Monday, July 20, 2009

The Lost Symbol and Masonry, Part 5: An Index to the Series

On September 15, 2009, Doubleday will publish the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol (cover illustrated). This novel will prominently feature Freemasonry. In a series of blog posts, "The Lost Symbol and Masonry," I described the challenge and opportunity that Dan Brown's book presents to Freemasonry:
  • In Part 1, I explain that the Scottish Rite (and, perhaps, Freemasonry in general) may be featured in a highly negative light in the novel.

  • In Part 2, I explain why it is that all Freemasons -- Blue Lodge, York Rite, and Scottish Rite of either the Southern or the Northern Masonic Jurisdictions -- should be concerned about this.

  • In Part 3, I describe what it is that Masonic organizations -- Grand Lodges, local lodges, York Rite bodies, and Scottish Rite Valleys and Jurisdictions-- can do in reference to this challenge and opportunity.

  • In Part 4, I explain what it is that the individual Freemason can do.

You may use each of the links above to gain access to each part of the series. You may also use this link to see current posts on this blog, Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend.

[The image is taken from the website of Doubleday.]

The Lost Symbol and Masonry, Part 4: What the Individual Mason Can Do

In Part 1 of this series, I explained that the Scottish Rite (and, perhaps, Freemasonry in general) are likely to be featured in a very negative light in Dan Brown's forthcoming novel, The Lost Symbol. In Part 2, I explained why it is that all Freemasons -- Blue Lodge, York Rite, and Scottish Rite of either the Southern or Northern Masonic Jurisdictions -- should be concerned about this. In Part 3, I described what it is that Freemasons could do to address this situation -- and this opportunity -- at the level of their organizations: Grand Lodge, local lodge, Valley and Commandery, etc. In this post, I explain what it is that the individual Mason can do.

What individual Masons can do falls into three categories: interacting with their local Masonic community and leadership, volunteering to help in group actions, and individual preparation. I address each of these below.

Encouraging the Community and Leadership to Take Action

Whether Dan Brown puts Freemasonry or the Scottish Rite in a good light or a bad one, he will reach tens of millions of readers and affect the public image of Freemasonry for at least a decade. Freemasonry can take advantage of this situation by making preparations now to inform a newly curious public about the truth of Freemasonry through interaction with the press and open houses for the public.

However, to make these things happen, we need to use the marvelous capacity that Freemasonry possesses for organized group action. To do that, it is not enough for us to be informed and excited about this ourselves; we need to have the leadership of our organizations informed and excited about this, as well.

Thus, one of the things that you can do, as an individual Mason, is to send this series to your leadership. Part 5 of this series is an index to the entire series. To encourage your Blue Lodge District or Grand Lodge to take action, send a copy of Part 5 to your District Deputy Grand Master. To encourage your Scottish Rite Valley to take action, send a copy to the Personal Representative for your Valley (in the Southern Jurisdiction), or to the Commander-in-Chief of your local Consistory (in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction). And so on.

You can send Part 5 by e-mail by going to that part of the series and pressing the envelope icon at the end. Add a personal note on the e-mail expressing your thoughts and interest.

Beyond that, you can send a copy of Part 5 to your Masonic friends, and encourage them to pass it on to their leadership, and their friends, and so on.

Frankly, if I were a Masonic leader and received 5 to 10 e-mails from my brethren encouraging me to consider a project, I would give it very serious consideration.

As of today, there are 24 official "followers" of this blog. The blog is also read by a much larger number of people, some of whom comment now and again, most of whom don't. (I hear about it in personal e-mails and so forth.) Thus, all in all, this blog has a substantial number of readers. If a third of everyone who read this blog -- including non-Masons! -- sent copies of Part 5 out to their Masonic friends and (if Masons) to their Masonic leadership, and so on and so on, pretty soon a large fragment of the Masonic world would be informed about this approach.

Our leadership needs to sit around a conference table (illustrated) and discuss what actions organized Freemasonry will take concerning Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Let's fill up that table. (Hey, volunteer to sit at that table!)

We can do this, people. Let's do it.

Volunteering to Help at Public Events

The second thing that the individual Mason can do is to volunteer to help at public events (like open houses) that the various Masonic organizations will organize to respond to The Lost Symbol. Public events need a lot of warm bodies to perform various functions, people who have to be in place before the first visitor arrives at the event. One need not be a Masonic scholar to greet visitors at the door of an open house. Signing up for an hour of service takes that much of the load off the shoulders of the brother who's running this particular show.

Personal Preparation

I expect that, as a rock-bottom estimate, 40 million copies of The Lost Symbol will be sold in the United States. That's something like 1 copy for every 2 to 4 adults in the country. You are going to hear people talking about this book. It would be good for you to prepare to answer questions about its accuracy regarding its depiction of Freemasonry. That means personal study.
Some of the readers of this post will already be well-read regarding Freemasonry; some will not. The suggestions for personal study that I outline below take a soup-to-nuts approach; adapt these to your personal circumstances.

Freemasonry: The Basics
  • W. Kirk MacNulty, Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2006). [Hardcover lists at $45; at the Scottish Rite online store website, $35; on Amazon, $29.70.] This volume covers the basics of Freemasonry, in somewhat less detail than the Dummies or Idiots books mentioned below, but with lavish illustrations (many not previously published), and with a focus on the possible connection of Freemasonry to esoteric spiritual traditions.

  • Christopher Hodapp, Freemasons for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005). [Paperback lists for $19.99; on Amazon, $13.59.]

  • S. Brent Morris, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry (New York: Penguin, 2006). [Paperback lists for $19.95; on Amazon, $13.57.]

It's impossible for me to tell which of the above two books you will like more; they're both very good about covering the basics of Masonic history, organization, and symbolism. Yet, they are different enough that each offers something special.

  • Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris, Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry? The Methods of Anti-Masons (New York: M. Evans, 2004). [Paperback lists for $14.95; on Amazon, $10.17.] Every single Freemason in the entire world should read this book, because it it the only book I know that is entirely devoted to dealing directly with an unpleasant but important reality: the accusations made by anti-Masons. The second chapter is an excellent treatment of the Taxil hoax (where Taxil has Albert Pike supposedly writing "Yes, Lucifer is God": this is the source of the nonsense one reads on the Internet). Chapters 3-9 deal with specific authors of anti-Masonry, such as Rev. John Ankerberg and Rev. James Dayton Shaw (The Deadly Deception), and the falsehoods they have spread about the Fraternity.

Masonic History

  • See Angel Millar's book, listed in the next section.

  • Christopher Hodapp, Solomon's Builders: Freemasons, Founding Fathers, and the Secrets of Washington, DC. (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2006). [Paperback lists for $14.95; on Amazon, $10.17.] This accessible book focuses on the Revolutionary Period, and also considers in detail the whole idea of Masonic symbolism built into the streets of Washington, DC--each of which is sure to be a focus in Dan Brown's novel.

  • Mark A. Tabbert, American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities (Lexington, MA: National Heritage Museum, and, New York: New York University Press, 2005). [Paperback lists for $24.95; on Amazon, $16.47.] An excellent and well-illustrated academic history, focusing on the Craft in the United States.

  • Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996). [Paperback lists for $30; on Amazon, $23.73.] An excellent academic volume focusing especially on the Colonial and Revolutionary periods through the Anti-Masonic period (1826-1842).

The Esoteric

I do not mean "the esoteric work," as Masons understand this phrase. I'm talking about the possible connections between Freemasonry and other esoteric spiritual traditions, such as kabbalah, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, and so forth.

This is, of course, a highly controversial area. This is not the place to address the merits and problems with each of the several sides of this debate. (I may well do so in future posts.) There is also a lot of looney stuff published in this area. However, Dan Brown will almost certainly be going in this direction in his novel. Consequently, I have selected a few of the better books in this area to give the Mason a sense of the issues involved when Masonry is considered in connection with esoteric traditions of spirituality.

  • Angel Millar, Freemasonry: A History (San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2006). [Hardcover out of print, but available through Amazon for $7 and under.] Brother Millar, an accomplished artist, has written an excellent history of certain aspects of Freemasonry as it developed in England, such as the development of the three degrees. This includes a non-hysterical, and carefully considered, look at the possible connections of Freemasonry to other esoteric traditions, such as the Rosicrucians and alchemy. It is also lavishly illustrated with many pieces not previously published.

  • Mark Stavish, Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols, and History of the Secret Society (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2007). [Paperback lists for $21.95; on Amazon, $14.93.] Brother Stavish writes in a non-hysterical way about the possible connection of different branches of Freemasonry with Rosicrucianism, alchemy, and ritual magic.

  • W. Kirk MacNulty, Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991). [Paperback lists for $19.95; on Amazon, $13.57.] Brother MacNulty's book connects Freemasonry with esoteric traditions involving the Temple built by Solomon, hermetic studies, and other esoteric traditions that emerged during the Renaissance.

