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For more than two years, The Da Vinci Code had been on the New York Times Best Seller List, but perhaps more fascinating is the critical response. Over 45 books have been published reputed to have cracked the code, to have found the truth behind the code, or to warn the faithful not to read the novel. As of May 2006, over 6.5 million hits for the novel/film appear on Google, and the Vatican, including of course Opus Dei, have condemned the book. Other Christian dominations have been no less vocal. Under the auspices of Dr. D. James Kennedy, The Coral Ridge Hour produced a one hour television documentary and DVD with a corresponding book condemning the novel. Dr. Kennedy labeled the Da Vinci Code as the most blasphemous book he had ever read. He was particularly alarmed that the Ron Howard's movie would attract thousands more who had not read the book but who might believe its contents.

The book alleges that...

1-Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene (the 'sacred feminine') and has descendents alive today, one of whom is a major character. Such is the real meaning of the "sangreal" or "Sang Real" i.e.: "royal blood." Thus the holy Grail is much more than a literal cup.

2-a super-secret organization, The Priory of Sion, guards this information which at the appropriate time will be released.

3-Opus Dei, another quasi-secret organization of religious fanatics (according to the novel), will stop at nothing including murder to prevent such a release.

4-Leonardo encoded his art, especially the Last Supper, with secret messages supporting these conclusions, which he, as a past Priory Grand Master, would have to know and safeguard. Further, the painting does not feature all males; rather the 'disciple' to the right of Jesus is really a woman...

5-the divinity of Jesus was not mandated until 325 AD when voted on by the Council of Nicaea as part of a political maneuver by the Emperor Constantine to stabilize the Roman empire. Prior to that date, Jesus was seen as a man; not the son of God. Further, the bible did not drop from heaven via a fax machine, but was compiled by churchMEN who had an agenda, so for example, the Gnostic gospels were considered 'non-inspired' since, among other assertions, they suggested that Mary and Jesus were 'involved' and that the male disciples resented their displacement.

6-a British royal historian, Sir Leigh Teabing, whose speciality is Grail quest literature, has embarked on a quest of his own --to find the sacred feminine. [Critics have reviled the historical errors he seems to make, but these pages will offer a hypothesis that explains his character in the way Brown (hopefully) really intended.]

7-a mysterious figure known only as the Teacher has the intelligence and means to orchestrate much of the novel's clandestine happenings...who is he, and what is his agenda?

Critics have argued that what otherwise is an exciting page turner could really be just highly embellished fiction had not Dan Brown at the outset argued for the content being based on fact, a claim supported by the initial reviews: See Dan Brown's web page: The New York Daily news is quoted therein: "His research is impeccable."

It is NOT the purpose of this web page to repeat charges that are familiar enough to anyone who even superficially checks the sources ranging from an examination of the canonical gospels to the ministers and Catholic scriptural scholars in the Coral Ridge DVD, and of course Google. The History Channel has likewise produced a DVD: The Da Vinci Code: The Total Story, part of which involves a DNA test.

Then why another web site if not to repeat what so many others have said?

I would like to suggest that The Da Vinci Code has provided readers and viewers an invaluable service if one takes dramatic irony into account as well as the many allusions the books appears to sustain. In this sense, T.S. Eliot's Tradition and the Individual Talent might be of use. Eliot writes, "Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, "tradition" should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical   sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity." I believe Brown has this sense of tradition--shaping the future by invoking the best minds of the past which is why these pages can reference so many poets and novelists and philosophers and theologians.

But since so many of the web sites on Brown seem determined only to denigrate, I would like to suggest one that seems more balanced in its treatment: The Preface to Inside the Da Vinci Code [link not currently active] by Kirkeby and Lane states: "Our goal is to supply visitors with a critical analysis of the "facts" underlying the international bestselling, and rather controversial novel by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code. Some of the "facts" supplied in this book are more fictional than fact. The Da Vinci Code has sparked controversy over its use of historical figures and artwork to support its fictional premise. What are the actual facts? Perhaps we have some information here that will enlighten you. We will take you on a journey exploring the historical people, places, artwork, and conspiracies touched on in this fascinating book.

If you haven't read the novel, you should. It's a wild ride through murder and mystery. Dan Brown is a gifted storyteller and his books are some of the best fictional material currently on the market. Join the discussions on history, religion, and conspiracy theories being held around the world..."
Apr 26, 2006, 17:42"

Let us begin by examining aspects of Dan Brown's "impeccable" sources. Everyone knows that the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Michael Baigent, Richard Leight and Henry Lincoln) sued Brown for plagiarism and lost. Further, a 60 Minutes episode (April 30th, 2006) found the Priory of Sion a fabrication of a self-proclaimed Grand Master of the Priory, one Pierre Plantard: "Plantard gave the Priory of Sion a fictitious pedigree by drawing up that list of Grand Masters and depositing it in the Bibliotheque Nationale. Charlot [historian and archivist] says that apart from that list, no historian has found any evidence that the Priory of Sion existed before Plantard set up his version in 1956." If this allegation is sustained, then of course much of the novel's credibility would seem to collapse, so what does it offer?

Thematically, their book begins with an impassioned defense of their thesis, and is divided into three parts: I-The Mystery, II-The Secret Society, and III-The Blood line. To mainstream political and biblical historians, much would appear fantastic-from the existence of the Priory itself to Jesus' actually being the bridegroom at Cana, but what I found fascinating and consequently worthy of investigation is a section in Part III entitled: The Need to Synthesize, pp. 309-313 (in the paperback edition published by Dell, 1983).

This small section might be termed their historiography, their philosophy of history:

1-the authors decry our age of specialization, current since "the so-called Enlightenment" (p. 310), an age which subordinates synthesis to analysis.

2-experts exist obviously, but "...few, if any of the experts, have endeavored to establish a connection between their particular field and others that may often overlap it." (p. 310) {Brown will use 'connection' more than once when describing Langdon.]

3-Thus, they argue, "...history and knowledge cannot be compartmentalized according to the arbitrary filing system of the human intellect." (p. 311)

4-The section concludes with an admonition not to neglect an interdisciplinary pedagogy, and always to pursue the implications of so-called facts, which can "disappear quickly" (p. 312) unless their implications are examined in a non-fragmentary fashion.

A second text, The Templar Revelation by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince (Touchstone Press, 1998) offers "evidence" that sustains and expands the Holy Blood, Holy Grail thesis. The study contends that...

1-mainstream historians have misinterpreted scriptural history.

2-the the church suppressed the sacred feminine to advance a misogynistic agenda.

3-Jesus may not have been Jewish; that he had a political agenda stemming from a rivalry with St. John the Baptist. Why they ask would John the Baptist baptize him unless this were so?

4-Christianity stems from a synthesis of the John the Baptist cult and Egyptian theology: "While the Osiris archetype clearly matches Jesus' conscious fulfillment of his role--by 'dying' on a Friday, being mourned by "Isis" and coming back three days later--it was the goddess whose magic made the resurrection possible. That hers was no subordinate role cannot be over-emphasized." (p. 292) [This of course is hotly disputed: see J.P. Holding, A Review and Critique of the Da Vinci Code, but see also: James Patrick: the Want -to- be Apologist. A source suggesting a correlation between Jesus and Egyptian mythology is: Kevin Williams' Jesus as a Reincarnation of Horus.]

Later, we will examine Joseph Campbell's views on the "Egyptian connection."

..and the historiography:

1-The book tends to be rather blunt about critiquing main stream scholarship, so "The standard academic line is that 'occult' ideas about the Templars are nonsense...This attitude has led to the neglect of certain important Templar sites." (p. 103), These sites are consequently explored.

2-Importantly, they note: "One dubious connection or apparent contradiction concerning the Priory's activities [what was noted above] inevitably leads skeptics to denounce the entire thing as arrant nonsense from beginning to end. But it must be remembered that we are dealing with myth-makers, who are often more concerned with conveying powerful and even shocking ideas through the use of archetypal images than with communicating the literal truth." (p. 41). [Note: MYTH-MAKERS is italicized in the text].

3-The Templar Revelation argues that conventional interpretations of Jesus' identity must be challenged. The cite the accepted view, but add, "It came as a shock to us to realize that these were really just assumptions, and not sold proven fact...We decided to see just what happened if we did question these assumptions." (p. 271). [Note: DID is italicized in the text.] Such reminds me of Plato's Republic on the dialectic (from Book VI):

..When I speak of the other division of the intelligible, you will understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge which reason herself attains by the power of dialectic, using the hypotheses not as first principles, but only as hypotheses --that is to say, as steps and points of departure into a world which is above hypotheses, in order that she may soar beyond them to the first principle of the whole; and clinging to this and then to that which depends on this, by successive steps she descends again without the aid of any sensible object, from ideas, through ideas, and in ideas she ends. Much of Brown's book should and will be evaluated dialectically.

Betsy Eble's Depth and Details. A Reader's Guide to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. (Self -published) explicates most chapters in terms of the content critics have disputed. Print and on line bibliographies are provided, and web sites quoted. She will at times sustain, but sometimes dispute Brown's conclusions. The book is mostly a compilation of web pages which address various aspects of the novel including its cryptographic elements, art history and theology.

See also, Dan Burstein (ed). Secrets of the Code: (NY: Squibnocket Partners, LLC, 2004). This study presents scholarly articles plus interviews regarding all aspects of The Da Vinci Code's academic content including the sacred feminine and Mary Magdalene, The Gnostic gospels, pagan antecedents to Christianity and secret societies. This book has a related web site (Secrets Behind the Code) with links to the novel's contents, and a glossary.


What does Dan Brown say? His web site provides the following:

My hope in writing this novel was that the story would serve as a catalyst and a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history.

Further as noted above, in Secrets of the Code edited by Dan Burstein, historians, philosophers and journalists comment on aspects of the novel. Therein Craig McDonald interviewed Dan Brown. Entitled "A Collision of Indiana Jones and Joseph Campbell, the conversation outlines Brown's core beliefs regarding the novel-(pp. 310-316):

1-Brown taught the classes: The Iliad, The Odyssey, Shakespeare

2-the clerical response has been, for the most part, positive-Brown apparently was worried about that given the controversial treatment of orthodox subject matter. [Later explorations would seem to dispute this.]

3-He had access to the Vatican library, but not the archives

4-He believes the novel strives for balance: "...there are those for whom Opus Dei has been a wonderful addition to their lives. And there are those for whom Opus Dei had been a nightmare, and I talk about both." (p. 313)

5-He believes especially in a post 9/11 environment that conspiracies do exist, and that the much governmental "snooping" occurs in order to thwart terrorist aggression. [Such a view validates the mimetic nature of the novel without which it indeed would (and should) collapse]. If we have learned one thing about our post 9/11 reality, we know that conspiracies do exist.

6-His wife's knowledge of art history contributed substantially to the novel's success.

7-The following appears on Brown's web page:

The Da Vinci Code is a novel and therefore a work of fiction. While the book's characters and their actions are obviously not real, the artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals depicted in this novel all exist (for example, Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings, the Gnostic Gospels, Hieros Gamos, etc.). These real elements are interpreted and debated by fictional characters. While it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit, each individual reader must explore these characters' viewpoints and come to his or her own interpretations. My hope in writing this novel was that the story would serve as a catalyst and a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history.

If you read the "FACT" page, you will see it clearly states that the documents, rituals, organization, artwork, and architecture in the novel all exist. The "FACT" page makes no statement whatsoever about any of the ancient theories discussed by fictional characters. Interpreting those ideas is left to the reader.

My analysis of the novel will dialectically test Brown's own premises for writing the book, but first some personal observations:

1- I have been teaching literature and philosophy for 28 years. My courses are on line: click here for British Literature, Gothic and Romantic Fiction, Shakespeare, The Philosophy of Star Trek, AP English, Tolkien Seminar, and World Literature. Reading these pages will provide insights, hopefully, regarding my own philosophy of education. I do know that students love to discuss ideas, especially controversial ones. They also have a sense of 'fair play,' so if Brown's novel does offer a frame for intellectual debate and analysis and does so in a fair and balanced manner, which critics seem to think it does not, then the book is worth discussing.

2-As a counterexample, Kenneth Boa and John Alan Turner: The Gospel According to The Da Vinci Code (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2006), argue on page 4 that "Brown has capitalized on our discontinuity [morally especially] by writing his own religion." What follows are specifics including the need to counter a novel that threatens to remove Jesus as the moral focus of our lives, a premise all too gullible and uneducated Christians are willing to accept in an morally relativistic age that sanctions the questioning of anything.

