The Pentad. 5


From the Nicomachean Extracts we derive our knowledge of the Pythagorean doctrine of the number five.

It is an eminently spherical and circular number, because in every multiplication it restores itself and is found terminating the number; it is change of Quality, because it changes what has three dimensions into the sameness of a sphere by moving circularly and producing light: and hence “Light” is referred to the number 5.

Also it is the “Privation of Strife,” because it unites in friendship the two forms of number even and odd; the 2 and 3. Also Justice from throwing things into the light.

Also the “Unconquered” from a geometrical reason which may be found in Alexander Aphrodisiensis, Commentaries on the 1st Book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

Also the “Smallest extremity of Vitality,” because there are three powers of Life, vegetable, psychical, and rational: and as the Rational is arranged according to the hebdomad, and the Psychical according to the hexad, so the Vegetative power falls under the control of the Pentad.

Proclus on Hesiod gives two reasons for its semblance to Justice, “because it punishes wrong, and takes away inequality of possession, and also equalizes what is less, to benefit.”

Also named Nemesis, for it arranges in an appropriate manner all things celestial, divine and natural.

And Venus, because the male 3 triad and the female 2 or dual, odd and even are conjoined in it: Venus was sometimes considered hermaphrodite, and was bearded as well as full-bosomed.

And Gamelia, that is referring to marriage.

And Androgynia, being odd and masculine, yet containing an even female part.

Also a “Demi-goddess,” because it is half of the Decad, which is a divinity. And “Didymus,” because it divides the Decad into two equal parts. But they called it Pallas, and Immortal, because Pallas presides over the Ether, or 5th Element (akasa) which is indestructible, and is not material to our present senses. And Cardiatis or Cordialis, because like a heart it is in the middle of the body of the numbers, thus:—

1 4 7
2 5 8
3 6 9

The ancients had a maxim, “Pass not above the beam of the balance,” that is—be not cause of injury; for they said, let the members in a series form a Balance Beam. Thus when a weight depresses the Beam, an obtuse angle is formed by the Depressed side and the Tongue Vertical, and an acute angle on the other. Hence it is worse to do than to suffer injury, and the authors of injury sink down to the infernal regions, but the injured rise to the gods. Since, however, injustice pertains to inequality, equalization is necessary which is effected by addition and subtraction.

Plutarch, in his treatise on the Generation of the Soul according to Plato, states that the Pentad is called “trophos,” which equals Sound, because the first of the intervals of a Tone which is capable of producing a sound is the fifth; it is also a type of “Nature.”

The Pentalpha or 5-pointed star, an endless complex set of angles, was the emblem of Health, Hygeia; it forms 5 copies of the capital letter A. It is also called the Pentagram, and the Seal of Solomon, and is said to have been the device on the signet-ring of this ancient Grand Master of the Mysteries.

Kenneth Mackenzie remarks that, being formed by the union of the first odd and even numbers, 5 was considered of peculiar value and used as an Amulet or Talisman powerful to preserve from evil, and when inscribed on a portal, could keep out evil spirits; it is found almost everywhere in Greece and Egypt.

Diodorus calls five “the union of the four elements with Ether.” There are 5 orders of Architecture; and 5 Senses of the human body now commonly known and described (but the whole are seven). Geometry is technically called the 5th Science. In Masonry the grand scheme is the 5 points of Fellowship, and note also 5 Brethren can hold a Fellowcrafts lodge. It is also called the Pyramid, from the arrangement of Monads, thus three below, then two, then one above them. Note the system of 5 regular Euclidean bodies, tetrahedron, hexahedron or cube, octohedron, dodekahedron and icosahedron.

The Pentagram was the emblem of safety. The Pentacle, the Masons’ signet mark (according to Stukeley), was the device borne by Antiochus Soter on a war-banner, to which was ascribed the signal victory he obtained.

The Ancients esteemed this number as a measure for drinking; they mixed 5 parts of water with their wine, and Hippocrates added 1/5 of water to milk as a medical draught.

Phintys, the daughter of Callicrates, describes the Five virtues of a Wife: mental and bodily purity; abstaining from excess of ornament in dress; staying at home; refraining, as females then did, from celebrating public mysteries; piety and temperance.

In Roman marriage ceremonies it was customary to light 5 tapers and to admit the guests by fives; see Plato in Leg. IV.

Theology displays 5 modes of the Conception of God; Pantheism, Polytheism, Dualism, Unitarianism and Trinitarianism.

Jewish references to five are many—5 gifts to the priests, 5 things which might only be eaten in the camp. Not to eat fruit from a tree until it was five years old. The trespass offering imposed on the Philistines, 5 golden emerods and 5 golden mice. Joseph gave Benjamin 5 suits of raiment—Joseph presented only 5 of his brethren to Pharaoh. David took 5 pebbles when he went to fight Goliath.

The Jews classed a Bride’s attendants by fives—five wise and five foolish virgins.

There are Five Articles of Belief in the Mahometan faith—in Allah, in Angels, in the prophet, the day of judgment, and predestination.

The Five duties of a Member of the Christian church were stated by the Fathers: To keep holy the festivals; to observe the fasts; to attend public worship; to receive the Sacraments; and to adhere to the customs of the church.

St. Paul said he preferred to speak 5 words in a language understood by his hearers than 10,000 in an unknown tongue.