  • The works of Br. Timothy Hogan may also be useful here. (I cannot recommend them in detail because I have not yet read them; however, they come highly recommended by others.)

For the sake of completeness, I should mention that I suspect Dan Brown is going in the direction of the authors of The Hiram Key, alleging that Masons had Washington DC laid out in such a way as to align with certain star patterns. It is hard for me to recommend the books in the Key series to anyone, because (a) the books say things that are patently untrue, (b) the authors, in my opinion, violated their Masonic obligations to write these books, and (c) the authors show a decided lack of critical thinking in the way that they use weak evidence in support of some really outrageous claims. However, it may be useful to know something of them (as well as David Ovason's books on the "secrets" of DC streets and the dollar bill's symbolism), if only to be able better to explain to people that Masonry "isn't like that."

The Scottish Rite

It is clear that Dan Brown is going to do something with the Scottish Rite, and probably with Albert Pike; my sense of the situation is that he's going to slam Albert Pike as a conspirator with the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle, planning a second Civil War. Brown's publisher's clues also show an interest in Scottish Rite symbolism. So, to learn more in this area, I recommend the following:

  • Arturo de Hoyos, Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide, Second Edition--Revised and Enlarged (Washington, DC: The Supreme Council, 33rd Degree, Southern Jurisdiction, 2009). [Hardcover available for $65 through the Scottish Rite, SJ website, or for $35 bundled as part of the Master Craftsman program -- making the Master Craftsman program one of the greatest bargains in Masonry.] Pages 75-118 give an excellent brief history of the Scottish Rite, and the development of the Scottish Rite rituals. Scottish Rite symbols are the focus of pp. 139-167. Traditional Scottish Rite ciphers (i.e., codes) are illustrated on pp. 963-973; his fans know how much Dan Brown loves codes. Of course, the lion's share of the book, pp. 169-914, deal with the ritual, symbolism, and ethical theory of the 4th through 32d degrees, as conceived in the Southern Jurisdiction.

  • Rex R. Hutchens, A Bridge to Light: The Revised Standard Pike Ritual: A Study in Masonic Ritual and Philosophy (Washington, DC: The Supreme Council, 33rd Degree, Southern Jurisdiction; 3rd ed., 2006). [Paperback available for $15 through the Scottish Rite, SJ website.] This 2006 edition is well worth reviewing as a guide to the basic Scottish Rite experience in the Southern Jurisdiction, and how the degree symbolism connects with the symbolism of several spiritual and esoteric traditions.

  • William L. Fox, Lodge of the Double-Headed Eagle: Two Centuries of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in America's Southern Jurisdiction (University of Arkansas Press, 1997). [Hardcover lists at $49.95.] This is the best available one-volume history of the Southern Jurisdiction. It is full of detail regarding the history of Albert Pike, as well.


This is our moment in history, the moment of our lifetimes when the popular culture is shining its spotlight of attention, however briefly, on Freemasonry. While the moment lasts, let us do what we can to let men of good character and good will know about us, and to prepare ourselves to give a good accounting of our Fraternity to the many curious people who will have questions.

[The image above of a conference table was obtained from Wikimedia Commons. It is used here under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Lost Symbol and Masonry, Part 3: What Masons Can Do About This

In Part 1 of this series, I explained that the Scottish Rite (and, perhaps, Freemasonry in general) are likely to be featured in a very negative light in Dan Brown's forthcoming novel, The Lost Symbol. In Part 2, I explained why it is that all Freemasons -- Blue Lodge, York Rite, and Scottish Rite of either the Southern or Northern Masonic Jurisdictions -- should be concerned about this. In this post, I begin to describe what it is that Freemasons could do to address this situation -- and this opportunity.

The Right Perspective on Dan Brown and The Lost Symbol

The first thing for every Freemason to do is to keep the right perspective on Dan Brown and The Lost Symbol. That perspective is this: Dan Brown is doing Freemasonry a favor, whether he portrays Masons as heroes or villains -- whether he wants to or not!

Well has it been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I am told that, many years ago, one much-maligned celebrity, when asked how this person felt about being the subject of so many scandalous stories in the press, simply replied: "I just ask them to spell my name right."

I have made the case in Part 2 of this series that every Freemason ought to care about Dan Brown's portrayal of Freemasonry in his new novel. That is certainly true: Dan Brown's novel will shape the public's perception of Freemasonry for a generation. However, this is not to say that care should turn to fear. Rather, we should make it our business to seize the day and take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.

If The Lost Symbol sells "only" as well as The Da Vinci Code, somewhere over 80 million people worldwide are going to hear about Freemasonry; at least 45 million of those are going to be in the United States. When the movie comes out, as it inevitably will, there will be tens of millions more people who hear about us. That kind of exposure -- exposure on a scale we could never hope to buy! -- will create curiosity. A culture that thought Freemasonry was extinct will come to understand that we are still around, and that Masonry has something to offer.

Our job, then, is to capitalize on that curiosity, to reach the right kind of man, and to give him the opportunity to take the initiative to ask about Freemasonry. (He can't take the initiative if he doesn't know we exist, or what we stand for, right?)

And just what is "the right kind of man"? The man who is interested in improving himself, in making a real contribution to society, in building something of value rather than just existing and consuming. The man who is interested in basing his life on deeper values, not the shallow values put forth by popular culture. The man who has a belief in a Supreme Being, whatever his formal religious affiliation (if any). The man who -- regardless of his race, color, nationality, ethnicity, or any of the other ultimately meaningless accidents of birth -- the man who wants to base his life on the search for philosophical Truth, the company of a Brotherhood of good men from all walks of life, and the rendering of Relief and service to the needy.

To a large extent, these guys don't know where to find us or how to approach us. Our job? Show them where and how. And Dan Brown has given us the perfect vehicle with which to accomplish this.

So, regardless of what he says about us, let us not focus any anger or irritation at Dan Brown. He's doing us a favor. (Although, I will admit, if he slams us, that Lower East Side Kid who lives in the tenement apartment neighborhood in my soul will be thinking, "Lost your symbol, Dan? I've gotcha lost symbol ri-i-i-ght here, buddy boy . . ." Not that the Masonic Gentleman in my soul would ever even think anything like that, mind you. No sirree.)

There are two levels of action that we should pursue: action on the organizational level -- the Grand Lodge and the Particular Lodge within the Blue Lodge, the local York Rite Bodies, and the Scottish Rite Bodies on the level of the Orient and Valley -- and action on the part of the individual Mason. In the remainder of this post, I describe the actions that Masonic organizations should take; in Part 4 of this series, I shall address actions that the individual Mason should take.

The Organizational Level of Response

Every organization within Freemasonry should take some part in responding to Dan Brown's novel and its portrayal of Freemasonry (whether that be good, bad, or ugly). This means, in the Blue Lodge, every Grand Lodge, District, and Particular Lodge (that is, the local lodge where you meet). In the York Rite, this means the York Rite Bodies of a particular locale. In the Scottish Rite, this means both the Southern Jurisdiction and the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, each Orient, and each Valley within each Orient. It's time for a full-court press.

(The other concordant and appendant organizations are also welcome to participate. My suggestion, however, is that you give strength to your local Blue Lodge, York Rite, and Scottish Rite organizations, rather than divide our efforts.)

In many areas, it will be necessary and sensible for the Blue Lodge and the Rites to simply work together. However, the fact of the matter is that some brethren affiliate more with the Rites than with the Blue Lodge; to maximize our manpower, we should engage them through the Rites.

In addition, each organization has something special to add in the drive to get the word out about Freemasonry. The Blue Lodge has our history and basic symbolism to discuss. The York Rite has its ties to Templarism to describe, and its focus on the Temple of Solomon. The Scottish Rite can explain the way that it draws from various traditions for its degrees; the Scottish Rite also needs to address the real history of Albert Pike, as opposed to the fantasy that I think will be put forth by Dan Brown.

Consequently, what I say below applies to each level of each of these three organizations, the Blue Lodge, the York Rite, and the Scottish Rite. When it comes to public communications, each of these organizations should coordinate with the others. Events like open houses should be held in coordination and conjunction among these three branches of Masonry.

In this connection, I think of the February 2008 open house hosted by the Scottish Rite Valley of Orlando, Florida. The Scottish Rite made its building available for the event (it has the largest Masonic building for miles around), and the Blue Lodges in the district, as well as the Orlando York Rite Bodies and the Scottish Rite itself, provided manpower. The open house was well attended, and a surprisingly large number of local men came forth to submit petitions to the Fraternity.

I see two specific types of activity at the organizational level: public relations, and public events. I describe each of these below.

