Via: i see sigils…


Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) was not only an occultist and magician (he was the mentor of every occult’s favorite homeboy, Agrippa), he was also a master mathematician and cryptographer. His most well-known work is a series of three books known as the Steganographia. Twilit Grotto has the following to say about this work:

This is Trithemius’ most notorious work. On the surface it is a system of angel magic, but within is a highly sophisticated system of cryptography. It claims to contain a synthesis of the science of knowledge, the art of memory, magic, an accelerated language learning system, and a method of sending messages without symbols or messenger. In private circulation, the Steganographia brought such a reaction of fear that he decided it should never be published. He reportedly destroyed the more extreme portions (presumably instructions for prophecy/divination) but it continued to circulate in manuscript form and was eventually published posthumously in 1606.

In Books 1 & 2, transmission of messages requires written messages and an Angelic/Spirit messenger. It is in Book 3 where we get to the “method of sending messages without symbols or messenger” stuff. But I digress…

For those who study cryptography, the books of the Steganographia have always radiated an aura of “Hey! check me out! I’m full of cytological goodness with an angelic nugget you can’t resist!” While this isn’t breaking news, I recently found a paper authored by [James A. Reed, Ph.D.] (archive link, because I guess he’s not working at the AT&T Research Labs anymore and his personal pages have been wiped) titled Solved: The Ciphers in Book III of Trithemius’s Steganographia (published in the October 1998 issue of Cryptologia). A PDF version of the paper can be found [here] (again, an archive link, this time just in case it falls off the web again). This was not the first paper written on the subject, but it was the first one I was exposed too 🙂

Reed poses the following question as part of the paper’s introduction: “Much of this controversy centers around the intent of the Steganographia. Is it primarily an exposition of cryptographic techniques disguised as angel magic, or is it primarily a magic work disguised as cryptography?” This paper, at 28 pages, is not short – and some of it is rather dense reading if you don’t already enjoy reading stuff like this, so proceed with caution 😉

==[ Spoilers ]==== 

Reed (and others, independently – as mentioned earlier) did, in fact, find that ciphers were prevalent in Book 3 (as they are in the first two books as well), and they were broken/solved. The whole point of this paper is the detailed analysis of how he solved it. Then, in his conclusion at the end of the paper, Reed looks back at the magickal side of the book:

Although this demonstration of Trithemius’s sustained cryptographic purpose throughout the Steganographia may undermine Trithemius’s importance in the history of early modern magic from one point of view, it increases the interest in his book from another. The question now is: why did Trithemius so thoroughly embrace the rhetoric of magic for such a non-magical (as we regard it) purpose? Did he regard cryptography as inherently magical, or was his choice of that language a solution to the stylistic problem that all authors of cryptographic exposition have to solve: how to sustain the reader’s interest through example after example of usually tedious plain texts, possibly tedious explanations of cryptographic techniques, and always tedious cipher texts? Trithemius’s use of angel language might thus be a rhetorical strategy to engage the reader’s interest. If so, he was vastly successful, even if he completely miscalculated how his book would be received.

These are some interesting questions. Considering his impact on Agrippa, however, I take the position that the hidden messages being covertly given in the Steganographia only serve to enhance the otherwise magickal message being overtly given. But I admit, that opinion comes from bias, seeing as I respect, not only many of his other works as well, but also the works of his protegee.

Fonte: i see sigils…