Gleanings From The Past #63

Numerical Coincidence

I have heard of certain individuals being regulated in all the important events of their lives by certain peculiar numbers, which fell out to them respectively, with a strangeness of accuracy which it is almost impossible to reckon altogether the effect of chance. The following account, which is taken from the work of an Arabian historian, affords a very remarkable example of this sort of fortuitous combination in the horoscope of a particular individual:

The historian Sebl Aljouzi, in the book called the Mirror of the Worlds relates that the Khalif Almotaseni was born in the year one hundred and eighty, in the eighth month of it, and died on the eighteenth night, being the latter part of the month Ramazan; and he was the eighth of the Khalifs of the sons of Abbas: also he gained eight victories, and he made eight kings stand before his gate; and he slew eighty enemies; and his life was forty-eight years; and his reign eight years, eight months and eight days; and he left eight sons and eight daughters, and eight hundred million dinars, and eight hundred million dirhems, and eighty thousand horses, and eighty thousand camels, and mules and beasts of labour, and eighty thousand tents, and eighty thousand male slaves, and eighty thousand female slaves; and he built eight palaces; and the sculpture on his seal was ALH’MD’LL’H (‘Praise be to God!), eight letters, and his number from his horoscope was eight in every thing.”

The Asiatic Journal, Vol. 5, May-August 1831

Crime as Virtue

“In this world,” says Bishop Taylor, “men thrive by villainy. Lying and deceiving are accounted just — to be rich is to be wise, and tyranny is honourable; and though little thefts and petty mischiefs are interrupted by the laws, yet if a mischief become public or great, acted by princes and effected by armies, and robberies be done by whole fleets, it is virtue—it is glory!”

Trenton Evening Times, September 14, 1914


One Filmer, defending witches in England, is said to have made this ingenious defense. His clients were charged, as was usual, with being accessory to the devil. Under the common law there could be no accessory unless there was also a principal; and no accessory could be convicted until the principal was convicted; for if the principal be acquitted there is no guilty principal and hence can be no accessory. Consequently until the principal be convicted the accessory cannot be tried.

Taking advantage of this state of the law, Filmer argued that his clients could not be tried until their alleged principal had been tried and convicted, and how could this be done? Only according to the law of the land. In the first place how could the devil be summoned? The officer serving the precept would either be obliged to go to the devil and summons him personally, or, failing that, would be obliged to leave a copy of the precept at his usual place of abode. Although admiring friends of the officer may from time to time have advised him to do both, yet the practical application of such advice is an impossibility. Then assuming the respondent to be duly summoned, he would be entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers. But His Satanic Majesty has no peers, and even if he had, they would be certain to be in collusion with the respondent and would certainly acquit him. Under any circumstances therefore how could his accessories be tried?

— H. C. Shurtleff, “The Grotesque in Law,” American Law Review, January-February 1920

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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