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Cracking the Code
Comments () | Published May 1, 2006

The Washington Monument is only a small part of the Masonic story. The city is awash in architectural allusions and the lore of Masonry. When President Truman was overseeing the rebuilding of the White House in 1948, he ordered all stones with Masonic marks put aside. He later sent one to each Grand Lodge in the United States, saying the stones “intimately align” Masonry “with the formation and the founding of our Government.”

When astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a 33rd-degree Mason, landed on the moon, he carried with him a Scottish Rite flag, which is now in the Americana Room of the 16th Street Temple under the watchful gazes of Buffalo Bill, Stonewall Jackson, Ty Cobb, Irving Berlin, and Henry Ford, whose portraits adorn the room. Within a few feet of Aldrin’s flag is a small replica of the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the dome of the Capitol. The statue looks eastward, reflecting a central tenet of Masonic belief that all light—and with it knowledge and power—comes from the east.

Which brings us back to Dan Brown’s intention to make Masonic Washington the setting for his next blockbuster. Lots of books and Web sites are trying to dope out the plot of the book. They are creating a laundry list of possible elements for the book, including the CIA, FBI, Yale’s Skull and Bones, the Ku Klux Klan, the Mormons, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar, Phi Beta Kappa, the Bohemian Club, Satanism, and the Boy Scouts of America. After going through pounds of books, pamphlets, and other material published by and about the Masons, we came up wondering where Brown and his wife, who does most of his research, would find any secret history of Masons in Washington.

Then, on a special tour of Masonic Washington, we listened as our guide, a 33rd-degree Mason, flirted with the notion that the Masons and masons who built the city had held something back—ranging from the marked, unseen foundation stones of the White House to the secrets that could be seen only by the “initiated eye.”

Our guide expounded on the plan by L’Enfant. He said that in the design of the city he could see a Masonic lodge room: Candidates for membership enter the room from the north (darkness) and walk to the east (the source of light and wisdom). In the design of Washington, one can go from the darkness of the White House to the illumination of the Capitol. Aligned along an east-west axis like a lodge, the District of Columbia can be seen by the initiated eye as a diamond, a mystic Masonic symbol, with the White House, Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial at the four points. At the spot where the Washington Monument stands, initiated eyes imagine a G. Put it all together and you get the Masonic emblem: a craftsman’s compass and a square forming a diamond with a G, for God or Great Geometer.

Because everyone else is making predictions, here is what we think you can expect. On May 19, the film and a series of Da Vinci Code computer games will debut just as BookExpo America, publishing’s big annual extravaganza, returns to Washington. Odds favor a marketing rollout of Brown’s new book at that time, all done in the setting of the book’s own setting—Washington itself.

But could all of this huffing and puffing about a sequel be a red herring? In January, Doubleday’s Alison Rich told a reporter for USA Today that the company is sharing no details on Brown’s next book except that the title Doubleday had announced earlier—The Solomon Key—had been dropped. “No title, no content, no publication date, no nothing,” she said.

But consider the wordplay throughout The Da Vinci Code and note that Brown named a character Bishop Manuel Aringarosa. Aringa rosa means “pink herring.”

This article first appeared in the May 2006 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.  


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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 05/01/2006 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles