Friday, March 12, 2010

Journey to the Center of the Earth

According to our Google analytics, among the most highly-viewed pages on LoS is a post about the "DC pentagram" titled Weird scenes from above, and thus it has been since we started using analytics. Since The Lost Symbol hit the shelves it has consistently been number one or two in our list. In the post we took a brief look at the pentagram, which doesn't require squinting one's eyes or leaps of faith; in other words, it is clearly there, albeit incomplete. We focused on the Masonic elements contained within the form; there are actually quite a few.

In response to popular demand (one person anyway), we've decided to take another look at the subject (full disclosure: this could lead to a gift of beer--fingers crossed--and thus our purpose does not lie entirely outside of the mercenary!)

A Bit of Background

(The next few paragraphs originally appeared on the Plastic Tub--a site not dead, but sleeping.)

The center of D.C. was originally designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfante, a Frenchman who had attained the rank of Major in the Continental Army. L'Enfante was fired by George Washington before the completion of his plan, which was significantly modified by surveyor Andrew Ellicott and his assistant Benjamin Bannaker when they began their work in 1791. Contrary to some popular internet "theorists", none of the three men were Freemasons. [So I said, sneering.  Actually, turns out L'Enfant was a Mason, revealed here in 2011.  My only defense is that at the time of writing this, most scholars believed L'Enfant wasn't a Mason--Duarade, 11/13/11] Over time, Washington evolved naturally and the street plan strayed from L'Enfante's vision. At one point, for example, what is now the National Mall was a muddy field used for grazing cattle and marred by an ugly railway station.

In 1901, a Commission chaired by Senator James McMillan of Michigan was formed to restore the Mall to L'Enfante's original vision. Among the experts he engaged was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., a landscape architect who was, like McMillan, not a Freemason.

Tracing the Pentagram

Dupont Circle (1) and Logan Circle (2) form the two leg-points of a pentagram. The legs trace down 15th St. and Connecticut Avenue where, if continued, would form the bottom tip of the star at the center of the White House (4). They are, however, broken at K Street by Farragut Square (6) and McPherson Square (7). The lines pick back up after the Squares, but they are broken again at LaFayette Park (9).

K Street forms the bar of the pentagram and culminates at Mount Vernon Square (3) and Washington Circle (5).

The star is incomplete. From Logan Circle, Rhode Island Avenue seeks to complete the pentagram, but it stops, leaving the left arm incomplete from where RI meets Connecticut (connect it cut?) until Washington Circle. [One is reminded of the unfinished pyramid on the dollar bill.]

Pennsylvania Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue, New York Avenue, and P Street form a near perfect pentagon around the star, but from Logan Circle to Mount Vernon Square (the opposite of the broken arm), it is unfinished.

Please see the original post for a list of the Masonic elements of the pentagram; you will find that the squares and parks are all (but one?) named after Freemasons, and the HQ of the Southern District of the Scottish Right is smack dab in the middle of the pentagram's "crotch."

Of further interest is the flattened appearance of the pentagram. Usually pentagrams are more symmetrical, designed so that they fit perfectly into a circle; the D.C. pentagram, however, most nimbly fits into an ellipse. Just south of the White House, this is mirrored in that part of the National Mall known as "The Ellipse," an elliptical road 1 km in length in President's Park which is centered upon the point of the pentagram. The Ellipse was part of L'Enfante's original design. In 1919 a marker known as the Zero Milestone was dedicated there. The Zero Milestone, inspired by the Imperial Roman "Golden Milestone," was intended to be the point from which all distances to D.C. are calculated. It has engravings on five faces; the north features a winged helmet of the type associated with Mercury, or Hermes. "As Above, So Below," anyone? L'Enfante, incidentally, intended this point to be one mile east of the Capitol.

This will do little to assuage the fears of those who fret the US is the New Rome and heading in the same direcion, but there it is. The exact location of the Golden Milestone, or Milliarium Aureum, is unknown, but surviving fragments marked as such "are now believed by some to be identical with the Umbilicus Urbis Romae (or Navel of the city of Rome), a structure in the same area of the Forum which served a similar but not identical purpose."

