Numerology is any study of the purported divine, mystical or other special relationship between a number and some coinciding observed (or perceived) events. It has many systems and traditions and beliefs. Numerology and numerological divination by systems such as isopsephy were popular among early mathematicians, such as Pythagoras, but are no longer considered part of mathematics and are regarded as pseudomathematics or pseudoscience by modern scientists.
Today, numerology is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.
The term numerologist is also used derogatorily for those perceived to place excess faith in numerical patterns (and draw scientifically unsound inferences from them), even if those people do not practice traditional numerology. For example, in his 1997 book Numerology: Or What Pythagoras Wrought, mathematician Underwood Dudley uses the term to discuss practitioners of the Elliott wave principle of stock market analysis.
Some remarks on the purported or commonly perceived numerological significance of specific small numbers may be found at the articles on these numbers, as at 77 (number).
Modern numerology often contains aspects of a variety of ancient cultures and teachers, including Babylonia, Pythagoras and his followers (Greece, 6th century B.C.), astrological philosophy from Hellenistic Alexandria, early Christian mysticism, early Gnostics, the Hebrew system of the Kabbalah, The Hindu Vedas, the Chinese “Circle of the Dead”, Egyptian “Book of the Masters of the Secret House” (Ritual of the Dead).
Pythagoras and other philosophers of the time believed that because mathematical concepts were more “practical” (easier to regulate and classify) than physical ones, they had greater actuality. St. Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354–430) wrote “Numbers are the Universal language offered by the deity to humans as confirmation of the truth.” Similar to Pythagoras, he too believed that everything had numerical relationships and it was up to the mind to seek and investigate the secrets of these relationships or have them revealed by divine grace. See Numerology and the Church Fathers for early Christian views. However, that does not mean that Pythagoras had coined himself the system one calls numerology. Pythagoras had only paved the way to the observation of numbers as archetypes rather than mere numerals.
In 325 A.D., following the First Council of Nicaea, departures from the beliefs of the state Church were classified as civil violations within the Roman Empire. Numerology had not found favor with the Christian authority of the day and was assigned to the field of unapproved beliefs along with astrology and other forms of divination and “magic”. Despite this religious purging, the spiritual significance assigned to the heretofore “sacred” numbers had not disappeared; several numbers, such as the “Jesus number” have been commented and analyzed by Dorotheus of Gaza and numerology still is used at least in conservative Greek Orthodox circles.Numerology is prominent throughout 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.
Modern numerology has various antecedents. Ruth A. Drayer’s book, Numerology, The Power in Numbers (Square One Publishers) says that around the turn of the century (from 1800 to 1900 A.D.) Mrs. L. Dow Balliett combined Pythagoras’ work with Biblical reference. Then on Oct 23, 1972, Balliett’s student, Dr. Juno Jordan, changed Numerology further and helped it to become the system known today under the title “Pythagorean”, although Pythagoras himself had nothing to do with the system. Dr. Jordan’s work “The Romance in Your Name” was the first to provide a fairly comprehensive system for identifying key numerological influences in one’s name and birth date and remains a seminal interpretive guide for practitioners today. Subsequent ‘numerologists’ including Lynn Buess (1978), Mark Gruner (1979), Kathleen Roquemore (1985), and Florence Campbell (1983), expanded on the use of numerology for assessing major aspects of personality and cyclical patterns in life.
Australian philosopher David Stove claimed in 1991 that it was unknown what was wrong with numerology.
There are no set definitions for the meaning of specific digits. Common examples include:
1. Individual. Aggressor. Self. Leadership Yang.
2. Balance. Union. Receptive. Partnership Yin.
5. Action. Restlessness. Life experience
6. Home/family. Responsibility.
7. Thought/consciousness. Spirit
9. Highest level of changes.
Some numerologists analyze double-digit numbers as well, from 10 to 99. These numbers (e.g., 11, 22, 33,…) are commonly referred to as “master numbers” (Buess, 2005). This study of numerology is based on the evidence of significant double-digit numbers in the Kabbalah, the I-ching, the Pythagorean numerology, the Tarot Arcana of the Eastern faiths, and the Runes of the Viking age. Various authors of numerology books determine various meanings for each number, from 0 to 9 and from 10 to 99.
