Double Vision

I’m going to try a less wordy approach.



  1. Use Palindromes to id letters to anagram Palimpsest.
  2. Possibly Manipulate text based on unknown rule to produce Abscissa.
  3. Determine significance of “E”
  4. Deduce missing text…27 characters?
  5. 75 Alpha Letters, 196 Binary-98 dit 98 dash.


  1. Use Palimpsest (see M,1)
  2. Identify iQlusion; discover that c=l; use Palimpcest.
  3. Hold resulting text for future letter ID. (new doubles: A and L)


  1. Use Abscissa
  2. Delivery of coordinates- Abscissae? 1, 9, 2. Not present in Lat. Long. digits.
  3. Distress code: Need to know to insert letter s (genuine mistake?)
  4. ID by rows? Row 5 L? Suggests id for playfair box?
  5. Layer Two?


  1. Use Scytale 192 starting at 0, or double rotation on matrices based on even factors of 192 less than 48.
  2. Identify doubled letters within words in previous sections.
  3. Identify Distress Code in first rotation.
  4. Create “word matrix” for correspondence to K2.

Overall Instructions from first three sections:

  • Doubled Letters
Within Words:
7 B E T W E E N E 5
7 T O T A L L Y L 1
8 P O S S I B L E O 2
11 T R A N S M I T T E D P 1
6 u n d e r G R U U N D S 3
7 M E S S A G E T 2
7 D E G R E E S U 1
7 P A S S A G E 15 WORDS
5 U P P E R
6 L I T T L E
6 P E E R E D U S E P L O T
4 R O O M Use plot to see ee’s
3 S E E
Between   Words:
9 T H E E A R T H S E 1
9 A B O U T T H I S I 1
8 O U T T H E R E S 1
2 W W T 2
10 M I N U T E S S I X W 1
47 10 WORDS

If I add the three letters (A from “shaadig”; L from “illusion”; and S from K2 insertion to produce “Layer Two”), and used all letters: “Use Plot To See E Seal.” Hardly definitive as to the interpretation though.  Plenty of provocative info you have to admit.

Next there’s this: Both K2 and K3 have 75 “words.”

Without ? With ?
1 it   slowly 1 it slowly
2 was   desparately 2 was desparately
3 totally   slowly 3 totally slowly
4 invisible   the 4 invisible the
5 hows   remains 5 hows remains
6 that   of 6 that of
7 possible ? passage 7 possible passage
8 they   debris 8 ? debris
9 used   that 9 they that
10 the   encumbered 10 used encumbered
11 earths   the 11 the the
12 magnetic   lower 12 earths lower
13 field   part 13 magnetic part
14 x   of 14 field of
15 the   the  15 x the 
16 information   doorway 16 the doorway
17 was   was 17 information was
18 gathered   removed 18 was removed
19 and   with 19 gathered with
20 transmitted   trembling 20 and trembling
21 undergruund   hands 21 transmitted hands
22 to    I 22 undergruund I
23 an    made 23 to  made
24 unknown   a 24 an  a
25 location   tiny 25 unknown tiny
26 x   breach 26 location breach
27 does   in  27 x in 
28 Langley   the 28 does the
29 know   upper 29 Langley upper
30 about   left 30 know left
31 this ? hand 31 about hand
32 they   corner 32 this corner
33 should   and 33 ? and
34 its   then 34 they then
35 buried   widening 35 should widening
36 out   the 36 its the
37 there   hole 37 buried hole
38 somewhere   a 38 out a
39 x   little 39 there little
40 who   I 40 somewhere I
41 knows   inserted 41 x inserted
42 the   the 42 who the
43 exact   candle 43 knows candle
44 location ? and 44 the and
45 only   peered 45 exact peered
46 WW   in 46 location in
47 this   the 47 ? the
48 was   hot 48 only hot
49 his   air 49 WW air
50 last   escaping 50 this escaping
51 message   from 51 was from
52 x   the 52 his the
53 thirty   chamber 53 last chamber
54 eight   caused 54 message caused
55 degrees   the 55 x the
56 fifty   flame 56 thirty flame
57 seven   to 57 eight to
58 minutes   flicker 58 degrees flicker
59 six   but 59 fifty but
60 point   presently 60 seven presently
61 five   details  61 minutes details 
62 seconds   of 62 six of
63 north   the 63 point the
64 seventy   room 64 five room
65 seven   within 65 seconds within
66 degrees   emerged 66 north emerged
67 eight   from 67 seventy from
68 minutes   the 68 seven the
69 forty   mist 69 degrees mist
70 four    x 70 eight x
71 seconds   can  71 minutes can 
72 west   you 72 forty you
73 x   see 73 four  see
74 layer   anything 74 seconds anything
75 two   Q 75 west Q
  L   ?   X ?
See The Little Breach Of … Passage Corner in West

I think he’s referring to the DYAHR area at the start of K3, the corner of the passage in the west, where a ray of light becomes visible. Besides the superscripting, there’s something off about the spacing.  Whadya think?



Major Arcanum

Sorry, but as usual, I will begin by going off topic.

It’s fascinating to me how much information is contained in military heraldry.  The palette from which the artist draws uses an ancient vocabulary.  Without dedicating too much space to it here, there are certain symbols which have come down virtually untouched from Egypt, Greece and Rome.


For example, the patch depicted above shows the classic symbolic image of covert spycraft: the “cloak and dagger.” In historical European martial arts, the term refers to a fighting technique in which a dagger and cloak were employed against an opponent who possessed a sword.  The purpose of the cloak was to obscure the presence or movement of the dagger, provide protection, restrict the movement of the opponent’s weapon, and to provide a distraction. Use of the cloak and dagger was considered a “dishonest” method of combat because of its deceptiveness. It also has long-standing associations with the Sicarii, the “dagger men” of biblical terrorism, and thus assassination, various forms of political subterfuge and associated wet work.


Athena was the goddess of Wisdom and protected the State from foreign enemies. The olive wreath denoting peace was her emblem. The cloak of the goddess, her Aegis, was a badge of divine power. Homeric myths considered the aegis so essential to sovereignty that not even Zeus could rule the other gods without it. She held the spear of knowledge in her right hand, the serpent controlled by it at her feet. A little owl with large eyes: Glaukes, accompanies Athena, and with the aid of its sight and counsel Athena has foresight and vision that penetrates darkness. Thus the owl has been used as a symbol of knowledge, wisdom, and erudition throughout the Western world. Contrasting the symbol of Justicia, Athena is not blindfolded, but rather her identity is concealed by her helmet. There is no impartiality, scales, nor double-edged sword: Athena is not passive.  She’s prepared to fight the forces of ignorance and darkness.  Like Prometheus and Apollo before her, Athena is the patron deity of the understanding and control of natural forces in service of humanity.

She was usually placed in the western apse (absis in Lat. btw) of temples with the spear’s double-edged cuneal in faceted gold. When the morning rays of the sun glinted from the weapon’s tip, the reflected light gave the impression of fire, or a torch. The attendant priest would turn the spear at the base causing the reflecting bits of light on the interior of the temple to dance about the columns and statuary as the sun rose.

Historically, intelligence data has been a closely held resource. The sensitivity of intelligence information requires special handling by individuals with security clearances; this fact distinguishes intelligence data from most other types. This idea forms the basis of classification. Information is distributed to consumers on the basis of their “need to know,” according to their security clearance level, and their function within the US national security complex.  The entire structure protects the integrity of the data’s sources.

The very fact that a piece of information was “known to be known” could reveal the source. For example, U.S. and British leaders faced many ethical paradoxes in World War II in the use of intelligence collected via deciphered Purple, Enigma and Tunny messages. Too much use of information derived from deciphered messages would have advertised the fact of our codebreaking success. Furthermore, the more people “in the loop” creates a new type of potential insecurity.  Look up “William Weisband” to see what I mean.

With the advent of increasingly sensitive collection methods, the requirement to keep sensitive sources and methods behind the “the cloak” became even greater. The fact that certain circuits even existed, required and continue to require classification levels far above those held by many mainstream communications providers. This sensitivity to all things intelligence related has led to a worldwide communications infrastructure dedicated solely for the use of, and managed by, the intelligence community.

In Kryptos, these themes of “identity” and “authentication” find illustration through the decryptions, which in each case require the intended end user to apply a schema, to reveal the true message hidden within the superficial content. The absence of any obvious contextual or spatial clues as to how to reveal this “underlayer” of the palimpsest easily, is its main defense. Like all authentication codes, it relies on both parties knowing a key in advance which is not public, nor deducible from any part of the message PT or CT. In the case of Kryptos, which I assert will prove to fulfill Kerckhoffs’ Principle, the key would be based upon something that a former agent may know, but the general public wouldn’t. The answers that are there are convincing enough in their inscrutability to keep even the experienced hostile cryptanalyst “moving forward” in their decryption. I have asserted that is to keep you from asking too many questions.

For example, I presented in the prior piece “Abscissa?” a perfectly valid and as I will later demonstrate, instructive method of deducing the keyword “Palimpsest.” I must be honest, dear reader, that I am also aware of another method: one which has undermined my confidence in mine as the sole meaning intended from the Morse for K1.


This is only one way of doing it. 1616161461.  Interesting.  Using different letter choices there are at least two other ways of producing Palimpsest in the vertical axis, and we seem particularly limited by the M’s in “memory,” the lowest frequency letter. Furthermore, two columns over from palimpsest, in another shuffle I can produce the letters for “abscissa” in the vertical axis. Interesting.

I must admit, despite considerable effort, I cannot find a method of rearrangement that produces a more logical set of instructions, a more clear-cut method of use, and a more explicit confirmation in the result than the method that I presented in the previous chapter. Making further headway using this tantalizing approach highlighted above remains just out of the reach of my beam. I am reminded of that the great cryptanalysts who were willing to accept that they wouldn’t be able to solve everything. Tenacity is important, but not when it clouds good judgement. For the moment I am content to draw different information from it. I would appreciate commentary if any of my readers has an alternative mode of attack.

While researching Friedman and Tiltman for ideas, I came across articles written by agency personnel. One about Friedman was written by another legend and Hall of Honor member, his former assistant, Lambros Callimahos.  Dictator of CA-400 and Zendia, alias Salvo Salassio was another giant in the tradition of teaching at CIA, Callimahos relates how Friedman maintained a sense of formality that persisted no matter how long you worked with him- everyone called him Mr. Friedman…period. Sinkov, Rowlett, and Kullback, you name it.  All except Tiltman.  According to Callimahos he never heard anyone other than Elizebeth or Tiltman ever call Friedman “Bill” to his face. Nor did anybody other than Friedman call Tiltman “John” apparently.

Moving on, I read Lutwiniak’s piece on Tiltman with interest, as I have been a big fan of his for years through his crossword puzzles.  Lutwiniak’s puzzles are quirky, characteristically blocked on reverse diagonals, upper right to lower left, and featuring witty and offbeat fill. I recall a puzzle he did that had a 23 letter 3 row running stack (69 letters) across the middle rows.  It would take a computer to work out the verticals. I had no idea he ever worked at NSA, let alone ran something in Crypto. He describes his first days beginning in 1974, when Tiltman appeared in his office, and ends it with uncharacteristic directness for an NSA guy, saying “to know the Brig well was to love him, I did.” Check it: NSA LINK. Might as well check this one out too: LINK

So the Brig had this pattern: he amazingly breaks the whole thing, whatever it is, however impossible.  Then he finds somebody to secretly give the whole thing to quietly.  Then he starts clapping real loud and saying “congratulations old boy, you solved it.” Like Tunny. You really have to do a good deal of research before you find out that John Tiltman cracked it end to end, using pencil and paper, by himself, over the course of a couple days. Having deduced the operation of the entire thing, and reconstructed the rotor key system without ever having seen anything but plaintext and codetext, he then hands it over to Tutte.

How could anybody be so smart? The truth is that Tiltman wasn’t looking for perfection, he was looking for mistakes.  In this case a frustrated German cipher clerk sent the same 4000 character message twice, both using the same key settings.  This gave Tiltman a depth more than long enough to observe the pattern of the key in the rotor settings and deduce it as derivative of a Vernam system, with a novel mask. A modern example of such “genius” would be Moshe Rubin’s incredible revealing of J.F.Byrne’s Chaocipher.  It was clearly well within Mr. Rubin’s grasp intellectually, but it was his diligence and perseverance that truly unlocked it.  What it required was detective work. It ultimately fell to his analysis because Mr. Rubin was willing to call every Byrne in the upstate NY area. It may seem inelegant, but I hardly think Tiltman or Friedman would have said so.  They used to haunt obscure booksellers and libraries to find rare printings of books used as one-time-pads.

In WWII, an odd pattern emerged: successful cryptanalysts often had no grounding in the language in which they broke ciphers, while those with training in the root language were often frustrated.  They saw the words that popped out and jumped to conclusions while those who couldn’t read the little bits of text stuck to Friedman’s manual. They identified letter frequencies, counted bigrams and tried to identify repeated sequences in the CT, or find openings through a short list of common and stereotyped phrasings that characterized early continuous wave radio morse transmission in practice. Like Tiltman’s legendary exploit, they also found ways in which the difficulty of the system itself exposed areas where an operator would either make a mistake, or cheat.

For example, we could interpret the Morse as a garbled message with missing blocks of text under the rocks.  A German field cipher of the Dockyard or various “schlussel” types were sent in Morse and would begin with a 4 digit time followed by the senders and receivers callsigns.  The Germans were fond of sending very short messages that represented basic military necessities.  “What is your position” was in fact the most common eight letter string (Wie Lage?) in messages less than 63 characters. Another popular string was “Bitte lage meldung”, or “situation report, please.”

The Germans would surround numbers or proper names in the text with X’s. They placed an X before and after all numbers, proper names, place names, sentences, within abbreviations, and at the end of plain texts having an odd number of letters. As a result, plaintext X had an abnormally high frequency and tended to mask the identification of the usual high-frequency German letters. The word zwei (“two”) was changed to zwo, and ch plain text was changed to q, distorting the frequency of q also. The use of occasional “quatsch” (German for nonsense) sequences was encouraged to distort combinations and frequencies.

I am beginning to intuit a temporal sequence, which perhaps can help us reorganize the Morse message.  “…t is your position” must “belong” to K1, as an example of a message that the original iteration of the CIA-the OSS-would have faced.  The Lodestone partially obscures “position”, and so it seem to suggest at the first level of the puzzle, temporality is based on proximity to it.  We start at t and “move away” from the lodestone to establish a temporal sequence.  By that logic, the message that might apply to K2 is “edigetaleee interpretatit” the next closest message to the lodestone. Interestingly, these two messages are “coming out from under” the rocks according to the sequencing of their letters, but on the other strata all rest “go in.”

The next post will be all graphs and spreadsheets I promise!  In the meantime, check out this picture of a soliton, which is a form of continuous standing wave, just like a carrier wave in Morse code radio transmission or a sine wave.  Disparately, I have wondered why the artist chose to assemble the four quadrants together with screws- perhaps he is suggesting a possible rearrangement of the panels?





Having come to Kryptos at a stage where Abscissa and Palimpsest were already “brute forced” out of the text, the K2 passkey: Abscissa has been a major stumbling block for me, only because nobody is really sure how it was meant to be derived.  My thesis relies on the idea of a path that would be recognizable to a human agent, but not necessarily to a computer and therefore the lack of understanding of how ABSCISSA was acquired negates a large part of the value of solving K2.

There is a school of thought which I have read on the internet, that suggests that it can be selectively anagrammed from the first letters of the K1 plaintext (bssataolltnoi).  This theory relies on replacing the word “light” with “C”, the astrophysical term for the speed of light.  Furthermore, the ABS in “absence” is used, which provides the requisite 3rd S.

There are numerous reasons why I don’t believe this was the intended path.  First, anagramming an 8 letter string out of a 13 letter string with two letters missing from the text is hardly the type of real world agent-in-the-field test Sanborn expects our hypothetical agent to pass.  Real authentication codes provide confirmations.  The proponents of the first letter theory seem to forget: we already knew the keyword.  That is how we knew we needed a “C”, and thus replaced the word “light”.  That is also how we knew we need an 8 character text. It’s classic case of data mining, in which we see straight lines backward from the answer, but fail to recognize that the choices made about letter substitutions in order to solve the anagram were arbitrary, with no foundation or instructions hinted at within the text.  If done as intended, we wouldn’t know key length either, and so cribbing 1-13 letter words from a 13 letter string becomes an exercise in the law of large numbers.  Is this what Sanborn intended the agent to perform with his pencil and paper?  No.

As I have stated in previous essays, the method that Sheidt expected to be used on K2 by Agency cryptanalysts was Kullback’s Phi and Chi tests. Like Rowlett, Kullback and Sinkov: Friedman’s first three hires at SIS, we are expected to apply more sophisticated methods under the master’s tutelage and break messages that are more complicated and without some of the hints and cribs that are “right there” in the code text like in K1. K2 represents the application of Friedman’s science of cryptanalysis: rendering visible what is otherwise invisible, but through the application of scientific method. It is fitting therefore that the keyword references Descartes so directly.

