Friday, 22 July 2011

Why the number 5? What does it mean?

In a recent comment, Andre reminded me of something I have become so used to that I had forgotten how extraordinary it is. He said; It's monumentally obvious that the number 5 had a very special and important meaning to Bessler. It pops up everywhere."

I think this is something that people forget or are unaware of or disregard - and yet Johann Bessler was so preoccupied with the number five that he inserted it or hid it,in every single document he published as well as many that never saw the light of day, until recently.

Everyone is familiar with the pentagram and its association with the number five, and Bessler certainly was, because it too, appears, or should I say, is hidden within, many of his drawings. Hidden it may be, but it is easily found once you are aware of his fondness for it. Space prevents me from detailing all the many coded references to the pentagram and the number 5, but you can see some of the evidence at my website

So the question is; why did Bessler include so many references to the number 5?

I suggested that it was to tell us that a gravity-driven wheel, capable of driving another device, has to have five mechanisms to accomplish the task. I also considered it likely that it was intended as a pointer to the most comprehensively encoded text of all of Bessler's publications, chapter 55 of his "Poetica Apologia".

Bessler became known as 'Orffyreus' at about the same time he first exhibited his wheel, a single-direction one, in 1712. So at that time he must have already decided on a simple code, alphabetic substitution, to use as a pseudonym for Bessler, probably designed to suggest that at least he had an interest or was knowledgeable about such things. In addition he added two more forenames to his given one, which was "Elias". The names, "Johann Ernst", do not appear on his birth registration documents but a glance through my website at shows how he also introduced the same 'number five' theme into his pseudonym at or before the time he first exhibited his wheel.

It seems to me that he must have already decided to encode information about his wheel so that, at some point in future, he would be able to show that he was the original inventor, long before he was successful - and to me that is a likely scenario as I have been guilty of the same!

So does the number five relate to the wheel or the code or something else? The problem is that the number five and the pentagram have several connotations. In fact they hold so many commonly understood, subjective cultural and emotional associations, in addition to their explicit or literal meaning, that the potential for misinterpretations are boundless. Connections include,the golden section, Mary Magdalen, the planet Venus and Freemasonry, to mention just some  the morer diverse ones.

I think that Bessler found the best way to produce a gravitywheel which was suffiently powerful to be able to drive an additional piece of machinery, such as a water pump. This design required five mechanisms for reasons which I will discuss in a later blog. Five then formed the core of his subsequent code. He built a large dual direction wheel at Kassel, which required two lots of five mechanisms - one for each direction - hence the ubiquity of the two number fives i.e."5,5". What better use of "5,5" than to write his autobiography "Apologia Poetica", incorporating his code into Chapter 55 and inserting numerous pentagrams into the drawings in other documents.

How delightful to fill the ensuing book and all his drawings with veiled references to the his mysterious number 5s - and sit back and watch as others pored over the clues and tried to make sense of them!



  1. In what document does Bessler describe the wheel as "So simple, yet so hidden."? Or was it just made up?

  2. Anonymous- The document is "Das Triumphirende Perpetuum Mobile Orffyreanum," 1719, page 63, first paragraph. The translation given on p212 of John's republication is:

    "And in truth it now seems to me that the time is long overdue, now that I have achieved my goal, once known only to God, that I and the world should see this principle, in itself so simple, and yet at the same time so deeply hidden, of everlasting motion, described in total detail and in mathematical simplicity, in praise of God's boundless wisdom, and for the benefit of the entire world."

  3. Primemignonite23 July 2011 at 08:21

    Refering to the thing's operative mechanism ". . . pairs of pairs . . ." did comprise it, so Bessler stated, as-written.

    He tells us explicitly that, IT is to be a minimum of TWO.

    I think - within the uniformly and copiously specified angle of operation - TEN (or FIVE pairs for any fancying that number) would likely assure a constant, out-of-balance condition regardless of position and, all still fit together nicely, given careful design and considered construction.

    Gravity being what it is - uniform and unchanging for given constant position - any mechanized creature made to respond like life would, and, offering work capacity as well, MIGHT best be made asymmetrical OF RESPONSE to the perfect symmetry that is gravity's main attraction.

    At it's very best, the creative mind of Man is a wonder-supernatural, being naturally not bound by itself.

    Our wonderful, multifarious animal/insect co-inhabitants of Earth, appear NOT imbued thus, they having other, alternate talents which we could only hope to approach.

    Bessler's mind saw over (super) Nature in a particular, specialized way, and then TRIUMPHED over the teeming, lower-sighted.

    So, let US go forh and do likewise.

    ". . . pairs of pairs . . ."


  4. Thanks for pointing out where Bessler spoke of its simpleness.

  5. May I inject another possibility here with regard to the meaning of the number 5? It might very well be that Bessler indicated 5 pendulums (or similar mechanisms) but I think there might be more to it. Hence his referral to 5 *and* 5. After all he loved to have meanings within meanings, clues within clues, and this seems to point to that as well.