There are many numerology systems which assign numerical value to the letters of an alphabet. Examples include the Abjad numerals in Arabic, the 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.
1= a, i, j, q, y; 2= b, k, r; 3= c, g, l, s; 4= d, m, t; 5= e, h, n, x; 6= u, v, w; 7= o, z; 8= f, p;
…and are then summed.
- 3,489 → 3 + 4 + 8 + 9 = 24 → 2 + 4 = 6
- Hello → 8 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 6 = 25 → 2 + 5 = 7
A quicker way to arrive at a single-digit summation (the digital root) is simply to take the value modulo 9, substituting a 0 result with 9 itself.
Different methods of calculation exist, including Chaldean, Pythagorean, Hebraic, Helyn Hitchcock’s method, Phonetic, Japanese, Arabic and Indian.
The examples above are calculated using decimal (base 10) arithmetic. Other number systems exist, such as binary, octal, hexadecimal and vigesimal; summing digits in these bases yields different results. The first example, shown above, appears thus when rendered in octal (base 8):
- 3,48910 = 66418 → 6 + 6 + 4 + 1 = 218 → 2 + 1 = 38 = 310
The Arabic system of numerology is known as Abjad notation or Abjad numerals. In this system each letter of Arabic alphabet has a numerical value. This system is mother of Ilm-e-jaffer (Science of Cipher), and ilm-e-haroof (Science of Alphabet Letters).
Some Chinese assign a different set of meanings to the numbers and certain number combinations are considered luckier than others. In general, even numbers are considered lucky, since it is believed that good luck comes in pairs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and its associated fields such as acupuncture, base their system on mystical numerical associations, such as the “12 vessels circulating blood and air corresponding to the 12 rivers flowing toward the Central Kingdom; and 365 parts of the body, one for each day of the year” being the basis of locating acupuncture points.
Numerology and Astrology
Some astrologers believe that each number from 0 to 9 is ruled by a celestial body in our solar system.
Numerology and Alchemy
Some alchemical theories were closely related to numerology. Iranian alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan framed his experiments in an elaborate numerology based on the names of substances in the Arabic language.
“Numerology” in Science
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 such eminent men as mathematical physicist Paul Dirac, mathematician Hermann Weyl and astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington. These numerical co-incidences 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. (“Is the Universe Fine Tuned for Us?”, Stenger, V.J., page 3).
The discovery of atomic triads (dealing with elements primarily in the same group or column of the periodic table) was considered a form of numerology, and yet ultimately led to the construction of the periodic table. Here the atomic weight of the lightest element and the heaviest are summed, and averaged, and the average is found to be very close to that of the intermediate weight element. This didn’t work with every triplet in the same group, but worked often enough to allow later workers to create generalizations. See Döbereiner’s Triads
Large number co-incidences continue to fascinate many mathematical physicists. For instance, James G. Gilson has constructed a “Quantum Theory of Gravity” based loosely on Dirac’s large number hypothesis.
Wolfgang Pauli was also fascinated by the appearance of certain numbers, including 137, in physics.
Numerology in Gaming
Some players apply methods that are sometimes called numerological in games which involve numbers but no skill, such as bingo, roulette, keno, or lotteries. Although no strategy can be applied to increase odds in such games, players may employ “lucky numbers” to find what they think will help them. There is no evidence that any such “numerological strategy” yields a better outcome than pure chance, but the methods are sometimes encouraged, e.g. by casino owners.
Rational skeptics argue that numbers have no occult significance and cannot by themselves influence a person’s life. Skeptics therefore regard numerology as a superstition and a pseudoscience that uses numbers to give the subject a veneer of scientific authority. For example, there is no evidence that all people born on the same date have the same future, contrary to the claims of numerologists.
Numerology is a popular plot device in fiction. It can range from a casual item for comic effect, such as in an episode titled The Seance of the 1950s TV sitcom I Love Lucy, where Lucy dabbles in numerology, to a central element of the storyline, such as the movie, in which the protagonist meets a numerologist searching for hidden numerical patterns in the Torah. The movie The Number 23 was based on the mystery of the number 23.
The idea of numerology is included in the opening of Geoffrey Hill’s 2011 collection ‘Clavics’. The opening lines of the poem read: ‘Bring torch for Cabbalah brand new treatise, / Numerology also makes much sense, / O Astraea!