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The Myths of Numerology

by Johann Heyss

Although widely known, numerology is one of the most misinterpreted esoteric systems. Everybody knows that tarot and other cards can be used both for serious self-knowledge processes and silly future readings. Astrology can be a tool for meditation and personal growth, but every newspaper has some inane horoscope section that makes no sense for serious astrologers and astrology students. But, regrettably, numerology is usually taken as some kind of superstition and many people think that it is about changing the name to guarantee great success in life and choosing the right numbers to make one win the lottery, and even that Pythagoras created himself the numerological system currently used in the Western world.

In this article I would like to shed some light on such concepts.

The Myth of Changing the Name

Numerology is commonly associated to changing the name. However, nothing could be more derogative regarding the true potential of numerology than the concept that somehow changing the name would operate miracles in one’s life and personality. That is like building castles of sand. Of course, numerology does not operate miracles and the mere modification of a name causes no effect at all, neither positive or negative, in people’s lives.

You may be asking yourself now what would be the origin of such concepts. As a matter of fact, various branches of esoteric knowledge suggest that one’s name reflects one’s personality, as much as a mirror reflects an image and our DNA code indicates (that is, reflects) our biological potential. The name does not cause anything; nobody is the way he or she is due to his or her name. The name is rather a hint, an indication, a source of identification of personalities and their potential. Therefore, the faith of changing the name as a means to personal development is exactly that: a faith. And faith is superstition’s neighbor and self-indulgence’s sister. Much like everything in our dualistic world, faith is a double-edged sword, so those who believe that a change of name would open the doors of success are likely to achieve such success rather because of the self-confidence generated by the faith on the so-called “numerological” process of changing the name.

But still, there is a battle between faith and reason, which can make for blowing faith down along with the comfort and security that it may offer to some people, but also for awakening people and then saving them from superstition and ignorance. Therefore, when someone changes the name after getting numerological advice but does not really believe in it, there will be no progress. It is quite obvious that changing the name is rather some sort of psychological crutch: it works only for those who believe in it.

Notwithstanding, numerology is not really superstition, at least not when properly used, and I think that people should have free access to the truth – which is a work in progress, indeed, for no truth is absolute and immutable. What can really do well for people who use numerology to change their names is merely their faith on the process, and not the process per se.

In other words, this is nothing but placebo effect, like when doctors prescribe innocuous medicine to patients who think they are taking actual drugs for their condition. Some people put so much faith on doctors and medicines that their bodies just happen to cure themselves out of faith. Of course, it does not work for everybody. However, when one signs an altered name with enough faith, good things will start to happen out of such faith, and not surprisingly. But then, is it right to fool people by denying their self-power and attributing their development to some mysterious numerological process? I don’t think so…

Some people ask me why I changed my name, then. Well, Johann Heyss is actually a stage name, or a pen name, that I adopted when I started making music, for reasons that have nothing to do with numerology. My register name, by the way, is Alexandre, and I have no problem whatsoever with it. Mine was a case of changing the name for performance and aesthetic reasons related only to the kind of music I started doing.

Anyway, I would like to stress that everybody who is considering changing their name or signature to have success and good luck should better study their numerological charts with careful attention so as to identify and stimulate their potential for success, as well as recognize and mitigate the inherent traps of personality and destiny.

The Myth of Pythagorean Numerology

Pythagoras of Samos lived about 2600 years ago. We all heard of him at math classes in school, but people who study philosophy and esotericism know that Pythagoras was not only a mathematician but a mystic, a true seeker who studied natural and occult laws. The Greek philosopher had indeed researched both the mathematical and symbolical properties of numbers, and his spiritual take on numbers originated the term “Pythagorean numerology”.

Well, then. Before elaborating this, I ask: is numerology – and esotericism as a whole, for that matter – mere superstition? I say no, for if that was the case there would be no system, no studying, no information, and no technique. Superstition is born out of ignorance. It is irrational and a trap to people’s intelligence. When one avoids a black cat or fear number thirteen one is surrendering to primitive and anti-evolutional forces. This is not what numerology and esotericism are about, not at all.

All human knowledge, regardless scientific, artistic, philosophical or technical, must be under constant evolution and development. Medicine still praises Hippocrates – also Greek – as the Father of Medicine, but it would be insane sticking to many of his statements and practices. Physicians do not take Hippocrates’s work as a dogma; medicine is always under reformation, research and development, as all knowledge is and should be. Also art and philosophy are under permanent development process.

