Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bonus "Clue 31 1/2": Facebook Post: The Six-Pointed Star

Posted, not on Twitter, but on Facebook, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT) on Tues., July 7th:

Dan Brown's publisher invites you to solve this:
43.027239, -85.634995
44.309355, -105.493126
30.335547, -97.711716
43.027239, -85.634995
47.960962, -97.021637
33.706063, -111.939697
33.819089, -84.355774
47.460962, -97.021637

To the best of my knowledge, it was one of this blog's followers, "Bad News," who originally came up with the interpretation that these were paired geographical coordinates of latitude and longitude (in decimal format), each pair of coordinates thus defining a point.

You will note that the first and fourth pairs (or points) are identical; this suggests to me that the reader is meant to draw a line from the first point to the second, from the second to the third, and from the third to the fourth (which is the same as the first point). In the same way, the fact that the fifth and eight pairs of coordinates are identical suggests to me that the reader is meant to draw a line from the fifth point to the sixth, from the sixth to the seventh, and from the seventh to the eighth (same as the fifth).

Connecting up the points in this fashion creates two intersecting triangles on the map of the United States, illustrated above. The first, downward-pointing triangle connects Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Gillette, Wyoming, and Austin, Texas. The second, upward-pointing triangle connects Grand Forks, North Dakota to Phoenix, Arizona and Atlanta, Georgia. The resulting shape, of course, looks like the largest Star of David or Seal of Solomon in the world.

Wow. Where do we go with this? There are at least two interpretations for this clue, one Masonic, and one technological. (Of course, with Dan Brown, these may both be correct.)

The Masonic Interpretation

It is worth pointing out that this shape recalls Clue #1, part of the solution of which is the phrase, "6 points of the Star of David" -- a shape shown here on a continental scale. In that clue, the phrase was encoded in an initial-letter cipher, a traditional Masonic code in use in the real world for almost three centuries.

Thus, perhaps the six points of the Star of David shown here are meant to have some sort of significance in the context of Freemasonry. Of course, all of these cities have at least one Masonic lodge in it, but that is nothing distinctive; almost every American city of any size has at least one Masonic lodge in it.

As it happens, The Lost Symbol clues indicate that the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry has a special place in the novel. The Scottish Rite offers an additional set of degrees beyond the three degrees of initiation in basic Freemasonry. Scottish Rite facilities are far fewer in number than the lodges of basic Freemasonry, although each of these meeting places ("valleys" in Scottish Rite vocabulary) has a much larger number of members than the typical lodge. We see the seal of the Supreme Council, 33rd Degree, of the Scottish Rite shown in the seal in the center of the cover of The Lost Symbol (Clue #31). In addition, some important symbolism of the Scottish Rite rituals of initiation are evident in some of the Twitter clues, such as the "Christogram" clue (Clue #18).

So, what might the Scottish Rite have to do with these six points of the map? As it happens, 4 of the points (Grand Rapids, Austin, Atlanta, and Phoenix) lie within a 15-minute drive of a Scottish Rite meeting place. A fifth point (Grand Forks) lies within a 45-minute drive. Only one point (Gillette, WY) lies a great distance from a Scottish Rite facility.

It also is noteworthy that 5 of the 6 points are in the territory of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. (Only Grand Rapids, MI, is in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.) This is important because of a quirk in the Dan Brown universe.

Dan Brown uses a great deal of research and background sources to create the world of his novels. For example, in writing The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown created his world on the basis of ideas reported as fact in a work of alternative history: Holy Blood, Holy Grail (by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln). In writing The Lost Symbol, some Brown-watchers believe that Dan Brown is leaning on at least two other works of alternative or speculative history:
  • David Ovason, The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital: The Masons and the Building of Washington, DC (New York: HarperCollins, 2000).
  • Warren Getler and Bob Brewer, Shadow of the sentinel: One man's quest to find the hidden treasure of the confederacy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003; the 2005 paperback is titled Rebel Gold).

Each of these books makes claims about a man named Albert Pike, who led the Scottish Rite in the Southern Jurisdiction for many years in the 19th century. In particular, the Getler and Brewer book claims that Albert Pike was secretly in league with the Knights of the Golden Circle (Clue #34) a group that supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. According to Getler and Brewer, Pike helped conceal billions of dollars in Confederate gold for use in a future Civil War.

