Author Archives: danburstein

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:

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:

May 28, 2010
A Forgotten Master’s Irreverence
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….

Robert Frost – a Mason?

The New York Times ran the following report recently:

A forgotten Robert Frost manuscript recently turned up in the basement of a Masonic lodge in Methuen, Mass. It’s not a poem or an essay, but rather an attendance book Frost kept while teaching eighth grade at the Second Grammar School in Methuen in 1893. City officials say the book is somewhat the worse for wear, The Boston Globe reported, and they’re applying for a $3,000 grant to restore and rebind it. The entries are apparently all in Frost’s hand as he painstakingly ticked off, day by day, who showed up and who didn’t. At the time Frost himself was only 17, or just a few years older than his pupils, and a recent dropout from Dartmouth College, where he hadn’t even finished his first semester. But teachers didn’t need credentials in those days, and besides, Frost had pull: his mother also taught at Second Grammar. Teaching was the family business. Frost’s father was a teacher and a journalist, and after his death Frost’s mother, who had been a teacher, supported the family by returning to the classroom. She even opened her own private school in Salem, N.H., and, not surprisingly her son, who was already writing and publishing poetry but needed a day job, was hired there too.

But the Times report didn’t indicate any reason why this artifact of the great American poet’s early life would have been found in a Masonic lodge. (In fact, it appears from some accounts that the attendance record was found in the Masonic lodge 20 years ago and has been stored in Methuen’s City Hall since then).

Frost is not listed on any of the web databases that seek to index “famous Masons.” However, Frost’s Mending Wall poem (“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”) has connoted an affection for stonemasons and the art of wall building to some literary critics. And a number of Masonic writers have used Frost’s The Road Not Taken (“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference”) as a literary allusion to the difficult path of those on a quest for knowledge and meaning, and for the path of Freemasonry itself.

There is no indication Frost was a Mason, but we’d appreciate hearing from anyone who has a clue as to why this news-making attendance record in Frost’s hand showed up in a Masonic lodge or other thoughts on this bit of history.

Decoding the mysteries of The Lost Symbol

Secrets of The Lost Symbol co-author Dan Burstein appears in the Washington Post Short Stack today, talking about the codes on the Lost Symbol cover and what they mean:

Using various decryption tools we can identify these three coded phrases:



We also found on the back cover, by combining words at the top and bottom, a small but important reference to the hermetic adage:


In “Secrets of the Lost Symbol,” we explain the relevance of all these phrases.

Here’s just one example:

Pope’s Pantheon refers to a series of architectural works by Freemason architect John Russell Pope, who designed the Scottish Rite Freemason headquarters building on 16th Street in Washington where the opening scene and the climactic scene of “The Lost Symbol” take place.

But Pope also designed the Jefferson Memorial, which is in the shape of a classical Roman pantheon building. More than that: The whole idea of a pantheon ties in to the belief, stated many times in “The Lost Symbol,” that all gods, and all religions, are important manifestations of humankind’s search for spiritual connectedness to the universe. So even after you have decoded “Pope’s Pantheon,” you still have multiple meanings to contemplate.

Decoding the mysteries of ‘The Lost Symbol’ (WaPo)

Buy Secrets of The Lost Symbol or download the e-book today.

Dan Brown and Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

I heard recently from a fascinating expert on Isaac Newton, Stephen D. Snobelen, who is a professor of the history of science and technology at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Professor Snobelen is involved with The Newton Project, a UK-based academic group that is pouring through Newton’s voluminous writings on all subjects, including alchemy, theology, etc., and analyzing, indexing, and making these available online.

Recently, Snobelen has taken on Dan Brown and what he believes is Brown’s mishandling of key ideas and comments attributed to Newton, in a very intriguing paper, which I highly recommend. You can download it from the Newton Project Canada’s website.

By the way, here’s the Newton Project’s self-description:

The goal of the Newton Project is to provide online access to Newton’s scientific, theological, alchemical and administrative papers, with an initial focus on Newton’s previously-unpublished theological writings. By providing instant access to these non-canonical writings of this early modern natural philosopher, the Newton Project is leading a scholarly revolution that is changing the way we view the figure many see as the father of modern science. A steadily increasing array of manuscript transcriptions and images can be found at the Newton Project website. Visit the Newton Project’s innovative and resource-rich website at:

Anyone interested in Newton will find Snobelen’s paper, as well as all of the resources of the Newton Project, a wonderful virtual world to explore.

–Dan Burstein

The Jane Austen Code

Jane Austen: Liked to write in code.

Dan Brown fans sometimes have a hard time believing the parts of his stories where one person inscribes some important information for another in code.

Sophie Neveu, the heroine of the Da Vinci Code, was known to play code and anagram games when she was a small child with her grandfather; the knowledge of these games later turns out to be crucial to solving the puzzles her grandfather leaves in the wake of his murder. Robert Langdon must similarly make sense out of Masonic codes on the small pyramid left to him by Peter Solomon in The Lost Symbol.

Dan Brown has told several interviewers that he has always been fascinated by codes, cipher, anagrams, and mirror writing. As a child, Christmas in his family’s household meant going on treasure hunts, solving puzzles, and figuring out clues to find his gifts.

A new show at the Morgan Library, in New York, reveals that the greatly esteemed 19th century novelist Jane Austen played similar games with her young niece, Cassy. The show includes this nice New Year anecdote recounted in the New York Times:

Who would not wish for a close relative like Aunt Jane? In early 1817, the year she died, suffering, perhaps, from lymphoma and beginning work on a novel she became too ill to finish, Jane Austen wrote a letter to her 8-year-old niece, Cassandra.

“Ym raed Yssac,” it begins, “I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey.”

Every word in the letter is spelled backward, from that opening New Year’s wish to her dear Cassy to the signature, “Ruoy Etanoitceffa Tnua, Enaj Netsua.” The author, here as elsewhere, does not condescend to her readers, but she also knows who they are and how to give them pleasure. Imagine an 8-year-old girl, perhaps as precocious as her aunt, playfully deciphering these good wishes.”

A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy, runs through March 14.

Buy Secrets of The Lost Symbol today or download it now as an e-book.