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When Dan Brown releases his book The Lost Symbol, one thing is certain: it will be a bestseller. With The Da Vinci Code reportedly selling 81 million copies (to date), anticipation is growing regarding the next Robert Langdon thriller. What is less certain is what this next novel will be about. However, by studying hints and clues left by Dan Brown on the cover of The Da Vinci Code, on his website and in media interviews, the attentive reader can discern with confidence some of the obvious subjects, and also make predictions regarding the more obscure topics which might be included in The Lost Symbol.
I discuss these areas in depth in my book The Guide to Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" (Amazon Kindle eBook). Some of the obvious topics which will play a part in The Lost Symbol are Freemasonry, its connection with the Founding Fathers of the United States, and the esoteric architecture and landscape of the capital, Washington, D.C. However, in the restricted space we have here, I would like to explore just one obscure area which Dan Brown might be tempted to include in his book. This regards one of the more esoteric constructions in the capital, as well as the life of the mysterious man who is explicitly tied to its foundations - and his links with the Ku Klux Klan.
Within a building known as the "House of the Temple" in Washington, D.C. lies the body of Confederate general Albert Pike. This building is the grandiose headquarters of a particular brand of Freemasonry known as the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction. Egyptian iconography adorns the entrance, and the pyramidal construction which surmounts the House of the Temple bears a striking resemblance to the truncated pyramid seen on the enigmatic Great Seal of the United States - right down to the number of courses of stonework.
The privileged resting place is a testament to Pike’s contribution to the Scottish Rite - he composed the ritual, and quite amazingly presided as the Sovereign Grand Commander of the group from 1859 right up until his death in 1891. A lawyer and newspaper editor, Pike also authored a number of books on Freemasonry. The best known of these is Morals and Dogma, a massive tome which was meant as a supplement to the rituals he designed for the Scottish Rite. The content is a rambling commentary on ancient cultures and comparative religion, and the book was given to each initiate after they gained entrance to the 14th degree (of 33). It’s interesting to note that one section of Pike’s treatise is concerned with the similarities between the myths of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and the subsequent Marian tradition of Christianity. Perhaps Dan Brown might find a tie-in here to the 'sacred feminine' topic which The Da Vinci Code has become famous for?
Morals and Dogma has gained quite a reputation among conspiracy theorists and anti-Masons, due largely to the writings of a Frenchman calling himself Léo Taxil. After originally writing a number of anti-Catholic tracts, Taxil subsequently turned his attention to Freemasonry, and focused particularly on Albert Pike. He fraudulently attributed to Pike the worship of Lucifer, and designated him as the ‘Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry’. However, in 1897 he revealed that his writings were hoaxes. Perhaps tellingly, Taxil was schooled by the defenders of Catholicism, the Society of Jesus - better known as the Jesuits.
Nevertheless, there are many sections of Morals and Dogma which show that Pike was very interested in the occult, and his writings on the ‘Luciferian philosophy’ have no doubt been fuel for anti-Masons. It is important to note though that Pike’s reverence for the Lucifer principle was not referring to the Christian idea of Lucifer - that is, the devil – but instead to the classical definition of a search for light, or knowledge. The ancient Romans named the morning star, Venus, as Lucifer: literally, ‘the shining one’.
Pike also appeared to believe in a ‘hierarchy of knowing’, and wrote with disdain on much of Blue Masonry (the first three degrees). For instance:
The Blue Degrees are but the outer court or portico of the Temple. Part of the symbols are displayed there to the Initiate, but he is intentionally misled by false interpretations…their true explication is reserved for the Adepts, the Princes of Masonry…Masonry is the veritable Sphinx, buried to the head in the sands heaped round it by the ages.
