Okay, now I'm just over a week overdue for getting this book back to the library, so I had better post some comments on it while I can ...
First, this is a very Catholic story. Perhaps anti-Catholic would be a better term. But it's basically a Catholic story in the same way that Fundamentalism is a modern movement, and not quite an anti-modern movement -- that is, the book assumes a Catholic view of history, or a Catholic set of presuppositions, and then proceeds to attack Catholicism from within that matrix. There is no reference here whatsoever to the Orthodox Church -- and, given the book's obsession with sex, the "sacred feminine" and the supposed hang-ups of the church thereof, it is perhaps significant that there is no reference to what some would consider the Eastern church's more balanced take on sexuality. (E.g., Orthodox priests can be married, whereas Catholic priests cannot, with rare exceptions.)
Second, the idea that the bones of Mary Magdalene would undo centuries of church dogma and tradition if they were ever found is ludicrous, since as far as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are concerned, THEY ALREADY HAVE HER RELICS. Indeed, my priest -- who named one of his daughters after Magdalene -- tells me he has a piece of Mary Magdalene in his home. Freaky. (I don't know about Catholics, but I know the Orthodox were amused by all the hoo-ha recently over the so-called "James ossuary" -- from their point of view, who cares about a box that MIGHT have contained the bones of James when they already have the bones of James themselves?)
Third, I am curious as to why the characters in this book make such a big deal about the bones of Mary Magdalene when it seems the book is also trying to make Jesus out to be just a regular guy who married and had kids, etc. If the bones of these historical figures matter, then where are HIS bones? And if Jesus was just a regular guy, then why bother preserving ANYBODY'S bones and making up all these weird rituals and secret societies to protect and preserve them?
Okay, those are the biggies -- now let's see what other items come up in my notes ...Things I know for a fact are bogus:
p. 234: One character declares: "Fortunately for historians . . . some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi. In addition to telling the true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms. Of course, the Vatican, in keeping with their tradition of misinformation, tried very hard to suppress the release of these scrolls." Wrong on virtually every count. Well, okay, the Nag Hammadi scrolls WERE found in 1945. But the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered sometime between the 1930s and 1947; there are NO gospels in the Dead Sea Scrolls; the Vatican has not suppressed any of these Scrolls, but rather, Catholic priests and scholars have been very involved in disseminating and interpreting them; and even these apocryphal gospels, such as the Secret Book of James, tend to depict things which allegedly happened AFTER the Resurrection, which suggests that their Jesus was not as merely human as Dan Brown's character would have us believe.
p. 244: The idea that Mary Magdalene was turned into a prostitute as part of "a smear campaign launched by the early Church" leads me to wonder exactly how Dan Brown defines "early Church." Mary Magdalene is NOT a prostitute in the Orthodox tradition, so I assume this tradition is a considerably late development, and possibly dates to some point after the Great Schism in the 11th century.
p. 245: Once again, a character refers to the Dead Sea and Nag Hammadi scrolls as "the earliest Christian records" -- and I repeat, there are NO Christian documents in the DSS (and the Nag Hammadi scrolls are ALSO much later than the canonical gospels, even if they may contain earlier elements that did not make it into the canon).
p. 247: Sophie assumes that a text called "The Gospel of Mary Magdalene" must be "a gospel . . . in Mary Magdalene's words", and no one challenges her on this.
p. 256: One character claims that a treasure trove which includes the bones of Mary Magdalene and a bunch of secret documents ALSO includes "the legendary 'Q' Document
-- a manuscript that even the Vatican admits they believe exists. Allegedly, it is a book of Jesus' teachings, possibly written in His own hand." Rubbish. The 'Q' hypothesis is just that -- a hypothesis, not a document -- which some scholars proposed a century or two ago to explain why, if Matthew and Luke borrowed so much of their material from Mark, they could also have so much material in common with each other that was NOT in Mark. 'Q' refers to the common source or sources which are NOT Mark. That's it.
