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Numerology is any of many systems, traditions or beliefs in a mystical or esoteric relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things.

Numerology and numerological divination were popular among early mathematicians, such as Pythagoras, but are no longer considered part of mathematics and are regarded as pseudomathematics by modern scientists.[1][2] This is similar to the historical relationships between astrology and astronomy, and between alchemy and chemistry.

Today, numerology is often associated with the occult, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.

The term can also be used for those who, in the view of some observers, place excess faith in numerical patterns, even if those people don't 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.



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 Indian Vedas, the Chinese "Circle of the Dead", and the Egyptian "Book of the Master 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.

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.[3][4] as well as other[1].

An early example of the influence of numerology in English literature is Sir Thomas Browne's 1658 Discourse The Garden of Cyrus. In it, the author whimsically indulges in Pythagorean numerology 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".


Number definitions

There are no set definitions for the meaning of specific digits. Common examples include:[5]

0. Everything or absoluteness. All
1. Individual. Aggressor. Yang.
2. Balance. Union. Receptive. Yin.
3. Communication/interaction. Neutrality.
4. Creation.
5. Action. Restlessness.
6. Reaction/flux. Responsibility.
7. Thought/consciousness.
8. Power/sacrifice.
9. Highest level of change.
10. Rebirth.

Alphabetic systems

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, j, s; 2= b, k, t; 3= c, l, u; 4= d, m, v; 5= e, n, w; 6= f, o, x; 7= g, p, y; 8= h, q, z; 9= i, r

...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" 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

Pythagorean system

In some cases, in a type of numerological divination, the name and birth date of an individual would be used to analyze and define personality and propensities, based upon a system implemented by the philosopher Pythagoras.[6][7]

Chinese numerology

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.

Chinese number definitions

Cantonese frequently assign the following definitions, which may differ in other Chinese languages:

  1. (yi)  — sure
  2. (er)  — easy (易/yi)
  3. (san)  — live (生/saang)
  4. (si)  — considered unlucky since the pronunciation of 4 is a homonym with the word for death or suffering (死/sei).
  5. (wu)  — the self, me, myself (吾/ng), nothing, never (唔/ng, m)
  6. (liu)  — easy and smooth, all the way
  7. (qi)  — a slang/vulgar word in Cantonese.
  8. (ba)  — sudden fortune, prosperity
  9. (jiu)  — long in time (久/gau), a slang/vulgar word in Cantonese

Some lucky number combinations include:

  • 99 — doubly long in time, hence eternal; used in the name of a popular Chinese-American supermarket chain, 99 Ranch Market.
  • 168 — road of prosperity or to be prosperous together  literal translation is "continuing to be wealthy"— many premium-pay telephone numbers in China begin with this number. It is also the name of a motel chain in China (Motel 168).
  • 518 — I will prosper, other variations include: 5189 (I will prosper for a long time), 516289 (I will get on a long, smooth prosperous road) and 5918 (I will soon prosper)
  • 814 — Similar to 168, this means "be wealthy, entire life". 148 also implies the same meaning "entire life be wealthy".
  • 888 — Three times the prosperity, means "wealthy wealthy wealthy". (E.g., the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were designated by the Chinese officials to begin on the most auspicious date possible to ensure the success of the Games for its hosts: August 8, 2008—on the 8th day, of the 8th month in the 8th year of the new millennium.)
  • 1314 — whole lifetime, existence.
  • 289 — This combination is quite straight forward: ease in finding luck/fortune and holding it for a long time. (2 is easy, 8 is fortune, 9 is for a long time)

Other fields

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

Many alchemical theories were closely related to numerology. Persian alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan, inventor of many chemical processes still used today, 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[8]).

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.[9]

Wolfgang Pauli was also fascinated by the appearance of certain numbers, including 137, in physics.[10]

Numerology in gaming

Numerology is sometimes referred to as the only effective method when it comes to playing such games like bingo, roulette, keno, lotteries and other games with numbers. Due to the fact no strategy can be applied to increase player odds, players turn to leaning numbers in order to find what they think will help them.

For example, numerology is frequently used in the game of roulette where players bet on a single number. Special tools called the Lucky number generators are used to find out person’s lucky numbers based on basic principles of this study.[11]

Popular culture

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 π, in which the protagonist meets a numerologist searching for hidden numerical patterns in the Torah.

See also



  • Schimmel, A. (1996). The Mystery of Numbers. ISBN 0-19-506303-1 — a scholarly compendium of the connotations and associations of numbers in historical cultures
  • Pandey, A. (2006). Numerology: The number game
  • Dudley, U. (1997). Numerology: Or, What Pythagoras Wrought. Mathematical Association of America. — a skeptical survey of the field through history
  • Nagy, A. M. (2007). The Secret of Pythagoras (DVD). ASIN B000VPTFT6
  • E. W. Bullinger (1921). Number in Scripture. Eyre & Spottiswoode (Bible Warehouse) Ltd.  
  • Drayer, R.A. (2002) Numerology, The Power in Numbers, A Right & Left Brain Approach. ISBN 0-9640321-3-9

External links

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