THEOSOPHY, Vol. 45, No. 3, January, 1957
(Pages 124-131; Size: 22K)

THE SYMBOLISM OF NUMBERS(1)

IV

[Part 4 of a 4-part series]

THE preceding instances and examples reveal only one small portion of the methods used to read the symbolical ideographs and numerals of antiquity. The system being of an extreme and complex difficulty, very few, even among the Initiates, could master all the seven keys. Is it to be wondered, then, that the metaphysical gradually dwindled down into the physical nature; that the Sun, once upon a time the symbol of Deity, became, as æons glided by, that of its Creative ardour only; and that thence it fell into a glyph of phallic significance?

These sacred numbers (3, 4, 7) are the sacred numbers of Light, Life, and Union -- especially in this present manvantara, our Life-cycle; of which number seven is the special representative, or the Factor number. This has now to be demonstrated.

If one happened to ask a Brahman learned in the Upanishads -- so full of the secret wisdom of old -- why "he, of whom seven forefathers have drunk the juice of the moon-plant, is trisuparna," as Bopaveda is credited with saying; and why the Somapa Pitris should be worshipped by the Brahman trisuparna, very few could answer the question; or, if they knew, they would still less satisfy one's curiosity. Let us, then, hold to what the old Esoteric doctrine teaches.

"When the first 'seven' appeared on earth, they threw the seed of everything that grows on the land into the soil. First came three, and four were added to these as soon as stone was transformed into plant. Then came the second 'Seven,' who, guiding the Jivas of the plants, produced the middle (intermediate) natures between plant and moving living animal. The third 'Seven' evolved their Chhayas. ... The fifth 'Seven' imprisoned their ESSENCE. ... Thus man became a Saptaparna." (Commentary.)

Such is the name given in Occult phraseology to man. It means a seven-leaved plant, and the name has a great significance in the Buddhist legends. So it had, also, under disguise, in the Greek "myths." The T, or tau, formed from the figure 7, and the Greek letter gamma was the symbol of life, and of life eternal: of earthly life, because gamma is the symbol of the Earth (gaia); and of "life eternal," because the 7 is the symbol of the same life linked with divine life, the double glyph expressed in geometrical figures being a triangle and a quaternary, the symbol of septenary man.

Now, the number six has been regarded in the ancient mysteries as an emblem of physical nature. For six is the representation of the six dimensions of all bodies: the six lines which compose their form, namely, the four lines extending to the four cardinal points, North, South, East, and West, and the two lines of height and thickness that answer to the Zenith and the Nadir. Therefore, while the senary was applied by the sages to physical man, the septenary was for them the symbol of that man plus his immortal soul.

Thus Number Seven, as a compound of 3 and 4, is the factor element in every ancient religion, because it is the factor element in nature. Its adoption must be justified, and it must be shown to be the number par excellence, for, since the appearance of "Esoteric Buddhism," frequent objections have been made, and doubts expressed as to the correctness of these assertions.

And here let the student be told at once, that in all such numerical divisions the One universal Principle -- although referred to as (the) one, because the Only One -- never enters into the calculations. It stands, in its character of the Absolute, the Infinite, and the universal abstraction, entirely by Itself and independent of every other Power whether noumenal or phenomenal. It "is neither matter nor spirit; It is neither Ego nor non-Ego; and It is neither object nor subject," says the author of "Personal and Impersonal God," and adds: "In the language of Hindu philosophers it is the original and eternal combination of Purusha (Spirit) and Prakriti (matter). As the Adwaitees hold that an external object is merely the product of our mental state, Prakriti is nothing more than an illusion, and Purusha is the only reality; it is the One existence which remains in the universe of Ideas. This ... then, is the Parabrahm of the Adwaitees...."

Being itself entirely out of human reckoning or calculation, yet this "huge aggregation of various states of consciousness" is a Septenate, in its totality entirely composed of Septenary groups! simply because "the capacity of perception exists in seven different aspects corresponding to the seven conditions of matter" (ibid), or the seven properties, or states, or conditions of matter. And, therefore, number 1 down to number 7 begins in the esoteric calculations with the first manifested principle, which is number one if we commence from above, and the seventh when reckoning from below, or from the lowest principle.

