23 – A Primer

The number 23 symbolises syncronicity and other meaningful conicidence

Recently we have noticed a minor resurgence of people enquiring as to the significance of the number 23 – if you are one of those unenlightened Luddite maniacs; here is a humble primer, for your amusement and delectation.

Within this article (originally published as a booklet by Fear Control), you will find discussion of most of the major strands of the so-called 23 enigma, a subject that has captured the imagination of a wide variety of authors, artists, psychologists, magicians, musicians, religions and eccentrics…

Is the universe playing some kind of massive and ridiculous cosmic trick on us? Are the Illuminati conspiring to enslave humanity? Does (insert higher power here) have some kind of ineffable plan for this world? Coincidence? Is it just a load of pointless insanity/inanity? Read on and decide for yourselves!

[Much of the information provided here has been gleaned from the internet and our personal archives, so we offer our apologies if this collection lacks cohesive style – we have (necessarily) quoted liberally from the work of those who have gone before and we sincerely hope that they would agree with our wish to educate and inform.]

All Hail Eris! Hail, all autonomous!


The word ‘synchronicity’ was first coined in the 1920s by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, to describe what he termed “meaningful coincidence”. In 1952, he published the book Synchronicity, which explained his ideas in depth.

Synchronicity is defined as; “…the experience of two or more events that are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful way. To count as synchronistic, these must be unlikely to occur together by chance.”

As the observant reader will discover within this publication, the number 23 has since become synonymous with Jung’s ideas, seeming to manifest with an improbable frequency.

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes


Human sex cells have 23 chromosomes. In human DNA, the 23rd chromosome determines gender. Other human cells have 46 chromosomes, arranged in 23 pairs. One full turn of the DNA helix occurs every 23 angstroms.

Blood takes an average of 23 seconds to flow through the human body (in which there are 23 vertebrae). The human arm consists of 23 joints.

Our biorhythmic cycle is generally 23 days, and an average human lives for 63 years (about 23,000 days). There are 23 days in the male sexual cycle (according to Omar Garrison’s Tantra: The Yoga of Sex).


W is the 23rd (and last) letter of the Latin alphabet. It has two points down and three points up and is the only letter in the English language to be pronounced polysyllabically.

In 1899, an article by author George Ade appeared in The Washington Post, explaining the meaning of the new slang ‘twenty-three’ as; “a signal to clear out, run, get away”. Inconveniently for the purposes of this text, the article was dated October 22nd. Ade’s sources vaguely attributed the phrase’s origination to English horse racing regulations and a failed prison escape by a Mexican fraudster. Further to this, the phrase ‘23 skidoo’ (used in America in the early 20th century as a synonym for
“to make a sharp exit”) is believed by some to originate from the last chapter of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, wherein an old woman counts victims of the guillotine and calls out “23” as the hero is beheaded.

20122012 - Mayan 'prophecy'

2012 = (20 + 1 + 2) = 23.

2012 enthusiasts long posited that, according to Mayan prophecy, cataclysmic or transformative events would occur on December 21 or December 23, 2012, which they believed was the end of a 5,125 year long cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar (one of three used in their society). According to whom you chose to believe, this would either be the end of the world or the beginning of a new age of existence.

Many New Agers further predicted that 2012 would cause humankind to undergo a ‘paradigm shift’, resulting in a dramatic spiritual or physical transformation. Some scholars disagreed that 2012 would bring catastrophe, suggesting that the predictions of impending chaos were not actually backed up by the Mayan accounts, or by modern science.

Many counter cultural figures have long theorised upon the true significance of this prophecy. Terence McKenna thought that it would “Immanetize the Eschaton” (to manifest Heaven to earth – Google: “McKenna Time Wave Zero”); Daniel Pinchbeck that we would evolve into psychonautical polygamists, and others that it would bring about some kind of massive global trauma, such as the poles finally melting, massive flooding, earthquakes, etc.

23 - Free party squat tekno sound system rave magic numberFREE TEKNO

As briefly mentioned elsewhere in this article, the number 23 has been enthusiastically adopted by the Free Party (or rave) movement, as a symbol of the anarchic freedom of the scene. In the process, it has also become a kind of unifying badge. Consequently, sound systems, collectives and labels including Spiral Tribe (and the related Network23), Headfuk, Ketwork32 and Bad Sekta have all paid homage to, adopted or adapted the enigma for their own ends.

