From Secrets of the Code

Searching for Sophia

Like many of you, I came across The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown in the summer of 2003. It was already the number one book on the New York Times bestseller list. It sat by my bedside for a while, along with dozens of other unread books, piles of magazines, business presentations I needed to review, and all the other things typical of the competition for mind share in the complex, chaotic, information-intense world in which we all live.

Then one day I picked up The Da Vinci Code and started reading. I read all night, fascinated. I literally couldn’t put it down. It is an experience I used to have frequently, but not so often in this season of my life, as I was turning fifty. At one point, around 4:00 a.m., as I read Leigh Teabing’s explanation to Sophie Neveu of why and how he saw Mary Magdalene in the Last Supper, I got out of bed and pulled the art books down from our library shelves. I looked at the Leonardo painting that I had encountered, of course, hundreds of times previously. Yes, it really does look like a woman seated next to Jesus! I thought.

By morning, when I had finished the book, I was as intellectually challenged as I had been by any book I had read in a long time. I wanted to know what was true and what was not, what was fact, what was fiction, what was informed speculation and what was pure flight of literary fancy. As soon as my local bookstore opened, I was there, sipping latte and rummaging through scores of books that had been mentioned or alluded to in The Da Vinci Code: Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Templar Revelation, Gnostic Gospels, The Woman With the Alabaster Jar, The Nag Hammadi Library, and many more. I discovered, to my surprise, that there were dozens of recent books about Mary Magdalene, Goddess culture, the sacred feminine, the roots of Christianity, and about how the Bible was written and codified, as well as all the Gnostic and other alternative Gospels. I found shelves full of occult books on Templar traditions, secret societies, and several places mentioned by The Da Vinci Code that I had never heard of before, including Rennes-le-Château in France and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. I left the store with hundreds of dollars’ worth of books and went home to absorb all this material, only later discovering that Dan Brown had a website with a bibliography on it.

For weeks, I continued to buy books that I discovered were relevant to The Da Vinci Code. I raced through Elaine Pagels’s new book, Beyond Belief, having already had my eyes opened to the world of alternative scriptures through her path-breaking 1979 book, The Gnostic Gospels. I discovered a world of scholars who were experts in Coptic, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, and who had painstakingly translated and parsed ancient documents to discern new information and discover new possible interpretations of events described in the Bible. I read all of the books by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, Lynn Picknett, and others who have been mining much of the same raw material as Dan Brown for years. I soaked up the richly detailed book on Mary Magdalene by Susan Haskins, that documented two thousand years of myth and metaphor about the woman who Dan Brown suggests was the bride of Christ.

I rediscovered books I had read previously: Jonathan Kirsch’s powerful biography Moses, in which he tried to tease the true story of Moses’s life out of oblique passages from the Old Testament, including fascinating references to the idea that Miriam was not the sister of Moses, as the Bible tells us, but a priestess with her own cult following and her own role in liberating the Jewish slaves from Egypt. I reread the following passage: “Some scholars argue that Miriam is real but Moses is made up. Others suggest that both of them existed but were not really brother and sister—Miriam, they argue, was a priestess and prophetess in her own right,” who was ultimately merged into the Bible story as the “sister” of Moses as a kind of ancient form of politically correct storytelling. Perhaps this longstanding habit of biblical redactors—changing relationships, merging deeds performed by women with deeds performed by men, changing the earlier forms of the story to fit later political needs—had manifested itself in the way New Testament redactors edited the story of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the others in their circle.

I reread Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum (a literary pastiche and send-up of much of the same occult material treated in The Da Vinci Code). Eco would later tell interviewers from Jesus, Mary, and da Vinci (the ABC news special that was devoted to exploring Dan Brown’s thesis) that The Da Vinci Code’s premises were based on nineteenth-century fairy tales equivalent to Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood—“wrong theories,” as false as believing that the world was flat.