The Tetrad is esteemed in the Kabala, as it was by Pythagoras, the most perfect, or rather sacred number because it emanated from the one, the first manifested Unit, or rather the three in one. Yet the latter has been ever impersonal, sexless, incomprehensible, though within the possibility of the higher mental perceptions.

Plutarch explains that the Achæan Greeks regarded the tetrad as the root and principle of all things, since it was the number of the elements which gave birth to all visible and invisible created things. With the brothers of the Rosy Cross, the figure of the Cross, or Cube unfolded, formed the subject of a disquisition in one of the theosophic degrees of Peuret, and was treated according to the fundamental principles of light and darkness, or good and evil.

The Monad being one, and an odd number, the ancients therefore called the odd, the only perfect numbers; and -- selfishly, perhaps, yet as a fact -- considered them all as masculine and perfect, being applicable to the celestial gods, while even numbers, such as two, four, six, and especially eight, as being female, were regarded as imperfect, and given only to the terrestrial and infernal deities. In his eighth eclogue, Virgil records the fact by saying, "Numero deus impare gaudet," "Unequal numbers please the gods."

But number seven, or the heptagon, the Pythagoreans considered to be a religious and perfect number. It was called "Telesphoros," because by it all in the Universe and mankind is led to its end, i.e., its culmination. Being under the rule of seven sacred planets, the doctrine of the Spheres shows, from Lemuria to Pythagoras, the seven powers of terrestrial and sublunary nature, as well as the seven great Forces of the Universe, proceeding and evolving in seven tones, which are the seven notes of the musical scale. The heptad (our Septenary) was regarded "as ... proceeding directly from the Monad, which is the origin and crown of all things." And if the heptad is made to proceed from the Monad directly, then it is, as taught in the Secret Doctrine of the oldest schools, the perfect and sacred number of this Maha-Manvantara of ours.

The septenary, or heptad, was sacred indeed to several gods and was divided into seven and twice seven parts; to Apollo (the Sun), between his seven planets, and playing the hymn to the seven-rayed on his seven-stringed harp; to Minerva, the fatherless and the motherless, and others.

Cis-Himalayan Occultism with its sevening, and because of such sevening, must be regarded as the most ancient, the original of all. It is opposed by some fragments left by Neo-Platonists; and the admirers of the latter, who hardly understand what they defend, say to us: "See your forerunners believed only in triple man, composed of Spirit, Soul, and body. Behold, the Taraka Raja Yoga of India limits that division to 3, we, to 4, and the Vedantins to 5 (koshas)." To this, we of the Archaic school, ask: Why then does the Greek poet say that "it is not four but SEVEN who sing the praise of the Spiritual Sun"? He says--

Seven sounding letters sing the praise of me,
The immortal God, the Almighty deity.
Why again is the triune IAO (the Mystery God) called the "fourfold," and yet the triad and tetradic symbols come under one unified name with the Christians -- the Jehovah of the seven letters? Why again in the Hebrew Sheba is the Oath (the Pythagorean Tetraktis) identical with number 7; or, as Mr. G. Massey has it, "taking an oath was synonymous with 'to seven,' and the 10 expressed by the letter Yod, was the full number of IAO-SABAOTH, the ten-lettered God"? In Luciian's Auction, Pythagoras asks, "How do you reckon?" The reply is, "One, Two, Three, Four." "Then, do you see," says Pythagoras, "in what you conceive Four there are Ten; then, a perfect triangle and our Oath (tetraktis, four!)," or Seven. Why does Proclus say in Timaeus, "The Father of the golden verses celebrates the Tetractys as the fountain of perennial nature"?

