Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Lost Symbol

Author: Dan Brown
Published: 2009
Publisher: Bantam Press
Amazon Link: Click Here

I got this book in hardback format literally free by a enchasing a gift certificate which I got when I became a book club member at .

Fast paced thriller featuring Professor Langdon again, after his Da Vinci Code adventure. Here he teams up with Katherine Solomon a noetic scientist, whose brother Peter has been kidnapped by Malakh. Malakh is holding Peter to ransom. In exchange of Peter's life, Malakh wants Langdon to unravel a Ancient Mystery, the clue to which is hidden in a Masonic pyramid in Langdon's possession. One clue leads to another ala Da Vinci Code style till everything is revealed in the end.
One of the clue is a magic square (a grid of consecutive numbers arranged in such a way that all the rows, column, and diagonals added up to the same thing). Here I came to know that even nowadays devout Indians draw special three-by-three magic squares called the Kubera Kolam on their pooja altars. Sometimes it takes a non-Indian to educate us about our culture and traditions !
The story has got two unexpected twists in the end. One is an unexpected one (though some people may guess it, I couldn't), but the other one concerning the Ancient Mystery though it makes perfect sense and I fully endorse it is rather a let down. I was expecting something more esoteric. The end is a somewhat stretched .
Like his previous books Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, this book also is a mix of facts and fiction.
The story is set in Washington D.C. and so the book has vivid description of its history and architecture of its famous monuments. It is all very interesting and may draw more tourists to this city.
It also provides a good introduction to Noetic Science the basic premise for which is "Human thought can transform the world". I came to know through this book that there exist an organization called Institute of Noetic Sciences which systematically conducts research in this area.
While describing the Ancient Mystery the book also makes references to certain interesting facts contained in major religious scriptures (including Upanishads,Vedas, Bhagavad Gita ).
Dan Brown tries to clear several misconceptions about the Freemason organization through Prof. Langdon's lecture in the book . A couple of extracts to illustrate this:
1. (How open minded and tolerant Masons are)
"One of the prerequisites for becoming a Mason is that you must believe in a higher power. The difference between Masonic spirituality and organized religion is that the Masons do not impose a specific definition or name on a higher power. Rather than definitive logical identites like God, Allah, Buddha, or Jesus, the Masons use more general terms like Supreme Being or Great Architect of the Universe. This enables Masons of different faiths to gather together."
"Sounds a little far-out," someone said.
"Or, perhaps, refreshingly open-minded?" Langdon offered. "In this age when different cultures are killing each other over whose definition of God is better, one could say the Masonic tradition of tolerance and open-mindedness is commendable." Langdon paced the stage. "Morever, Masonry is open to men of all races, colors, and creeds, and provides a spiritual fraternity that does not discriminate in any way."
2. (I liked this passage a lot; probably the best in this book. The message is in the last sentence of the extract)
"Well if you were to ask Mason, he would offer the following definition: Masonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."
"Sounds to me like a euphemism for 'freaky cult'."
"Freaky, you say ?"
"Hell, yes!" the kid said standing up. "I heard what they do inside those secret buildings! Weird candlelight rituals with coffins, and nooses, and drinking wine out of skulls. Now that's freaky!"
Langdon scanned the class. "Does that sound freaky to anyone else?"
"Yes!" they all chimed in.
Langdon feigned a sad sigh. "Too bad. If that's too freaky for you, then I know you'll never want to join my cult."
Silence settled over the room. The student from the Women's Center looked uneasy. "You're in a cult?"
Langdon nodded and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Dont' tell anyone, but on the pagan day of the sun god Ra, I kneel at the foot of an ancient instrument of torture and consume ritualistic symbols of blood and flesh."
The class looked horrified.
Langdon shrugged. "And if any of you care to join me, come to the Harvard chapel on Sunday, kneel before the crucifix, and take Holy Communion." (The punch line)
The classroom remained silent.
Langdon winked. "Open your minds, my friends. We all fear what we do not understand."
(How true ! Hope this leads to different societies developing a sense of appreciation of one another.)
Now how about this passage with an Advaitic touch ? Here Peter is explaining to his sister Katharine how the key to our scientific future is hidden in our spiritual past.
“Well . . . like entanglement theory, for one!” Subatomic research had now proven categorically that all matter was interconnected . . . entangled in a single unified mesh . . . a kind of universal oneness.
“You’re telling me the ancients sat around discussing entanglement theory?”
“Absolutely!” Peter said, pushing his long, dark bangs out of his eyes.
“Entanglement was at the core of primeval beliefs. Its names are as old as history itself . . . Dharmakaya, Tao, Brahman.
In fact, man’s oldest spiritual quest was to perceive his own entanglement, to sense his own interconnection with all things.
He has always wanted to become ‘one’ with the universe . . . to achieve the state of ‘at-one-ment.’ ”
Her brother raised his eyebrows. “To this day, Jews and Christians still strive for ‘atonement’ . . . although most of us have forgotten it is actually ‘at-one-ment’ we’re seeking.”
(Wow what an interpretation !
Mystics from almost religion have recognized this fact. For e.g.
Aham Brahmasmi (Hindu), Annal-haq (Islam), I and the Father are One (Christianity))
I really enjoyed this book and recommend to everyone who is looking for something more deeper than a storyline. It is the several digressions (similar to ones quoted above) made in the book which held my interest, though the ones who are just looking for some adventure may consider them unwelcome.

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