The origin of the significance given to the number 666 is the Bible. Revelation 13:18 (King James Version) states:
The Biblical Book of Revelation is commonly interpreted as a vision of the Apocalypse and the paragraph above appears about two-thirds of the way through it. The anticipated Armageddon is preceded by the rule of the Antichrist, who performs miracles and wins much support, but is in fact an agent of Satan. Followers of God learn to recognise this false prophet by the number 666, enabling them to defeat him. After that, Christ returns and heralds the Day of Judgement. Roll credits...
"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six."
Others, however, think that Revelations is about events of the past, rather than predictions for the future.
Anglican priest Rev Lionel Fanthorpe said:
"It is important to place the Book in historical context. If you or I were Christians in the first century, when Nero was persecuting Christians, then we would have been rather foolish to carry a book attacking the emperor by name. So they used code: the mark of the beast, 666, identified Nero, who they believed would be judged and destroyed by God. This was written to comfort the persecuted Christians that God would save them. Other readings are a misunderstanding."But why did Aleister Crowley choose to call himself The Beast 666?
In The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of Rituals of Thelema, Lon Milo DuQuette stated:
"Crowley's father was a lay preacher of the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist Protestant sect. His mother was also a devout (Crowley says 'fanatical') member of the church. Together they did their best to raise young Alic in the tenets of the faith. However, the youngster was a mischievous and headstrong lad, and his mother equated his behaviour to the rebelliousness of the devil himself. In moments of aggravation she called him the 'Beast 666.' He loved it, and as he grew up he delighted in identifying with the name and number as representative of all things joyously opposed to the spiritual, intellectual, emotional and sexual restrictions by which oppressive religions would oppose the human soul."Crowley would have also learnt that in maths 666 is the magic sum, or sum of the magic constants, of a six by six magic square, any row or column of which adds up to 111. Lon Milo DuQuette says in his book that in the Qabalistic Tree of Life, this also represents the Sun or the sixth Sephirah, Tiphareth - something Crowley knew.
In a court case in 1934, Crowley was asked what 666 meant, and he said: "It only means sunlight. 666 is the number of the sun." Mind you, Crowley was trying to keep himself out of jail at the time, so maybe his answer was quite literally just an attempt to put his reputation in the best possible light.
Whatever other interpretations there might be, in popular culture the number 666 is inextricably linked with the devil and it appears in countless horror stories, movies, heavy metal songs and other works of the imagination - such as the picture Nemi as a Devil above. I couldn't resist including this picture. Nemi, the goth who gives her name to a daily comic strip in The Metro is one of my favourite cartoon characters - and one I perhaps identify with just a little too...
In other areas, 666 is also: the sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel; the number on a winning lottery number in the 1980 Pennsylvania Lottery scandal, in which equipment was tampered with to favour numbers 4 or 6; and the number of gold talents that King Solomon collected in a single year, according to the Bible (1 Kings 10:14 and 2 Chronicles 9:13).
And here's one other meaning for the number 666: the panel at the Day for Doreen conference in London, in answering a question about whether the future of paganism might be cyberpaganism pointed out that in ancient Hebrew the letters V&W are the same, so the number 666 in letters is - www. Perhaps the Beast 666 is not, after all, a man, but Tiphareth the Spider weaving her will at the heart of the World Wide Web...
The picture Nemi as a Devil is from the website http://www.webshots.com/
The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of Rituals of Thelema