Numbers are all around us. We can’t see them, but they are there. Not only are they there; we depend upon them.
Think about it. Numbers determine what time of day it is. They tell us when we need to wake up for work, and when we can leave each day. They tell us the distance we will have to travel in order to get to work, or to get anywhere. Numbers tell us how fast we are going when we drive down the interstate or traverse a mall parking lot. Numbers tell us where we can find the History Channel, and at what time Vikings will be on. We gauge how many children we have, how much money we make, how much savings we have, how old we are, and how long we have been married with numbers. Many people even battle numbers every time they step on the weight scales.
In truth, there is scarcely a single aspect of life that does not involve numbers.
There is certainly a major metaphysical issue to resolve here. Chiefly, we must ask ourselves why abstract objects—objects that are neither physically nor concretely detectable—correspond with essentially everything in our physical, concretely-detectable world. But that is for another time. For now, I would like to evaluate just how important particular numbers are, and what they might be able to tell us about the construction of our world. Have you ever considered the numbers three and seven?
Let’s start with seven. There are seven continents on planet Earth. There are seven Wonders of the Modern World, seven Wonders of the Ancient World, seven Natural Wonders of the World, and other debated lists of seven “wonders”. There are seven days in a week. Clearly, the most famous religious text in all of history—the Bible—discusses its share of sevens. Seven shows up in such things as the days of the creation narrative, the days that the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho, the three-fold series of seven visions (seals, bowls of wrath, and trumpets) in the book of Revelation, Jesus’ seven “signs and discourses” in the Gospel of John, and many, many others.
In more modern times, we can see that there are seven numbers that comprise a phone number. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that seven digits was a logical step from the previous four-digit number sequence because it allowed a much greater range of combinations as more and more people began to use a telephone. Eventually seven wasn’t enough, and so a three-digit area code was added to front of each phone number. Imagine that: three plus seven. But there is a more intriguing reason why seven is a suitable figure for something like a telephone number. It turns out that countless studies have shown that the longest sequence of numbers that most of us can recall at the spur of the moment is seven. When psychologist George Miller made this discovery 1956, he dubbed this limit the “magical number seven”. This corresponds with the reality that the brain’s short-term memory can hold about seven chunks of information. Magic it is, George. The number seven is built into the way our brains function.
While the number seven is quite notable within the history of our planet, the number three has been considerably more prevalent. In ancient architecture, the Pyramids at Giza are perhaps the most well-known of the building projects in all of history, and there are three of them. These pyramids align with Orion’s Belt, which is made up of three major stars within the constellation. Both the Hopi Mesas and the pyramid complex in Teotihuacán also align with Orion’s Belt. Bear in mind that the Hopi Mesas are found in Arizona and that Teotihuacán is located in Mexico. This means that ancient civilizations from Egypt, North America, and South America shared both a fascination with the number three and an advanced understanding of astronomy. Pyramids are of course triangular in shape, so they have three sides.
The number three also shows up in some of the world’s most prominent religions. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, there are three great beings that collectively govern the universe— Amitābha, Avalokiteśvara, and Mahāsthāmaprāpta. If we look to the Hindu faith, we also see a very obvious connection to the number three. The three chief deities—collectively known as the “Trimurti”, or the three forms of God—are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Interestingly, Shiva is often depicted as carrying a trident (a three-pronged spear) that is roughly supposed to represent his three essential powers of will, action and knowledge. The Bible is no stranger to the number three, certainly. Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a great fish. The apostle Peter denied Jesus three times, and was later questioned by Jesus three times in accordance with the denials. Jesus was in the tomb for parts of three days. Most notably, there are three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit— that collectively comprise the Christian God, or the Trinity. Many cultures customarily give people three names, which you may note about yourself and those around you. There are three major branches of science: the natural, formal, and social sciences. There are even three branches of the United States federal government. This is just a tiny sampling of all the threes and sevens one could find when they survey the globe and human history.
Clearly, specific numbers (like seven and three) have special significance for human beings, and they always have. But how could we explain this phenomenon?