p. 435: I believe the hexagram was adopted as an Israelite symbol not by David and Solomon but by other Jews many, many, many years later. (And let's not get started on p. 446's assertion that the hexagram represents the fusion of masculine and feminine...)Things I strongly suspect are bogus:
p. 125: "During three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million
women" (emphasis in the original). I suspect these numbers are heavily inflated, and what's more, I suspect a number of the witches executed were men.
p. 145: "Langdon was always surprised how few Christians who gazed upon 'the crucifix' realized their symbol's violent history was reflected in its very name: 'cross' and 'crucifix' came from the Latin verb cruciare
-- to torture." Um, well, okay, maybe most Christians don't know Latin very well, but I think most Christians DO realize that a "crucifix" is an object that depicts someone being "crucified", and only an idiot would be unable to figure out that crucifixion was pretty violent. Dan Brown's point here is that there is ANOTHER cross, like the one on the Swiss flag, where the four arms are of equal length, which I guess is supposed to be less violent somehow; he says THIS cross "predated Christianity by fifteen hundred years," which may or may not be true, but I would like to know in what context, and whether those older crosses have ANY connection to the Swiss ones; and I would also point out that some basic shapes are so, well, basic that it's no surprise they come up in more than one context.
p. 232: I rather doubt it took Constantine to "shift" the Christian holy day from "the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday" to "the pagan's veneration day of the sun." Does not Pliny, or some similar early secular source, describe how Christians meet for worship on Sunday?
p. 303: How could ANY secret society consider English a "pure language" just because it was not "rooted in Latin" and therefore an arm of Vatican propaganda!?
p. 309: What is Langdon on about when he says "early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex. In the Temple, no less
" (emphasis in the original)? Who are these "priestesses" or "hierodules
" to whom he refers? I also highly doubt that "YHWH" stems from an "androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah
and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah
p. 390: I rather doubt the word "minstrel" reflects the idea that the original troubadors were "the traveling servants or 'ministers' of the Church of Mary Magdalene, using music to disseminate the story of the sacred feminine among the common folk."Things I want to fact-check:
p. 21: Did President Mitterand really request that the new glass pyramid outside the Louvre be made of "exactly 666 panes of glass"?
p. 24: How credible is the Opus Dei Awareness Network
p. 45: Did Da Vinci really intend the circle around The Vitruvian Man
to be "a feminine symbol of protection" and thus for that picture to be a symbol of "male and female harmony"?
pp. 159-160: There's a summary of the history of the Knights Templar which includes such claims as: (1) Pope Innocent II issued "an unprecedented papal bull that afforded the Knights Templar limitless power and declared them 'a law unto themselves'"; (2) the Templars "began extending credit to bankrupt royals and charging interest in return, thereby establishing modern banking and broadening their wealth and influence still further"; (3) Pope Clement V and France's King Philippe IV hatched a conspiracy to quash the Templars, and the Pope "issued secret sealed orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe on Friday, October 13 of 1307," thus giving us "Friday the 13th"; (4) and on that single fateful day, "countless Knights" were captured, tortured, and killed.
p. 206: Did parchments called Les Dossiers Secrets
really turn up in Paris's Bibliotheque Nationale in 1975, identifying Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo and Jean Cocteau
as Grand Masters of the Priory of Zion, an organization of secretive Eyes Wide Shut
-style sex-ritualists founded in 1099?
p. 232: Do the haloes in Christian icons really come from the "sun disks" in pagan Egyptian symbols? Some of the claims here begin to enter wacky Tom Harpur
p. 248: I don't feel the need to fact-check the idea that Mary Magdalene was of royal descent and a Benjaminite (thus making her a descendant of King Saul, just as Jesus was a descendant of King David, I guess), but I AM curious to know where this idea comes from.
p. 253: This is the ONLY page in the entire book in which Dan Brown even HINTS at what his sources might be -- and all he does is rattle off four book titles, without giving any authors' names. The fourth title, Holy Blood, Holy Grail
, I do recognize as genuine, but I don't know anything about The Templar Revelation
, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar
or The Goddess in the Gospels
p. 266: Is the reference to a "new Pope" who would never condone assassination, and who frowns upon Opus Dei, explained in the previous Langdon novel(s)?
p. 316: Does the depiction of the Devil as horned really go back to some "horned fertility god" known as Baphomet, and the Church's efforts to depict him as evil?
