Author Archives: danburstein

Happy 200th Birthday: Edgar Allan Poe

A post from Dan Burstein, Co-Author of Secrets of the Lost Symbol:

2009 has been an important year for 200th birthdays—Lincoln and Darwin in particular. Two other 200th birthday celebrants are also of interest with regard to The Lost Symbol and the cosmological ideas and, in particular, the Freemason history that is at the heart of the Dan Brown novel: Edgar Allan Poe and Albert Pike. Today, we will give Poe a little consideration. Look for a post on Pike on his birthday—December 29.

There are a variety of fascinating resonances between Poe’s life and work, and the ideas and philosophy expressed by Dan Brown in The Lost Symbol.

Poe, is a great American writer and a highly original thinker. He is best known today for his novels and poems, including The Raven, written in the mystery and horror genres. Many American students read Poe’s famous short story, The Cask of Amontillado, in middle school or high school. Yet few will realize, or be told by their teachers, that The Cask of Amontillado has Freemasonry and also anti-Mason history at the heart of it.

For an intriguing insight into the meaning of the Freemasonry at the heart of Cask, see this paper by Robert Con Davis-Undiano, Executive Director of World Literature Today and the Neustadt Professor of Comparative Literature and Presidential Professor of English at The University of Oklahoma:

Here are a couple of choice excerpts, but I would encourage interested readers to look at Davis-Undiano’s entire argument: Continue reading

The Red Book by Jung and The Lost Symbol

The publication of C.G. Jung’s The Red Book, one of the world’s most long-awaited books, is interestingly timed in the same season that The Lost Symbol has been published.

Dan Brown fans waited six years for a sequel to The Da Vinci Code, but Jung devotees have been waiting more than forty years since Jung’s death in 1961 to peek into his personal cosmology and his most private and secretive thoughts.

The Red Book is Jung’s own personal diary of his dreams, revelations, meditations, brainstorming sessions with himself, etc. The focus is very much on symbols and archetypes, and the attempt to wrestle with the meaning of life, personal experience, dreams, and visions as seen through the prism of myth and archetype. Although Robert Langdon, Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol protagonist, lacks emotional depth—certainly nothing approaching the power of Jung’s insights into the self and the psyche–he would be right at home in the world of Jung’s efforts to decode symbols and find meaning in archetypes.

For more, see Kathryn Harrison’s New York Times Book Review of The Red Book and Michael Dirda’s Washington Post review.

Secrets of The Lost Symbol on TV

We were glad to see that even prior to publishing our Secrets of the Lost Symbol book (which will be in stores in December and available on the Kindle in November) NBC has decided to broadcast a television version: Secrets of The Lost Symbol, which airs on NBC on Friday night.

One of the world’s most popular authors, Dan Brown, sits down for a rare and exclusive interview with NBC News’ Matt Lauer to talk about his new book, “The Lost Symbol,” the beliefs of the Freemasons, the power of the human mind, whether people can become gods and a little known science that may tie them all together.

As far as we know, the show is not actually based on our book—they’ve just decided to make good use of our title. And they will be exploring some of the many themes we have been investigating in depth: Freemasonry, Noetics, the Founding Fathers and the philosophy that lies behind the book. Interestingly, the Inside Deadline website teases:

The broadcast also goes in search of what Brown calls the true meaning of his book and why, he says, its so unlike his others. Additionally, he speaks with Lauer at length about the beliefs of the nation’s founding fathers, saying “America wasn’t founded a Christian country. It became a Christian country.”

We wish NBC well and hope their show will shine interesting new light on The Lost Symbol.

There’s Something Noetic in the Air

flashforward1Did you catch FlashForward on ABC last week? This new one hour sci-fi-ish drama (which mixes one part Lost with one part 24) debuted nine days after the release of The Lost Symbol.

One of its key premises is remarkably similar to some of the ideas the fictional Katherine Solomon is working on in her noetics experiments in TLS: In FlashForward (based on a novel by Robert J. Sawyer, a sci-fi writer whose work generally focuses on the intersection of science, religion, and mysticism), virtually the entire world has a brain interruption for 2 minutes and 17 seconds on a September day in 2009, and virtually everyone also experiences a vision of what they will be doing six months hence—in April 2010.

Now, in the aftermath of this huge global harmonic moment, a classic battle is joined between free will and fate, knowledge and destiny, practical action and rational theory. All of humankind must determine if their collective knowledge of the future can allow them to alter that future, retain the good, reject the bad, etc. Quick. We need Katherine Solomon and Robert Langdon to help us decode this, before the plot spins out of control.

Was George Washington a Double Agent? Mt. Vernon in Panic?

george_washington_dollarA theory about The Lost Symbol focusing on George Washington’s alleged treachery and role as a double-agent for the British has been bouncing around the internet for a month now.

This theory is based on an August 7 report in the Scottish newspaper, The Scotsman, which quotes historian Robert Cooper, curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and a world authority on Freemasonry, offering a theory about Washington-as-double-agent.

Worse still, assertions that the original confession was concealed in George Washington’s coffin is creating panic around the grounds of Mount Vernon where Washington is buried.

Historian Robert Cooper, curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and a world authority on Freemasonry says, “It seems they’re planning security precautions to safeguard against what has become known as the ‘Rosslyn effect,’” referring to the way that, after the publication of Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian was deluged by grail seekers and treasure hunters.

You can think what you want about the theory (the article follows below). And you can think what you want about all of the Dan Brown official web advance clues suggesting themes of double agents and treachery.

But one item that calls some of this reasoning into question is the statement in the Cooper/Scotsman piece that there is “panic” on the grounds of Mt. Vernon, the national landmark where George Washington lived and is buried.

Our investigative reporter for the Secrets team, Dave Shugarts, contacted Mt. Vernon officials and determined there has been no panic and no special security precautions are in place. In fact, Dave posted as follows on The Scotsman website–with no response to date.

On blogs in the U.S., Mr. Cooper has retreated from some of the most important statements made in this story.

The story clearly says he was claiming a “reliable source” for a plot leak of the book. At http://lostsymboltweets.blogspot.com/2009/08/george-washington-traitor-to-revolution.html, Mr. Cooper now apparently says he never claimed a “reliable source,” leaving the implication that the reporter was either very inaccurate or very inventive.

Additionally, this article claimed that at Mount Vernon the security personnel have had to take special new measures to protect George Washington’s tomb. I contacted the Mount Vernon staff and they completely deny this.

In an effort to find out whether The Scotsman and Kath Gourlay stand behind the story, I contacted them and asked them to clarify. In an effort to learn Mr. Cooper’s side of the story directly, I contacted him at two different e-mail addresses. None of the parties has responded.

I would have expected that a reputable newspaper and reporter would want to stand behind their accuracy and veracity. The Scotsman has my address.

See excerpts of the Scotsman article below and let us know what you think. Continue reading

Sara Nelson Predicts Our Secrets of the Lost Symbol is “Sure to be a Blockbuster”

img-author-photo---sar-nelson_155545252168We were delighted recently when Sara Nelson, the esteemed former editor of Publisher’s Weekly, declared in a Daily Beast commentary that our book, Secrets of the Lost Symbol, was “sure to be a blockbuster.” Her comment was made in the context of analyzing the various authors and publishing houses who have moved their fall schedule around to benefit from (or not be hurt by) the Dan Brown tsunami expected to begin in bookstores on September 15.

Nelson questioned how much benefit The Lost Symbol would actually provide to other books: Will customers who go into their local bookstore to pick up The Lost Symbol on September 15 actually walk out with any other purchase? Or, in this tough economic time, will people only buy what they came in for? In this context, Nelson observed:

But surely there is one class of books that can’t help but benefit from the Brown-ing of America…and that’s the …guide books…Take, for example, William Morrow’s forthcoming Secrets of the Lost Symbol, which will examine the “alternate histories… [and] labyrinth of conspiracies… that have populated Dan Brown’s blockbusters,” much as author Daniel Burstein’s previous books examined Brown’s earlier efforts. That one’s sure to be a blockbuster in its own right, right? Well, right—except I can’t for the life of me figure out why it won’t be in stores until well after The Lost Symbol launches and the all-important Christmas season ends. Its pub date is now slated for December 29.

Sara: We appreciate your concern about the pub date and, since your Daily Beast post, we have worked with William Morrow/HarperCollins to move it up. Our publishers now assure us that our Secrets of the Lost Symbol will be in stores before Christmas. The perfect holiday gift for anyone on your list who is a Dan Brown fan! Thanks, Sara, for your confidence in us!

What the Cover Art for The Lost Symbol Suggests about the Content of the New Dan Brown Novel

Hello! I’m Dan Burstein, co-author and editor of Secrets of the Lost Symbol, to be published this fall by William Morrow.

On behalf of my co-author, Arne de Keijzer, and all the members of the Secrets team, I want to welcome you to a series of blog posts offering you glimpses into the world of Dan Brown’s forthcoming novel, The Lost Symbol. With an announced first printing of five million copies, and an unprecedented marketing campaign, this sequel to The Da Vinci Code is sure to be a blockbuster.

Our book, Secrets of the Lost Symbol, draws on the expertise of leading thinkers in history, art, architecture, political science, conspiracy theory, religion, philosophy, science and much more—just as we did with our own New York Times bestselling book, Secrets of the Code, in the wake of The Da Vinci Code several years ago. Our aim in these books is to provide our readers with the tools to separate the real and the imagined, and fact from fiction.

Although the text of The Lost Symbol itself is under extremely high security until its publication, on September 15, we can tell a fair amount about it by analyzing the cover art for the book, which has already been made public by its publisher. As our Secrets team investigative reporter David Shugarts predicted five years ago—and as The Lost Symbol cover art underscores—Dan Brown’s next book will again feature symbologist Robert Langdon, this time in a thriller set in Washington, D.C. and drawing from the history of American Freemasonry for its context.

Secrets Unveiled

The US Cover to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol

The US Cover to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol

On the cover and spine of The Lost Symbol, you can see the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, a variety of Freemason symbols (such as the compass and the square), and the Latin motto Ordo Ab Chao—“Order out of Chaos.” The 33 degree reference is to the highest level of Freemasonry that can be obtained, and the wax seal represents the Scottish Rite branch of Freemasons, which was led in the 19th century by a fascinating character named Albert Pike, who we believe may play a role in the plot of The Lost Symbol.

The wax seal on the front cover of The Lost Symbol bears the Latin motto Ordo Ab Chao—“Order out of Chaos.”

The wax seal on the front cover of The Lost Symbol bears the Latin motto Ordo Ab Chao—“Order out of Chaos.”

You can also see a variety of codes and symbols, many suggesting alchemy, astrology, and a number of different computer codes and ciphers. Our team is working on cracking many of these codes at this very moment and will share many of the solutions with you.

But the overall impression suggested by these symbols is that one of Dan Brown’s key ideas in The Lost Symbol is a reminder that America was fashioned by a brilliant generation of founding fathers, many of whom (including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and many others) were Freemasons. And that as a result they were informed by their passionate interest not just in Enlightenment philosophical, political, and religions ideas, but in the traditions of ancient civilizations–from Egypt to the Jewish experience of the Old Testament, to Gnosticism, and to Medieval and Renaissance alchemy as well.

The Lost Symbol cover also uses a circle with a dot inside it for the letter “o.” This is suggestive of the alchemical symbol for gold, and the possibility that golden treasure—of King Solomon, of the Knights Templar, or perhaps of the 19th century American Knights of the Golden Circle—will play a role in the story. This symbol also has connotations of Egypt and Ra, the sun god, as well as geometric significance to Pythagoreans, Euclidians, and Freemasons.

A circle with a dot inside it for the letter “o” suggests the alchemical symbol for gold and the possibility that golden treasure  will play a role in the story.

A circle with a dot inside it for the letter “o” suggests the alchemical symbol for gold and the possibility that golden treasure will play a role in the story.

The geometric shapes on the cover also suggest the themes Dan Brown has referenced in almost all of his previous novels—male and female iconography and, in particular, the role of the “sacred feminine” in the consciousness of early civilizations. In this context, we can see the Monument and the Capitol as masculine and feminine—the Capitol building cupola as a symbol of the female “chalice” and the Washington Monument as a symbol of the male “blade.”

Dave Shugarts sees in the flaming key and the impression of a fiery backdrop on the cover allusions to the legend of the burning Temple of Solomon, as well as the famous fire early in the history of the Smithsonian that burned up the archives of its endower, James Smithson. Smithson is another fascinating character from history who we think may make an appearance in The Lost Symbol.

There is so much more on the cover of The Lost Symbol, not to mention what will be found in the mysteries and history treated in more than 500 pages of the novel itself…

Look for our Secrets of the Lost Symbol to go deep inside everything Dan Brown alludes to in his novel. With the help of some of the world’s leading experts, we will separate fact from fiction, and bring you, the reader, into a thought-provoking new way of seeing key threads and patterns in our own American history.

Secrets of the Lost Symbol will be in bookstores everywhere this fall!

– Dan Burstein, Editor, Secrets of the Lost Symbol