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ON DAN BROWN'S THE DA VINCI CODE: CHAPTERS 41 TO 60
1. Mysteries become more 'shadowy' as the forest becomes 'denser,' and the point of view shifts to Aringarosa.
2. Meeting with high ranking Vatican officials in obedience to their summons, Aringarosa takes delivery of Vatican Bank Bonds and heads for Paris. Apparently he is acting on the Teacher's request that bonds be provided by the Vatican precisely because they could be traced. But why? What does the Teacher want, and what does "insurance" (p. 183) mean?
-Chapters 42, 43, 44 and 45:
1. These chapters complicate Sophie and Robert's quest. At the bank, therefore, Sophie and Langdon find their task frustrated since they have a key to a safety deposit box, but no personal account number.
2. Fache is on their trail.
3. Andre Vernet, bank branch president, will have more than a minor role in Langdon's adventure. For the moment, however, his concern is that two wanted criminals will further disturb the bank's already strained relationship with the French police, and his friendship with Sophie's grandfather is yet another complication.
4. Of course, the 'secret' code found in the Museum will provide the 'pin number' they need.
5. We know Sophie and Langdon determine the correct numerical sequence to access the box, but what they find, of course, only further complicates their quest. But what they discover, "...was definitely not the Cup of Christ." (p. 198). Literal vs. metaphor continue to complicate the novel.
6. The chapter concludes with Vernet orchestrating their escape with ? from the vault in the sealed cargo box of a bank armored car.
1. Does Silas' admission of failure render him pathetic? Is he like Renfield in Dracula in any way? Later chapters will place his character in a very 'Christian' perspective.
2. What news was shared by Aringarosa, and how did despair become hope? The Teacher is somehow involved as is the Bishop's visit to the Vatican to get the bonds. Notice how the chapter is laced with prayers. Apparently there is hope, as "The secret lives." (p. 202); it did not die with Sauniere.
-Chapters 47, 48 and 49:
1. Sequestered in the back of the truck driven by Vernet to escape the police, Sophie and Langdon have a chance to examine what they had removed from the bank.
2. The symbol of the ROSE now becomes yet another facet of the mystery that will eventually aid in explicating the sacred feminine's presence in a misogynistic world.
3. Eble (cited above) devotes several pages to the cryptology of the novel. Page 117 states (citing Michelle Delio) "Brown specializes in literary excavation. His previous books have all involved secrets..." Metaphorically, we have again the descent archetype...down to the "caverns measureless to man" as Coleridge writes in Kubla Khan. In fact, that poem could be read as a reconciliation of opposites with the caverns being the female archetypes and the "mighty fountain" the male.
4. An important note: I checked Delio's article, and it does suggest Leonardo fathered cryptology in a very pro-Dan Brown endorsement, but was Eble does not include is the following found at the top of Delio's article: "Reader's advisory: Wired News has been unable to confirm some sources for a number of stories written by this author. If you have any information about sources cited in this article, please send an e-mail to sourceinfo[AT]wired.com."
5. Their discussion concludes with Langdon seeing the rose and the Grail as synonymous (p. 208), which recalls Sophie's grandfather's use of SUB ROSA (under the rose) as meaning secrecy, something Langdon does confirm and further associates with womanhood and "true direction" on the compass. (p. 208).
6. Chapter 48 begins then with Langdon confirming they hold the "Priory keystone," (p. 209) which suggests that the Grail was hidden "beneath the sign of the Rose," and on page 211 of the illustrated edition appears a ROSE WINDOW in CHARTRES CATHEDRAL. The association of the rose may be present in this Medieval lyric from the Harley lyrics that may simultaneously embody warnings that the 'sacred feminine' poses a threat..
Now fade the rose and lily-flower
That once, in summer's balmy hour
Gave sweetly out their scent...
If man will cast out fleshy lust,
On heavenly bliss being bent,
Then think of Jesus Christ he must
Whose side by spear was rent....
My heart was shuddering with dread
With fleshy sins on which I fed
Of which my life was made...
My hope in one sole Lady is
A Mother and A Maid...
Her cures of penance smoothly run:
My service to her shall be done...
Whenever man is sickness is
To reach her he should strive;
And through her grace are brought to bliss
Maid and married wife...
Women, in your gaiety
Think of God's benignity
Which falls on us in showers,
Though bright and fair of face you be,
Decay shall fade your flowers.
