Home > The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon #3)(7)

The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon #3)(7)
Author: Dan Brown

"But this can't be coincidence!" the kid exclaimed.

Langdon patiently showed the student that the same exact shapes could be formed on a street map of Detroit.

The kid seemed sorely disappointed.

"Don't be disheartened," Langdon said. "Washington does have some incredible secrets . . . just none on this street map."

The young man perked up. "Secrets? Like what?"

"Every spring I teach a course called Occult Symbols. I talk a lot about D.C. You should take the course."

"Occult symbols!" The freshman looked excited again. "So there are devil symbols in D.C.!"

Langdon smiled. "Sorry, but the word occult, despite conjuring images of devil worship, actually means `hidden' or `obscured.' In times of religious oppression, knowledge that was counterdoctrinal had to be kept hidden or `occult,' and because the church felt threatened by this, they redefined anything `occult' as evil, and the prejudice survived."

"Oh." The kid slumped.

Nonetheless, that spring, Langdon spotted the freshman seated in the front row as five hundred students bustled into Harvard's Sanders Theatre, a hollow old lecture hall with creaking wooden benches.

"Good morning, everybody," Langdon shouted from the expansive stage. He turned on a slide projector, and an image materialized behind him. "As you're getting settled, how many of you recognize the building in this picture?"

"U.S. Capitol!" dozens of voices called out in unison. "Washington, D.C.!"

"Yes. There are nine million pounds of ironwork in that dome. An unparalleled feat of architectural ingenuity for the 1850s."

"Awesome!" somebody shouted.

Langdon rolled his eyes, wishing somebody would ban that word. "Okay, and how many of you have ever been to Washington?"

A scattering of hands went up. "So few?" Langdon feigned surprise. "And how many of you have been to Rome, Paris, Madrid, or London?"

Almost all the hands in the room went up.

As usual. One of the rites of passage for American college kids was a summer with a Eurorail ticket before the harsh reality of real life set in. "It appears many more of you have visited Europe than have visited your own capital. Why do you think that is?"

"No drinking age in Europe!" someone in back shouted.

Langdon smiled. "As if the drinking age here stops any of you?"

Everyone laughed.

It was the first day of school, and the students were taking longer than usual to get settled, shifting and creaking in their wooden pews. Langdon loved teaching in this hall because he always knew how engaged the students were simply by listening to how much they fidgeted in their pews.

"Seriously," Langdon said, "Washington, D.C., has some of the world's finest architecture, art, and symbolism. Why would you go overseas before visiting your own capital?"

"Ancient stuff is cooler," someone said.

"And by ancient stuff," Langdon clarified, "I assume you mean castles, crypts, temples, that sort of thing?"

Their heads nodded in unison.

"Okay. Now, what if I told you that Washington, D.C., has every one of those things? Castles, crypts, pyramids, temples . . . it's all there."

The creaking diminished.

"My friends," Langdon said, lowering his voice and moving to the front of the stage, "in the next hour, you will discover that our nation is overflowing with secrets and hidden history. And exactly as in Europe, all of the best secrets are hidden in plain view."

The wooden pews fell dead silent.


Langdon dimmed the lights and called up his second slide. "Who can tell me what George Washington is doing here?" The slide was a famous mural depicting George Washington dressed in full Masonic regalia standing before an odd-looking contraption--a giant wooden tripod that supported a rope-and- pulley system from which was suspended a massive block of stone. A group of well-dressed onlookers stood around him.

"Lifting that big block of stone?" someone ventured.

Langdon said nothing, preferring that a student make the correction if possible.

"Actually," another student offered, "I think Washington is lowering the rock. He's wearing a Masonic costume. I've seen pictures of Masons laying cornerstones before. The ceremony always uses that tripod thing to lower the first stone."

"Excellent," Langdon said. "The mural portrays the Father of Our Country using a tripod and pulley to lay the cornerstone of our Capitol Building on September 18, 1793, between the hours of eleven fifteen and twelve thirty." Langdon paused, scanning the class. "Can anyone tell me the significance of that date and time?"


"What if I told you that precise moment was chosen by three famous Masons--George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Pierre L'Enfant, the primary architect for D.C.?"

More silence.

"Quite simply, the cornerstone was set at that date and time because, among other things, the auspicious Caput Draconis was in Virgo."

Everyone exchanged odd looks.

"Hold on," someone said. "You mean . . . like astrology?"

"Exactly. Although a different astrology than we know today."

A hand went up. "You mean our Founding Fathers believed in astrology?"

Langdon grinned. "Big-time. What would you say if I told you the city of Washington, D.C., has more astrological signs in its architecture than any other city in the world--zodiacs, star charts, cornerstones laid at precise astrological dates and times? More than half of the framers of our Constitution were Masons, men who strongly believed that the stars and fate were intertwined, men who paid close attention to the layout of the heavens as they structured their new world."

"But that whole thing about the Capitol cornerstone being laid while Caput Draconis was in Virgo--who cares? Can't that just be coincidence?" "An impressive coincidence considering that the cornerstones of the three structures that make up Federal Triangle--the Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument--were all laid in different years but were carefully timed to occur under this exact same astrological condition."

Langdon's gaze was met by a room full of wide eyes. A number of heads dipped down as students began taking notes.

A hand in back went up. "Why did they do that?"

Langdon chuckled. "The answer to that is an entire semester's worth of material. If you're curious, you should take my mysticism course. Frankly, I don't think you guys are emotionally prepared to hear the answer."

"What?" the person shouted. "Try us!"

Langdon made a show of considering it and then shook his head, toying with them. "Sorry, I can't do that. Some of you are only freshmen. I'm afraid it might blow your minds."

"Tell us!" everyone shouted.

Langdon shrugged. "Perhaps you should join the Masons or Eastern Star and learn about it from the source."

"We can't get in," a young man argued. "The Masons are like a supersecret society!"

"Supersecret? Really?" Langdon remembered the large Masonic ring that his friend Peter Solomon wore proudly on his right hand. "Then why do Masons wear obvious Masonic rings, tie clips, or pins? Why are Masonic buildings clearly marked? Why are their meeting times in the newspaper?" Langdon smiled at all the puzzled faces. "My friends, the Masons are not a secret society . . . they are a society with secrets."

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