It should be the same when it comes to esotericism. Although it is neither a science nor an art, esotericism lies in between them, and there is not a reason why esoteric systems could not or should not be under constant revision and being updated and expanded. Regrettably, esoteric systems are often linked to “channeling”, “tradition” and other forms of crystallization. However, now is the time to expand such knowledge in all its branches. Practice and research must to be overwhelmed by tradition.

That said, here is the question: What is Pythagorean numerology after all?

There is just one answer: there is not such a thing. Let’s see: the basis of numerology is the Latin alphabet as associated to numbers. Sure enough Pythagoras did not work with the Latin alphabet, and he did not develop the technique or the calculations for the numerology chart. At least there is no evidence of that, even because Pythagoras did not leave any written works; all we know about him comes either from his disciples or detractors. However, the Greek alphabet, as much as the Hebrew one, has the same symbols for both numbers and letters – that is, Greek alpha is both the first letter and number as well as Hebrew aleph. Such concept is essential to numerology, as when linking letter A and number 1, letter B and number 2, and so on. The origin of such concept is the gematria; a cabbalistic discipline – see next topic in this article – and not Pythagoras.

I believe that some people want to associate Pythagoras to numerology as an attempt to legitimate it, which obviously makes no sense: supporting historical inaccuracies does not say much for any system or knowledge. Actually those very inaccuracies make for clearing the path for predicting the future and changing the name to get lucky and numerology just does not need that. Numerology is a tool to self-knowledge, neither a form of superstition nor source of “magical”, instant solutions for life problems.

So there is but one conclusion: there is no “Pythagorean numerology”, but simply numerology.

The Myth of Cabalistic Numerology

As seen above, numerology comes from cabala, although it is not really part of it. Cabala is a Jewish system of mysticism, but it is still regarded as a very rational system due to its approach and structure. Cabala is part of the oral Jewish tradition and its origin is uncertain. One of the first books on the subject is Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation), which dates back from century VI. Another important book is the Bahir (Enlightening), first published in 1176. However, the most regarded work of Jewish mysticism is the Zohar (Splendor), published by a Jew named Moses de Leon, who allegedly found the originals of such book, which was supposedly wrote by a rabbi named Shimon bar Yohai. That, however, had later proved to be false: Moses de Leon wrote the book himself and made up that story to grab attention to his work. Regardless the fraud, the Zohar had influenced and still influences the cabalists – those who study the cabala. For many of them, regardless of who wrote the book, its contents are valid enough.

The cabalists use the Tree of Life to display their philosophy. Such tree is nothing but the “tree of knowledge” as quoted in the Bible, Genesis. The role of number in the Tree of Life is critical, since the tree disposes the emanations that unveil the links between man and divinity. Each emanation, or sephira, is represented by a given number, which represents itself some specific concept. There are ten sephirot, or emanations from God, divided in three pillars and thirty-two paths that connect the sephirot. Such paths are represented by Hebrew letters/words, and this is the first link between numerology and cabala, for the concept of turning letters into numbers comes from the Hebrew system, which combines letters and numbers in just one symbol – just like the Greek alphabet.

Gematria is a cabalistic technique for adding the letters/numbers in order to get an essential number to represent some word or name. According to it, names and words with the same numerical value would be connected. In other words, gematria would be the Jewish numerology, therefore working only for words and names in that language – one more reason why there is not such a thing as “cabalistic numerology” but rather gematria.

However, there are different valid numerological systems, all them based in their own original culture, like Chinese numerology, Chaldean numerology, Celtic numerology and others.

Final word

This article is based on extensive practice and research. Feel free to express your opinions and ask questions (see e-mail below).


Johann Heyss is a Brazilian numerologist, writer and musician. He is author of three books: “Initiation into Numerology” (published by Red Wheel Weiser in the USA, Nova Era in Brazil and Windpferd in Germany), “The Book of Numbers” (published in Germany and Brazil, and in the Czech Republic by Fontana) and “The Thoth Tarot” (published in Brazil). He has also released three albums as a musician and there are music and video available for download at his site, www.johannheyss.com.  Johann is constantly giving lectures and workshops on numerology and Thoth tarot. johann.heyss@gmail.com

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