I recommuned with Norman O. Brown’s 1960s classic, Love’s Body, a favorite of mine at an earlier time in my life, with all its brilliant synthesis of myth and archetype concerning the sacred feminine and the role of mythic ideas in the creation of Western consciousness. Many of the quotations from interdisciplinary fields and diverse cultures that Brown assembled seemed to be right up Robert Langdon’s symbological alley. Langdon sees chalices and blades as universal male and female symbols. And, he sees them everywhere: from the adoption of the six-pointed Star of David in ancient Jewish history, to the interplay of the space between Jesus and the person seated next to him in The Last Supper, to I. M. Pei’s downward- and upward-pointed pyramids at the Louvre. As Norman O. Brown argued, “All metaphors are sexual; a penis in every convex object and a vagina in every concave one.” Langdon would have also appreciated Brown’s frequent invocation of Yeats, seeking to understand how the sacred unity that was divided into male and female may someday be restored to a unified state: “Nothing can be sole or whole / That has not been rent.”

I revisited a 1965 bestseller, The Passover Plot, that I remember my parents reading and discussing. The vintage copy I bought had these interesting words emblazoned on the flap copy: “The Passover Plot asserts—and presents detailed evidence from the Bible and from the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls to prove—that Jesus planned his own arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection, that he arranged to be drugged on the cross, simulating death so that he could later be safely removed and thus bear out the Messianic prophecies ... Never before has so eminent an authority presented so challenging a thesis—or backed it up with such irrefutable evidence.” Déjà vu all over again for readers of Dan Brown’s bestselling book forty years later.

I read Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ from half a century ago, and watched the Martin Scorsese movie adaptation of it, which I had never seen. These works certainly painted a vivid picture of a possible romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene (or Willem Dafoe and Barbara Hershey, as the case may be).

As I absorbed all these books and materials and as I continued to talk to friends about their experience of reading The Da Vinci Code (DVC), the idea occurred to me that I should try to bring some of these diverse strands together into a single volume, so that other DVC readers and enthusiasts could benefit from the same body of knowledge and criticism that I was exploring. Thus, the idea for this book was born.

Shortly after I decided to dig into this material with the vision of creating an unauthorized reader’s guide to the novel, I read a report that indicated there were approximately ninety books that were selling better at bookstores around the country because of the proximity of their subject matter to DVC. I realized that other readers were indeed embarked on exactly the same quest that I was, reaffirming my instinct and desire to create this book. Fortunately, Gilbert Perlman and his colleagues at CDS shared my vision and were ready to move heaven and earth to support the publication of this book on a time cycle sufficiently accelerated to provide relevant context to the thousands of new readers who are buying The Da Vinci Code with each passing day.

In my “day job” as a venture capitalist, our firm often hears interesting but outlandish claims about new technologies and innovations. We then undertake what is known as the “due diligence” process to evaluate these claims. We look to see if, beneath all the hype, there is a real business that can be built successfully. Our approach usually begins with a list of questions.

My research on The Da Vinci Code was somewhat analogous. Here was my initial list:

  • What do we really know about Mary Magdalene? Was she a prostitute, as Christian tradition has portrayed her? If she was not, why was she portrayed as such for so long in church history, and why did the Vatican change its mind in the 1960s?
  • Is there real evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married? When Gospel accounts in the New Testament speak of a woman anointing Jesus with luxurious aromatic oils from an alabaster jar and drying his feet with her hair—was this Mary Magdalene or a different Mary, who may have actually been a reformed prostitute? And if it was Mary Magdalene who performed these acts, are they ritual acts of respect or metaphors for sexual relations?
  • Does the Gospel of Philip found at Nag Hammadi really say that Jesus frequently kissed Mary Magdalene on the mouth—and if we have the right translation and the right words, is this too a metaphor? Or is it an actual reference to a romantic relationship?
  • Is it possible Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child and fostered a bloodline that continued into modern times? How valid are the many legends about Mary Magdalene’s escape to France? Could her progeny have been the basis for the Merovingian kings? And what of the cults of the “black Madonna” in France and elsewhere? Could Mary Magdalene have possibly been a black woman from Egypt or Ethiopia?
  • Was the historical Jesus essentially a Jewish rabbi, teacher, or spiritual leader and, as such, would it be likely and even probable that he would be married? Or was there already a tradition at that time of celibacy and asceticism among Jewish male leaders?
  • Is it possible that Mary Magdalene was an important spiritual figure in her own right, the romantic companion and/or wife of Jesus, and the person whom he wished to lead his movement after his death? Is there a historical record of arguments and jealousies on the part of the male apostles over Mary Magdalene’s role? Is the DVC’s assertion that Jesus was the “original feminist” plausible in any way?
  • Are the Gnostic Gospels and other alternative scriptures credible—or at least as credible as the mainstream, traditional Gospels? Do they really tell a significantly different story? What do they add to our understanding of the intellectual and philosophical ferment of the first few hundred years of the Common Era?
  • Did leaders of the Roman church, from Constantine to Pope Gregory, carry out a concerted attack on alternative beliefs and scriptures? Did they edit what became the accepted canon for political purposes? Did they deliberately conflate Mary Magdalene with another Mary in the Gospels who was, indeed, a prostitute?
  • Did these early church fathers not only slander Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, but do so as part of a larger effort to cover up Christianity’s archaic inheritances from Goddess cults and in order to suppress the role of women in the church?
  • Did the Gnostics practice sacred sexual rituals? Is there a tradition of hieros gamos that runs from Egypt through Greece, through early Christianity and on to the Templars and Priory of Sion members?
  • Who were the Knights Templar and what might they have found in excavating the Temple Mount during the crusades?
  • How did the Templars gain power and influence and how did they lose it? Is there any evidence that the Templars ever found the Holy Grail?
  • Is there any evidence that the Templars or other secret societies of that time believed the Holy Grail to be related not to a chalice or wine cup, but to Mary Magdalene, her relics, documents about her role in the early church, her progeny, and the future of the Jesus-Mary bloodline?
  • Is the Priory of Sion a real organization in history? If so, did it continue uninterrupted into modern-day France, with the involvement of the great figures of European culture alleged by DVC to have been grand masters: Leonardo, Newton, Victor Hugo, Claude Debussy, Jean Cocteau, etc.?
  • If, as seems more likely, the idea of the Priory of Sion as a secret society continuously operating into the modern era is a mid-twentieth century hoax invented by Pierre Plantard, did Dan Brown fall for this story, not understanding that it was a hoax? Did he try to re-market it as “fact” knowing that it was fiction simply to spin a good yarn and sell more books? Or did he find in this strange brew of rural legend and manipulative fraud a literary device with sufficient mythopoetic power to entrance readers and induce them to contemplate much more important and meaningful issues?
  • What is going on within the church today to reevaluate doctrine, reconsider fundamental principles, and rethink the role of women? Why do movies like The Passion stir such passion? How is the church responding to sex abuse and other scandals, and what does history tell us is likely to happen? What is Opus Dei, and what role does it play in the Catholic Church?
  • Did Leonardo da Vinci embed secret symbolic messages in The Last Supper and other works? Does The Last Supper depict a female Mary Magdalene to the right of Christ, rather than the male apostle John? And whether this interpretation of the Last Supper has any validity or not, did Leonardo and his contemporaries have access to lost, secret, heretical knowledge of any type that they may have tried to communicate in one way or another through their art works?

    In this volume, readers will find materials that address all of these questions and more. The materials include excerpts from books, periodicals, websites, original articles, commentaries, and interviews with scholars, experts, and thinkers who have been working on aspects of these issues for years. It is my sincere hope that readers will find these resources as useful to the process of drawing their own conclusions and formulating their own ideas as I have found them to mine.

    * * *

    Before setting readers off into the stacks contained in this volume of what we like to call “Sophie’s Library,” I would like to share a variety of observations about why I think The Da Vinci Code has struck such a nerve among the reading public and resonates so deeply with the contemporary zeitgeist.

