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Dan Brown's Waxy Substance

Advice to aspiring writers: Read Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol for two reasons. First, read in order to get an idea of how to write in compelling rhythms that move the reader along at an eager pace. Second, read in order to experience an example of the disaster that can happen when an author fails to deliver on the promises made repeatedly throughout the book to the reader.

I enjoyed reading The Lost Symbol until the final fifth of the story, when Dan Brown’s ideas began to unravel into disappointing circular babble. (I would warn that I’m about to spoil the plot, but the plot is rotten already. Avert your eyes now, if you like your garbage fresh.)

The structure of the book depends upon a shocking secret that could destroy the world as we know it – a super nasty threat to national security that makes the tortured murder of a prominent and wealthy citizen pale by comparison. So, what’s the secret? It’s that some powerful people are Masons, and that Masons do silly rituals with a lot of posturing with weird props. That’s no secret. It’s no threat to national security. It’s not shocking.

The plot also depends upon the idea that the Masons are withholding another great secret so powerful that it could create the destruction of the world if the information fell into the wrong hands. And, what’s that great secret? It’s that, supposedly, in one of the stones that makes up the Washington Monument, someone long ago hid a copy of the Christian Bible that, if found… would be just another copy of the Christian Bible.

Why would that Christian Bible create the destruction of the world? Uh, because the Bible is a code for, uh, a general sort of New Age philosophy that the main character already knew about and described almost as soon as The Lost Symbol began.

No great secret. No larger threat. No revelations. All this book has for suspense is one lone crazy person who has become crazy just because he was born eeeevil and loves being eeeeevil and worshipping the dark side. Yes, the moral world of The Lost Symbol is about as complicated as a G.I. Joe Cartoon, where you know the bad guys because they look mean and hiss when they talk.

The real head-smacker of The Lost Symbol comes from Dan Brown’s embrace of noetic science, which is described in the book as a new kind of scientific research that proves through rigorous experimentation that the human mind has the power to shape reality in powerful, measurable ways, just through pure thought. Of course, none of the heroes can merely will their way to freedom when they’re captured tied up, so the noetic claims start to look empty pretty soon. The power of mind over matter doesn’t seem to work when anything serious is on the line. Still, Dan Brown has the power to, in a work of fiction, simply assert that there have been scientific experiments proving beyond any doubt that faith healers really heal people, and that prayer actually works, and that the human soul has a physical weight… even though in the real world, such hypotheses have never withstood serious scientific examination.

The Lost Symbol is just a work of fiction, I know. Yet, Dan Brown claims that it isn’t. In a preface to the book, he claims, “All rituals, science, artwork and monuments in this novel are real.” If you play that kind of Oliver Stone game of claiming that your work of fiction describes a non-fiction reality, you’re putting your novel on a level where it deserves serious critical examination. Given that Dan Brown purports to be describing actual scientific experiments that prove psychic powers are real, it’s important that we critically examine his claims – giving it a kind of review that never happens with the scientific experiments in the book.

One of my favorite descriptions of the fictional noetic science in The Lost Symbol comes from Katherine – a the character who conducts experiments in noetic science in a chamber that is supposed to be specially isolated from all outside sources of energy, yet also has great cell phone reception and Internet access. Katherine tells the main character, Robert Langdon,

“Perhaps you’ve heard… about the brain scans taken of yogis while they meditate? The human brain, in advanced states of focus, will physically create a waxlike substance from the pineal gland. This brain secretion is unlike anything else in the body. It has an incredible healing effect, can literally regenerate cells, and may be one of the reasons yogis live so long. This is real science, Robert. This substance has inconceivable properties and can be created only by a mind that has been highly tuned to a deeply focused state.”

Think for a second. The pineal gland is inside the brain. How on earth would the real scientists, doing real science, obtain that substance in order to determine its properties? They’d have to isolate it right when it was being produced, in order to know what sort of mental state it was associated with. So, would these real scientific experiments conduct an instant dissection of the heads of the yogis in order to get at that waxy substance? The idea that any such substance with the characteristics described could be scientifically confirmed is absurd.

