Tag Archives: copiale

Most popular Hermetic Library blog posts of 2013

Here are the top 5 most viewed posts on this blog for this 2013 calendar year’s end:

  1. Leaf and twig design ring sets
  2. Da Pacem Domine (Last year’s 2nd also)
  3. Hello Aleister Crowley The Magician Kitty
  4. Satanic Knit Baphomet Sweater
  5. My Life with the Fill Kill Kult

All but one of the top 5 are newly posted this year. The 1st most popular post from last year The Copiale Cipher: An Early German Masonic Ritual Unveiled fell off as a discrete post, but, as you will see, shows up strongly in the searches still, and it is still in the top 50 posts along with a number of other items about the copiale cipher.

While last year’s Hello Aleister Crowley Kitty was the 4th most popular then, The All-Seeing Cat appears again with her sculptures in the top with Hello Aleister Crowley The Magician Kitty this year, and a number of related works appear elsewhere in the top 50.

Leaf and twig design ring sets is the real dark horse here. These are pretty interesting ring sets I noticed from BandScapes, but still rather a surprise to find at 1st place as the most popular post on the blog for this entire year.

Overall views of posts on the blog is fully double last year’s total and a striking 6 times what it was in 2011. Also, the drop off in total views between posts seems remarkably gradual on the rest and whole way down, so that shows me posts on the blog have a really nice and strong long tail. (Or, you know, it could just mean everything on the blog is equally unpopular in the grand scheme of things, because statistics.)

 

Here’s the 5 most popular search terms on this blog for 2013:

  1. baphomet
  2. krampus (Last year’s 1st and 2011’s 3rd)
  3. aleister crowley (Last year’s 3rd as well)
  4. da pacem domine
  5. oculists secret society

The site-relevant keyword thelema, which was 2nd in 2011 and 4th in 2012, dropped down a few more this year, although if one combined all the Aleister Crowley related search terms together that aggregate would be 1st in the list by far. Also, if one added copiale cipher and order of the eye, then “oculists secret society” would jump to 4th instead of 5th; as that search was quite popular all year long in various variations; The Copiale Cipher: An Early German Masonic Ritual Unveiled was the most popular post in 2012 and continues to be something of interest to people. “da pacem domine” seems strange to me in the top searches this year, as there’s only one actual post relevant to that term, but it was the 2nd most viewed article in both 2012 and this year, all in all, so people are definitely still finding that via their search engine of choice.

 

If you want to compare, take a look at the most popular posts and search terms of 2011 and 2012.

Also, if you want to head off on your own journey through the past, for over the last year I’ve been posting summaries, usually weekly, that you can gander through tagged Hermetic Library; or, just head to either the blog archives or search tool for your own self-guided exploration of this blog’s long tail of, I trust, interesting and entertaining posts.

 

Are you curious about the other posts in the top 50 for 2013? The most popular posts are quite an interesting variety of new fascinations and old favourites! Here’s the next 45 most popular posts on this blog in 2013:

  1. More on the Copiale cipher and the revealed rites of a secret society of Oculists
  2. Sex Secrets of Ancient Atlantis
  3. The historical place of Aleister Crowley in fact and fiction is explored a bit and somewhat sorted in a column about “Bad Books you never want your co-workers to know you’re reading”
  4. The Book of Soyga
  5. Baphomet items from Toxic Vision
  6. Jesus Potter Harry Christ
  7. Magickal Self-Defense on Aug 18, 2013
  8. The Book of Law of the Venerable Secret Order of the Eye
  9. The Book of Abraxas: A Grimoire of the Hidden Gods
  10. Handmade leather boots with a Baphomet design
  11. Secret Practices of the Sufi Freemasons
  12. Hello Baphomet Kitty
  13. Krampus Tee Shirt
  14. Summoning of Evil Spirits: Goetia and Solomonic Magick with Lon Milo DuQuette
  15. Silver and garnet pomegranate pendant
  16. The Wild Unknown Tarot
  17. The Occult Anatomy of Man & Occult Masonry
  18. Hail Satan and Drink Coffee
  19. Open letter from John Michael Greer to the Golden Dawn community
  20. The Moonchild of Yesod is also available as a free download
  21. The Daemon Tarot
  22. Whore of Babylon tattoo tights
  23. A Report on Current Magical and Esoteric Blogs
  24. Oracle Tarot Deck
  25. The Celtic Golden Dawn: An Original & Complete Curriculum of Druidical Study
  26. Priest/ess
  27. Goetic demon statues and more
  28. Ruby Snake Ring
  29. Baphomet cameo necklace
  30. The Copiale Cipher: An Early German Masonic Ritual Unveiled
  31. Baphomet Burning Cigarette Pants and more
  32. Tree of Life corporate organizational chart
  33. The Secret History of the World
  34. Leather masks of Thoth, Anubis and Ra
  35. Leather steampunk Anubis and Bast masks
  36. Hello Aleister Crowley Kitty
  37. Photos From An Album Discovered In The Burnt Out Lair Of A Sixteenth Century Crypto-Alchemist
  38. Death Tarot card leggings
  39. The Complete Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript
  40. AMORC altar set
  41. The Qabalah Workbook for Magicians
  42. It’s Aleister Crowley’s Birthday
  43. Aleister Crowley in: Facing Death
  44. Peaches Geldof has signed up to Aleister Crowley’s sex cult OTO
  45. Cats, Coffee, Satan & Spells

 

Secret societies, societies with secrets, and societies with spoilers

When thinking about secrets and mysteries in practice, I’ve long tossed about the idea of a difference between secret societies, societies with secrets and a society without spoilers. Especially in this day when so much is being made available online, but that really is just a matter of scale when there are plenty of historical examples of similar things, such as Aleister Crowley revealing the initiatory rituals of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as serialized in the pages of the Equinox, the varied publication and exposé of so much Freemasonic ritual, and so forth.

There are still some pretty legitimately secret societies, which while well-known to exist are not revealed, such as the Skull and Bones society, and recently breaking the Copiale cipher seemed to tantalizingly promise that there might be still some complex and completely unknown societies, at least until it was revealed the material was pretty clearly Freemasonic in nature. But for the most part, I object that when people talk about secret societies they are engaged in flights of fancy about group about which not only their existence but much of their particulars are known. Quite often, of course, such wild imaginings are part and parcel with an agenda of fear mongering, but even still there are otherwise sane and rational people talking about certain societies as if they were actually not completely or almost completely public. Certainly Freemasonic tradition and ritual cannot rationally be called secret anymore, and the membership is in the habit of parading around, not to mention things like having decals on their cars and fobs on their keychains, and thus it cannot be called a secret society. Even traditional boogeymen like Aleister Crowley and Ordo Templi Orientis can only by the slimmest margin come anywhere near being called a secret society, with websites, public spaces, public event calendars, and so forth. There may indeed be legitimately unavailable secrets still, for example within A∴A∴, but that’s not enough to call these fraternal orders by the name of a secret society. In these cases there’s perhaps some legitimate secrets, but there must also be a practical recognition that most material related to these groups is available, outside the structured system of the society itself, somewhere, if one wants to find it.

Of course, just as much as one can avoid spoilers for movies and books and other things sequentially revealed, it is possible to avoid, for the most part, much of that material. It is not that there are no spoilers. Rather that spoilers do very much exist. Which is to say, the existence of spoilers requires one to decide to avoid the spoilers in order to fully enjoy the reveal. This is quite different from a society that pretends it doesn’t exist to outsiders, or a known society with things that it keeps secret.

 

There are modern examples of working with secrets within esoteric systems, and there’s clearly something interesting going on around secrets. There is smoke pointing to something important and useful at the source. There’s a tension, perhaps much as it ever was, between the urge to make information available and the various efficacies of secrets. T Thorn Coyle wrote a bit about the division in Feri between what had been called the “Mystery tradition” and the “public religion” factions, at “The Sundering of Feri“. Thorn, of course, also runs an online Mystery School. I was trying to find a quote where I recall her saying something about how paganism needed to have a Mystery tradition as part of it, but can’t find that right now.

Generally, when I talk about such things to people who ask, I suggest that initiation ritual, especially, is like a good book or movie with a savoury plot twist or two. You will only ever get a single chance to experience the participatory drama without knowing how it develops; that’s if one goes through it the first time not having read the materials. One and only one chance. Ever. So why throw that away by reading ahead? One can always read the materials afterward, as many times as one likes; but to read the spoilers is to waste a wonderful opportunity that cannot ever, barring soap opera amnesia tropes, be experienced once the reveal has been spoiled.

Whether one “gets” it or not (either initially or on subsequent viewings of a ritual or readings, of material) is another question entirely. And, it seems to me, in my experience, what constitutes “getting it” will likely evolve and change over time no matter what else is a consideration. When given the opportunity, I like to point out that one can go to many stagings of a play by Shakespeare and get new things, new depth of understanding and new enjoyment, as well as savour slightly different interpretations, so to me the re-play value depth of meaning of a work or body of work is something that is a different question to the idea of seeing something for the first time without spoilers.

But, still, people freak about things unknown, and try to minimize and control things by figuring things out ahead instead of being comfortable with being uncomfortable as a thing itself. Seems to me the still prevalent modern desire to conquer Nature and the pervaisive post-modern existential nausea about information overload and slavish ‘inbox zero’ mania are examples, perhaps symptoms, of where the ability to just relax about not knowing, not being in control, would be useful for people to practice in specific so they can have skill in applying it in general.

 

Another aspect that always comes up around secrets is the idea that somehow no matter what is revealed, the real secrets are impervious to such petty concerns. Seems to me blather about mystery being unspoilable is semantically empty jazz hands (or worse self deception (or worse-worse deception of others) about “spiritual” exceptionalism), and misses the point of initiation as orchestrated stressful situation intended to create a kind of imprint vulnerability, an altered state, in the initiate, and attempts to diffuse that stress and that experience before experiencing it is an attempt mitigate and in some form to not have the experience at all. The efficacy of secrets in a system are not just about the information, true, but the information is interwoven into an experience, and the experience is changed by the quality and obscurity of the information on which the experience is built. If one knows the rollercoaster has a blind drop at the end, one still experiences the drop in and of itself, but the surprise in and of itself is changed into anticipation, and that’s a different thing entirely which not only changes the experience of the drop but distracts from the experience of what occurs before.

For me, when I talk about “reading ahead” (spoiling) I mean that as a placeholder for activity the diffuses the effectiveness of initiation and mystery, whether written down and read or spoken and heard or whatever and whatevered. For me, being a candidate in initiation and mystery is to be an improv actor stumbling into a rehearsed stage play, and both savoury and exciting. One tends to think all kinds of things about structure and likely scenarios, if nothing else than a rite of passage (exit normal, experience liminal, re-enter normal changed) but it is the actuality, specifics and plot twists, the things that can be spoiled, which I think should be avoided and, yes, allowed as a personal experience.

 

To bring it around, my point of wondering about classification of societies is that there is a kind of society which is not itself attempting to pretend it doesn’t exist, and which has essentially much of its material revealed or potentially could be in future somewhere, but that points out there is a reason not to “read” ahead as a practice of discipline in and of itself; that there is a place for not knowing as a thing, and experience, to be embodied through ritual, especially dramatic ritual like initiation.

The trick of improv is to have characters and bits of business prepared and figure out ways to fit those into any circumstances, so perhaps the corollary is to become good at mystery and a good initiate prepared by building the foundation of skills, whatever those are in one’s tradition, that make the personal experience of the unknown richer.

If an initiatory working is in some form or another purely ecstatic, then perhaps more than one person will have no prior exposure. That seems quite different than a mystery tradition where something is being revealed. But, whether there is an actual script or not, a mystery tradition will have participants who have experienced or developed a relationship with the mystery who are inducting others. If those others have exposed themselves or been exposed prior to some element meant to be revealed, then they have failed to avoid spoilers, they have whatevered the whatever.

Maps certainly won’t always apply, especial when applied outside their intended scope. Just add as given to any structural approach “except where this doesn’t apply”. But, to be clear, there are other structures, but I’m primarily talking about a mystery tradition where something is being revealed. But, whether there is an actual script or not, a mystery tradition will have participants who have experienced or developed a relationship with the mystery who are inducting others. Here the word ‘mystery’ in a religious sense comes from Greek mysterion “secret rite or doctrine,” as in a thing to be revealed to initiates, whether, additionally as previously stated, those are “written down and read or spoken and heard or whatever and whatevered”, a secret doctrine passed on or a secret rite enacted.

Which begs the question: without a mystery (neither secret rite or secret doctrine) to be revealed, whither the mystery cult? Further, without a mystery, one might even be tempted to ask how can there actually be an initiation at all?

