Numerology is the mystical study of how numbers influence our personality, relationships, and destiny.
But when did this ancient system originate?
Numerology’s foundations trace back thousands of years across diverse cultures. In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of numerology to understand its earliest beginnings and evolution over time.
While the exact origins of numerology are unknown, records indicate that mystical numerological beliefs emerged independently across ancient cultures, including Egypt, China, Greece, and India dating back over 5,000 years (1).
Ancient Egyptians saw numbers as metaphysical symbols connected to the gods, used in architecture, artwork, and mystical texts for divination and magic (2). This was the genesis of cabalistic, or mystical, number interpretation that would influence numerology.
In ancient China, numbers held symbolic significance tied to Yin and Yang dating back to around 1,100 B.C. Odd numbers were masculine, even numbers feminine. Numerology was used in Feng Shui design for harmony (3).
The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras (580-500 B.C.) recognized sacred geometric and numeric patterns as the building blocks of life. He founded a philosophical school exploring mystical properties of numbers (4).
Ancient Hinduism relied heavily on numerology, codifying the meanings of numbers in texts like the Vedas dating back to 1500 B.C. Indian numerology assigned numeric values to alphabets and explored the hidden meanings of names (5).
Development in the Early Common Era
During the early centuries A.D., Greek, Egyptian, and Eastern numerological beliefs spread, mixed, and evolved within emerging mystical schools of Judaism and Christianity, creating more formal numerology systems. Prominent examples include:
This Jewish mystical tradition dating back to 100-600 A.D. drew heavily on Greek and Eastern philosophy, ascribing symbolic meaning to Hebrew letters and numbers as the building blocks of creation (6).
Also originating with Judaism, gematria coded Hebrew letters into numbers to discover hidden meanings in religious texts. By the 7th-11th centuries, Christians were applying it to the Greek bible (7).
The Greek practice of isopsephia, present by the 5th century B.C., involved assigning numbers to letters to uncover mystical connections. It was popular among early Christian philosophers like St. Augustine (354-430 AD) (8).
While numerology persisted subtly in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance reawakened interest in cabalism, divination, and occult sciences. Key developments included:
Hebrew Numerology Texts
Kabbalistic numerology texts like the Sepher Yetzirah circulated more widely after Johannes Reuchlin’s publication in 1517. Mystical Jewish numerology rose in prominence (9).
New name numerology grew popular. German philosopher Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1535) developed a Pythagorean system assigning values to letters to analyze names (10). Occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa expanded it (11).
Modern Numerology Foundations
In the early 20th century, American occultist L. Dow Balliett combined Pythagorean, Kabbalistic, and other numerology forms into the systematic approach still used today (12). Her student Dr. Juno Jordan helped popularize modern numerology (13).
In summary, while its exact origins are murky, records indicate numerology arose across many ancient cultures as a mystical tool for decoding patterns and cycles. It continued developing subtly until resurging during the Renaissance and forming the systems practiced today. The study of how numbers influence us has captivated many brilliant minds for millennia.
- von Franz, M.L. 1974. Number and Time: Reflections Leading Toward a Unification of Depth Psychology and Physics. Northwestern Univ. Press.
- Brier, Bob. 2004. The Ancient Egyptian Roots of Christianity. Gorgias Press.
- Duverger, Maurice. 2004. The Number and its Mysteries: A Collection of Facts and Speculations about Numbers and their Secret Influences on Human Life. Nicolas-Hays.
- von Fritz, Kurt. 1945. The Discovery of Incommensurability by Hippasus of Metapontum. Annals of Mathematics. 46(2): 242-264.
- Kole, K., et al. 2017. Indian Origin of Numerals according to Baudhayana Sulba Sutra and Apastamba Sulba Sutra. Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies. 24(2).
- Scholem, Gershom, et al. 1965. Origins of the Kabbalah. Jewish Publication Society.
- Hunger, Herbert. 1992. Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings. State Archives of Assyria. 8. Helsinki University Press.
- Droge, Arthur J. 1989. Homer or Moses? Early Christian Interpretations of the History of Culture. Mohr Siebeck.
- Idel, Moshe. 1988. The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia. State University of New York Press.
- Agrippa, Cornelius. 1531. Three Books of Occult Philosophy or Magic.
- Agrippa von Nettesheim, Heinrich Cornelius. 1651. Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy.
- Balliett, L. Dow. 1940. The Philosophy of Numbers: Their Tone and Colors. Star Publishing Company.
- Jordan, June G. 1970. The Numerology Guidebook: Uncover Your Destiny and the Blueprint of Your Life. Simon & Schuster.
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