“Satanic?” Kohler wiped his mouth and shifted uncomfortably. “This is the symbol of a satanic cult?”
Langdon paced the frozen room to keep warm. “The Illuminati were satanic. But not in the modern sense.”
Langdon quickly explained how most people pictured satanic cults as devil‑worshiping fiends, and yet Satanists historically were educated men who stood as adversaries to the church. Shaitan. The rumors of satanic black‑magic animal sacrifices and the pentagram ritual were nothing but lies spread by the church as a smear campaign against their adversaries. Over time, opponents of the church, wanting to emulate the Illuminati, began believing the lies and acting them out. Thus, modern Satanism was born.
Kohler grunted abruptly. “This is all ancient history. I want to know how this symbol got here.”
Langdon took a deep breath. “The symbol itself was created by an anonymous sixteenth‑century Illuminati artist as a tribute to Galileo’s love of symmetry—a kind of sacred Illuminati logo. The brotherhood kept the design secret, allegedly planning to reveal it only when they had amassed enough power to resurface and carry out their final goal.”
Kohler looked unsettled. “So this symbol means the Illuminati brotherhood is resurfacing?”
Langdon frowned. “That would be impossible. There is one chapter of Illuminati history that I have not yet explained.”
Kohler’s voice intensified. “Enlighten me.”
Langdon rubbed his palms together, mentally sorting through the hundreds of documents he’d read or written on the Illuminati. “The Illuminati were survivors,” he explained. “When they fled Rome, they traveled across Europe looking for a safe place to regroup. They were taken in by another secret society . . . a brotherhood of wealthy Bavarian stone craftsmen called the Freemasons.”
Kohler looked startled. “The Masons?”
Langdon nodded, not at all surprised that Kohler had heard of the group. The brotherhood of the Masons currently had over five million members worldwide, half of them residing in the United States, and over one million of them in Europe.
“Certainly the Masons are not satanic,” Kohler declared, sounding suddenly skeptical.
“Absolutely not. The Masons fell victim of their own benevolence. After harboring the fleeing scientists in the 1700s, the Masons unknowingly became a front for the Illuminati. The Illuminati grew within their ranks, gradually taking over positions of power within the lodges. They quietly reestablished their scientific brotherhood deep within the Masons—a kind of secret society within a secret society. Then the Illuminati used the worldwide connection of Masonic lodges to spread their influence.”
Langdon drew a cold breath before racing on. “Obliteration of Catholicism was the Illuminati’s central covenant. The brotherhood held that the superstitious dogma spewed forth by the church was mankind’s greatest enemy. They feared that if religion continued to promote pious myth as absolute fact, scientific progress would halt, and mankind would be doomed to an ignorant future of senseless holy wars.”
“Much like we see today.”
Langdon frowned. Kohler was right. Holy wars were still making headlines. My God is better than your God. It seemed there was always close correlation between true believers and high body counts.
“Go on,” Kohler said.
Langdon gathered his thoughts and continued. “The Illuminati grew more powerful in Europe and set their sights on America, a fledgling government many of whose leaders were Masons—George Washington, Ben Franklin—honest, God‑fearing men who were unaware of the Illuminati stronghold on the Masons. The Illuminati took advantage of the infiltration and helped found banks, universities, and industry to finance their ultimate quest.” Langdon paused. “The creation of a single unified world state—a kind of secular New World Order.”
Kohler did not move.
“A New World Order,” Langdon repeated, “based on scientific enlightenment. They called it their Luciferian Doctrine. The church claimed Lucifer was a reference to the devil, but the brotherhood insisted Lucifer was intended in its literal Latin meaning—bringer of light. Or Illuminator.”
Kohler sighed, and his voice grew suddenly solemn. “Mr. Langdon, please sit down.”
Langdon sat tentatively on a frost‑covered chair.
Kohler moved his wheelchair closer. “I am not sure I understand everything you have just told me, but I do understand this. Leonardo Vetra was one of CERN’s greatest assets. He was also a friend. I need you to help me locate the Illuminati.”
Langdon didn’t know how to respond. “Locate the Illuminati?” He’s kidding, right? “I’m afraid, sir, that will be utterly impossible.”
Kohler’s brow creased. “What do you mean? You won’t—”
“Mr. Kohler.” Langdon leaned toward his host, uncertain how to make him understand what he was about to say. “I did not finish my story. Despite appearances, it is extremely unlikely that this brand was put here by the Illuminati. There has been no evidence of their existence for over half a century, and most scholars agree the Illuminati have been defunct for many years.”
The words hit silence. Kohler stared through the fog with a look somewhere between stupefaction and anger. “How the hell can you tell me this group is extinct when their name is seared into this man!”
Langdon had been asking himself that question all morning. The appearance of the Illuminati ambigram was astonishing. Symbologists worldwide would be dazzled. And yet, the academic in Langdon understood that the brand’s reemergence proved absolutely nothing about the Illuminati.
“Symbols,” Langdon said, “in no way confirm the presence of their original creators.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that when organized philosophies like the Illuminati go out of existence, their symbols remain . . . available for adoption by other groups. It’s called transference. It’s very common in symbology. The Nazis took the swastika from the Hindus, the Christians adopted the cruciform from the Egyptians, the—”
“This morning,” Kohler challenged, “when I typed the word ‘Illuminati’ into the computer, it returned thousands of current references. Apparently a lot of people think this group is still active.”
“Conspiracy buffs,” Langdon replied. He had always been annoyed by the plethora of conspiracy theories that circulated in modern pop culture. The media craved apocalyptic headlines, and self‑proclaimed “cult specialists” were still cashing in on millennium hype with fabricated stories that the Illuminati were alive and well and organizing their New World Order. Recently the New York Times had reported the eerie Masonic ties of countless famous men—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Duke of Kent, Peter Sellers, Irving Berlin, Prince Philip, Louis Armstrong, as well as a pantheon of well‑known modern‑day industrialists and banking magnates.
Kohler pointed angrily at Vetra’s body. “Considering the evidence, I would say perhaps the conspiracy buffs are correct.”
“I realize how it appears,” Langdon said as diplomatically as he could. “And yet a far more plausible explanation is that some other organization has taken control of the Illuminati brand and is using it for their own purposes.”
“What purposes? What does this murder prove?”
Good question, Langdon thought. He also was having trouble imagining where anyone could have turned up the Illuminati brand after 400 years. “All I can tell you is that even if the Illuminati were still active today, which I am virtually positive they are not, they would never be involved in Leonardo Vetra’s death.”
“No. The Illuminati may have believed in the abolition of Christianity, but they wielded their power through political and financial means, not through terrorists acts. Furthermore, the Illuminati had a strict code of morality regarding who they saw as enemies. They held men of science in the highest regard. There is no way they would have murdered a fellow scientist like Leonardo Vetra.”
Kohler’s eyes turned to ice. “Perhaps I failed to mention that Leonardo Vetra was anything but an ordinary scientist.”
Langdon exhaled patiently. “Mr. Kohler, I’m sure Leonardo Vetra was brilliant in many ways, but the fact remains—”
Without warning, Kohler spun in his wheelchair and accelerated out of the living room, leaving a wake of swirling mist as he disappeared down a hallway.
For the love of God, Langdon groaned. He followed. Kohler was waiting for him in a small alcove at the end of the hallway.
“This is Leonardo’s study,” Kohler said, motioning to the sliding door. “Perhaps when you see it you’ll understand things differently.” With an awkward grunt, Kohler heaved, and the door slid open.
Langdon peered into the study and immediately felt his skin crawl. Holy mother of Jesus, he said to himself.