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Decoding the Hidden Secrets of Dan Brown’s D.C.

Jeffrey Brown decodes the secrets of Washington D.C. highlighted in Dan Brown's latest novel "The Lost Symbol."

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, the extraordinary coming out of Dan Brown's latest blockbuster novel. Jeffrey Brown has our story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The formal name of this Washington, D.C., building is a mouthful, "The Temple of the Supreme Council of the 33rd and Last Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction for the United States," "The House of the Temple" for short.

    S. BRENT MORRIS, managing editor, The Scottish Rite Journal: This is our pillars of charity alcove.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    According to S. Brent Morris of the National Scottish Rite Journal, they're not used to many visitors here, but that's all about to change, thanks to Dan Brown and his new novel, "The Lost Symbol."

  • S. BRENT MORRIS:

    What's attracting them is that the opening scene of the book and the climax of the book occur in this building. People are always attracted by mystery. That's why they go to see magicians, because they want to see something mysterious happen that they can't explain. They want to — where a lot of people are attracted to the masons because they perceive us as this mysterious, secretive organization.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In other words, a perfect foil for Brown…

  • IAN MCKELLEN, Actor:

    We are in the middle of a war, one that's been going on forever.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    … whose "Da Vinci Code," set amid dark secrets, symbols, and sects of the Catholic Church has sold more than 80 million copies and was made into a film starring Tom Hanks, playing Brown's hero, Robert Langdon.

    In "The Lost Symbol," Langdon is back. This time, the tweedy Harvard "symbologist" — it's a made-up term; there's no such academic discipline — gets caught up in the world of the masons, a fraternity whose origins are said to go back to the 1400s in Britain.

    Lodges opened in the 1700s, spreading to the U.S., where members, encouraging free thought and religious tolerance, came to include a number of this country's founding fathers and future presidents. Today, there are some 4 million to 5 million masons worldwide.

    But the group has also been the subject of all kinds of conspiracy theories, including that it secretly controls the government, and the new book plays to such mysteries.

    The book sets several scenes at the temple: a portrait of George Washington laying the cornerstone of the Capitol in his mason garb…

  • S. BRENT MORRIS:

    This is where we honor various famous masons, Audie Murphy…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    … the Temple of Architects Hall of Honor, the Hall of Regalia. In the library, Brown has Robert Langdon debunk some myths about the masons and points out that this was the first library in Washington, D.C.

    Brown himself explained what attracted him about the masons in a "Today Show" interview.

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