    1. DVC is a novel of ideas. Say what you will about some of the ham-fisted dialogue and improbable plot elements, Dan Brown has wrapped large complex ideas, as well as minute details and fragments of intriguing thoughts into his action-adventure-murder mystery. Our culture is hungry for the opportunity to feed the collective mind with something other than intellectual junk food. Even among much higher-brow, more literary writers, all too few are writing novels that deal with big philosophical, cosmological, or historical concepts. And among those who are, most of the books they are producing are simply too inaccessible for even the average sophisticated, educated reader. Dan Brown has given us an incredible array of fascinating ideas and concepts. We get to partake in all this with no academic prerequisites. We open the first page with Saunière staggering through the Louvre’s Grand Gallery at 10:46 p.m. and we then get swept away into Brown’s fast-paced scavenger hunt through the history of Western civilization. We never have to do any heavy mental lifting if we don’t want to, but for those who want to pursue the ideas, the novel leaves the key words at every turn.
    2. Like James Joyce’s Ulysses, DVC takes place essentially in one twenty-four-hour period. Like Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, it ends where it begins. Clearly, Dan Brown takes literary form quite seriously. He may play faster and looser with facts than some would like, but his ability to compress extensive intellectual and religious arguments into quickly accessible sound bites is an art form. This is not to say that DVC is “great literature.” I am not certain it will stand the test of time, popular as it is right now. But our society should appreciate, more highly than it does, the artistry of the great mystery, spy thriller, and action-adventure novelists. Dan Brown, it will turn out, is this type of literary artist.
    3. Our materialistic, technological, scientific, information-flooded culture is hungry, not only for the intellectual allure of big ideas, but for a sense of mission and meaning. People are looking for a recovery of their spiritual sensibility, or at least a context for their lives. DVC, like the Harry Potter novels that parallel it in this same zeitgeist, is a classic hero’s journey (only in this case the heroine is not only a full and equal partner, she is actually more important). DVC can be read as a modern Odyssey through myth, archetypes, symbolic language, and religious practice. The characters will not only save the most precious secrets from falling into the wrong hands, in the process they will gain knowledge of self, identity, and a place in the world.
    4. Like other times in history—the legendary days of Arthur, the Crusades, the nineteenth century—we are living in an era when the romance of the hunt for the Holy Grail is being renewed. This is true in the narrow sense of a huge flourishing of new literature about the Holy Grail of Christian history. Dan Brown draws extensively on this body of occult, New Age, and mysterious work. But there is also a flourishing of the Holy Grail hunt in the widest, most metaphoric sense. The search to unlock the secrets of the human genome, to go to Mars, understand the Big Bang, and shrink communication into wireless digital bits—all of these are Holy Grail quests of a kind. Perhaps this is all a bit of delayed millennialism: when the actual change of the millennium occurred a few years ago, many trend-watchers were surprised at how little millennial fever was exhibited. But then came the shock of September 11, apocalyptic acts of terrorism, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, explosions of violence throughout the Middle East, all accented by religious extremism and Crusades-era rhetoric about faith and infidels. The birth of our new era has started to look more millennial after all. DVC strikes right into this vein, drawing its key plot elements from one thousand and two thousand years ago—the birth of the Christian era and the Crusades. In a remarkable book that came out shortly after DVC, The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief, Britain’s leading medieval historian, Richard Barber, traces the role of the Holy Grail in firing artistic imaginations from Wagner to T. S. Eliot to Monty Python. He also charts the use of the phrase Holy Grail by mainstream newspapers not usually given to spending much time on religious matters. According to Barber, the New York Times mentioned the Holy Grail only 32 times in 1995–96, but 140 in 2001–2. The Times of London upped its Grail score from 14 in 1985–86 to 171 in 2001–2; Le Figaro from 56 in 1997–98 to 113 in 2001–2.
    5. Women are a large constituency of DVC readers, and the book responds in many ways to new thinking about women in our culture. Dan Brown has rescued Mary Magdalene from the reputation of sin, pentitence, and prostitution. In the book, even the smart, sophisticated Sophie Neveu still thinks of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute until Langdon and Teabing set her straight. I am willing to go out on a limb and guess that far more people may have learned from The Da Vinci Code that Mary Magdalene is no longer considered a prostitute than from the official church clarifications of the 1960s. Fourteen hundred years of being seen as a fallen woman is a tough reputation to overcome. But DVC has moved the church’s correction off the proverbial page 28 of the third section and on to the front page of the public’s consciousness. Not only that. DVC makes the case that Mary Magdalene was much more than “not a prostitute.” In the novel’s estimation, she was a strong, independent figure, patron of Jesus, cofounder of his movement, his only believer in his greatest hour of need, author of her own Gospel, his romantic partner, and the mother of his child. To the millions of women who feel slighted, discriminated against, or unwelcome in churches of all faiths today, the novel is a chance to see early religious history in an entirely different light. Just as women have found new pioneering female heroines in every pursuit from science to the arts to sports over the last thirty years, The Da Vinci Code opens everyone’s eyes to a startlingly different view of the powerful role of women in the birth of Christianity. These themes have become mainstream at Harvard’s divinity school and other intellectual centers, but it is DVC that brought this perspective into focus for literate women (and men) who dwell outside academe. For Catholic women in particular—many of whom have long been embittered by the church’s stance against abortion, birth control, divorce, and women being ordained as priests—the book illuminates how the feminine half of the human equation may have been deliberately suppressed for political reasons by the rise of the institutional, centralized power of the Roman church. Facts presented in DVC—real, verifiable facts—tell a story many people do not know. For example, there was no prohibition against women being priests in the early years of the church, and male celibacy in the priesthood did not become the rule until six centuries after Christ. Moreover, it was not only Mary Magdalene who was an important figure in the traditional Gospels. There are a variety of other leading women mentioned by name, most of whom have remained ciphers even to the faithful all these years. Of course the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, has long had a deeply devoted following. In recent years, she has emerged as an even more important figure in the church—a trend Pope John Paul II actively encouraged. But the new vision of Mary Magdalene that Dan Brown paints—powerful, strong, independent, smart, the standard-bearer of Christianity long after the death of Jesus and yes, sexy—makes Mary Magdalene a much more accessible, more human character to contemplate than the aloof, saintly, perfect Virgin Mary.
