Magical Numbers
Certain numbers and their combinations were traditionally
held to be of magical power, by virtue of their representation
of divine and creative mysteries. The doctrines of Pythagoras
(see Greece) 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 were the primaries one to ten, and in
their combination the reason of all else might be found.
Magical Blend Magazine Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
To the Pythagoreans, one represented unity, therefore God;
two was duality, the Devil; four was sacred and holy, the number
on which they swore their most solemn oaths; five was their
symbol of marriage. They also attributed certain numbers 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. (See also magic square)
Cornelius Agrippa, in his work Occult Philosophy first published
in Latin (1531–33), discourses upon numbers as those
characters by whose proportion all things are formed. He enumerates
the virtues of numerals as displayed in nature, instancing
the herb cinquefoil, which by the power of the number five
exorcises devils, reduces fever, and forms an antidote to poisons.
He also points to the virtue of seven, as in the power of
the seventh son to cure the 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 philosophers’ 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;
in the Bible, beasts of the field went into Noah’s 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, the sign of perfection. It represents life because it contains
body, consisting of four elements, spirit, flesh, bone, and
humor (the ancient concept of bodily fluids affecting the
mind); 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 fullness. Divided, its halves are
equal; twice divided, it is still even. In the Beatitudes, eight is
the number of those mentioned—peacemakers, those who
strive after righteousness, the meek, the persecuted, the pure,
the merciful, the poor in spirit, and those 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 favorite
methods employed in the Middle Ages.
In magical rites, numbers played a great part. The power of
the number three is found in the magic triangle, in the three
prongs of the trident and fork, and in the three-fold 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 corresponding 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; and (7) works of malediction
and death. (See also numerology)
Agrippa, Henry Cornelius. The Philosophy of Natural Magic.
London, 1651. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1974.
Bosman, Leonard. The Meaning and Philosophy of Numbers.
London Rider, 1932.
Butler, Christopher. Number Symbolism. London Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1970.
Redgrove, H. Stanley. A Mathematical Theory of Spirit. London
Rider, 1912.
Waite, Arthur Edward. The Holy Kabbalah. London Williams
& Norgate, 1929. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1960.
Westcott, W. Wynn. Numbers Their Occult Power and Mystic
Virtues. London Theosophical Publishing Society, 1890.