The Lost Symbol

Chapter 129-131



Robert Langdon stood mesmerized at the glass portal, absorbing the power of the landscape below him. Having ascended unknowingly hundreds of feet into the air, he was now admiring one of the most spectacular vistas he had ever seen.

The shining dome of the U.S. Capitol rose like a mountain at the east end of the National Mall. On either side of the building, two parallel lines of light stretched toward him . . . the illuminated facades of the Smithsonian museums . . . beacons of art, history, science, culture.

Langdon now realized to his astonishment that much of what Peter had declared to be true . . . was in fact true. There is indeed a winding staircase . . . descending hundreds of feet beneath a massive stone. The huge capstone of this obelisk sat directly over his head, and Langdon now recalled a forgotten bit of trivia that seemed to have eerie relevance: the capstone of the Washington Monument weighed precisely thirty-three hundred pounds.

Again, the number 33.

More startling, however, was the knowledge that this capstone's ultimate peak, the zenith of this obelisk, was crowned by a tiny, polished tip of aluminum--a metal as precious as gold in its day. The shining apex of the Washington Monument was only about a foot tall, the same size as the Masonic Pyramid. Incredibly, this small metal pyramid bore a famous engraving--Laus Deo-- and Langdon suddenly understood. This is the true message of the base of the stone pyramid. The seven symbols are a transliteration!

The simplest of ciphers.

The symbols are letters.

The stonemason's square--L

The element gold--AU

The Greek Sigma--S

The Greek Delta--D

Alchemical mercury--E

The Ouroboros--O

"Laus Deo," Langdon whispered. The well-known Latin phrase--meaning "praise God"--was inscribed on the tip of the Washington Monument in script letters only one inch tall. On full display . . . and yet invisible to all.

Laus Deo.

"Praise God," Peter said behind him, flipping on the soft lighting in the chamber. "The Masonic Pyramid's final code."

Langdon turned. His friend was grinning broadly, and Langdon recalled that Peter had actually spoken the words "praise God" earlier inside the Masonic library. And I still missed it.

Langdon felt a chill to realize how apt it was that the legendary Masonic Pyramid had guided him here . . . to America's great obelisk--the symbol of ancient mystical wisdom--rising toward the heavens at the heart of a nation.

In a state of wonder, Langdon began moving counterclockwise around the perimeter of the tiny square room, arriving now at another viewing window.


Through this northward-facing window, Langdon gazed down at the familiar silhouette of the White House directly in front of him. He raised his eyes to the horizon, where the straight line of Sixteenth Street ran due north toward the House of the Temple.

I am due south of Heredom.

He continued around the perimeter to the next window. Looking west, Langdon's eyes traced the long rectangle of the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial, its classical Greek architecture inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, Temple to Athena--goddess of heroic undertakings.

Annuit coeptis, Langdon thought. God favors our undertaking.

Continuing to the final window, Langdon gazed southward across the dark waters of the Tidal Basin, where the Jefferson Memorial shone brightly in the night. The gently sloping cupola, Langdon knew, was modeled after the Pantheon, the original home to the great Roman gods of mythology.

Having looked in all four directions, Langdon now thought about the aerial photos he had seen of the National Mall--her four arms outstretched from the Washington Monument toward the cardinal points of the compass. I am standing at the crossroads of America.

Langdon continued back around to where Peter was standing. His mentor was beaming. "Well, Robert, this is it. The Lost Word. This is where it's buried. The Masonic Pyramid led us here."

Langdon did a double take. He had all but forgotten about the Lost Word.

"Robert, I know of nobody more trustworthy than you. And after a night like tonight, I believe you deserve to know what this is all about. As promised in legend, the Lost Word is indeed buried at the bottom of a winding staircase." He motioned to the mouth of the monument's long stairwell.

Langdon had finally started to get his feet back under him, but now he was puzzled. Peter quickly reached into his pocket and pulled out a small object. "Do you remember this?"

