Sacred Numbers

by E. Alan Meece

In some books on the Kabbalah, it is stated that 10 sacred circles (sephiroth) were chosen for the Tree of Life because Ten is the perfect number. All numbers are based on ten, and the digits repeat after reaching ten. It does seem to be the most common base for number systems. Pythagoras used it in his Tetractys. But Tom Lehrer pointed out that in the New Math, students were taught to use base eight instead. Don't worry, he assured us; base eight is like base ten, really; if you're mssing two fingers. We probably count in tens because we have ten fingers, which is where the word digits used for numerals comes from.

But really, ten is the most sacred number? It kinda depends on which esoteric system or which doctrine or idea you think is the most sacred. And there are so many of them that almost all numbers are sacred.

Let's start with One, shall we? A great place to start. Well, One is really the most sacred number. All is One, the mystics tell us. There is one God, one presence and one power. One is the basis of all, the philosophers say. So One must be the most sacred number.

But wait a minute, what about Two? Everything is based on Two. Yin and yang, male and female, positive and negative, black and white, on and off; the sacred duality, the inter-dependent opposites. So Two must be the most sacred number.

But Three is the sacred Trinity. All religions and philosophies have some sort of trinity. From the male and female parent, you get the child. Everything unfolds in three stages: Generating, Organizing and Dispersing. These are the three qualities in astrology, the three parts of the Soul, the beginning, middle and end of every story. More on three.

But three is NOT the end of the story, you also have Four. You know, the Four elements, the four directions, the four winds, the four seasons, the fours suits in a deck of cards, the four humors and four Jungian functions, the four gospels and evangelists, the four beasts around God's throne, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Four is the structure of the world, and the cross on which Jesus died, so it must be the most sacred number. A Few Thoughts on the Number Four

But there is also Five, because there is a fifth element, the quintessence; the element of Spirit. That is the most sacred element of all. Five makes the mandala or quincunx, the four directions framing the sacred center. See The Significance of Five to the Stability and Transcendance of Ordered Systems.There are exactly 5 platonic solids linked to the 5 elements. The Chinese also have five of them. And if you are a wiccan, you revere the pentacle, the symbol of humanity, signifying the five appendages of the human body, as well as containing the golden proportion. And we have five senses, unless you count the sixth sense; just like you counted the fifth element....

But hold on, what about Six? The Prisoner was Number Six!. If wiccans like the 5-pointed star, the Jews go for the six-pointed one, the holy of holies, the chalice and blade; which is also the symbol of the Merkabah or Chariot of Ascension, our vehicle of multi-dimensional travel. And it's on The Hermit Card too! There are three primary colors and three secondary colors, which adds up to Six. Six is the number of circles around the flower of life. Snowflakes have six sides. There are six main philosophies on the Wheel. The symbol for all the elements is based on the six-pointed star. Six triangles can be found on the Tree of Life. Six is the first perfect number, meaning that all numbers which divide Six, besides itself, add up to Six.

Six plus One equals Seven, though, and everyone knows that's the sacred number! That's how many major chakras we have. These are the centers of our soul we all can feel. The Bible makes abundant reference to Seven, especially in the book of Revelation. Seven is everyone's lucky number. There are seven colors in the rainbow, as defined by Newton, and seven tones on the diatonic musical scale. Our week has seven days, there were seven days of creation, and there are seven visible planets. There were said to be Seven Seas and Seven Wonders of the World. Many sacred temples have seven levels. There are seven levels on the kabbalah's Tree of Life, seven virtues, seven deadly sins, seven ages of man, seven heavens and planes of existence, seven metals in alchemy, seven circles on the Muslim Kaba; even seven levels on the periodic table of elements.

Eight is pretty important too, though; especially to Buddhists who practice the eight-fold path. If you add the four quadrants to the four directions of the circle, you get eight. There are eight spokes on the Great Wheel of Fortune. And I've written too about the number 26 as the number of God, and 2+6 equals 8. That's pretty impressive right there; you can't argue with God! There may be seven notes in the scale, but the eighth note makes an octave. Seven means completion in the natural order, but Eight takes you "one step above nature." Jews celebrate Hanukah for Eight days.

