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Letters and Numbers—Thoth and Seshat

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Thoth and Seshat—Letters and Numbers

While Thoth represents the Divine attribute of the spoken and written words, his female counterpart Seshat is described as The Enumerator, denoting the divine significance of numbers in the Ancient Egyptian tradi­tions.

Numbers conform to the arrange­ment of natural things; for most natural things were established by the Creator in orders.

Both language (Thoth) and numbers (Seshat) are simply two aspects of a single scheme. Numbers are the underlying basis of letters. For both the Ancient and Baladi Egyptians, letters can be transposed into numbers and number codes to reconstruct the “true” meaning of certain writings. Transposition was extensively used by the Egyptians. Letters and numbers are reservoirs of divine power. Magic squares utilizing letters in a grid in both their phonetic and numerical aspects have been used by many mystics. The letters form meaningful words or formulae, and the sum of their numerical equivalents when combined in prescribed ways is significant. The letters usually add up to the same number vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Such magic squares were often used as amu­lets in ancient times and were very important in medieval mystical practices.

The basic axiom of ‘The Science of Letters’ is the interaction between letters and their ‘relation to numerical proportion’ which initiates in the reader the activity of constant association.

The concept that the nature and secret of a letter is alive when it is compounded to form words, while words are correspondingly alive within created things, is the basic principle of the science of letters. All created things move in different stages because of the constant renewal of creation and the secret of all created things lies in the word.

Apart from the combination and interaction of the letters, the meaning of the term also operates on more than one level, mediating between the physical and the metaphysical. This is another important practice by Sufis in their methods of communication. The Sufis believe that the ‘word’ can be an important realm of mediating between the two worlds. Because it operates on several levels, it is referred to as ‘The Secret Language’, since understanding depends on the degree of the candidate’s enlightenment.

Numbers and letters are one and the same. To distinguish between the two manifestations in the Egyptian texts, numbers are shown in upside down positions of their equivalent/ corresponding letters. An easy example for English speakers is the noticeable similarity between the number 7 and the letter Z. The letter Z is the seventh letter in ABGD sequence.


[Excerpt from Egyptian alphabetical Letters of Creation Cycle by Moustafa Gadalla]


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