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Oliver St. John is the author of fifteen books covering Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, the Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of the Thelemic Magical Collegium, Ordo Astri, and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The True Significance of 666

This article is from the Appendices, The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity.

Popular culture abounds with references to the mysterious number 666, which appeared at the end of the biblical book of St. John’s Revelation or Apocalypse. The number has been subject to much quasi-mystical and scholastic speculation. Fiction has it that there is something singularly evil about this trinity of sixes—as though a number could possess moral values! Mark Twain famously wrote that “truth is stranger than fiction”. Truth often takes a little effort to arrive at, whereas blindly repeating fictitious notions does not. Once a thing is said often enough it comes to be regarded as a fact.

What, then, is the true significance of 666? To put it poetically, as well as Qabalistically, it is a flower blooming in the desert at night. The true significance of any-thing is in pure meditation. A Gnostic word for meditation is zomah (ZMH), which translates as “meditation, thought, imagination, knowledge.” The English word “meditation” is derived from a Latin verb, meditari, which has the root meaning of “measure”. The measure of a thing can be a key to its true significance, hence, “He that hath wisdom shall count the number” in the biblical book of Revelation. We will get on to how to “count the number of the beast” in a moment.

Numbers are more than the expression of a quantity of things; they are pure ideas, things in themselves. The number 6 will always be the number 6; it will never be 7 or 8 no matter where we are or how we think about it. When any idea, object, person or creature is considered as a separate thing in itself it is meaningless; this gives rise to all notions of hell. The true significance of hell is separation. No thing can be known unless other things are brought in to “measure” it. When all things are measured or added together then the sum total of knowledge is truly significant or beautiful. When each thing is loved and understood, knowledge becomes wisdom. Love is about the relationship of things. The meaning and significance of any object only becomes apparent when it is known by another.

For those not moved into a rapture by the consideration of numbers as pure ideas, or by the poetry latent in that branch of Hermeticism called the Holy Qabalah, then there is the plain or literal significance.[1] This is where the counting comes in:
6 x 6 = 36

Now we can add together all the numbers between 1 and 36:

∑ (1–36) = 666

If we divide 666 by 6:

666 ÷ 6 = 111
The number 111 is the number of Aleph spelled in full: ALP = 111. Aleph is the Fool of Tarot or Spirit of Aethyr, and the beast (“ox”) that pulls the plough—the Energy of the Work. All this was worked out and calculated in ancient times and shown by use of a Kamea or Magic Square. The Kamea of the number 6 has 36 squares, 6 x 6. When we add each row or column, even the diagonal, it always adds to 111. If we add every number in the Kamea, we get 666. The number 666 is a trinity or triangulation of 6, as the number repeats three times. The triangle is the measure of two other points and is the means of understanding the true significance of anything.

On the Qabalistic Tree of Life—which is Platonic, a decimal system based on the Pythagorean Tetractys—the 6th number or divine emanation corresponds to the Sun as the centre of our immediate universe and is called Tiphereth, “Beauty” or “Harmony”. The Kamea of the number 6 is therefore the Kamea of the Sun.

The first three connecting paths or Intelligences of the Hermetic Tree of Life—Aleph, Beth and Gimel—add to 666 Qabalistically. As the word of the magical Beast or Logos the number has an affinity with Chokmah or Wisdom, traditionally the second sephira on the Hermetic Tree at the pinnacle of the pillar of Force. The number 2 is in turn reflected on the path of Beth, the House of the Magus—whose ability to create forms is derived from the light that has its source in Chokmah, and which is projected into the dark womb of Binah along the 14th path of Daleth. There is a Tree in every sphere, and it is the Tree of Tiphereth—the Son (or Sun) of Chokmah and Binah—that is the Tree of Eternity, the Tree of Life.

Kamea of the Sun form The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity

Here is the Kamea of the Sun. “He that hath wisdom shall count the number of the beast”. The number of the beast is also the number of a man because to know the spiritual Sun that is veiled by the material fire of the solar system, man must do a Great Work. The great sacrifice required for that lofty accomplishment is that of giving time to meditation until the cessation of chaotic thoughts gives rise to a flower blooming in the desert at night.


[1] See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth (Ordo Astri).