p. 319: What basis is there for Dan Brown's claim that the references in Jeremiah to a city of Sheshach are actually coded references to Babel, decodable via the Atbash Cipher?
pp. 326-327: So ... how many of the names in this list of Priory of Sion Grand Masters are the names of actual people? (The ones I recognize are in bold
.) And what evidence is there to link ANY of them to real people? Jean de Gisors (1188-1220), Marie de Saint-Clair (-1266), Guillaume de Gisors (-1307), Edouard de Bar (-1336), Jeanne de Bar (-1351), Jean de Saint-Clair (-1366), Blance d'Evreux (-1398), Nicolas Flamel (-1418)
, Rene d'Anjou (-1480), Iolande de Bar (-1483), Sandro Botticelli (-1510)
, Leonardo da Vinci (-1519)
, Connetable de Bourbon (-1527), Ferdinand de Gonzaque (-1575), Louis de Nevers (-1595), Robert Fludd (-1637), J. Valentin Andrea (-1654), Robert Boyle (-1691), Isaac Newton (-1727)
, Charles Radclyffe (-1746), Charles de Lorraine (-1780), Maximilian de Lorraine (-1801), Charles Nodier (-1844), Victor Hugo (-1885)
, Claude Debussy (-1918)
, Jean Cocteau (-1963)
. I note that some of these people appear to have had very, very long tenures. Almost improbably long, you might say -- as though someone couldn't be bothered to make up more bogus names than necessary.
p. 339: Is there really a "Temple Church" built by the Templars on "Inner Temple Lane" just off "Fleet Street" in London? And is it really round, and thus essentially "pagan"?
p. 390: Is there really a link between Wagner's Parsifal
and the alleged bloodline of Jesus and Mary?
p. 434: Is there any basis for Dan Brown's assertion that Rosslyn Chapel in England was built by the Templars as "a shrine to all faiths ... to all traditions ... and, above all, to nature and the goddess"? (Let alone that Rosslyn, or "Rose Line", refers to "the ancestral lineage of Mary Magdalene"?)Odd things in general:
p. 126: A reference to the Hopi word "koyanisquatsi"? And a link between this word and the idea that the "obliteration of the sacred feminine in modern life" was responsible for "an unstable situation marked by testosterone-fueled wars, a plethora of misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth"? Huh? Respect for Mother Earth is on the increase, last I checked, and some of the most misogynistic societies out there could hardly be called "modern". The reference here to "koyaanisqatsi" (as the word is spelled in one of my offical five favorite movies
of all time), along with his references to The Last Temptation of Christ
and so on, smells to me like a lame attempt on the writer's part to drag as many pop-culture references as he can to validate his shaky thesis.
p. 163: Langdon's book editor says to him: "You're a Harvard historian, for God's sake, not a pop schlockmeister looking for a quick buck. Where could you possibly find enough credible evidence to support a theory like this?" Is Dan Brown anticipating his critics?
pp. 262-263: Gadzooks, Dan Brown even brings Disney cartoons like Sleeping Beauty
(the Princess is code-named "Rose"! ooh! aah!) and The Little Mermaid
into the picture. ("Langdon held up his Mickey Mouse watch and told her that Walt Disney had made it his quiet life's work to pass on the Grail story to future generations. . . . When Langdon had first seen The Little Mermaid
, he had actually gasped aloud when he noticed that the painting in Ariel's underwater home was none other than seventeenth-century Georges de la Tour's The Penitent Magdalene
-- a famous homage to the banished Mary Magdalene -- fitting decor considering the movie turned out to be a ninety-minute collage of blatant symbolic references to the lost sanctity of Isis, Eve, Pisces the fish goddess, and, repeatedly, Mary Magdalene. The Little Mermaid's name, Ariel, was synonymous with 'the Holy City besieged.' Of course, the Little Mermaid's flowing red hair was certainly no coincidence either.")
p. 310: Why is it only the men who have to regard sex as a "mystical, spiritual act"? Isn't the very notion of a "sacred feminine" somehow ITSELF sexist, since it is basically a form of religion that defines femininity from a male point of view?