Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is the Pyramid a Masonic Symbol?

[Photo by Nina Aldin Thune.]

One gripe about Dan Brown's just-released novel, The Lost Symbol, concerns the way that he associates Freemasons with pyramids in his story. For Brown, the pyramid is a Masonic symbol. And, of course, it's not -- or is it?

Actually, the question is a bit more complicated than it would at first appear. I address this issue at some length in an earlier post today on my Dan Brown-related blog, Discovering The Lost Symbol: The Blog. The specific post is titled, "Pyramids, Freemasonry, and The Lost Symbol."

My conclusion is that, although the pyramid is not a Masonic symbol in the 21st century within regular Freemasonry, there was a connection that was posited between Masonry and the ancient Egyptian pyramids in the first days of Grand Lodge Masonry and earlier. In addition, irregular Rites (such as the clandestine Rite of Memphis) have posited such a connection, as well.

Your comments are welcome, on that blog or this one. Enjoy.

[The image of the Great Pyramid is Copyright 2005 Nina Aldin Thune. The image was obtained from the Wikimedia Commons through Wikipedia, and appears under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.]

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Now What?
Masonic Follow-Up to "The Lost Symbol"

By now, most everyone knows that the Masons are the good guys in Dan Brown's sure-to-be-blockbuster novel, The Lost Symbol.

Boy, there's sure a sigh of relief to be sighed there, huh?

So I guess we can just all go back to what we were doing, right?


There's more to do now than ever.

The publication of The Lost Symbol presents Freemasonry with an unprecedented opportunity. If we blow this, we have no one but ourselves to blame if, a generation or two from now, we are reduced to nothing but curiosities on the landscape of American life.

We need to understand the situation, brothers. There were basically two generations of American men--those who came of age in the 1960s through the mid-1990s or so--who simply didn't get involved in Freemasonry, anywhere near the degree to which their ancestors had.

This is why we see some lodges with the same brethren rotating through the chairs for a second or third time. This is why we see lodges consolidating and closing. This is why we see new brethren in some lodges thrust into the chairs of leadership prematurely, with all sorts of unfortunate consequences. This is why we see the major Rites languishing. This is why, with American population at an all-time high, Freemasons comprise a smaller fraction of the population than at any time in the last century.

But now Dan Brown comes along, writes a novel that is likely to see 60 to 100 million sales worldwide--30 to 50 million of those in the United States--where the Masons are the heroes!

You know what I say, brethren?

This is our opportunity, our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to make up for lost time.

But we have to do our part.

The Lost Symbol will bring those men who are interested in the search for Masonic light to us -- if they know where to find us. The Lost Symbol will bring the right candidates to the Western Gate -- if we present ourselves well, in the finest tradition of our Fraternity.

So let's do this:

  1. Let's hold those Open Houses and let people know where we are, what we stand for, and how to apply.
  2. Then, after they have entered the Journey, let us be sure to give our new brethren the kind of instruction and quality Masonic experience that will encourage them to be active in the Fraternity.

To assist in this endeavor, I'll be doing the following:

  • On my blog devoted to Dan Brown's novel, "Discovering The Lost Symbol: The Blog" (, I'll be focusing many of my blog posts on the items of Masonic interest that show up in The Lost Symbol. These posts may be of interest to brethren and interested members of the general public alike.
  • On this blog, "Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend" (, I'll focus many of my posts over the next three months or so on material that might be of use in preparing Masonic open house presentations, how to handle publicity, and so forth.
  • On another blog, "Freemasonry 101" ( I'll be focusing on material for the interested member of the public. You may wish to refer people here.
  • I will dust off another blog that I have had in mothballs for awhile, "The Masonic Education Cabal," regarding tips about Masonic instruction.
  • I will also be writing a manual with "lessons for the Lodge": instructional material, handouts, and so forth -- that will be available through a shopping cart on the blog. (Yes, LVX Publications lives!)

We say a lot about the glorious history of our Fraternity. This is our moment in history. Now is our time to shine. Let us build up our Fraternity in such a way that we can be a greater force for good in our country and in the world.

Or are you thinking there is enough democracy in the world today? Enough focus on wisdom, duty, and honor? Enough emphasis on a balance between reason and devotion to the divine?

I didn't think so.

Do feel free to comment with your questions and ideas.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two Dan Brown Developments: My NY Post Interview, and the Prologue to The Lost Symbol

There have been two developments regarding Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol that may be of interest to the brethren of the Fraternity in general.

First, in today's (Sunday) edition of the New York Post, page 3 contains an article that describes my predictions regarding the contents of The Lost Symbol. Links to the online version of the article are found on this post to my Dan Brown-related blog.

Second, it would appear that the Prologue to The Lost Symbol portrays the Third Degree of Freemasonry--under the ritual of the Scottish Rite! My description of the real-life background to this portrayal are found on this post to my Dan Brown-related blog.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Fun Begins: Bookazine Claims Masons are Occult, and Implies Satanism

With the release of Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol, scheduled to occur in less than one week as I write these words, more and more material is appearing about the Fraternity, material widely varying in quality. One publication that will likely have a wide readership has some particularly vile and misleading material about Masonry. This post is meant to alert you to the material, and to the truth behind the fantasy that is in print.

Last night, while searching for some material at the Union Square branch of Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York City, I came upon what some booksellers call a "bookazine": something published in the format of a magazine, and sold on the magazine racks, but that is not actually a regularly published magazine. This publication was titled Unlocking Mysteries With Solomon's Key: Understand the Secrets of Ancient Symbols and Their Meaning. (I regret that I cannot locate an illustration of the cover online.) A header identifies the publication as "A Companion Guide to 'The Lost Symbol' (Dan Brown's New Novel)."

The publication appears to have been designed some months ago, before the final title of Dan Brown's novel was released. (The former working title of Brown's novel was The Solomon Key, and this may be why the bookazine has 28 of its 144 pages devoted to Solomon and figures associated with him in legend, such as the Queen of Sheba.) There is also no hint in the publication of any of the clues that Doubleday has been issuing since late June about the content of the novel.

Oddly, although the bookazine recognizes that Freemasonry is a major focus of The Lost Symbol, almost all it has to say about the Fraternity is in the first 3.5 pages. In addition, what it has to say is often inaccurate. One particular howler is the following:

But there is little doubt that occultism has a place in the society. In his book The Lost Keys to Freemasonry, Manly P. Hall notes, "When a mason learns the key to the warrior on the block is the proper application of the dynamo of living power, he has learned the mystery of his craft. The seething energies of Lucifer are in his hands and before he may step upward, he must prove his ability to properly apply energy."

Hall should have known: As a 33-degree Scottish Rite Mason ..., he was privy to all of the society's secrets. (p. 5)

To borrow a phrase used by comedian Wayne Brady, "That's wrong on so many levels." For the sake of those brethren who find themselves having to address these issues to those who are not members of the Fraternity, I would point out the following:

  • Far from being some master of Freemasonry, "privy to all of the society's secrets," Hall was not even a Mason when he wrote the words quoted above.

  • Hall was making a point about the Fellow Craft degree in the quote above. In context, his "Lucifer" comment does not imply any reverence given to the Devil.

  • Hall's status as a 33rd-degree Freemason, relatively late in his life, does not give him special status as an authority on Freemasonry.

I address each of these points below.

Manly P. Hall's Relationship to Freemasonry

Manly P. Hall was born in 1901 and died in 1990. Hall published The Lost Keys of Freemasonry in 1923, at about the age of 22. However, he did not become a Freemason until over 30 years later, in 1954 (at about 53 years of age). He was not made a 33rd degree Freemason in the Scottish Rite until nearly 20 years after that, in 1973 (at about the age of 72). (All of this is stated clearly in the "Publisher's Note: Manly P. Hall and Freemasonry" in the edition of The Lost Keys of Freemasonry published by Tarcher/Penguin in 2006.)

Thus, Manly P. Hall did not even know Freemasonry from the inside when he wrote The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, as a very young man. Hall had interesting things to say about Freemasonry, but they were things he said as an outsider to the Fraternity.

Hall's "Lucifer" Comment

Hall's statement as quoted in the bookazine occurs in Chapter 4, "The Fellow Craft," of his book (pp. 50-51 of the Penguin/Tarcher 2006 edition). In his book, Hall discusses the three degrees of Craft Masonry in terms of allegorical life-lessons that each degree has to teach the candidate. He discusses these lessons by using the teaching device of a mental representation of the Temple built by Solomon--a representation that has little to do with the actual Temple as described in the Bible. Hall describes the life-lesson of the Fellow Craft degree as involving mastery of emotion:

Life manifests not only through action on the physical plane, but through human emotion and sentiment. This is the type of energy taken up by the student when he starts his labors in the Fellow Craft. ...

On the second step of the temple stands a soldier dressed in shining armor, but his sword is sheathed and a book is in his hand. He is symbolic of strength .... Through each one of us course the fiery rays of human emotion, a great seething cauldron of power behind each expression of human energy. ... [T]he emotional powers cannot be held in check, but break through the walls of restraint and pour fourth as fiery expressions of dynamic energy. This great principle of emotion we know as the second murderer of Hiram [Abiff]. ...

... How long will it take King Hiram of Tyre, the warrior on the second step, ... to teach mankind the lessons of self-mastery? ...

