Sir Francis Bacon and Codes

from Digital Codes and Converters, the 1961 Ph.D. Thesis of F.G. Heath at the Victoria University of Manchester. Read optically for a colleague many years ago, it is provided here as interesting; touching upon the authorship of Shakespeare and other Elizabethan texts and poems. It also shows how cryptography then awaited the computer to create the modern digital world of information.

1.2 Sir Francis Bacon

There are reports going back to 200 B.C. (Polybius: a semaphore) for instances where combinations of symbols having only a few alternatives have been made into an alphabet. The man who undoubtedly wrote the first proper description of such a code was Sir Francis Bacon.

Bacon was primarily interested in ciphers, and in 1605 wrote “Of the Advancement of Learning” which describes vaguely a cipher termed OMNIA PER OMNIA, the best possible, and mentions that it is quintuple infolded but gives no useful details. In 1623 he described this cipher precisely in “De Augmentibus Scientiarum” written in Latin. Fortunately, a contemporary English translation exists, prepared by Gilbert Wats in 1640, and facsimiles of the important pages are shown in Figure 1.1.

Bacon claims that he invented this cipher himself, observing that if a binary property is used, then five symbols give 32 alternatives (25) which is sufficient for 24 letters of the alphabet (v and j were not separate at that time). He then constructed two slightly different type fonts, assigning to each type font one of the binary alternatives. Then, by using these two separate sets of type he made each five letters of an innocent message carry five binary digits which identified one letter of the ciphered message. It will be noticed in Fig. 1.1 that if we replace a by 0 and b by 1 that the simple binary sequence is obtained.

Figure 1.1 Code of Sir Francis Bacon. (a) above and (b) below

This might seem to be the point where Sir Francis Bacon leaves the story, having provided a binary code for the early telegraph engineers. Such is not the case. Bacon used another cipher (where a keyword indicates significant phrases) and in 1894 Dr. Orville W. Owen in the U.S.A. prepared the second volume of his book” The cipher story of Sir Francis Bacon” about this system, assisted by Elizabeth Wells Gallup. In the winter of 1895-6 Mrs. Gallup studied the binary cipher which has already been described, and found that it was incorporated in the first folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays. She naturally set about deciphering messages and a summary of the career of Sir Francis Bacon as revealed in them in Ref. 2. If the deciphered messages are true, then history books need a complete revision for the period of Elizabeth 1.

The various ciphered messages may be summed up as follows:-

Elizabeth, while imprisoned in the Tower, married Leicester secretly and gave birth to two children, the first Francis Bacon, the second Richard Deveraux, afterwards Earl of Essex.  Francis was cared for from birth by Mistress Ann Bacon, and was reared and educated as the son of Nicholas Bacon (Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England). At sixteen he found out his true parentage, and was sent to France, returning two years later. In Mrs. Gallup’s own words, “The proofs are overwhelming and irresistible that Bacon was the author of the delightful lines attributed to Spencer – the fantastic conceits of Peele and Greene – the historical romances of Marlowe – the immortal plays and poems put forth in Shakespeare’s name, as well as the Anatomy of Melancholy by Burton”.

There is no point joining the argument* as to the truth or otherwise of Mrs Gallup’s decipherment: in Vol. III her publishers give a summary of her career and show that she was not a person to promote false knowledge lightly. During one spell in the British Museum she damaged her eyesight, partly by overwork and partly by the poor lighting. Three things are worth noting however.

*However, the news is not so good, since The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined: An analysis of cryptographic systems used as evidence that some author other than William Shakespeare wrote the plays commonly attributed to him, OUP, William F. Friedman 2011 suggests (I believe) that the notion of a typographical code in print was impractical given the state of typesetting in Elizabethan England.


