The Mystery of Numbers

Dublin Core

Title

The Mystery of Numbers

Subject

Symbolism of numbers

Description

Why is the number seven lucky--even holy--in almost every culture? Why do we speak of the four corners of the earth? Why do cats have nine lives (except in Iran, where they have seven)? From literature to folklore to private superstitions, numbers play a conspicuous role in our daily lives. But in this book, Annemarie Schimmel shows that numbers have been filled with mystery and meaning since the earliest times, and across every society. In The Mystery of Numbers Annemarie Schimmel conducts a tour of the mysteries attributed to numbers over the centuries. She begins with an introduction to the origins of number systems: pre-Roman Europeans, for example, may have had one based on twenty, not ten, while the Mayans had a system more sophisticated than our own. Schimmel also reveals how our fascination with numbers has led to a rich cross-fertilization of mathematical knowledge: "Arabic" numerals, for instance, were picked up by Europe from the Arabs, who had earlier adopted them from Indian sources. But the heart of the book is a guide to the symbolism of numbers. Number symbolism, she shows, has deep roots in Western culture, from the philosophy of the Pythagoreans and Platonists, to the religious mysticism of the Cabala and the Islamic Brethren of Purity, to Kepler's belief that the laws of planetary motion should be mathematically elegant, to the unlucky thirteen. After exploring the sources of number symbolism, Schimmel examines individual numbers ranging from one to ten thousand, discussing the meanings they have had for Judaic, Christian, and Islamic traditions, with examples from Indian, Chinese, and Native American cultures as well. Using examples ranging from the Bible to the Mayans to Shakespeare, she shows how numbers have been considered feminine and masculine, holy and evil, lucky and unlucky.

Creator

Annemarie Schimmel

Source

Based on: Das Mysterium der Zahl by Franz Carl Endres, and entirely rewritten by Annemarie Schimmel.
Translation of: Das Mysterium der Zahl.

Publisher

New York : Oxford University Press

Text Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Book

Files

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Citation

Annemarie Schimmel, “The Mystery of Numbers,” Humanities Hub, accessed March 2, 2024, https://humanitieshub.sdsu.edu/omeka/items/show/453.