Starting the New Year by receiving new comments on your blog is always a wonderful thing. In 2021 it is Randall Galera, who stumbled upon my recent post about Cistercian Numbers and used the opportunity to throw in a few ideas of his own. Rather than discussing this in private, i suggested “coming out in the open” and present Randall’s thoughts for discussion in a larger forum. (Getting only answers from a single bloke like me probably wouldn’t do him justice.)
So, with Randall’s permission, here goes:
Facts: The book was found on this planet. Its pages have been dated and are consistent. (Someone grabbed a stack off the printer and set to work). The ink and paper coincide with materials available during the time period. So physically we can say the book is real and is aged correctly.
One must then make a couple of assumptions. It was written by a human or it was not.
On one hand, the precision and consistency are impressive for a mortal scribe. Since to this day, we can not attribute the letter-word-cypher model, we are either dealing with an extremely complex code that today’s quantum computers might have a crack at, divine inspiration, demonic whisperings, multidimensional influence, or extraterrestrial copy. The mortal writer/artist either contained this knowledge first hand, learned it, copied it, or it was dictated.
That being the case, let us look at the artwork.
For my taste, it is too close to what we call familiar while simultaneously being unnervingly alien. First what appears to be women are depicted throughout the manuscript. ONLY women. They appear to have hairstyles, fair features, breasts, and pubic hair. Some are naked and others clothed, one has a crossbow. Most, if not all, have enlarged abdomens. (customary for ‘plump’ women in middle age art.) Feet are rarely depicted. They all appear to have a natural feminine appearance (https://brbl-zoom.library.yale.edu/viewer/1006205) There appears to be a queen depicted at the top. Nothing described as ‘man’ could be found. If we are to ascribe to the “alien” theory, we are looking at a society that 1)Is devoid of the male sex. 2) depicts humans comprised of both sexes in one or one in which there need be only one sex for reproduction 3)that has males but views them insignificant or irrelevant to included in the manuscript. (girl scouts handbook)
In all cases, I asked but why the medieval dresses? It’s too similar, yet distinctly strange. I’m leaning towards a ‘multiverse/dimensional/back to the future’ theory.
Obviously, the example of flora are detailed and we assume descriptions are included. We see a similarity that is either the fault of the artist or of design. The root systems follow rules similar to that of the text itself. Some are snake-like, some bulbous, others square, most short, and almost all unlike anything we have growing out of the ground. If there is a soil system (barring hydroponics or another undiscovered agricultural system), it is not earth.
This means to me, the source material of the VM has not been discovered on this planet in current or fossilized form. It either originates from someone’s very vivid and detailed imagination, or from one of the aforementioned external influences.
As stated in your earlier entry, there are no recognizable numbers in the manuscript. If there are astrological charts, it defies our reality to assume one could chart stars, dates, and time without numerical reference. So if numbers are in the manuscript we have not identified them. Please correct me if I am wrong, but what if the entire manuscript ARE numbers? Is the number 12 always written in its long-form, twelve? Are there letters that are numbers, or words, or both?
It is said math is the universal language. We’ve sent out probes with equations written on them in hopes of contact with an alien race. Now, we can’t assume everyone in the universe understands roman numerals, but the core concept of math should be universal.
The issue of language is that it is fluid and ever-changing. Words die out, change meaning, and shift over time. But a language based on math would make sense in an alternate/advanced civilization. If the text in the manuscript depicts equations instead of words, perhaps that could answer many of the anomalies we encounter when trying to decipher the VM, and still adhere to a strict grammatical construct. It would eliminate dialects, and different languages altogether. No more French vs English vs Russian.
If 1+1=2, and two equals love, we run into other issues with the definition of love but as a written text, we can modify 1-1=0. (Death) Now of course this is an oversimplified view on the concept, but my point is has anyone looked at the universal language of math? I haven’t found any examples. What if the language is an actual mathematical equation that then translates into something we understand as language.
I’m just throwing out wild ideas here, and if you have already explored these concepts I’m quite happy to read about them.
To sum up: I think the VM although found on this planet, depicts things we understand in a way we haven’t seen. Raising several existential questions. Little green men from mars? Intelligent design? Simulation code? The magical world of fairies and elves? Thanks for taking the time, let me know your thoughts.