Langdon took the cube-shaped box that Peter had entrusted to him long ago. "Yes . . . but I'm afraid I didn't do a very good job of protecting it."

Solomon chuckled. "Perhaps the time had come for it to see the light of day."

Langdon eyed the stone cube, wondering why Peter had just handed it to him.

"What does this look like to you?" Peter asked.

Langdon eyed the 1514 and recalled his first impression when Katherine had unwrapped the package. "A cornerstone."

"Exactly," Peter replied. "Now, there are a few things you might not know about cornerstones. First, the concept of laying a cornerstone comes from the Old Testament."

Langdon nodded. "The Book of Psalms."

"Correct. And a true cornerstone is always buried beneath the ground--symbolizing the building's initial step upward out of the earth toward the heavenly light."

Langdon glanced out at the Capitol, recalling that its cornerstone was buried so deep in the foundation that, to this day, excavations had been unable to find it.

"And finally," Solomon said, "like the stone box in your hand, many cornerstones are little vaults . . . and have hollow cavities so that they can hold buried treasures . . . talismans, if you will-- symbols of hope for the future of the building about to be erected."

Langdon was well aware of this tradition, too. Even today, Masons laid cornerstones in which they sealed meaningful objects--time capsules, photos, proclamations, even the ashes of important people.

"My purpose in telling you this," Solomon said, glancing over at the stairwell, "should be clear."

"You think the Lost Word is buried in the cornerstone of the Washington Monument?"

"I don't think, Robert. I know. The Lost Word was buried in the cornerstone of this monument on July 4, 1848, in a full Masonic ritual."

Langdon stared at him. "Our Masonic forefathers buried a word?!"

Peter nodded. "They did indeed. They understood the true power of what they were burying."

All night, Langdon had been trying to wrap his mind around sprawling, ethereal concepts . . . the Ancient Mysteries, the Lost Word, the Secrets of the Ages. He wanted something solid, and despite Peter's claims that the key to it all was buried in a cornerstone 555 feet beneath him, Langdon was having a hard time accepting it. People study the mysteries for entire lifetimes and are still unable to access the power allegedly hidden there. Langdon flashed on Durer's Melencolia I--the image of the dejected Adept, surrounded by the tools of his failed efforts to unveil the mystical secrets of alchemy. If the secrets can actually be unlocked, they will not be found in one place!

Any answer, Langdon had always believed, was spread across the world in thousands of volumes . . . encoded into writings of Pythagoras, Hermes, Heraclitus, Paracelsus, and hundreds of others. The answer was found in dusty, forgotten tomes on alchemy, mysticism, magic, and philosophy. The answer was hidden in the ancient library of Alexandria, the clay tablets of Sumer, and the hieroglyphs of Egypt.

"Peter, I'm sorry," Langdon said quietly, shaking his head. "To understand the Ancient Mysteries is a lifelong process. I can't imagine how the key could possibly rest within a single word."

Peter placed a hand on Langdon's shoulder. "Robert, the Lost Word is not a `word.'" He gave a sage smile. "We only call it the `Word' because that's what the ancients called it . . . in the beginning."


In the beginning was the Word.

Dean Galloway knelt at the Great Crossing of the National Cathedral and prayed for America. He prayed that his beloved country would soon come to grasp the true power of the Word--the recorded collection of the written wisdom of all the ancient masters--the spiritual truths taught by the great sages.

History had blessed mankind with the wisest of teachers, profoundly enlightened souls whose understanding of the spiritual and mental mysteries exceeded all understanding. The precious words of these Adepts--Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster, and countless others--had been transmitted through history in the oldest and most precious of vessels.


Every culture on earth had its own sacred book--its own Word--each one different and yet each one the same. For Christians, the Word was the Bible, for Muslims the Koran, for Jews the Torah, for Hindus the Vedas, and on and on it went.

The Word shall light the way.

For America's Masonic forefathers, the Word had been the Bible. And yet few people in history have understood its true message.

Tonight, as Galloway knelt alone within the great cathedral, he placed his hands upon the Word--a well-worn copy of his own Masonic Bible. This treasured book, like all Masonic Bibles, contained the Old Testament, the New Testament, and a treasure trove of Masonic philosophical writings.

Although Galloway's eyes could no longer read the text, he knew the preface by heart. Its glorious message had been read by millions of his brethren in countless languages around the world.

The text read:


There is a reason these volumes survived, while others vanished. As a scholar of faith, Dean Galloway had always found it astonishing that the ancient spiritual texts--the most studied books on earth--were, in fact, the least understood.

Concealed within those pages, there hides a wondrous secret.

One day soon the light would dawn, and mankind would finally begin to grasp the simple, transformative truth of the ancient teachings . . . and take a quantum leap forward in understanding his own magnificent nature.


The winding staircase that descends the spine of the Washington Monument consists of 896 stone steps that spiral around an open elevator shaft. Langdon and Solomon were making their way down, Langdon still grappling with the startling fact that Peter had shared with him only moments ago: Robert, buried within the hollow cornerstone of this monument, our forefathers placed a single copy of the Word--the Bible--which waits in darkness at the foot of this staircase.

As they descended, Peter suddenly stopped on a landing and swung his flashlight beam to illuminate a large stone medallion embedded in the wall.

What in the world?! Langdon jumped when he saw the carving.

The medallion depicted a frightening cloaked figure holding a scythe and kneeling beside an hourglass. The figure's arm was raised, and his index finger was extended, pointing directly at a large open Bible, as if to say: "The answer is in there!"

Langdon stared at the carving and then turned to Peter.

His mentor's eyes shone with mystery. "I'd like you to consider something, Robert." His voice echoed down the empty stairwell. "Why do you think the Bible has survived thousands of years of tumultuous history? Why is it still here? Is it because its stories are such compelling reading? Of course not . . . but there is a reason. There is a reason Christian monks spend lifetimes attempting to decipher the Bible. There is a reason that Jewish mystics and Kabbalists pore over the Old Testament. And that reason, Robert, is that there exist powerful secrets hidden in the pages of this ancient book . . . a vast collection of untapped wisdom waiting to be unveiled."

Langdon was no stranger to the theory that the Scriptures contained a hidden layer of meaning, a concealed message that was veiled in allegory, symbolism, and parable.

"The prophets warn us," Peter continued, "that the language used to share their secret mysteries is a cryptic one. The Gospel of Mark tells us, `Unto you is given to know the mystery . . . but it will be told in parable.' Proverbs cautions that the sayings of the wise are `riddles,' while Corinthians talks of `hidden wisdom.' The Gospel of John forewarns: `I will speak to you in parable . . . and use dark sayings.' "

Dark sayings, Langdon mused, knowing this strange phrase made numerous odd appearances in Proverbs as well as in Psalm 78. I will open my mouth in a parable and utter dark sayings of old. The concept of a "dark saying," Langdon had learned, did not mean that the saying was "evil" but rather that its true meaning was shadowed or obscured from the light.

"And if you have any doubts," Peter added, "Corinthians overtly tells us that the parables have two layers of meaning: `milk for babes and meat for men'--where the milk is a watered-down reading for infantile minds, and the meat is the true message, accessible only to mature minds."

Peter raised the flashlight, again illuminating the carving of the cloaked figure pointing intently at the Bible. "I know you are a skeptic, Robert, but consider this. If the Bible does not contain hidden meaning, then why have so many of history's finest minds--including brilliant scientists at the Royal Society--become so obsessed with studying it? Sir Isaac Newton wrote more than a million words attempting to decipher the true meaning of the Scripture, including a 1704 manuscript that claimed he had extracted hidden scientific information from the Bible!" Langdon knew this was true.

"And Sir Francis Bacon," Peter continued, "the luminary hired by King James to literally create the authorized King James Bible, became so utterly convinced that the Bible contained cryptic meaning that he wrote in his own codes, which are still studied today! Of course, as you know, Bacon was a Rosicrucian and penned The Wisdom of the Ancients." Peter smiled. "Even the iconoclastic poet William Blake hinted that we should read between the lines."

