Interpretation of numbers in dreams
Along with our ABCs, basic math is the first subject learned in school, and your unconscious mind is there along with you also learning your first lessons with numbers. To occupy my mind as a kid I would notice numbers like street addresses and gas prices and juggle them in my head by comparing, adding, subtracting, dividing, calculating percentages. I was no math whiz, but I was good at The Price Is Right
Now my dreams play with numbers in similar ways, and I’ve interpreted many dreams that prominently feature numbers. My childhood home address, 1954, has popped up in my dreams several ways. Split into two groups, 1954 adds up to 10 and 9, and added together equals 19. My dreams have presented those numbers jumbled as a receipt for $45.91, which says to me, “look at your life when you lived at 1954.”
Important numbers in dreams draw attention to themselves; they’re used purposefully. They can refer to times of life. Floors of a building can actually refer to ages. In a dream, you get off the elevator on floor 14 and discover that you are back at age 14.
Numbers are often expressed through groupings. In a dream discussed in my book Dreams 1-2-3 titled “Exposed in Open Court,” four rectangular tables arranged as a square clued me in that the four primary archetypes were being represented. In the dream “Mafia Slave,” a four-sided courtyard was a similar clue that the courtyard showed the arrangement of the dreamer’s archetypes. In the dream “Maiden and the Matron,” a four-sides mirror shaped like a pyramid shows an archetype at work in the dreamer’s life. Archetypes are a complex subject. If you want to know more about them, I have a section in my book, or check out this summary of Robert Moore’s work in regard to archetypes of the male psyche (ladies, your archetypes work similarly so don’t be put off because of the focus on male archetypes. You can still learn a lot, or search for yourself for other resources).
Now we will look at specific numbers and what they commonly mean in dreams, bearing in mind that numerology is a book in itself, and what I present here is only a base of reference. Few dreams require numerology to understand them, but I find it can be enlightening in dreams where numbers are prominent.
1. Number one is the loneliest number, according to the popular 1960s song, yet it stands on its own without need of any other number to keep it company or make it complete. It is singular, the basis for all other numbers. Therefore, number one in dreams can be used as a sign of unity, integrity, independence. It is not lonely but strong. It is welcoming because it can connect with every other number to form new numbers, like 1 added to 9 makes 10, or 1 combined with 9 makes 19. The 0 (zero) on the end of 10 “elevates” the number one, enhances it, draws attention.
Number one is one side of an important concept: the relationship between the one and the many, the individual that is part of a collective. Our minds are our own, in a sense, but all minds together form a collective consciousness that shares information subconsciously. The dreaming mind is well aware of the interaction between the individual and everyone else, expressing those relationships in dreams featuring number one.
2. Number two is two 1s added together; it is both sides of the relationship between the one and the many — the beginning of an endless division. Dreams use pairings to show relationships, strong or weak, within the psyche or with other people, discussed at length in the section on “Dream Pairs” in my book. They are strong when they stand together, and weak when divided.
Dreams in which number two plays a role are often about the relationship between the dreamer and the outside world, or about the internal relationships between the ego and other power centers of the psyche.
In “The Maiden and the Matron, a young girl is paired with an old woman to symbolize the Maiden – Crone archetype. It’s the fusing of the desire to be young and innocent with the necessity of growing old and wise. In this dream, the archetype is joined by a third party, the dreamer, who is challenged to rise above the conflict of opposites expressed in her desire to take on a harder job but fearing that an immature part of herself will sabotage her efforts, or that the strain will make her old before her time.
When two of anything show up in your dreams, look at the interaction, keeping in mind that dreams show us ourselves through our world and our relationship to it.
3. Number three is 2 + 1, or seen another way, two against one. It’s a number that can show strength or weakness. It shows strength in the Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, or in the complete picture of the psyche as expressed in Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego. But it shows weakness in its imbalance of two against one.
While master dream interpreters like Edgar Cayce interpret the number three in dreams as showing strength, my experience is the opposite. In dreams, bad things often run in threes: three people chasing you; three passengers in a car when it crashes; three bullies blocking a sidewalk. In dreaming and waking life I’ve noticed the tendency for misfortunes or stark personal challenges to come in threes.
When three of anything shows up in your dreams, ask if it speaks to an incomplete or imbalanced area of your life — or perhaps to an area of strength. You can tell the difference through the action of the dream, and by how the characters present themselves. Do three people show up at your front door to tell you you’ve won the lottery, or perhaps to kidnap you? Do you see three holy people praying on top of a mountain, or three lions hunting a helpless animal? I’ve had or interpreted dreams similar to these scenarios, so like every dream symbol, look for verification before jumping to conclusions about number three.
Edgar Cayce also said that odd numbers are “stronger” than even numbers because even numbers are always divisible, whereas prime and other indivisible numbers are odd. Dreams recognize these qualities about numbers and use them to express complex ideas. You don’t have to be a genius with math; your dreaming mind is there with you every step of the way grasping things that might have eluded you, like arithmetic lessons. But its knowledge stretches back to the origin of the human species, and it is not hindered by ego beliefs like, “I’m no good at math.”