3-Reflect on the following: "For I have had many accusers, who accused me of old...dangerous are these, who began when you were children, and took possession of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of one *****, a wise man, who speculated about the heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse appear the better cause. These are the accusers whom I dread; for they are the circulators of this rumor, and their hearers are too apt to fancy that speculators of this sort do not believe in the gods."

(Could you fill in the ***** with Brown? Actually of course, the excerpt is from Plato's Apology, and thus the *****belong to Socrates!!!


(The edition I am using is The Special Illustrated Edition: N.Y. Doubleday, 2004)

To disrupt momentarily chronology, Chapter 82 offers an interesting observation by Langdon to Sophie as they search London for evidence of the Grail:

"Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith--acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory and exaggeration, for the early Egyptians through modern Sunday School. Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors." (p. 346) [EVERY and FAITH are italicized in the text]

Some interesting parallels:

1-A rather fundamentalist Catholic, who no doubt would have disagreed with much of The Da Vinci Code, JRR Tolkien argued in his Fairy Tale Essay published in The Tolkien reader, that the gospels were the greatest fairy tales every told. Click here for my analysis and commentary. Indeed, Tolkien's whole Middle Earth mythology and his letters validate his belief in Catholic philosophy through metaphor. He argued that myth=truth.

2- Milton's Paradise Lost raises questions of the literal vs. metaphoric. Do we today regard Adam and Eve in Genesis as literal beings or metaphors designed to define the God-man relationship as the (Divinely inspired) writes saw it? Click here for my analysis and commentary, and See also a link to PBS that argues DNA evidence now suggests the origins of the human race can be traced to one man from Africa (telecast on Channel 22, June 6, 2002: Washington, D.C.). What is literal and what metaphoric? If DNA were to absolutely confirm the Genesis myth, does that imply religious truths must await scientific validation to be absolutely confirmed?

3-In Angels and Demons, Galileo of course has a major role. He noted, "With regard to this argument, I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth--whenever its true meaning is understood. But I believe nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify. Hence in expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error. Not only contradictions and propositions far from true might thus be made to appear in the Bible, but even grave heresies and follies. Thus it would be necessary to assign to God feet, hands, and eyes, as well as corporeal and human affections, such as anger, repentance, hatred and sometimes even the forgetting of things past and ignorance of those to come...Hence I think that I may reasonably conclude that whenever the Bible has occasion to speak or any physical conclusion, (especially those which are very abstruse and hard to understand), the rule has been observed of avoiding confusion in the minds of the common people which would render them contumacious toward the higher mysteries. Now the Bible, merely to condescend to popular capacity, has not hesitated to obscure some very important pronouncements, attributing to God himself some qualities extremely remote from (and even contrary to) his essence. Who then would positively declare that this principle has been set aside, and that the Bible has confined itself rigorously to bare and restricted sense of its words, when speaking but casually of the earth, of water, of the sun, or of any other created thing? Especially in view of the fact that these things in no way concern the primary purpose of the sacred writings, which is the service of God and the salvation of souls - matters infinitely beyond the comprehension of the common people. This being granted, I think that in discussions of physical problems, we ought to begin not from the authority of scriptural passages, but from the sense-experiences and necessary demonstrations, for the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant executrix of God's commands. It is necessary for the Bible in order to accommodated to the understanding of every man, to speak many things which appear to differ from the absolute truth so far as the bare meaning of the words is concerned, but nature on the other had is inexorable and immutable; she never transgresses the laws imposed upon her, or cares a whit whether her abstruse reasons and methods of operation are understandable to men. For that reason it appears that nothing physical which sense-experiences sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to use, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages. "We conclude that God is known first Nature and then again, more particularly, by doctrine, by Nature in His works, and by doctrine in his revealed word." From this I do not mean to infer that we need not have an extraordinary esteem for the passages of holy Scripture. On the contrary, having arrived at any certainties in physics, we ought to utilize these as the most appropriate aids in the true exposition of the Bible and in the investigation of those meanings which are necessarily contained therein, for these must be concordant with demonstrated truths. I should judge that the authority of the Bible was designed to persuade men of those articles and propositions which, surpassing all human reasoning, could not be made credible by science, or by any other means than through the very mouth of the Holy Spirit.
Yet even in those propositions which are not matters of faith, this authority ought to be preferred over that of all human writings which are supported only by bare assertions or probable arguments, and not set forth in a demonstrative way. This I hold to be necessary and proper to the same extent that divine wisdom surpasses all human judgment and conjecture. But I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed use with senses, reason and intellect has intended to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them
." Click here for analysis and commentary. Confusing the literal with the metaphoric can lead to condemnation and charges of heresy.

4-Brown of course has been charged with shoddy scholarship. The above mentioned critics, Boa and Turner, (p.2) severely critique the research noting, for example, that some of it comes from people who believe in UFO's. I wonder if they would regard Joseph Campbell as a shoddy scholar? In The Power of Myth, he responds to Moyers' question:

"Do you see some new metaphors emerging in a modern medium for the old universal truths?" Campbell replied, "I see the possibility of new metaphors, but I don't see that they have become mythological yet." (pp. 17-18). Later in the conversation he adds, (over some 10 pages) in response to Moyers' comment that myth had liberated his faith from "the cultural prisons to which it had been sentenced..." (p.55)

a-"It liberated my own, and I know it is going to do that with anyone who gets the message." (p. 55)

b-"A metaphor is an image that suggests something else." (p. 56)

c-"The myth is for spiritual instruction...the myth comes from the imagination and leads back to it." (p. 59)

Metaphors and myths therefore, according to Campbell, are a gateway to the archetypes as universal modes of expression, (p. 51). Click here for my extended discussion of archetypes.

