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How Numerology Works

by Tracy V. Wilson Introduction In the world of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger's favorite sub ect is arithmancy. The novels don't offer much detail, but they ma!e it clear that arithmancy involves the magical "ro"erties of numbers. Hermione learns to use com"le# charts to "erform numerical divination, or tell the future using numbers. In the real world, arithmancy is !nown as numerology. $ccording to numerologists, everything in the world is de"endent u"on the mystical "ro"erties of numbers. These "ro"erties come from the numbers' inherent vibration. %ther new&age "ractitioners use the term vibration to describe beliefs in the "ower of items li!e crystals, gemstones, colors and essential oils. $s the theory goes, each number has a uni'ue vibration, giving it certain "ro"erties. These "ro"erties can shed light onto a "erson's behavior or "redict whether romantic "artners are com"atible. (umerological analysis can determine a "erson's luc!y number or luc!y day. )ecurring numbers can offer clues into how the world wor!s or the significance of "eo"le and events. $ccording to many numerologists, nothing ha""ens by accident && everything ha""ens because of numbers.

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Pythagoras

*ost numerologists credit Pythagoras with founding the field of numerology. Pythagoras was a "hiloso"her who was born in Greece around +,- ../. Historians don't !now much about Pythagoras, since little of his original wor! survives and most of the "eo"le who wrote about him did so hundreds of years after his death. In fact, some historians believe that the discoveries usually attributed to Pythagoras really came from several of his followers. In addition, some historians argue that the "ersonality traits ascribed to him && li!e that he would not allow his followers to eat or even touch beans && are a"ocry"hal. Pythagoras and his followers, !nown as Pythagoreans, studied mathematics, music and "hiloso"hy. *any te#tboo!s credit the Pythagorean school with several im"ortant discoveries, including0

The Pythagorean theorem, which states that in a right triangle, the s'uare of the length of the hypotenuse is e'ual to the sum of the s'uares of the other two sides 1a2 3 b2 4 c25 The mathematical "ro"ortions in musical harmonies, li!ely discovered through the use of stringed instruments The first irrational number, the s'uare root of two, or Pythagoras' constant

In addition, Pythagoras and his followers believed in mystical "ro"erties of numbers. $ccording to 6nderwood 7udley, author of 8(umerology0 %r What Pythagoras Wrought8, the Pythagoreans became interested in number mysticism after discovering a "articularly fascinating fact about numbers. If you add u" a series of odd numbers beginning with the number one, the result is always a s'uare number.

The sum of sequential odd integers, beginning with one, is a square number

7iscoveries li!e this led the Pythagoreans to the conclusion that 8all is number.8 $ccording to one inter"retation, this means that "eo"le can measure everything in the world and describe it in terms of numbers and "ro"ortions. This is a reasonable idea, and it has had a big influence on science and mathematics. .ut according to another inter"retation, 8all is number8 means that everything in the world is made of numbers and can be reduced to a numerical value. The latter inter"retation is the foundation of numerology. We'll loo! at what else numerology involves in the ne#t section. The Pro"erties of (umbers In their study of mathematical conce"ts, the Pythagoreans sorted numbers into categories. (umbers li!e 9, : and - were s'uare because a corres"onding number of dots or "ebbles could be arranged in a "erfect s'uare. %ne, three, si# and 9; were triangular && one, three, si# or 9; dots can be arranged into regular triangles. Two, si# and 92 were oblong, since the corres"onding number of "ebbles formed rectangles.

$long with describing numbers in terms of math and geometry, the Pythagoreans also described them in terms of non&numerical traits. These traits had more to do with intuition and mysticism than science or mathematics. <or e#am"le, odd numbers were masculine, and even numbers were feminine. The number one was creative, since the addition of multi"le ones can create any other number. Two re"resented duality and was female, while three was male. $s the sum of two and three, five re"resented marriage, and since it fell e#actly in the middle of the numbers one through nine, it also re"resented ustice. Ten was a sacred number, largely because it is the sum of the first four digits. The holiness of the number 9; led to a list of 9; fundamental o""osites0

=imited and unlimited %dd and even %ne and many )ight and left *asculine and feminine )est and motion >traight and croo!ed =ight and dar!ness

