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13.10.2015
Included with the FREE Literacy Posters are header cards for each of the Comon Core Literacy Standards, as shown below.
Just remember to cast your cares and woes away as you wander about and above all else, have fun! Please keep in mind that everything in my secret garden is the copyrighted property of the artists and is not for sale. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses.
For more than 260 years, the contents of that page—and the details of this ritual—remained a secret.
For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. She was a little surprised—a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague.
She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics.
Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers—as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference—generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. A particular cluster caught his eye: the cipher’s unaccented Roman letters used by English, Spanish, and other European languages.
While his family got ready for spring vacation—a “history tour” of the East Coast—Knight looked for patterns in the cipher. During his vacation, as his daughters played on their iPads at night in the hotel room, Knight scribbled in his orange notebook, tinkering with possible solutions to the cipher. A trio of handwritten notes, each from an aristocrat asking to be admitted into the society. On March 31, Knight sent an email to Schaefer and her boss, Beata Megyesi, head of Uppsala’s department of linguistics and philology, who was also interested in the manuscript. Then one night in the middle of April, while Megyesi was working late in her office, she stared absentmindedly at the neatly arranged folders on her desk. The Oculists’ seal, featuring a cataract needle, a pair of pince-nez, and two cats watching over mice. Centered in the town of Wolfenbuttel, Germany, the Oculists, it was believed, played the role of gatekeepers to the burgeoning field of ophthalmology.
On their crest, the Oculists featured a cataract needle and three cats (which, of course, can see in near darkness). Schaefer contacted the state archives in Wolfenbuttel, which housed a collection of Oculist materials. Even with its code broken, the Copiale’s swirl of ritual and double-talk was getting harder and harder to follow—especially for someone whose experience with secret orders was drawn mainly from cheesy movies. They agreed to meet in September in the castlelike university library in Lund, Onnerfors’ cobblestoned hometown in southern Sweden. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans belonged to secret societies in the 18th century, Onnerfors explained to Megyesi; in Sweden alone, there were more than a hundred orders. After reading the Oculists’ cipher, Onnerfors suggested that it described one of the more extreme groups.
These unaccented Roman letters appeared with the frequency you’d expect in a European language. On October 25, 2011, The New York Times published a story about the Copiale, focusing on Knight’s code-cracking techniques. Decades later, most of these practices became widely known as the Freemasons’ secrets seeped out.
A note from October 30, 1775 reads, “This box concerns the Oculist Order, and is not to be opened until special order of the Duke. After months of talking about the Oculists with Knight, Schaefer, Megyesi, and Onnerfors, I decided this past winter to see Count von Veltheim’s trove for myself. Unable to make the trip personally,Onnerfors arranged for his mentor—a professor named Jan Snoek—to meet me at the archives. Snoek and I took them into a private reading room with circular windows that overlooked a browning forest.
The artifacts laid out in the reading room also undercut the idea that the Oculists were sleeper agents on a mission to expose Freemasonry.
It would appear that the Copiale symbols don’t represent just words and letters, they stand for numbers too.