Bacon, from childhood, was intended for a public career. At that time all diplomatic, and much personal correspondence was committed to cipher. Among the substantial benefits incurred upon mankind by Bacon was the invention, while in France, of what is known as Baconian or Bi-lateral Cipher, which is adaptable to a multitude of means and uses. It may not be generally known that this Cipher is the basis of nearly every alphabetical code in use in telegraphy, and in the signal service of the world. It is in brief, an alphabet which requires only two unlike things for its operation. These may be two slightly differing fonts of type on a printed page, as illustrated in the example given at length in his De Augmentis, published not long before his death; or it may be a dot or a slight disfigurement in a single font, or the alternating dot and dash or short and long sound space of the Morse telegraphic code, or the alternating long and short flash of light as in the heliographic system; the “wig-wag” of a flag or signal light, or two coloured lights alternately displayed; in short any means whatever alternating two unlike or unequal signs, sounds, motions or things. Under the rules of of arithmetrical progression almost innumerable alphabets can be constructed, by these means undecipherable without its particular key. It has no limitations upon its usefulness, and has never been surpassed in security, ingenuity or simplicity. Bacon himself called this the Omnia-per-omnia, the all-in-all cipher, and the name is completely descriptive [though bi-literal in now used-ED].

(Extract from Ref. 2)

The second point of interest is a forward in volume 3 by Mrs Gallup’s publishers which contains the statement “she has either deciphered it from the labors of Francis Bacon, or it is a creation of her own. There is no middle ground”. The idea of signal/noise ratio would not be familiar in 1910, and we ought to just check that the deciphered messages have a low probability of being “noise” generated between two different type fonts used at random.

It turns out that the publishers were correct, since Mrs Gallup deciphered 500 pages, all intelligible and consistent, giving perhaps 30,000 letter (coded) or 150,000 letters in the original plays. this situation can only arise once in 2150,000 or 1050,000, and it is obvious that lopping off a few 0’s for various reasons will not make the noise hypothesis tenable.

It may seem strange that Mrs Gallup’s work has left such a small impression: her name will not be found in its alphabetical place in the Encyclopedia Britannica for instance. It appears that her work is considered erroneous by scholars because one of her decipherments was a particular translation which did not exist in Bacon’s time3. Whatever the truth of this, Mrs Gallup’s book is interesting, the fascinating part of the story (to an electrical engineer) being that all this evidence in the Bacon v. Shakespeare controversy was written down in five digit binary code.

Although direct evidence is hard to find, there seems little doubt that Gauss was the man who applied Bacon’s code to a telegraph system, date around 1833. It does not seem that Gauss deviated from his other work for long enough to describe this work in detail: reference 7 states that Gauss and Weber proposed the five-digit code for telegraphy, and 1833 is given as the date, but the only paper published by Gauss and Weber at that time was on Terrestrial Magnetism


A Yoga drawn from Celestial Metaphor

  • The sun of the mind at dawn rises from the grip of not knowing.
  • The sun of the mind at dusk drops into exhausted non-attachment.

This “metaphor” was all too real in the India that gave birth to Yoga, since the light of the sun illuminates the objects conceptualized by the mind. Through the illumination of objects, the mind attaches the desire to participate, own, use and identify with objects and scenarios concerning them and other persons.

The sun seems to have a complementary relationship to both the moon and the night sky. Like the mind in the day, the moon is illumined by the sun but by night also as it passes in the night’s rotation. The sun of the mind travels through the night in deep sleep and dreams of constellations not belonging to the world of daylight. We might say the moon is like our body, still there in sleep and dreams, as a pure persistence that must return next day.

The moon embraces both day and night, speaking of the whole sky and earth phenomenon

This “metaphor” was all too real in the India that gave birth to Yoga, since the light of the sun illuminates the objects conceptualized by the mind. Just as many dramas of life take place on the thin bubble of land, water and air, the sun of the mind is drawn to the moon’s daily journey around the earth. The sun of the mind and the moon of the body are conjoined to form the person of “myself and my circumstances”. The night sky is complementary to the sun and moon as their context, and yet it looks on as if not attached, and from inscrutable depths.

Without the mind there could be no concepts and without the body there could be no experiences to conceptualize. Concepts seem to make the mind more essential yet experiences are essential for conceptualization to take place. And more importantly, how does the mind and the body know of its selfhood?

If the sun of the mind arises at dawn from ignorance into knowing and drops exhausted into non- attached sleep then, what is the purpose of this existence? Is it to be led eternally into involvement of the mind, through ever new desires associated with objects and desires? Or, is involvement a hinderance of a true self associated with pure consciousness, an avoidance of the realization of the true selfhood and its real purpose within the biosphere?

