Secrets of the Lost Symbol Out in Paperback!

Secrets of the Lost Symbol has just been published in paperback, in time to make the perfect holiday gift for Dan Brown fans. By Dan Burstein and Arne de Keizer, with contributions from more than two dozen distinguished scholars, historians, and experts. Available from Harper, on Amazon, in a Kindle edition, and wherever books are sold.

What secrets lie at the heart of America?

Discover the hidden reality behind Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol . . . and America itself. Just as there is only one Dan Brown, there is also only one secrets team that has achieved worldwide bestselling success by exposing the truth beneath Brown’s bestselling novels. Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer have gathered together world-class authorities—from scientist Richard Dawkins, noetics expert Lynne McTaggart, and religious scholar Karen Armstrong to journalist Jeff Sharlet (author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power), mathematician and science historian Amir Aczel, FBI consultant Michael Barkun, 33° Freemason Arturo de Hoyos, and a host of renowned philosophers, symbologists, code breakers, art historians, writers, thinkers, and experts on the occult—to give readers the essential tools to understand the conspiracies, codes, cutting-edge science, cultural controversies, and suppressed history at the center of The Lost Symbol . . . and the very founding of the United States of America.

Which Founding Fathers were members of secret societies?

What is the true background of the Ancient Mysteries?

Does The Lost Symbol have a hidden religious agenda?

What is the actual role of Freemasons in American history?

What do the hidden codes embedded in the novel tell us?

All this and much much more in Secrets of the Lost Symbol, now available in paperback

Galileo and the Freemasons

There was an interesting article about Galileo relics in Florence in the New York Times recently, that pointed up early the interest of early Italian Freemasons in the 18th century in Galileo as a hero, role model, and forward thinker–and virtual “saint.”

Describing the aftermath of Galileo’s death, the article reports:

“The scientist’s troubles did not end with his death in 1642.

“As a heretic he could not be given a proper church burial. But for years after his death, his followers in the circle of the grand dukes of Tuscany pushed to give him an honorable resting place.

“Nearly a century later, in 1737, members of Florence’s cultural and scientific elite unearthed the scientist’s remains in a peculiar Masonic rite. Freemasonry was growing as a counterweight to church power in those years and even today looms large in the Italian popular imagination as an anticlerical force.

According to a notary who recorded the strange proceedings, the historian and naturalist Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti used a knife to slice off several fingers, a tooth and a vertebra from Galileo’s body as souvenirs but refrained, it appears, from taking his brain. The scientist was then reburied in a ceremony, “symmetrical to a beatification,” said Mr. Galluzzi.

“After taking their macabre souvenirs, the group placed Galileo’s remains in an elegant marble tomb in Florence’s Santa Croce church, a pointed statement from Tuscany’s powers that they were outside the Vatican’s control. The church has long been a shrine to humanism as much as to religion, and Galileo’s permanent neighbors include Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Rossini.”

If you want to read the full text, it is available here at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/23/world/europe/23galileo.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail0=y

Secrets of the Bortoloni Code

There is an intriguing art review in today’s New York Times about an exhibition now on in Italy concerning the work of the little know early eighteenth century master, Bortoloni. Apparently a Freemason, recent art historians and scholars have been able to identify the Masonic symbolism in his work.

Below are highlights from the article. Full text is available at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/arts/29iht-conway.html?scp=1&sq=bortoloni&st=cse

May 28, 2010
A Forgotten Master’s Irreverence
By RODERICK CONWAY MORRIS
ROVIGO, ITALY — In 1716 Mattia Bortoloni, while still only in his twentieth year, won a remarkable commission. The Venetian nobleman Andrea Cornaro contracted the young painter to execute 104 frescoes, in eight rooms over two floors of his villa, one of Palladio’s grandest, in the town of Piombino Dese. The subject matter was unorthodox for the times, being for the most part scenes from the Old Testament, with more or less explicit references to the world of Freemasonry.
But after the fall of the Venetian Republic, the villa was sold and fell into disrepair, the frescoes and even the name of the painter who had done them were forgotten.

The resurfacing of documents recording the precocious Mattia Bortoloni’s role in Villa Cornaro’s decoration began to stir interest in the frescoes and their author in the second half of the 20th century. But by that time, a sizable part of the rest of the artist’s oeuvre was no longer identifiable with that of any known artist or had been attributed to others, primarily to a trio of Venetian Giambattistas: Tiepolo, Pittoni and Crosato.

