Saturday, June 6, 2009


Numerology, particularly the meaning of the number 13 and its rotation (31), expansions (49, 94, 58, 85, 67, 76—numbers the digits of which you must add), and its multiples (26, 39, etc.) give me the same innocent pleasure as do meaningful coincidences, sometimes called serendipities. A genuinely original and insightful modern parapsychologist, J.E. Kennedy, has suggested that the ultimate purpose of the phenomena he studies may serve as reminders to us that something transcending the obvious may simply be there. I’m putting this in rather too simple a summary. My object is not to discuss the insight, which is more sophisticated. To learn more about Kennedy’s thoughts, I recommend perusal of his papers, accessible here. What I want to talk about, lightly, as it were, is the number 13 itself. Contrarian as it is—being viewed as unlucky—in my family it has been a portent of good fortune, in the last generation as in mine, and seemingly also in the next one down in time.

This is an innocent preoccupation because like everyone else I’m a complex being and fully possess the kind of rationality which can bluntly, brusquely, and dismissively say: “Give me any other number, and if I know enough details about your life, I could construct the same castles-in-air around that number too! In your life or anyone else’s.” Having put that in, just to stay on the safe ground of modern meaninglessness, let me enjoy my 13 for a moment.

I was born on July the 31st which is obviously very meaningful—after all my birth date, turned around, is 13! We’re presently residing in the 13th Congressional District of Michigan—to be sure I don’t know the numbers of the others where we’ve lived. But there’s a whole string of thirteens that mark our coming to America. The Certificate of Eligibility issued to us in Germany permitting our entry to the United States was dated January 13, 1949. The 49 is significant too. And in my case 113 (thus January 13) is doubly meaningful because my name, ARSEN, decoded numerologically is 5, and 113, magically, collapses into five. And 1949, if you drop the first nine but not the second, also results in 113. Get it? Good. Let us move on. We spent precisely 13 days at sea making the passage from Bremerhaven to New Orleans. Our eyes beheld the American coast on June 13 of 1951 (ignore the year). Then, years later, when Brigitte, Barbara, Monique, and I came to America together, by air this time, we landed in New York on January 13, 1961. Now, finally, to the intriguing image that illustrates this post. It is the shoulder patch, incorporating the coat of arms, of the 13th Infantry Regiment—the military unit in which I served my first several months in the Army. We were “First at Vicksburg,” one of the bloodiest and nastiest events in the history of the Civil War, alas. That number was not quite so lucky for the many who died there. But then a deeper lesson of numerology—hear me, Kabbalists, hear me moderns—is that reality is greater than can be inferred from number, unless that number is 1.

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