This “metaphor” was all too real in the India that gave birth to Yoga, since the sun and the moon were seen by consciousness. Their idea was that the world had to appear as it does to conform to a Total Reality. A total reality has multiple viewpoints or selves, each appropriate to consciousness. Far from projecting religious ideas upon a found world, the World we find corresponds to a reality populated by consciousness.

Two birds with fair wings, inseparable companions,
Have found refuge in the same sheltering tree.
One incessantly eats from the fig tree;
The other, not eating, just looks on.

Rg Veda 1.164.20. trans Antonio de Nicolas in Meditations Through the Rg Veda: Four-Dimensional Man. Stoney Brook N Y: Nicolas Hays 1976

J.G. Bennett recognized such visions populated by beings as strongly present in cultures in which Being was the focus rather than Function (as today), or Will1, three aspects of reality. The path of Being is not that of transcendence but rather seeks self-realization of the witness consciousness which is normally unseen. Ramana Maharshi, who often articulated such “metaphors” (as I do here), in his talks, said that this witnessing self was the source of grace and that the sun of the mind must seek that self rather than involvement. The mind returns to the body in learning to sense that which sees but is not attached.

1. Function corresponds to the knowable element of experience which shows us the world as a process which can be reduced to the working of mechanisms and apparatuses. Being corresponds to the experience of consciousness and to what things are, not what they do or how they appear. Will corresponds to that which can neither be known nor “conscious,” but only understood. Will shows us the how and why of the world, not what is going on, nor what it is; rather, what it is for. The Dramatic Universe ~ Commentary. Anthony Blake. The Enneagram #6, June 1976. Definitions can be found at

Evolving Intelligence of the Biosphere:

An Essay from DuVersity Newsletter 35 – 2014

The Light and Dark, as Value and Fact, could be viewed as reconciled by an evolved mind, within the biosphere. They could indeed be the cause of the arising of proto-minds, since existential situations in the Biosphere are of value for its beings whilst being factual. As Bennett points out, sex and death are innovations of the biospheric world, and we can now date their arrival during the Cambrian “explosion” (around 542 million years ago) when plants and animals (multicellular life forms) innovated sex to reproduce their organisms as a whole as well as regenerating their cells through cell division. Animals, unlike single-celled algae, are able to express action but must die to benefit from generational improvement by natural selection. Only by such means could the three brains of humans, motive, emotive and cognitive, be selected through their effectiveness in adaptation to living conditions within a variety of different biomes.

But there have been problems for humans in their maintaining a shared cultural harmony towards nature and the biosphere, due to the success of their cognitive brain capacity to solve environmental problems based upon facts. Technologies can arise whose consequences may conflict with social values that are somewhat weakly held to. Arguments can break out over values and the impact of technologies and those that wield them, but the factual benefits generally dominate other human views. The environmental argument is being lost whilst technology becomes an ever stronger threat to the biosphere as we know it. The modern world is simply the latest and greatest in which actions often clearly go against valuing the environment over the wealth it can create, and better-off populations have become used, inured and psychically hardened to human and biospheric tragedy.

The familiar types of religion were identified by John Bennett as worshipping God as Father, Mother, Son, and Spirit. Of these, it is the Spirit culture that best represents Nature and the biosphere, rather than the human need to have god “in the image and likeness” of the generative relationships; of father (authority), mother (nourisher), and male child (saviour). The Spirit culture is now identified with the East because “spiritism” was carefully removed from our world view by modern science, in order to “get at” the physical laws which such beliefs, in spirits behind phenomena, “hid” from being investigated and understood; as being factual and not involving spirits at all.

The norm for spiritism is to explain the biospheric world as due to four or sometimes five elements. The word “element”, then came to be used for our chemical elements, having inherited that word from the precursor of modern chemistry, alchemy. The aim of alchemy was the transformation of material properties and, alongside this, the transformation of human understanding in the form of the philosopher’s stone.

The displacement of four elements by (what would need to be called) the atomic elements, was a descent into the factual nature of what things were actually made of. But in the process of factual discovery the original purpose of the system of four Elements was lost sight of, namely; a workable system for understanding the world as being due to the interaction of but four types of characteristic properties within situations, that is as found within nature.