The work of several scholars has now made it possible to reconstruct Bortoloni’s life and to stage “Bortoloni Piazzetta Tiepolo: The Veneto in the 1700s,” an exhibition of 80 canvases, nearly 20 of them by Bortoloni, curated by Alessia Vedova. The show puts Bortoloni in the context of his times and highlights the bizarre, irreverent and satirical qualities that characterize a number of his images.
Bortoloni was born in Canda, or the nearby village of San Bellino, in March 1696 (in the same month and year as Giambattista Tiepolo), in the ancient marshlands to the west of Rovigo that stretch down to the banks of the Po. Bortoloni seems to have begun his artistic apprenticeship young, with the Veronese Antonio Balestra, who had set up a studio in Venice.

Like Tiepolo, Bortoloni was to be above all a painter of frescoes. It is possible that his teacher Balestra, who deplored the flamboyant direction that art was then taking, passed the commission for the Villa Cornaro frescoes on to his talented student, not least because Balestra much preferred painting in oils.

The Masonic inspiration of the frescoes — which include multi-part sequences of the building of Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel and the Temple in Jerusalem — was rediscovered by the American scholar Douglas Lewis. Carl Gable, who with his wife Sally has owned Villa Cornaro since 1989, narrowed the original source of the imagery down to a two-volume Dutch bible, published by Pieter Mortier in Amsterdam in 1700 (there was also a French edition). The Mortier Bible, a copy of which is displayed at the show, contains over 460 illustrations, done by a team of five Dutch engravers.

The most likely bearer of the bible to Venice was Francesco Cornaro, cousin of Andrea, the villa’s owner. Francesco served as the Serenissima’s ambassador in London until 1709 and came in contact with Masonic circles there. He may have acquired a copy of the volumes there, or when passing through Amsterdam itself. Although Bortoloni followed the overall composition of the engravings for the main narrative scenes fairly closely, he gave himself considerable license in their graphic interpretation, his pastel palette and assured brushwork creating an admirably fluid and harmonious decorative effect….

Secrets of The Lost Symbol in Weston Magazine

Don’t miss this month’s Weston Magazine for an in-depth Lost Symbol photo tour of Washington DC.

Written by Secrets of the Lost Symbol co-editor Dan Burstein, with stunning images by Julie O’Connor, the article covers every major DC sight in The Lost Symbol.

If you don’t happen to be in the Weston area, you can see a pdf version of the article here. And if you want to look back over the photo tour we conducted here on the website, you can find our full Photo Tour archive here.

Photo Tour: Return to The Washington Monument

We’ve reached the final stop on Julie O’Connor’s Magical, Mystical, Masonic Photo Tour of Washington, DC.

View from the base of the Washington Monument (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

It is the end of Chapter 128. Mal’akh is dead and Peter Solomon has decided it is time to show Robert Langdon the true location of the Lost Word. Peter begins by taking a blindfolded Langdon to the top of the Washington Monument:

Robert Langdon stood mesmerized at the glass portal, absorbing the power of the landscape below him. Having ascended unknowingly hundreds of feet in the air, he was now admiring one of the most spectacular vistas he had ever seen.

The shining dome of the US Capitol rose like a mountain at the east end of the National Mall. On either side of the building, two parallel lines of light stretched towards him . . . the illuminated facades of the Smithsonian museums . . . beacons of art, history, science, culture.

A ground-level view of the White House at night with the Washington Monument in the background (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

Langdon is 555 feet in the air. Below, deep underground, is the cornerstone of the Washington Monument, which holds the Lost Word–the Bible.

As we have previously discussed, the cornerstone of the Washington Monument contains much more than just a bible. But for Dan Brown, the key to understanding the Ancient Mysteries is the idea that hidden within religious texts, the authors are “quietly whispering the exact same message…Know ye not that ye are gods.” (A theme we discuss in detail here.)

Following his epiphany at the Washington Monument, Langdon returns to the Capitol where he meets Katherine. Together they ascend to a circular catwalk close to the Rotunda ceiling. There, they are instructed to wait until an appointed time, when they may use a special key to open a small metal door. In the meantime, Langdon and Katherine examine Brumidi’s Apotheosis of Washington (covered here on our photo tour).

Finally, the hour arrives. Langdon walks through the door and finds himself on a skywalk that encircles the Capitol Dome. Standing outside, at dawn, he and Katherine watch the sun rise over the city. Meanwhile, Langdon’s gaze is drawn to the Washington Monument.

He thought about the great circumpunct, and how it had been embedded in the circular plaza beneath the monument at the crossroads of America. Langdon thought suddenly of the little stone box Peter had entrusted to him. The cube, he now realized, had unhinged and opened to form the same exact geometrical form–a cross with a circumpunct at its center. Langdon had to laugh. Even that little box was hinting at this crossroads.

Circumpunct at the Washington Monument (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

But the circumpunct quickly becomes a distraction for the main event, the sun’s ascent over the tip of the Washington Monument itself.

“Robert, look” Katherine pointed to the top of the monument.
Langdon lifted his gaze but saw nothing.
Then, staring more intently, he glimpsed it.
Across the Mall, a tiny speck of golden sunlight was glinting off the highest tip of the towering obelisk. The shining pinpoint grew quickly brighter, more radiant, gleaming on the capstone’s aluminum peak. Langdon watched in wonder as the light transformed into a beacon that hovered above the shadowed city. He pictured the tiny engraving on the east-facing side of the aluminum tip and realized to his amazement that the first ray of sunlight to hit the nation’s capital, every single day, did so by illuminating two words:
Laus Deo.

The Sun and the Washington Monument (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

Discussing The Lost Symbol (Video)

For those who missed the recent Secrets of The Lost Symbol discussion in New York (mentioned previously here), it’s now possible to see an edited version of the panel’s opening comments (below).

Moderated by Time magazine’s Lev Grossman, the speakers discussed a range of ideas, including Dan Brown’s skill at weaving contemporary moral dilemmas into his narrative and also the suggestion that, despite the sneering of many literary critics, The Lost Symbol may be one of the most important works of American literature to emerge in the past few years.

The panelists for the evening were: Dan Burstein, co-editor of Secrets of The Lost Symbol; Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America and a contributor to Secrets of The Lost Symbol; Ron Hogan, founding curator of literary website, Beatrice.com and, until recently, editor of Galleycat (also a contributor to Secrets of The Lost Symbol; and young adult author Maureen Johnson.

Secrets of The Lost Symbol 92nd St Y Panel (YouTube)

Photo Tour: Return to the House of the Temple

The House of the Temple (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

We’re nearing the end of Julie O’Connor’s Magical, Mystical, Masonic Photo Tour of Washington, DC and we are back to where we started: The House of the Temple.

It’s Chapter 114. Langdon and Katherine have just been rescued from Mal’akh’s basement lair. Meanwhile, across town, the tattooed villain is wheeling Peter Solomon into the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Southern Jurisdiction, aka The House of the Temple:

…Mal’akh tucked the blanket around Peter Solomon and wheeled him across a moonlit parking lot into the shadow of an enormous building. The structure had exactly thirty-three outer columns . . . each precisely thirty-three feet tall. The mountainous structure was deserted at this hour, and nobody would ever see them back here. Not that it mattered. From a distance, no one would think twice about a tall, kindly-looking man in a long black coat taking a bald invalid for an evening stroll.

Mal’akh takes Peter to the top floor of the House of the Temple, where he is preparing to perform the initiation right that he believes will give him extraordinary power. Of course, Mal’akh has the legend of The Lost Word all wrong. The secret is not a sign or a symbol. Instead, it lies within a religious text.

The importance of a religious text is one of the reasons why Dan Brown chose Freemasons as the heroes of his novel. Brown has stated in interviews that he admires Freemasonry because it allows people of all faiths to come together. In his, some might say, idealized version of Freemasonry, the brotherhood emphasizes tolerance, respect for many religious traditions, and diversity of belief. (A topic we explore, in depth, in our book Secrets of The Lost Symbol.)

Three Holy Books, House of the Temple (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

Undoubtedly, Freemasonry places an enormous amount of emphasis on the importance of religious books from the world’s major faiths, as is evident in the photograph above of the three holy books that take pride of place in the House of the Temple.

To learn more about Freemasonry, faith and The Lost Symbol pick up a copy of Secrets of The Lost Symbol. For past stops on our photo tour, click here.