Albert G. Mackey on The Mystical Meaning of Numbers
Provided by the Oklahoma Chapter and Council Education E-Newsletter (https://okyorkrite.com/)
Extracted from the It’s Monitorial Column in the July 2021 Issue
The following monitorial instructions on the Select Master degree appear on pp. 59-61 of “Cryptic Masonry: A Manual of the Council” by Albert G. Mackey.
Of all the superstitious notions which prevailed among the ancient philosophers, there was none more prevalent than that which attributed a mystical meaning and a divine virtue to numbers. Nor did the idea die with antiquity. It was a favorite theory of many of the Christian Fathers, and even as late as the sixteenth century we find Cornelius Agrippa asserting that “there lies wonderful efficacy and virtue in numbers, as well for good as for evil.” [De Occulta Philosophia, Lib. II. Cap. iii.] The doctrine was especially taught in the school of Pythagoras, and afterward by the Cabbalists, whence it has evidently descended to Freemasonry, of whose symbolical science it constitutes an interesting portion. But the numeral symbolism of Masonry very materially differs from that of the Pythagoreans as well as the Cabbalists.
With the Masons, odd numbers alone are considered mystical, which was according to the ancient doctrine, where it was taught that odd numbers were pleasing to the gods. [“Numero deus impare gaudet.” Virgil. Eclogae, VIII.] Hence three, five, seven, and nine, are deemed Masonic numbers. Three is the foundation of the Masonic symbolism of numbers, because it is the first odd number after unity, and it is particularly applicable to the lower degrees. When we ascend to the higher grades, nine comes into play as the square of three, and twenty-seven, which is the cube of three, and lastly eighty-one which is the square of nine.
The number nine is the sacred number of the Select degree, which, however, also refers to twenty-seven, simply because that is the product of nine multiplied by three.
Nine was called by the Pythagoreans teieios, or the number of completion, and as such it is appropriate to that degree which professes to complete the circle of Masonic science. But the lecture of the Select Master teaches us that the number nine alludes to the nine attributes of the Deity, which are said to be: 1. Beauty. 2. Wisdom. 3. Power. 4. Eternity. 5. Infinity. 6. Omniscience. 7. Justice. 8. Mercy. 9. Perfection.
The full text of Mackey’s monitorial instructions on the Select Master degree may be found at: