
Numbers at Play 
Numbers are a special group of symbols.
They were created in the Beginning as all symbols were but numbers
serve a unique function.
The meaning of many symbols has become
encrypted with cultural and other protocols so they are obscured to
all but the initiated. Number, however, do have a more universal
quality about them that allows them to cross cultural and temporal
barriers.
Numbers have a special place in our
history and in our spirit. The Bible contributes and entire section,
The Book of Numbers, to the subject of numbers. It is filled with a
plethora of Holy formulas, relationship, and accountings all
expressed in numbers.
The Hebrew tradition is greatly
indebted to the study and application of numbers. The Hebrew
alphabet is concurrently an expression of letters and numbers that
are at times used in tandem and at other times used separately.
In one form or another numbers have
been used as long as we can understand the history of people. But
for our purposes perhaps the greatest philosopher of numbers was the
Greek scholar Pythagoras. Likely born on the island of Samos near
Ionia in about 570 B.C. (the exact date is not known) he lived and
taught for about 70 years. He is considered the father of number
theory.
Joscelyn Godwin writes,
“Pythagoras...in his emphasis on Number...revealed the secret
without which modern technology would have been impossible. It is
applied mathematics, after all, that has led to the socalled
conquest of Nature. But at the same time, and much more importantly,
Pythagoras taught the metaphysical and sacred aspect of Number as
reflecting the One and its emanations.”
It is the metaphysical aspects of
numbers that are the basis for numerology and cartomancy which is the
study of how numbers relate to humans and their condition. This
study of numbers was know in Biblical times and before. The work of
Pythagoras helped us to understand the cosmic aspects of numbers as
they relate to heaven and nature.
Modern man rudely uses numbers only in
their counting function or as a shorthand language to express
concepts. David Fideler writes of Pythagoras, “What we do know is
that a metaphysical philosophy of Number lay at the heart of his
thought and teaching permeating...even the domains of psychology,
ethics and political philosophy.” He continues, “Pythagorean
understanding of Number is quite different from the predominately
quantitative understanding of today. For the Pythagorean, Number is
a living, qualitative reality which must be approached in an
experiential manner. Whereas the typical modern usage of number is
as a sign, to denote a specific quantity or amount, the Pythagorean
usage is not, in a sense, even a usage at all: Number is not
something to be used; rather, its nature is to be discovered.”
These days we have stripped numbers
down to their barest utilitarian elements causing these symbols to be
viewed as a token that stands in for something we are counting. This
minimalist “counting function” pervades the thinking of nearly
everyone and deprives people of the vastly larger carrying capacity
that numbers have for storing data.
If we can understand that all thing
come from the One which is the unity, while Two opens up duality and
conflict but the possibility of knowledge then we can begin to
comprehend a larger role for numbers particularly those from 1 to 10.
The data stored in number symbols is enormous. However, it takes a
mind open to metaphor and allegory to peek inside and view the
secrets that numbers hold.
Quotations from:
“Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library”,
David Fideler editor, 1987
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Illustration: "Numbers at Play", 4"x4", Ink on paper, A Ann Reif, 2013