All magical codes, if you know the Trithemian method, within a few hours you can get plain text. The Voynitch manuscript did not yield at all to this method and the CIA formed a working group that for over ten years would invite scholars in to have a look at this and if you're interested in this, Marie D'Amperio, who was a great Renaissance scholar, wrote a book called The Voynitch Manuscript, an Elegant Enigma in which she traces the efforts of the CIA to figure this thing out and to figure out what it could be.
There the matter rested until about three years ago when, I think his name is Leo Levertov, some kind of military historian, one of these peculiar people who live for this stuff, he got a hold of it and he said, and deimlperia(?) goes through all the decipherment and there were many efforts at decipherment, there was a scholar at Yale in the twenties named Brumbra who was a very respected man who ruined himself by claiming a complete decipherment of the Voynitch manuscript and, the way the game is played is that you say what your rules for the decipherment were, you give the rules to a colleague and you give your colleague a page of text. If he can't translate it with your rules then you are viewed as a deluded and misguided person and your career goes up in flames. Well, the Brumbraian method for deciphering the manuscript had to do with confined pools of letters where, it would get you to a pool of five or six letters but then you could freely choose which one you used and critics of Brumbra demonstrated that you could make this thing say anything you wanted it to. Brumbra supported Dee's claim, he claimed that it deciphered out into a Roger Bacon manuscript that described a series of riots between the students and the black friars in 1385 at Oxford. But nobody else could make it say that or make it say anything so Brumbra disgraced himself and ruined his career.
Then there were other efforts at decipherment which I won't bore you with but along comes Leo Levatov just four years ago and he wrote a book called The Voynitch Manuscript: A Liturgical Manual for the Catherites and his great breakthrough, if you accept his translation, and I do, I know people who don't but they don't seem to have read him as carefully as I have, I think the dude pretty well has it nailed to the barn door. His great breakthrough was to realize that it's not in code. It is not an encrypted manuscript at all. What it is is it's a synthetic alphabet, yes, it's an alphabet that, and one of the things that baffled the CIA is was they looted the libraries of Europe and they could never find another example of what is called Voynitch script and this is just baffling. How could there be no other example of this script. It appears that what happened was someone created a synthetic alphabet and then in a mixture of Medieval, polyglot Flemish with a huge number of loan words from Old French, Middle High German, and Swedish, wrote down a sacramental manual for the dying in the Catherite sect.
Now, what is the Catherite sect? You're probably familiar with something called the Albajensian(?) crusade. This was not a crusade carried on against the infidel for the recovery of Jerusalem but rather a series of military actions carried out by the pope against communities in Southern France in the early 1200s. These people were Catherites. As far as we can tell, and we can't tell much because we only have descriptions of Catherites by people who were burning them at the stake, in other words no original Catherite documents survive, we just have what they screamed out on the rack as they were being put to death by the bishops of the church and this was a horrific incident in European history. To give you the flavor of it, the second Albajensian crusade was prosecuted by a general of the pope named Simone De Monforte and his lieutenants came to him, at a point, and some of you might have visited the city of Carceson in Southern France which is a walled Medieval city in Southern France, very beautiful, Simone De Monforte's lieutenants came to him and they said "We have cornered the Catherites at Carceson but the problem is is that there are 6,000 Catholics within the city walls." And he said "kill everybody, God will recognize his own." So that was the spirit in which this thing went forth, and they did, they did.
So, what we do know about the Catherites is that they had a sacrament, the holiest my...well, first let me tell you a little bit more about them. At first it was thought that they were pretty much heterodox Christians. They were into nudity and vegetarianism and they sound like early hippies, as far as we can tell. They got together men and women, they took off their clothes, they bathed, whether there were orgies or not we don't know, they were vegetarians, and the one thing that we do know is that they had a sacrament called the consolamentum and the consolamentum was ritualized vivisection, no, that's not the word, the term escapes me, but anyway, when you were dying, a fellow Cather would cut your wrists and open your veins in a warm bath of water and you would die in that state, you did not die a natural death. This was called the consolamentum. What Leo Levatov is claiming is that the Voynitch manuscript is a description, a manual, for the prefecti of the Catherite sect telling how to properly carry out the consolamentum. I see no reason to challenge it. Even with my limited knowledge of German, once you get the vowel and letter assignments right into this weird manuscript into this weird language and change it into English alphabetic text you can see that there's enough German there and then these lone words in Flemish and so forth, it looks to be true.
And what emerges from this, if we accept the Voynitch manuscript as the only primary document on the Catherite faith, is that this was not a form of heterodox Christianity at all, it is much more radical then that and this may explain the church's fury with this group of people. It was a cult of Isis. It can be traced straight back into the mystery religions of Eo(?) Isis in Egypt and I have not seen any critical commentary on Levatov's book. His book was published by this weird press in Rodondo Beach that specializes only in books on military encryption. Their catalog is a revelation to see, it's amazing, and the book on the Voynitch manuscript stands out like a sore thumb because most of it is like dictionaries of three letter words in Swahili and their numerical transforms and stuff like that. So that's the history to date of the Voynitch manuscript and it's not that askew of our subject because all of this heterodoxy in Europe blends together.
The presence of Theodore DeBrie as an alchemical printer in Heidleberg may be a clue because there were survivals of this Catherite faith in the form of a heresy called the brotherhood of the free spirit. If any of you are familiar with the altarpiece called "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch, it's thought that this was created by commission for a brotherhood, a congregation of the brotherhood of the free spirit and the brotherhood of the free spirit was always associated with some reason, we don't know why, with printers. Printers seem to be the profession that the brotherhood favored and, like the Catherites, they practiced vegetarianism, nudism and gathering together in a ritual bath. So, there is much still to be learned and to be teased apart in the art history and the history of heterodox thinking in Europe of which alchemy is seen to be one facet of a faceted gem that includes the brotherhood of the free spirit, early Freemasonry, Catherites, survivals of Manicheism, Voagamils(sp?) in Yugoslavia, there are Vogamils Vostrian(?) graves on the Southern coast of Thessolonica and just a whole zoo of intellectual systems that have been forgotten and overlooked. This what I meant when I said we will explore the statigraphy of lost thought systems. In some cases we possess quite complete skeletons, in the case of alchemy, what we possess in the cases of the Vogamils and the Catherites is almost a foot bone or a tooth or a footprint but someday, with luck, new textual material will emerge and a new understanding of the role of heterodoxy in the formation of modern thought will emerge. Questions?
The Borne and Clark(?) book on Freemasonry that's just recently been published..I've just about finished it and this person is a Medieval English historian from Kentucky and I think he's finally solved...the Freemason history which is a very interesting history because the Masonic historians themselves have been arguing for a couple hundred years so it's strange that this Voynitch manuscript should be all of the sudden in the last couple of years resolved because it seems that this Freemason thing is also resolved
Yes, you make an interesting point. John Glavis brought me an article yesterday. We're all tied up now in this Pluto return. I'm not an astrologer but John brought me an article that's talking about how, I don't know if it's the last time or the time before last, that the Pluto return occurred is precisely the 1490s, the period that we're talking about when the Corpus Hermeticum was translated and we are now in a period that is astrologically exactly equivalent to that period and the Voynitch manuscript appears to have been accepted, I mean I'm willing to accept it, you mentioned this revelation about the true nature of Freemasonry, and of course what is going on at the moment that is askew of our subject but tremendously exciting and relevant to the idea of lost knowledge coming to light, is that this is the golden moment in Mayan studies.
It is happening right now, day by day, minute by minute, the log jam has been broken. The Mayan glyphs are being deciphered, no shit, and it has to do with an entirely new approach that some Russian linguists have taken and if any of you are interested, it will never happen again so far as I know, there are now, with the Mayan decipherment, no real undeciphered languages left. The Harapan(sp?) was deciphered a few years ago but really it wasn't that interesting because we only possess about 6,000 characters in Harapan. But the literature of the Mayan, when you take not only the hieroglyphic, the stone texts, but when you add in the ceramic texts, why we have a lot of Mayan material and it is being deciphered at a furious rate. If you're interested in this, Linda Sheil has written a book called A Forest of Kings and how I do envy this woman because what she is doing is writing the first history of the Maya in a thousand years. We're not now dealing in the realm of gods and myths, we're dealing with stuff like "on the 14th of May, 642, an army from El Charico met an army from Tikal and triumphed and deposed three flint and placed on the throne..."it's this kind of stuff, real history. The conceits of Mayan religion and Mayan courtly life are all coming into focus and it's very exciting. All the people who have tried to make the Maya into some kind of Atlantean civilization should be running for cover at this point, because the picture that emerges is not as pretty as we might wish, but, hey, know the truth and the truth will set you free, I would choose truth over illusion anytime, no matter how damaging it might be to somebody's conceptions of these things.
And if any of you are interested in these subjects, another area where this has occurred is, some of you may know the book by Michael Chadwick called The Decipherment of Linear Be, Linear Be is a proto-Minoan language and a linguist at Cambridge named Michael Ventris, a genius, in the fifties took this language, there was no Rosetta Stone, this is the amazing thing. You know what I mean by a Rosetta Stone? You see, in the 19th century the great mystery was how to read the Egyptian hieroglyphs and before they were deciphered the Egyptians were treated like the Maya and people thought that the secrets of the universe were chiseled on those obelisks and tombs. Well then a scholar in the grand army of Napoleon Champion, a soldier found a tablet which had a column of Demotic Greek, a column of another language, I forget which one, and a column of Egyptian hieroglyphs and they were able to realize that it was saying the same thing three times and that opened it up for them. But that's like a crib sheet, it's easy if you have the same text in a known language. But in the case of the Maya and in the case of Linear Be and in the case of Haropan, there was no Rosetta Stone, well then you talk about an excruciatingly difficult problem to solve and I'll explain how it was done with the Maya because it's so neat.
