Thursday, August 6, 2009

On the Mystery of Numbers

Numbers have always fascinated humans. Numbers seem to have a life of their own and they speak a unique language that if we can comprehend what the numbers are trying to say they may reveal untold mysteries to us.

We begin with zero (0) the great void a vast expanse of nothingness yet pregnant with the potential of everything than can and will be. It is the Ain that precedes the first emanation on the Tree of Life. It is the unknowable that gave birth to the knowable. It is the Fool of the Tarot walking along the edge of a cliff with no cares or concerns. It is unencumbered possibility. It is represented by the Ouroboros the serpent swallowing its own tail in an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It is the Alpha that precedes alpha and it is the Omega beyond omega. It does not recognize the impossibility of things since it is the source of all things and all things are possible.

One (1) is the first emanation on the Tree of Life known as Kether. It embodies the all and gives birth to all of the Sephirot on the Tree. All is in the one and the one is in the all. As Dumas wrote; Omnia pro Unum, Unum pro Omnia. It is Aleph and alpha. And yes, sometimes it’s the loneliest of numbers.
One catches a glimpse of itself, perhaps in a reflection upon the surface of still water and suddenly it is awakened to the possibility of two (2) or duality. There are some who see in two conflict and strife as forces oppose one another. But there is harmony in duality as opposites engage in a dithyramb where neither partner is quite so strong save when they are entwined like dervishes in a whirl. Heat & cold, left & right, black & white, solution & dissolution, Boaz & Jachin, Adam & Eve, horizontals & perpendiculars, yin & yang, the yoni & the lingham, order & chaos, heaven & hell. The second letter of the Hebrew alphabet is Bet who became angry at God for being number 2. But God said to Bet, I have bigger plans for you. And we find that the first letter of the first word in the first sentence of the Torah is “Bereishit bara Elohim, In the beginning…”

Three (3) restores the stability rent by the duality of the two. It is Gimel the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet, signifying camel. In ancient Aramaic language spoken by Christ, the word for camel and rope was one and the same, gamal, relying on context for clarity. Translators not knowing the difference gave us "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God", Gimel, having been translated as camel instead of rope. Which, when corrected, would yield, "It is easier for a rope to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Osiris, Isis, and Horus; Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. We find that Dante’s great work, The Divine Comedy is divided into three sections: The Inferno, The Purgatorio and The Paradisio. Masonically we learn of the three great orders of architecture, the Ionic, the Doric and the Corinthian, the three Great Lights and the three Lesser Lights. The entire system of the Royal Arch Degrees is rooted in the number three. In childhood many of our fairy tales and stories pay homage to the number three. We learn of those three visually impaired rodents whose appendages were severed by the wife of the farmer. And what of those three porcine architects whose homes were destroyed by the wolf save the last who built his home out of mortar and brick. Hmmm, perhaps he was a master builder. In the night sky three stars are to found in the belt of the constellation Orion which aligns themselves perfectly with the three pyramids on the plains of Giza in Egypt.

With four (4) we encounter the quaternary principle. The square a symbol representative of the order of the material world as three is representative of the spiritual. Here we are taught, by some traditions that the sacred name of deity is often comprised of four letters: in German = Gott, in Spanish = Dios, in French = Dieu, in Hebrew Yod Heh Vav Heh, INRI = Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum or esoterically – Ignis Natura Renovatur Integra (Through Fire Nature is reborn whole), in Greek=Theos, in Norse mythology = Odin and in Chaldean = Baal. It is the sacred Tetragrammaton the four letter name of God that is common to so many cultures.

Five (5) Here we arrive at the number of man symbolized by the five pointed star, each point of the star representing one of the four elements and the fifth point representing pneuma or spirit. It brings to mind DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man with his arms outstretched bound by a circle enclosed within a square. His passions have been circumscribed by the compasses and his actions squared by the square of virtue. Here too we move from the Tetragrammaton to the pentagrammaton where the letter shin is inserted in the middle of the Tetragrammaton yielding Yod-Heh-ShinVav-Heh or Ieheshua.

Six (6) The hexagram is referred to as the Star of David, Mogen David or the Seal of Solomon. It is a six pointed star that was in use thousands of years ago before it became the symbol of Israel. It is found on many Hindu Temples and is use to suggest the perfect balance between God and man which, if achieved, can lead to perfect happiness or Nirvana. Contained in this simple symbol are the symbols for the elements of earth, air, fire and water.

On the Tree of Life six is represented by the Sephira Tippareth which represents beauty. If we overlaid a Masonic Temple with the Tree of Life with Kether assigned to the East then the Great Light in Masonry would be sitting in the beauty of Tippareth, aligned with the Junior Warden’s Station whose duty is to observe the Sun at meridian, which is the glory and beauty of the day.

Seven (7) Considered by some to be a number of good fortune. Here the triad of the spiritual world meets the quaternary principle of the material world. Again we encounter one of the teachings of Freemasonry as it relates to the seven liberal arts. Seven, like three is a spiritual number but implies the knowledge and the mystery of magick of adeptship as exemplified by the degree that was conferred today that of Adeptus Exemptus. I see the number seven in the aprons worn by Master Masons. The basic apron is a square with a triangular flap that is attached to the upper edge; this gives us an apron with seven sides: three over four. It reminds me of the supernal triad of Kether, Chokmah and Binah that hovers above Chesed, Geburah, Netzach and Hod with Tippareth in the center of the square. The seven can be found everywhere in our culture: the Seven deadly sins, the seven dwarfs, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the seven year itch, and the House of Seven Gables which was associated with the witches of Salem Massachusetts. Among the Ismailis, a sect of Islam, there is the adherence to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: Purity & cleanliness, Prayer, Guardianship of the faith, tithing, fasting during Ramadan, Hajj to Mecca and Struggle. When at prayer, our Moslem Brothers make seven points of contact with the earth: their feet, knees, hands and head touch the earth when offering up their devotions. It is also the time for reflection and rest to evaluate all that has been accomplished in the preceding numbers, for did not God rest and reflect on the seventh day?

Eight (8) All music from Bach to Bernstein stem from a musical notation system of eight notes. Every hymn, every symphony, every opera, fugue and concerto are rooted in eight simple tones whose infinite variations have given us a world of music. Eight is the number of judgment, material progress and success. When eight appears in our lives or in our cards it means that we are on the verge of completion.

Nine (9) Nine is the elevated and enlightened three. Divine wisdom in its fullest form. It reminds us of the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (painting), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry or hymns), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy) and Urania (astronomy and science). In Norse mythology, Odin hangs from the tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nights to learn of the power and the wisdom of the earth mother. Here too he received the runes and became knowledgeable of their magical powers. The nine days that Odin hung from the Sacred Tree is symbolic of the nine months that are so sacred to women in childbirth.

Finally, a quote from Galileo:

“The Book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Its symbols are triangles, circles and other geometric figures without which it is impossible to understand a single word; without which there is only a vain wandering through a dark labyrinth.”

Ill. Clifford Jacobs, 33°
Valley of New York

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