The Path – May 1886

THE MYSTERY OF NUMBERS — Seth Pancoast

In a previous article on the Kabbalah, we spoke of it as being a tradition embodying a noble philosophy, which is but slightly understood, owing to its symbolical representations.

There were three forms of symbols introduced by the Ancient Theosophists to express their thoughts and convey their ideas from one to another. The object of the symbolic language was for the purpose of preventing their esoteric knowledge from becoming public property and to obviate persecution from those who were in authority and held different views. These three forms were: hieroglyphics, numbers and allegories.

It is the Kabbalistic science of numbers of which we purpose to speak. Deity in constructing the universe, employed but few means to accomplish a great purpose. They consisted energy and law. The former is under control of the latter. The first act was the positing of energy, which formed substance. In this manner He converted chaos, which was a motionless, dark abyss, into activity and light. Light is not energy, but primarily resulted from the activity of atomic substance.

God creates all things by number, weight and measure, and with an arithmetical and geometrical precision. The universal continuity observed in nature is owing to the law that controls energy. Any interference with this law throws energy out of harmony, producing discord, and consequently a varying of continuity.

Every seed has within it an individual life energy which gives to it when developed into a plant or tree its type and form. Any external interference induces a struggle for life in the forces in maintaining their ancestral types and forms. Heredity may produce the same by interfering with the law controlling development.

The Kabbalists never intended to convey the idea that numbers possessed special virtues. They merely represent them: for example 3 represents a life entity; without this ternary combination it would be impossible for life to exist. The self-existing Deity is a Triune Entity: so is every individual life form. Whether it be a Monera, the lowest structureless life organism, or Man, the highest in the scale of living beings. Number three is therefore called the generating number.

Again, 7 is the harmonic numeral, there being seven primary grades of harmony, and in order to extend it, the scale of seven must be repeated, and every repetition lessens the harmony and tends to discord.

The Sepher Jetzirah, which is recognized by the Kabbalist as the key of the Sohar, is a wonderful and obscure work. Its wisdom is represented in ten numbers and twenty-two letters. From the numbers "are drawn or cut" the twenty-two letters which are divided into three mothers, seven double and twelve single letters. According to the Sepher there were three acts of creation; 1st, Conception or Idea; 2nd The Word; 3rd. The Writings. For example, first, God conceived in His own mind, the archetype of the universe which constituted the design; second, the Word represents the law and the energy it controls and directs in carrying out the design; third the product arising from the second constitute the writings.

The Sepher Jetzirah teaches that the hidden ways of wisdom are in the ten sephiroth, which are usually termed spheres. The Hebrews use the word "ways," which with us mean degrees, forms or species. These hidden ways are the workings of the forces producing differentiation of forms, which represents the twenty-two letters, which are expressed as one in three, and three in seven, and seven in twelve, making twenty-two.

The ten sephiroth interest us the most for they represent the unity and synthesis of numbers and the manifestations of Deity in nature. The first setir is called the Crown on account of its being the abode of the En Soph (1) the unmanifested infinite Being; but the first form by which he became known was the Memra or "word," which is represented by the first three sephiroth, namely, Kether, "the Crown," Chochma, "wisdom," Binah, "understanding." (2) To express it more clearly, the first three sephiroth comprise a Triune Entity, the verbalized spirit of God consisting of self-consciousness, wisdom and love which embodied the Word, "the heavenly man," "the man on high," (Ezekiel I, 26), the Adam Kadmon of the Kabbalist, the Paradisical Adam of Genesis, the Christ of the Christians and the Buddha of the Buddhists.

In order to be understood, we will state that the Triune spirit of the world contains the word, and is therefore the source of energy and life in both the subjective and objective worlds, and in fact is the source of all that exists outside of spirit. It is under the direction of spirit in developing forms and giving them activity and life. We thus perceive how a knowledge of the word gives us an insight into the work of God in creation.

Jacob Behmen was a mystic, and acquainted with the meaning of the word which he obtained through illumination or the unfolding of inner consciousness. What he called the Signatura Rerum — the signature of all things — is the word. He describes it as coming from a triune entity, which he locates in the super-celestial world. It is first manifested in the subjective or esoteric world, and afterwards in the objective. He also alludes to the septenary which he applies to the external world; he could not have understood the laws of harmonv or he would not have made this application, for it applies to both the subjective and objective worlds.

We will now explain the Tetractys of Pythagoras; before doing so, however, we have a few remarks to make regarding his Kabbalistic knowledge. He is said to have been initiated into the secrets of nature by Daniel and Ezekiel, and subsequently admitted into the Egyptian Sanctuaries upon a personal recommendation by King Amosis. His tetractys proves that he was thoroughly familiar with theosophical science, which enabled him to study nature and arrive at correct conclusions. It is a noted fact that he was familiar with the movements of the heavenly bodies: which science did not reveal until centuries after his death. If he mistook some of its details, his substantial correctness was none the less wonderful. He was the founder of the renowned school of Crotona, about five hundred years before Christ. He maintained that the Sun is the center of a system around which all the planets revolve, and that the fixed stars were each the center of a system. He also believed that the planets were inhabited and that they and our earth are ever revolving in harmonious order — "keeping up a grand celestial concert, inaudible to man, but as a music of the spheres audible to God." He was not permitted to declare publicly all that he knew, but taught it privately to a few chosen friends. He was also familiar with the laws of attraction and repulsion, which constituted one of the most important duties of the sanctuaries. Newton was led to the discovery of these forces through the study of the Kabbalah.

Speaking of Pythagoras calls to mind the Kabbalistic enigma written by Plato and sent to Dionysius: "all things surround our King, (God) He is the cause of all things: seconds for seconds and thirds for thirds." This expresses the division of the Sephiroth. Plato was an earnest and most intelligent Kabbalist.

We will now explain for the first time the Tetractys of Pythagoras, which reveals the numerical meaning of the word. We remark, however, before doing so, that there is a greater enigma attached to it than is expressed by the numbers, which we cannot give for several reasons. One is, the name has never been imparted; when obtained, it was through self illumination; another is, it would open the doors of masonry, and reveal the secrets of the order. It is the key to mysticism — to religion and universal science.

In the Tetractys the four letters composing the name, are arranged in a triangular form, enclosed with a double circle. (3) The numerical division he has made applies to the super-celestial, celestial and material worlds:

The Tetractys of Pythagoras.

tet

Super Celestial. — The first series of numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 of the tetractys refers to the super-celestial world.

1 is the unity of God represented thus: small number 1 God in nothing.
2 is the duality of God.
3 is the spirit of a triune entity.
4 is Divine volition, capable of determining choice and forming a purpose, and manifesting activity.

Celestial. — The above numerals are combined in the following order: — 1+2=3 — the manifestation of the word, in the celestial world. 2+3=5 — substance or quintescent matter, produced by the activity of the word.

3+4=7 — the law of harmony — the providence of God in Nature. The celestial world is called by the Kabbalist the world of harmony, which none can occupy save the pure in spirit. Harmony is the only passport to Heaven.

Material. — The numeral 1, which represents the unity of God, is not represented in this world — we only have the following numerals:

2+3+4=9 — humanity with the word unmanifested in the spirit. Yet it exists and can be made manifest through harmony of the spirit. It not being manifested debars humanity from the pleasure of enjoying the light of the celestial world. It is for this reason the Kabbalist called it the world of darkness or Hades. It is also called the world of discord. There are as many grades of discord here as there are harmonies in the world above. When man throws off the material covering of his soul, his consciousness reveals to him his moral standard and he gravitates to the sphere with which he is in accord. If harmonious he ascends, if discordant he descends.

10 is the synthesis of numbers. In the beginning before Deity manifested himself, it stood thus small number 1; in the consummation of creation it became reversed, thus 10.

FOOTNOTES:

1. From the negatives en and am and the noun Soph "end or terminus." (return to text)

2. See Kabbalah, published by R. Worthington, 770 Broadway, N. Y. (return to text)

3. See Kabbalah, Page 47. (return to text)


The Path

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE