Decoding the mysteries of 'The Lost Symbol'

Digging into the secrets that lie behind the novels of Dan Brown is a passion for some -- particularly for Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer who have assembled a group of historians, theologians, scientists and others to crack the hidden mysteries. In their book, "Secrets of the Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code Sequel," they uncover anagrams and coded phrases and a host of other curious facts.


I actually began my research into Dan Brown's current No. 1 best seller, "The Lost Symbol," almost six years ago -- back when "The Da Vinci Code" was at the top of the best seller list and Dan Brown had yet to write a word of the new novel.

As our team did its research for "Secrets of the Code," we discovered that the jacket flaps of "The Da Vinci Code" contained odd, seemingly random bold letters. Later, we strung these letters together and figured out that they spelled out: Is there no help for the widow's son? We then went on to deconstruct the meaning of that question (which turns out to be very important in Freemasonry), and draw our conclusion that Dan Brown's next novel would be about the Freemasons and would be set in Washington, D.C.

Now, six years later, "The Lost Symbol" is out -- and so too is our book, which I wrote with co-author Arne de Keijzer, with assistance from more than three dozen expert contributors in fields from theology to cryptography. It turns out we were right -- Dan Brown's new book is about the Freemasons and is set in Washington, D.C.

Based on our past experience with "The Da Vinci Code," we paid close attention to Dan Brown's new cover. And what did we find? Using various decryption tools we can identify these three coded phrases:



We also found on the back cover, by combining words at the top and bottom, a small but important reference to the hermetic adage:


In "Secrets of the Lost Symbol," we explain the relevance of all these phrases.

Here's just one example:

Pope's Pantheon refers to a series of architectural works by Freemason architect John Russell Pope, who designed the Scottish Rite Freemason headquarters building on 16th Street in Washington where the opening scene and the climactic scene of "The Lost Symbol" take place.

But Pope also designed the Jefferson Memorial, which is in the shape of a classical Roman pantheon building. More than that: The whole idea of a pantheon ties in to the belief, stated many times in "The Lost Symbol," that all gods, and all religions, are important manifestations of humankind's search for spiritual connectedness to the universe. So even after you have decoded "Pope's Pantheon," you still have multiple meanings to contemplate.

There are many more codes inside the book.

A numerical series that appears toward the end of "The Lost Symbol" as a mock email thread number -- 2456282.5 -- has been decrypted by one of our experts (Elonka Dunin, one of the world's leading experts on Kryptos, the enigmatic sculpture outside CIA headquarters in Langley) as December 21, 2012 -- some people's view of the date the world is supposed to end, according to the ancient Mayan calendar. (Elonka is honored in "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown with a character who is a near perfect anagram of her name, Nola Kaye).

Another one of our experts sees a correspondence between each character in "The Lost Symbol," and one of the Tarot cards.

Character names are also meaningful, either in other languages or as anagrams. For example, when the evil Mal'akh is assuming the role of Dr. Abaddon, his surname actually means "place of destruction" in Hebrew and has direct reference to the bottomless pit of the Book of Revelation. Mal'akh's basement in his home will be turned into a bottomless pit of death and destruction in the course of the night's action in the novel.

Several of our experts have interpreted scenes in the novel as conforming to specific steps along the Freemason initiation rites.

Others have theorized that certain words are mentioned a certain number of times as part of a coded message. Washington, for example, is mentioned 111 times, which happens to be an important number in a certain magic square, based on the magic square of Albrecht Durer's engraving, Melencolia I, which plays a major role in the book.

In addition to touring the codes and secret messages of "The Lost Symbol," our book also delves into Dan Brown's vision of Washington, D.C. as a city. We take readers on what I like to call the "Magical Masonic, Mystery Tour," in which we describe the mystical, spiritual, and Masonic connections to the Capitol Rotunda, with its magnificent fresco of the Apotheosis of Washington filling its dome; the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson's vision of a cathedral devoted to the book; the Egyptian obelisk of the Washington Monument and the Monument's long strange history; the sphinx-guarded Freemason headquarters known as the House of the Temple; the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Va., and the National Cathedral with its Darth Vader grotesque on its fa├žade

By Steven E. Levingston |  January 8, 2010; 5:32 AM ET Steven Levingston
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