Special Note: I now provide a comprehensive key to the Twitter tweets sent out by Dan Brown's publishers to promote The Lost Symbol in a new blog, "Key to The Lost Symbol Tweets," available here.
- - - - -
(Your correspondent, following the Residential Move From Heck as scheduled by the Nostradamus Moving Company, is just now returning to the Internet. We will resume our ongoing series on the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry shortly. However, some late-breaking news in another part of the Masonic world requires our immediate attention.)
The imminent release of the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown's forthcoming novel, The Lost Symbol, brings up one special question for Freemasons and many others: to what extent will this novel feature Freemasonry? Although Brown had once stated explicitly on his official website that the sequel to The Da Vinci Code would be placed in the world of Freemasonry, that website (http://www.danbrown.com/) has now been replaced by a website counting down the seconds to the release of The Lost Symbol (http://www.thelostsymbol.com/). Is Brown distancing himself from his earlier statement about depicting Freemasonry in his novel?
Not at all.
Brown is just creating a bit more mystery. His publishers have provided clues that demonstrate all but conclusively that The Lost Symbol will indeed be placed in the world of the Freemasons. This is shown in the Twitter page that Brown's publisher, Random House, has just created to promote the forthcoming book.
As of the composition of this post, the Twitter page for The Lost Symbol includes 9 'tweets' issued between 6 a.m. on June 23rd and about 6 p.m. on June 25. Several of these tweets name individuals and groups, for whom the only connecting link is a real or purported association with Freemasonry. These include the following:
"Unbroken codes ... mystery continues to shroud the cipher at the Rosslyn Chapel."
This 3rd tweet, sent out at 3:49 p.m. on June 23rd, mentions Rosslyn Chapel, the famous site in Scotland, figuring prominently in The Da Vinci Code. Several authors, such as Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in The Temple and the Lodge (1989), have stated that Masonic imagery can be found in Rossyln Chapel. Although this claim has been disputed by scholars (most recently by Robert L. D. Cooper in The Rosslyn Hoax?, reviewed here), Dan Brown has always shown a propensity to give controversial rumor a serious hearing in his fiction. For Brown, to mention Rosslyn is to point to Masonry.
"Before they were Illuminati, they were Perfectibilists."
This 5th tweet, sent out at 1:45 p.m. on June 24th, states a simple fact: the Bavarian Illuminati (the revolutionary group founded in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt) were originally called the Perfectibilists, after their belief that humankind could be perfected through rational (not supernatural) means. In real life, the Illuminati infiltrated perhaps dozens of Masonic lodges in Europe to further their interests, before the Illuminati were crushed by various governments around 1790. To the wild-eyed fringe of the conspiracy community, the Illuminati and Freemasonry are connected to this day.
"Who stole William Wirt's skull?"
This 6th tweet, sent out at 3:36 p.m. on June 24th, refers to William Wirt (1772-1834). Wirt was Attorney General for the United States during 1817-1829. Today, he is mostly remembered for the work he did helping to prosecute Aaron Burr for treason in 1807. However, he is a footnote to history for something he did after resigning as Attorney General. In 1832, he accepted the nomination for U.S. President running for the first national 'third party' and single-issue party in American politics: the Anti-Masonic Party, the sole plank of whose public platform was the elimination of secret societies. (He carried Vermont, received seven electoral votes, and a popular vote of over 33,000 voters.) Of course, the second-weirdest aspect of all this is that Wirt was himself a Mason, and delivered a pro-Masonic speech at the nominating convention. (The party was actually more anti-Andrew Jackson than anything else, one suspects.)
The very weirdest aspect of Wirt's history is that, indeed, his skull was stolen, and many years later returned under mysterious circumstances (2005); read about it here.
So: we have a prominent 19th century Mason--an associate of some of the American Founding Fathers--who ran for President under the anti-Masonic Party, and who then had his skull stolen. Why wouldn't Dan Brown write about this?
' "If we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin in doubts, and are patient in them, we shall end in certainties." '
This 7th tweet, sent out around 9 a.m. this morning (June 25), is a famous quote from Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), noted English philosopher who laid the foundations of what we know today as the scientific method. In his utopian work New Atlantis, he writes of a fictional community that included a scientific institution known as "Solomon's House." On the one hand, this institution was said to be the inspiration for the British Royal Society, founded in 1660, perhaps the oldest scientific society now existing in the world. On the other hand, the connection to Solomon, for some writers, is a connection to Freemasonry.
Was Bacon a Freemason? We have no direct evidence to indicate that, although Bacon's Masonic membership has been speculated at least since the time of Christopher Friederich Nicolai (1733-1811). (Read about the dispute here.)
However, what is indisputable is that a number of early Freemasons of the pre-Grand Lodge and early Grand Lodge era were prominent in the Royal Society:
- Sir Robert Moray, the first person initiated on English soil (1641, in a Scottish military lodge), was the acting founding president of the Royal Society (1660-1662). (Some have claimed that these were two separate people.)
- Elias Ashmole, long known for his 1646 diary entry being the first documentation of initiation into an English Lodge, was a member of the Royal Society.
- John Theophilus Desaguliers, the third Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England (1719-1720), had become a member of the Royal Society in 1714.
- Seven other early Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of England were members of the Royal Society. (See p. 73 of Alain Bauer's Isaac Newton's Freemasonry: The Alchemy of Science and Mysticism.)
"Albrecht Durer, whose father was a goldsmith, was trained as a metalworker at a young age."This 9th and most recent tweet, sent out about 5 p.m. today (June 25), references the famous artist Durer (1471-1528). Because some of his pieces contain compasses (Melencolia, above, which contains other esoteric symbolism, and Astronomer), and one shows someone holding a square (Portrait of an Architect), some have speculated that Durer was some sort of very early Mason.
Out of 9 tweets on the Twitter page for Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, 5 involve a site or individuals with either a documented or reputed connection to Freemasonry. If that does not very strongly suggest that Freemasonry will be featured in The Lost Symbol, I don't know what would, short of an ad in The New York Times where Dan Brown says "Yes, it does feature Freemasonry, folks!" I'll continue to follow those tweets from time to time, and report them here.