Enlightenment Truths and Metaphysical Inaccuracies in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol

Posted on 11th October 2009 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior,Mediaphilism
Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol

I strongly disagree with avid Plotz’s commentary, Dan Brown’s Washington, which argues that the real story of Washington is in the political players, not the spiritual and philosophical history which is the focus of The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown’s power as a writer is in having his characters take an intellectual adventure, travelling down pathways of obscure knowledge and history. The Lost Symbol is at its most intriguing when the characters are just standing around reasoning, however misrepresented their facts may be at times.

Rosicrucian Metaphor for the Invisible College
Rosicrucian Metaphor for the Invisible College
“The Temple of the Rosy Cross”
Credit: Teophilus Schweighardt Constantien

If you can remember that Dan Brown writes fiction and ride along with his storytelling with a notepad and a critical eye, you can discover some very fascinating things to look for in Washington DC and the Enlightenment Era. Thanks to Brown, I discovered the Invisible College, which was the precursor to the UK’s Royal Society, a society of scientists interested in understanding the world through empirical analysis. Today, the term serves to describe any method of attaining an education without going through an official academic route, similar to attending free courses online to get the knowledge, if not the course credit. The Rosicrucians was another fascinating concept, linked to the Invisible College, another secret society that may or may not have existed, but two anonymous manifestos were attributed to the organization, Fama fraternitatis and Confessio Fraternitatis, that stirred up much intellectual debate in Europe, and may have contributed to the Enlightenment movement. One individual rumored to have written the manifestos was Francis Bacon, who’s New Atlantis, also mentioned in Brown’s book, which depicted a utopian society founded on the principles of free inquiry and scientific research.

Library of Congress, Jefferson Reading Room
Library of Congress, Jefferson Reading Room

The Lost Symbol takes place across a wonderful variety of settings right around the Washington DC mall, which would be difficult to take in over the course of a week, much less during the single night in which Brown’s book takes place. He hits most of the science imagery found in the Jefferson Reading Room, a fantastic monument to science, knowledge, and Enlightenment values. The US Botanical Gardens, National Statuary Hall, and the Kryptos Sculpture outside CIA headquarters are just a few fascinating locations in the book and they serve as just a glance at the immense amount of history packed into the nation’s capital.

Credit: CIA

Brown has a penchant for silly academic scenes where Professor Robert Langdon wows awestruck students with seemingly incredible historical facts. The Lost Symbol delivers many of these, like when students mistake the pristine Smithsonian Castle for an ancient Norman castle so the Professor can correct them. But the Smithsonian is an incredible Institution, one that requires weeks to take in just what’s on display around the National Mall. Dan Brown introduces us to the Smithsonian Museum Support Center (SMSC), described in Smithsonian Magazine as the “Nation’s Attic,” which emphasizes that what the public can access in the museums is only a tiny fraction of the Smithsonian’s total collection. However, Brown’s book is a little out of date, as the squid and coelacanth referenced in the SMSC’s “Wet Pod” are currently on display at the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian museum of Natural History, which opened September 2008.

Smithsonian Museum Support Center (SMSC)
Smithsonian Museum Support Center (SMSC)
Via Google Maps

I never suspected there was anything at the Washington National Cathedral for me, an Enlightenment scholar, to appreciate; however, I am thankful to Dan Brown for introducing me to the Space Window, honoring the Moon landing, and includes a fragment of lunar rock brought back from an American lunar mission. The cathedral also features the head of Darth Vader as one of its gargoyles, voted by children as the scariest figure to fulfill the “role of the grotesque” in the architecture.

Washington National Cathedral Space Window
Washington National Cathedral Space Window

My favorite new Washington DC discovery in The Lost Symbol is the Apotheosis of Washington, the mural gracing the inside of the Capitol Building’s dome, which depicts the Founding Fathers and other great minds of their age receiving wisdom directly from the Roman gods. Ceres sits on a McCormick mechanical reaper, bringing agricultural science to Americans, Vulcan forges cannonballs in front of a steam engine, Venus helps to lay the transatlantic telegraph cable, and Minerva is shown bringing an electrical generator, batteries, and a printing press to the great American scientists Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Morse, and Robert Fulton.

Science in the Apotheosis of Washington
Science in the Apotheosis of Washington

The problem is that all of these real-world settings and details prime us to believe other, wholly fabricated aspects of Brown’s storytelling. I unquestioningly swallowed the falsehood that the Founding Father’s originally planned to call our nation’s capital “New Rome,” because I knew they were heavily influenced by the Greek Democracy and Roman Republic; however, I have found no evidence that the FF intended this whatsoever, and must assume that it has no basis in fact1.

Brown’s protagonist, Robert Langdon, asserts at one point that Google is not research. Maybe Brown fears his readers discovering snopes.com or other original sources where they can find out how he has exaggerated or misrepresented material. For instance, the way he overhypes the CIA’s Stargate Program, which experimented with remote viewing, but was cancelled without producing anything conclusive. Or the importance of the Noetic Sciences, which deals with supernatural ways of coming into knowledge, and, despite millions of books being sold on the subject, has yet to produce anything empirical. He mentions that meditating Yogis, produce a miraculous waxy substance from their pineal glands, but fails to mention this substance would be melatonin (there’s no evidence for Brown’s statement anyway). And, of course, 2012 has to make an appearance as well.

Brown ties together the facts that Isaac Newton’s temperature scale had 33 degrees (zero being freezing, 33 boiling), there are 33 Vertebrae in the human spine, and 33 degrees in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry as proof that 33 is perceived as a powerful number in mysticism. If Dan Brown had wanted to weave the number into his storytelling a little more, he could have included Dante’s Divine Comedy (3 canticas with 33 cantos each), the number of segments in the United Nations’ symbol, and the coming of age for hobbits in the Lord of the Rings according to Wikipedia.

Where The DaVinci Code was focused on religious institutions suppressing knowledge to maintain their power, Lost Symbol focuses on ancient institutions trying to keep psychic powers out of mortal hands. Ancient societies had an awesome understanding of the universe that we modern folk are only just now beginning to discover, according to the book, and we simply aren’t ready for much of this forbidden knowledge. Everything we discover with modern physics was already written about in all the ancient texts. The Bible, for instance, contains this forbidden knowledge, but it’s hidden in the verse to prevent us from destroying ourselves with it. According to The Lost Symbol, America’s Founding Fathers were keenly aware of this:

It was here, Robert, at the very core of this young American nation, that our brightest forefathers–John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine–all warned of the profound dangers of interpreting the Bible literally. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was so convinced the Bible’s true message was hidden that he literally cut up the pages and reedited the book, attempting, in his words, ‘to do away with the artificial scaffolding and restore the genuine doctrines.’

These words are technically true, but are highly misleading for the context in which they appear in The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown is trying to make it seem as if the Founding Fathers thought there was a hidden mystical meaning in the Bible, but this was not Thomas Jefferson’s intent in crafting his own version of the Bible. Jefferson started out constructing a simplified version of the New Testament that American Indians could easily understand, but turned to extracting what he considered Jesus’ true philosophical intent from what he came to see as the morass of supernatural embellishment the evangelicals had brought into the scriptures. Thomas Paine was highly critical of the Bible, not seeing a hidden mystical meaning, but a philosophy that he found morally reprehensible.

Dan Brown, in trying to prop up Noetic Sciences, ends up perpetuating an historical urban legend instead:

Peter once compared Noetic Scientists to the early explorers who were mocked for embracing the heretical notion of a spherical earth. Almost overnight, these explorers went from fools to heroes, discovering uncharted worlds and expanding the horizons of everyone on the planet.

