The Lost Symbols – Found

OK, so I’ve solved another mystery regarding the dust jacket of Dan Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol.

There are several sets of alchemists’ symbols on the wrapper.  The largest set are printed in a paler color than the rest of the jacket using an ink that reflects a golden sheen when held at an angle to the light.  I’m sorry to say that these symbols don’t carry any message.  Nor do the smaller symbols printed in faint grey that appear in long lines on the jacket.  These symbols have all been cut and pasted from the following chart, which illustrates a symbol font available from deniart.com:

Alchemy Symbols font chart from Deniart Systems

This is clear because the tops of the letters from the words “All rights reserved” in the above chart can be seen at the very top of the dust jacket’s back cover, and elements from the Deniart Systems logo in the top right corner of the chart also appear in several places on the jacket.

According to deniart.com, their Alchemy Symbols Series “contains over 220 unique characters based on the cryptic symbols used by Alchemists in the middle-ages. Referred to as steganographic and spagyric signs, the series includes symbols representing metals, processes, instruments, weights, materials and spirits.”

However, this does not end the inquiry.  There are also grids of  bronze-colored alchemy symbols that are even smaller than the gold and gray ones, and red symbols appear between the two concentric circles surrounding the seal on the front cover.  There are also some mysterious letter/number combinations appearing in various places on the jacket.  I hope to say more about these in a future blog post.

The Lost Symbol – Don’t Judge a Cover by its Book

The messages hidden on the wrapper of The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s new novel, are perhaps even more intriguing than the story inside.  (I’m talking about the hardback US first edition.  Other editions may have different wrappers.)  There are multiple layers of hidden messages and kudos is due to Michael J. Windsor, the book jacket’s designer.

Printed in red on the jacket’s back panel (inside the frame, on the left and right sides) is a message in the Masonic “pig-pen” cipher used in the book.  Decoded, this reads “ALL GREAT TRUTHS BEGIN AS BLASPHEMIES”–a quotation by George Bernard Shaw.

Printed in small faint red letters at the top and bottom of this frame (in the “six-foot way” beween the two curved “train tracks”) can be found the message “AS ABOVE, SO BELOW.”  (Appropriately, the first half of this message appears at the top and the second at the bottom, upside down.)

Also inside this frame, near the bottom left, appears a word square in red, reading:

YUOE
MSTD
IINH
REKY

This can be decoded with the following magic square, using the method described in the book:

16  3  2 13
 5 10 11  8
 9  6  7 12
 4 15 14  1

The solution: YOUR MIND IS THE KEY.

That’s all I’ve deciphered so far, more to come…

Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol – Good Hokey Fun

Last night I finished reading Dan Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol and this morning I’d like to share a few of my thoughts with the world.

First, this novel is not great literature by any stretch of the imagination (which is probably why there were no pre-publication copies for the critics), but it is an engaging read.  It held my attention and kept me reading when I could have been doing something else (like blogging).  And that’s how I judge a good book, so it passes the test.

Dan Brown has re-used the formula he used so successfully in The Da Vinci Code, and the results, while not dazzling, do not disappoint either.  The plot is a Masonic treasure hunt through Washington, D.C., with Brown’s protagonist, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, assembling and decoding a centuries-old cipher map to find the ultimate Masonic secret (which of course has been hidden in plain sight all along).  Think National Treasure and you’ll get the idea.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns and puzzles for the reader to ponder along the way, but having read The Da Vinci Code I found some of them predictable, to say the least.  For example, the solution to the final puzzle, which had the book’s main character perplexed for several chapters, jumped out at me right off the page.  Also, I am now wise to Dan Brown’s device of deliberately withholding information from the reader in ways that are designed to mislead, and I am also familiar with some of the material he uses as background for his story.  As a result I was often able to guess what was coming up next, and when it did, it sometimes seemed a little hokey.  Hokey, but fun.

The book contains many references to Masonic ritual and symbolism, and overall it sheds a very favorable light on Freemasonry.  I expect it to generate much interest in the fraternity (indeed, the Grand Lodge of California’s website, www.freemason.org, crashed under the weight of traffic two days after the book came out and has yet to recover) with a corresponding upsurge in membership.  The author obviously has a favorable opinion of the order and if he’s not already a member I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become one soon.

Two words of caution though.  Masonic ritual varies from state to state and from country to country, so if you join the fraternity, don’t expect to find everything exactly as it is in the book.  And as Brown mentions, Masonic symbolism is open to many different interpretations, so don’t expect to find “the ultimate answer” to the mysteries of Masonry in the book.  In many ways, Masonry is more about the search for the meaning of symbols, than about their actual meaning.  In this book, as in Masonry and in life itself, the journey matters more the destination.