...from Medieval English Verse, edited and translated by Brain Stone (Penguin Books, 1964). In the present context think of what the lyric presents (not without considerable irony) in terms of: 1-the rose fading, 2-casting out lust, 3-the spear, 4-the Mother and the Maid, 5- penance, 6-what women are admonished to do. For comparison, recall the 17th Century Cavalier poem, To the Virgins to Make Much of Time. The author. Robert Herrick, was a minister...
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
What 'hidden symbols' of the male and female archetype emerge? An excellent article outlining the history of the ROSE from biblical time to the present is Anthony Roe's The Romance of the Rose. The following excerpt may be of present interest:
"...the Christians yet lacked a female deity to whom the could channel the devotion which had hitherto been shown to the Goddesses of the Ancient World. They lacked a symbol representing the different aspects of femininity - innocence, purity, sexuality, fecundity and motherhood, as represented by Aphrodite and other great Goddesses. This dilemma gave rise to the Cult of Mary, the Mother of God. Marianism adopted the rose as her symbol, and Mary was addressed as the Mystic Rose in her litanies, as the perfect symbol of love and beauty. The rose was incorporated in many works of art and literature, and by association with the myth of Christ and the acts of the saints was associated with pain, death and martyrdom. It became the chalice of redemption or cup of blessings. The Mary Cult revered the Virgin as the symbol of purity and motherhood simultaneously. The paradox of the virgin birth was accepted as a mystery." Brown will maintain, of course, that the Gnostic tradition shifts the perspective to the other Mary, Jesus' love interest.
This cult of course flourished in the Middle Ages which defined the Virgin Mary as the ideal longed for by Knights honoring the courtly love tradition. Later in the romantic period, Lewis' The Monk portrays Rosario-Matilda as Ambrosia's "love-sex" interest. His/her identity is at the crux of the novel. See my web pages on the novel.
7. In the novel, we are told further that the Grail quest had become encrypted over the centuries in Medieval architecture (p. 212). Literal and metaphoric again emerge in terms of both means and ends: what they are seeking and how to find it, and much to their bafflement and Sophie's consternation, the evidence seems to suggest that she was the granddaughter to one of the most powerful men in The Priory of Sion. The conversation triggers her memories of the rite she was not to have seen which occasioned the split from her grandfather.
8. Confirming evidence in LES DOSSIERS SECRETS (pp. 214-215), has, as noted earlier, been seriously questioned if not outright refuted as contrived by Plantard. Cited earlier, Richard Abanes' The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code (Harvest House, 2004), pp. 49 ff. details these charges arguing that the documents allegedly found by Father Sauniere were really Plantard's who planted them as a means of validating his claim as a descendent of French kings. Abanes echoes the charge that Sauniere's wealth came from accepting stipends for saying masses (p.50), for which he was eventually suspended by his bishop. Dramatically, however, the documents somehow involves Sophie and Langdon, and present a mystery still not solved.
9. The premise for these pages, however, has not been to simply repeat the familiar charges...a simple GOOGLE search will find sites aplenty. Rather, and ironically, would it be instructive to see the documents and the Grail stories as metaphors or similies. By nature, they are "figures of speech," so for example in context "My love is like a red red rose," while obviously not literally and empirically true nonetheless does comparatively offer suggestions about the nature of the abstract (love) by comparing it to the concrete (rose). For a literary analysis of the merits of such an approach, see my article on Sidney's Apology for Poetry.
10. As the chapter ends, we find Vernet holding Sophie and Langdon at gunpoint. He too has an agenda: is it personal gain or a desire to protect the memory of his friend, Sophie's murdered grandfather? Frequently, this novel, as with Silas, asks the reader to evaluate motivations. Chapter 49 continues the confrontation ending with Sophie and Langdon escaping.
1. What does Aringarosa want? The chapters suggests power (p. 219).
2. Looming behind his concern is the mysterious figure of The Teacher and his desires. We have noted before the biblical allusion to Jesus as the only one legitimately entitled to that claim: teacher /rabbi. In what sense is this figure entitled to teach, or like Dracula, is he the anti - Christ?
-Chapters 51 and 52:
1. On the level of simply a mystery story; Langdon worries that the Priory has been infiltrated or has a 'mole' leaking secrets, so what are he and Sophie to do with the 'keystone'? Their attempts to open the box...to decrypt the code fail, and to force the mechanism would dissolve its content.
