Category Archives: Albert Pike

Photo Tour :: Happy Birthday Albert Pike!

Statue of Albert PIke in Judiciary Square, Washington DC (© Julie O'Connor, 2009)

Welcome to Day Six of Julie O’Connor’s Magical, Mystical, Masonic Photo Tour of Washington, DC. So far, we have visited DC locations in the order they appear in The Lost Symbol. Today, because of a special birthday, we are skipping ahead to Chapter 121, and Albert Pike, who is mentioned briefly as Robert Langdon dashes past a bust in the House of The Temple on his way to rescue Peter Solomon:

On the first landing, Langdon came face-to-face with a bronze bust of Masonic luminary Albert Pike, along with the engraving of his most famous quote: WHAT WE HAVE DONE FOR OURSELVES ALONE DIES WITH US; WHAT WE HAVE DONE FOR OTHERS AND THE WORLD REMAINS AND IS IMMORTAL.

The photo above is not, of course, in the House of The Temple. It is a statue of Albert Pike found in Judiciary Square. (It is also the only public statue of a Confederate soldier to be found in Washington DC.) Here, Secrets of The Lost Symbol senior contributing editor Dave Shugarts explains Pike’s significance to Freemasonry and to American history:

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Albert Pike, a revered force in Freemasonry and a somewhat conflicted figure in American history. He was a poet, lawyer, scholar and Confederate brigadier general.

Pike was born December 29, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts and although his parents were poor, he gained a good education in the classics at Boston area schools through help from locally prominent relatives. At age 16 he passed the entrance exam for Harvard, but couldn’t afford to attend college. He taught in Massachusetts schools for a few years, and wrote poetry that was published in several national magazines.

At the age of 22 he headed west, into young America’s frontier, eventually settling in Arkansas, where his writing ability landed him a newspaper job. He also was a clerk for the Arkansas legislature, and this led to him becoming a lawyer.

He was a remarkable figure of a man, standing well over six feet tall and weighing 300 pounds, with long flowing hair and beard. He had a good singing and speaking voice, and played the violin. As he got older and his hair whitened, he came to look like Merlin the magician. Pike married an Arkansas woman in 1834 and the couple eventually had 11 children, but Pike lived apart from her during the later years and was almost a recluse in the end.

Pike was the court reporter for the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1836 to 1844, in addition to his budding legal practice. Law cases led him to practice at all levels of the court system, including the U.S. Supreme Court. In the late 1830s, he represented the Creek and Choctaw tribes in their efforts to recover compensation for treaty lands taken by the federal government. Ever the student of languages, he learned several Native American dialects.

Pike also served as an officer in the Arkansas Artillery and later, in 1846-47, in the Arkansas regiment during the Mexican-American War, seeing action in the Battle of Buena Vista.

Pike for a time was a member of the American Party (the Know-Nothings) and he did believe in state’s rights, he came to believe in secession after opposing it initially, and was against abolition. Unsubstantiated rumors of a link to the Knights of the Golden Circle, and even the Ku Klux Klan, have hounded his memory.

During the Civil War, Pike sided with the South and was named a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He was tasked with bringing the Native American tribes into an alliance with the Confederacy, which he accomplished, and to raise troops. His only major action came at the Battle of Pea Ridge in 1862 and it was marred by a rumor that one of his Cherokee soldiers had scalped a fallen foe.

In 1866, Pike met Vinnie Ream, the 19-year-old who had sculpted a bust of Abraham Lincoln and then was commissioned by Congress to create Lincoln’s statue in the Rotunda. Pike and Vinnie conducted a friendship that lasted 25 years, until he died. They often sat and held hands, reading poetry together, and he composed more than 2,100 pages of “Essays to Vinnie.”

But Pike’s most enduring legacy is his contribution to Freemasonry. He became a Mason in 1850 and helped his Arkansas lodges thrive. At that time, Freemasonry was emerging from a decline that had begun in 1826 with the infamous Morgan affair.

A rising order of Freemasonry was the Scottish Rite, which confers the appendant degrees above Master Mason (the fourth through 32nd degrees). The rituals for these degrees were in need of revision, and Pike turned his scholarly and creative skills to the task energetically, completing them in 1857 and even printing his massive manuscript at his own expense. The Scottish Rite, sensing a valuable resource, made him Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction in 1859 and he held that title for 32 years until his death.

In 1871 Pike completed his most widely published tome, the 800-page “Morals and Dogma,” a massive elaboration on the Scottish Rite degrees that had taken him into deep studies of religion and philosophy from ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, Hebrews, Babylonians, Gnostics, Hindus and many others. This book was handed to many thousands of Masons for many decades, well into the 20th century. Pike also delved into the Rig Veda of the ancient Hindus, and the Avesta of the ancient Persians.

The original “House of the Temple” was purchased by the Masons as a brick building, at 433 Third Street, NW in Washington. This is where Pike took up residence in 1883 and remained until he died on April 2, 1891. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

The grand stone edifice now known as the House of the Temple, at 1733 16th Street, NW, was completed in 1915. In 1944, the Masons moved Pike’s remains to a crypt in this “new” House of the Temple. There is a museum room for Pike there, as well as his extensive library of arcane books.

In 1901, the Masons erected an 11-foot bronze statue of Pike that now stands on D Street near Judiciary Square. It is the only outdoor statue of a Confederate officer that has been permitted in the nation’s capital.

Though revered by Masons, Pike is not much known among the general public. One of Pike’s most famous quotes is this one:

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains, and is immortal.”

This is inscribed near Pike’s bust in the House of the Temple. In Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol,” Robert Langdon pauses for an instant to take note of this bust and quotation on his way up the stairs to save Peter Solomon.

In a sadly ironic twist, Pike is in danger of losing hold on the quotation, at least among non-Masons, Apparently due to a misprint in a book of quotations, it is being promulgated on the Internet as attributable to “Albert Pine.” Indeed, one of the episodes of the hit television show “Criminal Minds” misattributed the quotation.

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

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The Politics of The Lost Symbol

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Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you have not yet read The Lost Symbol.

Most of the commentary about The Lost Symbol so far has focused on its belief system, philosophy, cosmology, and its view in particular of the Freemasons. Several critics have noted that, with The Lost Symbol, as opposed to The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown seems to be taking a stand for what he believes in.

Philosophically, that seems to be a New Age ideal of an ultimate spirituality for mankind based upon a commonality of beliefs and religions. But could he also be driving at a social and a political theory too?

If a reader was inclined towards hidden meanings, subtexts, codes and ciphers, he would not have to look far for evidence of Brown’s socio-political code:

  • The Hero Freemason. Brown praises the ideals and vision of the Freemasons throughout the novel. And he pre-empts some of the most frequent questions about the Freemasons’ reputation for discriminatory practices through his choice of characters. In general, Freemasons do not admit women, though U.S. lodges do have affiliated groups for girls and women. It’s hard to square that rigid definitional aspect of membership with inclusiveness and tolerance. But Langdon tells his Harvard class that Masonry is a “spiritual fraternity that does not discriminate in any way” and Brown seems to believe this. Thus, he creates Katherine Solomon not only as a brainy, beautiful, world-class scientist, but also as someone who has been essentially initiated into all of the most important ideas of Freemasonry by her brother, Peter. Additionally, although there is a long history of African-American participation in Masonic lodges, there is an equally long history of discrimination as well. Some critics allege a close association between Albert Pike, the nineteenth century Freemason leader, and the Ku Klux Klan. So it is very convenient that Brown has chosen Warren Bellamy, the Architect of the Capitol, and an imposing, elegant, gravitas-imbued African American to play the role of a distinguished Freemason.
  • Characterization of the CIA. Langdon solves the mystery of The Lost Symbol and rescues Peter Solomon despite director Inoue Sato, of the CIA’s Office of Security, rather than because of her. Indeed, far from being an efficient, evil-fighting organization, the Agency, as personified by Sato, is stubborn, authoritarian and always two steps behind Langdon. Brown chooses his historical terms carefully. So it is notable that in Chapter 48, after Langdon and Architect Warren Bellamy have escaped, Sato threatens Capitol police chief Trent Anderson and security guard Alfonso Nuñez with a “CIA inquisition.”
  • Torture. Torture was on the minds of Americans during a significant portion of the Bush Administration and will forever be entangled with America’s controversial interrogation techniques following the invasions of Afghanistan and, particularly, Iraq. Torture plays a significant role in The Lost Symbol too. Trish Dunne is tortured to reveal her pin code, Robert Langdon is tortured to translate the symbols on the bottom of the pyramid. And Katherine Solomon endures a gruesome torture, being slowly bled to death, to force Peter Solomon to help Mal’akh complete his quest. Unlike other pop culture tales of this decade–such as the TV series “24,”–there is no ambiguity here about the evil of torture. Only the bad guy uses torture. Everyone else—Langdon, Solomon, et. al.—must use their brains to figure things out. The good guys are never violent in Dan Brown’s world.
  • Water as a means of torture. Mal’akh’s method of securing information from Robert Langdon—nearly drowning him in a sensory deprivation tank filled with liquid—immediately suggests the years of recent debate over waterboarding. The standard American waterboarding technique involves laying a hooded prisoner on a board with his head slightly lower than his heart, covering his face with towels and slowly pouring water over the towels to simulate drowning. Mal’akh’s props may be different—a glass crate slowly filled with a warm liquid—but he does generate the same sense of drowning effect.
  • Religious Fundamentalism. Mal’akh is clearly his own uniquely mad character, not part of any known group or movement. But the ease with which he blends into the tony neighborhood of Kalorama, in his meticulous planning, and in his ultimate zealot’s drive and murderous logic, cannot help but connote Al- Queda-type Islamic terrorists. And how do Dan Brown’s heroes deal with this evil incarnate? Peter Solomon won’t kill Mal’akh even when he has the opportunity to do so. Instead, he tries to reason with him.
  • “Rush to War.” When Langdon, Sato and Anderson discover the Masonic Chamber of Reflection hidden in the subbasement of the Capitol building, Langdon explains that it could be a room where a powerful lawmaker might “reflect before making decisions that affect his fellow man.” He then imagines “how different a world it might be if more leaders took time to ponder the finality of death before racing off to war.” Is Brown editorializing on the Iraq war?
  • Hope. Dan Brown ends his novel with a one-word paragraph – Hope. In a book that has been devoted throughout to a discussion about “the word” the very last word just happens to match Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan and the single word that will forever be associated with Shepard Fairey’s iconic poster. Given the usual six- to nine-month gap between the submission of a manuscript and publication, it’s a fair guess that Brown was tweaking, and perhaps even writing, the conclusion to The Lost Symbol while the 2008 election was at its peak. Was “Hope” sitting at the end of the manuscript before Barack Obama’s campaign began? Did it find its way, subconsciously, into Dan Brown’s brain during 2007-2008? Or did he place it there on purpose, one final, powerful message for our times?