Now I am not saying that Brown read Campbell, but it would be hard to believe he did not. In any event, the shift from literal to metaphoric is often painful for a culture. Following the Reformation, (when I was in grade school, it was called the Protestant revolt!), Trent declared that every word in the bible was literally true. Is it so regarded today? Is to argue that Adam and Eve are not literal beings heresy? To some probably so. In The Da Vinci Code, I think what matters is to examine the literal, the metaphoric and the revealed archetypes such as male and the [sacred] female. If the Priory of Sion did not exist the way Teabing says it does, or if Leonardo did not secretly encode his art, then such should not deny the existence of truths these premises nonetheless imply, any more than the replacement of the geocentric theory with the heliocentric should preclude discussion and dialectical inquiry. The purpose of the dialectic is to treat first principles as assumptions by testing them to see what evolves. Doing such places us on our own (Grail) quest to the truth which for Plato, Aristotle and most writers involves transcending from the literal, which is imperfect and flawed, to the absolute, the forms and finally the form of the good. Recall before we continue that Teabing has his own very special agenda for how he reads history.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Web Site (June 5, 2006) posted an article entitled "When Faithful Flee" which outlined why thy "aren't so" any more at least in Ireland. A mother of one, Louise Barry, noted, "I consider myself a practicing Catholic. I just don't feel I could live without the safety net...[but] the whole institution of the church is wrong," especially its ban on married priests. "Men of that age not involved in family life, telling you how to live." The article in sum articulated that the faithful, although considering themselves spiritual, tend to reject the institution as being out of touch. The postmodernist sociologist who coined postmodernism, Zygmunt Bauman noted, "Everything is short-lived and nothing stands still. Nothing keeps its shape, and social forms are constantly changing at great speed, radically transforming the experience of being human." Such recalls TS Eliot quoted above. Attached to the article was a survey, which included the following question: "In the Mass, do the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus or are they symbols of Jesus, but not actually the body and blood?" As of June 5th, 55% (396) responded actual, while 45% (306) voted symbols. Catholics of course as article of faith must accept Transubstantiation, that the bread and wine retain their accidental properties, but at the consecration, substantially become the body and blood of Jesus who said at the Last Supper, "Do this in memory of me." Such is the debate between the literal and metaphoric. As society changes, witness 5th Century BCE Athens, the Renaissance or today, values and attitudes shift. Perhaps The Da Vinci Code articulates this shift; at least Brown asks that we use his novel as a platform for discussing changing perspectives, so...

What does the novel say, if anything, that implies BOTH reflectionistic and reconstructionistic modes? What can be tested dialectically that explores rather than deplores? Everyone should carefully read Dan Burstein's Introduction to Secrets of the Code, pp.xv-xxv, entitled Searching for Sophia. It bullets 16 significant ideas worthy of critical reflection, and its last sentences read, "Part of the enjoyment, for me anyway, is to follow upon its threads and idea, to pursue its interconnections. That's what this book is all about." (p. xxv).

5-The June 12, 2006 edition of Time Magazine offers the following: 28% of Americans believe the Bible is literally true, down from 38% in 1976, and 19% regard sacred scripture as an "ancient book of fables" up from 13%. (NYT poll, USA Today poll, and the Gallup poll).

So what ideas worth of discussion does the literal reads of the novel imply, even if the FACTS currently seem not to be sustained by historians.


This page covers chapters 1 to 20.


1. The issue of suffering is raised: "Pain is good." (p.5). I know a conservative fundamental Catholic who argues, "I want my purgatory on earth." She believes God intended the purpose of existence was to endure pain to insure happiness in heaven. Thus, the novel begins with a question that has confronted humanity from the biblical plagues the holocaust to 9/11 and beyond. Is God able but not willing or willing but able to prevent suffering, and did He make the best of all possible worlds?

2. Who is speaking to whom in this chapter, and does his 'occupation' matter?

-Chapter 1:

1. Of course Langdon is Brown's protagonist. How is he initially presented? Would you see him as Socratic in temperament. Is he willing to accept new ideas even if they conflict with his own, or is he prone to intellectual rigidity? This would be important to establish if he is to be our guide: He initially upon hearing the phone believes that he, "...had probably ruffled some conservative feathers in the audience."(pp. 8-9) regarding his lecture. The tone would be important here. Is it mimetic of what Brown presents in general?

2. What rapport does Langdon have with his students, and how do they respond to his lectures? The real history of the Galileo case would be worth pursuing here? Who initially opposed him and why? Such reflects on what Brown has been accused of regarding the Catholic church. See also: Angels and Demons.

3. The news of the grizzly murder naturally is shocking, and we are left to wonder what the Langdon-Sauniere connection really was.

4-Note too, where Brown got the name, "Sauniere."

5- What arouses Langdon's intellectual curiosity? Since Brown obviously loves "conspiracy theories," Langdon's academic interest would make literal sense, but also as a gateway to the metaphoric or the transcendental. As a parallel, Heart of Darkness can easily be dismissed as journey into the congo, or more profoundly a denunciation of colonial exploitation or racism, but there is still a more substantial and sophisticated interpretation: what does the journey into the heart of darkness really mean when archetypes come to mind? Words like "my" and "ivory" and "rotting" acquire connotations far beyond the literal. Do 'conspiracy buffs' run a risk though? See Langdon on this in Angels and Demons.

-Chapter 2:

1. Opus Dei of course has strongly denounced Brown's novel as noted above. Certainly the mind matter dualism has dominated philosophy since Plato's distinction between the forms and the material world as a pale reflection of the truer and eternal reality. When Christianized, may we argue that the soul's (We are made in the image and likeness of God) salvation must transcend the welfare of the body. Jesus warns, "For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?" (Mark 8:36). Are we not then really children of God, and if so literally or metaphorically?

2. In the novel, the mortification of the flesh is seen as a gateway to salvation by Silas: "The Lord has provided me shelter and purpose in life." (p. 12). Does he mean this? How important is corporal mortification (p. 15).

3. Even if the literal read is too exaggerated, the relationship between body and soul is important in Catholicism. The Catechism of the Church notes: "365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature."

4. Such has profound implications for the novel. If the statement is to be accepted, then what are the implications for the novel's central thesis of the sacred feminine and the marriage of Jesus? The Catechism also notes, "2332 Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others." Also contained therein is, "481 Jesus Christ possesses two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God's Son." Such is not a metaphor but meant to be taken literally. And although the Catechism extols chastity: "2053... Jesus adds a second: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." This reply does not do away with the first: following Jesus Christ involves keeping the Commandments. The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment. In the three synoptic Gospels, Jesus' call to the rich young man to follow him, in the obedience of a disciple and in the observance of the Commandments, is joined to the call to poverty and chastity. The evangelical counsels are inseparable from the Commandments." Certainly, therefore, Jesus having a human nature-he really did suffer and die on the cross, he cried when Lazarus died etc. not mandate that he had a sexual nature, but it does not exclude it either. It might be argued that to speak of Jesus' humanity without sexuality denies what should be open for discussion. If the Priory which, according to the novel, has carefully guarded this secret is a product of Plantard's fancy and not historical fact, then the literal error should not preclude discussing the sexual archetype so fundamental to human nature. The novel's central chapters do this in a manner many have found shocking.