In arranging an Horoscope some astrologers use only 5 aspects of the planets—the conjunction, the opposition, sextile, trine and square; and the evil or good fortune of the person seems to depend on them.

Among the Romans a display of 5 Wax Candles indicated that a Marriage was being celebrated; and special prayers were also made on such occasions to these 5 deities, Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Pitho, and Diana. See Rabelais, 3. 20.

One of the two main divisions of Flowering Plants is characterised by a predominance of the numbers 4 and 5; these plants have almost a total absence of the numbers 3 and 6 in the component parts of their flowers. These are the Exogens or Dicotyledons; on the other hand the Monocotyledons or Endogens have a constant predominance of the numbers 3 and 6, and a total absence of 4 and 5 symmetry.

There are 5 kinds of intercolumniations in Architecture, mentioned by Vitruvius, determined by the proportions of height and diameter, viz., Pycnostyle, systyle, eustyle, diastyle, and aerostyle.

The Triad Society of China, concerning which we find an article in the Freemasons’ Quarterly Review, 1845, p. 165, boasts of great antiquity; it resembles Freemasonry in some points: five is a chief mystical number in its concerns. Its seal is pentangular, on its angles are 5 characters representing Too or Saturn, Muh or Jupiter, Shwuv or Mercury, Kin or Venus, and Ho or Mars.

In the Infernal World are 5 terrors and torments; Deadly bitterness, horrible howling, terrible darkness, unquenchable heat and thirst, and a penetrating stench; says old John Heydon, quoting some mediæval father of the Church. He was admitted an Adept among the Fratres Rosæ Crucis, but was never received among the Magistri.

Five styles of architectural columns are described: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.

Sir Thomas Browne, 1658, notes an ancient Greek division of vegetables into five classes:—

Dendron, Arbor, Tree; Thamnos, Frutex, Bush; Phruganon, Suffrutex, herb; Poa, Herba, grass; and Askion or gymnon, fungus, mushroom and seaweed.

Note the Quintuple section of a Cone—Circle, Ellipse, Parabola, Hyperbola and Triangle. Agathe tuche, that is Good fortune, is the old title of Astrologers for the 5th house (succedent) of the Heavens, as shown in an Astrological Figure, and which refers to offspring, success in hazardous schemes of fortune or pleasure, and wealth.

Joshua hanged 5 kings on 5 trees, they were found hidden in a cave, and were the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon.

Every important measurement of the Jewish Tabernacle was 5 or a multiple of 5.

The Hebrew letter H, Heh, 5, was in occult Kabalah always deemed of female potency.

There were 5 principal parts of Solomon’s Temple.

David Blesses the Lord 5 times in Psalms ciii., civ.

The Talmud says that there are 5 little things which are a terror to 5 strong things; the mosquito to the lion; the gnat to the elephant; the ichneumon fly to the scorpion; the flycatcher bird to the eagle, and the stickleback to the leviathan. Lewisohn, “Zoology of the Talmud.”

Five things have in them a one-sixtieth part of 5 other things; fire is one-sixtieth of hell; honey one-sixtieth of manna; the Sabbath one-sixtieth of the Sabbath hereafter; sleep of death; and a dream one-sixtieth of prophecy. Talmud, Berachoth, 57. 2.

Even on the Sabbath you may kill 5 things—the fly in Egypt; the wasp in Nineveh; the scorpion of Hadabia; the serpent of Israel, and the mad dog anywhere. Talmud, Sabbat, 121. 2.

In the First Temple of Solomon were 5 things which were not in the second Temple; the Cherubic Ark; the Shekinah; the Holy Spirit, and the Urim and Thummim. Talmud, Yoma, 21. 2.

Rabies in the dog has 5 symptoms; its mouth gapes; it drops spittle; its ears hang down; it carries its tail between its legs, and it keeps to the side of any path. Yoma, 83. 2.

For suckling mothers there are 5 things which are injurious; garlic, cucumber, melon, leeks and onions: said Rashi.

If one study 5 years and then has found no profit in it; he will never profit by it. Talmud, Chullin, 24. 1.

Five is the number of expiation and of sacrifice, the number of the passions, and the 5 wounds of Christ. These were commemorated anciently by 5 crosses inscribed on the Altar tables, and the Priest made 5 crosses on himself at the canon in the Liturgy. W. F. Shaw.

Jesus 5 times foretold His passion, and gave 5 particulars concerning it, and received 5 wounds.

The Brahmins speak of 5 skandhas, or attributes of men; they are rupa, form; vidana, perception; sanina, consciousness; sanskara, action; andvidyana, knowledge.

In China 5 means Shangti or Thian, the God in Heaven: the Chinese speak of 5 Blessings—longevity, riches, health, virtue and a natural death.

The ancient Chinese spoke of 5 Elements—earth, wood, fire, metal and water; and of 5 primary colours—yellow, red, white, green and black.

The 5th Element, the Quintessence of the Alchymist, was derivable from the four, by progression—At first the Ens, then the Two Contraries, then the Three Principles, then the Four Elements. Separate the pure from the impure, gently and with judgment, and so you obtain the Quintessence, the Son of the Sun. Similarly note the progression; stone, plant, animal, man, God. The old authors added,—Talia si jungere possis, sit tibi scire satis; to which this Author adds,—sed Quod scis, nescis.