Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Come Visit the
"Dan Brown and Dante's Inferno" Blog


Hi, everyone. It's been a while. However, I have two bits of news for you all.

First, with the news that pre-production work may begin this year on the film version of The Lost Symbol, I'll be posting new material on this blog. Stay tuned.

Second, with the recent announcement that Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno, will be released in May of this year, clues are already being issued on Dan Brown's and Robert Langdon's respective Facebook pages. So, much in the spirit of this blog, I have started another, "Dan Brown and Dante's Inferno." Come on by and set a spell.  I look forward to many of you joining me there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mark Koltko-Rivera on Masonic Central Podcast--Tonight!--Discussing His Dan Brown Book



Mark Koltko-Rivera will be on the Masonic Central podcast tonight, Sunday, December 13, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. (You can link to the podcast here.) Mark will be discussing his book, Discovering The Lost Symbol: Freemasons, Magic, Mystery Religions, Noetic Science, and the Idea that We Can Become Gods. In the latter part of the broadcast, listeners can call in with live questions. See you then! (Well, not see you, exactly ...)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Last Chance!
"Hunting The Lost Symbol"
on Discovery Channel, Today


The documentary "Hunting The Lost Symbol" will be broadcast today, Sunday, November 1, on Discovery Channel, from 4 pm to 6 pm (Eastern time; check your local listings).

Of course, this documentary focuses on Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol. There are prominent segments about George Washington, the missing cornerstone to the U.S. Capitol building, Freemasonry, noetic science, Aleister Crowley (mentioned in the novel as an inspiration for the villain), and other topics related to the novel. I myself am one of several experts who are interviewed for the documentary. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Two Salt Lake Tribune Articles on The Lost Symbol


Two articles by Peggy Fletcher Stack in the Friday, October 16, 2009 issue of The Salt Lake Tribune discuss The Lost Symbol.


In one article, “Psst! Let’s Talk About Masons,” Ms. Stack writes about Freemasonry as it is depicted in The Lost Symbol, and describes aspects of her visit to the Salt Lake City Masonic Temple. She quotes John Liley (Grand Senior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Utah), Dan Burstein (editor of Secrets of The Lost Symbol), and myself.

In another article, “Mormons Off the Hook in Brown’s Book,” Ms. Stack notes that a major theme of The Lost Symbol, apotheosis, or the potential for human beings to become gods, is an echo of the Latter-day Saint (‘Mormon’) doctrine of exaltation. (I consider this matter in some detail in an earlier post on this blog.) I am quoted in the article.

Shameless Plugs

Basic questions about Freemasonry can be addressed to the author, either through a comment here, or through the “Freemasonry 101” blog.

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, which will shortly be available again through Amazon; interested readers may ask to be notified of this availability through leaving me an e-mail at freemasonrybook@yahoo.com . I shall have a great deal to say about Freemasonry in The Lost Symbol in my forthcoming book, Discovering The Lost Symbol.

(Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dan Brown Explains Why He Wrote About the Freemasons


[Click the image at left for a larger image of Dan Brown's letter.]

We interrupt our series regarding Maureen Dowd’s review of The Lost Symbol to report some late-breaking news.


The publication of Dan Brown’s novel, The Lost Symbol, provoked a wide range of reactions, judging from the comments left on the Dan Brown Facebook fan page. Many people who left comments were overjoyed, and really loved the book.

On the other hand, a significant fraction of commenters—I’ll call them ‘the star theorists’—were less than pleased. Several individuals had predicted for months that The Lost Symbol would address one or another theory regarding such topics as the line-up of Washington DC streets with certain stars, supposed charts with kabbalistic or other mystical significance encoded in the street layout of DC, the decoding of ancient mystical manuscripts associated with King Solomon, even the type of theories about ancient astronauts long linked to the name of Erich von Daniken.

But that’s not what they got.

Instead, readers of The Lost Symbol got an adventure story that was deeply steeped in the symbolism and values of Freemasonry. This bothered the star theorists no end, even though Brown had said for years that his book would involve Freemasonry.

And so the grumbling began. Some of these people said that the Masons must have ‘gotten’ to Brown somehow, to keep him from revealing the important star map secrets that are supposedly held by the Masons. Some used accusatory tones to claim that Dan Brown himself was a Mason, as though that were some kind of crime.