This is nonsense and bad history. In American public schools we are taught that Columbus’ journey to find a western route to India was all the more amazing because everyone at the time thought the Earth was flat. While this makes his story more compelling, the reality was that the Earth’s spherical nature was a well-established fact. Aristotle knew the Earth was round in the third-century BC by observing its shadow on the Moon, Alexandria philosopher Eratosthenes had estimated the size of the Earth, and the early Romans were the first to suggest the idea of a westward route to India. Columbus’ opponents knew the Earth was round; however, they believed the explorer had grossly underestimated its size. Dan Brown is himself guilty of underestimating the “wisdom of the ancients2” in not knowing that the ancients knew the Earth was round.

The problem is, if you believe the conspiracy theory that all this powerful forbidden knowledge is being obfuscated by secret societies, then the fact that original documents reveal a truth that is devoid of supernaturalism, however intriguing their philosophical debates, then the lack of evidence is merely more support for the conspiracy to hide the “truth.” It’s a catch-22: there’s no evidence of a conspiracy to hide what the conspiracy theorist wants to believe; therefore, the conspiracy theorist takes this as evidence that the knowledge is being effectively hidden3.

I do appreciate Dan Brown bringing up Albert Einstein’s concept of a “Cosmic Religion,” which was the sense of spirituality Einstein got from uncovering the workings of the natural world and was best explained in his 1930s essay in the New York Times Magazine, Religion and Science:

…the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts, and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics!

There is spirituality in this view of life, and there is hidden power to be revealed through scientific experimentation and empirical discovery. Just as “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” as Arthur C. Clarke said, Dan Brown is correct that “If our ancestors could see us today, surely they would think us gods.”

1 The only reference I could find to America and “New Rome” was as a pejorative in a commentary by Osama Bin Laden.

2 Part of the “wisdom of the ancients” Brown cites is the ingenuity of Alchemy, from which he conveniently leaves out the fact that his icon, Isaac “Jeova Sanctus Unus” Newton poisoned himself by playing with and tasting Mercury.

3 Full disclosure, I am a Discordian, so technically I am part of the conspiracy, but since organization is against the principles of Discordianism, it must purely be an emergent phenomenon.


  1. Dan Brown’s “Lost Symbol” leaves you with your hunger not filled and your thirst not quenched. If you are looking for an answer (the hidden meaning in the Bible), I recommend reading the “Bible Enlightened”. But I have to warn you: it is not a novel, it is a reference book in two volumes (actually there is also a third one with about 1000 illustrations to the text of the other two volumes).

    Comment by Chris — October 16, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  2. There are 24 vertebrae! How the hell did ’33 vertebrae’ get past an editor? Also, ‘Dura Mater’ and ‘Pia Mater’ are meningeal layers… not parts of the brain (meninges are the protective covering/anchoring membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord)
    Frankly, these factual errors make me question all his research.

    Comment by Ray S. — October 18, 2009 @ 11:50 pm

  3. As an interested scholar (an art historian researching the relationship between art, trauma and Freemasonry) I allowed my holiday reading this year to include Dan Brown’s latest book The Lost Symbol. I’m not a fan of the author’s style of writing and will not dwell on its literary value or even whether its factual details are correct but what I am concerned with is the overall concept of the book in the face of current concerns about the role of Freemasonry within the contemporary western world.

    Brown presents an urgent issue that needs to be solved: a fear that Freemasonry holds a secret that, if revealed, could be damaging to the social cohesion of the United States. The hero, Robert Langdon, thwarts an evil plot to expose this secret information. Brown’s novels utilize formulaic plot devices – car chases, love interests, the buildup of tension, a series of murders, and so on, that are ultimately comforting for an audience – the secret is discovered, the lovers united, the baddies are killed and order is restored. At the conclusion of The Lost Symbol the principal figure of evil, Mal’akh, is destroyed and order reinstated: God is in his kingdom and everything in its proper place. In the process Masonic rituals and symbolism create an innate sense of intrigue and the codes and cryptic messages, the secrecy and symbolism, along with the withholding of information to create tension, draws the reader ever onwards. The unsatisfying ending, however, provides a disappointing denouement to the tension built up throughout the narrative.

    In The Lost Symbol Dan Brown is careful not to create the perception that he could be anti-Masonic; he takes pains to point out that Masons are ‘all good men and true’ and that some of the nation’s leaders historically as well as current key figures have been members of Freemasonry. Consequently, he dwells on the highest ideals of the Order and the need for secrecy if the ancient mysteries are to be preserved in their purest form. But as the author repeatedly states, it is only if the knowledge of these ancient mysteries gets into the wrong hands that it could be dangerous. In the novel this doesn’t really happen, evil is conquered just in time. But could the novel be pointing to a situation that has already happened in the real world, within the United States and, indeed, across the globe? The character Mal’akh, as the author tells us, is a version of the biblical figure of Moloch, a personification of evil. Moloch was associated with the sacrifice of children and in the novel, Mal’akh turns out to be the disaffected son of the 33rd degree Freemason Peter Solomon. Mal’akh’s body is covered with tattoos of Masonic symbols combined with a vast array of symbols from a range of magical traditions. Metaphorically, then, Mal’akh represents an offspring of Freemasonry where the combination of Masonic initiatory symbolism with ancient magic practices represents the real danger, a danger to do with sacrifice and childhood.

    Here it is worth noting that some key Masonic writers have distinguished between the ‘true’ and ‘spurious’ use of their rituals and the debates within the Order over the differences between these two forms have been extensive. Albert Mackey, a foremost Masonic scholar, argues that the true forms utilise the rituals purely as a symbolic representation of man’s spiritual growth and development and demand deep moral commitment by the members. The spurious forms that have been incorporated into some areas of Freemasonry, he argues, relate to the initiatory practices of the ancient world that were based on ‘a course of severe and arduous trials’, generally taking place as a series of terrifying encounters with death. These encounters are intended to place the candidate in an altered state of consciousness in order to stimulate a mystical encounter, experienced as a state of oneness with the universe, an experience of the godhead, of divine bliss, and so on. These spurious forms can incorporate magic practices from a range of traditions. In Brown’s novel there are multiple references to the sorts of trials and near-death experiences used within the initiatory tradition and on a few occasions the hero Robert Langdon relates these to childhood memories.

    It is this theme that I find the most significant in this novel, the theme that could be pointing to a ‘real emergency’ in the contemporary western world: the multiple reports of the ritual abuse of children, some of which involve the misuse of Masonic-style rituals accompanied by other forms of magic, along with terrifying and abusive practices. Research suggests that while these reports have been increasing over the last thirty years they are not new: in the United States reports of Masonic abuses go back as far as the 1830s. The sociologist, Steven Kent, suggests that there appear to be countless splinter groups attached to Freemasonry throughout the US, based on the reports of ritual abuse by children whose fathers were Freemasons. These reports suggest a severe form of enculturation and profound form of psychological manipulation and control that could arguably be said to parallel the puberty rites of archaic and non-western cultures.

    In Brown’s novel the villain Mal’akh is actually Zachary Solomon, the son of the Freemason Peter Solomon, who was left by his father in a Turkish prison as punishment for his profligate lifestyle. In response Zachary gradually transforms himself into a monstrous symbol of evil in order to take revenge on his father and family as well as on the Masonic Order itself. The practices he inflicts on others as well as other experiences the characters undergo within the novel resemble those found in the reports of ritual abuse, such as being locked in boxes or coffins, near-drowning, being forced to watch what seems to be the death or murder of another, being tied to chairs, the use of sensory deprivation or flotation tanks, and the stirring of the candidate into a state of rage. All these practices are methods used in these abusive initiation processes, aimed at the creation of altered states of consciousness in the child victims.

