Symbolism of 666
I got an email from someone inquiring about the symbolic meaning of 666.
Here's his question: "I am a Christian and I have been wondering about the significance of the famed 'number of the Beast' 666. I was wondering if you could shed any light on this number and of the concept of the antichrist in general. Thank you."
Great question, and here's my response:
Of all the theories surrounding the meaning of 666 and, alternatively, 999 (commonly understood to represent Christ in Biblical numerical terms), my favorite is espoused by Manly P. Hall. This is a direct excerpt from his book, The Secret Teachings of All Ages:
"All higher numbers can be reduced to one of the original ten numerals, and the 10 itself to 1. Therefore, all groups of numbers resulting from the translation of names of deities into their numerical equivalents have a basis in one of the first ten numbers. By this system, in which the digits are added together, 666 becomes 6+6+6 or 18, and this, in turn, becomes 1+8 or 9. According to Revelation, 144,000 are to be saved. This number becomes 1+4+4+0+0+0, which equals 9, thus proving that both the Beast of Babylon and the number of the saved refer to man himself, whose symbol is the number 9. This system can be used successfully with both Greek and Hebrew letter values."
I've looked into the Bible verses, and consulted Biblical numerologists and most can substantiate this view.
The whole "666" subject is, of course, Biblical in origin, so researching its symbolism (including its potential representation of "the beast") would logically need to start with the Bible. Interpretation then, may vary according to which Bible is consulted.
What do I think about 666? I have to set my Bible aside for one moment to answer that.
Although I'm utterly lousy at math, I love numbers - how they fit, how they are so orderly, law-abiding, yet even though they are well-behaved organizers, their function and potential are imbued with mystery. Numbers are simple, yet vastly complex simultaneously.
Both 6s and 9s remind me of spirals. Specifically, spiraling awareness/consciousness, capable of withdrawing itself from Source and also re-connecting itself back to its Source. [Note: reference to "Source" may be akin to a deity of one's own understanding or omnipresent divine energy]
If you think of walking a labyrinth (Christian monks have been known to do this), you begin at the center. Metaphysically speaking, this would be the seat of the soul - the Source of cosmic inception. Every pass through each expanding curve in the spiral (labyrinth) represents a radiation of Source outwardly. Alternatively, walking back to the center of the labyrinth represents a return to the beginning. Esoteric labyrinth-walking practices require the journeyer to return to the Source. Reversing trajectory to return to its center implies introversion or regression.
So, in this spiral/labyrinth example, 666 represents a reverse path back to Source (the beginning, inception) - a return back to "start."
Alternatively, 999 represents a progressive path radiating from Source (inception) and ever expanding outward.
In simple terms, I think 666 forms a symbolic narrative that says something like: "I am the retrograde side of consciousness, propelled back to safe-harbor of Source. I continually seek balance, by any means necessary. As I am written in triplicate (666) there is a reproductive theme implied (three's are essential symbols of creation - physical and metaphysical). Therefore, I seek to re-seed from Source to counteract imbalance."
A symbolic narrative for 999 might go something like: "I am the progressive side of consciousness, propelled to constant expansion, taking what Source provided and consistently radiating outwardly with that seed. I seek evolution by creating momentum. I am written in triplicate (999), therefore, I create in proportion of my extension."
In the end, I can see some Biblical corollaries. One number represents a creative retrograde, maybe even a vacuum (666) which could be considered a withdraw from expansion and hence seen as base or primitive. As parable, this could translate to a primitive devil, but moreover, an opposing force moving in counter to its alter, balancing the equation.
Vice versa for 999.
But, if we look at the individual meaning of these numbers (6 and 9), we get a core meaning that speaks of harmony. One is governed by the planet Venus (6) and suggests a creative bent, a theme of unity and certainly one of balance. Venus-energy is also quite primitive in that this energy re-connects to Source through primal things like animals, nature (tomes have been written about gardening by the "morning star," Venus), and even sex.
Nines also represent harmony, and these harmonious similarities (in both 6 and 9) are due to their kinship with the number three. Nines are ruled by the planet Neptune, so we're dealing with long-range expectation, long lasting, and expanded consciousness, enlightenment even. Nine also emits a cosmic, universal influence in areas of intuition/heightened consciousness. In many ways, nine is an embodiment of Christlike consciousness.
Interestingly, all these numbers return to Nine. 6+6+6=18, 1+8=9. 9+9+9=27, 2+7=9.
From a minimalist perspective, the narrative of both numbers (666 and 999) suggests a universal balance in play (canceling out - contrasts in proportion) in which all consciousness (human, plant, animal, etc) is united.
I find it no coincidence these number fall within the book of Revelation.
Thanks for asking the question about the symbolic meaning of 666, it's a great one.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!