Topic “Essays”

Secrets of the Inferno

Over on my my other website The Daily Grail I've posted "Secrets of the Inferno", a feature listing eight possible topics that Dan Brown would be tempted to use in his upcoming novel. From Galileo's fossilised fingers to a UFO pictured in a Renaissance painting, it covers some rather strange and fascinating areas, so go take a look. And of course, for the full run-down, grab a copy of Inside Dan Brown's Inferno as a Kindle ebook download for just $2.99.

Solving the Codes on the Cover of The Lost Symbol

To view this article in its original typeset format, you can download a PDF version of it, which is a free download of Appendix 1 from The Guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (just $9.95 on The Guide takes you deeper into the hidden history of the United States, Freemasonry, Noetic Science, and other topics that Dan Brown wrote about in his latest bestseller. Check out the Guide now, to get a better understanding of the fascinating revelations in The Lost Symbol. Available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, or as a Kindle eBook.


In late 2003 it was pointed out to me that the dust cover of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code contained a number of curious ‘anomalies’: map co-ordinates in ‘mirror writing’, bolded letters hiding odd messages, and more. The reason for these strange inclusions became clear when Dan Brown announced in an interview that clues about the sequel to The Da Vinci Code were hidden on the cover of the bestselling book. By solving these puzzles and ciphers – and being conversant with many of the topics and resources Brown was likely to use in writing the sequel, I was able to write a complete primer on the as-yet unpublished book in late 2004 (the progenitor of this book you are holding now). In this very early ‘guide’ to the contents of The Lost Symbol – originally titled (and self-published) as Da Vinci In America – I gave background information on many of the topics that I surmised would be in the new book: Francis Bacon and the transmission of Rosicrucian philosophies, the history of Freemasonry, how ‘the Craft’ influenced America’s Founding Fathers, and the esoteric landscape of Washington, D.C. (including such exotic locales as the Scottish Rite’s “House of the Temple”).

When the cover artwork for The Lost Symbol was released in July 2009 I received the first confirmation that my research was on the right track. Though only the front cover and spine design was released prior to publication, it was enough to show that various locations in the American capital which I had written about were important to the new book.

Codes on The Lost Symbol Cover - The Symbol Quest

Update: For an updated version of this article, please see this PDF file, which is a free PDF download taken from The Guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (just $9.95 on The Guide takes you deeper into the hidden history of the United States, Freemasonry, Noetic Science, and other topics that Dan Brown wrote about in his latest bestseller. Check out the Guide now, to get a better understanding of the fascinating revelations in The Lost Symbol. A HTML version of the article is also now available.


It's like deja vu all over again - Yogi Berra

Almost six years ago now, it was pointed out to me that the dust cover of The Da Vinci Code contained a number of 'anomalies': map co-ordinates in 'mirror writing', biliteral ciphers using bolded letters to hide messages, and more. The reason for these strange inclusions became clear when Dan Brown announced in an interview that clues about the sequel to The Da Vinci Code were hidden on the cover of the bestselling book. By solving these puzzles and ciphers - and being conversant with many of the topics and resources Brown was likely to use in writing the sequel, I was able to write a complete primer on the as-yet unpublished book in late 2004. Originally titled (and self-published) as Da Vinci In America, it was later renamed The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key in 2006, when Dan Brown's publisher announced the title of the book to the New York Times. In The Guide, I gave background information on many of the topics that I surmised would be in the new book: Francis Bacon and the transmission of Rosicrucian philosophies, the history of Freemasonry, how 'the Craft' influenced America's Founding Fathers, and the esoteric landscape of Washington, D.C. (including such exotic locales as the Scottish Rite's "House of the Temple").

There was therefore a lot of confusion when early in 2009, Brown's publisher suggested that the topics and title of the sequel to The Da Vinci Code were still unknown. This seemed to be further confirmed when a change of title was announced - the book was now named The Lost Symbol, with a scheduled publication date of 15 September, 2009. However, since the announcement of the new book, clues and hints to the topics covered have been given via Facebook and Twitter, and I can happily say that I was spot on with most of The Guide to The Solomon Key - excepting of course, the minor matter of the title! Although I do wonder whether my book had anything to do with the title change in the first place...?

Further confirmation of the key topics came when the cover artwork for The Lost Symbol was released in early July 2009. The cover features a 'torn parchment' theme similar to the cover of The Da Vinci Code, though with Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. featured rather than the Mona Lisa. Also prominent is a wax seal emblazoned with a double-headed eagle - a direct confirmation that Freemasonry, in particular Scottish Rite Masonry - would play a major role in the new book (see here for the same seal used by the Scottish Rite).

According to Gould's History of Freemasonry Throughout the World:

The double-headed eagle was probably first introduced as a symbol in Masonry in the year 1758 . In that year, the body calling itself the Council of Emperors of the East and West was established in Paris. The double-headed eagle was possibly assumed by this Council in reference to the double jurisdiction which it claimed and which is represented so distinctly in its title.

Every Supreme Council in the world, and the subordinate bodies thereto, extensively employ this emblem in their Degrees, jewels, lectures, paraphernalia and stationery, making it the distinctive emblem of the Rite.

The 33 in the centre of the triangle comes from the fact that there are 33 'degrees' (levels of initiation) in the Scottish Rite. Interesting numerological insight/coincidence - the individual numbers of the release date of the book, 15/9/9, add to the number 33!

Not so noticeable on the cover though are the various symbols covering the parchment, taken from astrology, alchemy and other esoteric fields. Perfect vibe for a Dan Brown book. But if we look closer, we find something else. Once again, the cover of a book by Dan Brown has some hidden codes!

Firstly, there are three letter-number combinations hidden on the cover. Above the R of "Brown" we find "B1". On the left, above "a novel", there is another: "C2". And also, on the far right of the cover, "J5". Here's the magnified views:

But that's not all. Just on the inside and outside of the left hand side of the faint circle surrounding the seal, there are two sets of numbers:

For those that can't make it out, they are...

Outside: 22-65-22-97-27
Inside: 22-23-44-1-133-97-65-44

I haven't had much time to think about the above yet, but the one thing that does strike me is the non-random appearance of repeated numbers: 22, 44, 97 and 65. Perhaps worth noting is that there was a similar code on the back page of Dan Brown's Digital Fortress (128-10-93-85-10-128-98-112-6-6-25-126-39-1-68-78), where each of the numbers referred to a chapter, and taking the first letter of each of those chapters yielded (after using a Caesar Box cipher key) a secret message.

So it may be that, for now, these are largely unsolvable puzzles - we may need the book in hand to check for correspondences in the text, or we may need to wait for another post-publication online challenge giving more information, as was the case with The Da Vinci Code. Taking the example of that book, it's also likely that there will be more clues on the back cover of The Lost Symbol which we won't see until the book is released.

And so, more than 5 years after I first wrote a book about the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, based on the ciphers hidden on its cover, I find myself investigating new ciphers on the cover of that new book. If you've got any thoughts on the above, feel free to share it by commenting below.

(For those interested in exploring the topics in The Lost Symbol, you can read articles here on The Cryptex - check out the "Latest Articles" block on the right side of the page, and also the sample chapter on Washington D.C. from The Guide, which can be found in the "Guide to the Solomon Key" block on the top right of the page.)

Update 11th August, 2009:

Dan Brown's website has just had a makeover, and on the new design there is now a section just for The Lost Symbol. In there you'll find a "Coming Soon" section devoted to an upcoming "Symbol Quest", which I assume will be along the lines of the previous webquests, and based on the clues on the cover.

Also on the new website is a downloadable PDF of the book cover which, in addition to the front cover, also shows the spine of the book. On the spine there are three things worth noting. The first two are another couple of letter-number codes, as are found on the front cover. At the top left of the spine we find "E8", and just above the keyhole we can see "H5":

So now the full complement of letter-number codes are B1, C2, E8, H5, and J5 (unless there are more on the back cover).

One last thing worth noting is that inside the 'keyhole' at the bottom of the spine we can see the Washington Monument:

Is this indicative that the Washington Monument is 'key' to the plot in some way, or is it just a nice design element further pointing to Washington, D.C.? And, perhaps, a sign that the theme of the novel has remained unchanged for some time (echoing the 'old' title of The Solomon Key). In any case, you can read more about the history of the Washington Monument, and the rest of Washington, D.C., in the sample chapter from my book, "Strange Constructions", available as a free PDF download. Or pick up the new, updated Kindle version of The Guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol from Amazon to get a full primer on the likely topics in the sequel to The Da Vinci Code.

Update 9th September 2009: has just opened the doors to the Symbol Quest challenge. After answering 33 'symbol riddles' correctly, you get to hear a voice recording of Dan Brown announcing that the codes on the book cover will decipher to a phone number. The first 33 people to decipher the codes and call the phone number will each receive a signed copy of The Lost Symbol.

Update 16th September 2009:

To view a high resolution image of the back cover, click here (2MB) - thanks Tim. The final codes in the Symbol Quest challenge are there, as well as a number of ciphers to try your skills on. I'm quite busy for the next few days, but I'll do a summary when I get a free moment. In the meantime, check the comments below for hints, clues and solutions...

Update 2nd December 2009:

A revised and updated version of this article, with all the codes found so far - and their solutions - was included as an Appendix in my book The Guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (just $9.95 on I have also made it freely available here on The Cryptex as a downloadable PDF file.

Update 19th December 2009:

I have also put a web version of the updated article here on The Cryptex.

Mysteries of the Great Seal

A new Associated Press story doing the rounds attempts to debunk some of the hype and conspiracy theories which surround (literally, see the image!) the Great Seal of the United States. I wrote about the seal in my book The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key, as Dan Brown had indicated that the emblem would be a part of the plotline of his next book. For those interested, I've excerpted some of it beneath...just a small part of a lot of fascinating 'hidden history' of the United States which you'll find in my book (which you can pick up from Amazon US and Amazon UK):



Before adjourning on the ground-breaking day of July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution that a committee be formed to design a seal for the newly independent United States. The members of that committee were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – three of the five men who worked on the Declaration of Independence, two of whom would go on to become President. However, it would take another six years before the Great Seal of the United States came into being, with two more committees and fourteen men eventually employed to establish the icon.

The first committee of Franklin, Adams and Jefferson initially worked on Biblical and classical themes, including the ‘Children of Israel in the Wilderness’, but with little success. They then employed the talents of French portrait artist, Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, who had some experience in designing seals. However, the du Simitiere-influenced design was rejected by Congress on August 20th 1776, although a couple of the features later became a part of the official seal – the infamous Eye of Providence within a triangle, and the motto E Pluribus Unum

First Da Vinci Code - Now the Smithy Code

In a surprise revelation (which no doubt will raise a chuckle from Dan Brown), it has emerged that the judge presiding over the "Da Vinci Court Case" in London inserted a code in the text of his judgement. Justice Peter Smith used steganography - in this case using italicised letters to stand out from the rest of the judgement - to hide a number of letters. You can download a PDF of his verdict, with the cipher clearly visible, from the UK courts website. I'm going to keep a record here of what I've found, as well as updates on others who might break the code, and of course you're welcome to comment and add your two cents at any time.

Update: The Smithy Code has been broken (28/04/06). See the bottom of this page for the solution.

The encoded message (using italics) appears to begin with a plain, unciphered two word phrase. On Page 5 of the judgement, the first ten letters are s, m, i, t, h, y, c, o, d, e. That is, "Smithy Code". Smithy is the nickname of Justice Peter Smith, so it looks like the first two words are a title of sorts. Alternatively, it should be considered that this might be a keyword, for use in a Vigenère cipher or similar.

Following these two words, I've so far found another 25 letters (Update: now 31 letters). I've listed them below, beside the page they were found on (in case that is of some note):

Page 5: j
Page 6: a, e, i, e, x
Page 7: t, o, s, t
Page 8: g, p, s, a
Page 9: c, g, r, e, a
Page 10: m, q, w, f
Page 11: k, a
Page 12: d, p, m, q
Page 13: z, v

What to make of it? As mentioned earlier, perhaps a Vigenère cipher could be used with 'smithycode' as the keyword - however, again this doesn't offer up a simple solution. In news stories about this, the lawyer discussing the enigmatic cipher passes on a hint from Smithy:

Mr Tench said the judge had teasingly told him that the code was a mixture of the italicised font code found in the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail - whose authors sued Dan Brown's publisher for copyright infringement - and the code in The Da Vinci Code.

Further news stories have supported this, with Justice Smith apparently saying that the key to solving the cipher is in paragraph 52 of his judgement. This paragraph (found on page 14) reads:

I have set out at some length what in my opinion is an overall analysis of HBHG. I have done that (and will do the same further in this judgment in respect of DVC) because that is essential in my view to deciding this case. The key to solving the conundrum posed by this judgment is in reading HBHG and DVC.

Lastly, we also are given this clue:

First he said that the different ways codes are broken in "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and "The Da Vinci Code" should be considered. The idea for the italicized letters, he suggested, came from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail."

He then suggested moving on to "The Da Vinci Code" and applying one of the code-breaking methods used by its protagonists to solve the mystery of the jumbled letters. "Think mathematics," he wrote at one point. He drew attention to his own entry in Who's Who — in which he lists an interest in the history of Jackie Fisher, an admiral who modernized the British Navy, a possible reason that his e-mail address contains the word "pescator," implying fisherman — and said that the date 2006 was significant.

Is the italicised font code the first part - which we have already used to find the cipher message? If so, what is the 'code' in The Da Vinci Code - there are a few after all? Perhaps the Atbash Cipher? Doing a reverse alphabetic substitution again doesn't give a simple solution. Could it be just a simple alphabetic transposition? Once again, the Vigenère cipher should be mentioned, as it was a component of the 'parchments' discussed in Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

Solution: As of 28/04/2006, the Smithy Code has been cracked (with a little help from Justice Peter Smith himself). I was right to suggest the Vigenère cipher, however the keyword was not "smithycode", but was in fact based on the Fibonacci sequence (as per Smithy's instructions to look in The Da Vinci Code, and also his tip to "think mathematics").

The keyword uses the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence which apply numerically to the alphabet (that is, less than 26): 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. Transposing these to their alphabetic equivalents, we get "aabcehmu". However, here is the first problem: the actual keyword has a "y" instead of the "b" (I don't know whether it was intentional or not). Thus the actual keyword used to encrypt the text is "aaycehmu".

More problems arise from the fact that the encoded italic text is also incorrect. The second "t" on page 7 should have been an "h", and there should also have been another "z" at the end. Therefore, the text recovered by finding the italicised letters should have been: " jaeiextoshgpsacgreamqwfkadpmqzvz".

Transposing this ciphered message using the Fibonacci keyword translates to "jackiefisherwhoareyoudreadnought". That is (with spaces): "Jackie Fisher. Who are you? Dreadnought." This is a personal message which is not related to the copyright trial (contrary to everyone's hopes I think) - Justice Peter Smith is deeply interested in naval history, particularly the life of the British Admiral Jackie Fisher, who was influential in the creation of the first modern battleship, "Dreadnought".

If you want to check it out (and don't want to transpose each letter by hand), plug the values into this online Vigenère cipher decrypter.

Da Vinci Quest on Google - Solutions

Interested in mysteries? Check out the free online magazine Sub Rosa, which covers historical mysteries, secret societies, the occult and mysteries of the mind. And don't forget to check the daily alternative news portal The Daily Grail.

The "Da Vinci Code Quest on Google" is an online competition tied into the release of the movie version of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Beginning on April 17th, 2006 the Quest will involve solving puzzles and codes over the course of a 24-day period. Below I'll try and offer any help I can on each day's challenge, and remember to check the comments section as well for others' tips (feel free to chip in with your own comments or assistance at any stage).

Warning: Quest Spoilers Below

Day 1: The first day challenge is a Sudoku-like game (using symbols rather than the usual numbers or letters) similar to those that have been on the movie website for a while now. Each puzzle is different, so I can't give you the solution, but it is quite easy. Just look at each vertical and horizontal line, as well as the marked shaded sections, and use a process of elimination. After you solve the puzzle, you are asked a question regarding a triangular symbol on Langdon's (Hanks') face - the answer is "blade".

Day 2: Again, the initial puzzle is simple enough, with matching pairs of debris to be cleared away from a painting. After you solve the puzzle, you are asked a question regarding a cross-like symbol on Aringarosa's face - the answer is "greek cross".

Day 3: Today's puzzle is a test of observation. The question points you to a movie trailer on Google Video (search for "Robert Langdon"), and three questions are asked about scenes in the movie. Give it a go yourself, but if you are stuck here are the answers: (i) fleur de lys (ii) vitruvian man and (iii) five.

Day 4: Today's puzzle is a very simple game of organising the positioning of paintings so that they all fit in a certain space. After you solve the puzzle, you are asked a question regarding an upside down triangular symbol on Sophie Neveu's face - the answer is "chalice".

Day 5: In this instalment of the quest, you are asked to 'checkmate' a king - though you don't need to know chess, as the moves are done automatically when you answer three questions. Silas' spiked belt is a cilice, the 2nd to 4th ranked members of the Priory of Sion are the sénéchaux, and the engraved tablet is known as the keystone.

Day 6: Today you have a jigsaw puzzle to complete, of a Google Earth satellite image. As usual, this task is reasonably easy. Once completed, you are asked: "This city contains a 3-D version of Leonardo's the Last Supper created by Marisol, where is this city?" The answer is New York (thanks Schmoozer for the input). I wonder if the words at the bottom of the image have any further bearing on the is 'Sanborn' (which is the surname of the creator of the Kryptos statue which is supposed to play a part in Brown's next book - is this just a coincidence?). The other, FYI in case of further questions, is 'Bluesky'.

Day 7: The puzzle is another sudoku-like symbol game, this time with a grid of 5x5, rather than the 4x4 in round 1. A tough one too - I actually had to make an educated guess at one stage, with no definite solution presenting themselves. Anyhow, once finished, the question was "how many stones in 196000 grains." Seeing as there are 98000 grains in one stone, the answer is therefore "2" (I entered "two" to start with and was enter the actual numeral).

Update: It seems that people are getting different questions here, although all (that I know of) have been measurement conversions - here's a handy online resource to help out. More tips: be sure to use the correct units (many countries have different standards), and also use the Google search function...I had another try at today's puzzle (just for fun) and had all sorts of trouble working out a conversion on the mass of Jupiter, until I used the mass that Google gave me (as opposed to Wikipedia and other sources). Feel free to leave your particular question and answer in the comments below, in case someone else gets the same one.

Day 8: This round is once again a 'clear the debris' game, which is easy enough by trial and error, and a little intuition. The revealed question is once again different for everyone, although all seem to ask questions based on ISBN numbers (mine was "what was ISBN 0895581167 the time of? - my answer was Donatello). To find out the book your ISBN refers to, you can either use Google as the quest suggests, or I find it easier using's search function, or start with (thanks Chirag).

Day 9: Back to the 'curator' puzzle, in which you must hang paintings on a wall. Once again, the 'question of the day is random, so you probably won't get the same as me: "What month is Italy's national day?" The answer is June. For other answers, see below in the comments, or just cut and paste your question into Google - it generally gives you the answer.

Day 10: Today is another observation puzzle, with the questions based on a new Google video which introduces the albino monk Silas. You need to watch (and listen) to the clip closely to ascertain the answers. Question 1 asks the shape of an important looking stone object which Silas finds - the answer is octagon. The second question asks what is the last thing Silas touches in the video - this refers to the 'reverse shot' from inside the font - the answer is of course holy water. Finally, the last question asks: "what is it that will ultimately be broken?" You need to have listened to the voiceover to figure out this one - the answer is silence.

Day 11: Three questions today, as part of the chess componenent of the quest. Question one is: "A word that can read the same backwards or forwards is called:" - the answer is palindrome. Question two asks where in the Louvre was Jacques Sauniere's body found, the answer is Denon Wing. Finally, the last question asks "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is an example of what? The answer is pangram (a piece of text which uses every letter of the alphabet.).

Day 12: Today is a jigsaw puzzle - as usual, the easiest way to complete it is to start with corner pieces, work on to side pieces, and then finish the internal. The museum is the Palazzo di Venezia, and it can be found in the city of Rome. To find the Greek Cross (which won't appear until you click on the correct building), go to Google Maps and search for "Museo Nazionale di Palazzo di Venezia". Switch to the satellite view and you should get a fair indication of where to find it. Update: See this image (180kb).

Day 13: The beginning of round 3 sees another sudoku puzzle. Each of these are random, so you're on your own. Once done, you are presented with a random translation question. A good resource is to use Babelfish for this, or if you want feel free to add your particular question and answer in the comments (mine was, what is the translation of avorio - "ivory").

Day 14: Today is another 'restoration' puzzle, and this one is more difficult/frustrating - hang in there if you have problems, and if you really strike a difficult one it might pay to press the 'Request new puzzle' button. Once completed, you are given a cipher which needs to be decrypted using the Atbash (a code in which each letter of the alphabet is transposed onto a 'backward' alphabet). Use the two alphabets on this page to work out what your message is (for the record, mine was "xlmhkrizxb", which works out as conspiracy.

Day 15: On we go to the 'curator' puzzle for the third time. Not sure of everyone else's challenge, but I was lucky enough to get the easiest puzzle thus far I think...only took me a matter of seconds. Afterwards, there is once again a language challenge - I was asked for the Italian word for "painting". I used Babelfish and easily found the answer: "pittura".

Day 16: Today is the chess puzzle, in which you have to answer three multiple choice questions correctly to 'checkmate the king'. Question 1 asks who designed the Louvre's famous pyramid - the answer is I. M. Pei. The second question asks which French king built the Louvre, you should select Philip II Augustus. The final question asks which of the list of people never set foot in Notre Dame: Pope Leo IX will take you to checkmate.

Day 17: Another Google video to watch, this round the subject is Leigh Teabing (played by Ian McKellen). Three questions are posed regarding the video: the letter in the clip is "f", the word is "quest" and the number of 'spectacles' is "7".

Day 18: An easy jigsaw puzzle to conclude round three (one more to go!), followed by a question regarding Leonardo's perpetual motion sketch (answer: "London"). You then have to find four triangles ('blades') on the map, if you have a sharp eye they are easy enough to find. These point at a building in London, the answer to the question is "Imperial College".

Day 19: Ow! The final round begins with a much tougher Sudoku challenge...I actually had to request a new puzzle as I couldn't start the first one, and the second still took quite a long time to figure out. After that, you are asked a question which you need to use Google Books to solve - enter in the author, and the book to the search box. Then, search inside that book for the words which are in bold in your question. Funnily enough, I couldn't even use this to figure mine out, as Google said the page I was searching for was 'restricted'. Luckily, it was a book in the public domain, so I searched for the phrase in the Project Gutenberg. For anyone that gets the same as me, the "chief Italian virtue" found in William Dean Howells' Italian Journey is patience (oh, the irony).

Day 20: For the last time we're given the 'clearing debris from paintings' puzzle. I've had trouble with this every round, but funnily enough not this time. Using the honeycomb grid behind the debris certainly helps to keep your bearings. Afterwards, I was asked another Google book question, about the artist who has a piece in the Uffizi which shows "a woman playing the lute". Searching for that phrase, and "Uffizi", in Google Book Search, shows that the artist is "Bega" (Cornelius).

Day 21: The final curator puzzle has us hanging paintings, and again mine was surprisingly easy (apologies to anyone having troubles). Afterwards came yet another random question based on Google Book Search - mine was 'whose birthplace did Petrarch' stop in at, the answer was "Virgil". As always, people are posting their own questions and answers in the comments section below (5 pages worth now!), so if you're stuck it might pay to browse the most recent posts (ie. usually the final page).

Day 22: Today's "chess" puzzle is perhaps the easiest round so far. The leading member of the Priory of Sion is the "Nautonnier", the individual not rumoured to be a member of the PoS was "Nicolas Poussin", and the Egyptian goddess of fertility was "Isis" (not to mention being the name of my daughter).

Day 23: The penultimate puzzle today, and it's another jigsaw map to put together. The city shown in the map is "Paris", the nine cinquefoils can be found in a long triangle at about -45 degrees to the vertical. The final answer (what sequence is 1, 4, 9) is squares.

Day 24: The final puzzle, which consists of three questions that are based on a new Google video introducing the character of Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey Tatou). The answers to each question respectively are "2", "So dark the con of man", and "Madonna of the Rocks".

Update: There seems to be some confusion as to how participants make the 'final 10,000' and move onto the last phase of the competition (in the U.S.) The rules state: "ONCE PARTICIPANT FILLS IN HIS/HER GOOGLE ID AND CLICKS "SUBMIT" ON THE PUZZLE COMPLETION FORM, HIS/HER SUBMISSION WILL BE TIME-STAMPED AND WILL BE DEEMED PARTICIPANT'S OFFICIAL PUZZLE COMPLETION TIME." So it is the time of day today that you submit the final puzzle (not how long it took you to complete it) - you have to be one of the first 10,000 to have done so. The rules also say that the final 10,000 will be notified around May I guess you won't know until then whether you have made the grade. At least you're not in Australia (my region), where the prizes are pretty lame, and it appears to be judged solely on your idea - in 50 words or less - as to what the next Robert Langon adventure should be (judged on 'originality, creativity and adherence to the word limit).

If you like puzzles, why not solve the mystery of what's in Dan Brown's next book The Solomon Key? Take a look around this site for clues, or just buy The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key from Amazon (5-star rating).

Solomon Key Hints - From Dan Brown Himself

Some new revelations regarding the likely content of Dan Brown's next book have come to light, and this time they are directly from the man himself (although not actually intended as hints to the new book I'm sure). I'm happy to report that a number of his statements appear to confirm a few of my 'educated guesses' as to the content of The Solomon Key (found in my book The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key). The new hints come as part of Brown's detailed witness statement in response to Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh's plagiarism claim (over their book Holy Blood, Holy Grail), currently before the courts in London.

Firstly, there are statements which confirm some of the more obvious topics in the next book. One is that Robert Langdon will be the chief character, and indeed will be for a number of his future novels: "...the protagonist of Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon) who also appears in The Da Vinci Code and in my next, as yet unpublished, book...I intend to make Robert Langdon my primary character for years to come ". Another is that Freemasonry is central to the story: " All of this research and reading about the Illuminati led me also to learning more about Freemasons. This research was something I would come back to when I started to write and research The Da Vinci Code and also the book which I am currently writing."

Beyond that, there are further clues to his sources, and therefore the likely content of The Solomon Key. Notably, Brown points out his interest in links between secret societies and the U.S. Treasury, the conspiratorial "New World Order", as well as the iconography of the Great Seal (also found on the Dollar Bill). In doing so, he also confirms my suspicion that his novels are based in the conflict between religion and science:

Upon my return home, I started looking into the Illuminati, and what I found was material for a great thriller. I read conspiracy theories on the Illuminati that included infiltration of the British Parliament and U.S. Treasury, secret involvement with the Masons, affiliation with covert satanic cults, a plan for a New World Order....for example, the design of the Great Seal on the U.S. dollar bill includes an illustration of a pyramid - an object which arguably has nothing to do with American history.

Some historians feel the Great Seal's 'shining delta' is symbolic of the Illuminati's desire to bring about 'enlightened change' from the myth of religion to the truth of science.

In my book, I point out the likelihood that Brown will use the theme of the Founding Fathers being based in the Masonic, Deist and Utopian tradition - individuals like Franklin who were more for science than religion - and creating the United States as a haven away from the strictures of Catholicism on the European continent. Indeed, Brown says directly that he has a "fascination with the interplay between science and religion."

There is also a hint that he may go further into the Templar tradition in the next book, and may use the Oak Island 'money pit' as the tie-in to the new material:

  • I found Templar history fascinating. My recollection is that I had considered including more material on the Templars but decided to set it aside because I could not make all of Templar history fit into the tight framework of this novel.

  • From my research in Angels & Demons, I had read extensively on the Templars, including the legend of "The Money Pit" - buried Templar treasure in Nova Scotia. This well-documented legend (literally buried treasure) held my interest for a time, and I toyed with it as an element for this new novel. I soon decided that Nova Scotia was not an ideal setting for a novel because it did not afford me the many options I would need for dramatic settings. In addition, I longed to put Robert Langdon back in the world of Angels & Demons - and that meant Europe.

Brown also details his fascination with the Masonic associations of the Founding Fathers, right through to the influence of Masonic groups on modern-day politics. He even explicitly points out his interest in Skull and Bones, a society I predicted he would use:

I have asked myself why all this clandestine material interests me. At a fundamental level my interest in secret societies came from growing up in New England, surrounded by the clandestine clubs of Ivy League universities, the Masonic lodges of the Founding Fathers, and the hidden hallways of early government power. I see New England as having a long tradition of elite private clubs, fraternities, and secrecy - indeed, my third Robert Langdon novel (a work in progress) is set within the Masons. I have always found the concept of secret societies, codes, and means of communication fascinating. In my youth I was very aware of the Skull & Bones club at Yale. I had good friends who were members of Harvard's secret "finals" clubs. In the town where I grew up, there was a Masonic lodge, and nobody could (or would) tell me what happened behind those closed doors. All of this secrecy captivated me as a young man.

Research on previous novels may also be convenient for a new story based in Washington, D.C. In the original synopsis for TDVC, Brown had Sauniere's murder carried out in the same manner as the symbolic Masonic murder of 'Hiram Abiff', which he later exchanged for the Vitruvian Man symbolism - might he use this in the new book? For Deception Point, Brown says his wife Blythe investigated a number of subjects, including "the architecture of the White House". Interestingly though, he says that halfway through this book he began feeling bored, as he was no longer keen on politics as a subject.

The possibility of Albert Pike and Scottish Rite Freemasonry being topics in the new novel (and therefore the "House of the Temple" in Washington, D.C. being used as a location) has also grown more likely, with the admission by Brown that even before he wrote The Da Vinci Code he was in possession of Pike's monumental Masonic guidebook, Morals and Dogma. As I point out in my book, this topic leads in many surprising directions - even to the early history of the Ku Klux Klan!

Also of note was Dan Brown's admission that a lot of his primary research on The Da Vinci Code came from a book by Robert Lomas and Chris Knight, titled The Hiram Key, despite it not being mentioned in TDVC as a number of other books were (on Teabing's bookshelf). I noted in my book that Brown seemed to have used a lot of The Hiram Key, a book I was quite familiar with - and pointed out the likely parts of the book which he could continue using in his sequel (some of which pertain directly to the words 'The Solomon Key'). Perhaps we should pay attention when Brown says that this book "examines the role of the Masons and the Knights Templar in excavating and then hiding a cache of early Christian writings"? Why so? Because he says these writings were excavated from beneath "Temple of Solomon".

One source that I didn't note is Rule by Secrecy by Jim Marrs. A noted "conspiracy" book (replete with a fantastical 'alien' agenda), Brown says that he consulted this book "late in the writing" of TDVC. While this book touches on subjects in TDVC (such as the Priory of Sion), it also goes heavily into Masonic/Illuminati involvement in political and financial conspiracies (including such staples as the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers etc). As such, it's likely Brown will use some of these elements in the new novel (though not the 'alien' topic, as he says he found it "somewhat silly").

However, another source that I did correctly surmise is the Masonic writer Manly Hall, who wrote about an 'Order of the Quest' who were determined to settle in America as a part of their plan to create a Utopia. In his witness statement, Dan Brown explains how his wife Blythe marks particular passages when researching his books, one of those being The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall (notably, the new 'Readers Edition' published by Tarcher Penguin, which wasn't released until after TDVC came out). Blythe has marked it, and yet Brown says it "was published too late for me to have made use of it in the writing of The Da Vinci Code." There can be only one conclusion from that - Hall's book will be used in the new novel.

In terms of style, Brown also affirms much of my 'deconstruction' of the secrets to his success. "My favourite theme," he writes, "[is] codes and treasure hunts. My books are all treasure hunts of sorts". Another key ingredient, which he says was something he hit on in Angels and Demons, is the use of "hidden information and secret societies". Brown also mentions the importance of each book being "location driven" (because they give Robert Langdon the opportunity to "teach" the reader on secrets of history and architecture), occurring at fast pace (usually within 24 hours), and the doling out of "nuggets" of surprising information throughout the book - a technique he describes as the "academic lecture" by Langdon, through which the reader is drawn into the book further and further. This was precisely my point when I described Brown's success as largely arising out of his use of 'hidden history', giving the reader the feeling of "I didn't learn that in school". In Brown's words, "many of the aforementioned themes from The Da Vinci Code fall in a category I often call "secret history" - those parts of mankind's past that allegedly have been lost or have bcome muddied by time, historical revision, or subversion."

I'm now more confident than ever that my investigation of the topics in The Solomon Key is very close to the mark. If you're interested in more details on many of the above topics - not to mention a whole lot more - pick up my book The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key (or at least read the sample chapter on site here). I wonder, can I be taken to court for reverse plagiarism...

The Masonic Foundations of America

Information in this article comes from The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key, which explores many of the topics in Dan Brown's next book (since renamed from The Solomon Key to The Lost Symbol) - including Francis Bacon, the Invisible College, and how Masonic thinking may have contributed to the founding of the United States of America.

An updated version of the book is also available for Kindle, for just $5.99: See The Guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol in Amazon's Kindle store.


On the 18th September, 1793, the first President of the United States took part in a Masonic ceremony to officially mark the beginning of the construction of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Wearing his own Masonic apron, George Washington marched to the site with members of a number of local Freemasonry lodges, and then descended into the construction pit which housed the cornerstone of the building. Washington placed a silver plate upon the cornerstone, and then made the standard Masonic ‘offerings’ of corn, wine and oil. The Masonic tools carried by Washington on this momentous day are still held at a lodge in the District of Columbia.

To many of us today, it seems strange that such an important day in the history of the United States of America would have such an overtly Masonic theme. However, this may well be a topic that will soon leap into the public consciousness, as it is likely that best-selling author Dan Brown will explore the topic in his next book, The Lost Symbol. Brown is on record as saying the upcoming Robert Langdon novel is on the topic of Freemasonry and “explores the hidden history of our nation’s capital.” No doubt a large part of this 'hidden history' will consist of the Hermetic blend of Masonic, Rosicrucian, and Utopian thinking which was prevalent throughout the European intelligentsia during the 17th and 18th centuries, and which appears to have found its way to the shores of America and played a crucial role in the founding of the United States of America.

The idea that the United States may have been founded as a ‘Masonic Republic’ based on Utopian ideals is not a new one. In 1897, an American army officer named Charles Totten wrote “there are mysteries connected with the birth of this Republic”. Totten had been investigating the strange iconography of the Great Seal of the United States, and through his research became convinced that the birth of the American nation could be related to the Utopian vision of the Englishman Sir Francis Bacon, which he described in 1626 in his allegorical novel The New Atlantis. The esoteric author Manly P. Hall also claimed in his book The Secret Destiny of America that Bacon himself had decided that the Utopian dream could be realized in North America.

Historian Ron Heisler suggests another link between Utopian visions in Europe and the new colony in America. Heisler discovered that the German occultist – and staunch Rosicrucian – Michael Maier was in close contact with a number of individuals connected with the Virginia Company. This group of wealthy individuals had been granted a royal charter by James I in 1606, giving them virtually unlimited power of government in the New World colony. This charter had been drafted by none other than Sir Francis Bacon. Heisler believes that Maier’s well-known alchemical tract Atalanta Fugiens “may have been deeply inspired by the Utopian vision of America.”

American scholar Donald R. Dickson provides yet another link between the Utopian dreamers and the Virginian settlement in his book The Tessera of Antilia. Dickson’s investigations uncovered the existence of a Utopian fraternity known as ‘Antilia’, which counted Valentin Andreae – the author of the original Rosicrucian documents – among its participants. Inspired by both the Rosicrucian tracts as well as the writings of Sir Francis Bacon, this brotherhood at one point contemplated emigrating en masse to Virginia in order to found their Utopian society.

Why were these groups so set on a ‘fresh start’ in the New World? The answer lies in the two dominant powers which dominated Europe at the time – the Church and the monarchies. Renaissance thinking, secret societies, and the printing press all posed new and growing threats to those in power. New scientific discoveries, such as Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the Solar System and Newton’s physics, were challenging not only the authority of the Church but also God’s place in the cosmos. Secret societies – even semi-mythical ones such as the Rosicrucians – bravely raised new ideas and challenged the status quo. Scientism gave birth to Deism, which stood in sharp contrast to Christianity with its view that reason, rather than revelation, should be the basis of any belief in God, and that God would not intervene in his creation. As the Enlightenment dawned, many intellectuals found themselves as virtual heretics when compared with the religions, philosophies and governments which controlled European society.

Such was the breeding ground for ideas of a Utopian nation where freedom of religious thought and personal philosophy would be tolerated, and where government would be democratic and for the good of the people. Many Utopians, such as the great educator Comenius, dreamt of a society where men of opposing philosophies could still work together in the greatest quest of all – the search for knowledge. This pan-sophist philosophy had been enunciated very early on in Bacon’s The New Atlantis, where a group known as the ‘House of Solomon’ was comprised of philosopher-priests united in this very goal. In Bacon’s Utopian allegory, we find evidence of many of the philosophies persecuted in Europe: Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Utopian thinking and scientism. We find a similar combination in the life of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin

The first documented evidence referring to Freemasonry in America was printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1730, a journal produced by Benjamin Franklin. He was gifted with an enormous array of talents – besides being a journalist and author, Franklin is also remembered as an influential scientist and political statesman. To complement his reputation as one of the great scientists of the 18th Century, he invented two common devices still used today – the lightning rod and bifocal spectacles. He is also the only Founding Father who is a signatory to the three foundation documents of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris and the United States Constitution.

Benjamin Franklin was also a Freemason and a Deist. He was initiated as a Freemason in February 1731, and rose to the rank of Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania by 1734. As a publisher, he was in a unique position to aid the cause of Freemasonry in the New World. He published Anderson’s Book of Constitutions, the authoritative Masonic document, in 1734. In 1756 he was inducted into the Royal Society in England, which we have seen was heavily Masonic and perhaps Rosicrucian in nature. And in 1778, while in France, he was initiated into the highly influential Neuf Soeurs (‘ Nine Sisters’) lodge in Paris, which would boast Voltaire, Lafayette, Court de Gebelin and numerous instigators of the French Revolution as members.

Manly P. Hall, in The Secret Destiny of America, claims that Benjamin Franklin was part of the ‘ Order of the Quest’, the secret movement to construct a Utopian democracy in the New World:

Men bound by a secret oath to labor in the cause of world democracy decided that in the American colonies they would plant the roots of a new way of life…Benjamin Franklin exercised an enormous psychological influence in Colonial politics as the appointed spokesman of the unknown philosophers; he did not make laws, but his words became law.

George Washington

Franklin had been a Freemason for almost fifty years by the time he signed the Declaration of Independence. He was not, however, the only Freemason involved in the Founding of the United States. As we have already noted above, George Washington was most definitely a Freemason. The commander-in-chief of the colonial armies during the American Revolutionary War was initiated into the lodge at Fredericksburg on the 4th of November 1752. He was ‘raised’ as a Master Mason only a year later. In 1777 he was offered the position of Grand Master of the planned Grand Lodge of the United States, but he declined (quite ironically) on the basis that he was not qualified for such a high office.

There is little doubt that Washington would have been more than capable of filling this position – his refusal to accept was based more on a genuine modesty which remained in evidence throughout his life. He refused to be paid for his military service, and left the room when John Adams recommended him for the position of commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Despite accepting the post, Washington told the Continental Congress that he was unworthy of the honor. He was also reluctant to be seen using his power as President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson wrote of him:

The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.

In 1788, the year before becoming the first President of the United States, Washington did become Master of the Alexandria lodge in Washington, D.C., today known as the Alexandria Washington Lodge No. 22. The lodge became the site of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in 1932, a huge Masonic landmark modeled on the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt, the ‘Pharos’.

Despite attending church services with his wife, Washington held philosophical and religious views which suggest that he, like Franklin, was a Deist. He would regularly leave services before communion, a habit which moved Reverend Dr. James Abercrombie to compose a sermon scolding those in high positions for setting a bad example with their church attendance. Washington responded by ceasing to turn up at all. When Rev. Abercrombie was asked about Washington’s religious views later in life, he simply replied: “Sir, Washington was a Deist.”

Thomas Jefferson

Deism links not only Franklin and Washington, but also Thomas Jefferson as well – although the available evidence suggests that he was not a Freemason. Jefferson created his own personal Bible from the New Testament, by omitting the supernatural sections and leaving only the philosophical teachings intact. This unique compilation became known as the ‘Jefferson Bible’ – in the early 1900s approximately 2,500 copies were printed for the United States Congress.

While historians point out that there is no evidence to tie Thomas Jefferson officially to any Masonic organization, it is a matter of fact that he had great sympathy for the cause. In a letter to Bishop James Madison in 1800, Jefferson relayed his thoughts on Adam Weishaupt and his much-maligned Illuminati group. In what amounts to a defense of both Masonry and Weishaupt’s Illuminati, against the conspiracy charges laid by the writers Barruel and Robison, Jefferson’s allegiances clearly lie with the Utopian and Masonic ideals rather than Church and monarchies:

[Weishaupt] is among those…who believe in the indefinite perfectibility of man. He thinks he may in time be rendered so perfect that he will be able to govern himself in every circumstance so as to injure none, to do all the good he can, to leave government no occasion to exercise their powers over him… Weishaupt believes that to promote this perfection of the human character was the object of Jesus Christ. That his intention was simply to reinstate natural religion, and by diffusing the light of his morality, to teach us to govern ourselves. His precepts are the love of god & love of our neighbor. And by teaching innocence of conduct, he expected to place men in their natural state of liberty and equality. He says, no one ever laid a surer foundation for liberty than our grand master, Jesus of Nazareth. He believes the Free Masons were originally possessed of the true principles and objects of Christianity, and have still preserved some of them by tradition, but much disfigured.

…As Weishaupt lived under the tyranny of a despot and priests, he knew that caution was necessary even in spreading information, and the principles of pure morality. He proposed therefore to lead the Free masons to adopt this object and to make the objects of their institution the diffusion of science & virtue…This has given an air of mystery to his views, was the foundation of his banishment, the subversion of the Masonic order, and is the color for the ravings against him of Robison, Barruel and Morse, whose real fears are that the craft would be endangered by the spreading of information, reason and natural morality among men…if Weishaupt had written here, where no secrecy is necessary in our endeavors to render men wise and virtuous, he would not have thought of any secret machinery for that purpose.

Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, and as well as being the third President of the United States also served at various times as Vice-President, Secretary of State and ambassador to France. During his travels to France he accompanied his good friend Benjamin Franklin to the ‘Nine Sisters’ Masonic lodge. Many of his closest associates and confidantes were Freemasons.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine is yet another Founding Father who held strong Deist views. Born and bred in England, Paine didn’t move to the colonies until his late thirties, only a matter of years before the Declaration of Independence. He emigrated on the advice of Benjamin Franklin, whom he had met in London. Barely a year after arriving, he published the massively influential Common Sense on January 10th 1776, which is said to have sold more than 600,000 copies in a population of only three million. His words inspired George Washington to seek the route of independence from Great Britain, and Thomas Jefferson partly based the Declaration of Independence upon Paine’s statements. Paine also has the honor of being the person to suggest the name of the United States of America.

This revolutionary thinker was sentenced in absentia in Great Britain for sedition, and despite his support for the French Revolution in his Rights of Man, was imprisoned and sentenced to death by the revolutionaries for arguing against the execution of Louis XVI. Miraculously, his life was spared when the executioner marked his door incorrectly. Many Americans would be surprised to know that the man who coined the name of the United States, and had such a profound impact upon its independence, had strong feelings against Christianity. In his Age of Reason he wrote:

The opinions I have advanced…are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues.

There is no direct evidence that Paine was a Freemason. However, after his death an essay was published, said to be a chapter from Part III of Age of Reason, titled “The Origins of Freemasonry”. Whatever his official status was, Paine certainly had access to information about the Craft:

The Entered Apprentice knows but little more of Masonry than the use of signs and tokens, and certain steps and words by which Masons can recognize each other without being discovered by a person who is not a Mason. The Fellow Craft is not much better instructed in Masonry, than the Entered Apprentice. It is only in the Master Mason’s Lodge, that whatever knowledge remains of the origin of Masonry is preserved and concealed.

Paine believed that Masonry had a different origin than is stated in the myths of the Craft. He promoted his own view that Freemasonry was derived from the remnants of the Druidic religion, which was the most recent culture to bear a line of mystical knowledge which also passed through the hands of the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Chaldeans. And ultimately, according to Paine, Masonry was based on the worship of the heavens, and in particular, the Sun.

Paine claimed that the veil of secrecy which Masons worked under was in order to avoid persecution by the religion which took over the worship of the Sun – Christianity:

The natural source of secrecy is fear. When any new religion over-runs a former religion, the professors of the new become the persecutors of the old. We see this in all instances that history brings before us…when the Christian religion over-ran the religion of the Druids in Italy, ancient Gaul, Britain, and Ireland, the Druids became the subject of persecution. This would naturally and necessarily oblige such of them as remained attached to their original religion to meet in secret, and under the strongest injunctions of secrecy…from the remains of the religion of the Druids, thus preserved, arose the institution which, to avoid the name of Druid, took that of Mason, and practiced under this new name the rites and ceremonies of Druids.

Paine’s enmity against Christianity has meant that to a large extent, his role in the independence of the United States has been swept under the proverbial carpet. Theodore Roosevelt inaccurately called Paine “a dirty little atheist” (being a Deist, Paine actually did believe in a supreme being), and in 1925 Thomas Edison conceded that “if Paine had ceased his writings with The Rights of Man he would have been hailed today as one of the two or three outstanding figures of the Revolution…The Age of Reason cost him glory at the hands of his countrymen.”

We have seen that a number of the Founding Fathers of the United States were ambivalent, if not downright hostile, towards Christianity. A strong thread of Deism runs through the ranks of the influential personalities involved in America’s independence. But stronger still is the presence of Freemasonry. Not only were many of the Founding Fathers initiates of the Craft, but also numerous generals in the Continental Army, as well as other individuals who loom large in the drive for independence, such as the Frenchman Gilbert Lafayette.

This young idealistic French aristocrat took the position of Major-General in the Continental Army, with the request that he not be paid for his service, at the grand age of 19. His exemplary service for the fledgling United States earned him the respect of George Washington, whom he thereafter held as a life-long friend. Lafayette also spent time with Benjamin Franklin in Paris, where they were both members of the ‘ Nine Sisters’ Masonic lodge – in fact, each supported an arm of the aged Voltaire as he was inducted into the influential organization. Lafayette’s prominence in the Revolutionary War has led to approximately four hundred public places and streets in the United States being named after him. It is said that when American troops liberated Paris in the First World War, Colonel C. E. Stanton – on behalf of the U.S. General John Perching, a 33rd Degree Freemason – stood before Lafayette’s tomb on the 4th of July 1917, proclaiming “Lafayette, we are here!”

One of the legendary moments in the move towards independence was the ‘ Boston Tea Party’. On the night of the 16th of December 1773, a group of Boston locals protesting the importation of duty-free tea from the East India Tea Company, boarded the merchant ship Dartmouth and dumped its entire cargo of tea into the harbor. While devoid of bloodshed, this incident marked the beginning of the Revolution, as it ignited colonial passions against the strictures and impositions of the parliament of Great Britain. What is unknown to many is that at least twelve members of the local Masonic lodge were involved in the Boston Tea Party – including the patriot Paul Revere – and at least another twelve of the participants subsequently joined it.

Manly Hall’s The Secret Destiny of America claims that the creation of the United States was the prime goal of the ‘Order of the Quest’, a secret society composed of intellectuals and philosophers which had survived from ancient times. Hall says that the creation of the United States was a step towards the ultimate aim of a worldwide democracy:

All these groups [Knights of the Holy Grail, Christian and Jewish Cabalists, Rosicrucians, the Illuminati] belong to what is called The Order of the Quest. All were searching for one and the same thing under a variety of rituals and symbols. That one thing was a perfected social order, Plato’s commonwealth, the government of the philosopher-king.

It is difficult to reconcile this history with the modern mythology spread by American politicians and evangelists that the United States is a ‘chosen land’ for Christianity. In truth, its founders were largely non-Christian, indeed even anti-Christian, who took more from Freemasonry and Rosicrucian thinking than any other philosophy. At the heart of the founding of the United States was the deep and abiding desire to create a new land where the tyrannies of religion and government – such as the intolerance of opposing views – were largely kept in check. One wonders at how the Founding Fathers would evaulate their "grand project" at the beginning of the 21st century.

The Guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol

Deciphering the Da Vinci Code Movie Trailer

Codes, codes...everywhere there's codes! The first full-length trailer for the movie version of The Da Vinci Code was released on the 14th of December, 2005 (you can view it at the Sony website). In the credits sequence towards the end of the trailer, certain words and letters are quickly highlighted. Firstly, the word 'Seek' is highlighted in the phrase 'Seek the Truth'. Following that, the actor credits appear with the following letters standing out: T, H, S, E, C, D, E and O.