    My own research as an art historian suggests that we may find references to similar practices within the work of key artists and writers of the western avant-garde tradition, in particular those whose fathers have been Freemasons. Brown mentions the famous English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon several times throughout the novel. My research into the work of the English artist Francis Bacon (who was a collateral descendent of Sir Francis Bacon) demonstrates the multiple references to Masonic Royal Arch rites, along with Orange Order themes and references to Druidic rites throughout his paintings. Accompanying this study I look at the work of the playwright Samuel Beckett, whose father and grandfather were Freemasons, and demonstrate the multiple references to Royal Arch rites in Waiting for Godot and many of his other plays. But perhaps the most significant aspect of my study that relates to Dan Brown’s book is Beckett’s novel The Unnamable which describes in great detail the terror induced by being imprisoned in a profoundly dark space, not unlike the profound darkness of the laboratory space where Katherine Solomon undertakes her explorations into noetic science. This terrifying experience of darkness is another of the trials that can be used in the initiatory process and is reported as one of the strategies used in contemporary ritual abuse, aimed at producing a state of panic, disorientation and confusion in the child initiates. Neither the artist Francis Bacon nor Samuel Beckett were members of Freemasonry but I argue that their work suggests that they could have been exposed to an abusive form of the rituals in childhood, undergoing a similar set of trials to those found in contemporary reports of ritual abuse.

    Due to the terrifying nature of these initiatory experiences it is not uncommon for children to repress them and for the memories to resurface much later in life or to emerge in aesthetic form in their creative work. Such repression can create a deep sense of confusion or the experience of a spiritual void, a feeling that some important information, some key to their lives, has been lost, or that at the centre of their lives there is some sort of puzzle that they can’t seem to resolve. Francis Bacon, for example, compared the chaotic state of his studio to the confusion in his own mind and Samuel Beckett also complained of a deep sense of confusion as well as a persistent feeling that he had been murdered before he was born. Some children who have undergone such initiatory processes may feel a deep sense of betrayal or abandonment by their Masonic fathers, who they feel should have protected them from such terrifying experiences. In the novel Zachary Solomon’s sense of abandonment by his Masonic father in a Turkish prison is all-consuming and his response to this treatment forms the plot device that is the crux of the narrative.

    As with all novels readers will interpret this story depending on what they bring to it themselves. For some it will be enjoyable as light entertainment, for others it will be an opportunity to explore the fascinating world of Masonic symbolism, metaphysical philosophy or to solve cryptic puzzles. Some may even want to join the Order after reading it! But unfortunately for others (and hopefully not too many) this novel may trigger off some very painful memories, so horrific that it may entail a complete re-evaluation of their childhood and of the society in which they grew up. If this is the case we may be looking at a situation where another major institution must at some point confront the fact that some of its members may have profoundly misused its teachings, much like the Catholic Church has had to confront the reality that some of its own priests have grossly misused their privileged positions in order to abuse their young charges. However, the possibility that the Masonic Order will ever confront its members’ behaviours openly is likely to be remote: there is no one figurehead or indeed any clear hierarchy in Freemasonry, as in the case of the Catholic Church, to take overall responsibility for the malpractices of its members. Also, the very motto of the organization “audi, vide, tace – hear, see and be silent” discourages Masons from answering criticism or indeed exposing to outsiders a brother’s improper behaviour.

    I imagine that Dan Brown, as an author who clearly spends much time on his research, was aware of the reports of Masonic ritual abuse when he wrote The Lost Symbol as he seems to be simultaneously exposing the issues but covering himself with frequent protestations that Masons are all good men. But in an institution as large as Freemasonry it is impossible to speak for all members. His character Mal’akh, who has been initiated into the Order, arguably stands for the corruption that some Masonic authors say has been woven into it. However, had Brown fully grasped the significance of his plot it is possible that he may have been able to resolve the ending in a more satisfying and ultimately more profound way than the revelation that some key members of the hierarchy of the US government are Freemasons. It may be that some of the appeal of his story lies in the possibility that ritual abuse practices may not be as rare as we think. After all, many patriarchal societies, both archaic and contemporary, initiate their children, taking them from the realms of the mother to ‘rebirth’ them into the realms of men through various painful encounters. It’s just that we don’t collectively admit that similar practices could occur in the West and consequently this secret, if acknowledged, could well be a source of social disruption.

