On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and drafted the Declaration of Independence, creating a new independent nation, the United States of America.

The first two complete sentences of that document are justly renowned for their stirring language and the ideas they put forth, and are worthy of memorization (I certainly had to memorize them at a young age during my schooling):
When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to Separation.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
It is interesting and perhaps not coincidental that this historic proclamation of freedom was drafted in the year 1776, because the number 1776 has great significance, significance that was no doubt well known to many of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence.

As John Anthony West explains with great lucidity in his 1979 book, Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, the earliest civilizations that we know of appear to have recognized that numbers carry great meaning and potential, extending far beyond their mathematical function and providing what he says is "a means, perhaps the best means, of understanding the world we experience" (31).  

Although Mr. West and others have demonstrated that this awareness predated Pythagoras (who may well have learned of it from the Egyptians, this concept has historically been known as Pythagoreanism:
The discovery of the irrational and of the laws of harmony and proportion were attributed to Pythagoras, the disconcertingly semi-legendary mystic and mathematician (ca. 580-500 BC) to whom was also attributed the development of Pythagorean number mysticism: the theory that numbers have innate meaning.  West, 31.
In Serpent in the Sky, Mr. West elaborates on this theory, providing detailed discussion of the Pythagorean significance of the numbers 1 through 9 (pages 44 through 69), while showing evidence of a far earlier understanding of the same concepts by the ancient Egyptians and an incorporation of these numerological principles into their cosmology.  His explanation of some important aspects of the number 4, for example, is discussed in this previous blog post.

Ross Hamilton takes up the importance of Pythagoras and number in his deep examination of the Great Serpent Mound of Ohio entitled The Mystery of the Serpent Mound: in Search of the Alphabet of the Gods (first published in 1993).  Much of his far-ranging work involves the evidence Mr. Hamilton finds for superimposing a hexagonal lattice over the Serpent Mound, a hexagon which opens up new perspectives on the Serpent Mound, and which has important connections to the philosophy of Pythagoras (who saw the hexagon and the number six as extremely significant) and to other ancient esoteric traditions (some of Ross Hamilton's amazing discussion of the importance of the hexagon was briefly mentioned in this previous blog post about the hexagonal polar jet stream photographed circling in the gaseous clouds of the planet Saturn).

Mr. Hamilton presents extensive evidence from ancient texts that the hexagon was often divided such that each side was marked with points that created four equal segments on each of its six sides, thereby creating twenty-four points around the perimeter of the figure (six sides times four segments per side yielding twenty-four).  If these twenty-four points are all connected in a lattice (see diagram below), then the internal intersections of that lattice will number 37.  The diagram below, of the familiar game-board of the modern board game known as "Chinese checkers," actually incorporates just such a hexagon divided in the exact manner described by Mr. Hamilton (and supported by ancient texts) -- simply disregard the colored triangles that sit on each side of the hexagon in the game board, and you will be able to see the hexagon quite clearly (the white hexagon in the image below).


The white hexagonal space in the image above has each of its sides divided into four equal segments.  This division creates twenty-four black circles around the perimeter of the white hexagon (you can count them if you want).  The lattice connecting the twenty-four perimeter nodes forms thirty-seven more intersections inside the hexagon (these intersections are marked with yellow circles in the image above).  The product of these two numbers (24 and 37), is 888.  Mr. Hamilton notes that ancient esoteric tradition ascribed great significance to the number 888.  On page 119 of his work, he explains:
It is by means of the 24 perimeter points of the solar hexagon (indicating the various limbs of the creation) multiplied by the 37 interior points (representing the weaving together of the four ideas) that the number 888 (and therefore Man) is achieved.
After some fascinating discussion of the significance of the number 888, he notes that the same esoteric tradition ascribed great significance to the doubling of 888, which represents "philosophically a redoubling of the resources of the spiritual soul" (122).  As readers may have already determined, the double of 888 is 1776.

Mr. Hamilton goes on to explain that "The cardinal 1776, as the number of the Great Work (the grand union), is called the eagle of eagles or the phoenix in the terminology of the Adepts" (122).  

The phoenix, of course, was anciently described as a glorious bird which would periodically undergo a miraculous death and rebirth through flames.  As its old incarnation was consumed in the flames, a new phoenix would appear (first as a tiny worm, according to some sources, a tradition which links the serpent and the phoenix, as the words for worm and serpent were often interchangeable in mythology), and then rise majestically from the flames.

The fact that the number 1776 is mystically associated with the phoenix appears to have been well understood by the founders of the United States of America, as many early symbols for the new nation revolve around the image of a phoenix.  The image above, for example, shows a proposed design for the Great Seal of the United States submitted to Congress by artist William Barton in 1782 (for details see this US State Department historical site).  The figure of a phoenix can be found on the shield at the center of the seal (Barton's idea for the Great Seal was not accepted, although his design for the reverse, featuring a pyramid of thirteen courses of masonry leading up to an all-seeing eye was accepted and can still be seen in the Great Seal today).  Detail of his phoenix at the center of his proposed Great Seal can be seen below.

The suggestion that the founders of the United States were familiar with the esoteric numerology discussed above, and the connection between the number 1776 and the phoenix, should not really be viewed as too surprising or too far-fetched, given the fact that most of them were members of secret societies that had an interest in esoteric subjects (most notably Freemasonry).  As Flavio Barbiero has written in his book dealing with the deep historical origins of this fact (and other important aspects of the history of our world) entitled The Secret Society of Moses:
Many of the members of the first American Congress were Freemasons, starting with George Washington and those who wrote the Constitution of the United States.  Likewise, the protagonists of the Italian Risorgimento, from Mazzini to Garibaldi, were Freemasons.  Ultimately, the creators of the democratic system were Freemasons.  414.
Amazingly, if John Anthony West and Ross Hamilton are correct in their analysis (and I believe they are), then the roots of the number connections incorporated into that early proposed Great Seal stretch all the way back to Pythagoras and beyond -- to the ancient Egyptians and from there perhaps even earlier.  Further, if Ross Hamilton's analysis of the Great Serpent Mound of Ohio is correct, then the symbology and numerology connecting 1776 and the phoenix reached these shores many centuries before America's Founding Fathers!