My impressions of the organization went through an evolution that the author may have intended to approximate enlightenment: the journey from intellectual darkness to the light of understanding. A transformation of perception takes place in which the reader experiences the roles of the organization, Freemasonry, and the man determined to destroy it being reversed by the end of the novel.
Initially, the author exposes us to some rather macabre and apparently sinister symbolism in a severed occult hand and a skull. The author uses these symbols to create a dark impression on the reader. Perhaps Freemasonry is as dark and sinister as its critics say. Perhaps the villain of the novel is actually the good guy, and the allegedly powerful Freemasons really are bad.
The author takes up the theme of power and influence as we see the apotheosis of the Freemason George Washington depicted in the capital dome. Washington and other Masonic founders, like Benjamin Franklin, are now depicted as gods or at least consorting with gods over our nation's capital. What is going on?
Robert Langdon, the protagonist, has made a scholarly study of the symbols of Freemasonry and acts as an intellectual guide to help us discern fact from fiction. We find out that the capital cornerstone was laid in a Masonic ceremony led by George Washington and that there are evocative geometric designs in the layout of the streets and monuments of Washington DC. The power and influence of the organization seem to be confirmed.
We learn the foundations were laid at carefully selected times under the Virgo constellation to ensure auspicious beginnings. Gradually we learn that symbols like the skull have special meanings to Freemasons and that we should not project our own preconceptions onto them. For example, the skull represents brevity of life and certainty of death. Its contemplation is meant to encourage Freemasons to make good use of their time on earth. Memento mori, as the philosophers say. Nothing sinister there.
As the novel progresses, we see that the intention of the founders was to create an enlightened republic where reason, science, and freedom would triumph over ignorance and tyranny. The sacred geometry is not Satanic, but ancient and philosophical. The all-seeing eye is simply a reminder that a providential God is watching all of our actions. The sacred geometry has philosophical and scientific meaning that has nothing to do with the lurid accusations of critics.
By the end of the book, we have learned that Freemasonry developed its enlightenment ideals in secret, under the threat of persecution for heterodoxy. Its enemies misrepresent it because its enlightenment philosophy of seeking truth and light by science and symbol poses a challenge to traditional guardians of orthodoxy, such as the Catholic Church. By the end of the book, we take a much more philosophical view of Freemasonry. It now appears to us to accord more with Peter Solomon’s explanation as an organization that has managed to preserve some of the philosophical, astronomical, astrological, geometric, and other truths of the ancient mystery schools of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Its impact on our nation has been largely benevolent, and its critics are often competitors that misinterpret and mislead for their own reasons.