5. Paradox: I remember not too long ago after Mass, the celebrant remarking how much we live in a pagan society. If that is true, and certainly there is much to recommend the view, then why is Brown's treatment of Silas' mortification of the flesh so scorned? If such is an exaggeration, then why so? Is the exaggeration based on how pagan our society has become? During the Middle Ages, penances after confession often involved physical punishment, as readers of Everyman know. In fact, one of the reasons Chaucer's Friar was so popular was his willingness to assign easy penances for reasons the General Prologue makes quite ironically clear. Chaucer will be cited again in these pages.

-Chapter 3:

1. A key to Langdon's philosophical perspective is clearly noted at the outset: "As someone who had spend his life exploring the hidden interconnectivity of disparate emblems and ideologies, Langdon viewed the world as a web of profoundly intertwined histories and events. The connections may be invisible...but they are always there, buried just beneath the surface." (pp. 16-17). Such to me is the heart of the novel, and which also explains why many have found it shocking, blasphemous or historically inaccurate. People who think 'outside the box' are often sidelined. Read this poem:

BATTER my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

Blasphemy? Apparently the Enlightenment critic Dr. Johnson thought so: His critique of John Donne :"Heterogeneous ideas yoked together by violence" obscured Donne until the 20th century when T.S. Eliot rewrote the line and established Donne as a major poet. As you study Holy Sonnet XIV, note what ideas Donne wishes to associate the Brown through Langdon asserts, and why?

2. In the chapter, the modernist vs. traditionalist evaluation of the Glass pyramid reflects the debate in a literal way: On page 22, Langdon sees the evaluation question as "loaded." Why? Recall a gospel parallel: "Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, or not?" (Matthew 22:17.) What is the connection. Do you think Brown was aware of the criticism his novel would evoke?

-Chapter 4:

1."Descending below ground level" (p. 24). There are many symbols and metaphors in the novel, one of which is clearly the descent archetype. Note as well that Langdon is afraid to descend, and there is a reason stemming from an incident in his youth (p.27-8) that suggests much beyond his literal entrapment. What is it and why? An interesting parallel would be a Jung read of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner as applied to this discussion.

Click here for my extended discussion of the Jung archetypes. For our purposes, the further one descends, the more opposites are reconciled until all becomes ONE. Jung notes, "...THE ANIMA IS NOT THE SOUL IN A DOGMATIC SENSE...BUT A NATURAL ARCHETYPE THAT SATISFACTORILY SUMS UP ALL THE STATEMENTS OF THE UNCONSCIOUS, OF THE PRIMITIVE MIND, OF THE HISTORY OF LANGUAGE AND RELIGION...IT IS ALWAYS THE A PRIORI ELEMENT IN HIS MOODS, REACTIONS, IMPULSES...WHAT IS NOT-I, NOT MASCULINE, IS MOST PROBABLY FEMININE, AND BECAUSE THE NOT-I IS FELT AS NOT BELONGING TO ME AND THEREFORE OUTSIDE ME, THE ANIMA-IMAGE IS USUALLY PROJECTED UPON WOMEN... EITHER SEX IS INHABITED BY THE OTHER SEX UP TO A POINT." Certainly the novel dramatizes these concepts especially regarding the threat the 'sacred feminine' poses to a misogynistic world. Echoes can also be found in Hamlet's treatment of Ophelia. In III,i, following the TO BE soliloquy, he rants to her:

I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God
has given you one face, and you make yourselves
another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and
nick-name God's creatures, and make your wantonness
your ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath
made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages:
those that are married already, all but one, shall
live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a
nunnery, go.

Harold Boom believes that Hamlet's world is so all-encompassing that he is his own ironist. (See Invention of the Human and Hamlet: Poem Unlimited.) If all opposites are potentially subsumed in Hamlet's consciousness, then is not the sacred feminine there as well? What do the above lines therefore suggest? For example, can "we will have no more marriages" imply in this context that Jesus could NEVER have been married? Chaucer's Wife's Prologue, (which will be cited later in these pages,) with much irony, likewise alludes to virginity and marriage when she argues that, despite the moral relevance of virginity, nonetheless God would not have given us sexual organs unless He intended their use. She is the first great feminist in English Literature, but how do we respond to a woman saying this vs. a man?

Likewise, readers of Heart of Darkness know this: As Marlow DESCENDS deeper and deeper into the 'heart of darkness,' he notes,

"The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there -- there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were -- No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it -- this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity -- like yours -- the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you -- you so remote from the night of first ages -- could comprehend. And why not? The mind of man is capable of anything -- because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage -- who can tell? -- but truth -- truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder -- the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true stuff -- with his own in-born strength. Principles won't do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags -- rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief. An appeal to me in this fiendish row -- is there? Very well; I hear; I admit, but I have a voice, too, and for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced.'

2- What I have bolded is especially important. Why?

3-In terms of plot, the investigation of Sauniere's murder, his academic and professional interests and the messages he leaves all, obviously, are richly suggestive. On page 30, as the chapter ends, what is the significance in a Jungian sense of, "Even in the darkness, the barricade [under which he must crawl] looked like it could have restrained a tank?" Earlier on the same page the barricade is compared to a medieval castle's design to keep out enemies. What would Jung say? Who or what is the enemy, and under what circumstances?

-Chapter 5:

1. We have noted Opus Dei's critique of the novel. Does Brown balance his presentation as this chapter opens? Is the critique of the press accurate regarding their gravitation toward the sensational? Note how Bishop Aringarosa responds (p. 33). We will find the Bishop and Silas to be dynamic characters perhaps at the end affirming what many critics say they deny.

2. Brown mentions Robert Hanssen's [the FBI agent turned spy] affiliation with Opus Dei. A balanced account on line is Justin Torres' The Spy Who Went to Mass. Torres notes that Opus Dei's failure to understand Hanssen's stems from its hubris: "Opus Dei acts as though the world has nothing to teach it, as though the world merely waits for The Work to enlighten its ignorance." Earlier, Escriva is quoted as writing, "Don't be upset...when you state an orthodox opinion and the malice of whoever heard you causes you to be scandalized. For his scandal is pharisaical."

