Who founded numerology?

Numerology has ancient roots, with evidence of numerological beliefs and practices found in many ancient cultures. While the exact origins are unclear, some key developments helped shape numerology into the system we know today.

Ancient Foundations

The basic concepts of numerology have existed for thousands of years. Ancient philosophers and mathematicians saw numbers as having symbolic meaning beyond just their quantitative value.

Pythagoras and Greek Numerology

The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE) is one of the earliest figures associated with numerology. Pythagoras saw numbers as having sacred properties and believed there were connections between numbers and the order of the universe. The Pythagoreans analyzed numbers philosophically and developed an early form of numerology based on the relationships between numbers.

Chinese Numerology

In China, numerology dates back thousands of years to the ancient Chinese classic text the I Ching (Book of Changes). Chinese numerology assigns symbolic meaning to the numbers 1 through 9. Chinese number patterns and numerology heavily influenced other Eastern philosophies like Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Kabbalah and Hebrew Numerology

The Kabbalah, a collection of ancient Jewish mystical texts, also contains numerological concepts. Hebrew numerology assigns numerical values to words and names in the belief that numbers hold esoteric meanings. This Hebrew numerology influenced the development of later Western numerology.

Numerology Takes Shape

By the medieval period, rudimentary forms of numerology existed in many parts of the world. But it wasn’t until the modern era that numerology coalesced into a defined system of occult philosophy.

The Enlightenment and Search for Hidden Meanings

During the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, interest grew in occultism, divination, and the search for hidden meanings behind surface reality. Thinkers blended ancient numerical philosophies with newer esoteric concepts.

Development of Modern Numerology

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several key figures helped shape modern numerology:

  • The English occultist Sepharial (1864-1929) published several influential books melding Pythagorean teachings with astrology and the Kabbalah. His work helped popularize the westerm form of numerology.
  • The American occultist L. Dow Balliett (1844-1929) published the book The Philosophy of Numbers in 1908, advancing Pythagorean numerology. Balliett assigned meanings to double-digit numbers 11 to 99.
  • The mystic Cheiro (1866-1936) wrote extensively on predicting the future with numbers. His books helped spread numerology to wider audiences in Europe and America.

So while numerology has ancient origins, it coalesced into the modern form we know today over a long evolution of thinking about the esoteric meanings of numbers. The pioneers who advanced numerology built upon primitive numerical philosophies to create an influential divination system.

References

Gordon, Tammy. “Numerology.” In The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy, edited by Rosemary Guiley, 322-325. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

O’Connor, Dagmar and Geoffrey Cornelius. “Numerology.” In Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology, 5th ed., vol. 2, edited by J. Gordon Melton, 1102-1105. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Scholem, Gershom, and Melila Hellner-Eshed. “Numerology.” In Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 586-589. 2nd ed. Vol. 15. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007.

Smither, Roger. “History of Numerology.” Humanities 360. Last modified 2020. https://humanities360.com/index.php/history-of-numerology-40123/.

Viguerie, Jean de. “Numerology.” In The Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade, 184-188. Vol. 11. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

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