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23 Enigma : The Meaning, the Number, Self Fulfilling Prophecy and Finding Connections in Patterns at Random

Updated on October 13, 2015

Why is number 23 so mysterious?

Why do some of the biggest sport stars wear number 23 and what is the whole mystery behind it? It's really just an issue of confirmation bias, meaning people note every time they see 23 show up but tend to disregard every time it doesn't. So they end up thinking it's more important than it really is.

The 23 enigma is the belief that every event is somehow related to the number 23. he basic idea is that the number 23 is somehow important, meaningful beyond its utility as a numeral. Once looking for it, people searching for the 23 enigma are constantly assailed by synchronicities involving the number 23 and find meaning in its bizarre intrusions into our lives.
This is sometimes misattributed to the science of Numerology although, that is incorrect.

The 23 enigma may be nothing more than a particular example of the confirmation bias in cognitive theory know as apophenia – the experience of finding connections or patterns in random, meaningless data. The adherents the phenomenon find a good portion of these coincidences by manipulating numbers to arrive at a desired outcome , negating the possibility of true coincidence and many of the examples given in the numerous lists regarding the 23 enigma share this trait.

Origins of the 23 Enigma Explained

Robert Anton Wilson himself, whose work explores some of these interesting coincidences regarding the number 23, comments that the phenomenon merely shows how the mind can find ‘truth’ in anything if it wishes to see it.

The basic idea is that the number 23 is somehow important, meaningful beyond its utility as a numeral. ‘23rdians’, as we were known, are constantly assailed by synchronicities involving the number 23 and find meaning in its bizarre intrusions into our lives.

The number features prominently, and strangely, in the world around us.

Robert Anton Wilson cites William S. Burroughs as being the first person to believe in the 23 enigma. Wilson, in an article in Fortean Times, related the following story:

"I first heard of the 23 enigma from William S Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, Nova Express, etc. According to Burroughs, he had known a certain Captain Clark, around 1960 in Tangier, who once bragged that he had been sailing 23 years without an accident. That very day, Clark’s ship had an accident that killed him and everybody else aboard. Furthermore, while Burroughs was thinking about this crude example of the irony of the gods that evening, a bulletin on the radio announced the crash of an airliner in Florida, USA. The pilot was another captain Clark and the flight was Flight 23."

Burroughs wrote a short story in 1967 titled "23 Skidoo". The term "23 skidoo" was popularized in the early 1920s and means "it's time to get while the getting is good".

Robert Anton Wilson considered it an actual material-plane demonstration of confirmation bias.

The 23 Enigma List

This is a list of unusual happenings or circumstances commonly brought up as instances of the 23 enigma. It should be pointed out that some entries on this list are of dubious accuracy or verification. Others are likely the result of stretched applicability, such as when decimals or remainders are ignored, or when modern calendars are used to sync up to ancient ones.

Each parent contributes 23 chromosomes to the DNA of a child.

The human biorhythm is 23 days long. Though Hermann Swoboda and Wilhelm Fliess, the two doctors who first posited biorhythm, did determine that a human´s ´physical cycle´ was 23 days long, biorhythmics is at best a highly speculative and subjective area of study.

It takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate throughout the entire body. Blood is a suspension and does not flow at the same rate for all of its components. Furthermore, there is no single path blood takes when it circulates. For both these reasons, verification is both difficult and meaningless. In any case, the "second" is an arbitrary fraction of 1/86400 of a solar day.

Earth´s axis is off by 23.5 degrees. Dubious at best. For one, this is a case of stretched applicability, and it depends on using the arbitrary figure of a circle having 360 degrees to come up with an answer even close to 23.

Earth´s period of rotation (sideral day) is really 23 hours and 56 minutes, not exactly 24 hours. (That´s 4 minutes shorter than a solar day since a day is defined as the time between two noons on the same meridian, which is slightly longer than the period of rotation because meanwhile the Earth is revolving around the Sun.) However 24 hours is again an arbitrary number.

The first Moon landing, Apollo 11 was in the Sea of Tranquility at 23.63 degrees East. The second landing, Apollo 12, was in the Ocean of Storms, 23.42 degrees West. Also, 11 + 12, the numbers of the missions, add up to 23. Again, this is stretched as far as the degrees, and there are at least 11 pairs of integers that add to 23, not counting negative integers or zero.

December 23, 2012 is the date the Mayan calendar ends, predicting an apocalyptic event. The Mayan calendar´s "Long Count" does indeed end on either the 21st or 23rd of December of 2012, depending on calculation.

Both the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian calendars begin on 23 July. Both calendars were apparently calculated from the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius, which does occur at that latitude around that time of year.

Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times when he was assassinated.