4. The number four is an even number that expresses great strength, so call it an exception to the Cayce rule about even numbers. Dreams reflect the psyche of the dreamer, and the psyche is built to be balanced in configurations of four. There are four primary archetypes. The psyche also has four primary functions: thinking, feeling, intuitive, and sensate, a concept first put forward by Carl Jung that is applied in many of today’s personality tests like the MBPI.
Four is a very important number in our world as well as in the psyche. Much of the globe experiences four seasons. There are four elements: earth, air, fire, water. We live in a four-dimensional universe of length, width, height, and time. There are four primary directions, four states of matter. And our structures are mostly built with four sides. So the number four expresses great variety of meaning in dreams based on its foundational place in the material world. Since the foundation of the human experience is the body, configurations of four can symbolize the body in dreams.
5. As I prepared to write about number five, a friend had a dream that appeared at first to be a perfect illustration of its numerological meaning. Then we got into the interpretation and it turned out, like usual, to be more complex than any simple explanation. I discuss it here because of its value in understanding how dreams play with numbers, and how being wrong about an interpretation of a dream can still lead to its meaning. The dream begins:
I check into a hotel and the clerk gives me keys to Room 23.
I say to myself as I begin interpreting, “2+3=5, so the dream might be speaking to imminent change in the dreamer’s life, since 5 is the number of change.” The hotel setting reinforces this idea because it’s a place of transition. Well, let’s add some more details from the dream and see if they fit this interpretation:
The clerk tells me that someone was murdered in the room, but not to worry because he will come by to deal with any ghosts.
That detail is interesting. Death implies transition. It is an imminent change we all face, so number five gains in importance the further into the interpretation we get if it symbolizes imminent change. But remember that death has other meanings. Sometimes leaving a part of yourself behind during big life changes can feel like a little death. Murder has deeper, darker connotations. Knowing the dreamer, my first thought is, “Something happened a long time ago that made part of her die, murdered figuratively (which can mean repressed), and it is being sought again.” Ghosts can also symbolize the things that haunt us in our past.
Past trauma is easy to find in dreams because dreams want to heal the sore spots and connect the dreamer with inner resources to live a meaningful and satisfying life, which can involve reclaiming lost parts of oneself left behind because of trauma or neglect. They die symbolically but can revive. With this knowledge the dream’s interpretation expands, as you’re about to see in the next part:
I look for my room on the second floor of the hotel but can’t find it. I follow the room numbers up and the last room is number twenty-two. I follow the numbers down and they bottom out at twenty-four. In that room, 24, I see a man covered by a red sheet and think he could be dead.
The action of the dream tells the story, and the action of following the numbers sequentially up, then down, but not finding the number sought is the first strong hint that 23 means an age, not a numerological symbol, in this dream. As we go through the interpretation process, the dreamer remembers age 23 as a time when she had the most freedom and wide open possibilities. She was happy then in a way she isn’t at the time of the dream, so the dream brought up age 23 to remind her of what it takes for her to be happy: freedom and possibilities. You will see a hint of this meaning in the next segment of the dream:
I finally find my room and it’s just a BBQ grill built into the wall. I can’t squeeze into it, so I grab some blankets and lie down in the breezeway. As I’m about to fall asleep, I notice a dark man watching me. If I fall asleep, he’ll try to do something bad to me.
There is no freedom when being watched from the shadows. No rest, either. The action tells the underlying story: The dreamer doesn’t want to squeeze into the tiny space that is supposed to be her hotel room, and would rather sleep outside. To interpret this part of the dream you’d have to know that the ages before and after 23 for the dreamer were painfully tight, symbolically. People “squeeze” into roles or situations, motivated by obligation, ambition, fear, or desire to fit in. This dreamer has no desire to squeeze herself into a BBQ grill — how it feels to squeeze into a certain role in her life and “cook” in the negativity. She asserts her independence like she would at age 23 by choosing to sleep outside.
Then the dream shows her why she doesn’t assert herself more often, symbolized by the dark man watching her, a shadow figure. When she is tired or lets her guard down, he is there waiting to take advantage, symbolizing the voices in her head that stop her from asserting herself. He represents the part of herself that compels her to play the “tight” role, sending up fears to block her from gaining her independence. Remember: mental situations can be just as confining and sticky as external situations. Patterns that develop early in life can remain throughout. This dream is trying to help the dreamer break free. Being trapped in the old pattern feels like slow death, slow-roasted, barbecued. But the independent side of the dreamer that was “murdered” is still alive subconsciously.
So judging by the dream thus far, the meaning of number twenty-three is related symbolically to murder and ghosts, is something difficult for the dreamer to find, and when found is difficult to squeeze into. Without it the dreamer feels exposed, symbolized by the dark man watching her as she tries to fall asleep under a blanket. You could say that a person can’t squeeze back into a time of life — at least, not comfortably — because circumstances change. People change. And number five is the number that describes change.