    Comment by Dr Lynn Brunet — January 4, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

  4. The idea of suppressed memories is of spurious validity in Psychology. The evidence suggests these “memories” are often actually planted by the psychologist. It’s unfortunate how much validity people give this idea. In fact, people have been put in prison based on these “memories” supposedly resurfaced by some quack psychologist, but without any other evidence whatsoever.

    I suggest you read Carl Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World. It deals with conspiracy theories like those you are proposing.

    Comment by ideonexus — January 5, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

  5. Is this what you would say to someone who has been raped by a Catholic priest, that the memories have been implanted by a psychologist, even when the Pope has admitted to the existence of these practices within the Catholic Church?
    And would you also say this to someone whose Masonic father has admitted to her that there are a lot of groups that use Masonic rituals to initiate children, such as my own father did before he died?

    Comment by Dr Lynn Brunet — January 6, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

  6. The book has been out for several months now. So I suppose it’s time to test your hypothesis. Please find and cite the rush of news stories about childhood victims of the Masons coming forward with their memories jarred from all the media coverage of Dan Brown’s book.

    Comment by ideonexus — January 6, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

  7. Dr. Lyn Brunet – if you were really raped, those memories weren’t implanted. They were real. Your comment doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe you could clarify what memories were implanted?

    Comment by ClintJCL — January 6, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

  8. Firstly, to Ideonexus:
    The reason I even read The Lost Symbol was not because I was a fan of this author’s work – in fact I think he’s a dreadful writer – but because a colleague of mine, a professor of art history, gave me the first report of one of her acquaintances, a psychologist, who, when she read the book, began to have a series of flashbacks to abuses in a Masonic lodge. My professor friend urged me to read it to find out what could have been in it to create this sort of response. I have not yet followed up to see whether there have been any others, but will. But given the extreme nature of these flashbacks I doubt that people are going to rush to the web to report them straight away. The first response is likely to be shock, then a lengthy period of reevaluation, possibly confrontation with Masonic family members, and maybe much later people who have had such experiences might think about writing about it on the web. So I don’t expect the reports to be flooding in.
    Then, to ClintJCL:
    My comment was probably too brief. I did not bring up the theme of implanted memories. This was what Idionexus said. To clarify my comment:
    I did not say I was raped by a Catholic priest, but what would Ideonexus say to someone who did say they were raped by a Catholic priest.
    However, I was orally raped on several occasions by my Masonic father and my mother admitted to me much later that she knew. Jennifer Freyd’s studies on Betrayal Trauma outline the rationale for repressing memories of such experiences. The child cannot afford to admit to him or herself that the very people on whom he or she completely depends could be the source of such cruelty and so rather than threaten their own psychological survival the child pushes it away from the conscious mind, or represses it. It’s knowledge too dangerous to admit.

    Comment by Dr Lynn Brunet — January 6, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

  9. Dr. Brunet,

    There is no substantive evidence to support your claims of ritual abuse by Masons. A quick google search revealed dozens of conspiracy web sites claiming “Masonic Satanic Ritual Abuse”. The word “satanic” immediately sets off my skeptic’s alarm bells. If there really is such abuse going on, then it should be brought to a court of law or legitimate sources should be posted supporting your hypothesis. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Since you won’t post citations, I can’t continue this discussion.

    Comment by ideonexus — January 6, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

  10. Ideonexus,
    You asked for support for claims that Dan Browns’ book has produced effects of stimulating memories of Masonic abuses. I gave you one that I know of.