The Elements enabled the study of nature as a whole through the collation of diverse properties into states of materiality, on the basis of which concrete understandings were possible of interactions within the environment and indeed, within our own bodily and even psychic nature. Without seeing the world as being made up of these Elements, the whole world view, shared by Classical and ancient near eastern cultures, rendered that view ineffective. The chemical elements, whilst factually true, had displaced a form of understanding that was not based purely upon facts.

A similar system to the four Elements can be seen running in parallel within ancient modes of thought, in which three terms create triadic relationships; the gunas of post Vedic India and the trigrams of the Chinese I Ching.

The virtue of a small number of Elements or terms, corresponds with the underlying belief that the world should be knowable by human beings, which is intelligible to us, as if ordained by whatever gave rise to the biosphere or even the universe. Since humanity have evolved in the biosphere perhaps it is quite factually possible for the world we live in to be knowable in a direct and simple way. Associated with the human need for simplicity in order to understand, and the corresponding intelligibility within Nature, is the question of what role the human being has within the biosphere.

The evolution of the present-day human is at least in part some kind of natural selection and if such selection is purely due to successful survival then, no purpose can be attributed to the arising of the human being. The idea that the biosphere has evolved the human would be absurd within a scientific framework and yet, the “climbing of mount impossible” as Richard Dawkins characterised the success of natural selection begs the question of what the impossible is.  Achieving the Impossible is considered Miraculous and Gurdjieff says, in a book called In Search of the Miraculous, that higher levels of super-consciousness exist within human beings, which are fully functional but also hard to access. He called these the higher emotional and higher intellectual centres. It is only this distributed but sub-conscious seat of intelligence within the human population which could form part of an intelligent biosphere which could be purpositive.

The problem with natural selection is that it deals only with the effect of facts upon biological selection; the facts either kill you and you can’t breed or the facts are survivable and you do. However creatures also develop faculties and these are as much to do with factually intangible values, such as skills, experience, communication, persistence, and whilst all these are often now built in to natural selection, they participate in the domain of Value rather than Fact. Values are often held within patterns which, although these can often be recorded, what they mean have to be received by some kind of mind that is not oblivious to them. Such a mind, in other words, has to be sensitive and it is this sensitivity coupled to an appropriate apparatus which we call a mind which is distinguished by recognising values in environmental situations.

This sensitivity is required to perceive and manage the values which can be found in the biosphere including cultural situations. This led Chinese spiritism to propose that “The Supreme Will can only set in motion, It cannot control the things It has made”. Things set in motion, not by us but within Nature, express both facts and values, though the values require a mind for their perception. These minds can imagine states of the world, scenarios which don’t actually exist and such visions can themselves be creative. But minds can also develop concrete understandings which have emerged not from imagining an alternative to what exists but rather from work embracing both knowable facts and perceived values within the present moment, so as to generate new structures of will.

This relationship can be seen in the most powerful symbol of Chinese spiritism, The Tao.

Overlaid are the connectives of a Tetrad, a diagram used with Bennett’s systematics but probably historically originated by Aristotle. It deals with an above and a below which, as a dyad, are unable to interact but do provide the motivation behind a horizontal dyad which provides an operational means to actualisation. Here the motivation is to study an Activity (the systemic attribute Bennett gave it in his systematics) which evidently exists within human beings; to work with the values we perceive in knowable and factual situations.

As we proposed above, we can work with facts in new creative ways by imagining situations which do not yet exist, but might be possible to achieve. This can then have a Cybernetic effect in which what is imagined can become instrumental in achieving something through our human agency within the world.

Learning to achieve something new in the world requires the formation of a concrete understandings which are, in effect, a new structure of our will. Rooted in existence, knowable facts can feed creative imagination which, having perceived a new value, can seek a suitable understanding to make that value a reality in the factual world.

The above led me, by adapting some of Arthur M. Young’s thinking [in his Geometries of Meaning], to recognising the need for something which lies behind  such a power for values within human experience. Within his own four fold systems, he suggests that systems cannot be creatively controlled without recognising their sense of purpose. He traces the causal sequence in which pigs accidentally get burnt and are discovered cooked. The idea of cooking reverses this received ordering by imagining the cooking of a pig by lighting a fire so as to eat the cooked pig, as previously discovered after a natural fire. Causality is reversed by grasping what is required as a whole situation with the purpose (or Will) to cook a pig to eat.

