This is one of those posts that I have been circling around. I don’t know if it will look like much, but it contains some important elements. It regards the significance of the number 72, so when I opened up WordPress and saw this in my feed, I decided it might be time to start working it out.
For the magicians out there, 72 likely puts them in mind of the number of goetic spirits. That number connects the goetic number to certain kinds of astrological lore (still eyeballing that book, haven’t purchased it yet) and links them to a number of other religious associations, especially in the Kabbalistic material. Picking and choosing my favorites from that list:
- The numbers of degrees of Jacob’s ladder through which he ascends to the heavens
- The number of God’s names in the Kabbalistic material
- The number of languages spoken at the Tower of Babel
- The number of Set’s accomplices who help him nail Osiris into a coffin
- The portion of each day that Thoth receives from the moon to make the intercalar days; these days are linked to the sighting of Sirius and thus tied to Isis
These suggest an overlapping cross-cultural pattern of associations that relate the movement of the heavens, the passage of time, and eternity.
These exemplars illustrate how uncomfortable a relationship this is. The movements of the stars, in their fixity, reflect something of the eternal but as they also play a regulative role in constituting our sense of time’s passing.
As an aid to Set and an expression of God’s punishment, they reference the threat of time to the eternal. Through it, Osiris the living becomes Osiris the dead (the parallel between coffin and seed is interesting here) and those united in rising to God are broken into a babble of ever diverging tongues.
As a portion of time gathered by Thoth, the path of Jacob’s ascent, and the names of God, they also give to time an order and a rhythm that disciplines the chaos. The time in which Sirius-Isis comes into her fullness, the intercalary days, are extracted according the power of 72 and it is through the application of God’s names that many Kabbaists undertake the healing of the world.Strange, isn’t it, that the disruption of the order and the repair of it occur under the same arc?
In the negative aspects, 72 carries with it associations of usurpation while in its positive aspects we find images of restoration. The association with the stars should put us in mind of Chokmah. Not only because the stars are literally the Chokmah of Malkuth, but also because of the numerological ties. 72 = 7 + 2 = 9 (9th sefirot); 9 is also 1 shy of 10, which 1 + 0 = 1, the return to unity.
(That sounds a bit like mathematical chicanery, I know, but recall that this material’s source shares that with the Arabic world, and it is from that world that our numeral system derives. Spiritually, the decades [10, 20, 30…] are especially important because 0 isn’t a proper number but a place holder, an indication that the next decade is both similar and different. The mathematics, including the numerology, is part of the spiritual mystery, even though it has acquired a primarily secular purpose today [though, what magic in that, too!].)
It is both infernal (goetia, Set’s accomplices, the presumptuous builders) and celestial (Jacob’s ladder, names of God, Isis triumphing over Set) because the order those powers oversee is always just shy of the genuinely eternal. The gap between 72 and 10/1 indicates a gap that cannot be recuperated within Malkuth itself. It is that irrecuperability that sets time and number on its track toward infinity, but which also gathers that diversity together, pointing toward an eternal that lies beyond the starry simulacrum of it in Malkuth.