Langdon was familiar with the verse:



"And it wasn't just the European luminaries," Peter continued, descending faster now. "It was here, Robert, at the very core of this young American nation, that our brightest forefathers--John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine--all warned of the profound dangers of interpreting the Bible literally. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was so convinced the Bible's true message was hidden that he literally cut up the pages and reedited the book, attempting, in his words, `to do away with the artificial scaffolding and restore the genuine doctrines.' "

Langdon was well aware of this strange fact. The Jeffersonian Bible was still in print today and included many of his controversial revisions, among them the removal of the virgin birth and the resurrection. Incredibly, the Jeffersonian Bible had been presented to every incoming member of Congress during the first half of the nineteenth century.

"Peter, you know I find this topic fascinating, and I can understand that it might be tempting for bright minds to imagine the Scriptures contain hidden meaning, but it makes no logical sense to me. Any skilled professor will tell you that teaching is never done in code."

"I'm sorry?"

"Teachers teach, Peter. We speak openly. Why would the prophets--the greatest teachers in history--obscure their language? If they hoped to change the world, why would they speak in code? Why not speak plainly so the world could understand?"

Peter glanced back over his shoulder as he descended, looking surprised by the question. "Robert, the Bible does not talk openly for the same reason the Ancient Mystery Schools were kept hidden . . . for the same reason the neophytes had to be initiated before learning the secret teachings of the ages . . . for the same reason the scientists in the Invisible College refused to share their knowledge with others. This information is powerful, Robert. The Ancient Mysteries cannot be shouted from the rooftops. The mysteries are a flaming torch, which, in the hands of a master, can light the way, but which, in the hands of a madman, can scorch the earth." Langdon stopped short. What is he saying? "Peter, I'm talking about the Bible. Why are you talking about the Ancient Mysteries?"

Peter turned. "Robert, don't you see? The Ancient Mysteries and the Bible are the same thing."

Langdon stared in bewilderment.

Peter was silent for several seconds, waiting for the concept to soak in. "The Bible is one of the books through which the mysteries have been passed down through history. Its pages are desperately trying to tell us the secret. Don't you understand? The `dark sayings' in the Bible are the whispers of the ancients, quietly sharing with us all of their secret wisdom."

Langdon said nothing. The Ancient Mysteries, as he understood them, were a kind of instruction manual for harnessing the latent power of the human mind . . . a recipe for personal apotheosis. He had never been able to accept the power of the mysteries, and certainly the notion that the Bible was somehow hiding a key to these mysteries was an impossible stretch.

"Peter, the Bible and the Ancient Mysteries are total opposites. The mysteries are all about the god within you . . . man as god. The Bible is all about the God above you . . . and man as a powerless sinner."

"Yes! Exactly! You've put your finger on the precise problem! The moment mankind separated himself from God, the true meaning of the Word was lost. The voices of the ancient masters have now been drowned out, lost in the chaotic din of self-proclaimed practitioners shouting that they alone understand the Word . . . that the Word is written in their language and none other."

Peter continued down the stairs.

"Robert, you and I both know that the ancients would be horrified if they saw how their teachings have been perverted . . . how religion has established itself as a tollbooth to heaven . . . how warriors march into battle believing God favors their cause. We've lost the Word, and yet its true meaning is still within reach, right before our eyes. It exists in all the enduring texts, from the Bible to the Bhagavad Gita to the Koran and beyond. All of these texts are revered upon the altars of Freemasonry because Masons understand what the world seems to have forgotten . . . that each of these texts, in its own way, is quietly whispering the exact same message." Peter's voice welled with emotion. " `Know ye not that ye are gods?'"

Langdon was struck by the way this famous ancient saying kept surfacing tonight. He had reflected on it while talking to Galloway and also at the Capitol Building while trying to explain The Apotheosis of Washington.