Nodes of this informal twenty three network are commonly involved with the dissemination of useful / underground information and the production of DIY events and media, resulting in a truly grass roots culture of self-education and non-corporate entertainment that is by turns equally unpredictable and inspiring.


“The Ancient Chinese believed numbers conveyed sexuality – evens for feminine and odds for masculine. They considered prime numbers to be the most masculine, conferring special status on 23 which is made up of two consecutive prime numbers and the only even prime number – two.”

Hexagram 23 in the Oriental tradition of the I Ching means ‘break apart’. 23 in telegrapher’s code means ‘break the line’. Aleister Crowley defined 23 as; “parting, removal, separation, joy, a thread, and life…”

According to the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the 23rd path is associated with the Hanged Man Tarot Card. Crowley maintained that this card represents the concept that the only way out is within.

In a Tarot deck 2 represents balance, 3 synergy (5 is strife). 22 trump cards (or the Major Arcana) represent a cycle or wheel. They begin with the fool and end with the universe. “As the standard musical scale of western music is an octave (seven notes (ABCDEFG) with the first repeated as the last (ABCDEFGA) to represent the progressive cycle of the musical scale)”, these cards are arranged with the fool at the “beginning and end”, forming a cycle of 23.

One numerological tradition regards 23 as “the glyph of (nascent) life; Coincidence and synchronicity”.


In Abhidharma, the number of anomalous generic types (of a possible 72) – e.g., events are considered Sui generis because they are not reducible to either mind or matter – is 23.

Jesus Christ - The King of Twenty Three?CHRISTIANITY –
Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…”
Proverbs 23:23 – “Buy the truth, and do not sell it”.
Numbers 32:23 – “Be sure your sin will find you out”.
Daniel 8:14 – “And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”.
Genesis 1:23 – The act of creation draws to a close.
Genesis 23 – Focuses on death.
Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Book of Revelations contains 22 sections; the 22nd section has 21 lines, implying a progression to 23…

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

Although the Old Testament is unspecific, it is widely held that Adam and Eve had 23 daughters.

Roman Catholics generally recognise 23 dogmas – twelve in the symbol of the apostles and eleven defined by the Church.

Muslims believe that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad over 23 years, and that its first verses were revealed on the 23rd night of the 9th Islamic month.

The sacred Principia Discordia of the Discordian religion holds that 23 (along with the Discordian prime 5) is one of the sacred numbers of Eris, goddess of discord.

The mantra invoked by Discordians for the Holy Number is ‘Invert the Pyramid’. If you invert the sentence one letter at a time – e.g. ‘dinvert the pyrami’, ‘id invert the pyram’, etc., it takes 22 chants, finished by the line ‘The Pyramid Inverts’, to make 23. The last line is called ‘the final energy releaser’.

Some followers describe Discordianism as ‘a joke disguised as a religion disguised as a joke’.

The Church of the Process regards the number 23 as possessing great significance.

There are 23 chapters of the Cult Awareness Network.

L. Ron Hubbard’s Axiom 23 is “all thought is concerned with motion”.

Joseph Smith (founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons) was born on the 23rd December 1805.

Bishop Usher – Annales Veteris Testament – God creates the earth on the 23rd October 4004 BC.

September 23rd is Yom Kippur in the Jewish faith.

Two-thirds of the angels stay loyal to Heaven and God after Lucifer and the other third fell.

The address of the Masonic lodge in Stafford is 23 Jaol Road – in New York it is on 23rd Street.

Level of ONE – the 23rd level of the ONE is reported to be the last level attainable (achieving departure from Earth).

Verse 23 of the Nag Hammadi scrolls reads;

But to the Mind-less ones, the wicked and depraved, the envious and covetous, and those who mured do and love impiety, I am far off, yielding my place to the Avenging Daimon, who sharpening the fire, tormenteth him and addeth fire to fire upon him, and rusheth upon him through his senses, thus rendering him readier for transgressions of the law, so that he meets with greater torment; nor doth he ever cease to have desire for appetites inordinate, insatiately striving in the dark.”

32 is the Holy Number of the First Church of Zypgx, which gives all of its members a number, either 7 (lucky), 32 (23 reversed) or 8 (infinity). They also believe that the number of their saviour times the exact value of pi will add up to 23.

23rdians subscribe to the mystical power of 23, seeing it in multiple combinations throughout daily life.


Despite co-writing the infamous Illuminatus! Trilogy and thus becoming one of the main proselytizers of the so-called 23 enigma, Robert Anton Wilson repeatedly acknowledged that the meme was a self-fulfilling one (implying that the real value of Discordianism and its Laws of Fives and Twenty threes lay in their demonstration of the mind’s power to perceive ‘truth’ in nearly anything).

When you start looking for something you tend to find it.”

After first hearing of the enigma via the writings of William Burroughs (discussed elsewhere in this article), Wilson began to collect his own examples of strange coincidences (later including many of them within the plot of the Illuminatus! Trilogy). One example was that of Professor Hans Seisel (featured in Arthur Koestler’s book The Challenge of Chance) – his mother, grandparents and he himself all had the number 23 in their apartment, street and business addresses. His mother took a holiday in Monte Carlo, reading Die Liebe der Jeannie Ney, wherein a large sum of money is won by betting on the number 23 – Frau Seisel then bet on 23 at Robert Anton Wilson, author of Illuminatus Trilogy, Cosmic Trigger trilogy, and general clever manroulette, winning on her second attempt.

In 1977, a few days after the start of a an expedition to the Bermuda Triangle which Wilson had to decline due to his “other commitments”, he was watching TV when an advert for the film Airport 77 came on, beginning with an actor shouting “Flight 23 is down in the Bermuda Triangle!”

A week later Charles Berlitz (author of The Bermuda Triangle) claimed to have discovered a pyramid “twice the size of the pyramids of Cheops”, submerged in the Triangle. Exactly as described by Wilson and Shea in their trilogy (written six years previous).

Aptly, Wilson’s two oldest daughters were born on the 23rd of August and the 23rd of February respectively.


Robert Anton Wilson has cited influential beat author, artist and magician William Burroughs as being the first to believe in the 23 enigma, relating this oft-repeated tale in the 23rd issue of the magazine Fortean Times –

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.”

After this episode, Burroughs started a scrapbook of 23s (which he apparently kept up until his death) and later wrote about the synchronistic death of legendary gangster Dutch Schultz (see history section for more details). He saw the number 23 as “the death number” – regarding this morose observation, Wilson noted that Psalm 23 has long been a firm favourite at funerals.

At the age of 23, Burroughs lived opposite a morgue and his address included a 23. Burroughs’ close friend, collaborator and sometime lover Allen Ginsberg died at 2:39pm on April 5 (2 + 3 + 9 + 4 + 5 = 23). A code on the Reuter’s article reporting Ginsberg’s death reads: “23:28”. (28 = 23 + 5).


Aleister Crowley (12th October 1875 – 1st December 1947) was a notorious occultist, writer, mountaineer, Alesteir Crowley sigilpoet, playwright and (allegedly) a spy. Described in his lifetime as “the wickedest man in the world” (mainly due to his rejection of the Christian notion of sex, drugs and magick as being sinful, believing it both weak and foolish to ignore any part of one’s personality or desires), he spent much of his life as an influential member of the occult orders the Golden Dawn, the A:A: and Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), whilst his writings on magical subjects are still widely read today (including The Book of the Law, the main text of his “Thelema” tradition).

As noted earlier in this text, Crowley’s Cabalistic Dictionary defined the number 23 as the number of “parting, removal, separation, joy, a thread, and life…”

He once published a poem, 23 skidoo, describing “the Great Work under the figure of a man ridding himself of all his accidents. He first leaves the life of comfort; then the world at large; and, lastly, even the initiates. In the fourth section is shown that there is no return for one that has started on this path”.

Chapter 69 (The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs) of Crowley’s Book of Lies. 69 / 3 = 23. 6 + 9 + 3 = 18. 18 = 23 – 5.

Chapter 1, verse 23 of The Book of the Law – “But whoso availeth in this, let him be the chief of all!”


