Cicada 3301 is an internet phenomenon. Starting on January 4, 2012, the mysterious group has posted difficult puzzles on the internet, supposedly to recruit ‘highly intelligent individuals’.

Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-atribuut; de bestandsnaam is 3301orig2012cesarincluded.jpg

A second puzzle round started on January 4, 2013, and a third on the same date one year later. No more puzzles were given, and the group only communicated twice since that time, on January 5, 2016 and in April 2017. The last puzzle of the 2014 edition was the ‘publication’ of the Liber Primus, (Latin for ‘First Book’) written in an unkown rune characters, of which only a couple of pages could be decyphered.

Nobody known who or what ‘Cicada 3301’ is or for what it stands, but there are still a considerable amount of enthusiasts who try to find out more about Cicada 3301 and/or want to solve the Liber Primus puzzle in order to proceed further down the proverbial rabbithole.

The cover

The cover of the Liber Primus was found on a – now ‘dead’ – page on the dark web: auqgnxjtvdbll3pv.onion. The html title given to the page was ‘For Every Thing That Lives Is Holy’, a rather religious sounding phrase. The file itself was named 1033.jpg. When the image was processed by a programm called OutGuess – a tool used before by Cicada 3301 – the following message was found hidden in the file ‘Welcome. Good luck. 3301’, along with the digital encypted ‘authograph’ of the organization (known to be used for all communication) and some other cryptographic clues in order to find the 56 pages of the entire Liber.

Since I am not a skilled cryptographer, mathematician or programmer, I turned to the collage that is the cover of the Liber Primus. Many have tried to interpret it before, but I seem to have found a possibility that I have not found anybody else having tried. So here, for better or worse, is mine. My primary assumption is that the interpretation of the cover is connected to the biblical figure of Daniel (from the Hebrew Bible book with the same name).

The cover is divided in four tiles, all segments of works by William Blake,


The first painting is of Nebuchadnezzar, especially as depicted in the Biblical book of Daniel 4. In this chapter, the king of Babylon – commonly reffered to as Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned c. 605 – c. 562 BC) – is taught a lesson by Israel’s God, ‘who is able to bring low those who walk in pride’. After seven years of God-induced madness, he is cured and praises God, as Daniel predicted when interpreting the king’s own dream earlier.

The Ancient of Days

The third segment is that of the frontpiece of Europe a Prophecy, respectively drawn and written by Blake in 1974. The frontpiece depicts one of Blake’s divine entities, known as Urizen, associated in Blake’s mythology with Reason. The frontpiece itself is called ‘Ancient of Days’, one of the many names given to the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible. The specific notion of ‘Ancient of days’ (palaios hemeron in the Greek Septuagint, and antiquus dierum in the Latin Vulgate) is found – again – in the book of Daniel.

I kept looking / Until thrones were set up, / And the Ancient of Days took His seat; / His vesture was like white snow / And the hair of His head like pure wool. / His throne was ablaze with flames, / Its wheels were a burning fire. (NASB 7:9)

I kept looking in the night visions, / And behold, with the clouds of heaven / One like a Son of Man was coming, / And He came up to the Ancient of Days / And was presented before Him. (NASB 7:13)

I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. (NASB 7:21-22)


The second fragment, of Blake’s Newton, seems to have no connection with the book of Daniel, but I beg to differ. In the first place, Blake took serious issue with two Newtonian ideas: absolute space and time, and supramechanical force (C. Kaiser, Creational theology and the history of physical science (1997), p. 328; online). In the second place, in 1773, Newton himself published a book about – yes, here we are – Daniel, called Observations upon the prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1773, online).


Now, all four panels of the cover of the Liber Primus, as well al the three drawings they were taken from have one thing in common: Daniel from the Hebrew Bible. The choice for a religious figure with apocalyptic connotations for Cicada’s third cycle is not too surprisingly. The religious language is very noticeable in all the circles, the third forming no excpetion. When the third round was announced on the 6th of January 2014, the message, found on Cicada’s twitter, sounded religious in tone too.

It uses common religious notions like ‘epiphany’ (a revelation), ‘pilgrimage’ and ‘enlightment’. The last concept, incidentally or not, was something William Blake was very critical of.

Epiphany is upon you. Your pilgrimage has begun. Enlightment awaits.

A little more than two years, no hint or clue was given, but neither was the Liber Primus code cracked. So, on the 6th of January, 2016, Cicada gave a little reminder, again using religious language (‘path’, ‘empty’, ‘epiphany’, ‘devoted’, ‘false paths’, and so forth), and pointing – again – to the Liber Primus as the one and only place to go for proceeding with their third puzzle. The original dump the twitter message refered to is ‘dead’, but an archived version is available.