Well, now the mystery of Dan Brown’s choice is solved. As reported in a post on Christopher Hodapp’s excellent blog, “Freemasons for Dummies,” Dan Brown sent a letter that was read out at a gathering held in connection with the biennial session of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Southern Jurisdiction, held earlier this week in Washington, DC. (Some of the meetings were held in the very Temple Room at the House of the Temple that plays such an important part in the beginning and at the dramatic climax of The Lost Symbol.) As I understand it, the background of the letter is that Dan Brown had been invited to address the biennial session in person, but with Dan Brown having a heavy travel schedule, a personal appearance was impossible; he sent the letter instead.

In his letter of October 6, 2009 (photo above), Dan Brown said the following, in part:

In the past few weeks, as you might imagine, I have been repeatedly asked what attracted me to the Masons so strongly as to make it a central point of my new book. My reply is always the same: “In a world where men do battle over whose definition of God is most accurate, I cannot adequately express the deep respect and admiration I feel toward an organization in which men of differing faiths are able to ‘break bread together’ in a bond of brotherhood, friendship, and camaraderie.”
Please accept my humble thanks for the noble example you set for humankind. It is my sincere hope that the Masonic community recognizes The Lost Symbol for what it truly is … an earnest attempt to reverentially explore the history and beauty of Masonic Philosophy.

This is the reason why Dan Brown made Freemasonry central to The Lost Symbol. He respects the fact that Freemasonry encourages tolerance of religious differences, that Masonry fosters fellowship and even friendship across the lines drawn by different religious affiliations. He expresses thanks for the “noble example” that he says Masonry sets “for humankind.” In a sense, by depicting this example, he is trying to improve the world.

So that’s the story, folks. Dan Brown is not engaged in some kind of rule-the-world conspiracy. I see no evidence that he deliberately suppressed evidence that would have supported or propagated the ideas of the star theorists. He had something more important in mind:

Encouraging peace in this world.

Thank you, Mr. Brown.

Shameless Plugs

Basic questions about Freemasonry can be addressed to the author, either through a comment here, or through the “Freemasonry 101” blog.

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, which will shortly be available again through Amazon; interested readers may ask to be notified of this availability through sending me an e-mail at freemasonrybook@yahoo.com .

I shall have a great deal to say about Freemasonry as it is depicted by The Lost Symbol in two places:

• one of my two chapters in the forthcoming book edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, Secrets of The Lost Symbol, which you can read about here;

• my own forthcoming book, Discovering The Lost Symbol: Magic, Masonry, Noetic Science, and the Idea that We Can Become Gods. (Publishers’ and agents’ inquiries are welcome!)

[The image of Dan Brown’s letter was obtained through a post, “Dan Brown and Why Freemasonry,” dated October 8, 2009, on the "Freemasons For Dummies" blog, which is authored by Christopher Hodapp.]

(Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How Accurate Is the Contemporary Catholic Perception of Freemasonry?:
One of a Series on Maureen Dowd’s Review of The Lost Symbol and the Truth About Freemasonry


On Sunday, October 11, 2009, The New York Times Book Review will publish a review by Maureen Dowd of Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol. That review is available on-line here. (The weekday edition of the Times previously published a review of The Lost Symbol by Janet Maslin; that review, which appeared on Monday, September 14, is available here.)


Ms. Dowd’s review contains much inaccurate or misleading information about Freemasonry. This blog post is one of a series in which I address the inaccuracies about Freemasonry that occur in Ms. Dowd’s review. Links to the rest of the posts in this series may be found here.

What Ms. Dowd Had to Say

In my immediately preceding post on this blog, I considered a statement that Ms. Dowd made regarding Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic Church:

My dad always said in his day that the Masons were not welcoming to Catholics. The Catholic Church once considered the Masons so anti-Catholic, Catholics who joined were threatened with excommunication.

In that earlier post, I addressed the matter of Freemasonry’s attitude towards Catholics. (As I explained there, Freemasonry is entirely welcoming to Catholics, and is not anti-Catholic at all.) In this post, I put the shoe on the other foot, and take up the matter of Catholicism’s attitude towards Freemasonry.

The Official Catholic Attitude Towards Freemasonry

The official attitude of the Roman Catholic Church has changed over time. Freemasonry has been addressed by the Vatican in a number of papal pronouncements over the last three centuries. The current official Catholic attitude towards Freemasonry is quite negative (as explained recently in a presentation made at a Masonic lodge by the Rev. Mr. John J. McManus, JD, JCL. There are two aspects of this attitude that are especially noteworthy for my purposes here today:
  • The current official Catholic attitude towards Freemasonry is based on a wildly inaccurate image of Freemasonry.
  • The classic papal statement on Freemasonry, Humanum Genus (1884), is based on a highly negative attitude towards values that are now commonly accepted, such as democracy and freedom of religion.
In this post, I shall focus on the contemporary Catholic attitude and its inaccuracies. I shall address the classic Catholic attitude, as expressed in Humanum Genus, in my next post.