2. Teabing, as British Royal Historian and Grail expert, seems to be a logical source for assistance. An interesting aside is Langdon's recollection of the BBC interview with Teabing that occasioned an onslaught of criticism. Pages 10-22 of Holy Blood, Holy Grail detail the authors' reaction to their BBC Omnibus interview: "We had no way of knowing at the time that our producer's definition of discussion was somewhat idiosyncratic. By our own definition we seemed to have blundered not into a discussion, but into an ambush staged by some latter-day ad hoc inquisition." (p. 11).The authors' evaluation of 'academic' responses (p. 18) recall how my pages opened: "It was necessary for us to synthesize..." Does our frequent failure to make connections occasion criticism from those that do? I believe there is a connection regarding Teabing that many critics have missed.
3. Chapter 52 details their entry to Teabing's estate, and naturally the pair must solve three 'mini-mysteries" before entry.
1. Will technology, in this case LoJack tracking devices solve the mysteries as the bank officials and police wish?
2. Fache, we are told throughout the novel, has lost much of his personal wealth investing in the latest crime solving technology and had been the subject of much criticism in the press. He wishes to retire solvent and with his reputation in tact, so the arrest of a high profile American and one of his own agents would solve that problem IF the charges were sustained. Otherwise, his career would be in ruins.
1. The description of Teabing's study dramatizes his philosophy of history. This much criticized figure's historical inaccuracies detailed in the next chapter should be examined in light of what he presents:
a. "Sophie wondered what she should sit on--the Renaissance velvet divan,, the rustic eagle-claw rocker, or the pair of stone pews that look like they'd been lifted from some Byzantine temple." (p. 232). What does this reveal?
b. The study contains: Old Master paintings, a bust of Isis, and stone gargoyles. (pp. 233 ff).
2. As an exercise, evaluate the mind set of the person who would collect such treasures. HOW he thinks is just as important as what he thinks, but we will note that any interpretation involves considerable irony.
3. Pay very careful attention to Teabing's physical description and how he must enter the study. Brown's symbolism is subtle and pervasive.
4.See also the opening of Chapter 58, p. 249 for additional evidence.
-Chapter 55, and 56 and ff:
In many respects, Chapters 55 and 56 are the novel's climax (no pun intended!!!--see the end of the previous chapter), and has been the most criticized and reviled by historians and theologians. Eble outlines some of the chapter's sources, especially Egyptian symbolism (p. 125 citing Brice Smith) in Christian iconography, a bit reminiscent of Joseph Campbell.
Teabing asserts: (p. 236 ff)
1. Leonardo's art encoded Grail secrets, although most critics, even admitting Leonardo's eccentricities, doubt it.
2. that Leonardo critiqued the Bible's authenticity, and cites theologian Martyn Percy as saying that "The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven" (p. 237) Percy was interviewed about the quote, and the whole interview is worth reading. He acknowledged the quote, and added. "I'm making the point that, however God makes himself known to us, he always does so through social or cultural forms a burning bush, a text of Scripture, peoples thoughts, language, through art or other kinds of experience. Nobody ever receives or encounters God purely. Everything that God has to say to us and do to us is mediated.
It is the mediation which actually opens things up to interpretation. So the fact that God speaks to us in words means that the words can be interpreted. The words of Scripture are clear but that doesnt mean that they are not contestable. We can agree about what the Bible says, but Christians generally cant agree about what the words mean.
If the Bible had come by fax, rather than being mediated through people who were themselves products of their time and culture, we probably wouldnt be arguing about anything."
Later in the interview, Percy discusses the Jesus-Mary Magdalene controversy: "The Church had to come to a mind about how to know which writings are authoritative. There was an authorship test. The writings had to be traceable to someone who was very close to Jesus. There was an historical longevity test. If a gospel only started appearing in AD200 and had stories of Jesus running away with Mary Magdalene, this would be seen as a late development and rejected. What the Church wanted was reliable texts which had been in circulation from as close to the time of Jesus as possible. They wanted the originals who were gathered around the time of Jesus or the immediate Church to be included. So the process became self-selecting. Some of the texts Brown mentions in the book are those which the Early Church rejected as being ?specious, unauthoritative and uninspired." This appears to be a rather mainstream critique of the Gnostic gospels.
3. The divinity of Jesus was voted on by the Council of Nicaea called by Constantine who wanted to stabilize the Roman empire by ending religious feuding. Since the emperor saw that Christianity was on the rise, he did what was expedient in 325 AD. Prior to that Jesus was seen as an inspired prophet, but not the son of God. The Coral Ridge DVD thus argues Brown commits blasphemy. (Note that the movie tones this down considerably).
