23 is the Magic Number: (Actually, it’s 22)

Amongst Synchronicity Conspiracists (and yes, dear reader, such beasties do exist), 23 stands as an exalted number. Here’s a short list of things that 23 minded people like to shout-out about:

  • Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes.
  • The earth rotates completely every 23 hours, 56 minutes.
  • The axis of the plane of the Earth is 23.5 degrees.
  • The human biorhythm cycle is 23 days.
  • The pattern of DNA shows irregular connections at every 23rd section.
  • Blood circulates the body on average every 23 seconds.
  • There are 23 letters in the Latin alphabet.
  • The Knights Templar had 23 Grand Masters.
  • William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564.
  • The number of joints in the human arm is 23.
  • 23 is the first prime number in which both digits are prime and add up to another prime.
  • On average, every 23rd wave crashing to shore is twice as large as the average wave.
  • The Harmonic Convergence occurs every 23,000 years.
  • Geosynchronous orbit occurs at 23,000 miles above Earth’s surface.
  • September 23rd is the fall equinox.
  • The standard TCP/IP port for Telnet is 23.
  • 23 + 23 + 23 = WWW—the World Wide Web.

Now, most of these should strike you as examples of selection bias at best, downright fudging at worst (especially when completely arbitrary units of measurement (time an space) are involved). Alas, a good part of this noise was started by one of my literary heroes, the late great Robert Anton Wilson, the man who helped bring the world’s attention to nothing less than…

The Illuminati(!)

Now, I’m not going to sell you on Mr. Wilson’s Magnum Opus; all I can say is that some people learned everything they needed to learn in Kindergarten, while I had to wait until I read Cosmic Trigger. The point is that Wilson makes a great deal out of the number 23:

The 23 enigma is spelled out in:

  • Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy
  • Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati
  • Principia Discordia (the holiest unholy book ever written, probably influenced by Wilson, definitely promoted by him); also known as How I Found the Goddess and What I Did To Her When I Found Her.

Principia Discordia claims that “All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5″—this is referred to as the Law of Fives (see Starbuck’s pebbles). The 23 enigma is regarded as a corollary of the Law of Fives because 2 + 3 = 5 (this line of thinking pervades Kabbalah and other esoteric schools of thought; the summation of numeric values can be extended to words, at which point it is referred to as Gematria)

23 can be considered lucky, unlucky, sinister, strange, sacred to the goddess Eris, or as an instantionated value by the trans-dimensional deities of the Cthulhu Mythos…(they’re constantly trying to immanentize the eschaton, which is really hazardous to non-Utopian entities across the universe.)


The 23 ‘enigma’ can be seen as an example of apophenia, selection bias, and/or confirmation bias.

Them’s be some mighty big words…

Let’s work backwards:

Confirmation Bias: going ‘Aha!’ when you see what you want to see.

Selection Bias: the magical ability to only see what what you want to see.

Apophenia: what scientists use to describe Synchronicity, the same way doctors say ‘Placebo’ to describe the Mind’s ability to effect Matter (specifically Body); i.e. the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things, which, when left unchecked, gives rise to all kinds of spirited beliefs. However as psychologist Carl Jung and physicist Wolfgang Pauli noted, these events can also be described as follows: the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection, emphasis on discernible. This is what they meant with the word Synchronicity.

Wilson, of course, was in on the joke (as were members of the band the Police):

When you start looking for something you tend to find it. This wouldn’t be like Simon Newcomb, the great astronomer, who wrote a mathematical proof that heavier than air flight was impossible and published it a day before the Wright brothers took off. I’m talking about people who found a pattern in nature and wrote several scientific articles and got it accepted by a large part of the scientific community before it was generally agreed that there was no such pattern, it was all just selective perception.

To wit, all Wilson thinks we need to find patterns is “sufficient cleverness”.


And the take away?

The take away comes in the next installment:

Because 22, not 23, is the Magic Number…

When in doubt, ask Uncle Bob.

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