Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

To quite a bit of hype, the new Dan Brown novel was recently released in the UK. The author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons has done it again. As one of my Facebook friends commented a while back, the latest Dan Brown book will contain some secret codes, some puzzles, a high speed chase through a city, and some secrets being revealed. A fair enough summary of the plot!

Having previously tackled Opus Dei and the Catholic Church, the Illuminati and the Catholic Church, both set in Europe, this time the hero of the stories, Robert Langdon, a symbologist, finds himself dealing with the Masonic Order. Unlike the previous organisations, the Masons (the Freemasons of the Scottish Rite in America) get off lightly, and are well respected. Is Dan Brown a mason himself?

Set in the capital of the United States of America, Washington DC we're quickly introduced to a series of characters, who are interacting at various locations, with increasing tensions and ultra-short chapters (some of less than half a page!) jumping from location to location and danger to danger.

It's typical Dan Brown material, with the expected twists in the tale and even more secrets being unravelled as the symbols and codes are discussed and solved. The action (apart from the numerous back-stories and remembrances by characters) all takes place in the course of one evening, so as you can imagine, it's high paced. However, it took me longer to read than the first readthrough of either Da Vinci or Angels. Each of those was completed in a day or two, but this one took me maybe a week and a half.

I don't want to ruin the story for anyone who will read it later, so I'll not comment on the plotline in detail or depth. What I do want to raise, though, is the assumption running throughout the story, that all religions are basically the same, and together protect and preserve the Ancient Mysteries, the secret wisdom of the ancients which allowed them to do miracles and wonders, to become deities or god-like beings.

According to the thesis proclaimed in the book, the Masons are interested in apotheosis - man becoming God, precisely because the power and potential lies inside man, hidden and untapped. All that is required is enlightenment, along with a butchering of the Scripture text that 'God created man in his own image' means that 'mankind was not created inferior to God.' The idea is then attempted to be justified by pointing to a bunch of enlightened teachers, 'the Adepts - Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster, and countless others.' He then goes on to write that their ideas are passed on through books: 'Every culture on earth had its own sacred book - its own Word - each one different and yet each one the same.'

To which I say, nonsense! Jesus cannot be lumped in with other 'wise teachers'. His identity simply will not allow it. Either he is who he says he is - the Son of God, the only one who is the way to the Father - or else is simply mad and must be ignored. It's not worldly wisdom from one specially wise. Similarly the Bible is not the same as the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita or any other so-called holy book.

It's interesting to notice that at one point, a character reflects that 'the name Jesus has been hijacked as an ally in all kinds of power struggles... They defended their worldly desires by citing Scripture they did not understand.' In my considered opinion, this is exactly what Dan Brown does in his pursuit of this story (as well as his previous two novels!). There is widespread cherry-picking of random isolated verses which fit in with his theme of secret / mystery / wisdom / gods and these are repeated time and again, completely out of context. Also, atonement - the word coined by John Wycliffe to describe the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus for our sins as being our 'at-one ment' to God is reinterpreted to mean being at one with the universe in a general sense, not mentioning or referencing sin or sacrifice at all.

So where do I finish this short review? Like the others, The Lost Symbol is a decent read if you like mystery and thriller with some action and suspense. I enjoy trying to solve the puzzles and codes before the characters. But it's certainly not a book to base any doctrine on - it's fiction, after all, and in appealing to the Masons as the guardians of all that is good and right, I think it fails, and unfairly tries to insist that all 'religions' and none are all basically the same. Forget the secrets that have been deliberately hidden, and concentrate on the plain word of the open Bible, wherein God speaks authoritatively.

1 comment :

  1. Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?