It turns out that Mayan is a rebus language, what does this mean? Do you remember when we were kids and in comic books there would be these things where it would show a picture of an eye and then it would show a picture of a saw going through a piece of wood and then it would show a picture of an ant and then it would show a picture of a red rose. This is a sentence which says "I saw aunt Rose." But now notice what's going on here. It all depends on puns that depend on a knowledge of the spoken language. If you lose the sounds of the spoken language how the hell could you ever tell that a picture of an eye, a saw, an insect and a rose says "I saw my maternal relative on my mother's side." I mean, it just is impossible, it's absolutely impossible in that situation to reconstruct meaning unless you have sounds. Well, how do you recover the sounds of a language dead a thousand years. Well, these Soviet linguists had the good sense to go and look at living Mayan languages, of which there are 15, living Mayan languages in the Americas and they discovered one of these dialects where, when you set Mayan hieroglyphs in front of these people and they named what they saw, meaning came out of their mouths and that broke the log jam and then you just rev up your computers and use all the standard tools of modern linguistics and philology and the stuff begins to just pour out, clear as day, no problem.
So they asked the Mayans?
Yes, they had to go to a Mayan, you're right, good point, it had never occurred to them. Because always before when showing it to Mayans they would say "what does it mean?" instead of "what do you see here?" and then what they said what they saw there meaning came out of their mouths. It was very, very neat. It shows once again the hubris of modern scientific methods, we tend to dismiss the aboriginal and the primitive. To turn it toward my own favorite subject, this was the state of modern medicine, nobody would ask the native in the Amazon basin "what plants do you use for malaria, brain tumors, shrinkage and so on and so forth, because they were just dismissed as superstitious primitives. It was thought that the doctrine of signatures was operating. They didn't realize how subtle and how complete human knowledge systems grow under the care of those to whom it really matters. Is there anything that needs to be said about this?
The project of the redemption of spirit from matter turned into the project of redeeming the general society of the time toward a utopian vision. This is working right up to the present. Millenarianism is still with us, Marxism is the last great Millenarian faith, the belief in the worker's state. It occupies the same relationship to these alchemical utopias as Heidegarrean existentialism has to second century Gnosticism. The poetry has gone, the baroque imagery has been stripped away, but the impulse is still toward a perfect society where each from his ability according to his needs and means. It lives on. Democracy is also an effort, let us not forget, an attempt to recapture the style of 5th century Athens and we forget that this was a citystate half of whose inhabitants were slaves and yet we are so under the spell of the utopian dream that we continue, and not without important reason, I think, to try to labor toward a just and decent world where the lion lies down with the lamb and that was, and it remains, the alchemical dream.
...flashbacks of my life...I majored in history in college and the first history teacher that I had was a wonderful old man who really, now that I look back on it, taught the history of ideas. My major was involved with politics and all of this kind of thing and it's such a wonderful experience to suddenly get back to what turned me on to history, it gets me turned on and opens my mind again, looking at some of these thoughts that I'd just forgotten or suppressed, put down and said that's bullshit as a traditionally trained scientist and so on...opened my eyes to the fact that we can learn from what's gone on before, the ideas are out there, we just have to grasp them...and apply them and I, too, am interested in how we make this more meaningful for the future.
One thing that occurs to me to say, I once, in one of these revelatory dialogs with the logos, asked the question, "why me, why are you telling me this?" because my, I mean, I was a poor hippie, I was penniless, I was a traveler, and the answer was instantaneous and it was, "because you don't believe in anything, because you don't believe in anything" and I think that that's a very pure position to hold. We're not trying to ensnare you to abandon your Jewishness or your Presbyterianism or belief, if you believe in something then you have procluded the possibility of believing in its opposite and you have hence limited your freedom. Everything is to be judged by its efficacy, by its effectiveness in the real world and I think that I have a horror in all belief systems, I just don't like them. If somebody tells you he has the answer, flee from this person, they are obviously some sort of low being who has not recognized the true size and dimension of the cosmos that we're living in and if you can keep yourself free of encumbering beliefs then your dialog with the logos can go forward unhindered.
Sometimes when I'm in the trance of psilocybin I will say to the entity, "begin to show me yourself as you are for yourself, don't give me the scaled down, humanized version, show me your true nature" and after a few moments of this then I have to raise my hand and say enough, I can't handle more than that. This goes back to the statement made yesterday or the day before about that the universe is not only stranger than we suppose, it's stranger than we can suppose. Therefore, we are given tremendous latitude in what we can think and what we conceive but if you begin to believe in something then you are pulled down because everything that you believe has consequences. A perfect example, as some of you may know, when Mohammed ascended into heaven from the site of what was to become the Mosque of Omar, from the site of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, he happened to be on horseback. Now if you believe that Mohammed ascended to heaven, imagine the theological and hermenutic problems posed by the horse he was riding. Because it went with him. This is a perfect example of how intellectual baggage drags us down because belief always contains absurdity. The ontological status of this horse has troubled Islamic theologians for centuries...
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