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Above: the skyline of Manhattan at dusk. New York's number is three - representing pride, ambition and love of pleasure, but an inability to take ideas and people seriously for long. An apt description of the glittering capital of American finance and fashion?

The ancient art of interpreting numbers answers to a deep-seated human need to find meaning in even the most commonplace things and events HILDI HAWKINS explains the procedures and theories of the numerologists

Durer's Melancholia
Above: a magic square - a number array in which rows, columns and diagonals add up to the same total - is shown behind the gloomy figure in Dürer's engraving Melancolia (1514). Such squares, epitomising the mystical properties of numbers, have often been used as magic talismans

CAN NUMBERS REVEAL the future? Or show the hidden aspects of a person's character? Practitioners of the ancient art of numerology believe they can.
Numerology is a method of making names, dates or events correspond to numbers - generally between one and nine, although sometimes 11 and 22 are included in the system. Each number has a certain significance: William Shakespeare corresponds to five, the number of versatility and resourcefulness.
The correspondence is established by a very simple identification of the letters of the alphabet with numbers according to the 'Hebrew system', as numerologists call it (see table).

To find your number, simply write down the number corresponding to each letter of your name, and add them together. If the resulting number is over nine, add up its digits and keep doing this until the result is less than 10. For instance, the letters of the name Charlotte Brontë add to five (Charlotte - 3+5+1+2+3+7+4+4+5 = 34; Brontë=2+2+7+5+4+5 =25; 34+25= 59;5+9=14; 1+4=5.)

If the digits corresponding to your name add up to one, you are probably a dominant kind of person, a leader. 'Ones' are pioneers, inventors, designers - but they often put their plans into practice with little regard for the way they will affect the people most directly involved. They tend to dominate everyone they meet, they rarely have close friends and are sometimes, despite their confident appearance, very lonely people.

Two is interpreted by modern numerologists as the number of passive, receptive people. 'Twos' are quiet, unambitious, gentle, kind, tidy and conscientious. They often get their own way, however, by gentle persuasion rather than force. They are inclined to be hesitant, to make problems for themselves by putting off decisions for no good reason, and this quality can lead them into difficult situations.

The 'Hebrew' numerological system

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Three is one of the most extrovert numbers, belonging to intelligent, creative and witty people, who generally make friends easily and seem to succeed at anything to which they turn their hands. They are proud, ambitious and pleasure-loving, but their great weakness lies in their inability to take anything - ideas or people - seriously for very long.

Four, like two, is a number corresponding to dependable, down-to-earth people. They are born organisers. They lack the volatility of 'ones' and 'threes', but they make up for this by their fairness and meticulous attention to detail. They may be subject to sudden irrational rages or depressions that seem extraordinary in people who are usually models of calmness, Four has traditionally been regarded by numerologists as the number of ill-luck; people whose number is four often seem to pay dearly for any success they achieve in life.

Five is the number of bright, fast-moving, clever, impatient people. They live on their nerves, and love meeting people and seeking out new experiences. They are often physically attractive but rather feckless, hating to be tied down. Five is the number that represents sex (the digits of which also add up to five), and people whose number is five often have varied and exciting love-lives, often problematic. Sometimes the sexual side of their nature shows itself in excesses or perversions.

Shakespeare People whose names correspond to five are said to be clever and fast-moving, though feckless. Numerologists find confirmation in eminent people as diverse as Shakespeare (left), whom Coleridge called 'our myriad-minded Shakespeare', and Charlotte Bronte (below), who has been described as presenting the condition of women in early 19th-century England with an unprecedented 'frankness and ardour.'
C Bronte

People whose number is six are among the happiest of the whole numerological system. They are happy, tranquil, well-balanced and home-loving. They are affectionate, loyal, sincere and conscientious. They are not uncreative; many of them are successful in the performing arts. The negative aspect of their character is their tendency to be rather fussy, conceited and self-satisfied.

Seven is the number of the loner, the introspective scholar, philosopher, mystic or occultist. These people tend to stand aside from the mainstream of life, content to observe it. They are dignified, self-controlled and reserved. They tend to be indifferent to worldly wealth but, while they may seem aloof and stand-offish, make loyal friends. Despite their powerful intellects, they are often surprisingly bad at putting their thoughts into words, and may even dislike discussing them if they feel their ideas are being challenged.

Eight represents worldly success, and people who have this number often make successful businessmen, politicians or lawyers. Their success is, however, often built on a great deal of hard work, which is often done at considerable expense to their warmer, more human qualities. They often seem to be hard, egocentric and grasping; but there can be, behind the unsympathetic exterior, a whimsical streak that endears them to other people.

Nine stands for the height of intellectual and spiritual achievement. People whose number is nine are the idealists, the romantics, the visionaries - poets, missionaries, doctors, religious teachers, brilliant scientists. Their great qualities are their unselfishness, their self-discipline and their determination. Their idealism is concerned with mankind as a whole - in their everyday lives they may be inclined to seek the limelight,and to be fickle friends or lovers.

Nightingale Eleven is the number of those with a strong sense of vocation from leaders such as Churchill (right) to reformers such as Florence Nightingale ( left).