The exact nature of both of these structures notwithstanding, it would seem that if one or the other served as the center of the Rome and thus the Empire, it would also by extension be considered the center of the world.

The idea of a "world navel", or axis mundi, is one of those archetypes that would seem to be found in a variety of disparate cultures worldwide. For our purposes, let's take a look at some Western examples.

Sacred Stones

In Greek, the word for "navel" is omphalos. According to myth, Zeus sent two eagles across the world and the point at which they met was thereafter to be considered its center. Not surprisingly, several places set up stone markers, also called an omphalos, to commemorate the spot; the most widely recognized was at Delphi, regarded as a holy site all across the Hellenic world.

There is even an omphalos at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This refers to the medieval cosmology which places Jerusalem as the center of the world and thus, the universe itself.

This in turn is probably based upon the Jewish tradition which saw Jerusalem as the world navel. In this tradition, the Ark of the Covenenant rested on a rock in the Temple called the Foundation Stone. The tradition, which began in Hellenic times, may in fact have been inspired by or a competition with the oracle at Delphi.

Whatever the case, it remains the holiest site in Judaism and Jews worldwide pray towards it. According to the Talmud, the world was created from this rock and it was from nearby dirt that God first formed Adam. Several important events in the spiritual evolution of Judaism were said to have occurred here.

Muslims also hold a special reverence for this stone, for it was from this point that Muhammad once ascended into heaven (called the Journey of Al-Israa and Al-Mi'ara) for a private discourse with Allah. It is one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The holiest site, however, is in Mecca, which, like the Jews towards Jerusalem, is the direction towards which all Muslims pray. Within a shrine called the Kaaba is the Black Stone, al-Hajar-ul-Aswad. This stone, whose fragments are held together by a distincly vaginal-looking silver frame, is said to be black after absorbing all the sins of the faithful who make the pilgrimage here for the express purpose of kissing it.

Returning to Christianity, there is a metaphorical reference to a sacred stone; the Catholic Church, for example, bases its authority on the following quote by Jesus: "On this rock (also cephas in Aramaic, petra in Greek) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."

Indeed, the center of the Catholic world and for centuries a good chunk of Christendom, was St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, where the apostle is said to be buried. The keyhole-shaped piazza in front is decorated with an obelisk, perhaps the intermediary between all these later sacred stones and the more unfinished megaliths of prehistory.

Jerusalem and Rome were two of three places where medieval pilgrims could go in order to be absolved of all their sins. The third was Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain. This was a sacred place before the Christian Era, but its Christian significance came after

"a series of miraculous happenings: decapitated in Jerusalem with a sword by Herod Agrippa himself, his [Saint James the Great's] body was taken up by angels, and sailed in a rudderless, unattended boat to Iria Flavia in Iberia, where a massive rock closed around his relics, which were later removed to Compostela."

Is it surprising that the focal point of another sin-eating cult should prominently feature a sacred stone?

As we have previously noted in another post, boundary stones have been used to demarcate territory since the Sumerian city-states. It would also appear to mark the limits of sacred space as well: the obelisks at Egyptian temples come to mind, as do the stone circles of the Druids. A random thought is that perhaps these pagan cultures used several stones whereas in montheistic cultures, a single stone became the focal point. The theory has some merits. That stones were both centers and boundaries of these cultures gives the religious significance "nationalistic" overtones, at least in the sense of a "special" or "chosen" people, or ethnicity. Which is not so far-fetched when we consider that in many ancient cultures the king was literally a god, up until the Romans, for whome the state itself was a kind of cult.

American Freemasons use the slogan: "Making Good Men Better." This is symbolized by the rough ashlar, or stone, and the smooth ashlar, and represents central Masonic doctrine. Perhaps this is at the origin of its conflict with the Catholic church. Instead of a doctrine of original sin, which must be expiated, there is a doctrine of inherent goodness, which must be revealed, progressively. The doctrine of perfectibility, or at least an improvement upon nature, is implicit. One is reminded of the Renaissance Neoplatonism which inspired Michelangelo's sculpture: the latent, perfect form was revealed by gradually chipping away the extraneous. Or, to use another metaphor, the wild woods must be pruned in order to reveal the order inherent in creation, as in a park. Men can thus be improved, in part, by transforming nature itself.