 

Perhaps, one might say of a modern non-mystery that an “impromptu ecstatic divinatory rite” took place which offered UPG, such that a previously unknown rite is enacted or previously unknown doctrine is developed. But without the secret rite or secret doctrine, which would have to have previously existed to those initiated few inducting others, there’s nothing to pass on that was previously held sacred, no previously held in secret doctrine or rite, tautologically.

“Nothing to pass on that was previously held sacred” may offer another name, perhaps more tripping, instead of “society without spoilers”: a “sacred society”, a society with things held sacred as in separate, something bound, enclosed and protected.

Unfortunately, one can follow the etymology of ‘secret’ to essentially the same place, the difference being one implies holiness and the other does not, I suppose, which “holiness” seems, to my mind, just a special case of any of the others three terms I suggested.

 

I suspect the apparent failure of the modality of a “mystery cult” in the modern world has to do with modernity, modernism and existentialism, and the lack of acceptance of shared concrete and coherent gnosis, thus the ground on which a modern mystery cult would be built is unsuitable for lavish neo-romantic structures, except for those already conditioned to such things, such as lapsed Catholics and such. Which is to say, perhaps any mystery cult would seem too superficial to a modern person to have the same religious and social impacts, simply because the assumed rich foundation is missing.

So, the feeling one might have that a mystery cult or tradition in the modern age has lost its luster is due not to the mystery cult but rather due to the overall modern age. There is still a lingering notion that something may be missing for rootless moderns which a mystery cult can offer by way of a more structured ritual, initiations, and a focused mythic basis for ritual; more robust spiritual meaning which then, in turn, offers deeper experience of life in general. But, I find myself wondering if the project of modern mystery traditions is undermined by a general lack of cultural foundation, those foundations of community and cohesion being so efficiently eroded in our public, political and even private lives. Not to mention the lack of what is still called a “classical education” with the broad base of and relationship of familiarity with languages, myths, archetypes and so on. This, then becomes a chicken and egg, which can only be resolved by realizing the false dichotomy that one must be completed before the other, and that the development in general is aided by development in specific, and visa versa, synergistically.

One possible route out of the morass, for moderns and post-moderns, I sometimes come to is the suggestion that situational certainty is a tool for meta-cognition. By this I mean, that the ground on which a mystery cult could be built, the solid ground of structured ritual, initiations, and a focused mythic basis for ritual is sufficient when internally consistent for its purpose and held to be true for the time that it is necessary. But, that threatens what is perhaps an entirely different discussion.

 

But, to bring it back around again, a ‘mystery cult’ is a cult with a mystery. A ‘cult’ is the external activity enacting a religious metaphor, a ritual behaviour. A ‘mystery’ is a secret rite or secret doctrine (to be revealed). Therefore, a ‘mystery cult’ is specifically ritual behaviour that involves a secret rite or secret doctrine. ‘Tradition’ is shared belief or behaviour through time. Therefore, ‘mystery tradition’ is belief and ritual behaviour that involves a secret rite or secret doctrine shared through time.

I’m so strongly reminded by this of something. I believe it was something by Karl Kereny (but it might be form Van Gennep or Turner, I can’t recall right now) which I paraphrase: “Ritual enacts Myth and Myth explains Ritual.”

 

It seems possible to conflate a general meaning of “mystery” as more of a kind of ‘gnosis’ or noetic experience with how I understand it is used in the specific sense within the term “mystery cult” which is more what I am talking about here. When speaking of the idea of whether a ‘mystery cult’ within modern systems would be useful in order to ground the work in structured behaviour, I’m assuming that we’re actually talking about ‘mystery cult’ not general unspecific noetic experience or so forth. This of course somewhat ironically points out a possible initial critique of paganism as a generalized, syncretic, eclectic system which lacks the benefit of what a mystery cult offers and hence the possible utility of that structured influence, offering specific external ritual behaviour around a secret rite or secret doctrine.

If you want mystery without mystery cult, that already exists in various forms of wild and wishy-washy moments of gnosis within the ecstatic traditions of modern life; but, why not try adding an actual ‘mystery cult’ back into the cultural mix? In fact, I could easily argue that there already is ‘mystery cult’ in various places within neopaganism, with a facile example being initiatory orders like OTO and others, which are perfect examples of mysteries for which spoilers exist and which spoilers therefore can be intentionally avoided.