Interestingly though, in March of 2000, Pope John Paul II "apologized" for the "sins" of the church:

"We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours [the Jews] to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood."

And regarding Church persecution, the pope said: "We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed towards followers of other religions." 

Further, the Pope appointed a commission that reversed the Galileo decision in which he spoke of "tragic misunderstanding" regarding the relationship of faith and science. Click here for coverage. This relationship replete with a secret society forms the theme of Angels and Demons.

What do these apologies mean in the context of the novel? What would Luther have said? What did he say regarding indulgences and papal infallibility. Click here for my web article. It should be noted that a substantiative difference exists between an organization, however noble, that commits egregious crimes, and one whose only purpose is to commit them. The Catholic Church is not the Third Reich.

3. This is a link to the web site: (Opus Dei Awareness Network) that Brown cites as a the 'watchdog' of Opus Dei's "questionable practices." Click here for the official web site of Opus Dei.

4. The chapter raises a difficult theological issues. Silas is quoted (p. 35) as believing in Christ's message of non - violence when confronted with enemies that threaten to destroy Christ. Example: Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, John 2:8 all record a violent act of Jesus, that of cleansing the Temple of the money-changers, but the web site Public Christian carefully details what Jesus did not do such as killing or torturing anyone. The principle of Fraternal Correction, as cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church eschews, violence: "1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance," and everyone knows that John Paul, close to sainthood, believed he was called by God to lead the church through his own example of personal suffering: thus his last days were marked by his refusal to go to the hospital and sustained press coverage.

5. Thus, are we obliged to find a "golden mean" between violence and acceptance, an issue debated in Act III of Hamlet, interestingly a play dramatizing a shift from Medieval (to suffer the slings and arrows) to Renaissance (to take up arms against a sea of troubles) values.

-Chapter 6:

1. Longer than most, this chapter dramatizes the cryptic message and symbols left for Langdon and Fache and eventually Sophie (her name means?) to decode. Asked to explain, Langdon (p.40) notes, "Symbols carry different meanings in different settings." As noted above, Betsy Eble's Depth and Details. A Reader's Guide to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code offers a chapter by chapter bibliography and commentary on the codes and symbols Brown uses.

2. Important here is the universal, the archetype, Langdon believes they illustrate: "When male and female were balanced, there was harmony in the world. When they were unbalanced, there was chaos." (p. 40). Of course much of the novel dramatizes the consequences of the resulting chaos when the church, according to Teabing, suppressed the sacred feminine. It has become a cliche by now to argue that the Catholic Church must be misogynistic since women cannot be ordained priests. The counter has been that beginning with the Virgin Mary (but in the novel ironically not Mary Magdalene) and lasting through the ages, the Church has revered women by canonizing many as Saints. Later in these pages, I cite Thomas Woods' How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Woods will offer a substantiative counter argument. We will examine later what personal motives Teabing may have for his opinions.

3. I have a friend, a devout Christian, mystical in her perspective, who has a bumper sticker on HER car: "EVE WAS FRAMED." Does The Da Vinci Code validate?

4. In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell argues that if we had remained in the garden, we would "...all be a bunch of babies still in Eden, without any participation in life." (p. 47). In other words, we leave the garden and become aware of opposites--including obviously male and female. When asked by Moyers why women are held responsible for the fall, Campbell responded, "They represent life. Man does not enter life except by woman, and so it is woman who brings us into the world of pairs of opposites and suffering...Male and female is one opposition" (p. 48) Campbell also argues that the Biblical treatment of the Canaanites and their female Goddess and her serpent accounted for the condemnation of women (p. 48). Merlin Stone's When God Was A Woman (Harvest Books, 1978) is a good account.

5. So it would appear than Brown is not the only writer to explore the issue. Actually the Greeks did, as Hesiod writes as he opens The Theogony:

Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next
wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all (4) the
deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim
Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love),
fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and
overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men
within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but
of Night were born Aether (5) and Day, whom she conceived and
bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry
Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be
an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought
forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-Nymphs who dwell
amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep
with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love.
(l. 116 ff)

So apparently the feminine is sacred.

6. Study this picture. How does it dramatize much of what we have been discussing?

7. See also the illustrated edition, p. 43 for photographs depicting what Brown alleges is a shift from pagan to Christian art in which the former was absorbed by the latter: Poseidon's trident becomes the devil's pitchfork, and as the chapter ends, are left wondering at this moment what Langdon sees written on the floor by Sauniere.

-Chapter 7:

1. Does Sister Sandrine represent clerical feminism's critique of the church?

2. We are told she feels apprehension regarding her visitor, apprehension based on....? (p. 47)

-Chapter 8:

1.So we read:


O, Draconian devil!

Oh, lame saint!

...and "decoding" its "meaning" occupies much of the novel's content, and has occasioned much criticism especially by art historians.

2. Two premises would have to be tested. Did Leonardo encode his art with cryptically anti-Catholic messages, and secondly, was such in response to the Church's attempt to repress throughout history the "sacred feminine"? The latter has been addressed, and not being an art historian, it is beyond my expertise to evaluate Leonardo. However, the preponderance of critical reflection states that Brown either has the facts wrong here or significantly exaggerates such as the homosexual charge.

3. Burstein (p. 364) recommends the following web site: Leonardo: The Man, His Machines, and it is impressive with many links to his life, detailed analysis of his art, and his inventions.

The University of Chicago Press has a detailed analysis of the Last Supper with close ups of "JOHN" available.

Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code and the Last Supper offers may links and close ups, and further explores most aspects of the novel's "facts" beyond art history, often refuting them.

4. Ms. Victoria Melin, an history of art expert and AP art history teacher, doubts that Leonardo did what the novel suggests. So for the moment, the prevailing scholarly opinion is that Brown's assessment of Leonardo is not mainstream, but we have in these pages examined the idea of 'thinking outside the box' as, for example, it displaced John Donne.

5. The chapter concludes with Fache's suspicion concerning the death of Sauniere, and his anger at those in the church responsible for the pedophilia scandal. Interestingly, of the two reasons-crimes against children, and demeaning the Church's reputation, Fache's assistant Collet thinks his superior is more concerned with the latter than the former. Would that be the reason why initially, some of the abuse scandals were covered up with priests being transferred with no notification of the danger they alledgedly posed to children. Is this a fair critique?