I am not an expert, I have no training in cryptanalysis, and my knowledge of its history and heroes has come entirely via Kryptos. If my thesis is correct about the intentionally deceptive nature of the puzzle, then a Stein or Gillogly has a distinct disadvantage, since the designer of their confusion is none other than their tutor: Sheidt. I’m confident Sheidt can mess with these guys’ heads, or anybody’s for that matter.  So don’t get too excited that you got some plaintext out of K2.  There’s more, and it’s right out of the real world of spycraft: the art of concealing an alternative decryption, without alerting a potential interloper to its existence.

Here I feel liberal arts guys like me have an invisible ally in Sanborn.  That’s part of the lesson.  The OSS and early CIA weren’t just brilliant math guys, but writers, journalists, editors, professors, poets, sculptors, actors, artists. Wisner’s Wurlitzer.  Everybody pretty much thought they were a bunch of wierdos.  Even Friedman and Tiltman were far from any normal status quo. The truth is that I’m pretty sure that management thought they were crazy, but indispensably so, and somehow, their genius relied upon it.

Thus I derived ABSCISSA another way, and although I’m not altogether satisfied with it, I am convinced that my method is at least closer to the intended path. I am using a method which I associate with the techniques of John Tiltman, the 20th century’s foremost hand cipher “break in” artist: begin the attack by identifying and analyzing the usage of the system in practice, seeking operator mistakes, formal sequences, repeats and cipher clerk laziness which often produces a string of the message “in depth.”  A good deal of this approach relies on luck, and thus the more I can try, the luckier I’m likely to get.

I began by taking words from the Morse code strata and the K1 Plain text and running them as passkeys against the K2 code text using the Kryptos alphabet Vigenere table. At first I did single words, ignoring the e’s then other variations including multiple words and with/without e’s.  The Rumkin Quag III Cipher utility was a big help. Then, reviewing my Morse strata observation that “invisible” is a palindrome in Morse code, I began to play with it and character strings that included it. After the usual trial and error, the Passkey “eeevirtuallyinvisible” eventually gave ABSCISSA as plaintext on the 9th through 17th characters. The reason for this is that the plaintext in this location decrypts to “totally invisible,” and thus we have a short sequence where the plaintext is “in depth.”

When using a Vigenere table in Quag III, if you introduce plaintext character sequences as a passkey and that same plaintext is found in the decoded text in the same character sequence, the result of the Vigenere substitution will be the passkey phrase over the number of characters that overlap.  This is why long words with very low English language usage frequencies are usually chosen as passkeys.  If a passkey appears in whole or part in the decoded plaintext, it is fairly easy to spot using alphabetic password style attacks- just as I did.  If a passkey is a common word or string of words, it’s easy to make crib text that will cause something English to pop out of the code text. The overlap of “allyinvisible” in both the passkey and code text reveals the true Passkey in the plaintext- the “eeevirtu” in the passkey are basically a pad to get past the 8th character-aligning “allyinvisible.” Try it on Rumkin: here. Put in Kryptos as your alphabet, eeevirtuallyinvisible as your passphrase, and populate it with either version of K2.

Here is the output from the K2 code text using Kryptos>eeevirtuallyinvisible>K2 Vigenere substitution up to the first question mark:


Abscissa is a Latin pronoun meaning literally “that which has been removed, cut out, or taken away.” It also has a much more common definition in the context of plane geometry: it is the horizontal coordinate of a point in a coordinate system obtained by measuring parallel to the x-axis.  Its complement is known as the Ordinate, by which the vertical coordinate is obtained by measuring parallel to the y-axis. Together the Abscissa and Ordinate are the coordinates that define a point in a Cartesian space. Their “crossing” at a central point in is known as the Origin, or the point in which both values are zero (0,0). It can be referred as the point where the real and imaginary planes intersect each other, since both share their respective origins in the same number.  Zero is a turbulent mirror much like the water in the pond beneath the tableau.

As I said previously, Palimpsest appears to be more than a passkey, but also an instruction.  Abscissa shares the same quality, and appears to extend those instructions from K1.  Sanborn is saying both that the end of K2 might be where this “folding” or “removing” may need to take place, and furthermore, it is a reminder to keep an eye out for that which may have been removed as perhaps having enhanced significance.  Lastly, continuing on the theme of duality as represented by pairs, palindromes, reflecting pools, copper plates, etc; The significant letters which produced Palimpsest were all “abscissa” letters- those that acted as mirrors.  Taken broadly, Kryptos’ placement in the pool is yet another example of Sanborn depicting this idea symbolically.  In this case, the pool itself is the abscissa, and the tableau together with its reflection in the water symbolizes the duality.  Which one is “real” it seems to ask?

The plaintext of K2 seems to be an intercepted communication between agents, or a field agent and his handler. Using Abscissa as a passkey with the Kryptos alphabet produces the following plain text:


WW refers to the Director of the CIA at the time of the first dedication- William Webster. The coordinates refer to a geodetic survey marker that Sanborn located on the site during the early phases of the sculpture construction. The marker, in palimpsest already at the OHB in 1961 as it were, somehow survived through the NHB construction and must have been an inspiring find for Sanborn. The marker would likely have been drilled into a suitably permanent rock, or set into concrete and itself was a circular brass plaque with the agency identification (in this case a predecessor to NOAA), in the center of which were chiseled crosshairs and a value identifying the marker’s map value: in this case the magnetic variation from true north at the marker site (10 degrees West). I hear it has been missing now for some time, and I suspect Sanborn himself may be the best to ask about its whereabouts.

I consider this passage to be similar to the first: enticing, tempting, deliberately vague, and quite possibly a red herring as far as content. The real reason for the dialogue style, and somewhat awkward at that, may be that the content of the plain text may have had been a secondary objective for Sanborn, and thus may have been “reverse engineered” around certain key doubled letters and the numerical sequence. The misspelled “underground”, for example, provides a doubled U within a word (something very hard to do in English if you don’t want to use “vacuum”). The use of X’s as hard stops, suggesting Morse code translation, do not seem to always fall where stops would be expected (i.e.: a change in speaker) and may have more to do with the locations of the X’s on the tableau, than as true punctuation.

The conversational tone, with questions and responses, do not suggest Morse at all to me. I suspect Sanborn knew precisely where the X’s had to be, and then produced text around it being artful in including words that provide needed doubles. Producing a coherent text is made easier by having it take the form of a dialogue. In certain cases, he came up short between X’s and introduced null characters- the question marks. The halting language, suggesting typical Morse economy in words, is contradicted by excessively wordy phrasing that Morse operators, especially agents, would never use. For example, in the text, he initializes WW, but refers to Langley in the plaintext. Place names and proper nouns are never directly revealed in the plaintext, because their uniqueness provides a limited dictionary of cribs for the code breaker to apply. Another is example is:”Transmitted undergruund to an unknown location” in place of “buried it at Langley”. If it was transmitted underground to an unknown location, how can we have GPS coordinates for it? Clearly the appropriate word was “secret.” Unknown provides a palindrome “K” and, like the u in “underground”, it is not the easiest letter in the English language to find doubles or palindromes in common words, and so we can see Sanborn’s approach possibly forced certain phrasings and word choices.
Furthermore, the idea of the latitude and longitude coordinates as having some spatial significance relative to the sculpture may in fact be wrong. Having used “abscissa” to crack the section, it is tempting to find significance in 77 8’ 44”-the abscissa of the location’s ordinate pair. The relative closeness of the revealed coordinates’ location to the sculpture suggests some significance. But really, the number string doesn’t have to be GPS coordinates, or really anything in the real world. It appears to me like a carefully disguised numerical code, posing as coordinates to distract and confuse.
If we have learned anything about Sanborn and Sheidt to this point, it should be that they are masters of misdirection, and all too willing to let us let our imaginations run wild. At this point in the Kryptos enigma, there’s no indication whatsoever that any of the “soft” content leads anywhere. With the first half of the sculpture cracked, all we may have done vis. K4, at this point, is provided a grille for the second half of the code text tableau. Another looming problem is that having proposed possibly valid solutions for K1 and K2, It is not obvious to me how we would have been alerted to the existence of the distress/authentication codes so obviously built into both sections. That’s next.


By the Book


A frustrating element for the authors of Kryptos must be that despite the success at creating an engaging artwork, perfectly appropriate to its setting and integrated seamlessly into its environment, the world to which it speaks perceives it in terms of failure: failure to decrypt it, failure to identify the ways in which it defeats decryption, and failure to understand the significance of the message to them. It is a look in the mirror for the CIA in many ways: a reminder the limitations of purely empirical approaches to real world problems of intelligence; of a past in which real people risked their lives in order to transmit secret information securely using pencil and paper. It is not a gadfly, however, but a monument: honoring the genius, bravery, and perhaps madness of the people who became “the CIA.” No computer is ever going to be able to figure that out.