“The number 23 is a bit ov a situationist prank as nothing freaks out the flat people as this mystic number”

TOPY was originally set up in the early eighties by the experimental group Psychic TV, as an experiment in social deconditioning (albeit couched within a deliberately cult-like framework). Heavily influenced by the teachings of Burroughs, Crowley and Victorian painter and magician Austin Osman Spare, 23s featured heavily throughout their writings and artwork.

The Temple’s Sigil ov 3 Liquids (a magickal ritual), was performed by its members at 23:00 on the 23rd day of the month. Involving 2 types of hair and 3 liquids, “completion ov 23 such monthly rituals qualifies one as a full initiate ov thee Temple.”

From the Temple’s ‘Thee Grey Book’ –

Thee Temple strives to end personal laziness and engender discipline. To focus thee Will on one’s true desires, in thee belief, gathered from experience that this maximizes and makes happen all those things that one wants in every area ov life.

Explore daily your deepest desires, fantasies and motives, gradually focussing on what you would like to happen in a perfect world, a perfect situation, taking away all restrictions and practical considerations, what you’d REALLY want. Then decide to try and DO it. Thee mere visualization ov that true goal begins thee process that makes it happen.

Clean out thee trappings and debris ov compromise, ov what you’ve been told is REASONABLE for a person in your circumstances. Be clear in admitting your real desires. Discard all irrelevancies. Ask yourself who you want as friends, if you need or want to work, what you want to eat.

Check and re-check everything deeper and deeper, more and more precisely to get closer and ultimately integrate with your REAL Self. Once you are focussed on your self internally, thee external aspects ov your life will fall into place.

They have to.

Sceptics will say they simply don’t believe this Psychick process works, but it does. It is thee Key to thee Temple.”

Unfortunately (and despite raising some interesting points), somewhere in its lifespan the Temple started to be viewed as exactly what it set out to destroy, a structured system with dogmatic values. Because of this, many members of Psychic TV took great pains to distance themselves from this newer offshoot of the organisation.


The year 23 – Greek geographer Strabo publishes his work Geography – covering the world as known by the Greeks and the Romans. It is the only such book to survive from the ancient world.

Also in 23, Roman writer, architect and engineer Vitruvius finished De Architectura (known today as The Ten Books of Architecture), perhaps the first book about architecture.

Dagobert II (the last Merovingian king) was killed on the 23rd December 679 in the Ardennes.

23rd April 1014 – Brian Boru defeats the Vikings at the battle of Clontarf.

Henry II (Enricus Rex) authorized the first British invasion of Ireland on the 23rd of August 1170.

Astronomer Johannes Kepler was born at 2:30pm in 1571, giving him an “Ascendant degree” of 23 degrees.

William Shakespeare was born on the 23rd April 1564, and died 23rd April 1616.

23rd April 1616 – Cervantes dies, Spain.

The Dublin Easter Rising was planned for the 23rd of April 1916 (arms were late arriving so it took place on the 24th).

Germany had 23 divisions on the Western Front in 1940 (France had more than 110).

John Dillinger robbed 26 banks, but “only 23 for money”. He was later shot leaving a theatre at 2323 Clark St. Chicago.

The notorious “weather balloon” crashed at Roswell on the 3rd of July 1947. 7 + 3 + 1 + 9 + 4 + 7 = 32 (23 backwards, for those not paying attention).

The Hiroshima bomb was dropped at 8.15am (8 + 15 = 23) on the 6th August 1945 (8 + 6 + 4 + 5 = 23). The USA performed 23 atomic detonation tests at Bikini Atoll.

The troops responsible for the My Lai 4 massacre in Vietnam belonged to the 23rd division of the US Army (“Charlie Company”).

The design of the United States flag has changed 23 times since the declaration of Independence.

Saturn V (2 + 3 = 5) rockets were used to launch the Apollo missions to the moon.

First Moon landing – Sea of Tranquility, 23.63 degrees East.

Second Moon landing – Ocean of Storms, 23.42 degrees West.

The first two Moon landings were Apollo 11 and 12 (11 + 12 = 23).
23rd July 1996 – The “Mysterious eyes” of the Hale-Bopp comet were first recorded.

