Interview: Robert Cooper - Breaking the code
'I CANNOT tell a lie." The famous quote from America's first president, George Washington, is about to be called into question, according to leaked information on the plot of Dan Brown's new book.
The Lost Symbol looks set to create a huge uproar across the USA, with its allegations that far from being the country's 'founding father,' Washington was actually a traitor who had been secretly negotiating with the British during the American War of Independence.
His treachery – revealed in a deathbed confession – was apparently concealed by his fellow Freemasons.
Worse still, assertions that the original confession was concealed in George Washington's coffin is creating panic around the grounds of Mount Vernon where Washington is buried.
Historian Robert Cooper, curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and a world authority on Freemasonry says, "It seems they're planning security precautions to safeguard against what has become known as the 'Rosslyn effect,'" referring to the way that, after the publication of Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian was deluged by grail seekers and treasure hunters.
According to The Da Vinci Code, descendants of a union between Christ and Mary Magdalene still lived near Rosslyn Chapel, safeguarding secrets hidden there about the true origins of the Christian church. Not surprisingly, the furore – particularly in Catholic quarters – was off the scale. This time, it seems Freemasons are being hauled over the coals. But Cooper doesn't seem overly concerned.
"Brown's novels are renowned for introducing sensational claims. These involve 'facts' suggesting that something which generations of people have taken for granted, is actually untrue. He weaves some real facts among the highly controversial stuff and has a good guys and bad guys race against the clock to decipher the clues. At the end of the day, it's simply a piece of formulaic fiction."
Maybe so, but with six weeks to go and millions of copies of The Lost Symbol already printed in anticipation of another blockbuster, Freemasons in the US have been accusing Doubleday, Brown's publishers, of cranking up the controversy and deliberately leaking details of the plot. Masons are worried enough to be setting up a website recruiting teams of "experts" to carry out a page by page analysis as soon as the book hits the shelves.
Cooper, who has recently returned from lecturing on Freemasonry in the USA, appears to have undertaken a pretty comprehensive analysis already, and if he knows where the plot leaks are coming from, he's not saying. "Of course I could be the victim of a double bluff but I don't believe so. My knowledge of the source convinces me of its reliability, and of course there is some conjecture on my own part, based on the comprehensive knowledge I have of the background to the story."
He claims his recent book Cracking the Freemason's Code – The Truth about Solomon's Key caused Dan Brown to change the title of his new novel from The Solomon Key to The Lost Symbol. "I don't know what other changes my book caused, but as a Masonic historian, I deal in facts, not fiction."
One fact about George Washington shows he became a Freemason in 1752, aged 20. Almost without exception the other founding fathers of the United States – including Benjamin Franklin and James Madison – were Freemasons, and the American constitution itself is said to be based on Masonic principles.
According to Cooper, Scottish Masons took the principles of Freemasonry over to America in the first place. "Scotland is different from the rest of the world in that we go back before Freemasonry as an 18th century organisation. We were ordinary working guys – craft guilds – with our own ancient knowledge and rituals. It was the original egalitarian society, and that's what we took to America."
He says the first known Freemasons in North America were Scotsmen from Aberdeen and Melrose. "That was in 1648, a hundred years before George Washington. A hundred years after George Washington, during a Masonic ceremony, a Scotsman laid the foundation stone for the Statue of Liberty. Not a bad bit of continuity…"
Scottish Masons took the spark of revolution across the Atlantic, too. The Lodge of St Andrew met in the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston, and on St Andrew's night 30th November, 1773. it was recorded that the Lodge meeting was adjourned as 'consignees of tea took up the Brethrens' time.' The men dressed as Mohawks who tipped the British tea into Boston harbour (the act that started the revolution) were Lodge members. One of the brothers was the famous revolutionary Paul Revere. After the revolution the new nation used skilled stonemasons from Scotland (personally recruited by Washington) to work on the prestigious buildings around Washington DC. These included the capitol building and the White House (where the Scottish masons wouldn't use slaves because they were not free men.)
All very stirring stuff, and not surprisingly, the present-day Freemasonic fraternity in Washington is incensed at the thought of a spanner being thrown into the works by Dan Brown. But could there be any basis behind the story?
The facts about the American Revolution show that in the early days, in the mid 1770's, the colonialists suffered a series of defeats. Strategic secrets were being passed to the British. The facts also show that an American army general, Benedict Arnold, was a traitor who plotted to surrender the fort at West Point to the British and turn the tide of war against his own side. The facts link Washington with Arnold when it comes to Freemasonry and the facts show that the day the plot was discovered, Washington was due to meet Arnold at West Point. "The hard facts stop there." says Cooper
It seems that in The Lost Symbol Washington has been working with Arnold and passing secrets to the British. But why on earth would Washington want to subvert the cause of American freedom?
"Ah, that I'm not clear about," admits Cooper. "I don't know what Brown has up his sleeve there, but I've been led to believe he's suggesting George Washington could be bought like anyone else, and the English Tories had made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
When Arnold was rumbled, Washington did a huge about-turn, covered his tracks and wholeheartedly embraced the cause of American independence."
The rest, as they say, is history – except that in the novel, it appears Washington has a crisis of conscience on his deathbed and writes a detailed confession to be published after his death. His personal physician and friend, Dr James Craik – also a Freemason – is known to have attended the dying president, whose sealed coffin is buried at Mount Vernon. In true Dan Brown tradition, details of the confession and the events surrounding it have been hidden somewhere, and veiled references to it are found a couple of centuries later by a researcher working at Mount Vernon.
He seems to think something highly secret and important has been buried in Washington's coffin. This secret – and the details surrounding it – have been concealed within Freemasonic codes of reference and the researcher can't make sense of the symbolism disguising what he knows is a significant find.
He contacts symbologist Robert Langdon but is murdered before he can explain his findings.
Langdon, the CIA and the FBI are now in a race to find the confession, which the secret services must destroy to safeguard the integrity of the country's founding father and the creation of the world's first democracy.
Langdon is the front runner since he's been contacted by a high ranking Freemason with knowledge of the symbolism of the Order. Apparently there's a surprise twist when it comes to the identity of this Freemason – a twist which has more orthodox members of the craft siding with the CIA and FBI in suppressing the truth.
"If this plotline is anywhere near accurate," says Cooper, who insists again that he has no reason to doubt his source, "then it's going to create a huge uproar across the USA."
LIFTING THE VEIL
THE Lost Symbol is set to lift the veil on the mysterious Masonic symbols carved into the historic streets and buildings around the American capital
Dan Brown has located his hero, Robert Langdon, right in the heart of Washington, which could reveal some interesting details for history buffs. "For the first time, Langdon will find himself embroiled in a mystery on US soil. This new novel explores the hidden history of our nation's capital," Brown has written in a posting on his official website.
George Washington is said to have demanded the city be laid out in a symbolic square, and for those of esoteric bent, it seems the shape of a square and compass can be formed by drawing a line on a map between two of the city's major landmarks, the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, and following through along the walls of the White House and the Jefferson Memorial.
The square and compasses is one of the best-known Masonic symbols, where the measurements of a square showed that something previously imperfect had been perfected.
Masons apply the square metaphorically to themselves and their brethren.
Inside the Capitol, which sits at the dead centre of the square, lies the cornerstone laid by George Washington. In a Masonic ritual of 1793, a visual representation of the ceremony shows him dressed in his Masonic apron.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
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