The Prophet Muhammad taught and received the wisdom of God for 23 years. There exist hadith that support this figure, but many more that give other lengths of time.

The Knights Templar had 23 Grand Masters, the last being Jacques de Molay.

The first song on the first side of the first Beatles album took 23 takes. That would be "I Saw Her Standing There" from Please Please Me, but in reality, the song that took the most takes was "Love Me Do," at fifteen.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and his supposed assassin -- Lee Harvey Oswald -- was assassinated on November 24, 1963, the 23rd being in between. True.

If you add up all the digits in 9/11/2001 you get 23. Not exactly, this is another stretching. To make 23, add "11" as normal, but "2001" must be added as the numbers "2" and "1".

Michael Jordan´s uniform number was 23 when he played for the Chicago Bulls.

David Beckham wears the number 23 shirt for Real Madrid.

On a normal modern latin alphabet keyboard, the 23rd letter W is right below and between 2 and 3.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt contains 23 letters.

Pi´s first six digits (3.14159) added together equal 23.

Caesar Augustus was born on 23 September. True.

Volkswagen´s VW logo contains the roman numeral V (2+3=5) and the 23rd letter W. Volkswagen is based in Wolfsburg which starts with the 23rd letter. True.

666 is said to be taken from 2/3 = 0.666.

John D. Rockefeller died on 23rd of May.

Hagbard (Karl Koch), German hacker and inventor of the trojan horse spyware, died on 23 May. Probable, but not definite. Also most likely a suicide, with the date chosen intentionally to fit this numerology.

The Salt March initiated by Gandhi to protest the Salt tax, lasted 23 days.

On Microsoft Windows systems, a line break is stored as ASCII code 13, then ASCII code 10. On Apple Macintosh systems, a line break is stored as ASCII code 13. On Linux systems, a line break is stored as ASCII code 10. Supposedly, in telegraphy a line break is or was transmitted as a 23, as referred to in the article 23_(number).

Don Mattingly, 6-time Gold Glove Award first baseman for the New York Yankees´ uniform number was 23. True.

The television show Lost features 23 as part of its mysterious numbers. The show´s creators have specifically cited Robert Anton Wilson as an inspiration to use 23 as one of "the numbers."

In the movie jeepers creepers the monster comes out every 23 years on the 23rd

In my name is earl first show he mentions no 23 a person he has to make amends to also they stand in front of a hotel room 233

The human skeleton consists of the axial skeleton (skull, hyoid, vertebrae, thoracic cage) and the appendicular skeleton. There are 23 pairs of bones in the axial skeleton.

There is a reason for the ubiquitous number 23 in describing the biology of the human body.

The Earth is inclined on it's orbital plane by 23.5 degrees. The "point-five" can be represented as 5 = 2 + 3.

The Number 23, is the 23rd Movie directed by Joel Schumacher. It was also released in the United States on February 23, 2007.

Serial killer Ted Bundy was allegedly executed on January 23, 1989. The records show that he was actually executed January 24, 1989 at 7:16 AM (7 + 16 = 23).

The sum of the first 23 primes is 874, which is divisible by 23.

There were 23 problems on David Hilbert's famous list of unsolved mathematical problems, presented to the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris in 1900

The first message sent by telegraph was a quotation from the Book of Numbers, chapter 23, verse 23.

23 is the width of the Arecibo Message, sent into Space in search of Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

23 is the TCP/IP port used for Telnet and is the default for the Telnet command.

The letter W has 2 points down and 3 up = 23 and is also bellow the numbers 2 and 3 or 23 it is also the 23rd letter of the alphabet.

The "W" on your keyboard is right between the 2 and 3.

Blood circulates the body on average every 23 seconds

The average circumference of a human head in inches is 23

The Harmonic Convergence occurs every 23,000 years.

Geosynchronous orbit occurs at 23,000 miles above Earth’s surface

23 Annunaki aided in the seeding of life on this planet.

April 19th as in 4-19... 4 + 19 = 23. April 19 is the date the Battle of Lexington, Waco, and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Asteroid researchers measuring the rotation periods of asteroids reported that none were found with periods of less than 2.3 hours. A rotation period of less than 2.3 hours would cause them to be torn apart.

B.C.E the politically correct term meaning "Before Common Era", or more to the point, before the supposed birth of Christ B, C, E: the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th letters of the alphabet

The most frequent numbers in the Book of Revelations are 4 (the powerful beasts), 7(seven seals, seven churches, etc.), and 12 (12 apostles, etc.). 4+7+12=23

The address of the Freemasons lodge in Stafford, England is 23 Jaol Rd. In New York it is on 23rd street.

There are exactly 23 characters, numbers and letters on the face of all U.S. coins

There are 2,300 stones comprising the Great Pyramid

On December 23, 1805 the Federal Reserve Act passed in congress.

