Alchemical Study Group - Numbers


(From the Book)

The Mysticism of Numbers

The heart of alchemy, and the heart of the Tarot--indeed, the heart of the mysteries themselves--lies in the mysticism of numbers. All of the great mystical traditions East and West have recognized that the universe--the undifferentiated cosmos called the Unus Mundus or Tao--is lawfully ordered. This order is of such a sublime nature that it is beyond sensory perception, but can be grasped in the world of number. Modern physicists, by discovering the structure of the atom, have proven them right, and the discovery of DNA has proven that ordered sequence is basic to the pattern of life.

Jung was particularly fascinated with the role of numbers in his research into the relationship between matter and psyche, and especially how the Unus Mundus breaks through to the world of matter in the form of archetypes and synchronicity. Number, he said, is "a key to the mystery," because it is "quantity as well as meaning." Number regulates matter and psyche, which in turn are the outer and inner aspects of the same transcendental reality, or the Unus Mundus. It is not just a construction of our consciousness, but is itself an archetype--an archetype which has become conscious. It is, said Jung, the most primitive form of spirit, both in terms of a general cosmic principle, and as part of the human psyche (thought, capacity to reason and intellect). Jung devoted much of his life's work to demonstrating the tremendous psychological significance of the number four, which is the number of wholeness and the Self--and an important number to alchemy.

The ancients understood the importance of numbers, and recognized the archetypes expressed by numbers long before Jung ever developed the concept of archetypes. They also recognized that numbers are intimately connected to time. All methods of divination rely on patterns, which are built upon numbers.

The I Ching, for example, which dates to at least 2852 B.C., organizes archetypes into patterns. According to legend, ancient holy sages wished to communicate with suprahuman intelligence concerning matters of destiny. No direct communication was possible, so a number system was developed. In the Western tradition, the ancient Babylonians, Persians and Greeks all used various number systems to derive meaning from dreams, events and places. The Pythagoreans believed that the spiritual and material principles of the cosmos could be expressed by the numbers one through ten. Pythagoras said, "The world is built on the power of numbers." Plato also believed that numbers order the universe, and that individual numbers possess their own personalities and characters. Jung liked this Platonic idea, and said that "...the infinite series of natural numbers corresponds to the infinite... number of individual creatures," and that "the properties of even the first ten numbers represent--if they represent anything at all--an abstract cosmogony derived from Monad."

The Hebrews, Gnostics and early Christians applied numerical values to letters, which revealed the hidden meaning of words. During the Middle Ages, this system was perfected by Kabbalists into gematria. Alchemy built on the Western mysteries, used numbers in expressing the path of spiritual purification. Maria Prophetissa's axiom, which underscores the significance of four, presaged Jung's work by centuries.

The Tarot, which emerged during the Renaissance, continues the ancient mysticism. Like the I Ching, the Tarot organizes archetypes into patterns when the cards are randomly shuffled and placed into spreads. However, the Tarot reinforces archetypes in two ways: the image and the number.

So how should numbers be interpreted in the Alchemical Tarot? The natural numbers one through ten express archetypes. Higher numbers are reduced to their primary components by adding them together (for example, fourteen becomes five by adding one plus four). The higher numbers are not the exact equivalent of the primary numbers, however, but are the archetype expressed on a higher, more refined level.

Beginning with the number two, even numbers express the feminine principle and odd numbers express the masculine principle. Feminine numbers are ruled by the moon and express passivity, intuition, emotions, inspiration, fertility, nurturing and destruction. Masculine numbers are ruled by the sun and express activity, intellect, spirit, logic, reason, judgment and questing. Zero and the number one have their own significance. The number ten is related to one. Twelve and thirteen have special meanings beyond their reductions to three and four, respectively.


More Numbers

Ace: Beginnings; start of something new
Two: Formation, dawning; coming together of opposites
Three: Growth, energy, drive, fertilization
Four: Practical attainment, labor in the physical plane
Five: Change; upset in equilibrium
Six: Harmony, balance
Seven: Hero's journey; development of soul; facing complex choices
Eight: Setting priorities and goals; practicality
Nine: Attainment, bringing things to an end; completion
Ten: End of a phase or cycle; beginning over again

Court cards
Lady: Youthful innocence, grace; mastery
Knight: Drive, energy, ambition; questing
Queen: Awareness, emotion, nurturing; choices
King: Will, logic, discipline, resolve; conquering


Good Stuff! I feel the study of numbers is the foundation to so many avenues of research.