    But if you want citations for general claims of Masonic abuses some include: Randy Noblitt and Pamela Perskin Noblitt (eds.) Ritual Abuse in the 21st Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social and Political Considerations (2008). Masonic abuses are included as one element in an empirical study by Rutz, Becker, Overkamp & Karriker in this volume. See also Noblitt & Perskin’s earlier work: Cult and Ritual Abuse: Its History, Anthropology and Recent Discovery in Contemporary America (1995). Martin Katchen, Out of Darkness. Exploring Satanism and Ritual Abuse, who cites Masonic abuse reports in the US from the 1830s.
    See also Stephen Kent, sociologist, who was at the University of Alberta, who has been called as an expert witness in legal trials.
    My own research into the Australian history of Masonic abuses goes back to reports from the 1870s in Victoria by a brother of the Melbourne-based Lodge of Judy, Abercrombie Strober, who complained bitterly of abuses both to himself and to young people by some of the Masons of UltraFreemasonry.
    In recent times, there have been a number of books written by former Freemasons who have admitted to the use of degrading practices in the Order, eg. Ulis Buckley, Masonic Story, The Hidden Side (1993) and William Schnoebelen, Masonry Beyond the Light (1991) who asks whether Masonic Lodges are ‘kindergartens for Satanism’. While not scholarly works they suggest that some members are unsure about the organization.

    I suppose if you don’t want to continue to discuss this based on your own emotional response to the word satanism, then that is your choice, but it is only a word used to describe a set of human behaviors that have been around as long as humans have thought that magical practices could have an effect the world around them.

    Comment by Dr Lynn Brunet — January 6, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

  11. Thank you for posting your sources. I’ve looked up summaries of what some of them cover and it’s what I expect: conspiracy theories about government mind control experiments and satanic cults that have never been proven to exist. Based on this review of James Randall Noblitt’s research, it sounds as if he’s trying to get into the DSM and uses “keywords” to convince his patients they were ritualistically abused; although, he claims these keywords are meant to elicit memories that were all ready there.

    I did not say the word “satanic” evoked an emotional response in me, I said it evoked a skeptical response. There is no evidence of the practice of this fictional religion. The FBI has no evidence of it, despite all the claims of crimes by “satanists” by conspiracy theorists. I’m not going to believe there’s are hundreds or thousands of people out there who are survivors of ritualistic abused by members of a religion that does not exist and which there is no evidence of anyone practicing it.

    You are wasting your time debating me on this. Your efforts would be better spent editing the wikipedia article on Cult and Ritual Abuse, which cites several critics of the authors’ methods and incoherency.

    Comment by ideonexus — January 7, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

  12. Ideonexus,
    It’s clear you position is very fixed on this issue. It’s a pity because it could have been a much more interesting discussion and much more nuanced. I ran my eye over a 1992 report from the FBI which was basically a discussion of terminology. You raised the term satanism, but I am not in favor of discussing this issue using this term because it tends to provoke an instantaneous response in people such as yourself, rather than a rational debate. Also the term ‘conspiracy’ does the same thing – it automatically closes the discussion. The conclusion to the FBI report was basically that more research is needed in order to understand the nature of these extreme reports, not to dismiss them altogether, which seems to be your position. My position in regard to Masonic abuses is that much, if not all of it, is theatre – and that it belongs to an old tradition of initiation that has common links with initiatory practices across cultures, observed by anthropologists, and that these practices involve the use of trickery, deception and sleight of hand. There are no real ‘murders’ involved, other than psychological ones. My research is testing the hypothesis that the work of some key artists and writers from the modernist western tradition might be illustrating these initiatory scenarios and for this reason I am looking at examples of artists and writers from Masonic backgrounds who claim that they do not know where their imagery comes from. I have been able to demonstrate multiple parallels between their work and the initiatory rituals of Freemasonry. Perhaps, if you ever get past your skepticism (which I see as a close-minded approach, even stubbornness, rather than purely testing the argument) you may one day be interested in seeing where this research could be leading.

    Comment by Dr Lynn Brunet — January 8, 2010 @ 6:33 am

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