Masonic Public Relations

When The Lost Symbol is published on September 15 of this year, you can expect at least a small-scale media circus, such as attended the publication of the last few Harry Potter novels, except that this time adults will be the focus of the midnight bookstore parties and the TV interviews. News organizations will be hungry for anything to broadcast. We can help to fill that need.
Sometime shortly after Labor Day, each Masonic organization should send a press release to its local media, in which they mention the following:
  • Dan Brown's novel features the Freemasons.
  • The Freemasons really exist today, in your community.
  • The local Freemasons will be glad to answer questions about Freemasonry, its history, and its symbolism, for the news media.
  • Questions should be addressed to specific people, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers.
If these press releases are in the hands of local media in advance of the publication of The Lost Symbol, then media representatives are much more likely to contact the local Masonic organization involved.

Masonic Open Houses

As you can tell from the illustration above, I suggest that Masonic organizations host open houses that revolve around the theme of The Lost Symbol.

Elsewhere, I have posted an August 2007 white paper on preparing an open house to address Dan Brown's Masonic novel. (This paper also addressed what turned out to be a bust for Masonry, the second National Treasure movie. The Lost Symbol, however, is not a movie where the script can be changed at the last minute; presses are printing this book at this very moment, and the publisher's clues definitely point to Freemasonry, as I note here.)

Given the clues that Dan Brown's publisher has posted since late June regarding the novel, I would amend the white paper to suggest the following as points to focus on in an open house:
  • The basic symbolism of Freemasonry
  • Freemasonry, the Founding Fathers, and the American Revolution
  • The role of Freemasonry today: the search for Truth, as expressed through our symbolic initiations; the promotion of Brotherhood, through the fellowship of the lodge involving men from all walks of life; the providing of Relief, both locally and through our charities.

In addition, we should take on directly a number of topics where it will likely be necessary to correct Dan Brown:

  • The Illuminati and Freemasonry. The two were separate organizations. The Illuminati were antithetical to the spirit of Freemasonry. The Illuminati took over some Masonic lodges in Europe, but died out during the period 1784 to 1795.
  • The Knights of the Golden Circle. Despite the novel, there is no connection between them and either the Scottish Rite or Albert Pike.
  • The Great Seal of the United States. It's not a Masonic symbol or set of symbols.
  • The Streets of Washington, DC. They are not full of Masonic symbols.
  • Political conspiracy. It's not a Masonic activity.
  • Whatever else Dan Brown says about us that isn't true
Preparing some of this material, of course, will need to wait until the novel is published. However, most of the text to be presented, either orally or in poster form, can be prepared beforehand.

I would suggest October as a prime time for the open houses. This novel is going to sell quickly, and interest will be highest at that time. However, this novel is also going to be a big winter holiday gift item, and so perhaps February would be a good time as well.

Next time: What the individual Mason can do to prepare for the opportunities presented by the publication of The Lost Symbol.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Lost Symbol and Masonry, Part 2: Why Freemasons Should Care About Dan Brown

In my preceding post, I explained why I believe that the Scottish Rite, and Albert Pike, are going to take it in the chops in the forthcoming Dan Brown novel, The Lost Symbol. I expect that Albert Pike will be portrayed as a treasonous scoundrel who worked with the Knights of the Golden Circle to accumulate assets for a second War Between the States -- using the Scottish Rite, in both the North and the South, to create and perpetuate this conspiracy. I expect that today's Scottish Rite will be portrayed as a conspiratorial organization in our very day.


In this post, I address one simple question: Why should Freemasons care? (In my next post, I address the question, what should we as Freemasons do about this?)

It would be easy to just kick back and forget about all of this. Here are what seem to be some good reasons to do so:

  • "It's just a novel, for pity's sake -- who cares?"

  • "I'm Scottish Rite in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction -- why should I care about this?"

  • "I'm not even Scottish Rite -- why should this matter to me?"

I can understand these positions. However, I believe that they are deeply flawed. To understand what is wrong with these attitudes, we need to consider the power of fiction.

The Power of Fiction

Best-selling novels can be powerful in forming public opinion. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) was the best-selling American novel of the 19th century, outselling everything but the Bible; it is credited with forming the American debate about slavery, and shaping events leading to the Civil War. Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936) sold 30 million copies, and had an effect on the self-image of the Deep South that is still evident today. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) sold 25 million copies, and gave our vocabulary such terms as "Big Brother" and "Orwellian." Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) sold 30 million copies, and is influencing attitudes towards race in this country to this day. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961) sold 10 million copies and left its title as part of the English language. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) sold 40 million copies and influenced the attitudes of a generation of Americans regarding what they could do with their lives.

