The Origins of Numerology: A Deep Dive Into The History Of This Ancient Divination Practice

How Far Back Do The Roots Of Numerology Reach?

Numerology, the mystical divination practice involving numbers, has origins that reach far back into human history. The use of numbers as a means to understand cosmic order and cycles can be traced to the ancient Babylonians, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, and Mayans.

However, the modern system of numerology that most people are familiar with today directly stems from theinsights and calculations of the Greek mathematician and philosopher, Pythagoras, who lived around 500 BCE.

Pythagoras and the Mystery of Numbers

Pythagoras is a towering figure in the history of mathematics. He is most famous for the Pythagorean theorem relating to right angle triangles. Pythagoras believed that numbers held mystical meanings that could illuminate the secrets of the universe.

He founded a religious brotherhood dedicated to the study of numbers. Through his own calculations with numbers, Pythagoras developed many of the numerological meanings and interpretations that are still used today.

Pythagoras believed that all things could be expressed in numerical terms and that numbers reflected the basic harmonies underlying the cosmos. He taught that numbers represented divine principles and could reveal the orderly, harmonic nature of creation when properly understood.

This key insight about the relationship between numbers anduniversal principles laid the foundation for the numerological divinationsystems that would follow centuries later.

Plato and Aristotle Advance Numerology

Although Pythagoras provided the basis of numerology, his ideas were further developed centuries later by Plato and Aristotle. They expanded on Pythagoras’ pioneering work linking numbers to cosmic order.

Plato discussed how numbers transcend the physical world and reflect deeper universal forms and structures. He agreed with the Pythagoreans that numbers expressed the basic harmonies of creation.

Aristotle also concurred that numbers were morethan just quantities used for measurement or counting. He wrote about how numbers reveal intrinsic organizational properties.

The theories of Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle established number mysticism and numerology as serious fields of metaphysical study in ancient Greek philosophy. Their influence planted seeds that would later blossom.

Numerology Takes Shape as a Divination Practice

By Medieval times, formal numerological divination systems started taking shape, building upon the numerical mysticism of Pythagoras. Different numerical approaches were developed that went far beyond Pythagoras’ original insights about numerical harmony.

Practitioners analyzed people’s names and dates of birth based on assigned numerical values for letters and other numerical representations. This allowed numerologists to make specific divinations and character readings based on numerical patterns and meanings.

The goal was to decode the numerical information locked within names and dates in order to reveal insights about an individual’s inner nature, cycles, and destiny. This marked numerology’s transformation into a fully formed system of divination.

Kabbalists Expand Numerology

In Medieval times, Kabbalists expanded numerological divination by incorporating Hebrew letters and interpreting biblical texts. Kabbalistic numerology, called gematria, assigns numbers to Hebrew letters and looks for hidden meanings in words and passages based on their numerical values.

By converting letters to numbers, Kabbalists believed one could discover deeper truths and significance buried within the words themselves. This expanded numerology from just names and dates to analyzing words and phrases for esoteric meanings.

Modern Revival of Numerology

Although numerology continued being practiced as an esoteric divination method, it did not gain widespread popularity again until the late 19th and early 20th century alongside the rise of new esoteric and metaphysical movements.

Modern numerologists like Cheiro and Dr. L. Dow Balliet published popular books on using numerology for divination, resurrecting public interest in it. Their updated systems and techniques are the basis of most numerology used today.

Now numerology is a vibrant global divination practice used for self-understanding and gaining insightinto the patterns and cycles affecting one’s life. Millions use numerology for personal growth and self-discovery.

Clearly, while fads come and go, numerology has remained popular because of how it taps into timeless human impulses – the desire to find meaning and see beyond the surface of things into hidden truths.

The long history of numerology shows it is far more than a passing superstition – it is an entire philosophical worldview rooted in seeing numbers as symbols reflecting the deepest structures of reality.


Gullberg, Jan. Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers. W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Hughes, J. Donald. “Numerology.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

Mandelbaum, Allen. “Aristotle’s ‘Doctrine’ of the Mean.” Studies in Greek Philosophy Vol. 2, edited by Daniel Graham, Princeton University Press, 1995, pp. 171–188.

“Pythagoras.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

Scholem, Gershom, and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Origins of the Kabbalah. Jewish Publication Society, 1987.

Leave a comment