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Book Review: Decoding the Lost Symbol by Simon Cox

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As a boy, I remember how much fun it was having secret clubs, secret meetings, secret symbols, which no one shared except best friends. In my neighborhood, we spoke a form of pig Latin as a coded way of communicating. "Where are you going?" became "ehre-whay are-ay ou-yay oing-gay?" Let's face it, secrets are fascinating just because they arouse our curiosity.

It would appear that the symbolism in Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol is equally exciting. It comes from a variety of sources, practically all of which are mysteriously oblique. Simon Cox in his book, Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction, makes an attempt to explain what a lot of these symbols stand for, many of which the fictitious Robert Langdon encounters on his quest for the ultimate Ancient Mysteries.

So what are they? It appears The Mysteries are a summation of secret wisdom collected down through the ages, passed on from generation to generation through mystery schools. "Some of the earliest mystery schools we find were in ancient Greece." These schools had their origin when people attempted to study and understand the "philosophy and mysticism" of their own time (circa 1600 BC). Often this early doctrine was puzzling and oblique, subject to many interpretations which gave rise to various mystery schools of thought.

As an example, one can imagine how Plato's philosophical concept of souls pre-existing in an ideal world could lead to much questioning — then acceptance, repudiation, or some middle ground. His doctrine of the demiurge's existence seemed equally mysterious and open to interpretation.

The mental paradigms from different Greek schools and other poignant schools of thought often became associated with symbols representing difficult core concepts and ideas. Thus, adherents to a particular philosophy linked together to share various beliefs and symbols. Sacred dramas were performed to pass these Ancient Mysteries from one generation to the next.

In Decoding The Lost Symbol, author Cox mentions that today's Freemasonry has access to these Ancient Mysteries and continues, like it has from ancient times, to act as their guardian. Masons delight in espousing how important their members have been in shaping human society including the thinking of our forefathers, many of whom were Masons: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, to name just three. 

The All Seeing Eye of the providential God found on the United States one-dollar bill is recognizably a potent sign of an omnipotent deity. Masons claim that it sits above an unfinished stone pyramid which not only can be associated with the original colonies, but also with the huge pyramids of Gaza as well. It has often been rumored that Masons were involved in the building of these pyramids and the monumental temple of Solomon.

James K. Polk (11th president) laid the cornerstone for the Washington Monument. He was a Mason. In Decoding The Lost Symbol, author Cox reveals that the monument has specific symbolic meaning using specific Masonic measurements, angles, and decorations. Presiding at the ceremony was Benjamin B. French who wore the actual Mason apron of George Washington. This same apron had been worn at the cornerstone-laying of the Capitol Building.

The cap of the monument was to have been a five pointed star. Instead, it was topped with a piece of pure aluminum dedicated on December 6, 1884 in a Masonic ceremony. The aluminum pyramidal peak has thirteen levels just like the layers on the Great Seal of the United States.

The few notes I've given here about the symbolism in Dan Brown's latest book, which Robert Langdon attempts to interpret to locate The Lost Symbol is to give you, the reader, a flavor for the type of material found in Decoding The Lost Symbol. This book is a fun read but must be taken only for what it claims to be.

On the cover it states the book to be "the unauthorized expert guide to the facts." As such, the reader must keep in mind the veracity of its "expert" facts. Quite often in the book, author Cox will remind the reader that some of his claims are legendary, but this is too easily forgotten. For instance, one of the ten commandment stones was alleged to be the emerald tablet, the key text used in alchemy, "brought down from Sinai by Moses."

Decoding The Lost Symbol, if nothing more, gives a varied interpretation for much of the symbolism found in The Lost Symbol. One can only begin to imagine how icons and signs created in long centuries past have gathered more and more esoteric moss rolling down the ages. For this reviewer it is fair to say that in so many instances, just about any interpretation can be drawn from a symbol depending on one's needs, particularly an author writing an exciting novel.

I think Decoding The Lost Symbol gives a fair interpretation of Freemasonry, a world-wide order claiming millions of members. Its effort to improve the welfare and understanding among people is surely nothing to be feared; neither are its many complicated rituals and degrees of membership. As genuine research has shown, those who attempt to paint a secret sinister side to Masonry, are ignorant of its doctrines which, when examined closely, proclaim goodness for all mankind under a brotherhood of the Great Architect of the Universe.

If one is to read this book, I would recommend reading it before The Lost Symbol. It will provide a clearer understanding of the interpretive dilemmas faced by Katherine Solomon and Robert Langdon in their desperate search for the Ancient Mysteries.

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About Regis Schilken

  • It would also help to remember Dan Brown writes FICTION. Despite real places and groups depicted within the pages.

  • Regis

    It is amazing how many times I’ve heard people talking about Angels and Demons and the DaVinci Code as if they are not fiction.