Simply because those Western Kabalists who quote the exoteric proofs against us have no idea of the real esoteric meaning. Because all the ancient Cosmologies -- the oldest Cosmographies of the two most ancient people of the Fifth Root Race, the Hindu Aryans and the Egyptians, adding to them the early Chinese races (the remnants of the Fourth or Atlantean Race) -- based the whole of their mysteries on number 10: the higher triangle standing for the invisible and metaphysical world, the lower three and four, or the Septenate, for the physical realm. It is not the Jewish Bible that brought number seven into prominence. Hesiod used the words "The seventh is the sacred day," before the Sabbath of "Moses" was ever heard of. The use of number seven was never confined to any one nation. This is well testified by the seven vases in the temple of the Sun, near the ruins of Babion in Upper Egypt; the seven fires burning continually for ages before the altars of Mithra; the seven holy fanes of the Arabians; the seven peninsulas, the seven islands, seven seas, mountains, and rivers of India; and of the Zohar; the Jewish Sephiroth of the Seven splendours; the seven Gothic deities, the seven worlds of the Chaldeans and their seven Spirits; the seven constellations mentioned by Hesiod and Homer; and all the interminable sevens which the Orientalists find in every MS they discover.

What we have to say finally is this: Enough has been brought forward to show why the human principles were and are divided in the esoteric schools into seven. Make it four and it will either leave man minus his lower terrestrial elements, or, if viewed from a physical standpoint, make of him a soulless animal. The Quaternary must be the higher or the lower -- the celestial or terrestrial Tetraktis: to become comprehensible, according to the teachings of the esoteric ancient school, man must be regarded as a Septenary. This was so well understood, that even the so-called Christian Gnostics had adopted this time-honoured system.

The Tetragrammaton is the very essence of the number Seven, in its terrestrial significance. Seven stands between four and nine -- the basis and foundation (astrally) of our physical world and man, in the kingdom of Malkuth.

For Christians and believers, this reference to Zaccharias and especially to the Epistle of Peter ought to be conclusive. In the old symbolism, man, chiefly the inner Spiritual man is called "a stone." Christ is the corner-stone, and Peter refers to all men as "lively" (living) stones. Therefore a "stone with seven eyes" on it can only mean what we say, i.e., a man whose constitution (of "principles") is septenary.

To demonstrate more clearly the seven in Nature, it may be added that not only does the number seven govern the periodicity of the phenomena of life, but that it is also found dominating the series of chemical elements, and equally paramount in the world of sound and in that of color as revealed to us by the spectroscope. This number is the factor, sine qua non, in the production of occult astral phenomena.

The number seven is at the very root of occult Cosmogony and Anthropogony. No symbol to express evolution from its starting to its completion points would be possible without it.

In occult and Pythagorean geometry the Tetrad is said to combine within itself all the materials from which Kosmos is produced. The Point or One, extends to a Line -- the Two: a Line to a Superficies, Three; and the Superficies, Triad or Triangle, is converted into a Solid, the Tetrad or Four, by the point being placed over it. Kabalistically Kether, or Sephira, the Point, emanates Chochmah and Binah, which two, are the synonym of Mahat, in the Hindu Puranas, and this Triad, descending into matter, produces the Tetragrammaton, Tetraktys, as also the lower Tetrad. This number contains both the productive and produced numbers. The Duad doubled makes a Tetrad and the Tetrad doubled forms a Hebdomad. From another point of view it is the Spirit, Will, and Intellect animating the four lower principles.

The Square becomes the Cube when each point of the triangle becomes dual, male or female. The Pythagoreans said "Once One, Twice Two, and there ariseth a Tetrad, having on its top the highest Unit; it becomes a Pyramid whose base is a plane Tetrad; divine light resting on it, makes the abstract Cube."

The surface of the Cube is composed of six squares, and the Cube unfolded gives the Cross, or the vertical Four, barred by the horizontal Three; the six thus making Seven, the seven principles or the Pythagorean seven properties in man. See the excellent explanation given of this in Mr. R. Skinner's Source of Measures.

"Thus is repeated on earth the mystery enacted, according to the Seers, on the divine plane. The 'Son' of the immaculate Celestial Virgin (or the undifferentiated cosmic protyle -- Matter in its infinitude) is born again on Earth as the son of the terrestrial Eve, our mother Earth, and becomes Humanity as a total -- past, present and future -- for Jehovah or Jod-He-Vau-He is androgyne, or both made and female. Above, the 'Son' is the whole Kosmos; below, he is Mankind. The Triad or Triangle becomes the Tetraktys, the sacred Pythagorean number, the perfect Square and six-faced Cube on Earth. The Macroprosopus (the Great Face) is now Microprosopus (The Lesser Face); or, as the Kabalists have it, the 'Ancient of Days' descending on Adam Kadmon whom he uses as his vehicle to manifest through, gets transformed into Tetragrammaton. It is now in the lap of Maya, the Great Illusion, and between itself and the Reality has the Astral Light, the great deceiver of man's limited senses, unless Knowledge through Paramarthasatya comes to the rescue."