    6. In a time of growing fundamentalism and religious extremism in the world, DVC offers an important study of Western history. First, it highlights the diversity and ferment that existed in the Judeo-Christian world two thousand years ago—diversity and ferment that was later suppressed by the antiheresy campaigns of the church. It suggests that some of the pagan and Eastern ideas that found their way into eastern Mediterranean thought may have had value and validity. In reminding us of the Crusades and Inquisitions as well as the intense ideological battles over interpretation, and in contrast to Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, which seeks to present a version of the true way these well-known events unfolded, DVC challenges readers to imagine that what they have always heard or believed may not be the truth after all. The novel suggests a multitude of conspiracies and covert worlds: the mainstream church’s great cover-up and conspiracy to eradicate the Priory of Sion, the Priory’s own conspiracy of secrecy, Opus Dei’s conspiracy to gain power in the church, and the Teacher’s conspiracy to murder and bring forward his own version of the truth. In doing so, DVC is an implicit critique of intolerance, of madness in the name of God, and of all those who believe there is only one true God, one true faith, and one true way to practice religious devotion.
    7. Tapping into world-shaking twentieth century archaeological finds—such as the Nag Hammadi texts and the Dead Sea Scrolls—as well as doing art history analysis of Leonardo and other painters, symbol interpretation, and cryptography, DVC weaves together various strands from the scientific and archaeological reports of our times. In doing so, the novel sketches out elements of the greatest detective story ever told: we are living in an era where we are uncovering authentic evidence about human origins as well as the origins of many ideas and beliefs. Sophie’s journey of self-discovery is really an analog of our own. Sophie may be descended directly from Jesus, but we are all descended from people who walked the earth at that time, thought those thoughts, practiced those customs. When we are able to share the insights that Gnostic philosophers may have had sitting in the Egyptian desert sixteen or eighteen centuries ago, it is a startling experience. We are simultaneously cracking the codes of our biological DNA as well as our cultural DNA. With new research and with new scientific tools, we may well learn what Leonardo was trying to tell us—or if he was trying to tell us anything at all.
    8. The idea that Robert Langdon is a symbologist—an academic pursuit that appears to be Dan Brown’s own coinage—and that Langdon has such a terrific knack for explaining signs and symbols, is another aspect of the book’s appeal. We are moving at full throttle out of the Gutenberg age and into the webified world of interactive media and the blogosphere. It is a transition from the world of hierarchical, literal, structured, rational thought into a futuristic soup of image, idea, motion, emotion, randomness, and interconnection. In a sense, we are moving backward in time to a period when visual signs and symbols were much more important. The icons on our computer screens are the reincarnation of cave paintings in France. That Dan Brown is attuned to the rich meanings and inputs coming into our lives from nonliteral, nonrational sources, is a critical part of the experience of reading the book. Indeed, reading DVC is similar to the experience Langdon describes when he says that, for him, watching a Disney movie is like being “barraged by an avalanche of allusion and metaphor.” The Langdon character, as pointed out elsewhere in this book, is an attractive mix of Indiana Jones and Joseph Campbell. The fact that Brown has strewn codes, symbols, and anagrams throughout the book makes it all the more interesting and interactive for us as participants in the experience.
    9. Conspiracy, secrecy, privacy, identity theft, technology and its problems—these are themes in all of Dan Brown’s books, and they are very appropriate themes for our time. Reading DVC stimulates thought and discussions on all these subjects. The modern American church concealed heinous cases of sexual abuse for years; the president of the United States may have launched an invasion of a foreign country based on concocted evidence of weapons of mass destruction; executives of companies like Enron and Worldcom deceived shareholders and regulators about billions and billions in nonexistent value. One can’t read The Da Vinci Code without hearing the echoes of these contemporary incidents of lying and cover-up—and the truth coming out in the end.


    * * *


    Is The Da Vinci Code fact or fiction? My primary goal is to give you the materials so you can draw your own conclusion. Let me make it perfectly clear that I do not claim to have great prior expertise on the subjects covered by The Da Vinci Code. I have an intense interest and abiding curiosity about these subjects, but no academic, religious, or artistic credentials. I see myself as very much like most of the novel’s readers. I became engaged with these ideas and I went out to research them in more depth, find the most well-regarded experts I could to interview, identify the most compelling source material, and bring it all together in a handy single volume designed for other interested, curious readers.

    As a business person, however, I feel I owe my readers at least an executive summary of the case I think the materials in this book present in aggregate. My personal conclusion is that the novel is a fascinating, well-crafted work of fiction that is informed throughout by interesting bits of little-known facts and stimulating, but highly speculative thought provocations. It is most valuable when read as a book of ideas and metaphors—a notebook, Leonardo style, that helps the reader think through his or her own philosophy, cosmology, religious beliefs, or critiques.

    With those caveats, let me offer a quick overview of my personal conclusions on the “fact versus fiction” question. There are at least two very different parts to answering this question.

    First, I would say that the further Dan Brown goes back in time, the more he stands on credible intellectual ground. For example, you can find many anthropologists, archaeologists, and other experts who would endorse the broad strokes of the argument made in DVC about the sacred feminine. Serious academic literature abounds making the case that prior to the emergence of Judeo-Christian monotheism, many polytheistic pagan belief systems tended to pay much more attention to goddesses as well as gods, and to the spiritual and divine nature of sex, procreation, fertility, and birth. Similarly, on the question of Mary Magdalene not being confused with the prostitute of the New Testament, or on the matter of Mary having a much more important role in the founding moments of Christianity than has been previously emphasized, you can find a large body of independent academic work, as well as research by religious scholars and theologians, making the same points. Of course serious academics are not going to leap to a conclusion for which there is no hard evidence, so you don’t find a lot of mainstream academics who are positively convinced that Jesus and Mary were married. But you can find very serious, credible academics—and even theologians—who are open to the possibility, and even the probability, of a romantic relationship between them. As the distinguished Notre Dame theologian, Rev. Richard McBrien, likes to point out, it is only a “short putt” from the evidence we have to the conclusion that Jesus and Mary may have actually been married. The world of academic research and scholarship can’t actually make that putt with the evidence we have, and may never be able to do so. But the point is that Dan Brown is not inventing something out of whole cloth here. He is not making a cosmic leap; he’s making a short putt of the imagination.

    Much of what The Da Vinci Code has to say about the role of the sacred feminine in prehistory, Mary Magdalene, early Christianity, the diversity of thought two thousand years ago, the ensuing consolidation of the institution of the Roman church starts from the work of serious scholars and bits of real evidence, such as the Nag Hammadi finds. Dan Brown interprets this material in the most dramatic, exaggerated, plot-driven way possible. Of course he does: this is a novel. But the roots of the ideas for these themes seem to me—and to many of the experts whose voices and research we present in these pages-- to have rough approximate validity.

    However, as we fast forward through history, The Da Vinci Code remains a fascinating story, but it becomes further and further uncoupled from serious scholarship. The early history of the Crusades and the Templars, as it is presented, is not out of synch with mainstream views. But by the time we get to matters such as the Holy Grail being synonymous with Mary Magdalene and the royal bloodline of Jesus, or the Priory of Sion’s enduring commitment to the spirit of the sacred feminine, or the argument that The Last Supper is a coded message from Leonardo about the real history of Jesus and Mary, or that the Priory continued into modern times with an unbroken chain of grand masters from Leonardo to Pierre Plantard, Dan Brown has left mainstream scholarship behind. He has plunged into the world of the medieval legend and occult and New Age myths. Almost all of this is recycled from legend and lore documented by other writers over the last few decades. A great deal of it falls so far below the standards of evidence for historical credibility that it’s not worth discussing as history or as fact. To some, it is a lot of occult hogwash. To me, and perhaps many others, it is hogwash as history, but great material for storytelling and folklore, endlessly fascinating to discuss from the point of view of myth, metaphor, and our cultural DNA.

    Many commentators are arguing over Dan Brown’s portrayal of religious doctrine and Christian history. In fact, most of the more than 20 books now available in English as guides to The Da Vinci Code offer readers a critique of DVC from a religious point of view. If you are really interested in the issues raised by The Da Vinci Code, I encourage you to read those too. Each has a unique point of view and adds to the overall mosaic of understanding. But whether or not Dan Brown got his theology right is not the focus of this book, although we have presented some arguments along those lines here. Instead, I have chosen to emphasize the ideas, metaphors, and their interconnections that can be discerned by engaging in the dialogue over this book. It is not my desire to enter into polemics or to be critical or disrespectful of anyone’s religious beliefs. Nor is it my desire to uphold or disparage the works that DVC relies on for source material that are excerpted here. The fact that material is presented here doesn’t mean I think the arguments presented are true. It only means I think you should hear the arguments and make up your own mind.

    What follows in Secrets of the Code is a compilation of ideas and opinions from a wide spectrum of thinkers. This book is designed to help the reader on his or her hunt for personal knowledge and insight—sophia, if you will.

    Let me be crystal clear: The Da Vinci Code is a novel. It is an entertainment. It is something to enjoy. Part of the enjoyment, for me anyway, is to follow upon its threads and ideas, to pursue its interconnections. That’s what Secrets of the Code is all about.

    Dan Burstein
    January, 2006


    Copyright @ 2006 Squibnocket Partners LLC
    For personal use only. Reproduction for Commercial Purpose Prohibited