The day has come when Fellow Craftsmen must know and apply their knowledge. The lost key to their grade is the mastery of emotion, which places the energy of the universe at their disposal. ... When the Mason learns that the key to the warrior on the block [that is, King Hiram] is the proper application of the dynamo of living power, he has learned the mystery of his Craft. The seething energies of Lucifer are in his hands and before he may step onward and upward, he must prove his ability to properly apply energy. (pp. 49-51, italics in original)

Hall's point, then, was that the power of emotion can be very destructive. For Hall, part of the point of the Fellow Craft degree is for the candidate to learn how to apply power to control emotion; this is, for Hall, the "mystery," or central lesson, of the stage of life symbolized by the Fellow Craft degree. Otherwise, out of control emotions--which he poetically refers to as "the seething energies of Lucifer"--impede the candidate's progress. (Hall is making an interesting point, although his is a very personal interpretation of the Fellow Craft degree.)

The publishers of the bookazine clearly did not understand Hall's point. They appear to have just seen the words "mystery" and "Lucifer" and come to the conclusion that "occultism has a place" in Freemasonry. (Of course, the publishers do not bother to define 'occultism,' either. They could learn a thing or two from Jay Kinney, who, in his new book The Masonic Myth, titles Chapter 10 with two questions: "Is Masonry Occult? And is occult even a useful word?")

Some would argue that we must have pity on the publishers, who appear not to have the strongest command of English. For example, the publishers state that the film The Da Vinci Code "became the second highest growing film of the year" (p. 15), when they clearly meant that it was the second-highest grossing film of the year.

However, my position is that if the publishers have the nerve to make vague but nasty sounding accusations about Freemasonry, they had better know what they are talking about. They clearly do not.

Hall and the Thirty-Third Degree

People have the idea that Freemasonry runs like a thermometer, from the First Degree through the Thirty-Third Degree, and that someone like Manly P. Hall, being a 33rd-degree Mason, must therefore be someone with a comprehensive understanding of all of Freemasonry. The reality of the situation is far different.

The better model with which to understand Freemasonry is the model of the wagon wheel, not the thermometer. The three foundational degrees of Freemasonry are the hub of the wheel. From that hub there are a number of appendant organizations, many of which offer degrees of their own, such as the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, and many York Rite invitational organizations, such as the Royal Order of Scotland, the Allied Masonic Degrees, and so forth. The 33rd degree is a degree within the Scottish Rite; it holds no more authority over Freemasonry than the highest degree in any of the other appendant organizations.


Manly P. Hall's reflections on Freemasonry, while thought-provoking, were published many years before he became a Mason. The passage quoted above, rather than being evidence of devil-worship in Masonry, is actually an argument that the young Fellow Craft Mason must learn to control emotion rather than let its destructive energies get out of hand. Not only was Hall not made a 33rd-degree Mason until half a century after he published his comment, the status of 33rd-degree Mason does not mean that one has a comprehensive understanding of "all of the society's secrets," as the publishers of the bookazine claim.

Should we be asked about this sort of thing by non-Masons, perhaps, by making the occasion a teaching moment, we can turn the occasion into an opportunity to spread more light about our Fraternity.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dan Brown Prep: New YouTube Series

In our ongoing effort to educate ourselves about Dan Brown and his upcoming novel, The Lost Symbol, it may be worthwhile for you to peruse my video series about the novel, the first part of which has just been posted to YouTube here. An index to all the parts of the series, which I shall update as subsequent parts in the series become available, is here.

Incidentally, I owe thanks to two brethren in my mother lodge, Winter Park Lodge #239 F&AM (GL of Florida):
  • First, I thank Brother Al Fiala, who took time out of a busy schedule to suggest to me that a YouTube video might be just the avenue for me to pursue--something that simply had never occurred to me.
  • Second, I thank Brother Ricardo Parente for photographing me being installed as Marshall of the Lodge, in late December 2007, a picture that appears in the video; the photo eloquently establishes my masonic credentials for the non-Mason viewers of the video.

As we say here in midtown Manhattan: You guys are the best.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beliefnet Article: "New Dan Brown Novel Means Extra Scrutiny for Masons"

I was recently interviewed by a reporter with the Religion News Service regarding Dan Brown's upcoming novel, The Lost Symbol, and what impact it might have on Freemasonry. The RNS feed was picked up and reported in an on-line article on beliefnet; you may read the article here. Enjoy.

Incidentally, friend and Brother Christopher Hodapp (also quoted in the beliefnet piece) has made two posts on his excellent blog, "Freemasons for Dummies," that are relevant to the issue of what Masons should do regarding The Lost Symbol:

Of course, my own 5-part series on this issue is indexed at this post.

As we come out from being 'dark' over the summer months, let's rev up faster than usual to deal with the issues and opportunities raised by the publication of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. If Masons are portrayed as the bad guys, then we need to address those negative perceptions. If Masons are portrayed as the good guys, then we need to take advantage of those positive perceptions. In either event (and both may occur!), we need to take the initiative to prepare today.