Paul G. Stewart has released a new book, the first in a series, in which he attempts to solve the mystery of the Kensington Rune Stone (KRS) by proposing that it and several other disputed artifacts, including the Bat Creek Stone, and even accepted artifacts like the Phaistos Disk, are all the work of a Freemason hoaxer he dubs “The Enigmatist.” Stewart claims that he was able to deduce the handiwork of this hoaxer through numerology, discovering a set of rules drawn from Masonic writings that unlock a hidden code across all of these artifacts.
Stewart provided me with a copy of the complete multi-volume book in August, but I have waited to write about it until Stewart officially released the first volume this week.
I feel bad about having to report that Stewart’s claims are based on poor scholarship and faulty logic since Stewart has clearly put a great deal of effort into pursuing a line of inquiry he believes in. That said, a few examples from the first chapters of volume one will suffice to demonstrate that the foundational premises for his claims are unsound and therefore the conclusions derived from them cannot be supported with this evidence.
I’m going to leave aside the pure numerology in which he adds up the number of letters and the “values” of the words in various parts of the KRS to derive magical numbers that correlate to world mythology. I don’t find numerology at all convincing since the “rules” for numerology are never consistent, but in theory if the stone were hoaxed by a numerologist this could conceivably be intentional—not because numerology is real but because the numerologist believes it to be so.
But how can we determine intentionality? Stewart says that the clues are in the language used in the KRS. Stewart informs us that he is not a linguist, but that he was able to discover a secret code in the Kensington Rune Stone by consulting various online language resources. Stewart claims that despite having no training in linguistics, “in my humble opinion all the experts had gotten the translation” of the KRS wrong. The stone contains what most translators see as a prayer: “AVM : frälse : äf : illü,” or, “Ave Virgo Maria (Hail, Virgin Mary), save (us) from evil.” Stewart states that the final word, illü, does not “feel” Swedish to him and therefore may better be understood as Latin. (This, he says, is OK because the hoaxer would not be bound by linguistic laws.) From this, he presents several examples of what he says is the word illu in the Vulgate Bible, along with instances where it was used on a website about Latin. He therefore translates illu as a code for light, as in illumination, in the “masculine tense.”
Therefore, after running each word of the prayer through online translation programs to find alternative meanings, he re-translates the entire phrase as “AUM, Nobility of the Illuminated,” as in the Illuminati. We’ll deal with “AUM” in a moment.
While Stewart may not be a linguist, I speak Latin, and I’ve never heard of “illu.” It does not conform to standard Latin usage, and there is no “masculine tense.” Masculine and feminine are genders, and Latin has three genders, including neuter. Only verbs have tenses; nouns have cases.
The Vulgate passage he cites as including “illu” (Luke 22:57) is misquoted. It is actually “at ille negavit eum dicens mulier non novi illum.” In this case, “illum” is the masculine singular accusative case of “ille”—that, which. Similarly, his second quotation (Exodus 12:47) is also misquoted. The Vulgate actually gives it this way: “omnis coetus filiorum Israhel faciet illud,” with “illud” being the neuter form of “ille.” The other quotations provided as ancillary proof in a footnote are also misquoted. Mark 1:43 has “illum” and Luke 23:21 “illum” again. While some medieval Latin manuscripts omit the final letter to save space, indicating it only with a small hook or dot on the preceding vowel, the source consulted, linked here, simply stops its excerpt with the last letter searched for and does not display the rest of the word. Try it yourself by typing in any partial Latin word.
The next website he cites discusses vulgar Latin, not Classical Latin, and the example of “illu” on that website refers to an elided form of Latin where the terminal “s” had been dropped, en route to becoming Italian, Spanish, etc. There, “illu omine magnu” are not Classical words but a decayed form of “ille hominus magnus” in which some letters have dropped out and the vowels consequently shifted. In the other examples, the accusative neuter “illud” had its final “d” removed and serves as nominative and accusative. It is the rough equivalent of the relationship between Ebonics and English.
Therefore, Stewart’s proposed “translation” of the KRS AVM phrase cannot hold.
He next suggests that the Freemasons masterminded the American Revolution. An equal number of Masons were on the Loyalist side during the Revolution, and Masonic Lodges actually served as middle ground where the two sides would break from fighting to enjoy meals. So, unless the conspiracy stage-managed the whole thing, this is also unlikely to be a tenable claim.
I admit to having trouble following Stewart’s discussion of Charles T. McClenachan, a nineteenth century Freemason whose work Stewart uses to tie AVM to AUM (a Freemason symbol brought in from early scholarship on Sanskrit, the presumed oldest world language, as a name for God) and thus to numerological totals showing up on the KRS. Stewart knows McClenachan’s Book of Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Freemasonry (1868) only from an edited online version, which has led him terribly astray. In the online source, Stewart felt that he saw the Tetragrammaton and three lines of Hebrew presented as keys to a puzzle, with special instructions for decoding Hebrew into a numerological language exclusively for Freemasons. He also thought he saw equivalencies made between the Hebrew names of God and English words.
Unfortunately, I have reviewed McClenachan’s original text as published in 1868, 1884, 1899, and 1914, and he does not provide, as Stewart claims, “English-based” Hebrew equivalents, nor are the three lines of Hebrew presented as a puzzle. Instead they are pasted in (in Hebrew) without comment above a piece of sheet music (1884 ed., 1914 ed.). What Stewart call “instructions” are actually the recent online poster’s interpolation into the text to indicate that he or she has replaced the original Hebrew lines with a transliteration not found in the original in typing up (and condensing) the book for the web. Therefore, Stewart’s “instructions” are wrong, and his analysis is predicated on a false claim. The “equivalencies” are not to be read as equations for a code but rather as some of the 72 names of God. Stewart missed quite a bit of context by not reviewing the original work.
He next applies his new understanding to the Ten Commandments, but in using numerology on them fails to note that they are numbered differently by Jews, Catholics, and Protestants (the text of the Bible does not number them). This would affect his analysis depending on whose Commandments he is totaling in numerological value. Similarly, the number of the Beast is given differently in various manuscripts, as either 666 or 616, with the oldest papyrus fragments giving 616, so therefore any numerology based on that has to deal with the discrepancy.
Overall, I failed to understand why Stewart’s rules for working with KRS numbers change for his convenience. Sometimes the numbers are read as whole numbers and sometimes as numerological digits. When you can change the rules at will, it’s no wonder you can make all sorts of “meaningful” numbers, and then imagine a designer behind every coincidence.
I didn’t really read much farther in the book. Most of the sources are from web pages, popular magazines, and above all nineteenth century books. There is no engagement with modern scholarship, no research into recent work except for Scott Wolter’s. As much as I’d love to say Stewart proved a widespread hoaxing effort, the failures of the book’s scholarship prevent me from endorsing his conclusions.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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