Tomorrow’s “Search for the The Lost Symbol” Answer Today – Part II

Will we see Matt Lauer at The House of the Temple tomorrow?

Will we see Matt Lauer at The House of the Temple tomorrow?

This is where we believe you will see Matt Lauer tomorrow morning for the third installment of the Today show’s “Search for the Lost Symbol” competition.

Each day, Lauer is reporting from a different “secret” location, in Washington D.C., that figures in the plot of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

These locations are supposed to be revealed in a carefully controlled manner. But, as we said yesterday, someone appears to be posting the clues that go along with the video reports one day early in an innocuous pdf document on The Lost Symbol Amazon’s page.

According to that document, tomorrow morning’s clue will be:

Houses the remains of this CONFEDERATE: CHOEPSLTGE

Our first instinct was that the answer is: ALBERT PIKE. After all, we are convinced he will play a key role in The Lost Symbol and he is the only Confederate general to be honored with an outdoor statue in Washington. But we could not figure out how to get the answer we wanted.

The solution came with the help of @bgates87, who, as we said yesterday, has been one of the leading Twitterers chasing down these riddles. William confirmed our hunch and supplied the evidence to prove it:

The clue is encrypted with what’s called a Keyword Cipher. It’s a substitution cipher that uses an altered alphabet to encrypt the plaintext. With a Keyword Cipher you use a keyword to rearrange the alphabet, moving all of the letters in the keyword to the front and omitting repeated letters. In this case, the keyword is CONFEDERATE, hinted at by the fact that it’s written in capital letters. So, the rearranged alphabet is:

C O N F E D R A T B G H I J K L M P Q S U V W X Y Z

You use this alphabet to encrypt the plaintext or decrypt the ciphertext. For decryption, it’s easiest to set it up like this:

C O N F E D R A T B G H I J K L M P Q S U V W X Y Z
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Now, to decrypt the message “CHOEPSLTGE,” you simply substitute each letter in the ciphertext with the letter it corresponds to in the plain alphabet. So, substitute the ciphertext letters for their plaintext counterparts…

So, Albert Pike it is! And why the House of the Temple? Well, Pike was one of the leading Masons of the 19th century. After his death, in 1891, he was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. But shortly before the end of the Second World War his remains were moved the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Southern Jurisdiction—aka the House of the Temple.

We’ll be writing about both Albert Pike and the House of the Temple a lot more in the coming weeks.

Paul Berger, Contributing Editor, Secrets of the Lost Symbol.