They cracked this 250

For nearly 250 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

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For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.Courtesy of Uppsala University

The master wears an amulet with a xanh eye in the center. Before hlặng, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes và surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun.

The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate và orders hlặng to lớn put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

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The candidate is told not to lớn panic; there is hope for his vision to lớn improve sầu. The master wipes the candidate's eyes with a cloth & orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.


The master starts plucking hairs from the candidate's eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his h& on the master's amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.


For more than 260 years, the contents of that page—& the details of this ritual—remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th và 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial Thành Phố New York lớn imperial St. Petersburg. Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man lớn the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church và state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have sầu remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.


It was actually an accident that brought to lớn light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation lớn intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, và religion spread underground. At least that's what experts believe sầu. The only way to know for sure is khổng lồ break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer và Wolfgang Hoông chồng would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, & she would get the penne all'arrabbiata. The two philologists—experts in ancient writings—would talk for hours about dead languages và obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, và Schaefer was about khổng lồ leave Berlin khổng lồ take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hoông chồng announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised—a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret & a series of strange symbols.


Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped khổng lồ 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense lớn her whatsoever:

*


Arrows, shapes, & runes. Mathematical symbols & Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hoông xã deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have sầu to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train khổng lồ Uppsala, Schaefer turned khổng lồ her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn và Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, overkích thước ovals & pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the kết thúc. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "khổng lồ copy." Schaefer had no idea what lớn make of these clues.

She tried a few times khổng lồ catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, she'd lose traông xã. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didn't even have sầu an Internet connection at trang chủ. But this lecture was different. The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California speciamenu in machine translation—the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely White hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look lượt thích a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity và passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate Dante's Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped khổng lồ cook up software that could understvà the meaning of poems & even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages lượt thích ciphers—as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is lớn figure out the set of rules for turning the cipher's text inlớn plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to lớn turn a phrase on its head, when lớn ignore a word altogether. Establishing that type of rule mix, or "key," is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into lớn English is far more complex. Words have sầu multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language lớn language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways lớn make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, và which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, & "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to lớn merely millions.

The next step is lớn take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what’s called an expectation-maximization algorithm to vì chưng that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it’ll interpret as “yes,” “horse,” “to break dance,” and “quiet!” Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English—what would the text look lượt thích if meant “break dancing”?


The algorithm’s first few thousvà attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer & closer lớn the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely phối of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as “yes” and

*
as “quiet.”


The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference—generally, the longer the cipher, the better they persize. So he casually told the audience, “If you’ve got a long coded text to lớn chia sẻ, let me know.”

Funny, Schaefer said lớn Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.


*

Niedersä chsisches Landesarchiv-Staatsarchiv WolfenbüttelA copy of the cipher arrived at Knight’s office a few weeks later. Despite his comments at the conference, Knight was hesitant khổng lồ start the project; alleged ciphers often turned out khổng lồ be hoaxes. But Schaefer’s note stapled khổng lồ the coded pages was hard lớn resist. “Here comes the ‘top-secret’ manuscript!!” she wrote. “It seems more suitable for long dark Swedish winter nights than for sunny California days—but then you’ve got your hardworking and patient machines!”

Unfortunately for Knight, there was a lot of human grunt work lớn bởi first. For the next two weeks, he went through the cipher, developing a scheme to lớn transcribe the coded script inlớn easy-to-type, machine-readable text. He found 88 symbols and gave sầu them each a unique code: became “lip,” became “o..,”

*
became “zs.” By early March he had entered the first 16 pages of the cipher inkhổng lồ his computer.

Next Knight turned to his expectation-maximization algorithm. He asked the program what the manuscript’s symbols had in comtháng. It generated clusters of letters that behaved alike—appearing in similar contexts. For example, letters with circumflexes (

*
) were usually preceded by
*
or
*
. There were at least 10 identifiable character clusters that repeated throughout the document. The only way groups of letters would look và act largely the same was if this was a genuine cipher—one he could break. “This is not a hoax; this is not random. I can solve this one,” he told himself.

A particular cluster caught his eye: the cipher’s unaccented Roman letters used by English, Spanish, & other European languages. Knight did a separate frequency analysis khổng lồ see which of those letters appeared most often. The results were typical for a Western language. It suggested that this document might be the most basic of ciphers, in which one letter is swapped for another—a kid’s decoder ring, basically. Maybe, Knight thought, the real code was in the Roman alphabet, và all the funny astronomical signs and accented letters were there just lớn throw the reader off the scent.


