The Mystery of Numbers

Overview

Why is the number seven lucky - even holy - in almost every culture? 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 fascinating 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 an illuminating tour of the mysteries attributed to ...
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Overview

Why is the number seven lucky - even holy - in almost every culture? 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 fascinating 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 an illuminating tour of the mysteries attributed to numbers over the centuries. She begins with an informative and often surprising introduction to the origins of number systems: pre-Roman Europeans, for example, may have had one based on twenty, not ten (as suggested by the English word "score" and the French word for 80, quatrevingt - four times twenty), 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 knowledge: "Arabic" numerals, for instance, were picked up by Europe from the Arabs, who had earlier adopted them from Indian sources ("algorithm" and "algebra" are corruptions of the Arabic author and title names of a mathematical text prized in medieval Europe). But the heart of the book is an engrossing 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. Two, for instance, has widely been seen as a number of contradiction and polarity. And

In this fascinating book Schimmel shows that numbers have been filled with mystery and meaning since the earliest times, and across every society. She conducts an illuminating tour of the mysteries attributed to numbers and their symbolism. 45 halftones; 64 linecuts.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
YA-- This is not a math book, but rather a journey through time and cultures that focuses on the place of numbers in various human systems. As such, it is entertaining, enlightening, and may even be somewhat unsettling to those who have always dismissed mysticism and numerology as bogus. Shimmel has translated and added to Franz Carl Endres's book of the same name, broadening the scope of the German original. Her introduction, which stands by itself, is a clear, concise, and interesting survey of the history of numbers and their importance to many societies. She covers everything from the origins of our Arabic numbers to modern superstitions and number games, stopping off to explore the Gnostics, mysticism, and Islam. The author continues with a detailed description of the various meanings and symbolism associated with each individual number up to 40, and then includes assorted descriptions from 42-10,000. Each of these chapters is fascinating and includes much detail taken from religion, mythology, daily life, and scientific observation. The book is profusely illustrated with drawings, woodcuts, and designs, and there is an exhaustive bibliography in addition to an excellent index.-- Susan H. Woodcock, Potomac Library, Woodbridge, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195089196
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,196,598
  • Product dimensions: 8.25 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Annemarie Schimmel is Professor of Indo-Muslim Culture at Harvard University. A widely-respected scholar of the Near East, she has written numerous books on Islamic literature, religion, and culture.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Numbers and Number Systems 3
The Heritage of the Pythagoreans 11
Gnosis and Cabala 16
Islamic Mysticism 18
Medieval and Baroque Number Symbolism 19
Superstitions 25
Number Games and Magic Squares 27
A Little Dictionary of Numbers
One | The Number of the Primordial Being 41
Two | Polarity and Division 46
Three | The Embracing Synthesis 58
Four | The Number of Material Order 86
Five | The Number of Life and Love 105
Six | The Perfect Number of the Created World 122
Seven | The Pillars of Wisdom 127
Eight | The Auspicious Number 156
Nine | The Magnified Sacred 3 164
Ten | Completeness and Perfection 180
Eleven | The Mute Number 189
Twelve | The Closed Circle 192
Thirteen | Lucky or Unlucky? 203
Fourteen | The Number of the Helpers 209
Fifteen | A Little Lunar Number 213
Sixteen | Symbol of Wholeness 216
Seventeen | Number of Conquest 219
Eighteen | The Double Nine 222
Nineteen | The Number of the Metonic Cycle 224
Twenty | An Old Limit of Counting 226
Twenty-one | Perfection 230
Twenty-two | The Hebrew Alphabet 231
Twenty-four to Thirty-nine 235
Forty | Preparation and Completion 245
Forty-two to Sixty-six 254
Seventy and Seventy-two | Plenitude 263
Up to Ten Thousand 269
Bibliography 281
Illustration Credits 297
Index 299
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