Pike’s writings show that he was deeply interested in the Kabbalah and other strands of occult thinking. The official historian of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction sees the 32 degrees of the order’s ritual (the 33rd degree is an honorary title) as being based in the ‘32 paths of wisdom’ in the Kabbalah. Pike also sided with the anti-Catholic thinking of many of the medieval occultists and scientists:
Masonry is a search after Light. That search leads us directly back, as you see, to the Kabbalah. In that ancient and little understood medley of absurdity and philosophy, the Initiate will find the source of doctrines; and may in time come to understand the Hermetic philosophers, the Alchemist, all the Anti-Papal thinkers of the Middle Ages…
Beyond these controversial philosophies however, Albert Pike is also embroiled in another, far stranger debate. In 1993, a group petitioned the Council of the District of Columbia to remove a statue of Albert Pike that sits in Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C. Their request was made on the basis that Albert Pike was one of the founders of the infamous Ku Klux Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan organisation that we recognize today, replete with burning crosses, white hoods and lynch mobs, is actually the third incarnation of a group originally founded in Tennessee in 1865, after the end of the American Civil War. Confederate veterans originally created the group to achieve a number of goals: to aid Confederate widows and orphans of the war, to oppose the extension of voting rights to Blacks, and also to fight other ‘impositions’ put on the southern states during the Reconstruction.
However, the group became known for its use of violence to achieve some of its goals, and in 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant signed The Klan Act, which authorized the use of force to end the terrorist actions of the Klan. This legislation heralded the end of the original Klan, although it was to rise again from the discontent brewing at the start of the 20th Century.
The second incarnation of the KKK arrived during World War I, and was a far more successful affair. Many whites living in poverty were drawn to the group, through the propaganda that their living conditions were caused by Blacks, Jews, Catholics and foreigners. The group claimed influence in the highest circles of government, allegedly inducting President Warren Harding, and also almost wooing President (and 33rd Degree Mason) Harry Truman. At its peak, the organization boasted some four million members.
The most recent group going under the name of the Ku Klux Klan was not founded until after World War II, and is in essence an organization formed in response to the growing civil rights movement. Though it shares commonalities with the original KKK, such as the desire for segregation of races, it is in reality a very separate group. Any attempt to discredit Pike on the basis of his alleged role in the original KKK therefore is not really worthy of consideration, as we must consider that Pike’s thinking was shared by most people in the southern states at that time (although that certainly does not validate their philosophy!). It’s also worth noting that Pike was an early supporter of the rights of Native Americans.
But was Pike even involved with the original Ku Klux Klan? The only evidence linking him with the group are the writings of a number of pro-Confederate historians from the turn of the century. There is no direct evidence that he founded the group, and it must be remembered that these historians tended to glorify the Confederate role, including the Ku Klux Klan, and the association could be meant simply to serve that purpose. Nevertheless, there is some strange history linking Albert Pike with the first incarnation of the KKK.
When the xenophobic and anti-Catholic ‘Know-Nothings’ political party dissolved in the mid-19th Century, one of its members formed a new organization. The ‘Knights of the Golden Circle’ (K.G.C.) was created by a ‘Know-Nothing’ from Virginia named George Bickley in 1856, although others have claimed that Albert Pike himself formed the group. Its aim was American (or more correctly, Southern) expansionism: a circle on the globe some 16 degrees in radius, and centered on Havana in Cuba, was earmarked as territory to be conquered. This circle included Mexico, Central America and even some of South America. It is alleged that the infamous outlaw Jesse James was a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle.
A curious aspect of Bickley’s plans was his use of the number 32. He set up 32 local chapters of his new group, and the ‘golden circle’ itself was 32 degrees in diameter (a radius of 16 degrees). Also, an early exposé on this mysterious order listed a specific invasion plan for the taking of Mexico:
We agree to introduce a force of 16,000 men, armed, equipped, and provided, and to take the field under the command of Manual Doblado, Governor of Guanajuato, who agrees to furnish an equal number of men to be officered by Knights of the Golden Circle.
So here again, we have the use of the distinctive number 32 – two groups of 16,000 men. As we have already noted, the 32 'normal' degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry are said to have their basis in the 32 paths of wisdom in the Kabbalah. Thus, we appear to have a more explicit link between Bickley's Knights of the Golden Circle and Albert Pike's Scottish Rite Freemasonry. Newspaper reports of the time also state baldly that Bickley was a 'front' for the true leaders of the K.G.C.