WHEN 23 or more people are in the same room there is a better than evens chance that at least two share the same birthday. Class sizes in schools are larger than 23, so more than half in Britain have two pupils with the same birthdays.

THE Latin alphabet has 23 letters. The German movie 23 explored an obsession with the number, based on a real-life story.

On average, every 23rd wave crashing to shore is twice as large as normal.

In the disaster movie Airport, the bomber has seat 23.

IN THE Beatles film Yellow Submarine, The Butterfly Stomper, who destroys all things of beauty, wears a shirt with the number 23.

WEIRD pop band Psychic TV are so obsessed with 23 that at one point they made the Guinness Book of World Records by releasing 23 albums on the 23rd day of 23 months in a row. They were influenced by the occultist Aleister Crowley who had been convinced of the power of 23.

ON July 23, 1996 the "Mysterious Eyes" of comet Hale-Bopp are first sighted.

THE earth rotates on an axis of 23 and a half degrees. Alright, that's not strictly 23, but it's near enough to be considered a numerical coincidence.

ROCK star Kurt Cobain was born in 1967 and died in 1994. Both years bizarrely add up to 23 if counted as individual digits: 1+9+6+7=23. 1+9+9+4=23.

THE average smoker gets through 23 cigarettes a day.

IN Oliver Stone's Nixon, Tricky Dickie's football shirt at Whittier is number 23.

TWENTY-THREE was the shirt number worn by tragic footballer Marc-Vivien Foe when he was at Manchester City. The Cameroon international died after collapsing on the pitch during a Confederations Cup semi-final last week.

IN Hollywood blockbuster Die Hard III the train derails in subway station 23.

The first song on Side A of the Beatles first album took 23 takes to record.

US Cavalry legend General Custer was promoted to the senior military rank at the age of 23. The soldier was the youngest general in the US army at the time.

IN the final assault on the Death Star in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is in Red 5. Red 2 and Red 3 start bomb runs at 23 degrees. The cell block holding Princess Leia, right, was AA-23.
WORLD record-breaking basketball boy wonder LeBron James also wears the number 23 shirt.

The 18-year-old recently signed for Cleveland Cavaliers after agreeing a four-year, £12million contract. And the much-hyped star, dubbed the "Chosen One" signed a £60million endorsement deal with sportswear giants Nike.

CAR giant Nissan is touched by a numerical coincidence. In Japanese, "ni" is 2, and "san" is 3. So Nissan would be 23.

WRITER Burroughs inspired author Robert Anton Wilson. It was from one of his books that the 23-letter name, Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, was taken for the band which later became KLF.

A US police car used in the video for the group's hit Doctorin' The Tardis had 23 painted on the roof, and their final performance lasted 23 minutes. They incinerated £1million on a Scottish island on August 23, 1994.

WILLIAM Burroughs' final TV appearance was in U2's Last Night on Earth video. The letter U is the 21st in the alphabet and adding the 2 gives 23.

Sesame Street's Bert is a member of the national association of W lovers, the 23rd letter of the alphabet.

WHEN 23 or more people are in the same room there is a better than evens chance that at least two share the same birthday. Class sizes in schools are larger than 23, so more than half in Britain have two pupils with the same birthdays.

The first Morse code transmission is reported to have been “What hath god wrought?”. A Biblical quote from Numbers 23:23.

Alexander the Great was 23 when he cut the Gordian Knot and Caesar is reported to have been stabbed 23 times. The Knights Templar had 23 Grand Masters.

The “Day the Music Died” was February 3 or, 2-3. This was of course the day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper died.

Devin Hester, whose jersey number is 23, becomes the first person to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown in a Super Bowl ( XLI ).

Shakespeare was born on April 23. Shakespeare died on April 23. Two 23's equals 46 and, that's how old Shakespeare was when the KJV was published. Grab a King James Version of the Bible and turn to Psalm 46. Count 46 words and you arrive at the word 'shake'. Turn to the end of the chapter and count 46 words backwards and the word you end on is 'spear'.

The Ancient Egyptians hailed the New Year on July 23 - the day Sirius rises behind the sun.

A Last Word About the Number 23

The Principia Discordia states 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. The 23 enigma is regarded as a corollary of this law, since 2 + 3 = 5. It can be seen in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's The Illuminatus! Trilogy (therein called the "23/17 phenomenon"), Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (therein called "The Law of fives" and "The 23 Enigma"), Arthur Koestler's Challenge of Chance, as well as the Principia Discordia. In these works, 23 is considered lucky, unlucky, sinister, strange, or sacred to the goddess Eris or to the unholy gods of the Cthulhu Mythos.

© 2015 Blake Ford Hall


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