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  • Wikileaks and the Search for a Cryptographic Mythology

    Posted by Charles Cameron on December 2nd, 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Jean Rosenfeld of the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion just posted a comment on an earlier Zenpundit post of mine, opening up a topic which may interest some readers here: that of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s mythological associations.

    1

    Jean had earlier pointed me to Assange’s use of the name “Marutukku” to describe his encryption program, and a little fishing brought me to these two Assange-related documents:

    One Man’s Search for a Cryptographic Mythology
    Enuma Elish

    2

    I’d been idly wondering about cryptographic mythology myself, as it happens, nudged by vague memories of a cache of porno images tweaked by jihadists as encoding devices for steganography.

    Steganography is the cryptographic – or is it kabbalistic? — art devised by one Abbot Trithemius, whose 1518 Polygraphia is the first work on cryptography printed in Europe, and whose Steganographia was known in MS to such hermetic philosophers as Cornelius Agrippa, Giordano Bruno and John Dee. Jim Reeds captures the ambiguity of Trithemius’ work nicely in his paper, Solved: The Ciphers in Book III of Trithemius’s Steganographia, when he asks:

    Is it [the Steganographia] primarily an exposition of cryptographic techniques disguised as angel magic, or is it primarily a magic work disguised as cryptography?

    Readers of Frances Yates and Ioan Couliano will be somewhat familiar with these matters.

    And jihadist steganography? The technique itself is described in the al-Fajr Information Center’s Technical Mujahid magazine of Feb. 2007 according to a Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor piece, but the reports of actual jihadist use of the technique may turn out to be fabrications.

    3

    But it was Julian Assange‘s bliss we were trying to follow, right?

    Assange sidekick Suelette Dreyfus wrote The Idiot Savants’ Guide to Rubberhose — which is the manual for Assange’s crypto program… but this business of naming the program gets complicated, eh?

    Dreyfus explains:

    If you’re wondering about the name of this program, Marutukku is the internal development name (it’s spelled Ru-b-b-e-r-h-o-s-e, but it’s pronounced M-a-r-u-t-u-k-k-u)

    In case you didn’t get it, there may be a play on Lewis Carroll there, and the exchange Alice has with the White Knight in Through the Looking-Glass as to what the name of a certain very sad song is called.

    Alice aside – and such detours are in fact the very method of discovery in non-linear thinking – Dreyfus offers as an epigraph to her piece the following quote:

    The third name is MARUTUKKU, Master of the arts of protection, chained the Mad God at the Battle. Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates.

    which she attributes to “The Akkadian Creation Epic”. That would be the Enuma Elish.

    Assange, in his One Man’s Search for a Cryptographic Mythology, attributes his choice of the name Marutukku to a conversation he had with a friend concerning the Enuma Elish, telling us (after much other curious and wandering stuff) that his friend recommended the god Marduk’s third name to him, saying

    The third name is MARUTUKKU, Master of the arts of protection, chained the Mad God at the Battle. Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates.

    Assange liked the idea, observing, “Even the very word MARUTUKKU looked like it had been run through a product cipher”.

    A little later in the same document, he quotes from the Enuma Elish, and the phrases given above appear in the quoted excerpts from that text – although they are not present in the version “Based on the translation of E. A. Speiser, with the additions by A. K. Grayson, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, third edition, edited by James Pritchard (Princeton, 1969), pp. 60-72; 501-503, with minor modifications” that Assange offers us on the sibling-page at Enuma Elish.

    As Dr. Rosenberg pointed out to me, “the quote — if it is a translation — differs from other translations I found on the Internet. It is more specific and extensive and ‘mythological.'”

    4

    Okay, I’ve kept what may be the most practical (ie 21st century) “creative leap” made by my skittish and wandering mind for this, my penultimate paragraph.

    Oxford’s Anders Sandberg blogs today about Assange’s application of network theory to conspiracies, quoting Assange as saying:

    Conspiracies are cognitive devices. They are able to out think the same group of individuals acting alone Conspiracies take information about the world in which they operate (the conspiratorial environment), pass it around the conspirators and then act on the result. We can see conspiracies as a type of device that has inputs (information about the environment) and outputs (actions intending to change or maintain the environment).

    And Anders’ summary of Assange’s position? “In short, conspiracies are a kind of collective intelligence enhancement.”

    [ admission: I associate the name Anders Sandberg with some brilliant early net writings on role-playing games and the hermetic tradition – I’m hoping this is the same guy ]

    5

    Finally, let’s go back to that enhancement of the Enuma Elish text. That phrase, “Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates” struck me, too – it reminded me of the Chthulu Mythos of HP Lovecraft, and its apocalypse:

    That cult would never die until the stars came right again and the secret priests would take Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild, and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.

    And with that quote from Lovecraft, courtesy of Erik Davis, we have returned by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to the hermetically sealing and revealing world of John Dee.

     

    3 Responses to “Wikileaks and the Search for a Cryptographic Mythology”

    1. Robert Schwartz Says:

      If he wants mythology, I say the US gives him something mythological, like a Hellfire missile up his butt.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      Interviewer: Raymond Luxury Yacht.

      Mr. Yacht: No, no, no. It’s spelled Raymond Luxury Yacht, but it’s pronounced “throat-wobbler mangrove”.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyQvjKqXA0Y

    3. Charles Cameron Says:

      Nice one, Jonathan! A Cholmondeley gesture to be sure…