Some numerologists also employ the numbers 11and 22. They believe that these numbers represent a higher plane of experience than the numbers one to nine. Eleven is the number of those who experience revelations and suffer martyrdom; those with names that add up to this number are often people with a strong vocation for their work - preachers, doctors, nurses or teachers. They tend to prefer ideas to real people.

Twenty-two is the 'master' number: people whose names add to 22 combine the best qualities of all the other numbers.
Apply this procedure to the name you were given at birth and you will find, numerologists claim, the characteristics you were born with and that will underlie your personality throughout your life; apply it to the name you apply to yourself, or would like to have, and you will discover how your experiences in the world have moulded your personality. Using a nickname, you will be able to ascertain what your friends think of you. Comparing her maiden and married names, a married woman can find out how married life has changed her.

The total of vowel numbers in your name is your heart number, which shows your inner character; the total of consonants is your personality number, which indicates your outward personality, or the impression you make on the people around you. (This distinction is derived from Hebrew, in which only the consonants of any word are actually written down; the vowels are therefore 'hidden', and represent the aspects of the personality that are not outwardly apparent.)

Like the character types suggested by the sign of the zodiac you were born under, the traits indicated by these numbers are to be regarded as indicating a general type, not a detailed description. But that people whose names add to the same number share certain personality traits can be supported with numerous examples: the letters of the names Winston S. Churchill, Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Florence Nightingale, for instance, all add to 11 - the number of those with strong vocations.

Einstein Einstein (left) called himself a 'lone traveller'. What Picasso (below) was told by his mother could be said of any of them; 'if you become a soldier you'll be a general. If you become a monk you'll end up as the Pope'.

The same technique can be applied to the names of cities, and many of the results seem to confirm the beliefs of numerologists. London adds up to five, indicating manysidedness and resilience; New York to three, indicating brilliance and glitter. The ancient cities of Oxford and Cambridge both have the number seven - the number of the aloof, inward-turned scholar .

But the ridiculous extremes to which numerology can be taken are indicated by the prediction of an American numerologist that, since Oakland, California, shares the number nine with Chicago, it will one day suffer a great fire, as did Chicago in 1871.
Numerology extends to the character of a year, a decade or a century. The present century carries the number one (1+9+0+0=10; 1+0=1) and, according to numerologists, should be an ebullient time of invention and discovery dominance and subjugation. All of this could be said to be true, although (here lies the weakness of the loose collection of attributes associated with each number) it could he regarded as equally true of the 19th century.
The year 1979 was characterised by the number eight 1+9+7+9=26; 2+6=8). According to numerologists, it should have been a year when financial and political matters went exceptionally well. The 19805 are the ninth decade and should be charactensed by nine, with great achievements in the arts and the world of learning.
Past decades are depicted by numerologists as confirming their theories: the brilliant 1920s, a 3-decade, followed by the more subdued 1930s, overshadowed in its latter half by the threat of war; the recovery of confidence of the 19405 and the self-assurance of the 6-decade of the 1950s; the dreaming withdrawal into mysticism of the 1960s, characterised by the number seven, and the hardening up of attitudes in the money-conscious 1970s, reflected in its number, eight. But this appropriateness is in the eye of the beholder: for example, some might view the 1950s, which saw the appearance of the H-bomb and rock'n'roll, and the intensification of the cold war, as badly represented by six (happy, tranquil, balanced).
Numerologists believe that numbers can be used to suggest beneficial courses of action. If your number is seven, for example, you should take care to make difficult decisions or perform important tasks on days of the month that add up to seven: the seventh, the 16th and the 25th. People whose names add up to eight should eat plenty of oranges, since the word oranges adds up to eight -but presumably never a single orange at a time! Certain years, too, can be good or bad for an individual; to find your year-number, add your month and date of birth to the current year: 1981, for instance, is a 9-year for someone born on 24 February 1956 (24+2+ 1981 =2007; 2+0+0+7=9), indicating it is a year of high spiritual and intellectual achievement.

Why should the numerological system work? Numerologists are quick to point out instances that seem to show the importance of number, such as the career of Louis xiv of France, He came to the throne in 1643, which adds up to 14; he died in 1715, which adds up to 14, at the age of 77 - which adds up to 14, But is this any more than coincidence?
Numerologists counter this question by claiming that there is no such thing as coincidence. They believe the Universe is like a vast harp with countless strings, each vibrating at a certain rate, characterised by a number. Number, they believe, is at the root of all things and they point out that science has found that light, sound, atomic structure and many other things are dependent on frequency, or number. But what of the objection that, even if this view of the Universe is correct, basing the system on a person's name must be wrong, since the naming of a child is largely a matter of the personal tastes and whims of the parents? The numerologists have their answers ready; as Florence Campbell, an American, explains:
The Soul has taken many journeys in the past and knows its present needs. The Soul wants progress upwards on the Great Spiral and chooses for the incarnating ego the vowels whose total shall accomplish this purpose. There is a long 'Dark Cycle' before the child is born, and during this Dark Cycle the vibrations that are to label the new life are so impressed upon the subconscious minds of the parents that they are compelled to carry out the plan.
In other words, the numerologist believes that the name each person carries is no accident, that it tells something significant about its bearer, in a code to which the numerologist has the key.

On page 1326: how Greeks, Jews and Christians believed number underlay all reality

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Unexplained p1301 File Info: Created 10/8/2003 Updated 28/12/2015  Page Address: