The not-so-lost symbol - Chester Cook

I finally got around to reading Dan Brown's newest book, "The Lost Symbol."

I love Brown's genre of writing and his use of mystery intertwined with history, science, and religion. But I find it easy to discredit Brown, because his research is superficial and predictable.

Brown's scholarship reads like that in Jesse Ventura's "Conspiracy Theory" TV shows. In particular, Brown conjectures with something called noetic science, which explores the idea that human consciousness can affect the physical world, mind over matter, thereby, providing the "link between modern science and ancient mysticism."

In Brown's utopia, noetic science is, amazingly, a real thing, but in reality, it ranks with the misguided Christian Science of Tom Cruise and Ron Hubbard.

Brown has another agenda in "The Lost Symbol," that is to revitalize Washington, D.C., as one of the great world capitals of gothic mystery, one that can hold its own with Paris or London or Rome -- "America has a hidden past."

Robert Langdon, Brown's lead character, is a symbolist, who loves showing us places where history has recorded inconsistencies in cultural boundaries -- between Christian and pagan, sacred and secular, ancient and modern. Langdon points out, for example, that the U.S. Capitol "was designed as a tribute to one of Rome's most venerated mystical shrines," the Temple of Vesta, and that it prominently features a painting of George Washington in the guise of Zeus.

George is painted in the dome in a painting called, "The Apotheosis of Washington," by Brumidi. The title means literally the raising of a person to the rank of a god. That hardly fits with the Christian underpinnings of this country. Brown attempts to run with this theology and suggests that the deification of man is our destiny.

Unfortunately, Washington's mortality disproves Brown's apotheosis theory.

If you plan to read the book, you may want to stop reading this review. The plot of "The Lost Symbol" has Langdon searching the Capitol for his missing friend, Peter Solomon, a 33rd Degree Freemason, the one who lost the hand -- and for a hidden Masonic pyramid -- which is the key to some mystical "lost word" that will impart wisdom that will turn man into god.

Mal'akh, the evil, tattooed nut-job is also in hot pursuit of the lost word. Langdon is joined by the head of the CIA's Office of Security, who for some reason is a tiny, Japanese woman with a husky voice. Langdon is also accompanied by an attractive, dark-haired female, heroine named, Katherine, who happens to be a noetic scientist (what ever that is).

In the mystery adventure, Langdon reveals all kinds of exotic symbolical fauna, decoding his specimens on the fly with an inexhaustible sense of wonderment. His inner struggle is between his own native academic skepticism and the ever-mounting evidence that the world contains some mystical incantation that will open a dimension of some underworld power.

"You, like many educated people, live trapped between worlds," a wise Mason priest tells him. "One foot in the spiritual, one foot in the physical. Your heart yearns to believe ... but your intellect refuses to permit it."

I was disappointed with the ending, and delighted with the ending, for exactly the opposite reasons that Brown concluded. In the end, the "lost word" was never lost in the first place -- at least, not to me. The "lost word was "the word"-- "the Bible."

However, for Langdon and Brown, the Bible is a coded, cryptic collection of unreliable stories and falsehoods that only simpletons believe. Brown wants to use the Bible like so many cults do as a lure to get people to give him an audience while he tries to change all of the teachings of Jesus into some new-age personal agenda of self-deification.

If Brown would ever read the Bible with a Christian scholar, he might give up his wild esoteric interpretations. Dan Brown's writing is terrific, but his theology is terrible. Dan asserts that all religions are ultimately the same, and all religious leaders ultimately teach the same dogma. Then, why are there so many different religions?

God is Truth, and the truth is: Dan Brown, you are not god.

If you have any comments on this column, please contact me at chaplain@airportchapel.org.