Beyond that, however, there is room for disagreement and conjecture aplenty.
I first learned of this announcement through Chris Hodapp's post on his most excellent blog, "Freemasons For Dummies." Later in the day, Chris posted an update, noting that Doubleday had put up a web page purporting to be that of Dan Brown's character, Robert Langdon. Chris noted that this web page seemed to suggest that Brown's novel would not be focused in a Masonic direction.
I can see why good Brother Hodapp would say this. After all, the web page focuses on a parchment (headed "La Profezia," pictured above--entirely fictional, of course). The parchment purportedly was written by Leonardo Da Vinci, supposedly containing a coded message regarding a prophecy of the future. Given that Da Vinci died almost two full centuries before the founding of the premier Grand Lodge of Freemasonry, this would seem to put Masonry out of the picture, as it were.
I think otherwise.
Go and take a good close look at the cypher on this scroll titled "La Profezia," purportedly by Da Vinci in Dan Brown's fictional world.
Not the same as something some (not all) Masonic brethren have seen elsewhere, but familiar. Reminiscent.
I would direct your attention to the publication of different versions of various Masonic cyphers of centuries past, in reliable publications by experienced Masonic authors:
- Consider the unnamed code (illustrated above in black-and-white) published in the most important Masonic exposure every published in the United States, David K. Bernard's Light on Masonry (5th ed., 1829). This was reprinted in 2008 by what I consider to be the most important Masonic research organization in America today, the Scottish Rite Research Society, in an edition edited by Arturo de Hoyos. (The book was given as a free premium to members of the Society--membership therein being one of the finest bargains in the Masonic world; and you don't even have to be Scottish Rite to join the Society!) See page 138 of the original 5th edition, page 358 of the reprint.
- To me, the fictional "La Profezia" cypher resembles the very old Kabbalistic cypher known as Aiq Beker, or the 'Kabbalah of the Nine Chambers.' However, the Aiq Beker itself is the basis for a cypher used in 1827 by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, described in a letter written by Ill.: J.J.J. Gourgas himself. The Aiq Beker and the Gourgas cypher are described in detail on pp. 928-931 of Arturo de Hoyos's 2007 book, Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide (available at substantial discount through the"Master Craftsman" program of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite).
- The "La Profezia" cypher also bears resemblance to some French Masonic cyphers, reprinted and distributed to Scottish Rite officers by Albert Pike in the latter half of the 19th century. (See de Hoyos' Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide, p. 932.)
- Two forms of the so-called Pigpen or Freemason's Cypher are given on p. 269 of W. Kirk MacNulty's lavishly illustrated (and really wonderful) book, Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance (New York & London: Thames and Hudson, 2006); these have a certain resemblance to the "La Profezia" cypher.
- Finally, Bro. Hodapp published a version of this sort of Masonic cypher code on p. 206 of his fine myth-busting book, Solomon's Builders: Freemasons, Founding Fathers and the Secrets of Washington, D.C. (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2007)
The upshot of all this: the fictional cypher, attributed to Da Vinci, used to promote Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol, looks a great deal like various Masonic cyphers from a later era than Da Vinci's. Based on this evidence, I will go out on a limb here: I conclude that it is highly likely that The Lost Symbol will prominently feature Freemasonry. Years ago, Dan Brown said that the sequel to The Da Vinci Code would be set in the world of the Masons--a statement still on his website today (click here and search "Masons"). Hey, the "La Profezia" is supposed to be a prophecy, right? Perhaps it prophesies of the rise of Freemasonry, or--more likely, I think--the founding of the United States, a project in which at least the ideals of Freemasonry played an important part.
There is a point to making this call--"yeah, The Lost Symbol features Freemasonry"--early, well before publication. Even though Freemasonry was only mentioned in passing in The Da Vinci Code, that passing reference seems to have resulted in a substantial spike in interest in the Fraternity (a spike fed further by the motion picture, National Treasure). If The Lost Symbol really does feature Freemasonry very prominently, as I suspect it will, this will drive a substantial increase in interest in Masonry. I would suggest that we prepare for that, a subject to which I expect I shall return in future posts.
- Let every Grand Lodge and even every Masonic District--hey, every particular lodge--have someone assigned to answer questions about Freemasonry from media personnel who want to know how accurate The Lost Symbol is in its depiction of Freemasonry. (And pick people who are going to read the book!)
- Plan Lost Symbol-themed Masonic open houses (on the lodge or District or Grand Lodge level) around the release of the book, trailing that release by a month or so (say, late October). (How's this for a title for an open house: "Finding the Lost Symbol"?)