The Meaning of 108

I know I just posted a blog yesterday, but Deepak’s 108 Ways to Attain Divine Consciousness post inspired me to share some of Joseph Campbell’s insights on this enigmatic star of all things numerological. Fans of the television show, LOST, should enjoy this; there’s more on that at the end of this post…

The excerpts below are all from one of the last books Joseph Campbell wrote in his life and one of my all-time favorites, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion; Chapter 1, Cosmology and the Mythic Imagination:


  1. Very cool post! A little trippy in fact. I really dig the Lost associations I never would have connected it that way. I get the Opiate of the masses, going down into one's own consciousness, but I'm not clear on the front and back halves…oh, well.

    I haven't read Inner Reaches so why is 108 multiplied by 4? What's the significance of 4? 4 has to mean something in order for 432 to be significant. Joseph Campbell is like a universal Grandfather isn't he? He's everybody's Granddad telling stories to help the little ones understand… Love ya Grandpa Joe! Thanks Manny. Love One Another

  2. Thanks for sharing the reminders of the 108 rhythms. Now I can appreciate your Lost references as when I first heard you share them (probably when we were out to lunch ) I hadn't become a fan of the show.

    Be Well,


  3. Great post, as I enjoy numbers in this fashion. BTW: Never heard of Campbell, except for few times on this site, but he sounds interesting … 4+3+2=9

  4. I always love your talks about Lost and Joseph Campbell, Manny! The episode with the statues stuffed with heroin was an awesome episode. All of the symbolism is truly what makes the show great. (Along with Sawyer, of course)

  5. Rod poses a good question. Why four? Manny's excellent post is the tip of an iceberg; one could write an "Encyclopedia 108-ica"! (Hence the length of this comment. Sorry. WISH WE HAD PARAGRAPHS, DAVE!)

    The numbers 108 and 432 are related to something called the "precession of the equinoxes."

    For a mundane view of this subject, check Wikipedia:

    For a more wisdom-based take, try this for starters:

    These numbers all come from the precessional calculations (Grandpa Joe goes into this in the same chapter Manny quotes). The Babylonians knew of this, and the widespread presence of the numbers (from Norse mythology to Japan) seems to be related to the diffusion of culture from the first cities in the Middle East. (Lots of examples in East Asia: 108 beads on a "Buddhist rosary," 108 heroes in "Outlaws of the Marsh," 108 distractions from the Path (leading to 108 strikes of the bell at New year's in Japan," and so on.)

    As I see it, it's not so much the number 4 per se that's important, as just the infinite relationships of numbers that share the factor 108.

    Just for fun try this:

    2 squared (4) x three cubed (27) is 108.

    Now multiply by 4 to the 4th (256), and you get the not-very-sexy 27,648.

    One more time, 5 to the 5th (3,125) brings us to a whopping 86,400,000. Note the first three digits, 864? That's 2 x 432.

    Since 1 to the first is 1, we could start there, and say that the first five natural numbers to their own powers, when multiplied, give us 86,400,000.

    Of course this is not amazing, since the first three yield 108; thus any higher products will have 108 as a factor. Still, it's fun to see 108, 216, 432, 864, popping up over and over, like a cosmic parlor trick.

    Or maybe it's more like this family of numbers can be found threaded throughout the universe, like a "Bible code" in the fabric of nature itself. Sounds like a movie…

  6. James is so right; this post is definitely just the tip of the iceberg. The editors of have very wisely suggested that folks invited to participate here as "Intent Voices" be concise and I was still pushing the envelope with this post! That's why I'm so glad we can have these 'comment' exchanges. I was actually hoping that you guys would fill in some of the blanks and make this a real interaction with your own insights into this. Thanks, you guys! I'd love to hear some more from LOST enthusiasts. Here's a little something to prime the pump [SPOILER ALERT]: Recall to mind the first hatch that is discovered where the man from the Dharma Initiative on the film strip instructs them that every 108 minutes the numbers 4+8+15+16+23+42 must be entered into the computer or the world "ends." Guess what those add up to? Yep, 108. That hatch is a metaphor for the Eastern esoteric traditions. But the film strip that instructs them to repetitively enter numbers without question is incomplete isn't it? Hmm, I wonder what the other hatch represents where they found the other piece of the film inside the Bible?? Isn't a priest there named Echo, one of the "tail survivors" who carries a big stick with scripture carved into it??? (an echo never originates, only repeats what has already been spoken). So who are all these "nose" and "tail" survivors, really? I love what J.J. Abrams did with this show! IMHO, he definitely stepped up as a vehicle through which the new story we are telling ourselves–the new mythos–is emerging. (…as did the Wachowski brothers with The Matrix Trilogy). Now THAT is powerful INTENT!!! Thoughts?

  7. Dang it, James! I thought you were going to bring in the Fibonacci numbers for a second and lead us down a Dan Brown ala Da Vinci Code tale or something… Thanks for the computations. I love cosmic parlor tricks! Mom says I am one. Tip of the iceberg for sure! I've got to read Inner Reaches for sure now. I blame Deepak for starting this…LOL!

  8. Oh Manny if you're ever in LA lets grab a beer. Your Lost metaphor interpretations are awesome. I want to spring this on my friends…as my own theory of course. HA!