This review in two parts, one from a lay reader perspective, and one from a Masonic perspective.
The Masonic perspective can be found here.
Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol, reminded me of a parable. A parable is a story embellished with perhaps some grains of reality to convey a broader idea of truth. Dan Brown in his new book, The Lost Symbol,
Brown, at his finest, is a genius at writing parables. The The Da Vinci Code
Read Part 2: The Lost Symbol – The Symbol of the Symbolism
In his latest book, The Lost Symbol
I do wonder if the book was conceived on a walking tour of Washington
Science plays an interesting role in this book too, and with another Masonic twist. The nascent field of Noetic Sciences
As I mentioned, this review will be split in two, and the goal of the 2nd is to look more at the Masonic connections and connotations. But as the book itself was about Freemasonry, it is important to note that Brown’s treatment of Masonry was very tender, almost to much so. Early on, Brown goes to GREAT lengths to debunk and say what Freemasonry isn’t, covering the “is masonry a religion” issue, and even guffawing at the notion of secret geometric grids in the streets of Washington. Even the infamous MASON on the great seal on the back of the 1 dollar bill gets a quick walk on, only to of been used as a dodge for something else. Brown really did write this book with the fate of Freemasonry in mind, in parts almost writing as if he were creating one of our own brochures (perhaps off which he copied his passage) saying very strongly in his main character’s voice “In this age when different cultures are killing each other over whose definition of God is better, one could say the Masonic tradition of tolerance and open-mindedness is commendable.” Brown does go out of his way to weave in all manner of Hermetic, Gnostic, Rosicrucian, and Cabalistic ideas into the offering, but not in a way to dominate the reader into submission of belief, but to paint the picture that the ideas of Freemasonry, in their age and wisdom, are not wholly a Judeo-Christian construct, more on that in a bit in part 2.
Like past Brown novels, the story soon out paces the stage settings and takes over as a thriller and this book is no different. Its pace reaching a fever pitch of intrigue, manipulation, and murder, while embroiled in the ancient mystery of a “Masonic pyramid”. There are a few gasp moments for the reader, and plot spins that I didn’t see coming until hit square in the face by them. And the story winds out with a tragic dilemma, which brings me back to the idea that the story itself was a modern retelling of an ancient parable.
:: spoiler alert::
Caravaggio (1573-1610) The Sacrifice of Isaac
The parable I mention is from the bible. In that sacred text, very early in Genesis (chapter 22 to be exact) Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac as a show of his allegiance to his faith in God. In that past parable, the test of faith is tremendous as the eldest born of Abraham is the greatest sacrifice that he can give, and give he does, willing at the command of God. In the very last seconds, Abraham is spared, his faith proven, and a ram is substituted for his son. In the climax of The Lost Symbol
The reason for this conclusion seems to me to be based in the preceding pages as repeatedly the ideas of the Hermetic law were repeated and stressed (As Above, So Below) and the bomb of the protagonist was not one of physical destruction, but of ideological chaos. To sacrifice the son would still bring chaos, absolute destruction, personally and publically.
The story wraps up and all the loose ends become tied in the neat bows that Brown manages to make following so many leads and loose ends. But the way in which the book reached its crescendo, not in a fiery explosion or an earth shattering revelation of biblical purport, was lack luster. The inclusion of the CIA, the cavalcade of 33rd degree masons and publicity of the who’s-who of Washington seemed to me an interesting plot point, but hardly reason to blow up historical property, and murder several innocent bystanders, but then, this is a suspense novel, and this YouTubian plot device was just as much a stage setting as the Masons themselves (twitter even got a mention to put the story in a contemporary but soon to be outdated setting).
Really, would the world be so traumatized to see people, who are already pretty open about being Masons, being Masons?
In the end, it was a good book, fun, flighty, suspenseful, with a few a-ha and gasp moments. Was it worth the 5 year wait, I’ll let you be the judge, but it was a nice testament to Freemasonry, and very tasteful in its portrayal of the ancient and honorable fraternity, to which I say thank you to Dan Brown. I give the book 7.5 out of 10 stars, and can say that I enjoyed reading it, and I think that you will too.
For those who read the book, but are wondering what Freemasonry is about, I recommend this Free E-book “What is Freemasonry?.”