis by some Jewish and Christian scholars to divine the dates of future occurrences and draw connections between historical events and their meanings in the context of the Abrahamic religious tradition.

Ancient Greek numerologists were highly paid specialists. The more wealthy the family, the more that family paid for the best numerologists to provide advice and predictions. This tradition went on for centuries. Ancient Greeks used numerology to determine the best dates for ships to sail; whether romantic involvements had a future; the best names for children; what locations were best for particular individuals and much more. All of this involved working with numbers and understanding what numbers ‘harmonized’ together, what numbers a client or family should avoid. By staying in harmony with the universe one created one’s own good fortune and future – a difficult concept to argue against.

Numerology Today

While religious divination in the form of gematria has existed for almost two thousand years, the concept of numerology as a method of divination similar to astrology or palmistry is far younger. In the late 1970s, books such as The Romance in Your Name tied together Pythagorean principles and ancient Biblical number-letter systems to develop a standardized system of personal divination.

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Though this was a unique approach to numerology, one that could be understood and masters by anyone, this new development still utilized Pythagorean’s underlying metaphysics. In other words, the idea that numbers have a vibrational, energy-like quality and that the universe is ‘speaking to us’ through numbers, remains at the heart of numerology.

Numerologists today use these very same methods to determine their clients’ futures and give them personal advice accordingly. Whether you choose to use it for divination purposes or to play word games, though, there can be no doubting the fact that numerology has truly ancient roots.

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