Peter lowered his voice to a whisper. "The Buddha said, `You are God yourself.' Jesus taught that `the kingdom of God is within you' and even promised us, `The works I do, you can do . . . and greater.' Even the first antipope--Hippolytus of Rome--quoted the same message, first uttered by the gnostic teacher Monoimus: `Abandon the search for God . . . instead, take yourself as the starting place.' " Langdon flashed on the House of the Temple, where the Masonic Tyler's chair bore two words of guidance carved across its back: KNOW THYSELF.

"A wise man once told me," Peter said, his voice faint now, "the only difference between you and God is that you have forgotten you are divine."

"Peter, I hear you--I do. And I'd love to believe we are gods, but I see no gods walking our earth. I see no superhumans.You can point to the alleged miracles of the Bible, or any other religious text, but they are nothing but old stories fabricated by man and then exaggerated over time."

"Perhaps," Peter said. "Or perhaps we simply need our science to catch up with the wisdom of the ancients." He paused. "Funny thing is . . . I believe Katherine's research may be poised to do just that."

Langdon suddenly remembered that Katherine had dashed off from the House of the Temple earlier. "Hey, where did she go, anyway?"

"She'll be here shortly," Peter said, grinning. "She went to confirm a wonderful bit of good fortune."

Outside, at the base of the monument, Peter Solomon felt invigorated as he inhaled the cold night air. He watched in amusement as Langdon stared intently at the ground, scratching his head and looking around at the foot of the obelisk.

"Professor," Peter joked, "the cornerstone that contains the Bible is underground. You can't actually access the book, but I assure you it's there."

"I believe you," Langdon said, appearing lost in thought. "It's just . . . I noticed something."

Langdon stepped back now and surveyed the giant plaza on which the Washington Monument stood. The circular concourse was made entirely of white stone . . . except for two decorative courses of dark stone, which formed two concentric circles around the monument.

"A circle within a circle," Langdon said. "I never realized the Washington Monument stands at the center of a circle within a circle."

Peter had to laugh. He misses nothing. "Yes, the great circumpunct . . . the universal symbol for God . . . at the crossroads of America." He gave a coy shrug. "I'm sure it's just a coincidence."

Langdon seemed far off, gazing skyward now, his eyes ascending the illuminated spire, which shone stark white against the black winter sky.

Peter sensed Langdon was beginning to see this creation for what it truly was . . . a silent reminder of ancient wisdom . . . an icon of enlightened man at the heart of a great nation. Even though Peter could not see the tiny aluminum tip at the top, he knew it was there, man's enlightened mind straining toward heaven.

Laus Deo.

"Peter?" Langdon approached, looking like a man who'd endured some kind of mystical initiation. "I almost forgot," he said, reaching into his pocket and producing Peter's gold Masonic ring. "I've been wanting to return this to you all night."

"Thank you, Robert." Peter held out his left hand and took the ring, admiring it. "You know, all the secrecy and mystery surrounding this ring and the Masonic Pyramid . . . it had an enormous effect on my life. When I was a young man, the pyramid was given to me with the promise that it hid mystical secrets. Its mere existence made me believe there were great mysteries in the world. It piqued my curiosity, fueled my sense of wonder, and inspired me to open my mind to the Ancient Mysteries." He smiled quietly and slipped the ring into his pocket. "I now realize that the Masonic Pyramid's true purpose was not to reveal the answers, but rather to inspire a fascination with them."

The two men stood in silence for a long while at the foot of the monument.

When Langdon finally spoke, his tone was serious. "I need to ask you a favor, Peter . . . as a friend."

"Of course. Anything."

Langdon made his request . . . firmly.

Solomon nodded, knowing he was right. "I will."

"Right away," Langdon added, motioning to the waiting Escalade.

"Okay . . . but one caveat."

Langdon rolled his eyes, chuckling. "Somehow you always get the last word."

"Yes, and there is one final thing I want you and Katherine to see."

"At this hour?" Langdon checked his watch.

Solomon smiled warmly at his old friend. "It is Washington's most spectacular treasure . . . and something very, very few people have ever seen."

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