Of course, a substitution cipher was only simple if you knew what language it was in. The German Philipp, the Latin copiales, và Hock’s allusion lớn Albanian all hinted at different tongues.

Knight asked his algorithm lớn guess the manuscript’s original language. Five times, it compared the entire cryptotext khổng lồ 80 languages. The results were slow in coming—the algorithm is so computationally intense that each language comparison took five sầu hours. Finally the computer gave sầu the slighchạy thử preference for German. Given the spelling of Philipp, that seemed as good an assumption as any. Knight didn’t speak a word of German, but he didn’t need to lớn. As long as he could learn some basic rules about the language—which letters appeared in what frequency—the machine would do the rest.


While his family got ready for spring vacation—a “history tour” of the East Coast—Knight looked for patterns in the cipher. He saw that one comtháng cipher letter,

*
, was often followed by a second symbol,
*
. They appeared together 99 times; a
*
frequently came after: .

Knight reviewed comtháng German letter combinations. He noticed that C is almost always followed by H, và CH is often followed by T. This sequence is used all the time in German words lượt thích licht (“light”) & macht (“power”). , Knight guessed, might be cht. It was his first major break.

During his vacation, as his daughters played on their iPads at night in the khách sạn room, Knight scribbled in his orange notebook, tinkering with possible solutions to the cipher. So far what he had was a simple substitution code. But that left scores of cipher symbols with no German equivalent.

So one evening Knight shifted his approach. He tried assuming that the manuscript used a more complex code—one that used multiple symbols to lớn stand for a single German letter.

Knight put his theory khổng lồ the thử nghiệm. He assumed, for example, that

*
,
*
, &
*
all stood for I. It worked. He found others, & soon he started assembling small words, like
*
or der (“the” in German), which Knight recognized from World War II movies. Then he got his first big word:
*
, or candidat, followed by
*
, or antwortet (“the candidate answers”). The cipher’s wall of secrecy was crumbling.

But some of the cipher’s symbols—especially iconic ones like ,

*
, and —remained baffling. Worse, he couldn’t get German translations for any of the cipher’s standard Roman letters.

On March 26, Knight reviewed his notebook. The words of his first phrase—Der candidat antwortet—were separated by an & an . That made no sense if the coded và stood for German letters. That’s when Knight realized how wrong his initial assumption had been. The unaccented Roman letters didn’t spell out the code. They were the spaces that separated the words of the real message, which was actually written in the glyphs và accented text.


*

On March 31, Knight sent an gmail to lớn Schaefer and her trùm, Beáta Megyeđắm say, head of Uppsala's department of linguistics và philology, who was also interested in the manuscript. "I think I've sầu been making some progress," he wrote, và included two lines from the cipher: dieser schlag id das zeibịt und der anfang de jenige vertraulichheit die der bruder von jetzo an als geselle von uns zunerwar ...


Schaefer stared at the screen. She had spent a dozen years with the cipher. Knight had broken the whole thing open in just a few weeks.

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The message in these two lines was almost as remarkable. Schaefer made a few tweaks and sent baông xã a tentative sầu translation: "This stroke is the sign/the symbol and the beginning of the confidentiality/familiarity that the brother, from now on companion, can expect of us ..."

It was an initiation ritual, Schaefer said. Geselle literally means a "companion." But she knew the term was also used in fraternal orders—clandestine societies lượt thích the Freemasons. In this context, a geselle was a rank in a secret society.

Schaefer's trùm, Megyesi—a 41-year-old Hungarian-migré—was especially taken by the cipher's contents. "I would not mind being chased by a secret org," she emailed Knight. At night, after she was done managing her department of 450 courses & 25 professors và after she put her twins lớn bed, Megyemê man sat at the computer, turning the symbols into text. She & Knight started emailing multiple times a day about the cipher—and signing their emails in Copiale cipher text.

But they still hadn't cracked the code's big symbols—especially , which they transcribed as "lip." Megyesay đắm và Schaefer were pretty sure it stood for a word, not a letter. But they weren't sure what word it meant.

Then one night in the middle of April, while Megyesay đắm was working late in her office, she stared absentmindedly at the neatly arranged folders on her desk. She looked at a page containing the lip symbol. Schaefer walked into her office just as she was thinking about this. Megyeđê mê looked up. "This symbol," Megyemê mẩn said to lớn Schaefer, "it's not a lip. It's an eye."


*

Niedersä Landesarchiv-Staatsarchiv WolfenbüttelAs it turned out, Schaefer had made a discovery of her own. A phrase in the Copiale text, a reference khổng lồ the "light hand" required to lớn be a master of the society, had seemed familiar lớn her. So she dug up an academic article she had read some time before about a secret order in Germany that called itself the Great Enlightened Society of Oculists. The "light hand" was mentioned in their bylaws.


It was a massive breakthrough. Active sầu in the mid-18th century, the Oculists fixated on both the anatomy and symbolism of the eye. They focused on sight as a metaphor for knowledge. And they performed surgery on the eye. "We exceed all other by being able to pierce all cataracts, whether they're fully developed or not," the group boasted in its public—và uncoded—bylaws.


Centered in the town of Wolfenbüttel, Germany, the Oculists, it was believed, played the role of gatekeepers khổng lồ the burgeoning field of ophthalmology. They kept out the "charlatans" who could cause someone to "thua their eyesight forever."

On their crest, the Oculists featured a cataract needle và three cats (which, of course, can see in near darkness). In their bylaws, the Oculists' emphasis on the master's "light hand" seemed to be a reference to lớn members' surgical skill. And they appeared lớn have a rather progressive sầu attitude; women could be Oculists, just like men.

Schaefer contacted the state archives in Wolfenbüttel, which housed a collection of Ocumenu materials. The archives had a coded text just like the Copiale—và some cool amulets too.

Megyesi mê plunged even deeper inkhổng lồ the cipher. But the text confused her. The weird rituals it described didn't exactly seem like medical school classes. Although the Copiale mentioned the master's "light hvà," Megyeyêu thích couldn't find anything in the coded text about eye surgery or cataracts.

Instead the Copiale noted that the master had lớn "show his skill in reading và writing of our cipher." These Oculists might have sầu been presenting themselves as ophthalmologists in public. But inside the order's chambers, the light hand must have sầu meant something else. Could it have sầu been about keeping secrets through cryptology?

Even with its code broken, the Copiale's swirl of ritual và double-talk was getting harder và harder khổng lồ follow—especially for someone whose experience with secret orders was drawn mainly from cheesy movies. Megyeđắm say knew she needed help figuring out what these societies were all about. So she asked around for someone who could tell her what really happened in those candlelit initiation rooms.


*

Officially, Andreas Önnerfors is a historian of ideas. But he spends a lot of his time as one of 50 or so university researchers in the world seriously examining the historical & cultural impact of secret societies. When Megyeđắm đuối contacted hyên ổn, Önnerfors readily agreed khổng lồ read this newly decoded document from a clandestine order. "Like the kid who sees candies, I could not resist," he says, tugging gently at his ascot. "Plus, my boss wasn't there."

They agreed to lớn meet in September in the castlelike university library in Lund, Önnerfors' cobblestoned hometown in southern Sweden. Megyetê mê và Schaefer came down from Uppsala with the Copiale manuscript. Knight flew in from California.


Hundreds of thousands of Europeans belonged to lớn secret societies in the 18th century, Önnerfors explained to lớn Megyesi; in Sweden alone, there were more than a hundred orders. Though they were clandestine, they were often remarkably inclusive sầu. Many welcomed noblemen và merchants alike—a rare egalitarian practice in an era of strict social hierarchies. That made the orders dangerous khổng lồ the state. They also frequently didn't care about their adherents' Christian denomination, making these orders—especially the biggest of them, Freemasonry—an implicit threat to lớn the authority of the Catholic Church. In 1738 Pope Clement XII forbade all Catholics from joining a Masonic lodge. Others implied that the male-only groups might be hotbeds of sodomy. Not long after, rumors started that members of these orders actually worshipped the devil.


These societies were the incubators of democracy, modern science, and ecumenical religion. They elected their own leaders & drew up constitutions lớn govern their operations. It wasn't an accident that Voltaire, George Washington, và Ben Franklin were all active sầu members. And just like today's networked radicals, much of their power was wrapped up in their ability lớn stay anonymous and keep their communications secret.

After reading the Oculists' cipher, Önnerfors suggested that it described one of the more extreme groups. Forget the implicit threats to the state or church. In part of the Copiale, there's explicit talk about slaying the tyrannical "three-headed monster" who "deprive man of his natural freedom." There's even a hotline for a "general revolt." Rethành viên, Önnerfors told the code-breakers, this book was written in the 1740s—30 years before the Declaration of Independence. "To someone at the time," he added, "this would be like reading a manifeskhổng lồ from a terrorist organization."


To Önnerfors, decoding the Copiale was a significant achievement. Traditionally, historians have just ignored documents like this, because they don't have sầu the tools to make sense of them. That's why the Oculists passed as early surgeons for so long. But there are scores of these enciphered documents—many in Lund alone. Some concern new rites of a fraternal order; others could detail political movements. There's no way khổng lồ tell for sure, because they're cryptologically sealed. There's a whole secret history of the West waiting lớn be told. There are so many more codes.

Decoding the Copiale

Cracking the so-called Copiale cipher was a three-step process. First the characters had lớn be rendered as machine-readable text:

*
became "eh," &
*
became "lip." Next, software analyzed the behavior of the cipher letters & guessed that the Copiale's original language was German. The code-breaking team then was able to lớn translate the text inkhổng lồ German & finally inlớn English, revealing a secret manual of an esoteric society. Here's how it worked.


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z ns eh n hd iot hk tri j ns ah b mal tri nu h z ih plus c ni three bar d r. ki mu del oh s z uh three zs lip o.. pi iot oh r g zzz ni x. ns ah j iot del gam zzz y.. lam l iot hk p z eh plus f plus uu cross c. iot bas uu c del grr cross c. oh arr lam f h. nu x. uh : j sqp lam e m. ns r. gs m. c. : uu h tri sqi : lam gs grr y.. ru ah ds bar p. arr uh b m. oh c. : uu h tri sqi c. tri bar n z grr bar m. ah x. uu o m. grr iot c. n bar ns uh c x. ih hd zzz y.. plus zs del eh hd n. c. lam uu


die historie von dem ursprunge der *lip* *o..* die neugierigkeit ist dem meNschlicheN geschlecht an geerbt wir wolleN offt eine sađậy wisseN blos des wegeN weil sie geheyên gehalteN


The history of the origin of the Ocudanh sách society. Curiosity is the inheritance of mankind. Frequently we want to know something only because it needs lớn be kept secret.


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These unaccented Roman letters appeared with the frequency you'd expect in a European language. But they don't represent letters—they mark the spaces between words.Algorithmic analysis showed that letters that looked alike also acted alike. These all actually stvà for the letter E. It's a way lớn confuse codebreakers.The Copiale's more unusual symbols denote words, not letters—in this case, "Oculist" và "society."On October 25, 2011, The New York Times published a story about the Copiale, focusing on Knight's code-cracking techniques. A flood of media attention followed—along with hundreds of emails from people who claimed to have sầu ancient ciphers of their own. In December, when I visited Knight, he had just received a picture from Yemen. Some Bedouins had found a stone with an unknown, squarish script. Perhaps Knight could tell them what it said?

This was unfamiliar turf. Knight and the other members of the Copiale team weren't used lớn such attention. And not all of it was positive: There were also miffed Masons telling hyên ổn he didn't understvà the full picture, & warnings from the fringe phối telling them lớn stop spilling dusty secrets or claiming that Lucifer was really the Freemason god.


Bachồng in Lund, Önnerfors grew surprised too as he continued to lớn plumb the Copiale. In the midst of the descriptions about Ocucác mục rituals, the document took a narrative turn. It described a meeting of "a few good friends" who talked about people's desire khổng lồ "know something only because it needs lớn be kept secret." The friends decided to lớn use this curiosity to lớn play a little prank. They mix up a fraternity và "would agree immediately as they would lượt thích to pretend that a great secret would be behind their unification." They called this farce, this hoax, this grand psychological experiment Freemasonry. In other words, the Oculists were making an outrageous claim: that they founded Freemasonry ... as a joke.

That certainly wasn't true, but at the very least the Oculists seemed lớn be watching Freemasonry's every move. Starting on page 27 & continuing for the remaining 78 pages, the cipher detailed the rituals performed by the highest degrees of the Masonic order—rites unknown to lớn ordinary Masons at the time. Nothing was omitted from the Copiale's descriptions of these top-level rituals. Not the skulls. Not the coffins. Not removal of undergarments nor the nooses nor the veneration of Hiram Abiff, builder of the Great Temple of Jerusalem, whose decomposed body toàn thân became the alchemical emblem for turning something rotten inlớn something miraculous and golden.

Decades later, most of these practices became widely known as the Freemasons' secrets seeped out. But in the 1740s they were still well concealed—except khổng lồ the Oculists. The Oculists were a secret society that had burrowed deep into another secret society. Önnerfors noted that the cats on the Oculists' insignia were watching over mice. It could be another Oculist joke — or a sign that they were spies.


Before their cipher was broken, the Oculists were practically unknown. The main thing historians in Wolfenbüttel knew about the group was that it was led by a count named Friedrich August von Veltheyên, who died in April 1775. Like many aristocrats of his day, he belonged khổng lồ multiple secret societies, including an Order of the Golden Poodles, which likely sounded as goofy baông xã then as it does today. But in his will, his Ocucác mục heirlooms merited special instructions. He had locked all of the Oculists' objects in a leather trunk và ordered his son khổng lồ make sure the seals remained unbroken until the local duke (or one of the duke's descendants) said otherwise. If the count's goal was to lớn make sure that whatever was inside that trunk faded into obscurity, he succeeded. The trunk wasn't opened until 1918. Its contents—now at the state archives in Wolfenbüttel—have sầu rarely been examined since.

After months of talking about the Oculists with Knight, Schaefer, Megyemê man, và Önnerfors, I decided this past winter khổng lồ see Count von Veltheim's trove sầu for myself.

Unable to make the trip personally,Önnerfors arranged for his mentor—a professor named Jan Snoek—lớn meet me at the archives. Snoek is a high-degree Mason who has designed his own rituals for the order. We met at the archives in Wolfenbüttel và found a series of rectangular boxes waiting for us.

Snoek và I took them into lớn a private reading room with circular windows that overlooked a browning forest. Inside the first box was the silver-dollar-sized seal of the Oculists; its watchful cats & pince-nez perfectly preserved thanks khổng lồ almost two and a half centuries of near isolation. Another box revealed a bone-handled cataract needle and the luminescent green aprons that members wore. Inside a third box were five oval amulets bearing raised xanh eyes so anatomically correct I half expected them lớn wink.

There was also a tiny cylinder, covered in jade & gold—the colors of the Copiale itself. I screwed it open to find a tortoise-shell cup holding an eye made of ivory và horn. The mã sản phẩm came apart like a Russian doll: pupil inside lens, iris on top of pupil, cornea resting on iris. Each layer was more exquisite than the next.


Niedersä Landesarchiv-Staatsarchiv WolfenbüttelThe artifacts laid out in the reading room also undercut the idea that the Oculists were sleeper agents on a mission to lớn expose Freemasonry. Why would spies need all these extra rituals? Or be so interested in anatomy?


Put yourself in a Mason's shoes, Snoek explained. The Catholic Church has outlawed your order—và every other secret society. You don't want lớn give sầu up your Freemasonry, but you don't want to be accused of sodomy. Even in a largely Protestant country like Germany, that was a withering accusation at the time. So "you hide it in a veil," Snoek said. You start a new phối of rituals, lớn layer on top of the old—& make it impregnable to lớn Vatican attacks.


Perhaps the Oculists weren't spying on Freemasonry so much as keeping it alive.

"As a Mason you are not allowed lớn write down—let alone publish—your rituals," Snoek said. So how bởi vì you spread your ideas? You publish esoteric rites as if they are exposures—public outings of Masonry. Except you publish in code, so only an elite cadre of fellow Masons can read the dangerous things you have to say. And when your mission is over, you stuff all the evidence inkhổng lồ a box that doesn't get opened for nearly 150 years. The Oculists guarded và transmitted the Masons' deepest secrets, Snoek believes, using a mixture of ritual, misdirection, & cryptography.

Eventually we turned lớn the last items in the Ocucác mục trove: nine copies of a four-page document written in a mixture of old German, Latin, and the Copiale's coded script. The message was more or less identical in every set. "Die Algebra," it said at the top of page one, a primer on the "old way of calculating." Rows of cipher letters lay beneath. The document seemed to add them up as if they were numbers. The third page mentioned the Jewish Cabala—the mystical system in which meaning is derived from the numerical value of letters.

It would appear that the Copiale symbols don't represent just words and letters, they st& for numbers too. But if they do, Knight, Megyeđắm say, and Schaefer haven't been able khổng lồ tease out the meaning. The Ocucác mục master apparently understood these coded documents in a way that today's interpreters bởi not. Despite years' worth of attacks on their cipher, the Oculists' secrets have not been pried loose, at least not fully. What they saw in their initiation chambers may never again be seen.

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Contributing editor Noah Shachtman (noah.shachtman
sohamobi.com is where tomorrow is realized. It is the essential source of information and ideas that make sense of a world in constant transformation. The sohamobi.com conversation illuminates how technology is changing every aspect of our lives—from culture khổng lồ business, science khổng lồ design. The breakthroughs & innovations that we uncover lead to lớn new ways of thinking, new connections, and new industries.


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