666: the Number of the Beast; and other sacred numbers.
|Angel of the Revelation by Alonso Cano|
WARNING! This posting contains religious content.
In ancient times, when the gods were seen as a vital influence in human affairs, and when inexplicable natural phenomena were considered for their psychic effect on the population, there existed a literary canon of sacred numbers of which 666 and 1080 were the most prominent.
These numbers each had a correspondence within the canon, the number 1080 corresponding with the Moon, the intuition, the unconscious mind and the female aspect, and its opposition, the number 666, corresponding with the Sun, the intellect and the will, and the generative power of the male. (On its own the number 6 corresponded with the cosmos,)
666, however, is also the number in Revelation, the apocalyptic work of St. John the Divine, and the cause of much embarrassment to the Catholic Church, by its inclusion, at the insistence of gnostic heretics, in the scriptural canon.
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred three-score and six.
Much speculation has been made by scholars and fanatics in an effort to identify the 'beast', each putting forward his own candidate and his own solution to the enigma.
The second century Bishop of Lyon, St. Irenaeus, began the fashion when he proposed TEITAN, an archaic solar diety, and LATEINOS, a word meaning 'the Latin'. His method of inquiry lay in gematria, the science of relating numbers to words whereby each letter has a numerical correspondence to any given lexicon. By calculating thus the numerical value of component letters making up a word or phrase, the numerical sum may be used to communicate a message which is deemed too subtle for direct translation.
Following the example of Irenaeus, interpretations of 666 by gematria flourished, and in the 18th century a group of protestant theologians proposed the number referred to the POPE. There is indeed a phrase: "I am God on earth", which, when calculated in the Greek, gives 666. Also "the Pope of Rome" has the number of the beast, the latter favoured by Lord Napier, the Scottish inventor of logarithms.
Of course in our own secular age, in which prophesy and revelation are frowned upon, it is perhaps not surprising that apocalyptic interpretors should suggest that the numbers refers not to the Pope but to the ROMAN EMPEROR NERO, since "Neron Caesar" in the Hebrew letters also has the value of 666.
In Revelation St. John refers to two beasts, the First Beast 'whose deadly wound was healed', and the Second Beast that 'causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast... saying that they should make an image of the beast, which has the wound by the sword, and did live'. To some this refers to the wounded and crucified man, set up as an idol of compulsory worship and used as an instrument of tyranny. The gematria evidence is found is St. John's phrase "an image of the beast", which in the Greek gives 2260, the number belonging to the ANTICHRIST and the SON OF MAN.
In defence, it should be said that all hierarchies need an element of 666, since it relates to the masculine aspect and is therefore a symbol of strength and materialism. But the aim of good authority should be to balance the various demands made it upon, which would mean tempering 666 with the feminine influence of 1080. This is demonstrated by adding together the two numbers to give 1746, the number of "the grain of mustard seed", which is the symbol of cosmic unity in which all is possible.
But finally maybe it's all just playing with numbers. As was once humorously pointed out, if English letters are given numbers where A = 100, B = 101, C = 102, etc., the number of HITLER is 666.