City Planning

Which brings us back to DC, whose plan may be Masonic only insamuch as it represented an opportunity to design from scratch a rational, orderly city reflecting the idea of the clockwork universe. Unfortunately for those who'd jump all over that, none of these designers were Freemasons. But there is a city whose plan is in fact based upon Masonic symbolism and designed by a Freemason: Sandusky, Ohio Karl W. Kurtz:

As far as I have been able to check in the past several years, Sandusky is the only city in the world originally laid out on Masonic symbols.

Hector Kilbourne, the first Master of Science Lodge No. 50, Sandusky in 1818, was the surveyor who made the original plan of the city. He proceeded with well-defined ideas and painstaking care in making the original survey as well as giving names to the streets in honor of the statesmen, warriors and others prominent in the early history of the country.
Brother Kilbourne in laying out the city ran the lines or streets in order to form a true representation of the Square and Compasses. This has been clearly shown in the accompanying illustration.

The original plan of the city, as here represented, may be said to represent an open Bible, Square and Compasses in correct position to proceed with labor upon opening the Lodge.

Others have claimed for Brussels what many claim for D.C. The claims seem equally unfounded. The only Masonic symbol we have been able to find in Brussels is in the layout of the Parc de Bruxelles. English Wikipedia has a paltry entry which flat out asserts it is based upon Masonic symbolism, a claim which is repeated ad nauseum on the net by guidebooks, many of them fully respectable one, such as Frommers.

French Wikipedia has this to say:

Les symboles maçonniques que d’aucuns ont voulu voir dans ce tracé — le compas notamment — ne sont attestés par aucun document. C’est, du reste, un dessin couramment utilisé dans le tracé des jardins paysagers depuis le XVIIe siècle.

In other words:

"The symbols some have wanted to see in the plan - notably the compasses - are not attested to in any document. It is, however, a design commonly used in the layout of landscaped gardens from the seventeenth century."

Neither statement of course negates the possibility it was Masonically inspired; but short of documentary evidence it seems a bit brash to declare so bald-faced and sure, that is was. That is was a common design may only serve to bolster the conspiracy theorist's idea that them Masons are tessellating the plane all over the place. Perfecting nature, however, is a Masonic doctrine, and this is not the first time we have associated the idea of parks with a Masonic and Enlightenment ideals. Indeed, this park dates from 1775, smack dab in the middle of the Enlightenment.

The park is also, for all practical purposes, the center of the city, as it is flanked by both the National Palace and the Belgian parliament.

Interesting to note, when for political reasons the Baron de Stassart retired as Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Belgium on 16 June 1841, "6,000 people gathered in the Parc de Bruxelles to show their solidarity with him, a considerable number for this era."

Consider this photo of the principle entrance to the Parc de Bruxelles. This type of pillar topped by a fir-cone is so ubiquitous that it has become banal. But we propose that its very ubiquity is pudding proof of its resonance.

For a more detailed look at the significance of the two pillars, we suggest at least skimming the following previous posts: Pillars of the Community and I ♥ Phoenicia. Both discuss at great length the origin of dual pillars, as well as their relation to Freemasonic symbolism. In the former, we can find a brief discussions of the perrons of this part of Europe, especially that of Liège, which seems to be the mother of all perrons.

The perron was both a symbol of judicial authority and financial independence and was the place where official proclamations were read. It could literally be considered as the center of the city. Some have speculated that the fir-cone on the perron at Liège is a Gallo-Roman import, where others see it as a local, perhaps Druidic, symbol. For our discussion, it doesn't really matter, and we have already noted that the idea of a world navel marked by a worked or unworked stone is a concept spanning different cultures.

An obvious question presents itself: Why is this so?

But that's a whole 'nother bag of bananas....


  1. Nice! Anything on the 4 obelisks?

  2. The four obelisks in the photo or another four?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Sorry for the deleted post--I had a bad link.

    Meant to say ... when I first read the title of this post I thought it was going to be about underground mapping, something that I seem to keep hearing about recently, e.g., see p. 485 (or 486) of DARPA's most recent budget (sorry, but it's a really big PDF).