It's not the most cryptic anagram in the world: "Seek the codes." But what to do with it? These days, perhaps the easiest thing to do would There you'll find what appears to be a blog named 'Cryptophile' by someone called Lisa S., who is interested in Da Vinci and cryptography. Surely not a coincidence? I'd say not, considering that the page source shows that it runs tracking scripts from Further investigation of the domain registration information confirms that it's a marketing website for Sony Pictures (could Lisa S. be Lisa Sanders of Sony Pictures, who has experience in marketing? Alternatively, maybe Lisa S. is just an anagram of Silas - a character from The Da Vinci Code - guess we'll probably never know that one...).

Warning: Riddle spoilers below

On the Cryptophile website are a couple of riddles. The first is:

Mona Lisa
Thief Alias
True First Name

I'm guessing a little, but would this be referring to the 1911 heist of the Mona Lisa by Vincenzo Perugia? Vincenzo, an Italian immigrant who worked at the Louvre, simply walked out of the Louvre with the famous painting tucked under his smock. After two years, Vincenzo tried to sell the painting to an art dealer, using the alias Leonardo Vincenzo. But is the clue referring to the 'true first name' of the thief ('Vincenzo'), or is it pointing out that he took the first name of the stolen artwork's painter, 'Leonardo'?

The most recent entry on the site (as of December 14) has the following riddle:

Seek the site beneath the smile Stay on the shoulder Find the curator's command

The first smile that comes to mind, considering the topic, is the Mona Lisa's. On the Cryptophile page, there is a link to the movie site using an image of the Mona Lisa. Clicking where her smile should be takes you to the movie site.

Now things get tricky (especially if you're not from the me!). After much hunting around, here's what I found. Firstly, there's an obvious little discovery if you 'mouse-over' the smile section of the large Mona Lisa image on the movie site - "Seek the Truth", becomes "Seek the Codes". I'm actually inclined to think that this is supposed to link to the continuation of the puzzle, because I found the next part by trial and error.

Click on the link to "U.S" (following "Enter the Site") - yes, even're not from the U.S! This will load up a fairly large Flash animation, which when it plays is quite a nice segue of Da Vinci images with moody music behind it. Nothing too special overall though. But why the controls to the left of the animation, which allow you to pause and look at it frame by frame? Why not take a look and see what you can find, before going any further...

Okay, so did you look? Here's what I've found so far (in order):

* As the animation zooms toward the Mona Lisa, you will see "Find Robert Langdon" written on her left shoulder (I'm guessing this is the answer to the riddle above). See here.

* Next, in the hair of the painting of St John the Baptist, you can see an equation that works out to 1.618 etc, which is the golden ratio 'phi'. See here.

* As a follow-up, along the right side of "Vitruvian Man" is the fibonacci sequence. See here.

* A tricky one - in the "Virgin of the Rocks", there is a hard to see "P.S." (for Priory of Sion). See here.

* In the bottom of the garden in "The Annunciation", you'll find "Rose Line" written upside down. See here.

* In the following image, you'll find a fleur-de-lys in the hairline. See here.

* In 'The Last Supper', you'll see 'San Greal' written on the front of the table. See here.

The final image is again the Mona Lisa, but I can't see anything there.

Do all these insertions add up to something, or is it all just a trivial treasure hunt? Guess we'll find out in good time...

Update: Cryptophile web update January 11, 2006

A coded message is within the most recent update (Jan 11, 2006), a cipher based as capital letters, which says "Did you seek the dials". This seems to refer to the different versions of the cryptex image which appear on the movie trailer page of the DVC movie website. Each of the different sized movies has a different word revealed on the cryptex - grail, cross, blade and lisas. Whether these form an anagram, or are keywords to something else, I'm not sure yet.

Update: Da Vinci Code movie website update January 29, 2006

There have been more codes/puzzles added to the Da Vinci Code movie website, this time some very pretty Flash animation work. There is a short post announcing this fact on the Cryptophile website as well, which points out a few symbols which they found as a 'bait' to make you go look.

These symbols, and others, are the key to the puzzle. Basically, there is a section of the movie website which is 'locked off' until you find a number of symbols (six) within the original Flash animation (click on 'Da Vinci Gallery') which showcases many of DaVinci's art pieces. These symbols are quite easily found, as they glow a little - they are: a triangle (the 'blade') in the Mona Lisa, an ankh on the wrist of St John the Baptist, a Greek cross in Madonna of the Rocks, a Christian cross on the necklace in The Anunciation, a Fleur-de-Lys in the hair of the next image, an an upside down triangle (the 'chalice') in front of Jesus in The Last Supper.

Once all these symbols have been found and clicked on, the 'hidden part' of the site is unlocked, and these symbols are presented in a panel and can be clicked upon (more on this soon). Strangely enough, the Christian cross disappears from the panel at this stage, leaving only the other 5 symbols available.

The unlocked part of the site is the 'Characters' menu, which offers six of the lead characters in the book and movie (Silas, Robert Langdon, Leigh Teabing, Bezu Fache, Manuel Aringarosa and Sophie Neveu). Interestingly, each of these is associated with one of the symbols just found - Silas/Cross, Langdon/Blade, Teabing/Ankh, Fache/Fleur-de-Lys, Aringarosa/Greek Cross, Neveu/Chalice.

Viewing the 'bio' for each character brings up a short blurb, but with three of them there is a flash of three symbols as it loads. Langdon's "code" is Chalice-Greek Cross-Blade. Teabing's is Ankh-Ankh-Blade. Sophie's is Blade-Fleur de Lys-Chalice. Here's where it gets interesting. If you press on each of these sequentially (in groups of three), you are treated to a short burst of a scene which quickly disappears:

  • Langdon's code shows an Egyptian scene with L'Isa, labelled as Goddess of Fertility, and Amon, God of Masculinity. The words L'Isa and Amon quickly transpose at the end into 'Mona Lisa'.
  • Teabing's code shows a plan of the Church of St Sulpice in Paris (where Silas visits in the book, and in which the Rose Line apparently is marked). The plan is accompanied by the text "De L'Eglise de St Sulpice de Paris".
  • Sophie's code shows a slow scan of the Madonna of the Rocks/Virgin of the Rocks. It seems to transpose between the two versions, the latter being the one with the strange 'disembodied hand' pointing across the painting. In fact, this hand rotates into place as the scan moves upwards.

What to make of all this? At this point, I'm stuck. I thought perhaps that the three scenes pointed at another 3-symbol code - Egyptian scene = the Ankh, St Sulpice the Fluer-de-Lys, and Madonna of the Rocks the cross or chalice. However, it doesn't appear to be the case. Additionally, there is no way of using the Christian cross symbol, as it has disappeared.

This also interferes with another tactic I tried - in the first update above (January 11), I pointed out some code words found on dials. These seem to match up with the new symbols - Grail would equal chalice, cross would equal the Greek cross, blade = blade (obviously!), and Lisas transposes to Silas (who is associated with the Christian cross). However, this is 4 symbols. The last can't be used, because there is no cross, and abandoning it leaves the three symbols used by Langdon. So perhaps the last update was simply a pointer to this new challenge?

Any tips or further discoveries appreciated, so post away if you make a breakthrough (or just have some thoughts to share).

Dan Brown and the Ku Klux Klan

For more information on the topics and locations likely to be covered in The Lost Symbol, get the Kindle book The Guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol for just $5.99.

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...

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