The mystery of numbers must soon have attracted man in his earliest development. Two hands, and not one only and each hand has its divisions. One notes the puzzle and the realisation of this struggling in the growing mind of a young child. It was a step forward when men began to give a name — equivalent to our one, two, three — to these divisions, to this separation of one vague entity into component parts or several units. He couldn’t advance with a recognition of numbers, for he must number his family, his tribe, his flocks, and all his possessions.
The heavens presented a meaningless glitter to his wondering eyes till, led by the same instinct for numbering, he divided the stars into groups, and gave them a name and a human story to bring them nearer to his awed consciousness.
Our thoughts can move with ease and understanding within the limits of a hundred years — from a century down to a second. Life is not so terrifying when we can cut it into fragments, as it were, and number them.
While thus separating, distinguishing and numbering all the objects and elements that came within human experience, our ancestors felt that there was a mysterious quality in numbers which they feared. Certain numbers, certain days of the week or the month were unlucky. Why? They didn’t know, except that they were prone to believe in the hidden influence of evil spirits.
Those men of the eastern desert! There was little for them to count, and yet — probably because of the fact — it was among one of these races that the science of numbers was developed. It was so important to know every landmark, and to be able to separate their flocks and claim their own.
Or, lying outside, forgetting for a time his own disablement as he counts the most brilliant stars, gathers them into clusters, and then is lost in marvel at the magnificent immensity of the brilliant arch above him. Perhaps he ends by wondering if there is a Being who “numbereth the stars.”