A very salient point for this modern information age is the value an experience of not knowing, so that one can and must do less thinking prior to events, not more. Perhaps the suggestion contained within the experience of not knowing is that one should do one’s thinking after: praxis before theory, so that theory is informed by praxis without prejudice. If this is the case, why not work toward maximizing the possible experience instead of minimizing the probable damage of knowing by seeking after spoilers of any kind, even the mundane accidents surrounding specific quanta and quality?

Indeed, I would suggest that one approach an initiatory experience within an mystery tradition not as a result of successful prior thinking or a seal on attainment, like we are so often familiar with from diplomas, certificates and honors; but an invitation to view the world through a particular lens for a particular period of time, determined by the particulars of the ritual and tradition in which the initiation takes place. In other words, the initiation is really the beginning, suggested by the word itself, of an pervasive life experience.

The full experience of a mystery event intended to involve surprises, plot twists or situations unknown can be self-evidently spoiled by prior knowledge of those circumstances. Especially if part of the trigger for the full experience is the stress of not knowing. Certainly, I don’t mean that these things are binary (and it may be possible to salvage some part of the experience even if spoiled, but why not go for the whole thing instead of the tatters?), but that avoiding spoilers is a discipline that seems worthy if one is serious about that experience, and looking to have it be as rich as possible.

And, that this, in specific, will inform one’s general life as well.

 

And yes, one can point out that for completely ecstatic visceral events and such that are not within a mystery tradition, there’s mostly nothing to spoil by prior knowledge, per se. Except that maybe even still, for example, having that ecstatic visceral experience is based on a not knowing, in some fashion; for example, there’s only one time for the first such experience. All subsequent such experiences are informed by prior such similar events; but also, there may be circumstances around how the experience is induced that involve some fashion of not-knowing the mechanisms being used, which after the initial experience become less effective in themselves and experienced practitioners then rely on other means more, such as anchoring past experience to ease induction subsequently.

Also, for purely personal experience based on involvement in a mystery cultic practice, the former requires the latter, so saying the former can’t be spoiled is only true on the former level but it’s a logical typing fallacy to presume that spoiling the more primary function of mystery cultic practice can’t spoil the dependent personal experience of it. Mystery rituals are built around some kind of surprise, a revealing of the secret practice or doctrine at least. One could try to criticize the practices of mystery traditions by bringing up features of non-surprise ritual is not a feature of surprise ritual merely because they participate in the prior category of ritual. But, still the one is not the other. Noetic mystery is not mystery cult merely because the English word mystery is in both. But these are mostly different topics than suggesting the efficacy a mystery cult with structured ritual behaviour involving a secret doctrine or secret rite to a previous practice of generalized, syncretic, eclectic practice.

 

So, for my own part, I have come to prefer the discipline of having structured ritual events with their reveals unspoiled so that I can experience them with as little prior knowledge as possible, because it’s the only time I will ever get that experience in that way, ever. Of course, you go about your experiences however you like, but I suspect if the initial spoiler free experience is not preserved you’re not actually experiencing ‘mystery cult’ anymore, but rather just, one might say, an extended re-enactment of a transcript of someone else’s dramatized experience. And, if you want that, just watch reruns of some reality television program, or another, instead.

 

[Originally posted over on John Griogair Bell’s Blog at Secret societies, societies with secrets, and societies with spoilers]

It’s funnier in Copiale

Now you can use the Online Copiale Cipher Encoder and the related cipher wheel to send and receive messages. It doesn’t translate your message into German and it doesn’t appear to use any of the Copiale glyphs with full word values, so it’s really just a substitution code with a partial Copiale cipher, but there it is. I don’t know if this means the Copiale cipher has jumped the shark yet, but it has definitely gained a critical mass of exposure now. At the very least, this could be a way to engage young learners around the Copiale cipher, codes, secret societies, security culture, and much more.

“The Copiale cipher is an encrypted manuscript consisting of handwritten characters. The manuscript included abstract symbols, as well as letters from Greek and most of the Roman alphabet. It is thought to date from between 1760 and 1780. In 2011, an international team announced that they had deciphered the manuscript. They found the original manuscript to be a German masonic text encrypted by a complex substitution code.