It is in the recognition of wholeness that such structures of will are born, in which the Unity of the whole (system plus environment) can act. Wholeness is grasped by recognising a possible state of affairs and the means of achieving it, all coalesced into a system of balanced terms by intelligence. This can be identified with the directing term of a Tetrad which then stands between Unity and Diversity, the latter being the result of the former in traditional Creational stories. Could it be that Unity is really more basic than value as being its source and Diversity more basic than Fact as being what facts manifest?

The above diagram can then be re-posed as:

The verb INVENT is a term which is directing whilst the instrumental term is ADAPT since the building of fires belongs to the skill development in which Life in general has adapted to the environment. Adaptation is cybernetic in the sense of evolving causal loops to cope with environmental needs and necessities, which Invention breaks out of existing causal loops to form a new act of will, manifesting the intelligence of the Whole (unity) and creating a future structure of will. ADAPT and INVENT are coloured red (“the light [of the sun] seen through darkness”) and blue (“the darkness [of distant hills] seen through [scattered] light”) to express Goethe’s phenomenology, in which a complex or diverse situation is collapsed by Life to invent new ways of containing and hence simplifying the World, as a harmonious Unity of Will.

The Cult of Seven Days

Published in Nexus Magazine in 2004

When understanding the origins of human knowledge, we tend not to look into the everyday aspects of life such as the calendar, our numbering systems and how these could have developed. However, these components of everyday life hold surprising clues to the past.

An example is the seven day week which we all slavishly follow today. It has been said that seven makes a good number of days for a week and this convenience argument often given for the existence of weeks.

Having a week allows one to know what day of the week it is for the purposes of markets and religious observances. It is an informal method of counting based on names rather than numbers. Beyond this however, a useful week length should fit well with the organisation of the year (i.e. the Sun), or the month (i.e. the Moon) or other significant celestial or seasonal cycle. But the seven day week does not fit in with the Sun and the Moon.

The Week and the Year

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Death of Zeus in Crete

written in 2004

How can an immortal god die? Especially Zeus who was not just a god but head of the Olympians, a new breed of gods that had replaced the Titans and their “despotic” ruler, Chronos. A Rome holding to Zeus/Jupiter perhaps rejected the Cretan tradition of the god’s death with the well-broadcast adage “All Cretans are liars”.

But we all should know that mythology uses contradictory, or at least inconsistent, versions of the same story, to express alternative perspectives and to transmit more knowledge in the process, rather than “a lie”.

The importance of the death of Zeus is that the story emerges exactly from that point in time and cultural transformation in which Zeus is also born and at that time it was familiar for a vegetative god, representing nature blooming in spring and dying in autumn, to die and be re-born within the immortality of the eternal round of the year or yearly daemon.

There were other norms too, including the birth of men and their world of form, out of the Earth and from within The Cave, as a natural sacred space created by the Mother or earth goddess. Directly symbolic of her womb, form emerges as shapes in formation like dreams, travelling towards the definite order found on the surface.

Figure 1 The Dictyan Cave, one of two in Crete claimed claimed to be Zeus’ Nursery 
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Autonomous Nature of Ancient Numerical Mysteries

The numerical foundations of the “earth mysteries” were nominally present in the medieval doctrine of the four numerical arts, the Quadrivium of sacred numbers, geometry, musical harmony and astronomy. However, these foundations need to be applied to something real which is: the numerical nature of the world seen from being alive upon it. This application gives a completely different set of results to modern science where, instead, numbers are being employed for measurements and calculations (using the physical laws discovered after the medieval period came to an end.)

The ancient mysteries treated numbers as having characteristics
seen to be active within the world.

In applying these numerical arts, one comes into contact with mysteries in the form of ancient monuments, art and literary works, these containing the clues required for developing, in oneself, a kind of skill. This skill can mature into being able to recover information in the most unlikely circumstances because something apparently other to oneself is active within you: a developed sense. This I call the autonomous nature of the mysteries, which is essential when going beyond what is simply data in books, monuments, etc. I believe it is mistaken to call such mystery work historical since it is actually happening in the present moment to create something new, whilst appearing to reference data from the past. Historical data provides the necessary starting points for a new work of reconstructing the mysteries within oneself.

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