-Chapter 9:

1. The appearance of Agent Sophie Neveu ('new wisdom') marks the introduction of the 'sacred feminine,' and naturally Fache resents her assignment to the DCPJ. [As a side bar, I use the novel Sophie's World in my literature classes. Click here for analysis and commentary on each chapter.]

2. Dramatically, her warnings to Langdon prevent immediate arrest, and thematically the chapter ends with, "Follow my directions very closely." (p. 58). Should the sacred feminine lead the male--what is the relationship between the anima and the animus studied by Jung and discussed on my web page (see above)?

-Chapter 10:

1. The teacher of course remains behind the scenes for most of the novel. Is there a biblical allusion here? If Jesus remarked that only HE could be called teacher (Rabbi) as the son of God, is this teacher the anti-Christ or the male advocate of the sacred feminine?

2. The flashback autobiographical reflections of Silas are important. Does his history explain the fanatical devotion he has to Opus Dei? He blames himself for his mother's death, kills his father, is homeless, jailed for additional violent crimes, often described as a ghost (p. 61), befriended by a priest, and is profoundly moved by Acts 16: 25-26 which he interprets literally. Does this horrific background explain his allegiance to the Church?

3. Hoffer's The True Believer (NY: Harper Perennial, 1951--right after WW II) comes to mind. Hoffer argues that often those souls battered by an incomprehensibly cruel world, denied self -esteem and who grow up persecuted are often attracted to mass movements, be they political or religious, as a means of salvaging some vestige of acceptance into something larger than themselves: the "party" or eternal happiness with God. Does this explain Silas? Hoffer notes,

There is a tender spot for the criminal and an ardent wooing of him in all mass movements. St. Bernard, the wooing spirit of the Second Crusade, thus appealed for recruits: "For what is it but an exquisite and priceless chance of salvation due to God alone, that the omnipotent should deign to summon to His service, as though they were innocent, murderers, ravishers, adulterers, perjurers, and those guilty of every crime." (p. 55). Later in these pages, an implication derived from this analysis will be applied to Teabing, and may go a long way in explaining much of the criticism directed against his historiography.

4. Does this fit Silas? Much later in the book (p. 154) Hoffer notes that when mass movements preserve "...for generations the pattern shaped by its active phase (as in the case of the militant church through the Middle Ages), or whereby a successive accession of fanatical proselytes its orthodoxy is continually strengthened, the result is an era of stagnation--a dark age."

This quote will be important in terms of how Brown dramatizes Silas' character and Opus Dei's relationship to the Church. Silas' substance is more than his persona. Does this..."The two sailors who began to beat him smelled of beer, just as his father had. The memories of fear and hatred surfaced like a monster from the deep. The young man broke the first sailor's neck with his bare hands, and only the arrival of the police saved the second sailor from a similar fate." (p. 61) explain much of his subsequent behavior? Will Silas ever realize he must come 'out of the cave,' or will he stay a baby as Campbell warns might happen? What price must he pay for the awakening?

5. Is the Teacher manipulated the Bishop and Silas at the chapter's end? Manipulation is a major Dan Brown motif in more ways than one.

-Chapter 11:

1. "L'emasculation de la Police Judiciare" (p. 67) thinks Fache. More misogynistic behavior? .

2. It is clear that despite technology and the French equivalent of the FBI, Sophie, 'behind the scenes,' orchestrates much of what happens to Fache and Langdon thus far. In a Jungian sense, the anima cannot be repressed, so ironically NEW WISDOM is really unrecognized old wisdom too long repressed. In Heart of Darkness, study the native girl who enthralls Kurtz, and note the diction and imagery used to describe the jungle. What do she and the jungle represent? Click here for my study guide to the novel.

-Chapters 12, 13 and 14:

1-Sophie's intelligence continues to dominate, evidenced by her warning Langdon about the GPS tracking device. I am thinking of the movie, Enemy of the State (1998). Like the novel, it may not literally true, but turning on the news or reading the papers provides enough examples to suggest that perhaps it's not far off. The Da Vinci Code is mimetic.

2-Sophie's revelation that Fache suspects Langdon seems literally true, but the meaning of the last line of Sauniere's message which Fache withheld, (especially the P.S.) has multiple connotations.

3-Brown frequently uses flashbacks, and Sophie's revelations about the last line of the message, and her relationship to Sauniere will carry much import as the novel unfolds.

4-We are told Fache really needed the arrest of Langdon? Why - symbolically? (p. 75)

-Chapter 15:

1-In the illustrated edition, this chapter is a page and a quarter, but its content is rich:

2-Is Silas a static or dynamic character? True, he has a mission which he accepts without question, or is that starting to change? How is he conflicted, and will he ever be at peace?

3-Silas' 'philosophy of theology' would seem to suggest that subordination of passion to reason, especially remaining chaste by denying? repressing? subordinating? sexual pleasure has or will have its reward in heaven. Will it, or will he learn something else is needed at the end of the novel? Our analysis of that chapter will carry profound consequence for the novel's critics.

4-Searching for 'the keystone,' he recalls the Teacher's words that "The measure of your faith is the measure of the pain you can endure." (p. 76). Does this remind you of a biblical allusion? As cited above, the Opus Dei web site provides a clue. Hint: what did Jesus command regarding suffering, His own and others? (There is a paradox involved). John Paul should be noted:

"Human suffering evokes compassion, it also evokes respect, and in its own way it intimidates." ... "I must lead her [the church] with suffering...The pope must suffer so that every family and the world should see that there is, I would say, a higher gospel: the gospel of suffering, with which one must prepare the future." What would the Pope say to Silas?

-Chapter 16:

1. To avoid a 'spoiler alert,' this chapter contains a flashback regarding Sophie that must be re-evaluated at the end of the novel.

2. One of the more difficult moment of the novel is Sophie seeing "... something she is not supposed to see." (p.78). We will have to ask whether what she observes is meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?

3. The importance of Sophie's family history will impact as the novel concludes, and (perhaps ironically and not in reference to the plagiarism suit) the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail had a comment about it.

-Chapter 17 and 18:

1. Plot---Langdon, thanks to Sophie, escapes, and for Collet, there are many unanswered questions.

2. It is clear that Brown wishes to dramatize the 'sacred feminine' through the intellectual superiority of Sophie, capable of following her allegedly more experienced and sophisticated male superior, Fache.