  5. Are you familiar with the term "tenemos"? Not the Spanish word, which means, I think, "I hold" -- but in the related sense of the term as used with Greek temple architecture. It's a pretty interesting concept. Here's Wikipedia's discussion.

    A tenemos specifically refers to a part of a Greek temple--a courtyard, I think, in which ceremonies (sacrifices, etc.) took place (their ceremonies were, I understand, held outdoors in the courtyard, or tenemos, rather than inside, which was more of a place to store war booty).

    But there's more to the concept--it's an idea that extends well as a metaphor. The more generalized sense of tenemos seems to be a place set off from the "outside world" in which a different set of rules apply. So we have the sacred courtyard in a Greek temple in which different kinds of activities occur and different practices are allowed (and disallowed) than outside the tenemos. The Greeks (and other people on the Med.) also held entire spits of land which were somehow physically demarcated and which must not be farmed or copulated upon, etc.

    I don't know anything about "real" satanism, but in movies, the pentagram is sometimes a tenemos-creating device; a pentagram is drawn on the floor with five candles at the points, and inside the pentagram evil things are set off from the good.

    Likewise, city walls set off an area in which the rules and behaviors and consequences are altogether different than the surrounding countryside. And the Jewish ghettos. And the West Bank. And my bedroom (amor!). And LoS.

    Your post here, Daurade, and several of your related posts, evoke this sense of the tenemos; it's dancing about you like a ghost.

    1. Haha, the word, btw is "temenos" not "tenemos"....oops.

    2. Oops, yes, you're correct. Thanks

  6. Does L'Enfante mean "the baby"? Are there seriously people in France running around with the last name "The Baby"?

    BTW Benjamin Banneker has a really interesting history, born in (near) Ellicot, incidentally, hence, presumably, where he met Andrew.

    With a history this grand, I can't believe that Benjamin Banneker isn't mentioned in Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon"--seriously, am I forgetting his presence in that tale?

  7. Aargh! Information overload!! :) DARPA is a scary but fascinating agency, relly out there on the limits. From what I've read, no idea is too wacky for consideration: invisibility suits, levitation, universal translators, holographic warfare. Too bad it's all for WAR!

    Tenemos! We have, as in we've got a sacred space and you don't! I certainly have been dancing about this, without knowing it had a name....figgers the Greeks had a name for it.

    Will investigate further. But this has deffo come up in posts about the Egyptian temples, the Phoenicians, Solomon's Temple. Sacred stones, pillars, obelisks being the marker....

    "Enfante" is not so much "baby" as it is "child"....but I've never met anyone with the name. Still, french names can be strangely literal. I've met a Herrisson (Hedgehog), Gagnepain (Bread winner), Bâtard (Bastard), Chêne (Oak), Malaterre (Bad Earth), Goutenegre (Drop of Negro) etc. The staggering variety of French surnames never ceases to amaze me.

    Banneker! What a find...surprising he isn't on the Tub, for that matter. Jefferson was a condescending prick towards te fellow, no?

    So, when are you going to wrap up DARPA, Banneker and tenemos into a post, Gid?

  8. Merits a post of it's own, perhaps, but here's some interesting poop on Apopka, Fla. related to the Sandusky thing:

    The early American settlers built a major trading center on the foundations of the earlier Indian settlement. Their population was large enough by 1857 to support the establishment of a Masonic lodge. In 1859 the lodge erected a permanent meeting place at what is now the intersection of Main Street (U.S. Highway 441) and Alabama Avenue.

    The settlers in the vicinity of "The Lodge" were largely isolated during the American Civil War, but the area rebounded once peace was re-established, and a population boom followed the construction of railroad lines through the region.

    In 1882 the one square mile surrounding "The Lodge" was officially incorporated under the name "Apopka.",_Florida#History

    Wild, eh? The city logo even features a Masonic square and compasses.

  9. Pierre F. de Ravel d’Esclapon seems to have found the proof that L'Enfant was in fact a Freemason, albeit one who never advanced beyond the 1st degree of Entered Apprentice. His article appears in the March-April edition of the Scottish Rite Journal and can be read here:

    So, turns out those people who claimed he was a Mason without proof were right, after all.


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