The Inaccurate Contemporary View of Freemasonry Within Catholicism

Several Catholic writers who have addressed the Catholic position on Freemasonry make reference to an official statement made in about 1980 by the German [Roman Catholic] Bishops’ Conference. In turn, this statement is summarized in an article by Monsignor Ronny E. Jenkins, “The Evolution of the Church’s Prohibition Against Catholic Membership in Freemasonry” (The Jurist, vol. 56, pp. 735-755), which itself is summarized in the McManus presentation which I have mentioned above.

I was stunned by the degree to which the image of Freemasonry portrayed by the German Bishops varied from Freemasonry as I had studied for many years, and as I have known it from the inside for some time. Consequently, I began a series regarding the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry on another blog that I author, “Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend”; the first part of that series is here. Although incomplete, the seven parts of the series currently on the blog are very revealing concerning the inaccuracy of the German Bishops’ (and many other Catholic leaders’) perceptions of Freemasonry. To be specific:

  • The German Bishops stated that Masonry promotes a relativistic approach to reality where one should avoid commitment “to any one set of revealed truths.” As I explain in Part 2 of my series, this is a serious distortion of Freemasonry. The Masonic practice is to give respect to a variety of religious positions, but Freemasonry does not teach that one should avoid committment to one!


  • The German Bishops stated that “the Masons deny the possibility of an objective truth, placing every truth instead in a relative context.” As I explain in Part 3 of my series, this is simply false from beginning to end. In fact, the Masons teach a number of objective truths, although part of the genius of Freemasonry is that it does this while still maintaining respect for different religious positions. Somehow, it seems, the German Bishops made such respect into something bad.

  • The German Bishops stated that “the Masonic teaching holds a relative notion of religion as all concurrently seeking the truth of the absolute”; they seem to imply that Masons teach that all religions hold equal value. As I explain in Part 4 of my series, no branch of Freemasonry of which I have any knowledge teaches anything like this.

  • The German Bishops stated that “the Masons hold a deistic notion of God”—which includes the notion that God does not intervene in the human world—a notion which “precludes the possibility of God’s self-revelation to humankind,” thus undercutting any idea of biblically based religion. As I explain in Part 5 of my series, Freemasonry does not teach Deism. If anything, Freemasonry seems to have a prominent Theistic slant (tending towards the notion of the Divine Being as revealing important things to humankind). Although there were Deists (such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin) who were prominent Freemasons in the days of the American War of Independence, that has no relevance: Freemasonry welcomes Deists and Theists alike.

  • The German Bishops stated that “the Masons promote a principle of toleration regarding ideas,” and that “such a principle … threatens the Catholic position of objective truth … [and] also threatens the respect due the Church’s teaching office.” As I explain in Part 6 of my series, yes, Masons actually do teach toleration of different ideas—but, for that matter, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does the same. (In essence, the Bishops exhibited an attitude that is outmoded even within their own church.)

  • The German Bishops stated that “the rituals of [Freemasonry] have a clear sacramental character about them,” which of course would intrude on the mission of the Catholic Church as having, in the Catholic view, exclusive authority over the sacraments of grace. As I explain in Part 7 of my series, this is completely untrue, based on what the Catholic Church teaches about the sacraments, and what Freemasonry teaches about its own rituals.

  • The German Bishops stated that Freemasonry claims to lead to the perfection of humankind, a position that would thus usurp the role of Christ in human life. However, the truth of the matter is that Freemasonry makes no such claim, and offers no program for the salvation of humankind.

  • The German Bishops stated that “the Masonic Order makes a total claim on the life of the members.” This is nonsense; the existence of many clergy of Christian and other faiths who are Freemasons shows that the German Bishops are inaccurate.

  • The German Bishops state that Masonic lodges “seek merely to adapt Christianity to the overall Masonic world-view.” This is simply inaccurate; Freemasonry teaches men to follow the precepts of their own religions, rather than adapting those religions to Freemasonry.

  • The German Bishops state that Masonic lodges “are not compatible with Catholic teaching.” However, the Bishops demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of Masonic teaching and practice, and so entirely fail to make their case.

I have not yet completed the series on the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry. (After I posted Part #7 in the series, on June 6, 2009, I had to focus on moving my household to a different residence, after which I became caught up in the matter of interpreting Doubleday’s Dan Brown clues.) However, you can see where I am going with this. The current Catholic position on Freemasonry is based on an utterly inaccurate image of Freemasonry.

However, that is not the entire story.

There is, in addition to the contemporary Catholic position articulated by the German Bishops, a more classic Catholic position on Freemasonry, articulated in the papal pronouncement known as Humanum Genus (1884). That pronouncement criticizes Freemasonry on entirely different grounds from those used by the German Bishops, and it is to that pronouncement that I shall turn in my next post.

Conclusion

At least over the last 30 years or so, the Catholic position on Freemasonry has not been so much about a supposed anti-Catholic bias on the part of Masonry (as Ms. Dowd states), but has rather been about Freemasonry as a supposedly relativistic, deistic, alternative religion—none of which is true about Freemasonry at all. With all due respect to Catholicism and Catholics, the facts as I have described them above demonstrate that the contemporary Catholic position on Freemasonry is based on a perception of Masonry that is fundamentally and deeply flawed and inaccurate.

Basic questions about Freemasonry can be addressed to the author either as a comment on a post here, or through the "Freemasonry 101" blog.

Shameless Plugs

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, which will shortly be available again through Amazon; interested readers may ask to be notified of this availability through sending me an e-mail at freemasonrybook@yahoo.com .

I shall have a great deal to say about Freemasonry as it is depicted by The Lost Symbol in two places:

  • one of my two chapters in the forthcoming book edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, Secrets of The Lost Symbol, which you can read about here;

  • my own forthcoming book, Discovering The Lost Symbol: Magic, Masonry, Noetic Science, and the Idea that We Can Become Gods. (Publishers’ and agents’ inquiries are welcome!)

[The photo of St. Peter’s Basilica in the early morning was taken on May 21, 2004 by Andreas Tille. It was obtained from Wikimedia Commons and is used here under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.]

(Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Are Freemasons Anti-Catholic?
One of a Series on Maureen Dowd’s Review of The Lost Symbol and the Truth About Freemasonry


[The photo of Whitby Abbey was taken by Stephen McCulloch, and is used here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License. (For source details, see the end of this post.) Whitby Abbey was one of hundreds of Catholic monasteries destroyed in England during the Reformation. Is this what Freemasonry wants for Catholicism? No. Please read on.]



On Sunday, October 11, 2009, The New York Times Book Review will publish a review by Maureen Dowd of Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol. That review is available on-line here. (The weekday edition of the Times previously published a review of The Lost Symbol by Janet Maslin; that review, which appeared on Monday, September 14, is available here.)

Ms. Dowd’s review contains much inaccurate or misleading information about Freemasonry. This blog post is one of a series in which I address the inaccuracies about Freemasonry that occur in Ms. Dowd’s review. Links to the rest of the posts in the series may be found here.

What Ms. Dowd Has to Say

At one point in her review, Ms. Dowd states the following:

My dad always said in his day that the Masons were not welcoming to Catholics. The Catholic Church once considered the Masons so anti-Catholic, Catholics who joined were threatened with excommunication.

Is this true? Are Masons unwelcoming to Catholics? Are Masons anti-Catholic, in any way?

Masons Are Entirely Welcoming to Catholics

I would have a very hard time finding any evidence in my own experience for the proposition that Masons were somehow ‘unwelcoming’ to Catholics. This is because the Master of my home Lodge when I became a Master Mason—the senior executive officer, as it were, of my home Lodge—is himself a Roman Catholic. The Master in my home Lodge changes every year at the annual elections (often the case in Masonic lodges; some lodges do give two-year terms to their Masters). At least one of the Masters that my home Lodge has had in subsequent years is a Roman Catholic, as well.

Freemasonry forbids Masons to consider someone’s religious affiliation when deciding whether to admit that person to the Fraternity. In fact, in most Masonic jurisdictions (certainly every one with which I am familiar), it is actually forbidden for Masons even to ask about the religious affiliation of a candidate. Yes, it is a strict and absolute requirement that a successful candidate for Freemasonry must believe in a Supreme Being. (In many jurisdictions, the precise requirement is a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, and a belief in the immortality of the human soul.) However, candidates are free to believe whatever they wish about that Supreme Being, without jeopardizing their candidacy for Freemasonry. Candidates are also free to hold any religious affiliation that they wish, or none at all—Freemasonry simply considers such things a matter of individual conscience.