Hello. The path lies empty; epiphany seeks the devoted. Liber Primus is the way. Its words are the map, their meaning is the road, and their numbers are the direction. Seek and you will be found. Good luck. 3301. Beware false paths.

The last bit is a warning by Cicada 3301 to always check for authenticity in messages, to make sure they are genuine ones. But the phrase ‘seek and you will be found’ is rather familiar sounding. In Mathew 7:7, Jesus told his disciples:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. (NASB)

The numbers

The next piece of the puzzle is the thing, Newton’s finger is pointing to. In the original drawing of William Blake’s there is nothing to be seen but the line Newton is drawing, thus gaining attention to the perfect mathematical figures. In Cicada’s version, however, at least that is what some have claimed, Newton’s finger is pointing at a distortion in the file, nearly undetectable by the naked eye.

It appears to be Roman numbers, either MXXXIII (=1033) or MMMCCCI (=3301), the last one being the ‘calling card’ of the Cicada organization. The file was called, after all, 1033.jpg. It would have been rather convenient if the book of Daniel would contain a verse 33:1 or 10:33, but unfortunately chapter 33 does not exist, and chapter 10 has no verse beyond the 21st.

America, a prophecy

When we continue to search for a connection between Blake and Daniel, besides Nebuchadnezzar and The ancient of days, there is a passage on plate 8 of Blake’s America a prophecy (1793). The last three lines contain a reference to Daniel.

Fires inwrap the earthly globe, yet man is not consumed;
Amidst the lustful fires he walks, his feet become like brass,
His knees and thighs like silver, & his breast and head like gold.

This is slightly different from the original of Daniel 2:32-33:

The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. (NASB)

Rembrandt: Belshazzar’s feast

When looking for famous classic paintings based on the book of Daniel, the most prominent ones are about Daniel in the lion’s den (chapter 6), the refusal of Daniel and his two friends to bow for the Babylonian idols (chapter 3), the aforementioned Nebuchadnezzar, or the story of Susannah and the Elders (the so-called deutrocanonical part of Daniel). Exception to this rule is one picture by Rembrandt van Rijn, called ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ (1635).

The story depicted is from Daniel chapter 5. When the Babylonian king Belshazzar thorws a party, he and his guest drink from the sacred vessels stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem. When this blasphemous act takes place, a hand appears writing on the wall (hence the expression ‘the writing is on the wall‘). Since nobody can decipher the writing, Daniel, known for his wisdom (he already explained the dream of Belshazzar’s father Nebuchadnezzar), is called for decyphering. Daniel explains:

Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians. (NASB 5:25-28)

The word mene means ‘counted’ and is interpreted to indicate that Belshazzar’s days as king are numbers. Tekel means ‘weighed’ and is interpreted as meaning that the king’s soul has been judged and deemed too light. Upharsin means ‘divided’, indicating the split of the Babylonian empire when Belshazzar dies. However, the words can also have a numeral value: mene = 50 shekel, tekel = 1 shekel, and upharsin is 1/2 shekel. If one wants to push, the writing would be ‘worth’ 101.5 shekel.

Menasseh ben Israel’s help

Rembrandt van Rijn is the only famous painter of Daniel 5 to include the writing on the wall in Hebrew (instead of Latin or just the ommission of the words all together). But that is not all: Rembrandt even accounts for the fact that none of Belhazzar’s wise men could translate the words, while Daniel could do so easily. (Narratively speaking the ‘inability’ of Belshazzar’s men is more indicative of their puzzlment at the interpretation of the words than the words itself.) Rembrandt paints the Hebrew letters of mene, mene, tekel, upharsin not horizontally from right to left (as the Hebrew language is written), but from top to bottom in three columns.

Compared to the conventional method of writing:

For those who watch closely, we can see that Rembrandt made one little error in the spelling of his Hebrew. Rembrandt’s last letter (still touched by the hand) is a zayin (resembling a Roman ‘t’) instead of a original closing nun in the original Hebrew. While one could theorize that the painter had a special, secret meaning with this ‘deliberate error’, it is far easier to point to the fact that Rembrandt couldn’t speak or write Hebrew in the first place, and that he had to rely on the help of his Jewish friend Menasseh ben Israel, whose portrait he etched (see below).