That’s The Lost Symbol all over. It’s written in a compelling style, unless you stop to think about it for more than a second or two. If you’re going to read this book, do it fast, and just forget about reality…

… and all you aspiring writers out there can then go out and work on a new set of novels that have the great rhythm of Dan Brown’s writing, without his sloppy thinking and empty promises.

35 comments to Dan Brown's Waxy Substance

  • ReMarker

    Hmm, it sounds like Brown captured the essence of the physco-think of the Fox kool-aid flies, pretty well.

    Fox kool-aid fly definition: Flies that are drawn to and gather at the Fox News pile of shit.

    Isn’t the 8 years of our last Administration evidence of Brown’s proposition that, “the human mind has the power to shape reality in powerful, measurable ways, just through pure thought”?

    Hehe, The Lost Symbol will probably be another block buster movie in the near future. (more evidence of “the human mind has the power to shape reality in powerful, measurable ways, just through pure thought”).

  • B.Porter

    I won’t argue that the book in itself was a woeful piece of literature, anyone who picked it up will agree, however I must address your attack on Noetic Science. Not only is Noetic science real, but it has been studied for over 50 years and in the last decade has made leaps and bounds.

    Yale has conducted several research projects regarding the brains power to influence the environment. Oxford has done Noetic research as well as many other universities and labs. Dan Brown’s explanations are exaggerated and presented in a very fictional format, however that does not call for the discrediting of the entire branch of science.

    -Noetic Science Graduate Student

  • Rose S

    You are right!
    Dan Brown is a great spinner of tales, but he definitely is not a very dependable person to get science facts from.
    I found his “explanations” of “actual” science experiments were pretty silly and outlandish. Sad, really.

  • Anonymous

    Another thing that all of you fail to seem to realize is that Dan Brown doesn’t actually say that the experiments themselves were performed or real but that it is the science that is real. So he isn’t suggesting that there was an actual experiment to weigh the human soul or that thoughts can be weighed.

    • Um, look at the first page of the book, Anonymous: ““All rituals, science, artwork and monuments in this novel are real.”

      • youfail

        You missed the point of the post and for that reason you fail. Dan Brown never once, in his own words, says that the experiments have been performed. He says the science is real. the science being Noetic science, not the experiments. the person who you decided to troll was absolutely right. Brown never says the the experiments happened, just that the science exists.

        • Fluid

          Can you explain to me how science without experiments can exist?

          Noetic science is not science. Dan Brown claims that it is, and so, implicitly suggests that the experiments are real.

          Think it through.

          • G

            you are a doofus..he’s saying that the experiments in dan brown books are fictional, but noetic science has its own experiements which are not fictional.. this is Princeton University’s department relating to noetic sciences ( i warn you however, these are real scientists doing real experiements, which are free for you to read over, however i doubt that you will have the scientific capacity to understand the results- judging from your closed mindedness and lack of logical reasoning abilities)- i myself do not purport to understand them, but acknowledge that my ignorance on the subjects prevents me from exclaiming- “its not a real science!”

          • Rod Daut

            I seem to recall from college over 30 years ago, that there were some attempts to actually weigh the minute change in body weight of individuals at the point of death. claims were made and other subsequently refuted those claims. I have no idea what further attempts have been made since then.

  • oooh

    ahh. a closed mind sees no light.

    the novel is a lot closer than believeing in a carpenter who is supposedly god, according to humans :)

  • ahhh

    i believe the author of this writing above is a hardend religious person and his writing and discrediting of dan brown is only to protect his beliefs.

  • Rory Calhoun

    We need to remember this book was written for entertainment value, not to be a set a standard for scientific knowledge. However, before you comment on scientific matters I would reccomend you do your homework. It is not that difficult to determine the specific composition of secretions within the neuro endocrine system. Using image guided stereotaxy combined with other methods, what most people consider impossible is actually very simple!

  • englightened mind

    Amazing,Rory, modern technology and what humans are capable of. It gives me hope of an enlightened age. I hope I’m around to participate! Thanks for the facts.