Getler and Brewer write that they build their case on evidence that is circumstantial. I do not think that this is true. In my estimate, their case does not ascend to the level of the circumstantial. Rather, as I see it, their case is essentially built on speculation, even fantasy. They present not a shred of actual evidence to support their case regarding Pike and his allegiances.

However, this might not matter to Dan Brown. Thus, what we may see in The Lost Symbol is a backstory like the following: During the 19th century, there was a conspiracy where Albert Pike helped the Knights of the Golden Circle to hide billions of dollars in Confederate gold at facilities of the Scottish Rite, especially of the Southern Jurisdiction, facilities that were widely scattered about the United States. In the current day, these billions are now about to be put at the disposal of some contemporary Conspiracy, no doubt for nefarious purposes.

The Technological Interpretation

Flashing forward to Clue #97, we find a reference to a classified hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft, the Aurora, described as a "Black Triangle." On our map above, we have two black triangles. How might these be connected?

The Aurora is estimated at being capable of speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 6 (roughly 3,300 to 4000 mph). If one is going to test fly a hypersonic aircraft like this, one must fly it over immense distances. Each of the triangles on the map above could be traversed in roughly an hour by the Aurora, flying at top speed; this would be a good period of time for a test flight.

Thus, it may be that the map is meant to show the flight paths of two test flights for the Aurora aircraft. In The Lost Symbol, the Aurora might be involved in high-tech surveillance -- or, perhaps in something that was more materially destructive. (How could you shoot down a hypersonic bomber that could outrun any missile sent against it?)

High stakes -- that's what I think will find in The Lost Symbol: the highest of stakes.

[The image of the United States with the intersecting triangles was created by the blog author, working with a public domain image of the map of the U.S. located by Kathleen Koltko-Rivera.]


  1. Why should you not lift your pencil from the paper? There are two sets of four coordinates. Plot each set separately. Grand Forks ND, Atlanta GA, Scottsdale AZ, Grand Forks ND: and that gives you a triangle with its apex at Grand Forks. Then Grand Rapids MI, Austin TX, Gilette WY, Grand Rapids MI: and that gives you a triangle with a flat top and its point at the bottom, at Austin. The one over the other creates a well drawn Star of David, ie the Seal of Solomon.

  2. Solving the clues involves at least two levels: 1) Solving the actual puzzle or clue; and 2) Identifying meaning in the answer to the clue that relates to "The Lost Symbol."

    We've been told that the book will be based in Washington, DC. Moreover, we know that the entire book will transpire during a 10 hour period of time. Hence, what we know about the book makes the geographic solution unlikely; and nothing that we know about the book connects us to Grand Forks, Atlanta, Scottsdale, Grand Rapids, Austin, and Gilette.

  3. Bad News: I suggested the don't-pick-up-your-pencil thing because I think that the coordinates -- _wherever_ they're placed -- are places that Robert Langdon is supposed to go to, given in sequence. It is topologically impossible to trace a Star of David / Seal of Solomon figure perfectly without picking your pencil off the page, if one goes the draw-two-triangles route.

    As far as _where_ the coordinates are: that's the $64,000 question, as they used to say. The cover of the book, just released Tuesday morning (see my remarks on Tweet #31) does seem to confirm a Washington, DC setting; the 12-hour timeframe that the novel takes place in would seem to restrict Langdon's movements to in and around DC.

    Anonymous: My bad. I had misremembered the April 20 Knopf press release; it is 12 hours, not 10.

    I would like to thank both of you for contributing to the conversation here. Be well.

  4. The Seal of Solomon serves as a key on a map of DC. Interesting double meaning - the UK edition has a physical key on it.

  5. I doubt that the points of the Star of David are relevant -- Grand Rapids, Austin, Atlanta, etc. What matters is that the Seal of Solomon has been laid over the United States. It is saying something about America as the recipient of, the repository for, an ancient message.

  6. And not to quibble about the details, but according to Google Earth, the Grand Forks coordinates actually put it in EAST Grand Forks MINNESOTA, not ND.

  7. Bad News: I was just plain wrong. You were just plain right.


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