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Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The master wipes the candidate’s eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history.
Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. Despite his comments at the conference, Knight was hesitant to start the project; alleged ciphers often turned out to be hoaxes. For the next two weeks, he went through the cipher, developing a scheme to transcribe the coded script into easy-to-type, machine-readable text.
Knight did a separate frequency analysis to see which of those letters appeared most often. The German Philipp, the Latin copiales, and Hock’s allusion to Albanian all hinted at different tongues. He tried assuming that the manuscript used a more complex code—one that used multiple symbols to stand for a single German letter.
Active in the mid-18th century, the Oculists fixated on both the anatomy and symbolism of the eye. But he spends a lot of his time as one of 50 or so university researchers in the world seriously examining the historical and cultural impact of secret societies. Traditionally, historians have just ignored documents like this, because they don’t have the tools to make sense of them. A flood of media attention followed—along with hundreds of emails from people who claimed to have ancient ciphers of their own. In the midst of the descriptions about Oculist rituals, the document took a narrative turn. Starting on page 27 and continuing for the remaining 78 pages, the cipher detailed the rituals performed by the highest degrees of the Masonic order—rites unknown to ordinary Masons at the time. The main thing historians in Wolfenbuttel knew about the group was that it was led by a count named Friedrich August von Veltheim, who died in April 1775. Inside the first box was the silver-dollar-sized seal of the Oculists; its watchful cats and pince-nez perfectly preserved thanks to almost two and a half centuries of near isolation. But if they do, Knight, Megyesi, and Schaefer haven’t been able to tease out the meaning.
Originally designed as a place for me to escape the pressures of a hard work day, I was teased into sharing this little oasis with the world. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St.
The two philologists—experts in ancient writings—would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.
She preferred musty books to new technologies and didn’t even have an Internet connection at home. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it’ll interpret as “yes,” “horse,” “to break dance,” and “quiet!” Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English—what would the text look like if meant “break dancing”?
The results were slow in coming—the algorithm is so computationally intense that each language comparison took five hours. This sequence is used all the time in German words like licht (“light”) and macht (“power”). At night, after she was done managing her department of 450 courses and 25 professors and after she put her twins to bed, Megyesi sat at the computer, turning the symbols into text. So she dug up an academic article she had read some time before about a secret order in Germany that called itself the Great Enlightened Society of Oculists. And they appeared to have a rather progressive attitude; women could be Oculists, just like men. So she asked around for someone who could tell her what really happened in those candlelit initiation rooms. When Megyesi contacted him, Onnerfors readily agreed to read this newly decoded document from a clandestine order. Many welcomed noblemen and merchants alike—a rare egalitarian practice in an era of strict social hierarchies.


It wasn’t an accident that Voltaire, George Washington, and Ben Franklin were all active members.
The code-breaking team then was able to translate the text into German and finally into English, revealing a secret manual of an esoteric society.
Like many aristocrats of his day, he belonged to multiple secret societies, including an Order of the Golden Poodles, which likely sounded as goofy back then as it does today. We met at the archives in Wolfenbuttel and found a series of rectangular boxes waiting for us.
Another box revealed a bone-handled cataract needle and the luminescent green aprons that members wore.
The model came apart like a Russian doll: pupil inside lens, iris on top of pupil, cornea resting on iris. The Oculist master apparently understood these coded documents in a way that today’s interpreters do not. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. It suggested that this document might be the most basic of ciphers, in which one letter is swapped for another—a kid’s decoder ring, basically. He found others, and soon he started assembling small words, like or der (“the” in German), which Knight recognized from World War II movies. She and Knight started emailing multiple times a day about the cipher—and signing their emails in Copiale cipher text. And just like today’s networked radicals, much of their power was wrapped up in their ability to stay anonymous and keep their communications secret.
Inside a third box were five oval amulets bearing raised blue eyes so anatomically correct I half expected them to wink.
Even in a largely Protestant country like Germany, that was a withering accusation at the time. Except you publish in code, so only an elite cadre of fellow Masons can read the dangerous things you have to say.
Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state.
Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian.
The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation—the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. There were at least 10 identifiable character clusters that repeated throughout the document. Maybe, Knight thought, the real code was in the Roman alphabet, and all the funny astronomical signs and accented letters were there just to throw the reader off the scent.
Then he got his first big word: , or candidat, followed by , or antwortet (“the candidate answers”). And when your mission is over, you stuff all the evidence into a box that doesn’t get opened for nearly 150 years.
The third page mentioned the Jewish Cabala—the mystical system in which meaning is derived from the numerical value of letters. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. The only way groups of letters would look and act largely the same was if this was a genuine cipher—one he could break.
They were the spaces that separated the words of the real message, which was actually written in the glyphs and accented text. Not removal of undergarments nor the nooses nor the veneration of Hiram Abiff, builder of the Great Temple of Jerusalem, whose decomposed body became the alchemical emblem for turning something rotten into something miraculous and golden. If the count’s goal was to make sure that whatever was inside that trunk faded into obscurity, he succeeded. You start a new set of rituals, to layer on top of the old—and make it impregnable to Vatican attacks. The Oculists guarded and transmitted the Masons’ deepest secrets, Snoek believes, using a mixture of ritual, misdirection, and cryptography.
Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties. As long as he could learn some basic rules about the language—which letters appeared in what frequency—the machine would do the rest. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.



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