    Perhaps old fox Bessler was not only referring so much to the number of mechanisms used, but *also* to the types (or variety) of mechanisms used - to wit:

    1. Overbalancing and/or 'kiiking'
    2. Moving pivot(s)
    3. A torque storage mechanism (wheel in a wheel?) for transforming and storing potential kinetic energy from falling pendulums
    4. A 'connectedness principle' mechanism (clutch for releasing stored torque at timed intervals)
    5. A 'driver' or regulator in the form of (my beloved) a parametric oscillator (in electronics, that would be the central "clock" driving all other systems)

    Something tells me he's hinting to that as well, since he himself mentioned he had learned the hard way that overbalancing alone won't do the trick.

  6. You made an interesting remark, John, when you said " every single document he published as well as many that never saw the light of day, until recently."

    Can you elaborate on that, John? Did you discover new documents and facts?

  7. I think I mentioned elsewhere that I have microfilm containing over 600 documents relating to Bessler. One of them contains the 141 MT drawings; others include numerous letters which unfortunately are almost illegible - to undersatnd what I mean you only have to look at the MT notes to see. There are drawings, copies of which I placed on the windmill 'floorplan' page at

    There are also pages of proposed designs for a leather tanning factory and a submarine. Also there is a page showing examples of the alphanumeric substitutions on Biblical quotations.

    So there is much to learn yet. But some of it is aged too much to discern anything until some scientific/technological institution applies its skills in this area.


  8. I did read somewhere that the number five represented 'inventiveness'and 'new life'.

  9. The problem with 5 mechanisms is that the wheel made 8 noises each time it revolved. 8 noises per revolution times the number of revolutions per minute gives you the noises per minute. This turns out to be 8 x 26 = 208.If you have a metronome, you can set it to this number and get a feel for what that tempo of noises might have sounded like. I mention this because if you set your metronome to 5 x 26 = 130, you get a noticeable difference in the tempo of the noises. I think you might be surprised if you try this. You'd probably come to the conclusion that the witnesses of the Kassel wheel are right. So the number 5 doesn't have to refer to the number of mechanisms. I think your other hunch is right, he used it to point to those other things.
    But, we'll never know. The wheels were are all destroyed.

  10. Doug, I wonder whether there could just possibly be an exception, i.e. one wheel that might not have been destroyed. I mean the wheel that was "commissioned from England" that Bessler wrote about in his letter of April 26, 1745, not long before his death. From memory, this was for the Royal Society? If so, I wonder whether a search of their records would turn up anything. Just imagine if that wheel was still lying somewhere, maybe under a pile of rubble in some disused storeroom!

    John, still on the trail of clues, I endorse Andre's call for any new documents that you could publish, even with barely legible notes. In your "Acknowledgements" to Maschinen Tractate, you mention facsimiles of a number of original Bessler documents, with English translations done by Andrew Witter. Again from my memory I think you said a while ago that you had some more information (drawings?) about a working Bessler Wheel?

  11. I went to the Royal Society library in London and checked their records. The man who commissioned the last wheel was Antony Mannsberg, a member of the R.S. He turned out to be Bessler's landlord but was employed in the sevice of his king, George 1st. and resident in London.

    There is nothing else relating to the commission because of the threat from the Jacobites who wanted to stick Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, on the throne. All travel was suspended at the time.

    I had a colleague who was able to discover that the descendents of Mannsberg still live in the same house near Karlshafen and he obtained permission to view the Count's own libray but apparently it was in such a mess that it was impossible to make a search and he gave up.

    This is obviously a place to look for further information but it will have to wait until the records have been organised and nothing has been started in that direction yet.

    Andrew Witter did the translation of the MT notes which I included in my publication.

    The information on a working wheel is related to drawings currently available, i.e. GB, AP, DT and MT.

    I am considering putting the remaining documents on line for people to study but it will be a big job for me, but probably worth while.


  12. I did the exercise myself, Doug and I agree that there is a noticeable difference in sound between the two speeds. You will also know that the sound of tapping is very fast and it would not be surpring if he miscounted - I'm not suggesting that he did.

    In my own experiments there are other noises of parts of mechanisms returning to previous positions and if these were present in the Kassel wheel, they could have been misinterpreted, also Bessler might have deadened the sound of one or more taps by inserting some felt as he said he did for an earlier wheel, to quieten its noise.

    Finally, the witness, did say "the sound of about eight...". He used the word "about" and was not precise and yet he spent considerable time there listening to the sounds.

    My thought was that if there were five mechanisms and he deadened the sound of one of them, that leaves four mechanisms to make falling and returning sounds?


  13. Well, I could make the argument that there were 9 and he deadened the sound of one of them.
    If they made the same sound falling and returning, then wouldn't they have to impact the rim or boards in a different location on the wheel's position in space? They might have impacted at say, 1. And then at reset, impacted at 7, say. If you were standing there counting the sound of the weights wouldn't you concentrate on the sound that was providing the drive? On the descending side? I think the guy deserves more credit. His eyes would have been about level with the axle. He could have noticed a stain or something on the canvas and used that as a reference point for the first weight.
    Gotta go.


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