14th March 1997 – NASA states that MIR 23 space station is having problems resulting from the February 23, 1997 fire and has used 23 of their oxygen-generating canisters. It is the 23rd day aboard for the Russian crew. Progress 233 supply vehicle has problems of its own and cannot redock with MIR.

23rd March 1997 – Hale-Bopp was nearest to earth (at a distance of…123 million miles)! There was also a lunar eclipse.

The first transmission by morse code read “What hath God wrought?” – From Numbers 23:23.

Nicolaus of Damascus account of Julius Caesar’s assassination  claims that he was stabbed 23 times by his enemies.

Hitler organized the National Socialist Congress on January 23. On November 23 he attempted to take power.

23rd January 1968 – the USS Pueblo was hijacked off of North Korea, the crew being held until the 23rd December 1968.

11th September 2001 – Planes hit the World Trade Center (9 + 11 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 1 = 23).

230 people died in the explosion of TWA Flight 800 – thought to have occurred in seats 23J and 23K.

April 19th (as in 4 and 19!) 4 + 19 = 23.  Date of the Battle of Lexington, Waco and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

In South Africa, “The 23”, refers to the 23 conscientious objectors who publicly refused conscription to the Apartheid army in 1987.

Gangster Dutch Schultz died in a New York hospital on the 23rd of October, 1934, proclaiming “A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim… French Canadian bean soup… The bears are in trouble and the sidewalks are in trouble…” The man convicted of his shooting, Charlie Workman, served 23 years of a life sentence before being released on parole. Interestingly, Schultz had once ordered 23 year old Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll assassinated on New York’s 23rd Street.

Adolf Hitler was initiated into the Vril Society (thought by some a front for the Illuminati) in 1923.

The Morgan Bank (which the John Birch Society regards as the financial backer of the Illuminati) is situated at 23 Wall Street.

Alexander the Great was 23 when he cut the Gordian Knot.

Bonnie and Clyde were shot and killed by Texas Rangers on the 23rd of May 1934. Interpreted Cabalistically, the initials of their Christian names have the values of 2 and 3.

As the traditions of the day dictated, Sir Francis Bacon was allowed to pick the day for of his own knighthood by Elizabeth I, picking the 23rd of July.

A total of 23 Canadian Soldiers were executed for desertion during WW1.

Cross symbol of the Knights TemplarTHE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

The Knights Templars had 23 Grandmasters during their career, the 23rd (and last) being Jacques de Molay.

On Friday 13th October (10 + 13 = 23) 1307, the Knights  were arrested in France, dissolving the Order. Some attribute the date of this dissolution as the origin of Friday the 13th’s apparent unluckiness, although most experts dispute this.


Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859 (1 + 8 + 5 + 9 = 23).

Hedgehogs maintain a metabolic temperature of 23 degrees.

Every 23rd wave crashing to shore is, on average, approximately twice as large as an average wave.


As defined in psychology and cognitive science –

confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations that contradict prior beliefs. It is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference, or as a form of selection bias toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study or disconfirmation of an alternative hypothesis. Confirmation bias is of interest in the teaching of critical thinking, as the skill is misused if rigorous critical scrutiny is applied only to evidence challenging a preconceived idea but not to evidence supporting it.”

Be aware that this can often be used as a model for those finding themselves taunted by the ’23 enigma’ (although sometimes it can be hard to satisfactorily explain apparent synchronicities) – it’s wise to remember that if you look hard enough for something then you will most likely find it!


23 is one of the most commonly cited prime numbers – a number that can only be divided by itself and one.

23 is the lowest prime made up of consecutive digits.

23 is the ninth prime number and is the smallest odd prime which is not a twin prime. It is also the fifth factorial prime, the second Woodall prime, a Pillai prime and an Eisenstein prime.

23 is the smallest odd prime to be a highly cototient number.

23 is the first prime P for which unique factorization of cyclotomic integers based on the P’th root of unity breaks down.

The sum of the first 23 primes is 874, which is divisible by 23, a property shared by few other numbers.

In the list of “Fortunate” numbers, 23 occurs twice.

23 is one of two integers that cannot be expressed as the sum of fewer than 9 cubes of integers (the other is 239).

23 is a “Wedderburn-Etherington” number.

The code words in the perfect (non-extended) binary Golay code are of size 23.

According to the birthday paradox, in a group of 23 (or more) randomly chosen people, the probability is more than 50% that some pair of them will have the same birthday.

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.

Euclid’s Geometry begins with 23 axioms.

23 is the first prime number in which both digits are prime numbers and add up to another prime number.

69 / 3 = 23, 6 + 9 + 3 = 18 = 23 – 5 (2 + 3=5).

2, 3 and 5 are the first three prime numbers in our counting system. (1 is not prime, it’s an identity).

Pentagram – the angle between the rays of a symmetrical-pointed star is 72 degrees. Also, the angle between legs of a pentagon is 108 degrees (the complementary angle of 108 is 72(108 + 72 = 180)). (2^3) x (3^2) = 2 x 3 x 2 x 3 x 2 = 72.

Two-thirds of numbers which are divisible by 2 are not multiples of 3.

John Forbes Nash (Nobel Prize-winning economist and later subject of the film A Beautiful Mind), was obsessed with the number 23, which featured prominently in his battle with mental illness. His breakdown began when he claimed that a Life magazine cover photo of Pope John XXIII was really him (the proof? 23 was his favourite number). Nash published 23 scientific articles before he died.


23 is the atomic number of vanadium, and also the atomic mass number of the stable isotope of sodium.

The name of the Uranium isotope used in bombs is U235.

The number of atoms of an element in one mole is 6.21 x 10²³.

“Clarkes Orbit” is the ideal orbiting distance for a satellite above the earth, or 23,000 miles.

Average surface temperature on Mars is -23 degrees Celsius.

Microsoft’s Redmond campus is made up of 23 buildings.

Computers communicate in 2³ bits (bytes).

SEGA = 19 + 5 + 7 + 1 = 32 ; 1 + 9 + 5 + 7 + 1 = 23.

WWW = 23 + 23 + 23 = 69

The days on which the signs of the Zodiac begin and end are generally the 22nd and 23rd of the month.

The Earth’s axis describes a circle every 23,000 years. It is also currently tilted at an angle of approximately 23 degrees.

Researchers measuring the rotation periods of asteroids report that none were found with periods of less than 2.3 hours (a period any less than this causes them to be torn apart).

The star Sirius A has a luminosity measuring 23.5. The “Dog Days” of summer begin on July 23rd, when Sirius first rises from behind the sun.

The distance from the center of the planet Mars to the centre of it’s farthest moon is 23,500 kilometers.

An average Lunar Cycle is 28 (23 + 5) days.

The Arecibo message (a series of binary digits sent into space in search of alien intelligence) measures 23 columns wide.


Industrial group Throbbing Gristle recorded the song The Old Man Smiled in reference to the meeting of Burroughs and Clark and the significance of the number 23. The band often performed on the 23rd day of the month and several members went on to form the experimental group Psychic TV, founding the pseudo-religious Temple ov Psychik Youth. They later distanced themselves from the Temple upon it’s evolution into a dogmatic belief system (see TOPY section above). They were fascinated by the 23 enigma and attempted (but failed) to complete a series of 23 live albums, each released on the 23rd day of 23 consecutive months.

The KLF were hip to the 23s, releasing music as the ‘Justified Ancients of Mu Mu’ (a 23 letter name taken from the Illuminatus! Trilogy) and using a police car with a number 23 on its roof for the video of ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’. Their last gig was for exactly 23 minutes and the legendary burning of £1 million on a remote Scottish island took place on the 23rd August 1994.

Tristan Prettyman’s first album is called 23.

Tool have a song called Viginti Tres (Latin for twenty-three) on their album 10,000 Days.

Blonde Redhead named a song and album 23.

Jimmy Eat World have several songs (and items of merchandise) named after or featuring the number 23.

Four Tet and Yellowcard both released songs titled Twenty-Three.

The Posies made a record called Dear 23.

The Church’s 2009 album is called Untitled #23.

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was born in 1967 and died in 1994 (1 + 9 + 6 + 7= 23, 1 + 9 + 9 + 4 = 23).

Other acts influenced by or utilising the number 23 include Coil, Jakub23, K’tulu 23, Phuq, Psychik Warriors ov Gaia and 23 Skidoo.

The Spiral Tribe collective (see Free Tekno article) were enthusiastic proponents of all things 23, establishing several labels which included Network23 (named after the TV network in the series Max Headroom).

Bristol sound system Ketwork32 is named in humorous reference to Spiral Tribe’s label.

Throbbing Gristle released some of William Burroughs recordings through their Industrial Records imprint.

UK electronic label Bad Sekta often uses the number 23 as a promotional tool, as well as having previously announced an (as yet unreleased) EP entitled Twenty Three.


Over 50% of the American media is owned by 23 major corporations, as reported by Noam Chomsky. Thus, more than half of the information thrust upon the American people is controlled by only 23 corporations.


23: Nichts Ist So Wie Es Scheint tells the real-life story of computer hackers inspired by Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy.

The Number 23 – a man who becomes obsessed with the number 23 while reading a book of the same title that seems to be about his life.

The Matrix Reloaded – the Architect tells Neo it is of utmost importance to choose 23 people to repopulate Zion.

Jeepers Creepers – the Creeper appears every 23 years for 23 days to feast on human flesh.

Star Wars:  A New Hope – the heroes rescue Leia from detention block AA23.

THX 1138 – the lead police robot is number 23.

Vantage Point – all the flashbacks take place 23 minutes before the presidential assassination attempt.

L: Change the World – 23 is the maximum number of days a person may live after writing his name in Death Note.

Airport – the bomber has seat 23.

Life of Brian – there are 23 crosses at Calvary in the finale of the Monty Python movie.

Die Hard With a Vengeance – a train crashes in station 23.

The Big Lebowski – the leads always bowl in Lane 23.

Happy Gilmore – there’s a 23 on Happy’s helmet.

And Now for Something Completely Different – the house with the trapped milkmen is number 23.

Yellow Submarine – the Butterfly Stomper destroys all things of beauty and on his shirt is the number 23.
Hackers – the data which drives the plot is stolen from data bank 23.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers – the first rubbish truck seen transporting the pods in this 1978 remake is number 23.

Lawrence of Arabia – Anthony Quinn’s character proclaims he has 23 wounds upon his body.

Lost Highway – Fred’s number in the jail is 47516 (4 + 7 + 5 + 1 + 6 = 23).

Quiz Show – a waiter chooses 23 when asked for a random number and the contestant follows with a list of 23 related facts to show his knowledge base.

Support Your Local Gunslinger – James Garner’s character despises roulette, despite stating that he has “an irresistible urge to bet on the number 23”, which then becomes a running joke.

The Prophecy – the Bible belonging to the dead angel Uziel is book marked on the 23rd chapter of Revelations.

Jim Carrey named his production company JC23.

Italian actress Asia Argento (daughter of noted giallo/horror director Dario) has a number 23 tattooed prominently on the back of her neck.


Lost – 23 is one of “The Numbers” (4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42).

Twin Peaks – Laura Palmer is murdered on the 23rd February.

Dad’s Army – Captain Mainwaring lives at number 23.

Steptoe and Son – The calendar on the back wall of the house.

Spaced – Simon and Daisy live at number 23.

Popeye mentions the number 23 several times during its 1970’s run.

Babylon 5 – Set in the 23rd century.

Seinfeld – Kramer hides his air conditioner on Level Purple 23 in a shopping carpark. The episode played in Australia on the 23rd September 1996.

Sesame Street – Bert is a member of the National Association of W Lovers. W is the 23rd letter of the alphabet.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – if a number is mentioned it is often a 23 (or 23,000).

Max Headroom – Max’s show broadcasts on Network 23.

X Files – regularly mentions the number 23 and is made by production company Ten-Thirteen (10 + 13 = 23).

Canada’s Trailer Park Boys – Ricky ponders a “catch 23 situation”.


The Illuminatus! Trilogy – A play based on the novel premiered in Liverpool on the 23rd of November. Ken Campbell, producer, later placed great significance on page 223 of Jung’s  Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which reported a surreal dream set in Liverpool. Campbell claimed that the dream depicted the street of the theatre where the play opened.


Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson – The Illuminatus! Trilogy – a mammoth compendium of wyrdness, and arguably the initiator of the whole 23 meme.