One last note on number five: it can symbolize the five points of a pentagram. A pentagram represents the four elements plus spirit. Therefore it is a powerful symbol of interaction between matter and spirit. Satanists flip the pentagram upside-down so that spirit is symbolically beneath matter, which is their view on things. If you dream of an upside-down pentagram it might symbolize that your spirit needs to be valued more; conversely, dreaming of a five-pointed star right-side up is often a very positive sign, showing that the dreamer has the right perspective to receive life’s blessings.
From here on I only have brief notes on numbers. If numbers appear frequently in your dreams, I encourage you to read what Carl Jung and Edgar Cayce have to say about numerology. It is advanced learning, so my advice is master the basics first.
6. Number six can be thought of as 2×3. Two sets of three is a powerful alignment, as seen in the Star of David. However, it can show the strength or the weakness of three.
7. Number seven is closely associated with spiritual life — think of the “God” number, 777. In the Hebrew creation story God created everything in seven days. The Prophet Mohammed had seven knots in his golden rope that descended from Heaven. Also, there are seven glands in the endocrine system with their corresponding “chakras” or energy centers. There are seven virtues and seven deadly sins. And the Bible is packed with examples of seven as a spiritual number, as in Proverbs 6:31, “But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold.” Or when Jesus cleanses Mary Magdalene of seven devils, showing how dark forces love to mimic and pervert religion. Dreams make these associations even if the dreamer doesn’t consciously.
8. Eight is two sets of four, and four being a number symbolizing “wholeness” or balance means that eight is an “elevation” or doubling of four. Eight shows layers of strong symmetry.
9. Nine is 3×3, and three sets of three takes symmetry to a higher level, the completion of a series in three dimensions. Since three can be a sign of strength or weakness, nine goes either way. Look at the action of a dream to understand the meaning of any number. Here is an example:
Three dogs each with three legs beg for food.
If this was my dream, a dog with three legs might symbolize that my trust or loyalty had been hobbled, since I associate dogs with trust and loyalty, and three legs in this case means something is missing: a leg! Can’t get around very well on three legs. There is also an old saying that you won’t get far on a three-legged horse. In this dream, begging for food would mean that the trusting or loyal side of myself needs nourishment. Now change the scenario:
Three dogs each with three heads guard the gate to a secret garden.
The unconscious mind has locations like secret gardens which represent serene places inside the person, places where insight is gained and spirit renewed. But a calm state of mind is needed to enter the inner garden, and certain tests must be passed before entry is gained. The three dogs would then represent three qualities to access a place deep within the psyche. Let’s say those qualities are patience, perseverance, and positive attitude. I’ve seen dogs exhibit those qualities, so the dream’s use of dogs to guard the gate is right on. But why three heads? Because each quality has sub-qualities. Patience requires a person to live in the moment, discipline, and concentration. I can think of more associations, but three heads are enough for these dogs to get the point across that number nine shows layers of symmetry, usually grouped in threes. It can also be a sign that something is finished.
10. Since number one is a strong singular, ten is an elevation or completion of one. Ten can be a sign that the dreamer has “come full circle”, the zero (0) being a line that connects with itself.
11. I’ve found number eleven to be an ominous number ever since September 11, 2001. But it is also two 1s together and therefore a sign of two independent things that stand together and are complete in themselves. A strong marriage of two equals is an example. Those relationships have a certain magic, and so does number eleven in dreams.
12. Twelve is a number with strong associations to mysticism and the higher order of the universe. The zodiac has twelve astrological signs. Jesus had twelve apostles. Israel had twelve tribes back at the beginning. The Earth revolves around the sun in twelve months. Twelve is also midnight or noon, times that have associations: Midnight is the witching hour, and noon is lunch hour. Two minutes to midnight means on the cusp of big change or massive destruction.
20-30-40. The elevation of number one that we get when adding a zero to make number ten is also seen in other numbers with zero added. Forty is like number four but with another dimension. Think of it this way: four sides make a rectangle, but add a zero and it makes a cube. It provides depth, shows the progress of time. It’s the leap from 2-D to 3-D.
The Bible has many examples of forty days: Noah’s flood, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Jesus in the desert, Christ’s return after death as the Holy Spirit. While forty in some cases can be a literal accounting of time, or a reference to age in dreams, its repetition in scripture indicates symbolic representation of a span of time until something comes to completion. Before Jesus went to the desert to fast and be tested by Satan, he was already complete, in a sense. He embodied the number 4 as a sign of holiness, or “whole-e-ness.” But after coming back from his 40 days in the desert he was a new man. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
Numbers appear in dreams all sorts of ways: directly on receipts, clocks, phones, buildings – and indirectly through groupings of characters and objects. We’ve discussed numbers used to give meaning to a hotel room number, and why a best friend appeared in a dream. I also know of big lottery winners who credited their dreams with thinking up the winning numbers. In one memorable case the winner had never played the lottery until a dream advised it was the right time. If I remember the story correctly, the winner didn’t even pick the number but had the computer do it. Ever since reading that somewhere I’ve been waiting for my lottery dream. And waiting. . .