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Thanks to Dan Brown, everyone has one of two responses to the idea that there are hidden codes in ancient works: Either you immediately believe them, because of that mind-blowing Da Vinci Code book, or you immediately mock them, because of that bullshit Da Vinci Code book.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. There are, after all, some fairly weird encoded messages that actual academic types have identified. And some of them are even about Freemasons.

The Michelangelo Code

Encoded Messages About: Jewish mysticism.

Cracked has mentioned before that Michelangelo appears to have cleverly painted God to look like a giant brain in his Sistine Chapel fresco...

... but according to a prominent professor at Yeshiva University, the rabbit hole goes much, much deeper than that: Michelangelo's work is packed full of symbols of Jewish mysticism. You may also know this as kabbalah, aka the religion Madonna made popular in Hollywood a few years ago.

T-shirt evangelism is famously effective.

What we know is that for a while Michelangelo was living with a politician in Florence named Lorenzo de' Medici, who was apparently part of the whole kabbalah scene at the time. Also, we know Michelangelo never tired of painting subtle screw-yous to the Catholic church into his work.

So, in kabbalah, the Hebrew letter gimel symbolizes g'vurah, or justice and punishment. Here it is next to the Sistine Chapel's depiction of David, laying the holy smack down on Goliath:

In a scene depicting Judith and her handmaiden carrying the head of the Assyrian general Holofernes, they are forming the shape of the Hebrew letter chet, which represents chesed, or the characteristics of "loving kindness."

Above: Sarcasm.

Bringing up those brains again, in the Sistine Chapel God appears to be inhabiting the right side of the brain (the left having been cut away to reveal it), which represents kabbalah chokhma, or wisdom.

By the way, according to another professor and art historian, that chick under God's arm is Shekhinah, a sacred figure in kabbalah.

Some think Michelangelo was subversively urging the church to embrace the Jewish community. And there are signs of that -- for instance, nearly every Christian depiction of the Garden of Eden has shown the forbidden fruit as an apple, which has stuck around even today. But in Jewish texts, it's described as a fig, and sure enough Michelangelo painted a fig tree:

Of course, there is the ever-present theory that Michelangelo could have just been playing a huge joke on everyone involved, because sometimes people back then just got bored.

Kept Secret Because:

It makes sense that Michelangelo would choose to keep on the down-low about his criticisms of the church (and some think the whole thing was Michelangelo showing his contempt for Pope Julius). Being excommunicated had a tendency to burn a few bridges for an artist who can't afford to lose those holy commissions. And, as you can sort of tell, Bible scenes were about the only thing that paid back then.

The Amadeus Code

Encoded Messages About: Freemasonry.

We know, we know. Any time you hear "Freemasons" you immediately think "nutjob." We just recently made fun of a popular conspiracy theory claiming Stanley Kubrick hid Masonic/Illuminati symbolism in his films. But Freemasons are a real thing -- it's a real organization and there have been real members for centuries. They just don't secretly run the world.

Not pictured: world domination.

And, all Dan Brown bullshit aside, Freemasons do have a history of sticking symbols in their work as a nod and wink to fellow members. For instance, academics who study Mozart's life and works fairly unanimously conclude that a lot of his music, especially his final opera, The Magic Flute, is a pretty blunt analogy about Freemasonry.

Even if you're not exactly the opera type, chances are you've heard bits of The Magic Flute at some point. This part tends to pop up in a lot of movie scenes depicting snooty upper-class socialites doing sophisticated-type things:

It's about a woman calling herself Queen of the Night, who sends a prince, armed with a magic flute, on a quest to save her daughter from her enemy, Sarastro. It's later revealed that Sarastro is the good guy, and he challenges the prince to three trials of enlightenment. So basically, it's The Legend of Zelda.

An Ocarina is basically a flute, right?

Now, Mozart is well known to have been a Freemason, but he was also part of another faction known today as the Illuminati. No, not that bullshit "New World Order" Illuminati that conspiracy theorists think we at Cracked are a part of now. Mozart's Illuminati was a movement that embraced principals of Enlightenment philosophy -- simply put, a belief that mankind should pursue wisdom and be governed by reason. Pretty much what The Magic Flute was all about, just in case you skimmed that whole synopsis.

The number three happens to be the Freemasons' favorite number, and in The Magic Flute's overture, a three-note phrase represents the Mason's initiation ceremony, which began when a new member knocked three times on the door to be let into their stupid secret club.

See? There it is, right there.

