The Enigma of Numbers (“From Three to Four – Part 2”)

Through these weekly blogs Mythfire generally aspires to do one of two things. Not infrequently, both aims can be found in a single blog post. The first is to introduce an idea from the field of analytical psychology and/or mythological studies which is perhaps new to readers and hopefully pertinent to their lives. The second is to feature a book (or books) which may be turned to for more information on the subject.

This week’s book, for instance, is Lance Storm’s The Enigma of Numbers. First published in 2008, Storm’s tome sheds significant light on the subject of last week’s post: the connection between numbers and the evolutionary stages of consciousness as experienced by both individuals and collectives. This connection includes the specific progression or evolution of consciousness discussed last week, i.e. the move from the masculine perfection-oriented doing and realizing associated with the number three to the more inclusive and whole, feminine being-orientation of the number four.

After reading last week’s post, one of Mythfire’s readers asked the following question: “Why start at three? Why stop at four? This is really Greek to me (no disrespect to Socrates).” Contrary to the impression that last week’s post may have given, Storm effectively demonstrates in his 527 page Enigma that our conscious identification with (or projection of psychological energies onto) numbers does not begin with the number three or end with four. This just happens to have been the particular dynamic, i.e. the transition from three to four, under the Mythfire microscope in the previous blog.

Storm begins his book by showing that this qualitative rather than purely quantitative understanding of numbers in fact goes back to the pre-Socratic philosopher Pythagoras who, among other things, is remembered for his tetractys, a religious or metaphysical triangular symbol the four rows of which add up to the number ten. In this spirit, Storm has written individual chapters on the numbers from zero to ten. Some of the chapter subheadings are quite suggestive of the psychodynamics that have been associated with these numbers at least since Pythagoras’ time around two-and-a-half millennia ago:

  • Zero (The Void): Something from Nothing; Zero as Negative Existence
  • One (The Monad): Unity Equals Totality; Consciousness as One and Many
  • Two (The Dyad): The Birth of  Consciousness; The Principle of Duality; The Spirit/Matter Dichotomy; The Mind/Brain Problem; The Relativity of Opposites
  • Three (The Triad): Uniting the Opposites
  • Four (The Tetrad): Number Four from the Infinitesimal to the Infinite; The Symbol Quaternio
  • Five (The Pentad): Number Five in Nature; From the Quaternity to the Quintessence
  • Six (The Hexad): Number Six as a Symbol of Harmony
  • Seven (The Heptad): Seven – A Solution to the Problem of Three and Four; Number Seven in the Bible – A Symbol of Completion
  • Eight (The Ogdoad): The ‘Timeless’ and the ‘Time-bound’ in the Ogdoad; Number Eight as a Double Quaternity
  • Nine (The Ennead): Number Nine – A Complete Number, but not Perfect
  • Ten (The Decad): Number Ten as Perfection; Pythagoras and the Tetractys

In an attempt to send home the main point of the present post, Mythfire would like to quote from Storm’s chapter devoted to the theme of last week’s post, “From Three to Four”:

  • “[Jung] went to considerable effort in his attempt to put forward the message that numbers give a certain kind of order to processes in and of the psyche. Underlying this process was the number archetype – an inherited mode of apprehension in our species that dictates the way we construct the world by ‘enumerating’ its contents. Archetypes generally refer to patterns of behavior where the instincts, for example, are given to follow certain predisposed forms of expression predetermined by these archetypes. The number archetype, therefore, forms (with the other archetypes) a ground plan or blueprint of the psychic structure.”[1]

In other words, there is absolutely nothing arbitrary in the association of particular stages of consciousness with specific numbers.  Nothing arbitrary and everything archetypal. In his other chapters, Storm demonstrates how this numerical “ground plan or blue print of the psychic structure” is evident not only in philosophy and psychology but also in music, synchronicity, numerology, astrology, the I Ching, chaos theory, physics, chemistry, and more.

No matter how enigmatic this thought might appear to some, then, numbers function not only quantitatively but qualitatively, and it is in their qualitative aspects that our “psychic structure” reveals itself time and again.


Next Tuesday: Lez Get “Real”

[1]Storm, Lance. The Enigma of Numbers. Italy: Pari Pub., 2008: 177. Also, in addition to the sources quoted in last week’s post, Marie-Louise von Franz’s Number and Time: A Unification of Depth Psychology and Physics is an important though at times dense book on the archetypal qualitative aspects of numbers, including the move from three to four. Finally, in his chapter “From Three to Four,” Storm argues that, generally speaking, the move from three to four signifies the addition of a previously excluded irrational or non-rational element to the earlier dominant rational and linear trinitarian way of being and doing. As applied more specifically to psychology and religion, this fourth element corresponds to eros which manifests individually as “an emotional, meaningful experience of relatedness” and culturally as an “aesthetic attitude” that stresses “the unity of beauty and truth” and is “content with naming human qualities or attributes without any attempt to pass judgment or win approval.”

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One Response to The Enigma of Numbers (“From Three to Four – Part 2”)

  1. Great post. Thank you. Helpful for me.

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