User Answers


One of the most mysterious mediaeval manuscripts, the Voynich manuscript held at Yale University, has been redated almost a century earlier according to the following article:

Radiocarbon dating makes celebrated Voynich Manuscript a Century Older than Previously Thought

What interests me is the statement toward the end of the article, that most of the manuscript appears to be written in unrecognizable characters, containing an unrecognizable language, which in turn is mostly gibberish, but containing some legitimate information. The article mentions that it is probably an alchemical code, and that the real meaning of the pages might have been seen by placing a template with holes cut out over the words, revealing the true message.

I own plates of some of the pages of the Voynich manuscript, and I have to concur: the layout, the diagrams, all point to an origin within alchemy. What I disagree with - somewhat strongly in fact - is the notion that mediaeval alchemists would have resorted to the clumsy modern expedient of a "paper template" with holes cut to show the meaningful words. Alchemy's codes are much more complex, as anyone who has ever waded through reading an alchemical text will tell you.

Indeed, alchemy's codes form a kind of "labyrinth in words," and the entry to the labyrinth is, so to speak, the "first secret", given to an initiate by his master. It is a veritable Adriadne's thread by which the initiate is able to negotiate the labyrinth. The secret, the code, in other words, cannot be unlocked without a conceptual key known only to initiates.

The reason for all this secrecy itself is worth some commentary, for there are at least three levels at which alchemical transformation is understood to operate, the least significant being the one that most people think of when they hear the term "alchemy," and that is the transformation or transubstantiation of base metals into gold. The second level is the transmutation of the human soul into an enlightened, god-like soul, and the third, the deepest level, is that of the transmutation of the physical medium itself. For all these reasons, alchemists viewed their science as being fraught with dangers, and hence acted to protect its secrets from potential misuse.

Thus all this talk of secret codes only able to be broken by intiates possessing the key may sound silly, or even impossible, but the fact remains that the Voynich manuscript has defied all attempts of some of the best mathematicians and cryptographers to decipher. It remains a curious manuscript written in an unknown script with an unknown tongue in codes of great sophistication. I have no doubt that, in time, the manuscript will be deciphered and its contents will be known - at least, by someone. But if the diagrams in it are any indicator - one senses a detail of biological knowledge in it that exceeds what is thought to be possible for that day and time - then the manuscript might actually contain knowledge that someone would still want to be kept secret. After all, it has kept those secrets through the centuries.


  1. I think I recall something about in real life, letters being
    partly flaked either Voynich or something else, but you
    can tell where trace or stain of the ink into the paper
    was what it was with a magnifying glass or something
    like that.

  2. I forgot to add that Wilsons theory, at least in the fiction was that it was indecipherable because a lot of the ink had flaked off. So they had to look at it with a kind of second sight to see what the characters really were.

  3. This manuscript as someone interested in the occult, has always fascinated me. I can’t help but feel due to the illustrations it is largely a type of secret (and secrete) botanical mixed with alchemical treatises. Maybe a combination of plants in alchemical work.
    There is a great novel using it as I suppose one could say, a Maguffin (sp) by Colin Wilson called the Philosopher’s Stone, I think everyone here would love it. I won’t give it away, but the Manuscript is near the end and its not a healthy book!

  4. I know that the National Geographic Channel did a show on this book and as the use of magnfinding glass some historians have found signet rings and stampers who minute size would require such a device to Eygptian,Greek and Roman times. They know this because they found one thou it is in working order because it fog up since such a device exsisted that far back means they had the basics for making telescopes and microscopes and who knows what was really known in biology and astronomy by them. As to the manuscript itself given the time it was just playing it safe to make sure that what ever is written in that manuscript would not be common knowlidge and remain secret out of the hands of those who would misuse the information it contains.

  5. “that is, could it be that there is something about the paper or the chemical makeup of the ink of the Voynich manuscript so that, only under a particular condition or at a particular time or at a particular planetary alignment does its information become clear to the reader? I realize that statement sounds crazy, but hey, I was brought up on Disney.”

    Not crazy at all, especially since Disney may have been secretly darkside
    himself. A look at his temperament as reported by underlings, and some
    of the preclinical occult fascination stuff hints at this. Which would mean, that
    some of what you might have picked up there, has its origin in Voynich
    or milder circles in the first place.

    It is also a theme in some HP Lovecraft and associated writers’ stuff.

    If your assessment is correct, it would have to be some event that happens
    fairly often, so leave out procession of the equinoxes.

    In a way, it would not be totally unlike the template thing, but different also.
    It would have to do I guess with how some colors or highlights appear,
    perhaps in moonlight at different phases, or in the light of venus or mars
    or perhaps some really bright star or star cluster angled down through
    a glass, but this would require some kind of telescope or at least reading

  6. I have often wondered, with these ancient manuscripts, if the deciphering of the work can only be done with the original manuscript, and not with copies (sort of like how Muslims feel that the only true rendition of the Koran is in its original language) … that is, could it be that there is something about the paper or the chemical makeup of the ink of the Voynich manuscript so that, only under a particular condition or at a particular time or at a particular planetary alignment does its information become clear to the reader? I realize that statement sounds crazy, but hey, I was brought up on Disney.

  7. The highest stage of initiation for some Kabbalists was golem making, but once the power of creation was demonstrated, it was necessary to allow the golem to return to the materia prima. Likewise the process is fraught with dangers. According to Gershom Scholem: “…For here the man himself returns to his element; if he makes a mistake in applying the instructions, he is sucked in by the earth.” Such an image is redolent of the Philadelphia experiment.

    1. The botanical theme of the Voynich manuscript could tie it to the Kabbalah as the Seferoth are often referred to as “plants.” And the 15th century was a fervent period of Kabbalah activity which also produced the Christian Kabbalah of Pico de la Mirandola.

      1. And the Kabbalistic modus operandi,, Notarikon, Gematria, and Themura, while used as hermeneutic tools, could also be used to create a cipher.

Comments are closed.