The Numerology reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Numerology

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Numerology is an arcane study of the purported mystical relationship between numbers and the character or action of physical objects and living things.

Numerology and numerological divination was popular among early mathematicians such as Pythagoras, but is no longer considered to be part of mathematics. This is similar to the historical development of astronomy from astrology, and that of chemistry from alchemy.

Table of contents
1 Lucky and unlucky numbers
2 Numerological divination
3 Numerology in science
4 Postmodern critique
5 See also
6 External Links

Lucky and unlucky numbers

At its very simplest, many cultures consider some numbers lucky or unlucky.

Examples include:

Numerological divination

In numerological divination, a student of the field will use the name, birthdate and birthtime of an individual to analyze and define something of the personality and propensities of that individual. Specific numbers are also assigned to the letters of the alphabet. One such system (for the English alphabet) is represented here:

123456789
ABCDEFGHI
JKLMNOPQR
STUVWXYZ.

In this way, names of people, places and things can be assigned numerical values, thus giving them meaning in a numerologic context. The asserted basis of numerology is that every object, place or being in the universe has a characteristic vibration, usually imperceptible to the human senses, and that the application of numerology to the thing being addressed can help to ascertain the characteristic vibration or vibrations which apply to it, thereby revealing something of its essence. Classic numerology resolves all numbers related to an item down to a single digit, 0-9 or 1-9, plus the "master numbers" 11 and 22. The number 324, for instance, would be resolved by adding 3+2+4 to arrive at 9. 12 and 16, appearing together in a date, would resolve to 10, hence 1, no matter in which order the elements are added.

The basis of the belief that dates and times have numerologic significance appears to be that underlying vibrations of the universe as a whole occur in regular cycles and that things created or changed at one or another point in these cycles will express the properties which the vibrations at that point in the cycle create. It is less clear how names, words and appelations would follow such a rule. One theory put forward by some numerologists is that persons who name things are subtly affected by universal vibrations to assign appropriate names which harmonize with the vibrations of the thing named.

Another question which has been asked relative to the numerological significance of words is how, if letters can be assigned numbers, things can have a uniform numerological identity when they are named differently in different languages and with different alphabets. For example, the numerologic value for "shirt" in english would be 8. The same item in Spanish would be "camisa," a 6 in numerology. One theory to explain this apparent inconsistency is that the different names for an object in different languages and orthographies correspond to different distinctive qualities of that object, just as different words for the same thing in the same language can carry different connotations.

To date, there is no known scientific verification for the validity of claimed numerological principles. Numerology has thus been classified as a pseudoscience, and most scientists regard it as either deluded quackery or deliberate fraud. True science, as recognized in modern society, is based on the scientific method and requires that assertions answer to the regular and replicable use of this method to be considered as scientifically verifiable fact.

Numerologists reply that their study does not answer to science as the mechanisms of interaction between universal vibration and gross physical things are too subtle to be detected, measured or quantified by tools currently available to science. However, given that numerologists make predictions about observable events, scientists would argue that the simultaneous claim that science cannot detect any effects is illogical. Empirical observations relating to the regular and predictable mathematical relationships between things in the universe are pointed to as evidence of a numerological fabric underlying all things. However, such observations give no direct support to numerology's claims.

Numerology is by no means a unified study. Proponents of its veracity may be generally divided into three schools. With limited elaboration:

  1. Numerology is true by Divine fiat and contains clues placed into the fabric of the universe by the Almighty for the enlightened to decipher, thereby bringing them closer to unity with a Grand Plan.
  2. Numerology is true because of universal spiritual agreement between all life on one level or another. And because the Universe is the product of the mean (as in statistical mean) agreement between all of life everywhere, the agreement on mathematical regularity in the universe creates a Numerological sub-fabric throughout the universe.
  3. Numerology is true because it is a reflection of Natural Law, giving clues to the state of a complex of vibrations which regulate function and existence in the universe. The failure of modern science to verify this fact is merely a reflection of insufficient advances in science. After all, science once believed all matter was composed of earth, air, fire and water in different combinations. If and when science is sufficiently advanced, it will be able to verify the truth of numerology.