Menasseh ben Israel (meaning ‘Menasseh, zoon van Israël in Hebrew) was a Portuguese rabbi (1604 – 1657), who fled his homeland becuase of the Inquisition, to the Netherlands, where he founded the first Hebrew printing press in Amsterdam (1626), called Emeth Meerets Titsma’h, meaning ‘Truth will come forth from the land’, a reference to Psalm 85:12. He was also Baruch Spinoza’s teacher. Menasseh helped Rembrandt with the writing on the wall, although this could not prevent a small error creep into the final painting.

Jung’s Daniel

Let’s continue a little bit further on the trail of Daniel as a key for the interpretation of the cover (and perhaps other parts) of the Liber Primus. As has been observed before, the image of a laying man on (the decoded) pages 107.jpg, 167.jpg, and 229.jpg has been associated with an image from the Carl Jung’s Red Book (written between 1915 and 1930, published in 2009).

The first two contain the last parts of a koan, the third one has another kind of messages (the numeral code has not been cracked yet, and the ‘-‘ have been added by me for convenience’s sake).


434 1311 312 278 966 204 812 934 280 1071 626 620 809 620 626 1071 280 934 812 204 966 278 312 1311 434

An almost identical image can be found on in Jung’s Red Book (p. 44 in Jung’s sequence, and p. 281 in the edited text from 2009).

This page is part of the first part of Jung’s Red Book, heavily illustrated like a medieval manuscript. Later on, Jung continued with a more modern and sober style. The first part is collectively known as the Liber Primus, just like Cicada’s book. Interestingly enough, in the 2009 edition of the Red Book, the Liber Primus starts on page 229, just as the Cicada file was called containing the cryptic message (shown above).

Jung is refering to Daniel one time explicedly in his Red Book, in the Liber Primus, that is, in a section called ‘One of the Lowly’ (p. 12 original, p. 265 edited). Jung relates one of his dreams he had on December 29th, 1913, in which he meets a stranger on a snow-covered evening. The stranger identifies himself als the former pupil of a locksmith, looking for work. It is important to note that locksmiths have been associated with cryptography.

When Jung suggests he finds work at a farm, the stranger declines saying ‘it is boring in the country (…) there is no mental stimulation’. When asked what kind of stimulation one can find in the city, the stranger mentions the cinema: ‘it is great and cheap’ and ‘you get to see everything that happens in the world’. When asked about what interests him, the stranger replies:

One sees all sorts of stunning feats. There was one man who ran up houses. Another carried his head under his arm. Another even stood in the middle of a fire and wasn’t burnt. Yes, it’s really remarkable, the things that people can do.

Jung first rejects the stranger’s words, but corrects himself immediately:

But wait – that does seem remarkable: didn’t the saints also carry their heads under their arms? Didn’t Saint Francis and Saint Ignatius levitate – and what about the three men in the fiery furnace? Isn’t it a blasphemous idea to consider the Acta Sanctorum as historical cinema? Oh, todays miracles are simply somewhat less mythical than technical. I regard my companion with feeling – he lives the history of the world – and I?

The saints carrying their heads under their arms is a reference to the 3rd century martyrs Felix, Regula, and Exuperantius, who are depicted in the emblem of the city of Zürich. Saint Francis and Ignatius were said to have been able to levitate above the ground. The Acta Sanctorum is a collection of documents describing the lives of the early Christian saints.

The ‘fiery furnace’, however, is a direct reference to Daniel 3, where Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego were thrown in a furnace by Neduchadnezzar because they refused to worship the Babylonian idols. According to the story, God saved them from certain death, causing the king to decree that he would cut up anyone who would speak against Daniel’s God. The number of three people in the furnace story is mirrored in the number of pages of the Liber Primus containing the ‘laying man’.

Jung’s 107 mandala

When associating Cicada’s 229.jpg with Jung’s Red Book, we find that the edited version of Jung’s Liber Primus start on page 229 (as I have explained above). The other image names of Cicada’s pages with the ‘laying man’ are 107.jpg and 167.jpg. Looking for page 167 in Jung’s book does not seem to give much to go on, but on 107 (original text), a mandala is found.

The mandala seems to represent the four elements of the four winds, and is covered with symbols associating with Mayanesque drawings. As we remember that the first edition of the Cicada’s puzzle (season 2012) used Mayan numerals as a key.

On this point, I do not have any more ideas to share. Hopefully, this will help the community to unsolve the puzzle of the Liber Primus any further. I do not believe in conspiracies, I do not believe in a secret world dominating society, but I do believe in the power of working together to solve the smaller and larger puzzles of our existence.

Good look to alle solvers.

PS. I have posted on reddit for discussion.

More information on Cicada 3301: