The Influence of Numbers
From the Meaning of Masonry by W.L. Wilmshurst
A man’s first entry into a Lodge is symbolical of his first entry upon the knowledge of knowing himself. His organism is symbolized by a four-square or four sided building. This is in accordance with the very ancient philosophical doctrine that four is the arithmetical symbol of everything which has manifested or physical form.
Spirit, which is unmanifested and not physical, is expressed by the number three and the triangle.
But Spirit which has so far projected itself as to become objective and wear a material form or body, is denoted by the number four and the quadrangle or square.
Hence the Hebrew name of the Deity, as worshipped in this outer world, was the great and unspeakable name of Four Letters or Tetragrammaton, whilst the cardinal points of space are also four, and every manifested thing is compound of the four metaphysical elements called by the ancients, Fire, Water, Air & Earth.
From Leaves Georgia Masonry (Grand Lodge of Georgia)
The number three is a sacred number, that mysterious number which plays so great a part in the traditions of Asia, and the philosophy of Plato, image of the Supreme Being…..to the Philosophers, the most excellent and favourite number; a mysterious type, revered by all antiquity, and consecrated in the Mysteries; wherefore there are but three essential degrees among Masons; who venerate, in the triangle, the most august mystery, that of the Sacred Triad, object of their homage and study.
Three also referred to harmony, friendship, peace, concord, and temperance; and was so highly esteemed among the Pythagoreans that they called it perfect harmony. The appearances of this mysterious number in the Masonic signs, symbols, and ceremonies are almost innumerable, and it will be a good exercise for you to see how many times you can discover this symbol in them.
Having climbed up the first three steps, and laid the foundation of your Masonic building, you see now a flight of five steps, replete also with profound meaning. For five is also a sacred number ever found in connection with two, and with seven.
Jesus is said to have fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes, and of the fragments there remained twelve baskets, that is five and seven. The five steps show on one side the five orders of architecture, and on the other the five human senses. Now when you hear of a “sacred” number, you think probably that that means nothing to you personally, but stop and consider for a moment.
This number five is engraven in your being more than once. Examine yourself, and you find five fingers, five toes, and five avenues through which the outside world can communicate with that mysterious being who sits in the center of your consciousness and receives and translates-no man knows how-the various messages carried to the brain by the nerves from the outside world.
Seven is a particularly sacred number, having appeared in the religious and philosophical system of the entire ancient world. It is also is engraved in your very being, for at the age of seven you first showed understanding, at the age of fourteen puberty is generally reached, at the age of twenty-one manhood is recognized, at the age of twenty-eight full growth attained and at the age of thirty-five, physical vigor is highest, at forty-two, this begins to decline; at forty-nine man should have reached the height of intellectual strength; and at seventy he has reached the ordinary limit of human life. These figures are not merely arbitrary, but the result of study and observation of men everywhere.
So, seven days constituted the entire period of creation, seven colours are found in the rainbow, of which three are primary; seven days in the week; seven lamps in the great candlestick of the Tabernacle and Temple; the seventh year was a Sabbath of rest, and the year after the seven times seventh year was the year of Jubilee; Jericho fell when seven priests with seven trumpets, made the circuit of the city on seven successive days-once each day for six days, and seven times on the seventh; and time is lacking to give you all instances of the use of seven in sacred literature and in the esoteric writings. “The seven eyes of the Lord,” says Zechariah, “run to and fro through the whole earth.”
The ladder of the ancients (supposed to be that which Jacob saw in his dream, with the angels ascending and descending) symbolized the seven mystic spheres: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn; down which the souls of men came in their progress towards the earth, taking from each planet its particular characteristic; and up which men must climb back towards God, leaving at each planet the earthly or lower attraction which they no longer need; the seven-fold purification being symbolized by the seven steps of King Solomon’s Temple, which also symbolized the purification mentioned in the Kabalah and the Hermetic writings.
Personally, I have frequently stated that, in my opinion, there is nothing new in Freemasonry, and when I discover writings, such as those above, I feel very blessed with the fact that these distinguished Masonic forefathers took the time to share their knowledge and understanding for the benefit of those following after them.
We are indeed privileged as recipients of that knowledge and owe them a debt of gratitude.
To me, the papers here presented, add greatly to my knowledge of the rituals and customs as practiced in the various Lodges, Chapters, etc. that I have the pleasure & privilege of participating in.