So far Randall’s ideas. A few comments of mine:
- Of course the suggestion of an extraterrestrial source for the VM material is a bit outlandish, raising many more questions than it answers. I’ll simply ignore this idea for the minute
- Overall, with the C14 dating of the vellum, the handwriting and the illustrations all pointing to a 15th century origin, I think the most workable idea is one or more scribes in Renaissance Italy with a few unconventional ideas about enciphering and scientific ideas.
- It has been suggested by a number of people (last but not least by myself: see The “Face Value”-Fallacy) that, rather than being “words” in the conventional sense, the ciphertext character “groups” in the VM might be “codes” of some kind. Ideas suggested have included, but are not limited to —
- an upgraded system of Roman numerals
- something akin to the Dewey Decimal system (where the plaintext “value” of the VM word might be the word of the title of a book found in a universal library)
- coordinates pointing… somewhere?
- a constructed a priori language, where words aren’t derived from an existing language, but the vocabulary is synthetically constructed, with eg a particular prefix for all things living and a different prefix for all things dead, a second syllable denoting the size etc., so that hopefully in the end the string of attributes will allow one to identify the object in question.
The last item is something which probably comes closest to Randall’s ideas of a “mathematical” language, though I might add a few observations of my own: First, while I think such an enciphering system is conceivable, I’d hardly rate it probable. Secondly, “a priori languages” are virtually unknown before the 18th century, so one would have to admit the dating of the VM is substantially flawed, or our authors were far ahead of their time. (To be fair, whatever their actual enciphering method was, it is still unknown today, so they were in any case ahead of their time.) Thirdly, and that’s more of a personal opinion, the whole concept of the VM with it’s wildly imaginative illuminations to me seems to point more to a “stream-of-consciousness” approach to it, than to a strictly scientific/logical concept. (In this context I still think that Churchill and Kennedy’s glossolalia hypothesis is worth a thought.)
But, dear readership, don’t let this discourage you: Fire away!
*) Last but not least by myself:
2 thoughts on ““Guest Column”: Randall’s Thoughts”
Thank you for the offer to comment. You KNOW I will!
Hi Randall, Elmar: I do have a few thoughts:
I think jumping to extraterrestrial origins is very premature, considering there are so many Earthly possibles that can explain the Voynich. Elmar is aware of my own, but to make it clear, I believe this is very simply a modern forgery, made about 1908 to 1910, by or for Wilfrid Voynich himself. But I don’t let that stand in the way of a careful and open minded examination of any other ideas. And among those are many possible, if not plausible (to me) ideas. And that is long before aliens come into the picture.
In any case, some points:
Randall wrote, “Facts: The book was found on this planet. Its pages have been dated and are consistent. (Someone grabbed a stack off the printer and set to work). The ink and paper coincide with materials available during the time period. So physically we can say the book is real and is aged correctly.”
Those are mostly opinions, not facts.
1) Yes the pages have been dated, but they are not consistent. What is consistent is the result given, but only when the very inconsistent radiocarbon date results were “combined” (averaged) on the “assumption” that the book should be more “consistent”. The date range of the samples was actually 60+ years. The pre-conception that the book would have been made in a relatively shorter period of time was then applied to that wide range of numbers, to arrive at 1404-1438.
2) The ink does “coincide” with the dating of the “paper” (calfskin), but it also happens to “coincide” with virtually ANY dating. It could have been made at any time before or since… I could mix some up today, on my kitchen table, and it would be indistinguishable from the ink of the Voynich. The ink cannot be dated, it is inorganic. That being said, there are some problems with the ink, that have not been answered: It contains a titanium oxide; it contains “unusual” traces of brass and zinc; it contains a gum binder not found in the database of McCrone (the tester); and the last page marginalia ink… previously said to be by a later hand and author… was found to be in the same ink as the main text.
3) So these two points, ink and paper, are incorrect. But even if they were correct, it would not follow that the book is therefore real. For one thing, even if the calfskin was, as erroneously claimed, to be from a narrow range of dates, ancient parchment has long been available for many purposes, including forgery. And of course Wilfrid Voynich was probably one of the best placed persons to have on hand a great quantity of old parchment, due to his purchase of the Libreria Franceshini in 1908. It contained upwards of 500,000 items of all types, materials, and qualities, from fish wrapping paper to rare incunabula.
There is nothing factual proving the Voynich is either real or old, and there are actually (not to list them all here) much evidence showing it may simply be a modern forgery.
Randall writes, “That being the case, let us look at the artwork…. …For my taste, it is too close to what we call familiar while simultaneously being unnervingly alien.”
I don’t feel there is any need to leapfrog over “bizarre and confounding human origin artwork” and go to “alien”. There is virtually every style, every idea, every medium, used in the long history of art, and so to assume that when we cannot find a particular case example of some other bizarre thing, we can safely say it is just another example from the mind of some human. That is, there is plenty of case examples of unerring art, and there is no reason to think humans have not been fully capable of creating it.
That being said, you touch on a point with, “… it is too close to what we call familiar while simultaneously being unnervingly alien.” This is a point that I have made (minus the alien). I wrote about this in a blog post titled, “A Little Bit Like Everything, a Whole Lot Like Nothing”. The thing is, my point was, it is far too improbably that this was by chance, and more likely by design. And when you learn about the long history of forgery, one thing that stands out is that the longer a forgery gets, the greater the chance the forger will mess up, and make some error in art history, materials, history, style, etc.., that will reveal their ruse. The Voynich never gets close enough to “real” to be compared to it, so therefore it has resisted any ability of anyone to say it is wrong in any way. The small difference from real plants, sciences, text, whatever, creates a durable “insulation” from detection. And, as I said, it cannot be by chance. As I wrote in 2010,
“Added up, all these myriad of these similarities, so close and yet so far, are staggering in number. And again, I propose, to accidentally miss on thousands of individual elements, over 200 plus pages of text, without giving away one concrete connection to anything real… this, in my opinion, would be almost impossible to have happened by chance, and must have been intentional, and therefore is our biggest clue… a clue never followed. Instead, effort is put into finding a real connection, endlessly, as it has for a hundred years.”
Randall again, “This means to me, the source material of the VM has not been discovered on this planet in current or fossilized form. It either originates from someone’s very vivid and detailed imagination, or from one of the aforementioned external influences.”
So then, what’s wrong with it being a vivid and detailed imagination that created this? The world is full of such books, made for fun, made for art, made to fool… made just for whatever reason under the sun. There must be thousands of them. No, none like each other, and none like the Voynich. But why go past this one very plausible explanation, and on to alien origins?
“It is said math is the universal language.”
I agree that some mathematical system is a good possibility, that may reflect what we do observe, and plausibly fit with the counts and repetition seen in the Voynich script. And mathematical ciphers are numerous, with many ways they could be hidden in the Voynich script, I think. I experimented with the Selenus number code a decade or so back, and while I didn’t find it, or clues to it being there, the experiments showed me that it or something like it, using numbers, or math, might be used.
Randall concluded, “To sum up: I think the VM although found on this planet, depicts things we understand in a way we haven’t seen. Raising several existential questions. Little green men from mars? Intelligent design? Simulation code? The magical world of fairies and elves?”
Again, why skip over “an imaginative forgery”? We don’t need aliens, or fairies to explain the Voynich; and actually, it shares such a striking number of similarities to known forgeries, I can’t see how this is not properly considered before going so far past it. In fact the core of most of my writings and lectures has been just how many “forgery characteristics” the Voynich does share… more-so, in fact, than most known forgeries! If the there is any good argument, irrefutable, as to why this is so, then I’ll go back to thinking this is something real, I really will. But even then, “aliens”? Would never be necessary, as one would never use up the vast number of human possibles.
Elmar wrote, “Overall, with the C14 dating of the vellum, the handwriting and the illustrations all pointing to a 15th century origin, I think the most workable idea is one or more scribes in Renaissance Italy with a few unconventional ideas about enciphering and scientific ideas.”
Yes the C14 places the parchment approximately in the 15th century. But I disagree that the handwriting and/or the illustrations do. There are a vast number of comparisons made, in the past through the present day, between illustrations in the Voynich and real items or other illustrations “anachronistic” TO the Voynich. Yes these are then dismissed, usually with the circular logic that “We KNOW the Voynich is 15th century, therefore this 16th [or 17th, 18th, or 19th] century comparison must be coincidence/paradiolia/wishful thinking, and not what it looks like to us.”