A central theme in Sanborn’s ongoing dialogue with would be solvers over the years is the many ways in which solved sections have plaintext that was derived without the fuller context of the clues that were intended by Sanborn to result in the solution. For potential solvers today, with the benefit of years of brute force attacks on the cipher text we stand on the shoulders of many who made advances toward the ultimate solution and shared their work. We also benefit from Sanborn himself, who has given many hints and instructions, both within the sculpture and through the media. The ultimate solution to K4 will rely upon taking the path that Sanborn intended through his “instructions.” Unfortunately for us as intrepid solvers, that may mean forgetting what we think we “know.”

Along the entrance pathway at Langley, Kryptos announces itself to the agent in the field in the form of exposed rock strata, revealed by time, erosion and tectonic forces. The copper plates hint at pages into which symbols are cut and the folding of the rock strata suggest an ancient book emerging from the earth. In one of his first clues, Sanborn informs us that “The tilted strata tell a story like pages of a document. This code, which includes certain ancient ciphers, begins as International Morse and increases in complexity as you move through the piece at the entrance and into the courtyard.”

The suggestion by Sanborn is that we are surrounded by all kinds of forces in the natural world, and awareness of their effects and processes both reveal hidden order and enlighten us as to how it may be better understood. Sanborn confides to us that there is information under the very foundation of Langley which remains secret: encoded by our predecessors; hidden and unknown. Like the great cathedrals, built on the foundations of pagan temples, themselves built at the sites of ancient standing stones; a tomb is breaking the surface at Langley, urging the agent on to decrypt its message from the past.

For an agent of the COI, OSS, and early CIA era, who had emerged in the present via a time machine, the landscape would seem unfamiliar.  There would be little to identify Langley as “home.”  Other than the many training camps: like “X,” and the early locations such as the BSIS’ old offices at Rockefeller Center, the last building occupied by these early agents in DC was the E Building: the Old Naval Observatory at 23rd and E St NW.  I suspect that Sheidt and Sanborn have included elements that would seem familiar to this time traveller

When transcribed, the strata Morse code reveals the following plaintext:







By now, we all should realize that we were expected to brute force “palimpsest’ out of K1 using the Kasiski Examination. We were expected to brute force “abscissa” from K2 using Kullback’s chi method. It is clear to me that Sheidt and Sanborn designed the sculpture to allow progress, but in such a way as to disguise what keys and techniques would have been used by the intended recipient of the message. I suspect the key to the entire sculpture lies in figuring out how the intended recipient would have acquired the keys, and also, the ways in which they can be manipulated to produce alternate plain text via “distress” and “authentication” codes.

The secret message from Sanborn to our agent in the field, when fully understood in the context of K1, is that the letters in the Morse strata plaintext have significance when paired, or when in palindrome: in effect when they are mirrored. I presume we were supposed to gain this awareness in our observation of the installation itself with its imagery of duality and reflection.  Applying this thematic observation to the Morse Strata “text” produces a string of letters.

Thus the “P” in inteRPRetatit, bounded by two “R’s”, is the mirror letter in a palindrome. Accordingly, the “L” in “virtuaLLy” is a mirror letter as well, and stands as itself. In order, the letters in the message above, ignoring SOS, are P (RPR), P (ERPRE), A (TAT), I (TIT), T (ITI), L (LL), S (ISI), S (ESE), M (EME), E (MEM). PPAITLSSME.  Check anagram solver…

PALIMPSEST. Oddly enough, in Merriam-Webster and most dictionaries I have checked, palimpsest and palindrome are adjacent alphabetically.

When used as a passkey in conjunction with the Kryptos alphabet on the tabula recta Palimpsest unlocks the following plaintext:

“Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion”

It’s hard at this point of the game to assess the significance of the text. Only now do we know that K1 is 63 characters. It is ominous and even beautiful, however, there’s really not much we can do with it at this stage. Due to the “layered” nature of the puzzle it is reasonable to assume that the keyword for the second part or at least clues to the acquisition of a keyword exist in the K1 text.

In the plaintext of the Morse, both “digital” and “interpretation” are unambiguously misspelled. It is obvious that by using palindromes and pairs as a letter identification rule, through ordinary usage, pairs and palindromes may appear in words where they are not intended to signify a letter. Thus in DIGITAL, we would have produced a “G”-a letter missing from Palimpsest. In INTERPRETATIT, if spelled correctly would not produce the “I” necessary. In the K1 plain text Sanborn misspells “illusion”, removing the doubled “L” in favor of “iqlusion”. There is already a doubled letter “E” from “between”, so we can assume that for whatever reason, the misspelling is in order to avoid having an “L” arising from this word, or in this place.

Thus, we learn from the Morse Strata that doubled letters and palindromes have significance. The misspelling of Illusion in K1 suggests that the same technique may be used to obtain further keys from the plaintext in the future. It is fairly impossible to assess its significance now though, and with only two doubles and no palindromes over K1’s 63 characters of plain text, it is safe to assume that the same technique will not provide a key to K2 from K1.

At this point, having solved K1 as agents in the field, I believe should plan our attack on K2 with a very limited set of assumptions about what we learned.

  • Paired and Palindrome letters can identify key strings.
  • Anagrams are present.
  • Misspellings indicate information.

Before we do so, we still need to learn much more about the easiest “code” in the sculpture.  Other than the three items I mention above, I don’t believe we have learned anything yet about solving Kryptos, but rather we have begun to learn how to ask the right questions.

Know Thyself

I feel that as a member of the public, I am at a bit of a disadvantage in finding a potential solution to the Kryptos enigma.  I’m not a cryptographer, mathematician, artist, programmer, or a member of any covert intelligence agency. In a perfect world, ideas have their own life and should stand on their merits without a net, so I won’t risk the hypocrisy inherent in describing to anybody why my experience or education qualifies me to comment.  I’m inspired by the philosophical problem of Kryptos, not just the answer, whatever that might be.  The mystery is that of context, of perspective, and our relationship to truth in the broadest sense.

111213 134

Above is a Pyramidion.  I can tell you a lot about it: the historical context of where it was, who carved it, the language spoken at that time.  I can also tell you something about the symbolism, the shape, the Sphinges, the lions, why they face each other, the doorway composed of triple tau, etc.  I could write at least a couple hundred pages and it would all be “right.” My father could have told you a lot about it too, but very differently.  He was a civil engineer. Something like this performs a very practical function for engineers and architects.  It creates a zero meridian, and It relates space and time so that the landscape can be accurately mapped, surveyed and defined in terms of an absolute reference point, just like the “origin” point in the Cartesian plane.  For a civil engineer, the architect’s plan is one of several overlay maps, beginning at the bottom with the topological site map, and with layers overlaid showing drainage, water supply, electrical, sewage, roads, foundations, the site plan overall, etc.  In order to create this 3D view of the site, all maps must have a common reference point. The civil engineer’s job is to translate the vision of the architect’s idea, in to the reality of a structure “on the earth.”  I suspect this view would seem familiar to Sanborn.

In the previous chapter, I suggested that the clues as presented so far by Sanborn suggest that we need to see “through” the enciphered tableau, to see the ancient scroll which is likely to contain wisdom exceeding that of what covers it.  I posted a picture of the Archimedes Palimpsest.  I intuited a connection to the successive layers of architecture in OHB and NHB at Langley.

In reflecting on it, I remembered that the Architect of the Capitol, since Jefferson and L’Enfant, promoted use of symbolic figures from Greek and Roman history and mythology to reflect a sense of place for the new nation within a larger historical context. They sought establish a creation myth for the new nation, placing it in artistic code in the sacred grove of the District of Columbia using the visual vocabulary of the period to which it honors: the birth of democracy in Greece and Rome.

The Library of Congress, for example, depicts the Apotheosis of Washington under its central dome, expressing his central importance in the foundation of the temple of knowledge. Post-deification he appears the manner of Greek and Roman deities typically: seated, gazing down at us through the oculus, robed and flanked by the heavenly pantheon. Another example shown below is part of the pediment at Union Station, conceived by St. Gaudens as a temple to the railroad industry:


The figure above depicts Thales, whose scientific observation of natural forces initiated the tradition which ultimately harnessed those forces in service to humanity. In the creation myth of the American Railroad, St Gaudens identifies Thales as the one of the patron gods of DC’s temple of transportation.

The original architects of the Capitol, Thomas Jefferson and Peter L’Enfant laid out the city as a sacred grove for the marking of America’s history, in which the deified founding fathers and the memorials of the country’s triumphs would take their place on an abstract tableau, a geometric canvas expressing a vast timescale. One century later, the McMillan Commission restored and expanded upon that original design to include the history of the Nineteenth Century.  At the outset, the creation of the capitol district was linked with Thomas Jefferson.  To Jefferson architecture was a form of visual education in support of democratic ideals. The Greek Revival movement became widely accepted throughout the early U.S. as a symbol of the new democracy, largely through his influence.