Historians believe that modern numerology is an integration of the teachings from Ancient Babylonia, Pythagoras and his followers, (6 th. Century B.C. Greece) Astrological philosophy from Hellenistic Alexandria, early Christian Mysticism, the occultism of the early Gnostics and the Hebrew system of the Qabala. The Indian Vedas, the Chinese "Circle of the Dead",and the Egyptian "Book of the Master of the Secret House", (Ritual of the Dead) are records giving strong evidence that Numerology dates back thousands of years.

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. This is an idea in harmony with philosophical pragmatism and a choice for permanent concepts over changeable physicality.

St. Augustine of Hippo in 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.

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. It was assigned to the field of unapproved beliefs along with astrology and other forms of divination and "magic." Through this religious purging, the spiritual significance assigned to the heretofore "sacred" numbers began to disappear. In spite of this suppression there were still many devout believers, who kept the secret knowledge locked away.

An important example of numerology in English literature is Sir Thomas Browne's 1658 Discourse The Garden of Cyrus in which the author considers the ubiquity of the number five in art, nature and mysticism. The Discourse is a late example of the influence of Pythagorean thought in English philosophy.

A claim of numerology is that its practitioners, through empirical observation and investigation, have concluded that through the study of numbers man can uncover hidden aspects of himself and the universe.

Numerology in science

Number-coincidence arguments are still used in science, although there is great controversy about their validity.

The physicist Arthur Eddington at one time thought the fine-structure constant α, which had been measured at approximately 1/137, should be exactly 1/137, based on aesthetic and numerological arguments. Careful measurements have shown this not to be the case: the value of α is currently estimated at 1/137.035 999 76(50).

When another (erroneous) measurement showed α to have a value nearer 1/136, Eddington constructed an argument relating the number 136 to the Eddington number, his best estimate of the number of electrons in the Universe.

Postmodern critique

There is also a serious postmodern critique of Number and the actual cognitive, linguistic, and political meaning of numbers. John Zerzan and George Lakoff are the best known of these theorists. A common argument in such circles is that the Greek and Roman worlds elevated Number to a god, in part for its power to predict timing of natural phenomena, and engineer reliable infrastructure. At the core of such claims is that primates have an intuitive ability to "count up to four" using their own senses, and that retaining the counted items and the criteria by which they are distinguished from the sensory environment in short-term memory becomes unreliable - requiring trust in memory, measurements and counting systems and a social hierarchy of priests or military or administrators. In short, a culture.

Numerology, according to this cognitive science of mathematics, is readily explained by the fact that numbers themselves are a part of culture:

"Math is a mere human invention, a systematic way of capturing the way the brain sees the world. "The only mathematics that we know is the mathematics that our brain allows us to know," George Lakoff claims, "Consequently, any question of math's being inherent in physical reality is moot, since there is no way to know whether or not it is. "Mathematics may or may not be out there in the world, but there's no way that we scientifically could possibly tell," Dr. Lakoff claims. Math succeeds in science, Drs. Lakoff and Raphael Nunez argue, "only because scientists force it to."

This claim is controversial among scientists, but the thesis has received few serious objections, and has been warmly received by mathematicians in fields, such as chaos theory, which seem to require new cognitive foundations.

Critics of these claims point out that while mathematics and numbers (at least above four) may well be a human invention, and the sharing of mathematical proofs and thus numerology may well be part of human culture, the Great Apes and presumably all Hominidae have the same sensory and cognitive abilities. Recent experiments have demonstrated that the chimpanzee specifically can quickly distinguish collections up to a dozen items. Future theorists may be forced to distinguish between objective primate mathematics relying directly on shared traits of Great Apes and Hominidae, and a subjective mathematics with perhaps no more of a basis in cognitive reality than traditional systems of numerology.

See also

External Links