Kept Secret Because:

Mozart was still a loyal member of the Catholic church, and his city of Vienna was controlled by the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope just got finished telling everyone that Catholics were banned from joining the Masons, and those who did faced excommunication. Mozart must have been pretty good at keeping secrets; even today, the clergy have trouble believing Mozart was a Freemason.

This isn't the last time the Masons are going to come up in this article.

Continue Reading Below

The Plato Code

Encoded Messages About: His weird belief in a mathematical cult.

You almost certainly know that Plato is one of the most revered philosophers of all time, having invented pretty much all of Western thought while eating breakfast. Now a new theory suggests he was secretly part of a crazy religious cult founded by the earlier thinker Pythagoras.

We had math teachers like that, but they all ended up getting arrested.

You should know from high school that Pythagoras was an absolute beast at figuring out the length of the slanty side of a right triangle. You may not know that he was also a creepy cult leader. The Pythagoreans were a psuedo-religious band of his followers who studied astronomy, first suggested the Earth was round, believed numbers were divine and thought the universe made music. They were also probably into hacky sack.

"Wicked bass-line."

The Plato conspiracy theory kicked off when an expert from Manchester University discovered that Plato's manuscripts seem to follow the 12-note Pythagorean chromatic scale, otherwise known as the foundation of all Western music that has ever been made. The Pythagoreans made a science out of music theory, and one of their ideas was that different bits of the chromatic scale elicited different emotional responses.

Knowing this, when scholars divided the works of Plato into 12 equal parts, they noticed that Plato used the chromatic scale as an outline. The Symposium, for example, has 2,400 lines that were divided into 12 sections of 200 lines each. The harmonic sections yammered on about love, beauty, healing, ascension and Apollo, the god of music. The dissonant sections talked about faulty logic, discourse, beauty without truth, debauchery and shame.

All classic elements for a great party.

Supposedly, the underlying meaning of this structure is that science, divinity, mathematics and nature are all wrapped in the same burrito, and that the laws of nature are defined mathematically, and that the scientific discovery of these laws, brings one closer to the Divine, the way Pythagoras believed. Far out, man.

Kept Secret Because:

Of course, preaching these Pythagorean beliefs was a huge no-no in Athens at the time of Plato. Part of the reason religious leaders fed Socrates a hemlock cocktail was that they believed he was preaching false gods. And since Socrates was Plato's sidekick, it's understandable that he would harbor some resentment about that.

He took the whole "poison" thing pretty well, though.

Also the whole thing kind of makes him sound like a weirdo.

The Necropolis Code

Encoded Messages About: Freemasonry.

The word "necropolis" originates from a Greek word that literally means "city of the dead." Today, it's is a fancy way of saying "huge goddamn graveyard." Scotland's Glasgow Necropolis is arguably the most famous of these. So much so that, since the Necropolis was established in 1831, no self-respecting Glaswegian would be caught dead anywhere else. It's a national landmark and kind of a big deal there. Also, it may be the largest Masonic site in Europe.

The graveyard was established by the Merchants' House of Glasgow, an organization of powerful businessmen looking after the town's interests. According to the theory, most of these men were Freemasons, and they chocked the site full of symbols.

Like these.

One that shows up frequently is the Royal Arch, the emblem of the fourth degree of Freemasonry. Think of it as triple black-belt status of a very lame martial art.

And these.

They designed the layout of the Necropolis to reflect the "Masonic Journey," a sort of path to "enlightenment." The entrance to the Necropolis is on the west side, symbolic of darkness (where the sun sets), and a path leads to the east (where the sun rises), symbolizing the light. All the while passing those pillars, archways and other various Masonic symbols along the way.

Kept Secret Because:

As we saw with Mozart, at a time when Mason hating was in vogue (especially with Christian denominations, which a majority of the Scottish population would have belonged to), it's no surprise all of this was kept hush-hush. No one would have wanted to rot in a burial ground his church considered heretical.

Speaking of which ...

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The Knox Code

Encoded Messages About: Freemasonry. AGAIN.

If you're planning an extraordinarily boring road trip through Galesburg, Illinois, you may want to swing by Knox College of Liberal Arts. Honest Abe got his doctorate there, kind of, and the Old Main building is the only site from the Lincoln-Douglas debates that lasted longer than the GOP's reputation for being "Lincolny." These used to be the most interesting facts about Knox College, until one professor became bored enough that he just began staring at the walls and the grounds for hours on end, and discovered something comparatively astonishing.

Professor Lance Factor, aside from having a name that sounds like a television game show, believes that he's discovered coded evidence that Knox College's Old Main building was built in honor of, you guessed it, goddamned Freemasonry. According to Factor, Charles Ulricson, the architect behind Old Main, built it to be a giant Mason good luck charm. He designed it with techniques that supposedly harnessed the energies of the "Divine Architect" and "Geometer of the Universe." There was something about a Keymaster and Gatekeeper, too.

There's something strange in your neighborhood.

Freemasonry borrows a lot from ancient metaphysical symbols that allude to a harmony between God, nature and mathematics, and most of Factor's evidence consists of numbers and geometric patterns he found.

The "Golden Ratio," which equals approximately 1.6; the square root of five, about 2.2; and pi, around 3.1, are scattered everywhere. For example, the dimensions of Old Main's footprint is 70 feet by 112 feet exactly. Since it has a ratio equaling 1.6, it's known as the Golden Rectangle. According to Factor, the window panes form a "talismanic pattern" known as a dodekatopos. The 12 angles around the rectangle are symbolic of the Zodiac.

While this may just be a Beautiful Mind scenario of old, bored professors discovering coded patterns in neckties and slices of toast, the sheer number of examples make it pretty extraordinary. On top of all this, originally, the building had 16 steps representing the steps to the temple of Solomon, and a pattern on the floor that symbolized something called the "Pavement of Moses," but these were all torn up when the building was renovated in the '30s. Yes, pictures would be nice, but they're all in Factor's book and he isn't sharing them with Google anytime soon.

Kept Secret Because:

By now you know the Masons weren't all that popular no matter where they went. But you have to understand in this case how freaking brazen they must have been: During the mid-1800s, fundamentalist Christians in America were on an anti-Mason lynching campaign -- not only for the Masons' cultish ways, but because the organization had its roots with the treacherous British. And among the staunchest Mason-haters in the country were the founders of Knox College.

The Masons either had balls, or they were just the most passive-aggressive people on the planet.

It's the kind of douchbaggery that only an architect could pull off.

The Newton/Galileo Code

Encoded Messages About: Their biggest discoveries.

During the 17th century, scientists like Galileo and Isaac Newton were figuring out how Earth works, discovering planets and laws of nature and inventing useful tools, like physics--all while still having to shit in a bucket.

Anything to get your mind off of bucket-cleaning day.

Science is a cutthroat game, however, and it's imperative to stake your claim before some other jerk gets the credit. For example, calculus was developed by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz at the exact same time, but today Newton gets all the credit, even though that other guy published his version of calculus first. Why? Because, it was discovered, Newton earlier wrote this puzzling letter:

"I cannot proceed with the explanation of the fluxions [the calculus] now, I have preferred to conceal it thus: 6accdae13eff7i3l9n4o4qrr4s8t12vx."

Although it looks like Newton fell asleep on his keyboard mid-sentence, the bit at the end there is actually an anagram, where the numbers represent the number of times each letter appears. Expand and unscramble it and you get this:

"Data aequatione quotcunque fluentes quantitates involvente, fluxiones invenire: et vice versa."

Or in English:

"Given an equation involving any number of fluent quantities, to find the fluxions: and vice versa."

Which, of course, you will instantly recognize as the principal theorem of Newton's Calculus.

Kept Secret Because:

The patent system of the era was lacking a sophisticated procedure and had significantly less red tape (tape didn't exist yet), but basically how it worked was that the first person to publish a theory in print got to claim dibs on the new discovery. This was called "establishing priority."

Rock, paper, scissors hadn't been invented yet.

That's why writing up your findings in code was pretty standard practice in the olden days of science. If you're, say, Galileo, and you see through your home-made telescope that Venus has grown a pair of tits overnight, before you go running to the newspapers you need to be pretty damn sure that Venus has tits. But the fear is that while you're working on the theory, some other guy will jump out and claim he discovered it first.

So what you'd do is write down your findings in code and mail them off. So later, if some other schmuck comes around claiming he was the first to discover tits on Venus, you only have to reveal that you'd published the secret (in code) a year earlier. This is how Galileo claimed priority for many of his discoveries, such as the rings of Saturn.

We don't get what's so impressive about that. They're right there.

Of course, that creates the possibility that it will never be figured out. There's a theory floating around that suggests Galileo discovered Neptune 234 freaking years before its official discovery, but it's in an anagram out there somewhere that has yet to be decoded.

The message also probably reveals him to be a Mason.

For real people that ruled the planet, check out 6 People Who Secretly Ruled The World. Or see what Bucholz thought about the sequel to the Da Vinci Code, in A Da Vinci Code Sequel Review (By Someone Who Skimmed It).

And stop by Linkstorm to discover the secret code of the Internet.

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