Decrypting a Secret Society's Documents from the 1740s

Great story, both the cryptanalysis process and the Oculists.

EDITED TO ADD (12/13): This is a follow-up to a previous post. More here.

Posted on November 21, 2012 at 6:34 AM • 12 Comments


KronosNovember 21, 2012 11:15 AM

This is a reminder to the uninitiated that what is (or seems) unbreakable today will be very vulnerable tomorrow.

Dirk PraetNovember 22, 2012 10:14 AM

Interesting cryptanalysis process, but a somewhat boring outcome pertaining to a rather daft initiation ritual. I've never quite understood the fascination of folks with these so-called secret societies. Most of them IMHO were no more interesting than the average student fraternity, beit with a tendency to secrecy to spice things up a bit. Occultum gratia occulti.

dragonfrogNovember 22, 2012 11:11 AM

@Dirk Praet

As the article mentions, at least some secret societies were significant sources of innovation - early scientific development was done largely in the context of secret societies, the churches of the time being rather reluctant to let people find things out by experimentation, at risk of further Galileo-esque embarassing situations.

J.November 23, 2012 3:27 AM

It is remarkable how relatively simple cryptography can make a difference for historians.

Two small corrections from a native German:

Apart from companion, "Geselle" is also a rank of a craftsman, between apprentice and master. The exam at the end of apprenticeship is called "Gesellenprüfung".

"weil sie geheim gehalteN" means "because it IS kept secret".

Hiram AbiffNovember 23, 2012 8:52 AM

## PAGE 47
the master has laing on his table. A chisel, a skull with bones and above on the top a cassia bush, and next to this on both sides the two letters m ... b ... below however the letter h. So, Hiram means that the number of the carpet is placed inverted, namely towards the west there are several symbols, also nothing except the casket, skull, bush and those three letters as instruments with which Hiram was killed

What should be on the missing dots ...?

ABN MASV H BVNYM = 53 + 107 + 5 + 108 = 53 + 220 = 273
The Stone (Rejected) by the Builders

Expected is that the words on the dots should be....
masu ha-bonim = 220

This is encoded with the Atbash cipher
TzGMKMP = pmkmgx = 273 (Atbash Value) = “The Hidden Light”

Hiram AbiffNovember 24, 2012 3:18 PM

TzGMKMP = pmkmgx = 273 (Atbash Value) = “The Hidden Light” or Hidden Logos

Crypto-logy has the same meaning.
Crypto comes from Greek κρυπτός, which means "Hidden"

Now we know who invents Crypto.
Lucifer, Serpent, Gost

William RickerNovember 26, 2012 7:05 PM

Another improved simple substitution in the wild, a pair of 1912/1913 postcards disguised as "some other european script"

* mixed alphabet chosen to map vowels to vowels to preserve "naturalness"
* cipher text preserves wordbreaks but copied in cursive so looks like odd natural language
* origin in vacation port makes odd language plausible

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