The Origin of Traditional Western Numerology

By Attila Blaga


     Astrology and Numerology are not alternatives, but complementary methods of knowledge. These two branches of the esoteric science are deeply interconnected. St. Augustine of Hippo noted that “numbers are the Universal language offered by the deity to humans as confirmation of the truth.”

       Mathematics is considered the language of God(s) and therefore, the language of creation. According to the Jewish mystical tradition known as Kabbalah, Hebrew is the language of God – at least of Yahve, the God of the Old Testament. However, more likely, if there is such a sacred language, that probably would be the Sumerian or Egyptian as some may believe. When at the beginning of the times, presumably, God said “Let there be light”, those letters and words meant more than a simple phrase, they were a Magick formula. To understand these formulas, one should take consideration not only the letters and their value and charge but also analyse their sound and frequencies. It matters not only what God said, but also how it was told. The letter Aleph, at least how as the ancient people of the Middle-East perceived it, means “ox”, but in the mouth of God it was a command. Allegedly, by adding up those twenty-two letters, God created everything in the universe. When God was spoken, it was mathematics, and it was chemistry, it was Numerology and Alchemy, and altogether it was High Magick. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” However, the divine content and creative function of that language it is not transferable or transmissible and therefore, is lost. Spelt out more bluntly, our words today are godless. 

       Mathematics, on the other hand, is also a universal language commonly shared by all humans which allow different people from all over the world to communicate with each other. 

       One plus two makes three is an arithmetic process, and Algebra deals with this type of equations. Numerology deals not with the quantity but the quality of the additions. While Algebra deals with the matters of the physical world, Numerology deals with those of the spiritual world. One is the world of visible and tangible things, the other deals with the subtle matters of the unseen and the intimate relationships that are running underneath the appearance of the physical world. Mixing these two aspects, respectively applying methods from the material to the spiritual world may not reveal the results one would expect.     

       Western Numerology claims its roots back with thousand years, but truthfully, the term was coined only around 1937 by Dr Julia Seton who is credited with giving the study of names and numbers the modern term “Numerology” which comes from the Latin word “numerus,” meaning number, and the Greek word “logos,” meaning word. Although supposedly several ancient civilisations, including the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Chaldeans and Greeks studied numbers both from a physical and spiritual perspective, Magick and mathematics being at those times inseparable, the evidence of these suppositions is virtually nonexistent. While the roots of Algebra can be traced to the ancient Babylonians, not the same can be stated regarding Numerology. Once again, the destruction of ancient libraries such as the one of Alexandria might be an explanation for such a lack of evidence, and the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. 

 John 1:1 New International Version (NIV)

       Pythagoras, who lived between c. 570 and c. 495 BC, is often called “the Father of Numerology”. He spent a lifetime studying numbers and believed that numbers contained the secrets of the entire universe. Around 530 BC, Pythagoras left Samos and established a school in Crotona, then a Greek colony, today in Calabria, Southern Italy. Allegedly, it was more like a brotherhood of initiation, and Pythagoras not only taught mathematics, astronomy and music but also promoted an ascetic lifestyle. However, no evidence of his involvement in the mystical study of the numbers was found while all the records of his work were destroyed. One of his students, Philolaus, is credited with preserving and transmitting the “secret” teachings of Pythagoras. However, Philolaus was born twenty-five years after the death of Pythagoras which means that practically he never was a student of Pythagoras. From what we know, Pythagoras ideas regarding the mystical qualities of the numbers were more of philosophical rather than practical nature. 

The so-called Pythagorean system was first presented by Mrs L. Dow Balliet who published the book entitled “How to attain success through the strength of vibration of numbers – a system of numbers as taught by Pythagoras” in 1906. 

       One of the most famous numerologists of the early twentieth century was William John Warner, also known as Count Louis Hamon and better known using the nickname Cheiro. He was an Irish occultist, astrologer, numerologist, and palmist. His sobriquet, Cheiro, derives from the word cheiromancy, meaning “palmistry.” Chiero is the prime suspect of inventing the so-called Chaldean system of Numerology, the second most popular system used in the West.    


       Alternatively, in the early sixteenth century, we find the German scholar Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, who, far as we know, outlined the first known numerological system based not on assigning a numerical value to the letters of analphabet but on the connection of the numbers with the planets. Interestingly, considering ideas such as the “Harmony of the Spheres,” the association of numbers with planets seem more likely Pythagorean than what is called the Pythagorean system in modern times. 

 Christie, Anne; Numerology; Introduction; page 6.

       On the occult-esoteric lineage, relevant in terms of Numerology, was the work of Éliphas Lévi “La clef des grands mystères”, translated to English as The Key to the Great Mysteries and published in 1861. 

       William Wynn Westcott should be listed with at least three works; the translation of the Sepher Yetzirah published in 1887; “The Occult Power and Mystic Virtues of the Numbers” published in 1890 and the forgery called “Sanctum Regnum” originally published in 1896 as a work attributed to Éliphas Lévi. 

       Dr Walter Gorn Old was a notable late nineteenth, early twentieth-century occultist, astrologer and numerologist, who used the pseudonym “Sepharial,” after an angel in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. He was one of the founding members of the Theosophical movement in England and intimate friend of Madame Blavatsky whom he lived with until her death. 

       Coming to our days, at least two names should be highlighted, and their methods presented briefly. Robert Wang proposes a unique system based on the attribution of the ten Sefirot to the ten planets of our solar system (including the Moon and the Sun, but excluding the Earth), and Marty Leeds who has developed an original method of attributing numbers to the English alphabet based on Pi.

       Most likely, both, the so-called Pythagorean and Chaldean methods were developed based upon and as a result of raise to the popularity of the Kabbalah and Gematria, especially during and after the nineteenth century. Both were created from the Mispar Katan method of Gematria in which the double and triple digit values of the latter are reduced to their simple single digit value. However, one fundamental difference is that in Gematria numerical values are attributed to the letters of the alphabet, in both Western methods the process is exactly the other way around, respectively letters are attributed to single digit numbers. The meaning given to the numbers is relatively similar from one author to another.