(Investigator 74, 2000 September)

The following is taken from the book Popular Superstitions (1910) by T.S. Knowlson, published in Britain.
The author wrote skeptically on many topics that skeptics are still skeptical about and which true believers still have not scientifically validated. Pages 150 to 155 about "Numbers" follow:

The fortune or fatality contained in numbers, as numbers, seems to date back to the time of Pythagoras, if not earlier. Jones in his Credulities Past and Present has gathered together a vast amount of historical information which it is no part of my business to reproduce; it is sufficient to note that in every age and clime numbers have formed a part of magical and non-magical ceremonial. Even to-day the clairvoyant who practises in London will ask her visitor on what day of the month he was born, and in what year; then, making a rapid mental calculation, will inform him whether the coming year will be good for him, financially, or whether he is likely to experience sickness and domestic disquiet. Whatever rules she may follow in making such calculations have been handed down to her from the past, so that modern fortune telling in this particular is no different from the astrology and sooth-saying of the time of Moses.

Another curious development is seen in a book, published a few years ago, called The Mysteries of Sound and Number, by Habeeb Ahmad. It claims that every letter means a number; so that, if you will take the trouble to arithmetise your own name, you know what your number is and can act accordingly. How accordingly? Because the planets have numbers — the sun is No. 1 — and as they exert a favourable influence every few minutes in turn throughout the day, you have only to act when your number and the right planet correspond, to succeed in anything you undertake. Mr Ahmad applies his logic to horse racing, and has drawn up a list of examples from past races to show how true his theory is. Of course horses have names and he claims they are not given them by chance, but according to an occult law, just as is the case with human beings. A new system of horse racing, where the bookmaker will be "done" every time, should strike dismay into the hearts of that confident fraternity, but up to the present there has been no sign of collapse. Still, Mr. Ahmad is no doubt a learned Mohammedan who has popularised some of the occultism of the school of thought to which he belongs, and, its truth apart, it forms an interesting narrative of the superstition attached essentially to numbers.

But how did the notion arise? Probably from the observation of coincidences, on which were based the so-called laws of numbers. I will here give some instances from quite recent history, for which I am indebted to Credulities Past and Present. The French nation of all classes are very much given to the art of tracing prophetical references in the numbers composing dates. French journals have noticed the numerical prophecy of the termination of the Empire in 1869. This small problem in arithmetical divination was worked out thus :— Napoleon III. was born in 1808, and assumed the Empire in 1852. Add 1+8+0+8 to 1852 and 1869 results. Similarly, the Empress Eugenic was born in 1826, and married to the Emperor in 1853. The ciphers added together in each date give 1869, when added to 1852. The corresponding dates and events in the life of Louis Philippe, when dealt with in the same way, give the corresponding prophetical result.

The date of the great Revolution is 1789. Add to 1789 the sum of its ciphers and 1814 results — the date of the Fall of the Empire, which arose out of the Revolution. The date of the last Revolution is 1848, and if this date be similarly dealt with it gives as the prophetical result 1869. A writer in Notes and Queries (3rd Ser. vol. x.) remarks that these extraordinary numbers appear to have started with the accession to the throne of Louis XVI. in 1744: by adding these figures into each other you get the date of his death, or 1774 +1+7+7 +4 = 1793, in which year, January 21st, the amiable monarch is beheaded. Again, the Fall of Robespierre, 1794 : add 1+7+9+4 =1815, gives that of Napoleon I. re-abdicating, June 22nd, 1815; add to this 1+8+1+5 =1830, which in its turn gives us the three glorious days of July and Fall of Charles X. Then we have accession of the Citizen King in 1830, thus :—
The date of his birth, October 6, 1773                    1830 + 1+7+7+3 = 1848

Birth of his Queen, Marie Amélie, April 26, 1782    1830 +1+7+8+2 = 1848
Marriage of Louis Philippe, November 25, 1809    1830 +1+8+0+9 = 1848
Then came Universal Suffrage, December 10 and 11, and choice of a President of a Republic, one and indivisible, or           
1848 +1+8+4+8 = 1869 Dec.
But the figures work out more remarkably thus: — Louis Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor, January 30, 1853.
His birth, April 20, 1808               1853 + 1+8+0+8 = 1870

Birth of Empress, May 5, 1826    1853 + 1+8+2+6 = 1870
Now, if a modern arithmetician can trace destiny in the figures of personal history with such an array of seeming, does it not follow that the older and more philosophical mathematician, noting the same coincidences in the events of his own day, was led to theorise on the fundamental nature of numbers; his conclusions being that numbers are not mere no-things, but occult factors in life; in a word, the bearers of fate or fortune? He gave numbers to the planets, to letters, to words, to ideas; and having plenty of time on his hands he elaborated the scheme until it became the occult thing as we know it to-day. Our modern belief in lucky numbers can have no other origin than that of coincidences we have noticed, or which we have accepted on the ipse dixit of some fortune-teller, following the rules of the Chaldeans or some other ancient people. As to the array of figures respecting Napoleon, it is sufficient to say that similar figures can be produced respecting lives on the ordinary plane of existence, just as readily as where there is no such show of mathematical logic.

In fact, in nine cases out of ten the figures, like the answer of the schoolboy’s problem, "won’t work out." Almost as good a case in the literary world could be hatched up from a cipher in Hall Caine’s works to prove they were written by Marie Corelli. For thousands of years the world has been taught that letters have numbers which exert a positive influence in life's affairs, deciding matters of high importance as well as the trivialities about which we do not care. But no evidence is offered by the authors of modern books as to the occult powers of numbers in themselves. O Hashnu Hara in Number, Name and Colour admits that the values of numbers of the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic alphabets are different, so that it is pitch and toss as to which we are to take. Mr W. Wynne Westcott has written a more philosophical book on the subject, but even he has no satisfactory evidence to produce except this: that Pythagoras or somebody else "said" so. The revival of this superstition apparently means no more than its popularity as a social diversion.