Good and evil >'uare and oblong

$fter the death of Pythagoras, interest in mathematical mysticism ebbed. It rea""eared with the (eo&Pythagoreans around the first century $.7. Pythagoras' non&mathematical theories eventually faded. In the late 9?;;s, *rs. =. 7ow .alliett "ublished several boo!s on number vibration, music and colors. %ther writers may have "ublished wor! "rior to .alliett, but her boo!s seem to incor"orate Pythagorean "rinci"les and add the conce"ts used in numerology today. $ccording to .alliett and modern numerologists, each number has a s"ecific vibration. Peo"le, foods, ob ects and colors also vibrate. In order to live a "roductive and harmonious life, "eo"le should ma!e sure their environment vibrates in harmony with their own vibrations. This conce"t a""ears fre'uently in other new&age "ractices, some of which describe it as an affect of the movement of subatomic "articles. However, there has been little scientific study to identify or 'uantify such a vibration or to analy@e its affect on human e#istence. >ome numerologists have also associated this vibration with the music of the spheres, or the sound Pythagoras believed the "lanets and the >un made while orbiting the Aarth. Pythagoras believed that the "lanets were embedded within trans"arent, "hysical s"heres and that the distance between them corres"onded to musical ratios. >cience has since dis"roved both of those ideas, as well as the idea that the sun orbits the Aarth. 6nli!e the Pythagoreans, modern numerologists a""ly numbers to "eo"le in addition to a""lying intangible conce"ts to numbers. $ccording to most numerologists, the numbers one to nine have uni'ue "ro"erties that are the direct result of their inherent vibration. >ome of these "ro"erties come from Pythagorean writings, and others come from the way cultures around the world use and a""roach numbers. 7ifferent numerologists a""ly different attributes to numbers, but here's a run&down of some of the most "o"ular.

>ome systems also designate numbers with re"eating digits as master numbers, which include all the attributes of two other numbers0

990 9 and 2 220 2 and : BB0 B and , ::0 : and ?

(umerology "ur"orts to tell the future, guide human behavior, "redict the outcome of relationshi"s and otherwise divine the un!nowable by figuring out a "erson's numbers. <or e#am"le, if the number nine has a "articular vibration, a "erson whose number is nine has the same vibration. That "erson can choose what to eat, where to go and how to live based on which choices have a vibration that is com"atible with nine. We'll loo! at how numerologists determine a "erson's number ne#t.

(umerology and >ynesthesia

(umerology a""lies non&numeric conce"ts to numbers. >imilarly, synesthesia is a neurological condition in which

a "erson associates one sense with "erce"tions from an unrelated sense. <or e#am"le, a "erson with synesthesia might associate colors with words or smells with musical notes.

Translating (ames to (umbers The "rocess of translating words to numbers is central to numerology. The "ractice has roots in Gree!, =atin and Hebrew gematria, or the "ractice of turning words into numbers for the "ur"ose of divination. Peo"le have used gematria to study and inter"ret the Torah, the .ible and other religious te#ts. *ost of the time, numerologists focus on "eo"le's names, using a sim"le chart to change names into numbers. 7ifferent numerology systems use different charts, but an easy one begins with 8a8 e'ualing 9, 8b8 e'ualing 2 and so forth.

(umerologists ty"ically use the name a "erson received at birth. >ome argue that unborn babies select their names themselves and communicate them to their "arents "sychically, ma!ing sure their name will suit them and yield the correct number. $ccording to numerologists, the name a "erson receives at birth is more significant than nic!names, names ta!en u"on marriage, or otherwise changed names. To determine a "erson's number, the numerologist "ic!s the corres"onding numbers from the chart and adds them together. If the result has two or more digits, the numerologist will add those digits together, re"eating that ste" until arriving at a single digit. <or e#am"le0

The total for the name 8Harry8 is B:, 8Cames8 is 92, and 8Potter8 is B9, for a total of DD. In some systems, the number DD might be a master number, but most would add the two digits together for a total of 9:, and then add one and four for a total of +.

The (umber of the .east


The techni'ue used to determine a "erson's number has also been used to associate "eo"le's names with the number of the beast, or ,,,, which a""eared in the boo! of )evelation. *any "eo"le associate this number with the end of the world or the devil, although with enough twea!ing it's "ossible to ma!e virtually anyone's name total ,,,.