In an effort to make sense of this peculiar situation, we must first understand the full breadth of the issue. It wasn’t simply one group in history who held to the importance of specific numbers, nor were the significance of these numbers bound to only a few localities. Far from it. The vast majority of the civilized world operates on a seven-day schedule, regardless of the time-zone or continent. The ancient Egyptians were thousands of miles from the Hopi, but both shared an infatuation with employing the use of threes in their architecture. Buddhism originated thousands of miles from the birthplace of the Judeo-Christian tradition, yet they were both insistent that their divine progenitors existed in the nature of three persons or entities. The writings that form the Bible were written over a period of at least one thousand years, spanning a myriad of writing locations, and are the product of many dozens of unique authors. Yet—as you might imagine—the obsession with the numbers seven and three (twelve and forty are also quite prevalent) is ubiquitous throughout the Bible’s pages. Prophets from the 8th century B.C. (like Jonah) and fishermen living in the first century A.D. (like Peter), and all manner of people in between, shared a connection with the aforementioned numbers.
To go back for a moment, it is also important to ask how various pyramid sets of three happened to align with Orion’s Belt to begin with; no rational person doubts that this phenomenon suggests a truly mystifying understanding of both architecture and astronomy in the ancient world. Throwing that issue into the mix, we are left with a real head-scratcher. Cultures from vastly different eras and locations, who had different levels of technology and astronomical understanding, and who possessed different religious perspectives, all seemed to converge on a nearly universal agreement about the significance of the numbers three and seven. Shoot, people who live across the street from one another can scarcely agree on issues of religion, politics, or any other matter of importance!
One possible explanation for this could be that some of the earliest cultures developed fascinations with these numbers and essentially influenced those who would follow them. But that is rather easy to dismiss. The spatial and temporal separations between these cultures won’t allow that possibility. A worldwide connection simply isn’t going to arise from one regional belief, at least not one that can be seen in cultures that temporally paralleled one another. As in the case of Christianity, it would take a great deal of time to spread across the seven continents. Perhaps, then, we could suggest some sort of cosmic coincidence? No, because the inverse situation would apply and the incredible connection between these separated cultures concerning the number three (for example) would negate any possibility of raw chance or happenstance. There would be a better chance of finding the ark of covenant in the city of Atlantis, with Jimmy Hoffa buried inside. It would appear that this phenomenon cannot be accounted for by pure chance, or even by a subjective, group-think belief that rubbed off on the rest of the world. So what is left?
As Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens is often caricatured as suggesting, “I’m not saying it was aliens . . . but it was aliens.” Now, part of what I want to do on the Angel-Aliens site is to begin to truly define what we mean by terms like “extraterrestrials” or “aliens”, but for the purposes of this blog I am not concerned with definitively defining these terms. We must fight the urge to freak-out about the word “alien”, for at least a moment. Let’s look at this on a very basic level. If by the word “alien” we simply mean “a being of higher power and intelligence that is not confined to planet Earth”, then we should all be able to admit that “aliens” are indeed a possibility for the global and historical connection we see in the numbers three and seven. More than that, aliens may be the only satisfying explanation.
What else could explain the fact that very primitive cultures that were often separated by thousands of miles developed an obsession with the numbers three and seven? What else would explain the fact that humanity has emphasized these numbers since history began to be recorded, up to the present day? What else could explain the fact that the number seven seems to be hardwired into our mental makeup? What could better explain the interstellar relationships seen in the alignment of primitive, man-made pyramids and constellations in distant space?
Does it not stand to reason that an objective observer is needed in all of this? Isn’t it at least reasonably possible that a being/s who has greater knowledge of the cosmos, and an ability to communicate with human beings who lived (or live) both in vastly different locations and at vastly different times, relayed the importance of the numbers seven and three to us? If we are being completely honest, we would all have to agree that such a notion is not only reasonable, but is actually probable. But here we are again—we have to be willing to be honest, and follow the facts wherever they may lead.
Who knows: maybe this being/s even programmed these numbers (and others) into the very fabric of the cosmos.
But that issue is better left for another inquiry . . . and another blog.
Coppens, Phillip. The Ancient Alien Question: A New Inquiry Into the Existence, Evidence, and Influence of Ancient Visitors. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books, 2012.
Schenkman, Lauren. “In the Brain, Seven Is A Magic Number”. ABC News. 6 Dec. 2009. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/brain-memory-magic-number/story?id=9189664
“Why We Use 7 Digits and Other Fun Phone Facts”. Allconnect. 2 May, 2016 https://www.allconnect.com/blog/why-we-use-7-digits-and-other-fun-facts/