  • LUMP

    I remember saying to myself when I began the audiobook, “If this story end at the Washington Monument, I am going to kick my computer screen in”

    Fortunately I have more self control than that.

    The book is fun to humor as a story, not much beyond that. Any scientific “fact” used in his book must be taken with a grain of salt, because lets face it, if these things were facts it would not have been hard to take a few paragraphs to explain the phenomenons. Even if the explanation was bullshit, it would have sold the fantasy much more efficiently.

  • Missed the Point

    The Lost Symbol is by no means a great novel of sorts, but it is a great collection of ideas, facts and intentions. Did I believe all of the dialogues Katherine had? Certainly not. While reading remember this;

    “believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
    -buddha

    Did I need to believe that a scientist has weighed the human soul, that Total Ventilation Liquid actually exists or that there actually is a Bible buried in the Washington Monument? No. I know now that those possibilities could exist. I don’t think Dan Brown completely fabricated some of those scientific experiments from thin air, he clearly talked to a noetic scientist about their fields beliefs and intentions.

    His goal here is to say; here’s history, symbols, some true scientific facts and some intentions(specifically the noetic science stuff). They all are on the basis of the same ideal; inside of us lies a great truth, the temple of God to some, and here are some tools to unlock it in ways that we have overlooked and neglected. Choose those you will help you find your own inner strength as Dan Brown believes he has. Look into those things you take with you(research them) and add them to your life.

  • OutsidetheBox

    DMT…….Read the Spirit Molecule. Don’t dismiss this as it is very important

  • Don't be Blind

    Ok, look Dan Brown didn’t claim the experiments were real as stated by anonymous but as Jclifford said Dan Brown claims that “All rituals, science, artwork and monuments in this novel are real.” Noetic science is the science!! It clearly states the science is real not the science experiments are real. Your taking it out of context because you’re upset with the book. If you didn’t like it whatever, no big deal your welcome to have an opinion and criticize as much as the next person but at least do so with some sense of intelligence. Ignorant criticism is pointless and pathetic. Open your eyes, please.

  • John

    Pineal waxy likem no mind can.

  • Geoff

    Total Ventilation liquid is currently being experimented with. Variations have been tested on sheep and rabbits. As far as Noetic science, it has already been shown that we a greater influence over our environment than previously thought. Maybe Brown has advanced the science a few years but the roots are all currently in existence. Several of the experiments that he alluded to in his book I had read about before ever picking up The Lost Symbol.

    • Geoff, the idea that a person not conducting any experiments or gathering any other forms of data about the actual world can have “advanced the science a few years” just by writing a fictional novel requires a bending of the definition of science that I’m not comfortable agreeing to.

      • Anonymous

        I think that was just poorly chosen wording… as far as i can tell he meant that brown was speculating on what the science would be in years to come… not that brown adcvanced the science a few years by the publishing of the book.

  • A Young Voice

    Well as to the people criticizing the factual basis for the experiments, as someone already pointed out, Brown claimed the SCIENCE was real. He never stated that each experiment was real. Also, he says “sciences”. It’s plural because there are numerous sciences that are referenced throughout the book, ranging from alchemy to astronomy.

    Also as to the author of this article, as soon as I read your thoughts on the pineal gland bit, I realized you had no idea what you were talking about. Common sense and logic is all very good, but just because YOU cannot rationalize how to measure the substances in the brain, does not make it impossible. There’s a reason that scientists and doctors (especially those related to the brain) are considered highly intelligent; because they can think of and do things that the average Joe can’t.

  • Hmmm...

    Okay, “A Young Voice,” what specific tests have the neuro-geniuses developed to identify the “waxlike substance” Dan Brown describes? I think it is only fair for you to supply us with an offer of proof beyond “This author is a meanie. Me no likey”
    I think the gist of the criticism here centers around the fact that sprinkling at least a scintilla of fact in with these claims of noetic advancements would have gone quite a way toward dismissing the very criticisms mentioned on this page.
    Further, one would think that if Brown is trying to bring information about the noetic sciences into popular discussion, it would have been incumbent upon him to produce a little evidence, waxlike or otherwise. One can only assume that these bits of proof were left out because they don’t exist …or maybe he wants us all to simply have a little “hope?”

