The True History of Numerology

One of the worst lies perpetrated by New Age gurus is that Pythagoras is responsible for what we call ‘Numerology’. Nothing could be further from the truth and, no matter how many books insist on the contrary, there simply is no factual evidence to support the claim. The prevalence of this belief really highlights the utter lack of real, scholarly research and the incestuous nature of texts published for the ‘metaphysical’ market. At best, this attempt to link the study of Numerology to an ancient source is a desperate clutch at credibility. At worst, it’s sheer dogma.

I have come across a number of sources who decry mainstream religious belief, particularly the Judeo-Christian system. These authors, so called, often point to a purported lack of historical evidence to bolster their claims. As if historical evidence really had some bearing upon a matter of faith! Yet, there is, more often than not, a lack of historical evidence in regard to their own position. I even know of a Numerologist who claims to have read everything Pythagoras has written. The fact that nothing written by Pythagoras, if there ever was anything written by Pythagoras, survives seems not to bother the writer. The major reason for such poor scholarship is a lack of real research. Most ‘new age’ writers simply reference other popular renditions of their subject and perpetuate the myths they contain. A second reason may be that some people feel that Numerology lacks credibility without an ancient and mysterious history.

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However, the real history of Numerology begins in the 20th century. Most notably with L. Dow Balliett. In her writings she does say that she was inspired by Pythagoras, or rather by what we know of his philosophy. But this is a far cry from the claims being made today. Other writers continued the trend of character analysis through number such as Julia Seton, Florence Campbell, Juno Jordan, Matthew Goodwin, and many others. This tradition continues today.

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by Jakob Steele