Nine is also a commonly-revered number. Many temples are based on it. There are nine planets, which is the basis of the Enneagram, whose students are convinced that there are exactly Nine types of people. Many sacred numbers are based on nine, such as 108, which is related to the great year or precession of the Equinoxes, which moves one degree in 72 years (8x9), and even to our very breath. Proportions of the Earth, Moon and Sun are related to 108. More on 108 There are 360 degrees in the circle, since a degree equals the motion of the Sun in one day, and there are just over 360 days in a year (3+6=9). Although the kabbalists said Ten is the number of single digits, that honor more properly belongs to Nine. Great Dreams says "The Ennead, or nine pointed star, is an ancient and sacred symbol. It comprises three trinities. The Egyptian, Celtic, Greek and Christian myths all have an ennead of nine gods and goddesses, representing the entire archetypal range of principles." And why do cats have nine lives?

We mentioned number Ten above; the number of Sephiroth on the kabbala's Tree of Life. But there's also a "hidden" sephira called Daath, which many kabbalists refer to, and is said to open us up to knowledge of our darker side. That makes Eleven, which is also known as a "master number" in numerology. It is often paired with Seven to make a lucky number. 11x2 is 22, also considered a "master number."

Twelve is well known as a significant and sacred number too. There are twelve months in the year, and 24 hours in a day, 2x12. And we all know there are Twelve Days of Christmas. There are 12 ounces in a pound, and 12 inches in a foot. Although there are seven notes in the diatonic scale, the complete chromatic scale (both white and black keys on the piano) has twelve notes. The zodiac has 12 signs, and Jesus had 12 disciples. There were Twelve knights of the Round Table, Twelve tribes of Israel, and 24 elders sit around God's throne-- twice twelve. Maybe that's why America ended up with 12 people on a jury, and maybe why there's 12 royal face cards. Thanks to Jupiter's orbit of 12 years, sunspot cycles are about that long too.

But Thirteen is important too, because the 12 disciples were led by Jesus, and that makes Thirteen. It is a sacred number in freemasonry, and basic to the history of the United States. 13x2 = 26, the number of God.

26x2 = 52, the number of cards in a playing deck. 26x3 = 78, the number of cards in a tarot deck. 52 plus the 2 jokers = 54, which is half of 108.

Twice Seven is Fourteen, and three times Seven is Twenty-One, which is the number of tarot trumps, said to be arranged in 3 groups of Seven. It is therefore the number of the heroic or mystic quest. 21 is also the number of possible combinations on two dice. 7x8 is 56, which is the number of minor arcana cards in the tarot. 56 is also the number of combinations on three dice. With the Fool added, 22 trumps plus 56 minor cards = 78.

And if you use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, based on Jungian psychology, then you know that there are not Nine, but Sixteen types of people! This is reflected in the 16 kinds of face cards in the tarot deck, and the 16 faces of the 4 beasts around God's chariot in Ezekiel's vision.

There are also 22 paths on the kabbalah's Tree of Life, which added to the Sephiroth makes Thirty-Two. Twenty-Two is also a master number in numerology, symbolizing the master builder.

Four times Seven is Twenty-Eight, also a perfect number like Number Six.

The Fibonacci numbers reveal the divine or golden proportion. They start with one (twice) and include two, three, five, eight, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 (12x12).......

There's one other sacred number that I almost forgot: Zero!. The mystics talk about the Great Void, and the kabbalists about the Ain or nothing from which the universe emerges. Zero represents a starting point, a clean slate, a place-holder. It is space; what the Buddhists call emptiness, which liberates. Zero represents the divine or transcendent infinite that cannot be described in words, or numbers. It is the number of The Fool in tarot, and of The Prisoner who refuses to wear or identify with a number in order to be a "free man."

So, although we count based on Ten, and Seven and Nine might be pretty sacred, so are the first six numbers, and Zero too; and there's lots of other sacred numbers; these above and more. Take your pick! What's your favorite number?

Here's a website on numerology. Find out the significance of each number and what it means in your life. One correction to their scheme: Four is ruled by Saturn and Eight by Uranus, not vice-versa.

This site has info on your personal year number. Find out which number applies to this year and what it means.

Links page on the Bach, chakras, tarot page, including articles on sacred numbers and symbols