The overall map of the DC area reflects these individual architectural elements into a larger scheme. The creation of a sacred district, marked by a geodetic meridian, and with hidden knowledge encoded into its architecture and orientation belongs to an ancient tradition. From Sumer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, each dominant society has sought to demonstrate their advancement, and commemorate their origins through great works of colossal architecture.  The highest expressions of the form are those that do not require language to transmit their wisdom, but rather encode their meaning in their forms and proportions.

My intuition suggests that Sanborn may have also been motivated to encode certain elements that would satisfy this theme in his sculpture at the CIA.  In his “letter to the agency” he explicitly references it, suggesting the palimpsest theme of new forms built on old foundations specifically referencing temples. In another interview he describes his experience of flying above the British landscape,  the acute angle of twilight exposing subtle curvatures.  The shadows reveal structures below the surface which are imperceptible in full sunlight. There is a clear point of tangency of the CIA with these ancient traditions of architecture and geodesy. For me it recalls Delphi, The Oracle, and the priesthood of Apollo.

If true, the association may unlock other coded (not ciphered) meanings with more direct application to the problem of Kryptos. There is ample evidence of Latin/Greek wordplay in the sculpture, and following this parallel does not inhibit our ability to see Kryptos in new and perhaps novel ways.

In the same way that Jefferson Pier established a new prime meridian at the founding of the United States, the Omphalos at Delphi established a new geodetic center of the classical Greek universe in both literal and symbolic terms.  Time and location in the Greek world were both derivatives of Delphi’s, similar to the way the modern world has designated the Royal Greenwich Observatory meridian.

The Amphictyony was a league of Greek nation-states, a forerunner of the modern United Nations.  There were many antagonistic factions which vied for political and economic hegemony in the Hellenic world.  They all had a common source for their world view, and in effect shared the same culture and heritage: they were themselves the result of new colonial empires populating on the ruins of the previous Minoan and Etruscan cultures.  Member states of the Amphictyony agreed to not to destroy each others’ cities, or cut off food or water supplies to their populations when at war.  Violation of this covenant obliged all other members to wage war on the transgressor.

Delphi was the capitol of this civil federation, and was common ground to all and sacred to both Gaia and Apollo. The temple itself had been in the same place for at least 1000 years prior to the Greeks! The earliest architectural Apollo temples date from the to the period of Homer, ~850 BC, formalizing a more rustic temple which dated to perhaps 1250 BC. It was built and rebuilt several times over, and the materials in each successive layer reflect Greece’s growing mastery of technology: which is the underlying symbolism of the Apollonic myth. The first layer was feathers and beeswax, the next wood, then bronze, finally stone. The grove expanded dramatically during Greece’s golden age. The treasuries and donations of the member states in Delphi represented the highest achievements in sculpture and architecture. The spoils of victory were not brought home, but installed here. The treasuries took on the notion of embassies: a member state would send its wisest philosophers, leading artists and best athletes to represent them in the sight of Apollo and their terrestrial rivals. At Delphi began what we would think of as an elite university of philosophers and artists, who were behind the scenes guiding and leading a democratic society. Eventually, the civil authority of Delphi superseded that of the Amphictyony and a centralized federal government took shape.

The Delphic Oracle exerted considerable influence throughout Hellenic culture. Distinctively, this female was essentially the highest authority both civilly and religiously in male-dominated ancient Greece. She responded to the questions of citizens, foreigners, kings, and philosophers on issues of political impact, war, duty, crime, laws—even personal issues. The Pythia, when about to deliver her divinations, would chew leaves from Apollo’s sacred laurel tree then sit on her holy tripod in the innermost sanctum, over a crack on the rock from which noxious volcanic fumes emanated. Dazed and disoriented, she would then be “possessed by the voice of Apollo” and utter inarticulate sounds before fainting. Only the priests were present there, and they had the task of “translating” her utterances in plain speech. The priests were extremely well versed on the various matters of state, as part of their work was to debrief pilgrims about all that they knew. In addition, no question to the god was ever dealt with immediately. After the query, several days of prescribed ceremony had to be observed, which gave the priests precious time for research.

Plato would later insinuate their existence as a political force in a theoretical exercise: The Republic. In this hypothetical utopia, Socrates expresses the selfish ignorance of the ruling classes which inhibits the progress of society in using the metaphor of the Ship of State.  The teaching is that there must exist an intellectual elite, aloof from the guardians and their eternal opposition, which guides the ship’s best course for humanity.

The first and foremost of the Greek “wise men” at Delphi was Thales. Thales attempted to explain natural phenomena without reference to mythology and was tremendously influential in this respect. Almost all of the other Pre-Socratic philosophers follow him in attempting to provide an explanation of ultimate substance, change, and the existence of the world without reference to mythology. Those philosophers were also influential, and eventually Thales’ rejection of mythological explanations became an essential idea for the scientific revolution. He was also the first to define general principles and set forth hypotheses, and even modern voices such as Bertrand Russell call him the “Father of Science.”

Thales inscribed a coded message on the pediment of the Temple of Apollo to inspire his academy as long as the temple remained standing. A man of few words, there were three fundamental maxims that represented the core of his teaching: Know Thyself, Nothing in Excess and E.

I’m pretty sure he wanted us to get the first two pretty quick. They are in the imperative form as are oaths, declarations and commandments. He’s telling us what to do. The E is a stumper though.  It’s kind of like Kryptos.  It’s Epsilon, E, 5, If, Thou art, El, He, and much more.  It’s all what you read into it. Everything and Nothing.  That’s the point. Check out Plutarch’s take on E: here.  He was a priest of Apollo when he wrote it, himself the student of another.  Sages of a later generation trying to figure out the meaning of the puzzle the master had left in the courtyard.


The Book of Nature


Omnis mundi creatura,|All the world’s creations,

quasi liber et pictura |Are as book and picture

nobis est, et speculum. |To us, and mirror.

Nostrae Vitae, nostrae mortis, |Our lives, our deaths,

nostrae status, nostrae sortis. |Our fortunes, our destiny

Fidele Signaculum. |Faithfully represented.

This quote by Alain de Lille (ca.1180) appears in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. The translation is mine. Alain believed that God created everything according to his wisdom, and thus all things we can perceive in the natural world are a reflection of the divine mind. Since, as mortals, we “create” the world through our senses, the rational mind both emulates the divine act, and contains within it a reflection of divine mind. Because of this, patterns of reasoning in one’s own mind could be expected to be similar in some way to patterns of reasoning in God’s mind, and thus, all creation. As a result, one could expect to know the meaning and nature of creation more easily through introspection and intuition.  This idea is often called “Neo-Platonism”, and found it’s natural opposition in Scholasticism, the legacy of Aristotle’s epistemological program in early medieval theology.

Early Christian doctrine held that God was the author of two texts, the Book of God, aka: The Bible, and The Book of Nature. The two were co-extensive: given the right interpretative tools, one could read the eternal truth of God’s design from Nature back to the Bible, and vice versa. The medieval world was thoroughly semiotic, the stars in the sky and the leaves on the trees were imbued with semantic meanings, signifiers of the creator’s absolute authorship. in reading the Book of Nature, which is to say observing natural phenomena, the medieval scientist sought to penetrate the outward appearance of things in order to recover their God-sent meaning.

Umberto Eco explores these ideas in his book, The Name of the Rose. In the [fictional] preface, Eco presents The Name of the Rose as a book he came upon by chance. The book was a translation of a manuscript written by Adso of Melk [again fictional], a monk in the fourteenth century. Eco’s artistic device to is remove traces of his authorship. The distancing of the narrator from the story alerts the reader to the book’s main theme: the ways knowledge and understanding are gained and the questioning of the accuracy and relevance of what is learned.

Adso of Melk, a young novice monk, relates the story of how he accompanies the Franciscan monk William of Baskerville to an abbey in northern Italy, where a meeting between opposing factions in the Church will soon take place. The pope, who is very rich, wants to keep factions of monks who advocate poverty for the clergy from gaining power. The abbey is in a state of anxiety because a monk has recently died; the monks believe he was murdered and that supernatural, evil forces are loose in the abbey. As more deaths follow, William uses logic and deductive reasoning to discover how the monks died. William advocates observing carefully to understand the signs that will reveal truth. In contrast, others, such as the inquisitor Bernard Gui, rely on superstition and assumptions. William believes for a time that the murders follow a pattern laid out in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation), and the elderly monk Jorge of Burgos encourages this line of thinking to distract William from the truth. There was not, in fact, a single murderer, nor a single motive.