Indeed, Freemasonry forbids any discussion of sectarian religion or partisan politics in the Lodge. (I am speaking of North American lodges; some Masonic organizations in other parts of the world have different practices.)

In sum: Freemasonry is entirely welcoming to Catholics, whether they seek to learn more about Freemasonry or not.

Masons Are Not Anti-Catholic in Any Way

What does it mean to be ‘anti-Catholic’? Let’s consider some possibilities.

  • Would it be anti-Catholic to teach that Catholic doctrine is incorrect? That seems a bit harsh as a judgment, given that different people will have different beliefs, but it really does not matter: Freemasonry does not do this. Any discussion, pro or con, regarding sectarian religious doctrine is forbidden in the Lodge. Freemasonry takes no position on the truth or falsehood of specific religious doctrines, beyond a basic belief in the existence of a Supreme Being and a belief in the immortality of the human soul. (Of course, individual Freemasons are welcome to their own opinions—something that is the very essence of freedom of conscience—although they are to keep those opinions to themselves, in the Lodge.)

  • Would it be anti-Catholic to try to restrict the freedom of Catholics to practice their faith? Would it be anti-Catholic to discriminate against Catholics in terms of civil rights? Certainly either of these practices would be anti-Catholic—but Freemasonry does not do either of these things. In an indirect way, 18th century American Freemasons—through their support of the Bill of Rights—showed a strong support for freedom of religion in the United States. That’s just the Masonic way.

  • Would it be anti-Catholic to discriminate against Catholics who wish to become Masons? Sure it would be—but Freemasonry does not do this. As I mentioned in the previous section of this post, Freemasons are actually forbidden to consider a candidate’s religious affiliation in making decisions about admitting someone to the Fraternity.

  • Would it be anti-Catholic to teach religious doctrine that is un-Catholic—that is, simply different than what Catholicism teaches? That also seems a bit harsh as a judgment, given that freedom of religion should not be considered a threat to Catholicism, but it really does not matter: Freemasonry does not do this, either. Freemasonry teaches no specific religious doctrines in the Lodge. Contrary to an opinion that one sometimes comes upon, Freemasonry does not teach Deism, which is a non-Catholic form of religion. This is a point I explain comprehensively in a post on another blog, which you may read here.

It is true that Freemasonry, by and large, has shown a great deal of support for public education. In both Europe and the United States, one can come up with several examples of either Masonic Lodges or prominent individual Freemasons founding or supporting institutions of public education. However, support for public education is a long way off from anti-Catholicism, by any rational measure.

In sum: Freemasonry is not anti-Catholic. Rather, Freemasonry is entirely neutral with regards to Catholicism. (Of course, if a person thinks that religious neutrality or freedom of conscience are somehow ‘anti-Catholic’—well, then, we all have a more serious problem to deal with than the religious stance of Freemasonry.)

Conclusion

Ms. Dowd is simply wrong, plain and simple, about the stance of Freemasonry towards Catholics and Catholicism. Although I mean no disrespect to Ms. Dowd’s father, it seems that he was poorly informed about Freemasonry to start with. It is unfortunate that Ms. Dowd—a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who, frankly, ought to know better—simply seems to have accepted her father’s statements at face value, without checking into the facts of the matter.

Of course, this all raises the question of why Ms. Dowd’s father would have had these misconceptions about Freemasonry to start with. I shall deal with that in my next post, in which I will discuss the roots of the inaccurate perceptions that some people have had over the years regarding Freemasonry, specifically in relation to Roman Catholicism.

Basic questions about Freemasonry can be addressed to the author through the "Freemasonry 101" blog.

Shameless Plugs

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, which will shortly be available again through Amazon; interested readers may ask to be notified of this availability through sending me an e-mail at freemasonrybook@yahoo.com .

I shall have a great deal to say about Freemasonry as it is depicted by The Lost Symbol in two places:

  • one of my two chapters in the forthcoming book edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, Secrets of The Lost Symbol, which you can read about here;

  • my own forthcoming book, Discovering The Lost Symbol: Magic, Masonry, Noetic Science, and the Idea that We Can Become Gods. (Publishers’ and agents’ inquiries are welcome!)

[The photo of Whitby Abbey, at Whitby, North Yorkshire, England, was taken on January 28, 2008, by Stephen McCulloch. It was obtained from Wikimedia Commons, and is used here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.]

(Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)