A brilliant young computer programmer and code-breaker we know, Billy Gates, reports to us that if some of the numeric sequences on the cover of The Lost Symbol are run through substitution code analysis, it yields multiple possible pairings of words.
When you eliminate the nonsense pairings you are left with only a few likely solutions, the most intriguing of these being “Pope’s Pantheon.”
We expect there to be a number of interesting codes embedded by Dan Brown on the cover of The Lost Symbol and throughout the book.
In my book, Secrets of the Widow’s Son, I explored the subject of pantheons. A pantheon can be any structure intended for the worship of multiple gods. So it is appropriate to keep thinking of that functional definition, without insisting that it fit a physical design.
Dan Brown may have been intrigued when he researched his novels to discover the Panthéon, in Paris, which was the final resting place of Enlightenment thinkers Voltaire and Rousseau and a prominent building during the period when Jefferson visited the French capital.
However, the greatest example of a pantheon, the Pantheon of Rome–which featured prominently in Angels and Demons–is a special design, incorporating a pronounced circular portion and a rectangular portion (the portico). The circular part has a hole in the center of the domed roof called an oculus.
In his books, Dan Brown has called attention to the use of “round churches” by Templars and others, and he set part of the plot of The Da Vinci Code in the Temple Church of London, a genuine Templar church, which has a circular nave attached to a rectangular chancel.
There is a basic echo here in the idea of something round, married to something rectangular or square. If you just keep that concept in mind, you begin to see reverberations everywhere, but particularly in Washington, DC.
If you just stroll around the public buildings, you will find lots of tile and marble flooring arranged in square-within-a-square, or circle-in-square motifs, and endless variations of that.
A lot of this is actually Masonic, or influenced by Freemasons. (If you leave a Mason alone a while with paper and his geometry tools, sooner or later he will draw a circle and a square. After all, the square and the compass are his fundamental icons.)
When George Washington was asked to define the District of Columbia, he chose a perfect square, oriented with its corners pointed N-S-E-W. He was a surveyor and the most famous Freemason in America. What else could he do?
On the cover of The Lost Symbol, we see a special dotted “O.” There are many symbolic meanings that jump out right away. Chiefly attractive, if you’re guessing TLS is about treasure, is that the dotted-O stands for gold in alchemy. The list of possible lost treasures of gold is too long to mention. But it also stands for Ra, or the Sun, or perhaps Jesus, and also for the “monad” of ancient Pythagoreans. (And that’s just the short list.) Structurally, you just look for something that is circular and has something else in its center, there is Stonehenge, and there is the planform of any major domed structure, such as the Capitol.
Oculus means “eye” in Latin, and so it stands for the watchful eye of God. Note how this echoes the All-Seeing Eye on the dollar bill. In a lot of our domes, we may see a hole, a skylight, or a well-lighted center portion (as in the Rotunda) where light streams down upon us, as from heaven. In the Capitol, the painting there is the Apotheosis of Washington (Washington ascending to heaven).
Although this shows a real tendency of our nascent country to make Washington into our deity, our nation also realized that America is the creation of ordinary men and women, and a crowd of great men, our Founding Fathers. So there has been a certain amount of tension as we elevate a few to super-status, while merely honoring the others. For a long while, a functional pantheon of our “gods” has escaped us. The closest thing to it is probably the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol. But we have erected some wonderful structures for certain individual “gods,” such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.
It should always be remembered that the original design for the Washington Monument by Robert Mills involved putting an obelisk atop a circular colonnade, in which would be found great statues of our Founding Fathers.
In the realist sense possible, it would have been our national pantheon, and it would have had the fundamental design principle of a round thing with something in the center, the obelisk, with its square planform.
If you look for a round thing married to a rectangular thing and looking like the Pantheon of Rome, then your best choice in DC is the Jefferson Memorial. That’s because it was intended to look like the Pantheon. In the center of the round portion is Jefferson.
If you look for a big square thing in DC, you will find many of those, but one of extreme significance to TLS is the House of the Temple, somewhat north of the White House. It is the home of the Scottish Rite of Freemasons. In a sense, it can be considered a pantheon, since Freemasons insist on belief in a Supreme Being, but do not dictate which god a member might worship.
What unites the House of the Temple and the Jefferson Memorial is that they were both designed by John Russell Pope.
Pope chose the design for the Jefferson Memorial because Thomas Jefferson himself was an ardent fan of the Pantheon. Although he had never seen the Roman one, Jefferson was greatly enamored of it and studied its plans. And when Jefferson, not lacking architectural skills himself, was asked to design something for the University of Virginia, he gave them their Rotunda, essentially a replica of the Pantheon. (Jefferson included an oculus for UVa, while Pope chose not to use one in the Memorial.)
It’s all connected: a circle, a square, a center, our gods.
David Shugarts, Contributing Editor, Secrets of the Lost Symbol.