That is to say, the Logos becomes a Tetragrammaton; the Triangle, or the Three, becomes the Four.

It is explained further on in the Secret Doctrine that practically there are only four planes belonging to the planetary chains. The three higher planes are absolutely Arupa and outside our comprehension.

The Tetraktys by which the Pythagoreans swore, was not the Tetragrammaton, but on the contrary, the higher or superior Tetraktys. In the opening chapters of Genesis we have a clue to the discovery of this lower Tetragrammaton. We there find Adam, Eve, and Jehovah who becomes Cain. The further extension of Humanity is symbolised in Abel, as the human conception of the higher. Abel is the daughter and not the son of Eve, and symbolises the separation of the sexes; while the murder of Abel is symbolical of marriage. The still more human conception is found at the end of the fourth Chapter, when speaking of Seth, to whom was born a son, Enos, after which men began -- not, as translated in Genesis, to "call upon the Lord" -- but to be called Jod-He-Vah, meaning males and females.

The Tetragrammaton, therefore, is simply Malkuth; when the bridegroom comes to the bride on Earth, then it becomes Humanity. The seven lower Sephiroth must all be passed through, the Tetragrammaton becoming more and more material. The Astral Plane lies between the Tetrakys and Tetragrammaton.

The true Pythagorean Tetraktys was the Tetraktys of the invisible Monad, which produces the first Point, the second and the third and then retires into the darkness and everlasting silence; in other words the Tetraktys is the first Logos. Taken from the plane of matter, it is among other things, the lower Quaternary, the man of flesh or matter.

The prototypes or ideas of things exist first on the plane of Divine eternal Consciousness, and thence become reflected and reversed in the Astral Light, which also reflects on its lower individual plane the life of our Earth, recording it on its "tablets." Therefore, is the Astral Light called illusion. It is from this that we, in our turn, get our prototypes. Consequently, unless the Clairvoyant or Seer can get beyond this plane of illusion, he can never see the Truth, but will be drowned in an ocean of self-deception and hallucinations.

As stated by Pythagoras, and also in the Stanza, the Ray (the Pythagorean Monad) descending from "no-place" (Aloka), shoots like a falling star through the planes of non-being into the first world of being, and gives birth to Number One; then branching off, to the right, it produces Number Two; turning again to form the base-line it begets Number Three, and thence ascending again to Number One, it finally disappears therefrom into the realms of non-being as Pythagoras shows.

Buddha Gautama, the fourth of the Sapta (Seven) Buddhas and Sapta Tathagatas, was born according to Chinese Chronology in 1024 B.C; but according to the Singhalese chronicles, on the 8th day of the second (or fourth) moon in the year 621 before our era. The statements that at Gautama's birth, the newly born babe walked seven steps in four directions, that an Udumbara flower bloomed in all its rare beauty and that the Naga kings forthwith proceeded "to baptise him," are all so many allegories in the phraseology of the Initiates and well-understood by every Eastern Occultist. The whole events of his noble life are given in occult numbers, and every so-called miraculous event -- so deplored by Orientalists as confusing the narrative and making it impossible to extricate truth from fiction -- is simply the allegorical veiling of the truth. It is as comprehensible to an Occultist learned in symbolism, as it is difficult to understand for a European scholar ignorant of Occultism.

Carlyle once said: "A symbol is ever, to him who has eyes for it, some dimmer or clearer revelation of the God-like. Through all there glimmers something of a divine idea."


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

SCIENCE OF IMPERSONALITY

Freedom of judgment can be attained only when we learn to estimate an individual according to his own ability and character. Then we shall find, if we were to select the best of mankind, that all races and all nationalities would be represented. Then we shall treasure and cultivate the variety of forms that human thought and activity has taken, and abhor, as leading to complete stagnation, all attempts to impress one pattern of thought upon whole nations or even upon the whole world. 


--FRANZ BOAS

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(1) NOTE.--Collated from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
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