-Chapter 19:

1. How does Brown dramatize Silas' consciousness as he dialogues with Sister Sandrine at St. Suplice? Note the italics on page 92.

2. The chapter ends in a prayer ("Dear God, I offer up to you this work I do today...") p.93. Notice too the symbolism: "Crouching in the shadows..." (p. 94). Sandrine, not trusting Silas, decides to spy...SHADOWS...the archetype is significant here: Whether we are discussing Dan Brown, Joseph Conrad or George Lucas, this Jungian reference is fundamental. Recall my Jung web page cited earlier. What does the shadow represent? An 'old time' radio program began: "What evil lurks in the heart of men...The shadow knows?" The shadow does know, but is it evil? Jung suggests only when violently repressed and then explosively released. In Gothic fiction such as Lewis' The Monk, Ambrosio's loss of virginity to Matilda occurs after he simply cannot repress his passions any longer. Lewis has her tell him his strict clerical education was unnatural. Is she correct? And, is her association with demons a sign that the female archetype is feared by the male? Note that the temptation scene is set in a garden complete with a snake that delivers poison? According to Campbell, is it really that? See my Gothic course for details.

3. In the novel then, does Sandrine's lurking in shadow represent the sacred feminine wishing to she a threat to Silas?

-Chapter 20:

1. Pursuing the above, does the fact that Langdon and Sophie emerge from the shadows together (p. 94) suggest harmony? Brown obviously maintains that the imbalance caused by the male repression of the female has distorted history, and we know he sees the Church as an instrument of that repression. In the chapter, p. 96, Langdon thus speaks of "divine proportion," and the symbols PHI (in SoPHIe) becomes important, as Langdon's academic flashback demonstrates.

2. As page 100 demonstrates, its mathematical relevance suggests the harmony the creator intended in the universe until man, by repressing and deranging the feminine archetype. Thus stated the ideal is,

"...the ratios of line segments in a penticle all equal PHI, making this symbol the ultimate expression of the Divine Proportion. For this reason, the five-pointed star has always been the symbol for beauty and perfection associated with the goddess and the sacred feminine." (p. 101) [ALL and ULTIMATE are italicized in the original].

3. Philosophically, Plato argued the for mathematics being the foundation of his curriculum in the 'ideal' state as a means of ascending to the forms. Its emphasis on abstract reasoning trained the mind to look for order, harmony and proportion beyond the physical world of chaos...Examine the following contemporary poem by Howard Nemerov written in 1920:


That God of ours, the Great Geomerer,
Does something for us here, where He hath put
(if you want to put it that way) things in shape,
Compressing the little lambs in orderly cubes,
Making the roast a decent cylinder,
Fairing the tin ellipsoid of a ham,
Getting the luncheon meat anonymous
In squares and oblongs with the edges bevelled
Or rounded (streamlined, maybe, for greater speed).

Praise Him, He hath conferred aesthetic distance
Upon our appetites, and on the bloody
Mess of our birthright, our unseemly need,
Imposed significant form. Through Him the brutes
Enter the pure Euclidean kingdom of number,
Free of their bulging and blood-swollen lives
They come to us holy, in cellophane
Transparencies, in the mystical body,
That we may look unflinchingly on death
As the greatest good, like a philosopher should.

Does not the poem perfectly describe what Brown advocates? Art, as Hamlet noted, holds a mirror up to nature, showing virtue its own image. Plato in The Republic has Socrates dialogue with Glaucon about mathematics philosophical relevance:

Next proceed to consider the manner in which the sphere of
the intellectual is to be divided.

In what manner?

Thus: There are two subdivisions, in the lower of which the
soul uses the figures given by the former division as images; the
inquiry can only be hypothetical, and instead of going upward
to a principle descends to the other end; in the higher of the
two, the soul passes out of hypotheses, and goes up to a princi-
ple which is above hypotheses, making no use of images as
in the former case, but proceeding only in and through the ideas

I do not quite understand your meaning, he
[Glaucon] said.

Then I will try again; you will understand me better when
I have made some preliminary remarks. You are aware that
students of geometry, arithmetic, and the kindred sciences as-
sume the odd, and the even, and the figures, and three kinds of
angles, and the like, in their several branches of science; these
are their hypotheses, which they and everybody are supposed
to know, and therefore they do not deign to give any account
of them either to themselves or others; but they begin with
them, and go on until they arrive at last, and in a consistent
manner, at their conclusion?

Yes, he said, I know.

And do you not know also that although they make use of
the visible forms and reason about them, they are thinking not
of these, but of the ideals which they resemble; not of the figures
which they draw, but of the absolute square and the absolute
diameter, and so on--the forms which they draw or make, and
which have shadows and reflections in water of their own, are
converted by them into images, but they are really seeking to
behold the things themselves, which can only be seen with the
eye of the mind?

That is true.

And of this kind I spoke as the intelligible, although in the
search after it the soul is compelled to use hypotheses; not as-
cending to a first principle, because she is unable to rise above
the region of hypothesis, but employing the objects of which
the shadows below are resemblances in their turn as images,
they having in relation to the shadows and reflections of them a
greater distinctness, and therefore a higher value.

I understand, he said, that you are speaking of the province
of geometry and the sister arts.

And when I speak of the other division of the intelligible,
you will understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge
which reason herself attains by the power of dialectic, using
the hypotheses not as first principles, but only as hypotheses--
that is to say, as steps and points of departure into a world
which is above hypotheses, in order that she may soar beyond
them to the first principle of the whole; and clinging to this
and then to that which depends on this, by successive steps she
descends again without the aid of any sensible object, from
ideas, through ideas, and in ideas she ends.

I think Langdon would agree: if mathematics, especially here, is a gateway to dialectical thinking, then the codes our novel develops, present means to transcend to the non sensory world of absolute truth. John Donne, cited earlier, suggested truth was at the top of a mountain, and each must choose his/her way of getting there--some paths of more torturous than others. In this chapter, (as in The Meno dialogue), perhaps mathematics and codes are means to leave the cave or ascend the divided line to a greater truth. The next step then, is to learn that O Draconian Devil! and Oh, lame Saint! are anagrams for Leonardo Da Vinci! and The Mona Lisa! (p. 103)

Click here for Chapters 21 to 40

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