James Joyce – Ulysses – heavily features the 16th  June 1904; (19 + 04 = 23).

Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities – Sidney Carlton, the 23rd man, is guillotined in the final scene;

The murmuring of many voices, the upturning of many faces, the pressing on of many footsteps in the outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward in a mass, like one great heave of water, all flashes away. Twenty-Three.”

Umberto Eco – Foucault’s Pendulum – a meeting at the Paris Conservatoire des Arts is held at midnight on June 23.

Joseph Milton – Paradise Lost – Lines 22-23 of Book I read “…what in me is dark Illumine, what is low raise and support…”

Flannery O’Brien – The Third Policeman –  Fox goes mad and disappears on June 23rd.

Jim Carroll – Forced Entries – 23 features throughout the book.

Comic authors Jamie Hewlett and Grant Morrison have often used 23s in their publications.

“Beyond Concidence” – Martin Plimmer and Brian King’s book.

Arthur Koestler – Challenge of Chance – book of synchronicity!

Robert Anton Wilson – Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati discusses the 23 enigma and  the law of fives.

Joseph Heller – ‘Catch-22’:

If a bomber-pilot don’t want to fly missions then he’s sane, for mission-flying is deadly dangerous. If a bomber does want to fly missions then he’s insane for missions – flying is deadly dangerous. The only way to stop flying missions is to be insane, but if the flyer does want to fly missions then why shouldn’t he go on? No way out (23).”


Former England football captain David Beckham wore a number 23 shirt whilst playing for Real Madrid (apparently in deference to Michael Jordan, who wore the number throughout his basketball career.)

UK football club Manchester City has not assigned the number 23 to any player since 2003, after Marc Vivien Foe (shirt number 23), died while playing for Cameroon, in 2003.

Cricket players Shane Warne and Marcus Trescothick both wear the number 23.

Dr. Pepper was advertised as having an “Authentic blend of 23 flavors”.

There is no Number 23 bus in Dublin (There’s a 22a instead).

There is a Suffolk-based architectural consultancy named Architecture23 in reference to the meme.
The “harmonic convergence” occurs every 23,000 years.

July 23rd is both the Sumerian and Egyptian New Year.

More sightings of UFOs are reported each 23rd of April than on any other day of the year. 23 + 23 + 2 + 3 = 51 (Area 51). Hmm…

Descartes used the equation 2 + 3 = 5 to theorise as being an objective truth that he was potentially being fooled into believing was true in his Meditations on First Philosophy.

Bill Clinton’s numerical initials are B (2) and C (3) and the number of letters in William Jefferson Clinton is 23.

There are exactly 23 plainly visible characters (letters and numbers) on the front of U.S. Coins.

Under Parliamentary Procedure, 23 votes are required to rescind a Motion.

White supremacists use 23 to represent “W” as a mark of racial superiority.


In summation, dear reader; 23 controls the horizontal, vertical, diagonal, diabolical, metaphorical, and non-Euclidean…

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 began collecting odd 23s after this gruesome synchronicity, and after 1965 I also began collecting them…

In conception, Mom and Dad each contribute 23 chromosomes to the foetus. DNA, the carrier of the genetic information, has bonding irregularities every 23rd Angstrom. Aleister Crowley, in his Cabalistic Dictionary, defines 23 as the number of “life” or “a thread”, hauntingly suggestive of the DNA life-script. On the other hand, 23 has many links with termination: in telegraphers’ code, 23 means “bust” or “break the line”, and Hexagram 23 in I Ching means “breaking apart”. Sidney Carton is the 23rd man guillotined in the old stage productions of A Tale of Two Cities. (A few lexicographers believe this is the origin of the mysterious slang expression “23 Skiddoo!”)

Some people are clusters of bloody synchronicities in 23. Burroughs discovered that the bootlegger “Dutch Schultz” (real name: Arthur Flegenheimer) had Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll assassinated on 23rd Street in New York when Coll was 23 years old. Schultz himself was assassinated on 23 October. Looking further into the Dutch Schultz case, I found that Charlie Workman, the man convicted of shooting Schultz, served 23 years of a life sentence and was then paroled.”

– Robert Anton Wilson

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