No, the comparisons are there, and should be used as evidence. And that evidence points to this work containing, and/or being influenced, by items and illustrations and art from the 11th through late 19th centuries, and even containing items strikingly similar to some items from the early 20th. Suspiciously then, there is never anything that would be only known to one past about 1908, though. And worse, my own “Voynich Theorem Number One” has so far been flawlessly followed: No good comparison between an illustration in the Voynich to an outside illustration or object has every been of an illustration in print after 1909, or in a collection not in a place Voynich is known to have visited”. Put another way, if you hung a map in front of you, and put a pin in the place of every collection holding an item thought reflected in the Voynich, you would have a virtual representation of his pre-1910 travels. For the rest, the ones in print… well, the guy was an antique book dealer, and owned almost every print work known to man… and some which were not.
Elmar wrote, “Secondly, “a priori languages” are virtually unknown before the 18th century, so one would have to admit the dating of the VM is substantially flawed, or our authors were far ahead of their time. (To be fair, whatever their actual enciphering method was, it is still unknown today, so they were in any case ahead of their time.”
I have an exercise for anyone reading my comments here: Whenever you read any opinion about the Voynich, past or present or in the future, note to yourself how many times reference is made to the author’s opinion that the Voynich creator was “ahead of their time”, in some form or another. That thought is rampant. It is natural. The more one learns about history in general, and art and literary history in particular, combined with their examination of the Voynich, the more these thoughts crop up. I dubbed it, years ago in my forum, “The Nagging Sense of Newness”. The Voynich imparts this sense on the viewer that it is “too new” for it’s time… that the necessary complexity of the cipher, the art, the imagery contents, the comparisons… and so on and so forth… are all “too new” for “the time”.
Well I agree. But rather than continue to dig around in a past that makes this gut feeling, intuition based on experience and education, an anomaly… why not use it? Why not simply go where it takes you, where it tells you to go? If you think of the Voynich as a highly imaginative, poly-glot hodge-podge of influences all the way up to and including 1909, all those problems simply evaporate. None of them will seem a problem any longer, because they will all fit “up to 1910”. You will not find yourself thinking, any longer, that anything is “too new”, or for that matter, too disparate, too imaginative, too complex, too… odd.
Modern Forgery fits with everything you see, every intuition excited in every viewer, and every fact truly known. It brings together the vast number of mutually incompatible theories and observations, in a single, circumstantial but irrefutable case.
We all have our own individual ‘filters’ to view the VMs. Often that is part of the problem. The VMs artist, however, has paid no regards for our expectations. We need to throw away our personal ‘filters’ and find one that fits with the VMs. With more than a century of investigation, there have been a host of proposals, some good, some not so good, and some out of this world. Internet investigations and increasing access to historical information, particularly in the latter part of the last decade, has provided better access to data that is relevant to the time period roughly provided by the ‘single source” assumption for the VMs C-14 parchment dating.
Better investigation then can provide a better perspective, when a number of different investigators looking at different topics produce results that are tied together by their provenance.
Those topics are the VMs cosmos (f68v3) the VMs mermaid (f79v), the VMs critter (f80v), the VMs nymphs on f81v, and the double rainbow on f82v. Each of these investigations has demonstrated connections of historical provenance to objects and events that occurred in the 15th Century prior to 1435. [Specifics omitted for brevity.]
Another difficulty is that the VMs is not an expository text. It does not explain things, It is more like a quiz show. Like “Where’s Waldo?” [[In the VMs, you can play, “Where’s ‘Baldo?”]] The reader needs to find, identify, and properly interpret the information provided, To make things more interesting, the VMs artist has introduced ambiguity, a natural talent apparently, but also used intentionally. In effect these VMs illustrations are a sort of disguised lampoon of the social media of the years c. 1435, along with other historical events relevant to the era of Valois duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, The Valois connections to the mythical ancestress, Melusine of Luxembourg, are rather recently presented.
Whoever did the VMs illustrations, whenever that was, they were familiar with events in the Burgundian state (the Order of the Golden Fleece, La Sainte Hostie de Dijon) And to increase the ambiguity of examples like the cosmos, the mermaid, and the critter, the VMs representation was composed of paired images from separate sources. Intentional ambiguity alters visual appearance as seen in the cosmic comparison, but it retains similar structure.
Only recently, the suggestion that VMs Virgo is a combination of a zodiac Virgo with an image of the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent Moon. One potentially matching example was probably produced in Ghent in 1420. Flanders was part of the expanded Burgundian state at that time. This would further indicate the artists familiarity with this era.