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23 Enigma

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Title: 23 Enigma  
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Subject: 23 (number), Numerology, The Number 23, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Discordianism
Collection: Numerology
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23 Enigma

The 23 enigma refers to the belief that most incidents and events are directly connected to the number 23.


  • Origins 1
  • In literature 2
  • In popular culture 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


Robert Anton Wilson cites William S. Burroughs as the first person to believe in the 23 enigma.[1] Wilson, in an article in Fortean Times, related the following anecdote:

Burroughs wrote a short story in 1967 titled "23 Skidoo." The phrase "23 skidoo" was popular in the 1920s; it means "it's time to get out while the getting is good."[3]

In literature

The 23 enigma can be seen in:

The novel titled Principia Discordia claims that "All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5"[4]—this is referred to as the Law of Fives. The 23 enigma is regarded as a corollary of the Law of Fives because 2 + 3 = 5.

In these works, 23 is considered lucky, unlucky, sinister, strange, sacred to the goddess Eris, or sacred to the unholy gods of the Cthulhu Mythos.

As with most numerological claims, the 23 enigma can be viewed as an example of apophenia, selection bias, and confirmation bias. In interviews, Wilson acknowledged the self-fulfilling nature of the 23 enigma, implying that the real value of the Law of Fives and the 23 enigma is in their demonstration of the mind's ability to perceive "truth" in nearly anything.

In the Illuminatus! Trilogy, Wilson expresses the same view, saying that one can find numerological significance in anything, provided that one has "sufficient cleverness."

In popular culture

  • The 1998 German film 23, starring August Diehl as computer hacker Karl Koch, tells the real-life story of computer hackers.
  • The 2007 film The Number 23, starring Jim Carrey, is the story of a man who becomes obsessed with the number 23 while reading a book of the same title that seems to be about his life.
  • Industrial music group Throbbing Gristle recounted in great detail the meeting of Burroughs and Captain Clark and the significance of the number 23 in the ballad "The Old Man Smiled."[3]

See also


  1. ^ "Going loco over 'El Becko'"
  2. ^ Robert Anton Wilson on the "23 Phenomena"
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Principia Discordia, pg. 23
  5. ^ Robert Anton Wilson sees the clustering illusion everywhere, not just 23, Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything (audiobook), December 2001.
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