Number 49

What makes 49 a magic number?

Corne van Nijhuis

What makes 49 a magic number?  In various ancient texts there is reference to the number 49. Especially as a product of the multiplication of 7 times 7, as 7 is seen as a magic or holy number. It is considered as a number of completeness, like the 7 days of creation, the 7 colors of the rainbow, the 7 basic notes of a music scale, there are 7 heavens according to the Islam and so on. But to what refers the number 49 itself that makes it a magic number? For this kind of questions it’s always interesting to go back to the various religions and philosophies of life as they almost all make reference to numbers like this. In Judaism 49 refers to the number of days of the Omer-period which are the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot.

On Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh and on Shavuot they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God. So this makes the 49 days very special and as such a number with a holy reference. It is in Judaism also the number of years in a full Jubilee-cycle in the land of Israel, which is mandated by the Torah. This cycle consists of seven times the seven-year agricultural periods for the land of Israel. The following Jubilee year was to be treated like a sabbatical year, with the land lying fallow. In Buddhism the number 49 refers to the number of days and nights Siddhartha Gautama spent meditating beneath the body tree to reach enlightenment.

According to the Buddhist traditions it is also believed that the deceased is reborn after 49 days following their passing, during which they stay in the intermediate state or bardo. Therefore they have on this 49th day a ceremony to remember and say goodbye to the deceased who will take a new form. Then there is the Kabbalistic interpretation. The period of the counting of the Omer is considered to be a time of potential for inner growth for a person to work on one's good characteristics (middot) through reflection and development of one aspect each day for the 49 days of the counting. In numerology the number 49 is associated with the universal energy of creation, progress, transformation, inner strength and growth. This number also signifies spiritual awakening and enlightenment.

So if you are seeing the number 49 frequently, it is according to numerology a sign that big changes are on the horizon rooted in pure divinity and steady nature of inner peace. This number signifies new beginnings and growth, so it is important to embrace these changes when they come.  So if we look at the various references of the number 49 so far, a clear common thread is visible: it alludes to renewal, mostly in a cyclical framework. But in addition to the references presented, for me the most striking reference of 49 is the one related to the time frame of the phase in which the embryo develops into a fetus. The striking thing is that after seven weeks or 49 days after conception the first manifestation of the human pineal gland emerges. This coincides with the appearance of the first indications of the gender of the fetus. At the same moment there is also a first releases dimethyltryptamine (DMT) by the pineal gland.

An amino acid which also floods widely upon the brain-based mind when we are in the final stage of dying. This is by some seen as the cause of the pulling back of the veils which normally hide what the Tibetan Book calls the bardo, or the intermediate states between this life and the next. As such the pineal gland is the most active organ in the body at the time of death. So it then may be that the pineal gland is the place where life-force or consciousness exits the body. The converse situation could then also be true, that consciousness enters the fetus via the pineal gland around the 49th day. This means that until this 49 day tipping-point the fetus may be only a physical being and after that a physical- spiritual being. The 49th day is then the dawning of consciousness, of mind, of awareness as a distinct human being. This would make the number 49 indeed magic, but for me even a holy number.



Dhr Corne van Nijhuis is a Vedanta scholar. He contributes regularly to this magazine. He has written and translated books, and has travelled extensively almost all over the globe. His in depth study into Vedanta and other systems helps him express difficult ideas in a simple and easily comprehensible way.