There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff – we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone who saw this today donated $5, we would meet our goal for 2021.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
| Dolphins and money|
“”Three… is a magic number.
|—Schoolhouse Rock (and later De La Soul)|
| As performed by|
|By the powers of|
Numerology is the study of, or belief in, the meaning of various numbers associated with people or events. There are many specific forms that numerology can take. Some try to convert letters to numbers and add them up, others try to assign properties and descriptions to each "number."
- 1 Importance of numbers
- 2 Numerology in Hebrew culture
- 3 Numerology in other ancient cultures
- 4 Modern numerology
- 5 Readings that will stun you with their honesty
- 6 See also
- 7 This page was brought to you by the numbers…
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
Importance of numbers
“”The numbers, Mason… What do they mean?!
|—Call of Duty: Black Ops|
It is important to think a little bit about numbers and the meaning of cardinality (although a thorough treatment of this is not needed). Numbers in western languages are written in base ten — that is, when we run out of fingers to represent a number, we reuse them, wrapping around, as it were, adding another digit place to represent the next jump.
It is apparent that the whole "theory" hinges on this relatively arbitrary choice of base, which probably stems from humans having five digits on each of two hands. Insect numerology, for instance, could yield very different answers — we can conjecture that intelligent insects may evolve a system of numbers in base 6. Computers use base 2, being only able to process states as either "on" (1) or "off" (0) — with the exception of quantum computers which are base 3 using 1, 0, and both at the same time. The universe, however, doesn't deal with numbers like this — if it even deals with numbers at all — just like it doesn't deal with a discrete concept of "species". As a result, numbers, when considered like this, are quite arbitrary and easily manipulated to indicate anything you like. A famous example is the absurd conclusion to the quest for the ultimate question in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the answer was 42 and the question turned out to be "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?" — it was pointed out that 6 times 9 does in fact equal 42… in base 13.
Another functional absurdity of trying to assign meaning to numbers comes from playing with the numbers or digits in dates. Dates are also utterly arbitrary human constructions. The year "0" as defined in the CE/BCE system is technically just an arbitrary point, although it just so happens to coincide with a more traditional system (AD/BC). The arbitrary factors of dates also include when we choose to make up for the discrepancies in the length of the year relative to exact numbers of days in a year (leap days, minutes, seconds, etc.). The change from the old Julian to the current Gregorian calendar was to make the calculation of leap years more accurate but it took nearly 300 years to get to near-universality and resulted in varying numbers of day changes depending upon when it was adopted.
Basically, numerology's "value" consists of the incredible woo experienced by people when shown that the number of letters in their names, when manipulated, show how important they are in the universal scheme of things.
Richard C. Hoagland often uses numerology in his attempts to prove that the Face on Mars is not natural. To him, the magic numbers are 19.5 and the sin(19.5°) ≈ 0.333 (although by conventional rounding, sin(19.5°) is actually 0.334. Hoagland is not known for accuracy.)
Some well-known mathematicians have been interested in numerology, Plato called the study of number symbolis, "the highest level of knowledge" while Pythagoras believed numbers had souls as well as magical powers.
Numerology in Hebrew culture
"40" is a number that means "a really long time", and a "whole lot of something", in the way that someone might generically say "hundreds" today. 40 days and 40 nights tells a reader, "Man, that rain just went on and on." Killing the 40 children who teased Elisha is again a repetition of this holy number 40. Though it does not occur as often, 120 has the same (though bigger, as it's three 40s) sense of "uncountable big."
Most scholars do not think the use of these numbers in any Biblical text was ever meant to be a counted amount of days. 12 is another sacred number, though it shows up in the Greek-influenced writings of 200 BCE to 1 BCE and into the early Christian writings far more often. Scholars do not think that "12 disciples" means there were actually 12 human dudes with names and birthdays running around with Jesus, but there were "a few," and saying 12 adds mojo.
Ironically, despite there being 10 fingers, and 13 moons, the Jewish calendar has 12 months. Something recreated when the Greek calendars, and the later Julian calendar was tossed in favor of the Gregorian one.
Numerology in Christianity
St. Augustine wrote pages on the Godliness of numbers. Seven, he believed, was so sacred it "represented the entire universe" and "embraced all created things." Ten, to Augustine, was 7 plus the "three aspects of the Holy Trinity."
Gematria is the Kabbalistic study of Hebrew words by assigning every letter in the alphabet a numerical value (increasing by 1 until 10, increasing by 10 until 100, and increasing by 100 until 900). For example, chai, the Hebrew word for life, is spelled chet-yod (חי), giving it a gematria value of 18. However, the gematria of words is often purely coincidental, and can be used to prove nearly any point (including how the "pi mistake" isn't really a mistake). And of course proving nearly any point isn't good enough for conspiracy theorists and gematria can now be used to prove virtually every point.
Numerology in other ancient cultures
The Eye of Horus is not only a depiction of the god Horus (oudjat), but it was also a precise layout of the ratio of rational numbers, as 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + 1/64.
The Chinese have an entire system of fortune-telling based on numbers, the I Ching. Not only did each number have a specific meaning, (for example, the number 1 was symbolic of beginnings), the experts used "complex" formulae to make triads of numbers that calculated actions that an emperor should take, partnerships he should make, etc.
Recently, political conspiracy theorists and the tabloid media have used numerology to speculate on terrorist attacks (such as the attacks of 11 September 2001). In the aftermath of the Manchester concert attacks on 22 May 2017, speculation rose about the significance of the number 22 in terrorism, for which Snopes cited the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database as one of the reasons for terrorists not attacking more or less often on the 22nd day.
Readings that will stun you with their honesty
This site promises "readings that will stun you with their honesty," but they've been rumoured to give the same reading to everyone, or give nothing at all. They're also here with different page layout.
Want to read this in another language?
This page was brought to you by the numbers…
- The Incredible Dr. Matrix: The World's Greatest Numerologist by Martin Gardner. A mathematician looks at numerology.
- Change From Julian to Gregorian Calendar timeanddate.com
- Sacred Geometry Ascension Glossary (archived from April 2, 2018).
- Mathematician, du Sautoy, The Code. The quote shows that the God of the Gaps lives in math as well as science.
- that is complex, meaning several steps, not the extremely complex formulas of today's maths
- MacGuill, Dan (25 May 2017). "Is There a Link Between Terrorist Attacks and the 22nd Day of the Month?". Snopes.com. Retrieved 26 May 2017.