When novels become movies, they can be even more powerful in affecting public attitudes and behavior. Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather (1969) sold 21 million copies, and was made into a blockbuster movie in 1972; half the guys I know still quote from that movie as if it were scripture, even if they weren't born until a decade after the film was made. Shaft (1971) was a novel before it became a film (surprise!), and affected urban fashion in some communities for years.

And Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (2003) was bigger than all of them.

This novel has sold 81 million copies in six years. The 2006 movie was the second-highest grossing movie of the year, and its $230 million opening weekend gross currently stands as the seventh-highest of all time.

Dan Brown has had six years to come up with something to top that. And he has.

Brown's publisher has such confidence that Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol, will be a huge bestseller that it is printing 6.5 million copies in the initial print run -- the largest 'first print' in the history of Random House. (It is doing this, knowing that bookstores have the right to return unsold copies to the publisher!)

The point of all this is that Dan Brown has the power to shape the nation's (even the world's) attitude towards Freemasonry for many years to come. If The Lost Symbol even sells "only" as well as The Da Vinci Code has, then there will be about 16 to 20 copies of the book sold for every Freemason on earth. We no longer live in a society, even in the United States, where people's attitudes about Freemasonry are shaped by their experience with actual Masons; rather, their attitudes are shaped by books and other media.

It doesn't matter whether or not you are a member of the Scottish Rite yourself. What Dan Brown says about today's Scottish Rite will be the the opinion that his readers carry about Freemasonry in general.

It doesn't matter whether you are a member of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction or not. I doubt that Brown is going to spend a lot of time on the fine points of Masonic jurisdiction. In addition, the people whom I suspect he depends on for part of his back story -- Warren Getler and Bob Brewer, authors of Shadow of the Sentinel, also titled Rebel Gold -- simply don't care about any of that; in their fantasy land, Albert Pike controlled both the Northern Masonic and Southern Jurisdictions. Thus, the brethren of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction shall be tarred with the same broad brush as the brethren of the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

Sort of gives a whole new slant on Masonic brotherhood, doesn't it? I am reminded of words attributed to brother Benjamin Franklin, supposedly said after the signing of the Declaration of Independence: "We must hang together, gentlemen--or, assuredly, we shall each hang separately!"

What it comes down to is this: If I am right, and Dan Brown does sock it to Scottish Rite Freemasonry in his new novel, it will be the biggest black eye for the Fraternity since the Morgan incident of 1826 -- and we should all know how well that turned out. Brown's novel has the potential to shape public attitudes towards Freemasonry for the next generation. We need to do something about this, something to take our fate, and the destiny of our Fraternity, into our own hands.

The Traditional Masonic Hands-Off Attitude Towards Criticism

I am well aware that the traditional Masonic attitude towards criticism is to ignore it, to stay above the fray and wait for the truth to prevail.

This was a fine approach to take when public discussion was civil, educated, and proceded according to the rules of the Marquis de Queensbury. We don't live in that world any more.

As I have explained at length in my white paper, "How Should Masons Respond to Anti-Masonry?", the traditional Masonic practice of ignoring criticism no longer serves the Fraternity well at all. In the landscape of the 21st century, if one does not respond to criticism, one might as well wear a big sign around one's neck that reads "YES, I'M GUILTY." Remember that the English common law principle states that "Silence is assent."

We don't want to assent to the picture that Dan Brown may be painting of the Craft, even through silence.

"But What If You're Wrong?"

Perhaps you're wondering, "but what if you're wrong, Brother? What if Dan Brown does not paint the Scottish Rite or Freemasonry in treasonous terms after all? What if you've read the picture wrong, so to speak, and the Freemasons in general, and the Scottish Rite in particular, are the heroes of Brown's novel?"

Then there is all the more reason for us to do something about this.

If Brown's novel paints a favorable picture of Freemasonry, then we need to be prepared to ride the wave of interest that will follow. I realize that some brethren expect that, with the publication of Dan Brown's Masonic novel, the petitioners will line up outside the lodge door. Actually, we need to keep in mind that we are working against two generations or so where Masonry has been essentially invisible in society at large. Despite all the Shrine circuses, all the service projects, all the efforts that have been made, Masonic membership is at an 80-year-low, even as the population of North America has soared (as noted by the Masonic Service Association here).

Indeed, even though media events like the National Treasure movies have painted Freemasonry in a positive light, there are other currents in American society that have sought to demonize Freemasonry. This may be why religious-based attacks against Freemasonry are increasing, according to the Masonic Information Center. All of this will work against petitioners arriving at the Western Gate.

