the symbolism of numbers

The following is an extract from the introduction of a new book by Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée, The Symbolism of Numbers in Traditional China.                                                                                                                                                                             

Numbers, expressions of One

Numbers are agents of the production of the world, from the heart of the One. They symbolize an organization which is perceptible to us and understood by us, and which the human mind imposes on the universe in a process of constant transformation. They function as the operators of cosmic life in perpetual evolution.

Everything takes shape through addition and multiplication, through an accumulation of the quantities which can ultimately be measured and weighed, reflecting the image of the development of an embryo during gestation. These measurements, which assume the use of numbers, make the structure, principles and workings of life intelligible. The amount which can be measured, and which is assumed to have a shape, belongs to earth. The structure, the preexisting organization, which controls the shape to be taken, belongs to heaven.

Numbers therefore control heaven/earth from the point at which heaven exercises its control over earth; the instruments of that control are the natural laws expressed through numbers (shu 數). They are the most purified expression of the invisible structure of the universe, the way of heaven, perceptible in its earthly manifestations. They show the way in which this order is to be understood, how it is to be adhered to and how we should behave as a result.

Thus it is through numbers that the living world becomes comprehensible. Numbers indicate the level of reality at which we speak; each level is a different quality of qi manifesting itself. It could be said that each number expresses an individual potentiality which it gives to the entities which it controls, and that each number imparts a common quality to the series it controls.

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