Thursday, November 12, 2009


The 23 Enigma refers to the belief that most incidents and events are directly connected to the number 23, some permutation of the number 23, or a number related to the number 23. According to Robert Anton Wilson the first person to believe in the 23 enigma is William S. Burroughs. This was stated in a Fortean Times article in 1977. In May 2007 this article was republished by Fortean Times in addition to the release of the movie 'The Number 23' earlier that year.

I first heard of the 23 enigma from William S Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, Nova Express, etc. According to Burroughs, he had known a certain Captain Clark, around 1960 in Tangier, who once bragged that he had been sailing 23 years without an accident. That very day, Clark’s ship had an accident that killed him and everybody else aboard. Furthermore, while Burroughs was thinking about this crude example of the irony of the gods that evening, a bulletin on the radio announced the crash of an airliner in Florida, USA. The pilot was another captain Clark and the flight was Flight 23. 

The article: The 23 Phenomenon by Robert Anton Wilson.

The movie 'The Number 23' however wasn't the first movie released concerning the number 23 numerology. In 1998 the German movie '23' -"Nichts ist so wie es scheint" was released. The story is based on a true story of a group of hackers who were obsessed by the number 23. Their obsession was inspired by one of Robert Anton Wilson books called The Illuminatus! Trilogy.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy is a collaboration between Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea and is series of three sci-fi novels published in 1975. In these novels the text Principia Discordia is often quoted.
This text can be found in many version online. Here is the version as published by Pope Patterson of the Bowels of the Asylum: THE PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA. The first edition written by MALACLYPSE (The Younger), H.C. Omnibenevolent Polyfather of Virginity-in-gold and High Priest of The Heretic Fringe & Protestant Persuasion can be found here: THE PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA (or HOW THE WEST WAS LOST). MALACLYPSE (The Younger) was a pen name used by Greg Hill who wrote Principia Discordia with Kerry Thornley and is a Discordian religious text. The first edition was published in 5 copies in 1965.

Discordianism is a modern religion centered on the idea that chaos is all that there is, and that disorder and order, the former considered a concept distinct from chaos, are both illusions (referred to, respectively, as the "Eristic" and "Aneristic" illusions) that are imposed on chaos. The text states "All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropritate to 5" which is the definition of the 'Law of Fives'.
"The Law of Fives is never wrong" 

The Numeral V Sign, used by Old Roman Discordians, Illuminatus Churchill and innocent Hippies everywhere. 

The Law of Fives can be seen as a symbol for the observation of reality changing that which is being observed in the observer's mind. Just as how when one looks for fives in reality, one finds them, so will one find conspiracies, ways to determine when the apocalypse will come, and so on and so forth when one decides to look for them. It cannot be wrong, because it proves itself reflexively when looked at through this lens.
Basically the Law of Fives is a practical demonstration that the percipient's intentions inform the perception. To whatever extent one considers that perception is identical with reality, then, it has the corollary that reality is intent-sensitive.

The 23 Enigma is and immediate consequence of that law which was called the "23/17 phenomenon" in The Illuminatus! Trilogy. The name "23 Enigma" was first used in the first book of the Cosmic Trigger trilogy called Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of The Illuminati also by Robert Anton Wilson.

Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of The Illuminati is a autobiographical and philosophical work and deals with Wilson's experiences during a time in which he put himself through a process of "self-induced brain change" as well as vignettes of his earlier life. The other two works are called Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth and Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death which were published more than 15 years later than the first Cosmic Trigger.

In both works The Illuminatus! Trilogy and Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of The Illuminati the number 23 is considered lucky, unlucky, sinister, strange, or sacred to the goddess Eris or to the unholy gods of the Cthulhu Mythos. (The Cthulhu Mythos is a fictional universe created by H. P. Lovecraft in 1920s.)
The self-fulfilling nature of the 23 Enigma, implying that the real value of the Laws of Fives and Twenty-threes lies in their demonstration of the mind's power to perceive "truth" in nearly anything.  

One can find a numerological significance to anything, provided "sufficient cleverness."

Numerology is any of many systems, traditions or beliefs in a mystical or esoteric relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things. It is often associated with the occult, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts. But it can also be used for those who, in the view of some observers, place excess faith in numerical patterns, even if those people don't practice traditional numerology.

Concerning the 23 numerology there are a lot of curiosities with the number 23 going from dates, to facts and so on. A good read is the article "About 23" by Jim Fournier:

 Here are some examples..

- William Shakespeare was born and died on on April 23. Most of Shakespeare is known to us through the first folio published in 1623. 
- Kurt Cobain was born in 1967: 1+9+6+7=23 and died in 1994: 1+9+9+4=23. 
- It takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate through the human body.
- The number of joints in the human arm is 23. 
- The human body has 46 chromosomes, which are paired, in somatic cells. Generative cells have half this number, 23, which is the number of chromosomes each parents gives to human deoxyribonucleic acid. 
- The address of the Freemasons lodge in Stafford, England is 23 Jaol Rd. In New York it is on 23rd street.
- Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945 (8+6+4+5=23). 
- Nissan is a brand of Japanese cars. In Japanese, "ni" is 2, and "san" is 3. So Nissan would be 23.
- On March 14, 1997, NASA representative states that MIR 23 space station is having problems resulting from the February 23, 1997 fire and has used 23 of their oxygen-generating canisters. It is the 23rd day aboard for the Russian crew. Progress 233 supply vehicle has problems of its own and cannot redock with MIR.
- ...

Many more examples of the 23 synchronity can be found on the web.

For me the number 23 is a part of my life and the way I live it.

23 Dragon by Mark Spiral

If you still wonder why the number 23 is often used within the free tekno scene (art, names, music, deco,...) the answer is simple. This is because most members of the founders of the tekno movement, Spiral Tribe, were also obsessed with the number 23. Records, posters, backdrops and flyers featured the number 23. Parties were often organised on the 23rd and ùembers sometimes recorded under the moniker of SP23.
Also the record label itself was called Network 23.