Should we care about this? After all, there is also some moral peril in 'worshipping at the altar of bigness,' as pointed out by the Knights of the North in their thought-provoking paper, Laudable Pursuit.

Fair enough. However, Freemasonry is not just some vehicle for our own amusement. It is, or is intended to be, a vehicle for the improvement of society. We need a certain critical mass in order to fulfill our mission. If we don't wish to do that, we might as well roll away our altars and become footnotes to history.

Me, I'd rather make history.

To do that, we need to make Freemasonry available to every man who has a mind oriented to the search for truth, the appreciation of fellowship, and the giving of relief to the needy. In my next post, I'll describe how to use the occasion of the publication of Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol, to further those ends.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Lost Symbol and Masonry, Part 1: The Scottish Rite Likely to be Slammed by Dan Brown

As readers of this blog know, my attention lately has been entirely taken up with Dan Brown's forthcoming novel, The Lost Symbol, especially since his publisher began posting clues regarding the content of this novel to Twitter. (I have my own book coming out, Discovering The Lost Symbol: Dan Brown's Novel and the Truth About the Freemasons; it is thus my business to stay on top of every legitimate scrap of information about Brown's novel.) After looking over the 42 clues that Doubleday has issued about the novel (which I considered in detail in my blog, Key to The Lost Symbol Clues), I have come to several conclusions:
    1. Freemasonry is going to be featured prominently in Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol.
    2. The Scottish Rite in particular is going to be featured prominently in this novel.
    3. The Scottish Rite in general, and Albert Pike in particular, are going to take it in the chops.
More precisely: it is my belief that the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry -- in both the Southern and the Northern Masonic Jurisdictions -- are going to be the "bad guys" in the novel. In addition, I believe that brother Albert Pike, the seventh Sovereign Grand Commander of the AASR, SJ (serving 1859-1891), is going to be portrayed as a conspirator with the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC), a group of Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War era, using the Scottish Rite before, during, and after the Civil War to help the KGC conceal a vast trove of stolen gold to be used for nefarious purposes in our day.

In the remainder of this post, I lay out my evidence for these beliefs. In a future post or posts, I will explain why Freemasons in general (North and South; Blue Lodge, York Rite, and Scottish Rite) ought to do something about this; and, what it is that we might do.

The Evidence

The Lost Symbol will be Dan Brown's third novel to feature Robert Langdon, a "symbologist" at Harvard University who has a talent for getting involved in the investigation of murder mysteries involving centuries-old conspiracies. The previous novels in the series are Angels & Demons (book, 2000; film, 2009) and The Da Vinci Code (book, 2003; film, 2006).

Judging from his earlier two novels, Brown is consistent in using one or more secretive societies to drive his plot. In Angels & Demons, the "bad guys" were supposedly the Illuminati (although those who have read the novel or seen the movie know that, in Brown's story, the Illuminati were merely taking the rap for another person's secret agenda). In The Da Vinci Code, the true "bad guys" are a secret Council of Shadows, working within the Vatican; they use an operative from Opus Dei as an assassin.

In The Da Vinci Code, Brown introduced a new wrinkle: a secret society of "good guys," in this case the Priory of Sion. The medieval Knights Templar are portrayed in a positive light, as well.

I know that many of us had hoped that Brown would feature the Freemasons as the "good guys" of his new novel. Judging from the clues issued by Brown's publisher, Doubleday, it is not going to be as simple as that.

Freemasonry in The Lost Symbol

[Note: below, when I refer to "Clue #x," I mean the xth clue from the bottom of the list appearing on the Twitter clue website. Please ignore the numbers on the left-hand side of the website.]

That Freemasonry will be featured in the novel is certain. The clues include the use of an initial-letter cipher, such as Masons often use to conceal the text of rituals in ritual books (Clue #1). Some clues focus on the Illuminati (Clue #5) or the founder of the Bavarian Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt (Clue #33). Other clues focus on historical personages who are prominent in the real history of Freemasonry -- such as William Wirt, the presidential candidate of the Anti-Masonic Party (Clue #6) -- or who have long been rumored to have been Masons, such as Francis Bacon (Clue #7), the German artist Albrecht Durer (Clues #9 and #22), and Isaac Newton (Clue #17). The symbol of the eye in the pyramid is popularly thought to be a Masonic symbol, of course; this symbol shows up, directly or indirectly, in some clues (including Clues #10, #12, and #35). Freemasonry is often thought by popular opinion to be deist in its religious outlook; deism is featured in Clue #37. Several of the U.S. Founding Fathers who were Freemasons are mentioned or suggested in the clues, including Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Hancock, Paul Revere.

