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Ruminations on The Lost Symbol

Alert: If you haven't read this novel, but intend to, don't visit the cut. But I can say this: this book is worth the read.

It would be impossible to summarize the complex web that Dan Brown spins in this latest Robert Langdon novel into a cohesive précis, but I haven't read a book this fast for a long time. As with most of Brown's works, it's a real page-turner. A bit derivative, if you've read The DaVinci Code and/or Angels and Demons; there's the crazed bad-guy with an appropriately twisted past and a surprising twist at the end; vast amounts of history and symbology; and an exploration of the Masons which, while intriguing and informative, is probably about as accurate as Brown's treatment of Opus Dei.

The thing that makes it work is the fact that most of what he writes about has some basis in history or fact, with just enough fiction woven in to keep it from being dry. And it makes you want to believe...

Washington, DC is a city of symbols and mysteries and wonders. Even before this novel came out, I had happened across websites which explore some of the symbology surrounding the design and layout of the Capitol, and various things which can be found in and around its buildings. There's enough real stuff to keep a conspiracy theorist busy for a lifetime. Weave into that some of the questions surrounding the Masonic order, the very real and very strange Melencolia I by Albrecht Dürer, and the inscrutable Kryptos sculpture at CIA headquarters, and you have something that at the very least makes you wonder how much of this story could lie within the realm of possibility. More on Dürer's image here.

Brown's foray into the nature of Noetic Science is most interesting. Before reading this book, I had no idea that people were beginning to take these concepts seriously. The purely scientific will continue to dismiss this as junk science and wasted effort, because it egregiously crosses the line from pure empirical data into the realm of the metaphysical. Nonetheless, this is the aspect of the novel which captivated me the most, because I have first-hand experience that the power of mind can influence the world around us.

These things I know:

1) Thoughts are things.
2) The power of thought is multiplied when shared.
3) Thought-controlled computer programs or applications are already a reality, even if at the very rudimentary level.

From a purely scientific viewpoint, the distinction between matter and energy becomes more blurred all the time. String theory, superstring theory, all of it points to the fact that discrete matter is simply the result of certain types of vibrations - and that in that context, the entire universe is connected.

The last little consideration I had, which prompted me to put my thoughts about the novel down here, came to me as I lay in bed considering what I had just read.

Brown's novel uses the concept of the circumpunct heavily. Although the "lost" symbol is revealed to be something else entirely, the dotted circle ends up being the central visible symbol of the book. From the text:

The great pyramid rises from the earth, stretching toward the heaven, the enduring symbol of lost wisdom. It is filled with history's great philosophies and religions, all flowing upward, merging together, funneling themselves up through the transformative gateway of the pyramid, where they finally fuse into a single unified human philosophy. A single universal consciousness, a shared global vision of God, represented by the ancient symbol that hovers over the capstone."

"The circumpunct," Peter said. "A universal symbol of God."

"Right. Throughout history, the circumpunct has been all things to all people - The Great Architect of the Universe."

In light of evolutionary theory, this passage and its concomitant symbols struck me powerfully, because the evolution of mankind began with "matter unorganized," or the basic building blocks of the universe which came into being after the Big Bang. By the time things had cooled down enough for quarks to come together in discrete bunches, most of the universe consisted of hydrogen and a bit of helium. Over billions of years, stars came into being, lived and died - some quietly dying out, and some suiciding in the cataclysmic deaths that resulted in the heavier elements from which our Earth - and ultimately our bodies - were constructed. Do a search for the term "hydrogen atoms evolved to consciousness," and you'll only find a few references - all of them in posts I have written. Surely someone has used the term before me, but whether or no, it is the summum bonum of evolution.

And what of Man's future destiny? Many secular humanists, of whom one of the greatest was Isaac Asimov, also dream of man's continuing evolution to a higher form of intelligence, albeit by natural processes. Asimov's "The Last Question," one of my most beloved stories by the great master, posits Man's ascent to ultimate consciousness, with a lovely and sweetly ironic conclusion. And while I am a person of religious faith rather than a secularist, I see the same ultimate end for my race: becoming like unto the Great Architect. I simply envision a different route to traverse.

Brown's recent book is all about symbols. As I lay there in the dark, with all the symbols and signs and analogies and mysteries swirling about in my head, I decided that everything I believe - both from the scientific and religious perspectives, could be summed up in one symbological phrase:

It feels good.

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Apr. 17th, 2011 05:32 am (UTC)
An interesting fact about the capstone of the Washington Monument.
Apr. 17th, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
Isn't this simply a reflection of how the American government has fallen since its inception?
(which, unfortunately, doesn't make it any less dire an indication)
Apr. 17th, 2011 08:18 am (UTC)
a VERY interesting fact. This "Capitol" which the inscription faced, is it a place of significance in these "United States of America"?


The Old Wolf

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