Thursday, 22 May 2008

More on Dan Burisch...

A month ago, I posted up a blog entry about Dan Burisch's claimed decryption of the Voynich Manuscript, which a surprisingly large number of people have since read (my blog entry, not the decryption). Burisch claimed that an alien called "#3-15" held by the secret organization known as "Majestic" (presumably an updated version of Majestic-12) had decrypted the VMs, and that its plaintext turned out to be a message from the far future placed in the hands of Roger Bacon 700 years ago about the amazing inventions Dan Burisch has yet to make in the near future: but that whole decryption has been placed in "File 21" somewhere in Europe, and you can't see it, sorry.

As odd arguments go, this is a thing of curious beauty. Let's see: an alien (who you'll never meet) held by the (alleged) modern inheritors of a secret organization (most of whose founding documents appear to have been forged) has decrypted a (probably 15th century) cipher document, revealing that it was written down in (a mangled & ciphered) Hebrew by Roger Bacon (in the 13th century), to whom the actual content was passed from the far future, and which concerned the (yet-to-happen-but-surely-must-be-soon) inventions and discoveries made by Dr Dan Burisch, except that you can't see the decryption apart from four (frankly rather wobbly) words. Fantastic or fantastical? You decide.

Putting on my historical hat... if (like me) you read papers on Antonio Averlino's libro architettonico, you often run into very similar problems trying to parse what is being said. Though Averlino's libro is on one level a kind of encrypted autobiography, it simultaneously functions both as an allegorical novel and as an historical-novel-within-a-novel. Which is to say that readers constantly have to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what is contructed. Would a modern librarian place such a book in fiction or non-fiction?

Of course, Averlino was not crossing those kind of artificial boundaries, because they had not yet been drawn up. Early Renaissance thought was very fluid, very undifferentiated: perhaps the humanistic conceit of trying to gain eternal fama (fame) through their works made sense because the rigid scientific constructions of time we now rely upon had not yet been put in place - perhaps the distant past and remote future somehow felt closer then than they do these days.

In those terms, maybe Dan Burisch's conception of time is so, errm, alien to us in that it is, rather like Averlino's, quite undifferentiated and continuous in a vaguely pre-scientific way: a kind of sci-fi reprise of the early Renaissance mind. Perhaps Burisch somehow experiences past and future events all overlapping and concertinaed together, like a kind of strange temporal synaesthesia. Or perhaps he's just mad, who knows?

Anyway, we have an update on the story. According to a message apparently from Dan Burisch forwarded yesterday to The Golden Thread BBS, "the policy of the Eagles Team [is now] not to comment on the contents of the Voynich Manuscript", because "it contains such dangerous information, going to prison or being executed would be preferable to disclosing it". Furthermore, "When I said to you [Fran?] the annotations to Folio 21 ["File 21"?] were not dangerous, I meant it in the context of you seeing it. I never intended you to post it. I apologize to you for the miscommunication, and to the public about the cryptic nature of this post. With this, that is the way it must FOREVER stand." Which presumably means he won't post anything more on the subject of the VMs: a shame, as I'd like to know what it said.

The Internet is a strange place: these days, you can tell people think something is interesting not when you find a hundred banal blog entries pointing to it, but rather when you discover that it has been appropriated as a plot element in several online alternate-reality role-playing games. In those terms, the whole Dan Burisch saga to me most resembles neither a conspiracy nor a pathology, but instead a kind of fat-rulebook sci-fi RPG played out between a small group of dungeon masters and the opposing team, "the public". Roll that octahedral die one more time, baby...

UPDATE: Yet more on Dan Burisch...

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