In their book Shadow of the Sentinel, Bob Brewer and Warren Getler describe how the Knights of the Golden Circle amassed a fortune through various means, and how they hid this treasure in secret caches when the group had to go underground. The knowledge of the whereabouts of the treasure was hidden in a series of complex ciphers, waiting to be reclaimed by initiates when the time was right. Certainly prime fodder for a Dan Brown plot, considering his regular use of puzzles and codes within his narratives. However, whether Brown is familiar with this obscure piece of history is not known.
It is alleged that the Knights of the Golden Circle eventually morphed into the original Ku Klux Klan. There is circumstantial evidence to support this. They shared many of the same goals and ideals, with both organizations explicitly referring to the need to support widows and orphans (which should be noted also as a peculiarly Masonic ideal). Beyond that, ‘Ku Klux’ is probably derived from the Greek work kyklos, meaning ‘circle’ - that is, the KKK was the 'Circle Clan'. Note too that the Know-Nothings, the Knights of the Golden Circle, Scottish Rite Masonry and the Ku Klux Klan all shared a dislike of Catholicism. Many Masons were members of the second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan, a fact which led the leaders of Freemasonry to distance themselves from any affiliation.
The distrust of the Catholic Church by Scottish Rite Masons has continued into recent history. In 1960, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, wrote an article concerning the possible election of John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, as President. The article appeared in the February 1960 issue of New Age, a Masonic publication:
Whatever bigotry is in evidence in the United States is exhibited solely by the Roman Catholic hierarchy…the dual allegiance of American Catholics is a present danger to our free institutions…among American citizens there should be no question or suspicion of allegiance to any foreign power, but in the case of the Roman Catholic citizen, his church is the guardian of his conscience and asserts that he must obey its laws and decrees even if they are in conflict with the Constitution and laws of the United States.
A further link with the Ku Klux Klan which is worthy of discussion is that former President Woodrow Wilson had a hand in the success of the second incarnation of the group. His administration was the first to re-institute segregation in the federal government since Abraham Lincoln began desegregation in 1863. Wilson’s praise of the movie Birth of a Nation, which romanticized the original Ku Klux Klan and the Confederate cause, was influential in the re-formation of the organization.
There is no real link here to the Knights of the Golden Circle, but there is the possibility of a tie-in with The Lost Symbol. In my guide to The Lost Symbol, I reveal that an enigmatic sculpture residing at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia - and likely to be a part of Brown's next book - has the following text encoded within an engraved cipher:
It’s buried out there somewhere. Who knows the exact location? Only WW knows.
While the most obvious choice for the identity of 'WW' is former C.I.A. chief William Webster, we could also tentatively add Woodrow Wilson to our list of possibilities. Especially as there is a secondary link to Brown’s material, a quote from Woodrow Wilson which is regularly quoted by conspiracy theorists regarding the Illuminati. In The New Freedom, published in 1913, Wilson wrote:
Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the Field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.
Returning to the Knights of the Golden Circle to finish though, there is one more candidate for the mysterious 'WW'. At the same time that the K.G.C began establishing its plans to take over areas of Central and Southern America, a young man named William Walker began filibustering expeditions doing exactly that. Amazingly, Walker managed to take control of the strife-torn country of Nicaragua, and duly proclaimed himself president. In short time Walker repealed the country's anti-slavery laws, a move which made him very popular in the American South where he gained the romantic title 'the grey-eyed man of destiny'.
It seems likely that Walker would have been linked to the Knights of the Golden Circle, considering their shared goals. If so, could the coded phrase above, referencing 'WW' knowing where something is buried, be a link to the buried K.G.C. treasure caches? There are more likely solutions, and we would expect Dan Brown to stick to more mainstream theories - but it is an interesting link all the same. And it makes for a good story on its own anyhow...