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Numbers, Their Occult Power and Mystic Virtues

William Wynn Westcott

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This is a review of number lore by William Wynn Westcott, an esoteric author of the 19th century. He includes information on the Pythagoreans and the Kabbalah. Westcott had a grasp of a wide range of occult correspondences, and this short book includes many rare snippets of information.

This book has 124 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1911.

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Excerpt from 'Numbers, Their Occult Power and Mystic Virtues'

The school of Pythagoras had several peculiar characteristics. Every new member was obliged to pass a period of five years of contemplation in perfect silence; the members held everything in common, and rejected animal food; they were believers in the doctrine of metempsychosis, and were inspired with an ardent and implicit faith in their founder and teacher. So much did the element of faith enter into their training, that "autos epha"—"He said it"—was to them complete proof. Intense fraternal affection between the pupils was also a marked feature of the school; hence their saying, "my friend is my other self," has become a by-word to this day. The teaching was in a great measure secret, and certain studies and knowledge were allotted to each class and grade of instruction: merit and ability alone sufficed to enable anyone to pass to the higher classes and to a knowledge of the more recondite mysteries. No person was permitted to commit to writing any tenet, or secret doctrine, and, so far as is known, no pupil ever broke the rule until after his death and the dispersion of the school.

We are thus entirely dependent on the scraps of information which have been handed down to us from his successors, and from his and their critics. A considerable amount of uncertainty, therefore, is inseparable from any consideration of the real doctrines of Pythagoras himself, but we are on surer ground when we investigate the opinions of his followers.

It is recorded that his instruction to his followers was formulated into two great divisions—the science of numbers and the theory of magnitude. The former division included two branches, arithmetic and musical harmony; the latter was further subdivided into the consideration of magnitude at rest—geometry, and magnitude in motion—astronomy.

The most striking peculiarities of his doctrines are dependent on the mathematical conceptions, numerical ideas, and impersonations upon which his philosophy was founded.

The principles governing Numbers were supposed to be the principles of all Real Existences; and as Numbers are the primary constituents of Mathematical Quantities, and at the same time present many analogies to various realities, it was further inferred that the elements of Numbers were the elements of Realities. To Pythagoras himself it is believed that the natives of Europe owe the first teaching of the properties of Numbers, of the principles of music, and of physics; but there is evidence that he had visited Central Asia, and there had acquired the mathematical ideas which form the basis of his doctrine. The modes of thought introduced by Pythagoras, and followed by his successor Jamblicus and others, became known later on by the titles of the "Italian school," or the "Doric school."

The followers of Pythagoras delivered their knowledge to pupils, fitted by selection and by training to receive it, in secret; but to others by numerical and mathematical names and notions. Hence they called forms, numbers; a point, the monad; a line, the dyad; a superficies, the triad; and a solid, the tetrad.

Intuitive knowledge was referred to the Monad type.

Reason and causation „ „ Dyad type.

Imagination (form or rupa) „ „ Triad type.

Sensation of material objects „ „ Tetrad type.

Indeed, they referred every object, planet, man, idea and essence to some number or other, in a way which to most moderns must seem curious and mystical in the highest degree.

"The numerals of Pythagoras," says Porphyry, who lived about 300 A. D., "were hieroglyphic symbols, by means whereof he explained all ideas concerning the nature of things," and the same method of explaining the secrets of nature is once again being insisted upon in the new revelation of the "Secret Doctrine," by H. P. Blavatsky.

"Numbers are a key to the ancient views of cosmogony—in its broad sense, spiritually as well as physically considered, and to the evolution of the present human race; all systems of religious mysticism are based upon numerals. The sacredness of numbers begins with the Great First Cause, the One, and ends only with the nought or zero—symbol of the infinite and boundless universe." "Isis Unveiled," vol. ii. 407.

Tradition narrates that the students of the Pythagorean school, at first classed as Exoterici or Auscultantes, listeners, were privileged to rise by merit and ability to the higher grades of Genuini, Perfecti, Mathematici or the most coveted title of Esoterici.

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