*any numerology systems also use a "erson's date of birth to arrive at another number !nown as the birth, life or destiny number. Harry's birthday, Culy B9, 9-?;, becomes0

>ome numerologists use charts or diagrams to e#amine the numbers and letters in relations to one another. These diagrams can resemble astrological charts and can add additional layers of meaning to the numerological reading. .ut regardless of whether a numerologist uses a sim"le or com"le# system to determine the results, the final analysis will often sound much li!e a horosco"e. (umerologists will inter"ret the results and the connotations of each number to ma!e recommendations or theori@e about a "erson's future. )ecommendations often include0

=uc!y days or luc!y numbers %"timal career "aths for a "erson's numerological tem"erament (egative tendencies to avoid Positive attributes to em"hasi@e What to loo! for in a romantic "artner

=i!e astrology, numerology is a ty"e of a""lied mysticism & it correlates a mystical symbol with a "erson's life. <or this reason, some "eo"le have credited numerology with hel"ing them to ma!e "ersonal or financial decisions. However, there's no "roof that the system wor!s or that there is any real correlation between the numbers and their associated conce"ts. We'll loo! at this and some of the other controversies surrounding numerology in the ne#t section. /riticism of (umerology

>ome "eo"le notice the re"eated a""earance of a "articular number in their daily lives, in historical records or in religious te#ts li!e the .ible. It often seems that the re"etition is too fre'uent to be coincidental. In some cases, "eo"le have theori@ed that these re"eating numbers have s"ecial significance or demonstrate the influence of a deity or su"ernatural force. $lthough not strictly "art of numerology, this "erce"tion often assigns numerology&li!e attributes to the fre'uently a""earing numbers. This has led to the !" #nigma and other beliefs that s"ecific numbers are at the center of a "attern or cons"iracy. /ritics, on the other hand, dismiss such occurrences as coincidence for a number of reasons0

Peo"le are good at recogni@ing "atterns. While this hel"s "eo"le learn to read, count and recogni@e faces, it can also encourage "eo"le to inter"ret random events as "atterns. .ecause of the small number of numerals that e#ist in the world, re"etitions are inevitable. .ecause of the small number of round, s'uare or otherwise distinctive numbers in the world, re"etitions of those are inevitable as well.

The .irthday Parado#

Peo"le often e#"ress e#citement when they learn that a friend or ac'uaintance shares their birthday. However, shared birthdays are common && in a grou" of only 2B "eo"le, there is a +; "ercent "robability that two will have the same birthday. To learn more about the birthday "arado#, chec! out The .irthday Problem from Wolfram *ath World or our 'uestion of the day on the sub ect.

These criticisms can also a""ly to the "ractice of numerology. <or e#am"le, some "ractitioners say they see their numbers everywhere, and that this confirms that numerology is real. However, according to critics, the fre'uent a""earance is coincidental. In addition, critics "oint out that "eo"le are li!ely to remember seeing their numbers and forget seeing other numbers. In other words, a "erson whose number is seven will remember seeing lots of sevens while disregarding all the si#es, eights and other numbers he encounters. Peo"le are also more li!ely to remember the numerical attributes that a""ly to them while disregarding the ones that don't. This "henomenon is !nown as confirmation bias. .ut the biggest criticism of numerology is that it's based on an invented system of counting. This system develo"ed to allow "eo"le to count ob ects in grou"s of ten, most li!ely because most "eo"le have ten fingers on which to count. Aven the Anglish words for numbers, which come from %ld Anglish,

reflect these grou"ings of ten. 8Aleven8 means 8one left,8 and 8twelve8 is an abbreviation of 8two left.8 However, this system, !nown as a base$%& system, isn't the only && or even necessarily the oldest && system of counting. Indigenous tribes in $ustralian, (ew Guinea, $frica and >outh $merica develo"ed number systems that counted in "airs. )ather than one, two, three, four, five, si#, these "rogressed more along the lines of one, two, two "lus one, two twos, two twos "lus one, three twos. >ome societies also used base&92 and base&,;, which we still use to tell time. In other words, numerology, li!e astrology, is based on an invented system that "eo"le develo"ed to better organi@e the ob ects around them. While "eo"le often find such systems hel"ful on a s"iritual or emotional level, there's no scientific evidence to "rove that the system really wor!s the way "ractitioners say it does.