According to Robert Langdon, in Chapter 82 of The Lost Symbol, an ancient Hermetic precept states: “Know ye not that ye are gods.” Langdon refers to this as “one of the pillars of the Ancient Mysteries” and a “persistent message of man’s own divinity” in many ancient texts, including the Bible.
The insinuation is that man is god–and that this is what the ancient philosophers, the editors of the Old Testament, and the Freemasons all believe.
The Masonic architect Bellamy tells Langdon, in Chapter 49: “The Ancient Mysteries and Masonic philosophy celebrate the potentiality of God within each of us. Symbolically speaking, one could claim that anything within reach of an enlightened man … is within reach of god.” And the universality of the assertion of man’s inherent divinity is reinforced, in Chapter 131, when Peter Solomon gives Langdon a quick rundown of instances in Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism, when similar assertions have been made.
Langdon, who elsewhere says he is not much of a Bible scholar (a bit strange for a Harvard professor with an eidetic memory who is steeped in symbols and their meanings), remembers the phrase from The Book of Psalms, Chapter 82, A Psalm of Asaph:
1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
There are several arguments against comingling the Hermetic injunction, “Know ye not that ye are gods,” with the reference “Ye are gods,” in Psalm 82.
First, most Biblical scholars tend to believe that the Psalms reference is really critiquing those mortal men who have come to see themselves as gods–noting that they will die, just like men. Rather than man’s inherent divinity, this reference seems to most readers to point to man’s hubristic assumption of godly roles.
Second, this specific passage of Psalms uses “gods” – elohim (אלהים) in Hebrew. While elohim is generally another name for God, the fact that it is a plural form has been interpreted in many ways, including “kings,” “angels,” or, commonly, “judges.”
Charles H. Spurgeon, a 19th century Baptist preacher and author of the Treasury of David, wrote: “To the people of Israel this kind of appellation would not seem over bold: for it was applied to judges in well-known texts of the Law of Moses.” While the British Methodist theologian Adam Clarke argued that elohim refers to man as god’s representative on earth imbued with his “power and authority to dispense judgment and justice.”
In other words, according to religious scholars, Psalm 82 may refer to man’s responsibility on earth to act as a judge, not the Hermetic meaning that divinity lies within man.
Finally, at least some Freemasons have taken issue with Brown’s assertion that the inherent divinity of man is a Masonic belief: According to a report on Beliefnet, Most Worshipful Brother Rev. Terry Tilton, a retired Masonic leader from Minnesota points out, “There can be no real substitute for perfection, the infinite and divine truth. And that is why just because God is God and we are not, human beings can never fully bridge the gulf of understanding and perfection in this world.”
As readers of The Da Vinci Code know, Dan Brown has a great interest in alternative histories and interpretations. He emphasizes the importance of the Gnostic Gospels over the traditional Gospels in The Da Vinci Code. In particular, he has previously called readers’ attention to the Gnostic principle that God is interior to ourselves, not exterior, and that through various mystical means, journeys, and truth-seeking, men and women can realize their inner divinity.
While this is, indeed, a view found in some of the Gnostic Gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas (see the outstanding book by Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief), it is not the traditionally expressed view of either the Old Testament or the New Testament. But a Gnostic reading of “ye are gods” converges snugly with Dan Brown’s plotlines in The Lost Symbol. From a Gnostic perspective we are all divine and human at the same time; we are all gods.