If I were an alien anthropologist, I think one of the most interesting areas of Earth Studies would be the extremely strong tendency for human beings of all times and places and types to give unusual significance to certain numbers in preference to others.
In my research I might be puzzled to discover that some numbers of significance were apparently culturally influenced, while others had strong significance in virtually all human societies. I would no doubt speculate about environmental factors as well as physiological factors, but I would probably become most fascinated with the numbers themselves.
Since I am not an alien anthropologist, however, I can tell you without reservation that the numbers do fascinate me.
The number ONE has a natural significance as a symbol for oneness and beginnings, but the only exceptional, multi-cultural significance comes from the religious idea of one God and only one God which is not shared by the majority of the world population.
TWO is very significant in those societies and philosophies that look at the world in terms of polarities or opposites, and in those (mostly ancient) religions that celebrate a First Couple as humanity's parents. Otherwise, it's pretty much just one number among others.
When we get to THREE, however, we begin to see an unusually high number of peoples giving this number strong significance in terms of philosophy, religion, economics, politics, and practical ways of dividing things.
And FOUR is even more widely used as a way of dividing almost everything. The ancient Greeks used FOUR to in the form of the basic elements of experience (Fire, Water, Air, and Earth). The more ancient Chaldeans used a base of four for their mathematics, dividing the day into four parts, and eventually turning it into a base twelve system that is still in use today for dividing time all over the world, and was used well into modern times by the English for their monetary and measuring systems. A base twelve system is still used in the USA for measuring length. And a surprising number of psychological systems are based on divisions of four types. The Hawaiians, also, have a traditional base four numbering system.
FIVE is very significant in the traditional Chinese system of numbering the elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood), and it was very significant in traditional Hawaiian healing, but apart from those and ancient Western magical traditions, I not found any widespread outstanding significance for this number.
SIX is rarely encountered as being of special significance, but SEVEN seems to be the most widely accepted, highly significant number among human beings everywhere and everywhen. It is truly amazing how many systems of all types are made up in lists of seven, how many cultures (about twenty-seven counted so far) trace their origins to the seven-starred cluster of the Pleiades (even though seven stars are not visible to the human eye), including those who have traditions about seven beings associated with them. And of course, we cannot forget the seven Huna principles and the seven habits of highly effective people.
The numbers EIGHT and NINE do not seem to be widely significant except in Western numerology, and the wide significance of TEN seems to be a modern innovation.
So where do we go from here? Into practicality, that's where. Of all the numbers mentioned, FOUR seems to have the most practical applications. Perhaps that's because it's easy to remember things in lists of four, or perhaps it's a brain-structure thing that makes it easy to remember. In any case, here is a New Year's gift for you based on the number FOUR.
I mentioned that one of the most ancient of concepts is the symbolic representation of life processes and states by Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. To superficial minds, it means only that the ancients were acquainted with the four states of matter: Plasma, Gas, Liquid, and Solid. But the meaning goes far deeper than that, and meditation on each of the four symbols and their interrelationships could reveal to you many of the secrets of life and living. They can also refer, respectively, to the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual aspects of man. For the time being, I ask you to consider them as a useful memory device for a daily Total Health practice. In these terms:
Fire = practice positive emotions.
Begin to practice this exercise of Total Health and you will begin to know what it really means to live!
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