The Number Eight

by Mitchell Cichocki

The number eight has always been a part of my life. Each of my first, middle, and last names has eight letters. My birthdate and year break down to twos and fours from which eight easily arises. I was born under the sign of Scorpio which rules the 8th house. I am a programmer by trade and eight is the basic unit of computing (more on that later). You could say I can’t escape the number eight. However coincidental these alignments may be, they sparked in me a deep interest to uncover the mysteries of this number.

Music has always been a huge part of my life and it is riddled with eights. Bars and beats are based on eight and and multiples of eight: 16, 32, 64. Eight is the octave, a point of return and rebirth. On reaching the eighth note of a scale you arrive at the first note only doubled in pitch; it is the same note now heightened.

Eight is composed of one, two, and four: 1 x 2 x 4= 8. Eight is the number one brought to a higher octave through two and four. Being made of these smaller numbers imparts their qualities onto the number eight. The square, the geometric manifestation of the number four, has ancient associations as a symbol of earth and the Mother Goddess. Four represents physical manifestation of earthly things: the four seasons, the four elements, four-sided crystal growth; and eight is a doubling of this manifesting energy. It is materialization at a higher level.

Four, the square, is a great model for bringing things into being; it’s solid and easy to work with. Buildings, cities, sidewalks, windows, video screens, land divisions, these are physical things most easily constructed through the use of the square, the number four. So how does eight help with constructing material things at a higher level?

A good example is computing and software design. Computers are based heavily on the number eight. There are eight bits in a byte and a byte is the most basic unit in computing. Things have doubled over the years into 16-bit, 32-bit, and 64-bit, but these are all powers of two divisible by eight. It can be argued that a standard of 8 bits was chosen arbitrarily, but in fact it makes it much easier to address computer hardware using powers of two: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, etc. Eight naturally fell into the position of smallest and most useful power of two for programming a computer. Computer software is constructed through the power of the number eight. Software is a manifestation at a higher level than purely physical. It relies on a physical machine to exist but is not really physical itself. It is virtual and somewhat otherworldly.

Eight has a long history of being used as a means to reach a higher level or heightened awareness. The Eightfold Path is a primary teaching of Buddha and is described as the way to discover the true nature of things. It reveals the truth beyond the purely physical world and its association with suffering, greed, hatred and delusion. The Eightfold Path is a method constructed with the strength and solidity of the number four doubled. It is a path that leads beyond the purely material, but it is based on and grows from the material home of four. In fact, the Eightfold Path is the fourth of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. The numbers hold meaning as well as the eight teachings: right view, right aspiration, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Dharma Wheel
Dharma Wheel representing the Eightfold Path

 The Ba-gua are eight symbols, called trigrams, in Taoist cosmology that represent the fundamental principles of reality, and they are a main feng shui tool used in analyzing space. The I Ching consists of 8 x 8 pairs of trigrams used as a divination system. These are tools to reach a higher level of living and understanding manifesting through the number eight.

ba-gua

The word for eight in Chinese sounds like the word for wealth, prosper, or fortune and is considered very lucky. This corresponds with Hinduism where eight is the number of wealth and abundance. Modern numerology also equates the number eight with wealth and power, but warns that it must be balanced with spirituality. This brings to mind the Taoist teaching “If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” Eight is the power used to achieve true wealth, a wealth beyond material existence.

Turned on its side the number eight becomes the infinity symbol, a natural spiral that flows and returns to the same point. It is two circles flowing into each other amplifying, feeding back, into something greater than itself. It is a complete circuit becoming more than the sum of its parts. Ouroboros the tail-devouring snake also comes to mind; the snake eating its tail symbolizes the cycle of something constantly recreating itself—just as the octave of a scale recreates the root note but with a new higher aspect. Something has changed by going through the cycle.

Numbers are so commonplace to us that it is easy to forget the remarkable human insight that brought about their revelation. They work for us in mundane tasks because they come from deep sometimes hidden truths. One cell becomes two, two cells become four, four cells become eight. Numbers and math can seem to be an abstract human creation, but they reveal the hidden truths underlying our existence.

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