4. The problem here stems from what we have seen Brown do before. He seizes on a core fact, and then spins it beyond mainstream theology and history. Certainly the canonical gospels argued for the divinity of Jesus. See Matthew 13: 16 ff. for example:
13 "When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
11 Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
See also John 10:30: "I and the father are one."
...and we know for example, "doubting Thomas" words to Jesus after the resurrection, so certainly the canonical gospels, long before Nicaea, do assert Jesus as divine.
5. However, the problem is this: not everyone did. See Luke 22: 67 ff: Jesus is asked by the Jews,
67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.
69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.
71 And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
6. If some Jews move against Jesus out of fear and jealousy (the gospels attest to his great popularity), then yes we must argue that factions did worry about his divinity or at least were frightened and jealous of his following, so is that what Teabing means on page 240: "Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless." "A mortal." "Not the son of God?" "Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea." (pp. 240-241). What I have bolded are the problems. His followers did proclaim him as the son of God, as he himself acknowledged, but the issue is controversial. Judas betrayed Him and then regretted his actions, although the 'Judas Gospel', offers an alternative, Peter betrayed Him, and afterward repented. Also the Council of Nicaea did 'vote' concerning Jesus, (see the famous Nicene creed), but to refute Arius who argued that Jesus was created by the Father and therefore not co-eternal. The creed thus says of Jesus: "...begotten not made, of the same substance [one with] as the father." Recall Jesus' own words above: "I and the father are one." Later in history, John Milton would also argue in Paradise Lost that Jesus was not co-eternal.
7. But a bit later in the chapter, Teabing argues that he does not intend to diminish the role of Jesus in history: "Nobody is saying Jesus' was a fraud...All we are saying is that Constantine took advantage of Jesus' substantial influence and importance. And in doing so, he shaped the face of Christianity as we know it today." (p. 241)
8. Teabing's further asserts the Bible as we know it today is an arbitrary complication of texts which denied Jesus' "human traits" (p. 242) [Human italicized in the text]. Such raises the issue of the Gnostic Gospels being excluded from the canon. Why are they, and is the reason because, as Teabing asserts, the Church wishes to repress the Sacred Feminine, specifically Jesus' relationship to Mary Magdalene? An irony here would be that Mary Magdalene was proclaimed a saint by the Church!
I had mentioned earlier in these pages that I am not an art historian; likewise I am not an expert on the Gnostic gospels, but Elaine Pagels is. A Professor of Religion at Princeton, and a Harvard Ph.D, she, like Joseph Campbell, command attention, and of course her publications include Beyond Belief and The Gnostic Gospels. Burstein quotes her in an interview (p. 100 ff) as commenting on the tremendous public response to The Da Vinci Code: Her response expresses the theme of my web pages:"...it raises a very important question: If they--meaning the leaders of the church--suppressed much of early Christian history, what else don't we know about it? What else is there to be known? As a historian, I think this is a really important question...So I'd rather not say anything negative about his book. I am simply not an expert on it, but I'd like to say it raises an important question." Her reasons echo my own. I too think the novel raises important questions worth investigating, and these pages are meant to encourage further discussion. I would prefer to explore rather than deplore.
9. Pagels continues noting that Brown cites the Gospel of Philip as proof Jesus and Mary had a sexual relationship: "There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion," and later a passage part of which Brown cites (Chapter 58, p. 256): "As for the Wisdom who is called "the barren," she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples [...]. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them,"Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness."
The Lord said, "Blessed is he who is before he came into being. For he who is, has been and shall be."
Importantly, however, the manuscript reads "kissed her often on her ? " so MOUTH is an interpolation...so is it mouth? hand? cheek or what?
10. I have bolded what Brown cites, and in so doing inserts SAVIOUR in the first set of brackets, and CHRIST in the second. Teabing then advises an astonished Sophie that COMPANION in Aramaic meant SPOUSE (p.256). Susan Haskins (Mary Magdalene" Myth and Metaphor) glosses the word as coming from the Greek koinonos meaning "partner," "consort," adding "a woman with whom a man has had sexual intercourse." See Burstein's Secrets of the Code, p. 31 ff). She further suggests, however, that such may be a metaphor for a more sublime, mystical relationship such as Jesus' 'marriage to the Church.' Pagels also suggests that the union could be more mystical than sexual, and some of the passages of the Gospel of Philip seem to suggest that:
"So spirit mingles with spirit, and thought consorts with thought, and light shares with light. If you are born a human being, it is the human being who will love you. If you become a spirit, it is the spirit which will be joined to you. If you become thought, it is thought which will mingle with you. If you become light, it is the light which will share with you. If you become one of those who belong above, it is those who belong above who will rest upon you."