The Scottish Rite in The Lost Symbol

Beyond this, it is clear that the Scottish Rite will figure quite prominently in The Lost Symbol. Imagery of some Scottish Rite (SJ) degrees shows up in the clues, including the word "INRI" (Clue #18), Jacques de Molay (Clue #23), and the Rose Croix (Clue #25). The biggest indication that the Scottish Rite will show up, of course, is the fact that the newly unveiled cover art of the novel features, right in the center, a blob of red wax with the impression of a seal of a double-headed eagle, a crown, and the number "33" within a triangle -- in other words, a version of the seal of the Scottish Rite Supreme Council (see cover, above, and Clue #31).

Albert Pike and the Scottish Rite Portrayed as Confederate Spies After the War

So far, so good. However, some of the most recent clues have unfortunate implications for the way the Scottish Rite is portrayed in the novel.

A couple of the recent clues make reference to the activities of the Knights of the Golden Circle, or KGC, an actual organization which supported slavery before the Civil War, and supported the South during the war itself (hinted at very subtly in Clues #34 and #36). If the KGC sounds vaguely familiar, that is because they are featured in the film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007, also known as "the second National Treasure film," or, "the one that wasn't so good").

The problem here is that the only half-way serious book on the KGC claims that they were aided in a conspiracy to prepare for a second Civil War, funded by stolen gold -- and assisted by Albert Pike, using the resources of the Scottish Rite. I am referring to a book by Warren Getler and Bob Brewer, titled Shadow of the Sentinel (2003) and issued in paperback as Rebel Gold (2004). Getler and Brewer served as consultants on National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and the impression I have is that they are looking to The Lost Symbol to revive interest in their theories.

I say this because someone claiming to be Warren Getler has posted two brief but provocative comments on my blog regarding The Lost Symbol. In relation to Clue #18, he stated the following (posting as "getler99"):

It seems that Albert Pike will be a central figure in The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown said to me back in 2003, while discussing my non-fiction book, Rebel Gold (Simon & Schuster): "My next book will be about Albert Pike."

There is, of course, no way to verify this. As if this were not enough, though, in a comment on Clue #33, the person posting as Mr. Getler mentioned the following, in relation to the book cover:

Notice in the word "CODE" there's a dot in the middle of the letter O. This is the alchemy [sic] symbol for gold. And.....if we take a close look, that symbol for gold lies on top of the zodiac circle in the faint background. This might be a reference to The Knights of the Golden Circle, a Scottish Rite Masonic and Confederate secret society that is the core subject matter for my non-fiction book, Rebel Gold. [Boldface-plus-italics emphasis added.]

Another commenter and I each took "gettler99" to task for claiming that the KGC was in any way connected with Scottish Rite Freemasonry. However, that is what he claims in his book -- with no real evidence, lots and lots of conjecture, and great enthusiasm.

I have since obtained a copy of Shadow of the Sentinel. I plan to publish a brief review of it on this blog, and I shall submit a more detailed review for publication. However, my initial impression is that, as regards the authors' take on Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite, the authors have done an extraordinarily poor job of research. They take possible connection for plausibility, and then for proof itself. They misunderstand the structure, purpose, and nature of Scottish Rite rituals.

However, if Dan Brown is using their book as a central source, he will definitely paint Albert Pike as a KGC secret officer, and the Scottish Rite -- both in the North and the South! -- as an important source of KGC power. Getler and Brewer specifically state that, following the Civil War, Pike used the Scottish Rite, in both the North and the South, to further KGC purposes and prepare for a second Civil War. Of course, this portrays Pike as a treasonous scoundrel, and the Rite as a vehicle of conspiracy.

We need to do something about this. More next time. However, now is the time to reserve your lodge and valley buildings for open houses in late September or early October. It will be an opportunity for us to get the truth out about the Order.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Cover of Dan Brown's Novel Is 'Centered' on the Scottish Rite

This morning, Doubleday released the cover art of Dan Brown's forthcoming novel, The Lost Symbol. The center of this cover shows a wax seal. If you click on the cover image above, you'll see a larger version of the image; enlarge that, and you'll see that the seal is actually a version of the seal of an organization that is familiar to many of you: the Scottish Rite.
I go into this in detail on another blog of mine, "Key to The Lost Symbol Tweets," found here. (Should you be reading this a bit down the road, a link to the specific post involved is here.) Enjoy.
(And, no, I haven't abandoned the series. Be back soon.)