Eco, is a semiotician. Semiotics, generally, represent methodologies for the analysis of “texts” regardless of the mediums in which they are presented. For these purposes, “text” is any message preserved in a form whose existence is independent of both sender and receiver. The solution to the central murder mystery hinges on the contents of Aristotle‘s book on Comedy [which is not known to exist: Aristotle teased us at the end of Book II of Poetics that it was the next book, but alas, despite claims, it has never been recovered or even proved to have ever been written]. Eco nonetheless describes it plausibly and has his characters react to it, in ways appropriate in their medieval setting; which, though realistically described, is based on Eco’s scholarly guesses and imagination. It is virtually impossible to untangle fact from fiction or history from conjecture in the novel.  Many characters have obvious 20th century counterparts. Baskerville and Adso are thinly veiled portraits of Holmes and Watson. The author seems to be suggesting the central theme of the lost knowledge, the “empty names”, is one that confronts the monks of today with equal relevance. Eco also makes a plea for tolerance and against dogmatic or self-sufficient metaphysical truths – which reaches the surface in the final chapters.

Umberto Eco is a significant postmodernist theorist and The Name of the Rose is a postmodern novel.The quote in the novel, “books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told,” refers to a postmodern idea that all texts perpetually refer to other texts, rather than external reality. In true postmodern style, the novel ends with uncertainty: “very little is discovered and the detective is defeated”. Baskerville solves the mystery in part by mistake; he thought there was a pattern but it in fact, numerous “patterns” were involved and combined with haphazard mistakes by the killers. William ultimately concludes that there “was no pattern.” Thus Eco turns the modernist quest for finality, certainty and meaning on its head, leaving the overall plot partly the result of accident and arguably without meaning. Even the novel’s title alludes to the possibility of many meanings or of nebulous meaning; Eco saying in the Postscript he chose the title “because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left”.

The book’s last line, “Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus” I translate as: “The original rose stands [only] in name; we hold names stripped [i.e.: stripped of meaning|clothing]” The general sense, as Eco pointed out, was that from the beauty of the past, now disappeared, we hold only the name. In this novel, the lost “rose” could be seen as Aristotle’s book on comedy.  Interestingly, in his quest for a sufficiently obscure title, Eco had the misfortune of coming across a typo, but one that manages to drive his point home anyway, even more forcefully. It was not Eco’s fault, Bernard de Cluny’s manuscripts include a variety of scribal transcription errors. Those familiar with the text, rightly pointed to the majority of copies, in which original read: “Nunc ubi Regulus aut ubi Romulus aut ubi Remus. Stat Roma pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.  I translate: Where now are Regulus and Romulus and Remus? Ancient Rome stands only in name: we hold names stripped.  Perfect either way, isn’t it? And that is exactly Eco’s point. 

What exactly is the difference between a Rome and a rose?  Only the context and interpretation, from which we have no choice but to use the iconography of God and Nature- the only universal vocabulary we have ever had.  If you are struggling with this idea, I suggest an excercise.  Describe a color, but you are not allowed to use any other colors in your description.  Yellow becomes “like the sun”, green becomes “like grass.” Now do you see the problem? To paraphrase Magritte: green is not “grass”, nor is a picture of a pipe a pipe.  In certain circles, “a Rose” means a secret explanation, or a parable: a word or idea that has a superficial context, and a deeper one indentifiable to those who have the keys to its underlying symbolism. Let’s go back a few years, and try to understand some simple semiotics.

The woodcut illustration that I placed above the quote is from the title page of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, published together with and as an appendix to Sylva Sylvarum, 1st edition 1626. I draw attention to the printing, because in these times, first printings were not produced for public consumption, but rather to subscribers: wealthy men of education, means and power. Later printings show instead Bacon’s “hand holding a torch passing it to another” theme: the Lamplighter motif. I give an example below in the cover of New Atlantis. The woodcut I depicted above says the same thing, but far more explicitly. It depicts Time, in the form of Saturn (Cronos), drawing forth Truth, in the form of a naked woman, from a cave. Time holds a scythe in his right hand, whilst he grasps Truth’s left wrist with his left hand. At his feet, and standing upright between them, is an hour-glass. The Latin motto in the circular border reads ‘Tempore Patet Occulta Veritas’, which I translate as ‘Time brings forth Hidden Truth’.

For Bacon, this was an axiom concerning life itself, in which divine wisdom has been concealed in matter and waits for us to gradually discover and bring it forth from its hiding place in the mirror, as suggested by Alain of Lille. It also is a statement concerning the Baconian method for training us in the art of discovering truth: the scientific method. Bacon considered that the best method would be one that imitates the divine method. In contrast with the monastic scholasticism dominant in pre-reformation Europe, Bacon employed and supported the inductive approach, one that he uncovered through his extensive studies of Greek and Roman authors, poets and philosophers.

Bacon taught that Poetry is directly associated with Imagination, as its highest art. The Elizabethan poet, Sir Philip Sydney, wrote that a poet is a ‘maker’, or creator, and that the divine Poet is God as the Creator of all things. This was likewise Bacon’s point of view, and moreover he pointed out that since, according to holy writ, man was made in God’s image, therefore the real purpose of man must be to imitate God.

I suspect with themes like these in mind, the author of Kryptos set about his prelimnary drafts. Could an example be given to demonstrate how information can be transmitted across time and space using language and symbols secretly? In plain sight? Just like the Grail hidden on the left column, or the effeminate apostle sitting by Jesus’ right side wearing Chartres blue (normally an attribute of her virgin cognomen) and carrying a baby in a scarlet swaddling cloth (I’ve never heard anybody else point that out), that DaVinci managed to slip in to The Last Supper. Not everybody is painter. The title pages of works by Renaissance cognoscenti, such as those I have presented in this essay, are further examples of the art. They draw from an ancient visual vocabulary of symbols.  If you haven’t researched much in this area, a good place to start would be George Wither.  Alternatively, you could walk around the Library of Congress, and look at the floors and the walls.


Everything that can be known about Kryptos, including the keys to its decipherment, is “right there” at Langley but for understanding how to reformulate the elements into a novel context. A context that a fellow KU alumnus may be able to conceive, but would defeat decryption by interlopers unfamiliar with the secret language, codes and symbols employed. Could this whole notion take form that illustrates itself by example? in effect: a complete proof if true? In an Artwork? At Langley?

It strikes me as symbolic of the myriad enigmas and mysteries that confront the CIA every day, and demonstrates the relationship of the intelligence complex with “science”, insofar as scientific discovery is modeled by the decipherment/decoding of Kryptos.  So, Kryptos is a challenge, and a damn good one.  Are you surprised that the first decryption produced poetry?  I’m not.

This was all in good fun, reinforced by the strong fellowship of the crypto community in the NSA and CIA.  They belong to an ancient fraternity, and they honor that tradition by facing intellectual challenges.  They are the heirs to scribes, statesmen, geniuses, alchemists, artists, monks, architects, stargazers, navigators, and philosophers spanning thousands of years.  The enlightenment of the modern age, and the founding of the United States, owe their existence to this secret fraternity, who preserved knowledge, and made it available to those who could use it, when they needed it, often at great personal risk and expense.  We owe an incalculable debt to one man in particular: Francis Bacon.  Bacon was the founder of many institutions. The one that had the greatest impact on mankind was, and remains today, a secret society. At it’s very core, is anonymity and secrecy.

This Invisible College, at the earliest date called ‘The College of the Fraternity,’ appeared in a publication known as Speculum Sophicum Rhodo-Stauroticum, by Daniel Mögling, alias Theophilus Schweighardt [ed: God Loves Hard Silence: It's worth noting that both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of Paul were dedicated to an unknown Theophilus]. The illustration was drawn, if not published, in 1604, about ten years before the appearance of the Fama Fraternitatis—usually considered the first book to announce the presence of the Rosicrucians to the world. If the chronology of the story in the Fama is calculated: C.R.C. was born in 1378, lived to an age of 106, and lay undiscovered for 120 years. 1378 + 106 + 120 = 1604.  It depicts the symbolic opening of the Tomb of CRC, and thus the rediscovery of the Liber Mundi, and the Book of T. I am not qualified to describe these things to you, nor should I, but I will say that the Book of T is not a traditional codex; it is a collection of symbols: the Tarot.

[ed: I have received some commentary asking me to elucidate the possible significance of 1604 from persons preferring to remain anonymous.  1604 was the year that Kepler observed a supernova Oct 9. It occurred in the Milky Way, in the constellation Ophiuchus.  Ophiuchus is "the serpent bearer" which should make the figure in the upper left with the date at its feet more clear. Kepler's Star is the most recent supernova to have been unquestionably observed by the naked eye in our own galaxy, occurring no farther than 6 kiloparsecs or about 20,000 light-years from Earth. Visible to the naked eye, Kepler's Star was brighter at its peak than any other star in the night sky, and brighter than all the planets other than Venus, with an apparent magnitude of −2.5. It was visible during the day for over three weeks.]

In New Atlantis Bacon portrayed a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge, expressing his aspirations and ideals for humanity. The novel depicts first European contact with a utopian society where “generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit” are the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants. The plan and organisation of his ideal college, Salomon’s House, envisioned the modern research university in both applied and pure sciences. The plot develops with the discovery by the crew of a European ship of the mythical island of Bensalem, located in the Pacific Ocean somewhere west of Peru. The minimal plot serves the gradual unfolding of the island, its customs, but most importantly, its state-sponsored scientific institution: Salomon’s House:

“which house or college … is the very eye of this kingdom.” Unto this order of sages “God of heaven and earth had vouchsafed the grace to know the works of Creation, and the secrets of them”, as well as “to discern between divine miracles, works of nature, works of art, and impostures and illusions of all sorts”;

In the book, the leader of this magian body was called the Father, and he describes the group’s organization:

“For the several employments and offices of our fellows, we have twelve that sail into foreign countries under the names of other nations (for our own we conceal), who bring us the books and abstracts, and patterns of experiments of all other parts. These we call merchants of light.

“We have three that collect the experiments which are in all books. These we call depredators.

“We have three that collect the experiments of all mechanical arts, and also of liberal sciences, and also of practices which are not brought into arts. These we call mystery–men.

“We have three that try new experiments, such as themselves think good. These we call pioneers or miners.

“We have three that draw the experiments of the former four into titles and tables, to give the better light for the drawing of observations and axioms out of them. These we call compilers.

“We have three that bend themselves, looking into the experiments of their fellows, and cast about how to draw out of them things of use and practice for man’s life and knowledge, as well for works as for plain demonstration of causes, means of natural divinations, and the easy and clear discovery of the virtues and parts of bodies. These we call dowry–men or benefactors.

“Then after divers meetings and consults of our whole number, to consider of the former labours and collections, we have three that take care out of them to direct new experiments, of a higher light, more penetrating into nature than the former. These we call lamps.

“We have three others that do execute the experiments so directed, and report them. These we call inoculators.

“Lastly, we have three that raise the former discoveries by experiments into greater

Later the Father of Salomon’s House reveals the institution’s skill at creating illusions of light:

“We represent also all multiplications of light, which we carry to great distance, and make so sharp as to discern small points and lines. Also all colorations of light: all delusions and deceits of the sight, in figures, magnitudes, motions, colors; all demonstrations of shadows. We find also divers means, yet unknown to you, of producing of light, originally from divers bodies.”

He also boasts about their ability to fake miracles:

“And surely you will easily believe that we, that have so many things truly natural which induce admiration, could in a world of particulars deceive the senses if we would disguise those things, and labor to make them more miraculous.”

The Latin of the second passage literally translates to “we could impose on men’s senses an infinite number of things if we wanted to present these things as, and exalt them into, a miracle.”

The skill of creating illusions coupled with the incredibility of the book’s account of the origin of Bensalem’s Christianity makes it seem that Bacon was intimating that the light show that accompanied the miraculous discovery of the Ark or at least the story of its occurrence, was an invention of Salomon’s House. The Ark, a small chest, contained the known canonical books, plus versions of the new testament books, which had not yet at the time of the discovery (said to be written 20 to 40 years after the ascension) been published.  Additionally, the ark contained a letter written by St. Bartholomew,  who stated that he had received a vision in which God instructed him “to commit the ark to the floods of the sea.” When the ark reached its appointed destination, the people of that land would receive “salvation and peace and goodwill from the Father and from the Lord Jesus.”  Interesting stuff, but far more interesting that this utopia was envisioned by the same man who had just served as chief editor for the King james Bible.

Bacon’s secularization of politics and glorification of the power of science to serve the interests of the secular state serves as the foundation for his program of political and social prosperity through the advancement of learning. The Father of Salomon’s House reveals that members of that institution decide on their own which of their discoveries to keep secret, even from the State:

“And this we do also: we have consultations, which of the inventions and experiences which we have discovered shall be published, and which not; and take all an oath of secrecy for the concealing of those which we think fit to keep secret; though some of those we do reveal sometime to the State, and some not.”

This would seem to imply that the State does not hold the monopoly on authority and that Salomon’s House must in some sense be superior to the State.  It also exposes the influence of Plato’s Republic on Bacon’s ideas, and to a certain extent can be thought of as an answer to the problem of democracy as set forth in book XII of the Republic: that being the tendency for free democracies to result in tyrannies, subjugated by the very institutions put in place to protect their freedom and liberty.


Lambros Callimahos, the celebrated instructor of the 20th century iteration of Solomon’s House, seemed to share Bacon’s views on the responsibilities of the guardians of the state in a free democracy.  As with Bacon’s relationship to the Rosicrucians, The Invisible College, and the Royal Society, Callimahos’ secret organization was known as the Dundee Society. Graduates of his CA400 class automatically became members of the elite order within the elite community already present at CIA and NSA.  He was fond of saying to new students: “if you can read the 26 letters of the alphabet, there’s nothing about the universe you can’t learn.”

To better prepare his students for the real world task of traffic analysis, Callimahos created Zendia: a fictional Pacific island nation complete with invented industries, agriculture, military, history and leaders. In Callimahos’ words: “The Zendian Problem, presenting an operational communication intelligence situation in miniature, affords opportunity to apply the techniques of traffic analysis and cryptanalysis, to derive intelligence, and to prepare reports. This problem deals with the enemy communication during an operation against Zendia, a totalitarian island state.”

The Zendian problem was presented to students as a series of intercepted messages, which chronicle the events of a single day: December 23 (an interesting choice of dates from a Rosicrucian point of view).  The content of the messages are mostly military communications surrounding actions undertaken by Zendia in response to its rival’s aggression.  Within these intercepts, which range from requests for supplies, to top level command and control, the country’s leader: Salvo Salassio, who bore a striking resemblance to a young Callimahos, addresses his troops through his generals to boost morale.

Although I am not a Dundee Society member, I recently gained access to the problem, which in my source numbers 375 messages in total, encrypted using a variety of different methods.  The top line of the message heading is the intercept line, consisting of the receiving and transmitting call signs, the frequency, the intercept date/time, and the intercept station designation; also included is a teleprinter serial number used in forwarding the traffic by teleprinter. The second line of the heading is the message preamble which consists of eight 4-digit groups; this is followed by the message text, invariably transmitted in groups of five characters. In all messages, the first two groups are repeated at the end. The students’ tasks were: identify the sending and receiving stations, construct an overview over the network of radio stations, identify the cipher methods used, and decrypt and read the messages.

I’ll be honest, it’s pretty dry stuff. When I got to “Originator 212″ things took an exciting and dramatic turn.  I heard the unguarded voice of Lambros Callimahos speaking directly to his students. I also heard the echo of the words of Francis Bacon in the New Atlantis. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

our leader salasio says quote the state must maintain itself above the world of production comma equally removed from absorbing it in monopolies and intervening in it through competition end quote he also says quote all revolutions comma small or great comma embitter the life of a nation semicolon it is always better to reform than to revolutionize comma or to revolutionize through reform end quote

our leader salasio says quote it is not in the country paren even in full crisis paren comma where life is simple and without ambitions comma that destitution becomes distressing and tragic stop the hopeless tragedy is rather in the cities comma in the great capitals comma which become more insensitive and hardhearted in proportion as they become more civilized stop end quote

our leader salasio says quote the army has the secret of perpetual youth comma and comma a so great and ancient family of noble descent comma it maintains and hangs on its traditions so unimpaired and living paren practice message paren comma that it always forms one and the same moral unity end quote

our leader salasio says quote authority is a fact and a necessity colon it only disappears in order to reappear comma it is only attacked in order to give it into the hands of others stop it is a right and a duty comma a duty which betrays itself if it is not exercised comma a right which has its best foundation in the common good stop and it is also a high gift of providence comma since without it social life and human civilization would be impossible end quote

Perhaps, as usual, I’m reading too much in, but I hope not because I derive a certain satisfaction in knowing that these were the words of CIA and NSA’s greatest teacher, and that his students are still running the joint. Or are they? I hope so.

The concept of the “invisible college” is first mentioned in German Rosicrucian pamphlets in the early 17th century. Ben Jonson in England referenced the idea, related in meaning to Francis Bacon’s House of Solomon, in The Fortunate Isles and Their Union from 1624/5. The term gained currency for the exchanges of correspondence within the Republic of Letters, the authors of which comprised the advisors to Europe’s political leadership.  The role of these authors within the royal courts was very similar to today’s diplomatic and intelligence community. 

Related to this theme, Elizabeth had as a trusted advisor an adept: one who functioned to her monarchy very much in the same way that the CIA supports the government. Sir John Dee was an astronomer, astrologer, an occultist, and black magic expert, and in effect, together with Bacon and Raleigh, he served in Queen Elizabeth’s intelligence service as a spy-master. He was the original “007″. Sir John Dee was a prominent member of The Worshipful Company of Mercers, a proto-masonic society.

Germane to our topic, The Royal Society started from groups of physicians and natural philosophers, meeting at variety of locations, including Gresham College in London (interestingly, founded by the Mercers). They were influenced by the “new science”, as promoted by Francis Bacon in his New Atlantis. From approximately 1645 onwards. A group known as The Philosophical Society of Oxford was run under a set of rules still retained by the Bodleian Library. It is widely held that these groups were the inspiration for the foundation of the Royal Society. The Society’s motto, Nullius in verba, is Latin for “nothing in words”, or in context: “Take nobody’s word for it”. It was adopted to signify the Fellows’ determination to establish facts via experiment and comes from Horace’s Epistles. Horace explains to Maecenas, his patron, that he feels old: like a gladiator who has earned freedom, he no longer feels obliged to fight battles outside the ones of his own choice. Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, – quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.” My translation:  not obliged to swear words [pledge loyalty] to masters, wherever the storm carries me, I go, a willing guest. 

In 1880 Emil du Bois-Reymond made a famous speech before the Berlin Academy of Sciences outlining seven “world riddles” some of which, he declared, neither science nor philosophy could ever explain. He was especially concerned to point out the limitations of mechanical assumptions about nature in dealing with certain problems he considered “transcendent”. A list of these “riddles”:

  1. the ultimate nature of matter and force,
  2. the origin of motion,
  3. the origin of life,
  4. the “apparently teleological arrangements of nature,” not an “absolutely transcendent riddle,”
  5. the origin of simple sensations, “a quite transcendent” question,
  6. the origin of intelligent thought and language, which might be known if the origin of sensations could be known, and
  7. the question of freewill.

Concerning numbers 1, 2 and 5 he is erroneously quoted as saying: “ignoramus et ignorabimus“|”we do not know and will not know.” Actually, he said “dubitemus,” or we are uncertain. The parallels to the early medieval neo-Platonists such as Alain de Lille, or Roger Bacon for example, should be apparent.  To these men there was a word for the ignorabimus: God.  Therein lies a problem. For Bacon and de Lille, John 1:1 says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. If the explanations were ever to come forward to du Bois-Reymond’s ignorabimus, they would also be words. Thus du Bois-Reymond exposed Science’s implicit faith in language as able to reflect an objective reality: as if it were like mathematics. Therefore I find Riddle #6 to the most compelling and destabilizing. As Heidegger stated in reaction to nascent formalism in linguistic philosophy: “Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact, language remains the master of man.  The logical conclusion for me, in terms of scientific method, is that there is no, or at least very little objective reality outside of our ability to describe and communicate it. Mathematics is a universal language, and in fact the only one.  The rest is poetry.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a 1979 book by Douglas Hofstadter exploring common themes in the lives and works of logician Kurt Gödel, artist M. C. Escher and composer Johann Sebastian Bach, GEB explores concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, and intelligence. Through illustration and analysis, the book discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to acquire meaning despite being made of “meaningless” elements. It also discusses what it means to communicate, how knowledge can be represented and stored, the methods and limitations of symbolic representation, and even the fundamental notion of “meaning” itself.

My working hypothesis therefore, is that if K4 were solvable by any known crypto system, or the result of any sequenced mathematical system which a computer or human genius could solve, it would have already been solved.  I possess an experimental observation in support of this supposition in that the most powerful computers on the planet, and the women and men that operate them have had 25 years, with no signs of success.

Ed Sheidt hoped it would come to this.  So did Sanborn.  I believe it was the plan.  That’s why it was necessary to control the timeline on the overhead views of the site, and the Morse transcription, since they needed to protect that information to ensure Kryptos would fulfill its goal as represented by my hypothesis:  to make a point about time uncovering hidden truth. They gave out the necessary info long ago, however, and still, no solve.  In the meantime, it has become a time machine.  Through natural human curiosity, it generates the energy to sustain itself. When we try to solve the enigma, we enter into self-created worlds of what we think it might be about: the history of cryptography, the story of the OSS, Berlin, Tut, whatever. There is no evidence of what the form and context of “the answer” might really be.  That is the puzzle’s central defense.

I’ve tentatively suggested that any known system of attack, using any language will fail.  There is a context that needs application that only a human can conceive. Something that is “not present” in the context of Hilbert space: i.e.: all that can be known and modeled by a computer. We have been informed by Sanborn, since the beginning and repetitively since that: the installation reflects a broad spectrum of elements which are to be taken as a whole: the re-contextualization in spatial terms of disparate elements . There’s no way to reduce what might be hidden between rocks, recycled pennies, or maps into a data input that can exist in the same Hilbert space as the “text” of K4.  We don’t even know where or what that text may be.

Thus, we need to really figure the Morse Strata out, since as humans, we can intuit something that might be missing, the “lack of” something as itself a signifier. What is the message covered by the rocks? We need to explore doubled letters and palindromes as signifiers and potentially as punctuation. The “e” strings could be prosigns, ellipsis dots, numbers: anything really. We should convert it back to morse and explore different directional contexts.

We need to start looking at shapes. Sanborn as an artist will express himself in mathematical terms consistent with that of his craft, which takes the form of the math of nature. Pi, Phi, phi, and e. The Golden Ratio. Sanborn has slyly tried to create a notion that he has no mathematical skill.  There is a 30 year record of his public work that suggests a very high level of geometric skill.

This should apply both to text and design.  To decrypt Kryptos, we are going to have to model the activities of those who discovered the Archimedes palimpsest: we will have to look through the book, to see the scroll.  Both the book and the scroll will deliver information based upon their original proportion and orientation, and this understanding is what will make the scroll legible. The process of making medieval manuscripts from old scrolls gives us a model for an overall matrix transformation as well.


An expert on Medieval palimpsest like John Tiltman would inform us that there was a time when deviations from the truly beautiful page proportions 2:3, 1:√2, and the Golden Section were rare. Many books produced between 1550 and 1770 show these proportions exactly, to within half a millimeter. Ed Sheidt lectured about medieval printing guilds, secrecy and methods of steganography and encoding systems in the middle ages. In those days, the great thinkers of the day were under the patronage of powerful political leaders.  They performed a role similar to what the CIA does for the Executive Office: they were the eyes and ears.  In royal courts around the world, there was a secret fraternity of alchemists, poets, and scribes, a communications and intelligence network.  Among the 3 estates, this fraternity was “outside the loop.” The modern notion of diplomatic immunity owes itself to this ancient entente cordiale. Their symbolic tools are the Key and the Quill.

A Palimpsest is a text that survives as traces of original ink from vellum or papyrus scrolls, which were subsequently reused by later scribes.  The process involved cutting the scrolls, into pre-defined lengths, washing and otherwise effacing the previous text, stacking them at a 90 degree orientation to the original text, and folding the stack into a gather.  The gathered stack is folded like a newspaper and sewn together at the fold to make a Folio, or the pages are cut individually, stacked and sewn together at the binding to form a Codex. Palimpsest parchment sheets typically retained their original central fold in the new binding, but each was ordinarily cut in half, making a quarter (“quarto”) volume of the original folio, with the overwritten text running perpendicular to the effaced text.  Often, the process was repeated to produce two octavo books from a quarto,  The octavo size is what in modern contexts, we call a book.

The new text was often a hymnal or liturgical piece, relating to monastic worship.  Ironically, the content of the texts remaining in palimpsest under these rather common and ordinary books, authored by the great Greek and Roman philosophers, statesmen and scientists, would have been quite radical and destabilizing to the Monks’ world view indeed.


For example, in the Archimedes Palimpsest pictured above, diagrams are clearly visible in certain sections of this 10th century manuscript. Through X-Ray analysis, the entire manuscript contained three of Archimedes’ most important mathematical treatises: “The Method”, “The Stomachion” and “On Floating Bodies.”  They were not known to exist prior to their discovery in palimpsest.

I suspect that Sanborn takes pride and satisfaction from the parallel:  lurking under the foundations of ritual and dogma are often radical and destabilizing ideas. That is very image he intended for Kryptos- as an architectural palimpsest- with successive generations of strata built one on top of another- and underneath, hidden knowledge struggling to break free, be rediscovered, brought back up from undergruund: decrypted.

In the context of the would-be code breaker in the field “Palimpsest” is rich with meaning and imagery in a much broader sense than the first phrase that it unlocks as passkey on the Vigenere table.   It doesn’t just open the door to the first part, but rather suggests a technique-It provides a directive from Sanborn and he seems to be saying something between the lines: “eventually, you will reuse the Palimpsest section plaintext to provide the structure for later decryptions.” Logically, the keys discovered here will remain consistent, are to be relied upon, despite an expanding universe of maybes and “unknown unknowns.”