  • Candyman

    It’s only a book, a novel, a piece of fictitious literature. Everyone who’s getting into a tizzy about this needs to go off into a corner and have a good word with themselves. Is the same amount of criticism being levelled at Catherine Cookson or Wilbur Smith? Give yourselves a shake will you.

  • DJ

    While I actually enjoyed reading the book, I too was thrown off by its end and hoped someone in this thread could point me to actual scientific accounts of the experiments (preferably the brain scans of yogi minds producing wax). Anyone?

    -DJ

  • chris

    Hi, i’m chris and i’m 15. I liked this book. Not just because it was compelling and cool, but because it gave me quantifiable solace in that my life had meaning. Now reading this I realize that there are people that simply cannot stand to not be in a spotlight, and will happily frolic about in a field of ignorance to their surroundings. Yesterday I had hope, but now I’m just going to go back to school tomorrow, wait through the rest of my life. I wish I had the gall to kill myself, thanks.

  • amy

    I am very close to finishing the book at the moment. And I have to say in no way did I read the experiments as real! It is common sense to be fair, its a FICTIONAL book!!
    The start of the book claims that the science is real, as many people have pointed out above. Yes all the science is factual, but why should that mean one cannot dream up ways in which that science can be applied? And if you had done research before posting the review you would find that experiments have been conducted on the weight of the human soul, albeit not as affirming as it appears in the book.

  • wax

    many of you have referenced the wax-like substance, and the author of this page tried to obliterate the ability to determine its properties. When certain scans are performed on the body, including your brain, the resulting data can tell you the thickness or general properties of what it is centered around. specific scans can get your more in depth, so knowing what to look for and where to find it narrows the results. I’m not saying the experiment to find this waxy substance took place, because the ‘waxy substance’ doesn’t exist. Its actually a poor description of melatonin.

    you all need to stop reading so far into stuff and take it a little more lightheartedly.

  • I agree for the most part. I find Dan Brown’s well polished style that makes the read a lot more gripping, highly distracting. While I have to admit it makes the book “unputdownable”, because the feeling comes from a very well constructed script instead of what is actually taking place in the novel, I find it to be irritating. Still, the penultimate climax scene was an exception to Dan Brown’s rule, and it was incredible. The villain also, that relentless, clever, refreshingly ruthless villain. But then again, what a weak origin story…

  • Anonymous

    Well, I suppose the “real scientists” could have dissected a yogi’s brain right after he died after being in a “yogi Death Trance” or something (no offense meant against any actual yogis out there..) Or I presume that perhaps the “waxy substance” can be produced, and then simply stays there until death.. But Brown, via his fictional elements of Noetic science, claims that it has healing properties.. That begs the question – even if this stuff is actually produced by the brain.. How the heck does it get OUT??! Does it drip out of a person’s ears or something?

  • Josh

    I was waiting is suspense for the great secret held by the evil man which had the power to destroy the world….and it was…a genetically engineered virus? No. A nuclear weapon? No. An army of cyborgs programmed by Skynet? No. It was a video of a Masonic initiation ceremony?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?! Uh, I already saw that on the History Channel about 10 years ago. What an awful plot twist. I was so disappointed that I barely skimmed through the rest of the book. The Da Vinci Code was awful, Digital Fortress was awful, Angels and Demons was semi-awful, I don’t know why I wasted my time reading another Dan Brown novel expecting a different result. And what’s the deal with the guy claiming to have murdered Jacob only in fact he WAS Jacob the whole time. So lame. Never again will I waste a moment of my life reading anth

  • Susan

    Check out Lynn Mctaggart’s books “The Field”, or “The Intention Experiment”. Actual scientific proof that thought can directly effect matter.

    On the other hand, a waxy substance secreted by the pineal gland? They must have isolated that from that well-know strain of meditating mice…

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