The Elements of the Cosmos: Numbers and Letters as Archetypes

The Elements of the Cosmos: Numbers and Letters as Archetypes

Self-published through Amazon, 2020; 124 pp., paper, $12.95.

Esotericists know that number is fundamental to the universe as we perceive it. Most important are the simple counting numbers up to ten, which constitute a set of archetypes on which our world is patterned.

There are many books on sacred number and geometry, several of them of extremely high quality, although they are usually quite detailed. For a simpler, briefer exposure to this topic, readers can consult The Elements of the Cosmos by Scenza (Peter Tourian).

The book is broken into two halves. The first deals with the numerical archetypes up to ten, showing briefly and clearly how these constitute the basis of known reality. He writes, for example:

Symbolically, the Monad bridges the gap between simplicity and complexity through the Dyad, resulting in the multiplicity represented by the Triad. However, every completed system is also a starting point for a new system, as represented by the Tetrad. The sum of these four processes [1 + 2+ 3 + 4], the Decad, is a new unity. (emphasis in the original in all quotations)

The author goes on to relate this process to the Pythagorean tetraktys and the Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered Hebrew name of God.

The second part of the book focuses on the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and their symbolic meanings. Like many authors on the subject, he bases his interpretation to some extent on etymology: dalet (ℸ), for example, comes from the Hebrew for door. “It is indeed a door, if not the door through which all manifestation occurs.” He also gives some attention to the connection between the actual sounds of the letters and their meaning.

Zayin (ז) is the seventh letter and thus associated with the number seven: “Like the Monad, [the Heptad] was called ‘virgin,’ in the sense that no other number within the Decad enters into it evenly (e.g., as 2 enters 4, or 3 enters 6) . . . Finally, of all the quantities between 1 and 9, the Heptad is the only number which cannot divide 360 evenly, the number of degrees in a circle. Hence, while it is possible to draw exact polygons based on every other single digit, it is never possible to draw a perfect heptagon.”

This last statement is not correct. In fact, a perfect heptagon can be drawn, although the formula (which can be easily found online) is more complex than for the other basic geometric figures.

As the author notes, the system on which this book is based comes from the Brotherhood of Light, or Church of Light, founded in 1932 by C.C. Zain (Elbert Benjamine, 1882–1951). This organization, which still exists, is a continuation of the nineteenth-century Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, founded by Max Theon (Louis Bimstein, c.1848–1927); many of its members came from the Theosophical Society.

As I have argued in my National Lodge course on the Tarot, I believe there are direct connections between the twenty-two regular polygons that can be inscribed in a 360-degree circle, the Hebrew letters (originally derived from the Phoenician alphabet), and the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

Although this book does not make such a correlation (and does not discuss the Tarot at all), it does point up the affinities between the simple counting numbers and the Hebrew letters, and gives an excellent introduction to sacred number in general. It is an extremely useful, intelligent, and concise introduction to its topic.

Richard Smoley