Use the Online Copiale Cipher Encoder to encrypt a message from any language into Copiale cipher. Then, give the cipher wheel below to your friends so they can decode your message!” [via]

 

 

I, for my part, am looking forward to having my own Copiale secret decoder ring appear as a prize in my cereal box. But, if this doesn’t all seem amusing and interesting from my description, just consider that it’s funnier in Copiale …

 

The Copiale Cipher: An Early German Masonic Ritual Unveiled

The Copiale Cipher: An Early German Masonic Ritual Unveiled” by James D Hodgkins is an article, pointed out to me by the author, from the March-April 2012 issue of the Scottish Rite Journal which may be of interest.

 

“A curious enciphered manuscript was discovered in an East German library in 1970 and eluded all attempts at decipherment. The document was forgotten until it fell into the hands of a private collector and recently came to the knowledge of an international team of academics from the U.S. and Sweden. In April 2011 the “Copiale Cipher” was broken, studied, and released to the public six months later. It contained rituals that caused a great deal of excitement in the mainstream press. Due to translation errors, the press missed an opportunity to arouse public interest with another mysterious topic that often grabs headlines: the Cipher protected an 18th-century German Masonic ritual.” [via]

 

“The first sign that this was a Masonic document was when Bro. de Hoyos saw the German word mopsen [sic] and noted that it was mistranslated as “thieves” on the second page of the cipher. The sentence in which the word occurs asked whether the candidate was a member of any other secret order. The code breakers used scientific methods to determine the age of the document, but the word mopsen allowed Bro. de Hoyos to “guestimate” a timeframe of 1740s–1760s for the cipher’s age. Bro. de Hoyos noted that the “Mopses” were a pseudo-Masonic Catholic coed fraternity founded in 1740 after Pope Clement XII’s 1738 bull denounced Freemasonry. It consisted almost entirely of Germans and counted some of the most important members of German society as its members. The name derived from the German noun Mops, meaning “pug-dog “(which played a part in the society’s ritual), although the translators confused this with the verb mopsen meaning “to filch, to steal.”

The interpretation of the manuscript as the ritual of an ophthalmology society is due to the misinterpretation of one commonly used logogram (a symbol used in place of a word). The logogram , which the code breakers called “lip,” was interpreted to mean “oculist” or “eye doctor.” Bro. de Hoyos took a cursory read of the first page of the German text, recognized it as using the language of 18th-century German Masonic rituals, and realized the logogram in question clearly stood for Maurer, or “Mason” in English. Once this small change is made, the document opens itself up and becomes a great deal more legible for everyone. Most English-language writings on 18th-century ritual are concerned with English and French Masonry; this document provides useful primary-source insight into German Masonic ritual of that time.” [via]

 

“In a time of legitimate concern over such issues as declining membership within the Craft, it is encouraging that core aspects of our ritual and philosophy have remained unchanged for close to three centuries. Regardless of time or distance, one of the appeals of Masonry will always be the universality of the values we teach. The Copiale Cipher now serves as a new testament to this tradition.” [via]

More on the Copiale cipher and the revealed rites of a secret society of Oculists

I’d posted previously about the success made cracking the Copiale cipher, and that the text revealed the ritual of a previously lost German secret order called the Great Enlightened Society of Oculists, at “The Book of Law of the Venerable Secret Order of the Eye“. Today I noticed that over on Danger Room, there’s a nice long-form piece by Noah Shachtman about this that offers quite a bit of narrative and more information at “They Cracked This 250 Year-Old Code, And Found a Secret Society Inside“. There’s also images of several items used by the society to gander at there as well, such as a blindfold with lenses and more, including the personal narrative by Shachtman of traveling to see the trove of materials first hand.

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

The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. “Read,” the master commands. The candidate squints, but it’s an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidate’s eyes with a cloth and 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 hand 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.” [via]

“It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock 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 and 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 to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever:

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

The Book of Law of the Venerable Secret Order of the Eye

I noticed a post over at Slashdot, “Copiale Cipher Decoded“, about how the breaking of the Copiale Cipher has revealed the previously coded instruction documents for the ritual of an 18th century secret order “that apparently had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology.” Of course, for those interested in such things as secret orders, order with secrets and the Golden Dawn cipher manuscripts, this should be interesting stuff indeed.

“during the ceremony he should not think further about the shells but the core even at the end those symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning”

You can read the english translation of the decoded German original on the research site. There’s also an article over at the New York Times, “How Revolutionary Tools Cracked a 1700s Code“.