Steganography" = 66 (Full Reduction)
Thirty three" = 66 (Full Reduction)
Steganography" = 156 (English Ordinal)
Thirty three" = 156 (English Ordinal)
six six six" = 156 (English Ordinal)
Johannes Trithemius 1 February 1462 – 13 December 1516), born Johann Heidenberg, was a German Benedictine abbot and a polymath who was active in the German Renaissance as a lexicographer, chronicler, cryptographer, and occultist. He had considerable influence on the development of early modern and modern occultism. His students included Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus.
Johann Heidenberg" = 139 (English Ordinal)
Trithemius' most famous work, Steganographia (written c. 1499; published Frankfurt, 1606), was placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1609 and removed in 1900. This book is in three volumes, and appears to be about magic—specifically, about using spirits to communicate over long distances. Since the publication of the decryption key to the first two volumes in 1606, they have been known to be actually concerned with cryptography and steganography. Until recently, the third volume was widely still believed to be solely about magic, but the "magical" formulae have now been shown to be covertexts for yet more cryptographic content.
Robert Hooke suggested in the chapter Of Dr. Dee's Book of Spirits, that John Dee made use of Trithemian steganography, to conceal his communication with Queen Elizabeth I.
La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas
The most beautiful of the Devil’s tricks is persuading you that he doesn’t exist
Charles Baudelaire, Le Joueur généreux
HISTORY is full of secrets. What knowledge did our forebears take pains to conceal? What clues did they entrust to us, the generations that succeeded them? Allegory, metaphor, and symbolism have long been methods of choice to convey one message to the many, and another, perhaps entirely contradictory message, to a select few. This is hardly in doubt. But how smug should we moderns be that we are not the mark, so to speak, in this form of subterfuge? How accurate, really, is our received account of the past? The mischievous legacy of Johannes Trithemius, a Benedictine monk living in Germany at the turn of the 16th century, has been to make plausible the premise that everything can, and anything just might, contain a secret message. The art that Trithemius ‘rediscovered’, and the neologism he devised to name it, is STEGANOGRAPHY (Gk. στέγω = cover, γράφω = write), that is, the art of concealing a text within a text.
The simplest form of steganography, for which there are many ancient examples, is an acrostic poem, where the first letter of each line spells out a separate word or phrase. From this playful monkish pastime, Trithemius created an entire discipline, one that he committed to manuscript in the year 1500. True to his art, Trithemius did not write down his steganographical precepts in a clear and straightforward way; instead, he concealed them within another text. Which text? A several-hundred page Latin treatise on how to summon spirits from the air using magical incantations. So successful was Trithemius in disguising the cryptological aspects of his effort that when news of his manuscript leaked out from his monastery he garnered near-instantaneous infamy as the most notorious necromancer of his day. The legends that sprang up about Trithemius’ supernatural exploits became the foundation for the story of Faust.1 Even to this day, historians debate whether Trithemius is best regarded as a clear-headed cryptological pioneer, the archetypal Renaissance magus, or a more complex combination that defies either category.2.
If Trithemius’ intention was to avoid careful scrutiny of his manuscript, then his decision to frame it as a manual on spirit magic could not have been more inspired. Indeed, the prospect of wading through a lengthy Latin tome on necromancy was surely just as unappealing in the 1500s as it is today. A consequence of this is that Trithemius’ Steganographia has never been fully translated into any modern language, let alone been given a properly thorough historical treatment.3 And yet the fact that a text which caused such a stir when it was written has remained largely unexplored even today is sufficiently tantalizing to justify, just maybe, the labor I have devoted to it. What secrets does the Steganographia still hold after 500 years? A reasonable person might be inclined to answer ‘none at all’; nevertheless, as recently as 1996-7 Thomas Ernst and Jim Reeds, working independently, discovered that hitherto unknown messages were concealed by hitherto unrecognized ciphers in Book III of the Steganographia.4.
For me the burning question is not what remains to be discovered within the Steganographia itself, but rather how should our knowledge about the Steganographia reshape our understanding of the European occult tradition. More specifically, given that we know at least one occult text (the Steganographia) was actually an elaborate ruse for conveying hidden messages, how unreasonable is it to suppose that similar occult texts, whether preceding or following Trithemius, might likewise be an elaborate ruse? This is not a new idea. As early as the 17th century, Robert Hooke (yes, that Robert Hooke) postulated that John Dee’s infamous angel diaries were not, in fact, transcripts of his crystal ball séances, but rather secret intelligence reports encrypted with Trithemian steganography for dispatch to his sovereign, Queen Elizabeth I.5 Could this be true? If so, how could one demonstrate it? Inasmuch as occult texts are generally the incomprehensible ravings of madmen, they are rarely, if ever, examined in any great detail. But unlike with standard cryptography, the most beautiful trick of steganography is persuading you that there is no secret — no secret at all. So what better alibi could there be in this business than the Devil himself, the original master of this form of deception?
This website, then, is my attempt to marshal the resources I consider the bare minimum to even begin to explore the interplay of cryptology and the occult in Renaissance and early-modern Europe. The site’s central pillar will be a new translation of the Steganographia itself, composed in installments and requiring however much time a labor of this sort demands. It is my hope that the interactive aspects of this site will encourage discussion and perhaps even collaboration as well. I look forward to continually expanding this project whenever leisure allows, and I hope that some of you may find the site sufficiently curious to keep checking back. In the meantime, enjoy what’s here and happy decrypting!
The new discovery of this most secret art I have committed to writing at the insistence of the Most Serene Prince, Lord Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire and a most wise Maecenas to all philosophers. There did not seem to me anyone more worthy than him to whom this great secret should be revealed and it is not without supreme effort that I have compiled the volume before you. But lest this great secret should reach the ears of the ignorant masses or wicked men, I judged it to be not the last accounting of my duty to envelope it in mysteries since it teaches the unknowing to understand mysteries. And I did this in such a way that no one from the number of the ignorant (no one unless he is most studious) will by his own power be able to penetrate completely the arcana of this new science to the full extent of our meaning — unless, that is, through its direct reception from a teacher, what the Hebrews call Cabala which is preeminent among the occult mysteries.
Most Serene Prince, Lord Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire" = 1044 (Jewish Ordinal)
Most Serene Prince, Lord Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire" = 369 (Septenary)
Most Serene Prince, Lord Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire" = 407 (Chaldean)
Most Serene Prince" = 1404 (Reverse English Sumerian)
Lord Philip" = 119 (English Ordinal)
Lord Philip" = 42 (Chaldean)
Count Palatine of the Rhine" = 115 (Full Reduction)
Duke of Bavaria" = 53 (Full Reduction)
Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire" = 186 (Full Reduction)