"Indeed, marriage in the world is a mystery for those who have taken a wife. If there is a hidden quality to the marriage of defilement, how much more is the undefiled marriage a true mystery! It is not fleshly, but pure. It belongs not to desire, but to the will. It belongs not to the darkness or the night, but to the day and the light."
11.Such suggests a transcending power that Teabing seems not stress. Look at The Ecstasy by John Donne
WHERE, like a pillow on a bed,
A pregnant bank swell'd up, to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
By a fast balm, which thence did spring ;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string.
So to engraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one ;
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.
As, 'twixt two equal armies, Fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our soulswhich to advance their state,
Were gone outhung 'twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay ;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refined,
That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood,
Hethough he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same
Might thence a new concoction take,
And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex
(We said) and tell us what we love ;
We see by this, it was not sex ;
We see, we saw not, what did move :
But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things they know not what,
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again,
And makes both one, each this, and that.
A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size
All which before was poor and scant
Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
Interanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know,
Of what we are composed, and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls, whom no change can invade.
But, O alas ! so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They are ours, though not we ; we are
Th' intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses' force to us,
Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven's influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air ;
For soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labours to beget
Spirits, as like souls as it can ;
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtle knot, which makes us man ;
So must pure lovers' souls descend
To affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great prince in prison lies.
To our bodies turn we then, that so
Weak men on love reveal'd may look ;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change when we're to bodies gone.
Donne's life was a dialectic of its own. From writing mostly sexual poetry (The Bait) to sincere love poetry (A Valediction Forbidding Mourning) to religious poetry (Holy Sonnet 14), he always incorporates the themes of the previous poems in the later ones. So in reading The Ecstasy, the sexual becomes a gateway to a union more sublime as the bolded lines above suggest. So perhaps the SACRED in sacred feminine might imply more than the physical, as Plato believed. If true, then despite the 'errors' these chapters allegedly contain, their ultimate importance rests in their functioning as catalysts.
12. The Gnostic gospel of Mary Magdalene offers a complementary perspective:
Peter said to Mary, 'Sister, I we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember - which you know (but) we do not, nor have we heard them." Mary answered and said, "What is hidden from you will proclaim to you." And she began to speak to them these words: "I," she said, " I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, 'Lord, I saw you today in a vision.' He answered and said to me, 'Blessed are you, that you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is the treasure. 'I said to him, 'Lord, now does he who sees the vision see it (through) the soul (or) through the spirit?' The Savior answered and said. 'He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind which [is] between the two - that is [what] sees the vision and it is [. ..].'
... "My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?" Levi answered and said to Peter, "Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect man and acquire him for ourselves as he commanded us, and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said. (Part of this text is read by Sophie on page 256).
The verses I bolded provide an interesting perspective: Mary's relationship to Jesus transcends the physical and encompasses mind, and much apparently to the consternation of the male disciples. Now if according to Philip's gospel, Jesus kissed her on the mouth, and if COMPANION means what Haskins suggests, then what was the relationship of Jesus to Mary? Was there jealousy, and more importantly, would Jesus having a spouse mar his divinity or enhance. If Jesus had a true human nature which Christianity mainstream mandates, then why does the discussion stop with marriage and sexual activity?
13.Perhaps the most controversial aspects of the novel are the assertions made about Leonardo's The Last Supper which suggests, as every reader knows, that the holy Grail is not a cup: "It is in fact...a person." (p. 244) [PERSON is italicized in the novel]. The person of course is Mary Magdalene, and the great secret guarded by the Priory is their child, Sarah whose descendents marry into the French Merovingian kings, so her genealogy, Jesus' descendents, continues...
14. As an aside and quite unexpectedly, when preparing these pages, I received this email.
Hello Dr. Nihen,
I found your address via the Web.
I'm one of those genealogy people, and I'm searching for a connection from NIHEN to NIGHAN.
I suspect that you might be the son of Raymond NIGHAN, a former PA State Police Officer, whose family line includes William NIGHAN, who settled in the tiny PA coal village of Audenried, Carbon County, in 1866.
One of my major brickwalls is that I don't know if my great grandfather, John NIHEN, had siblings. A bit - a sliver, actually - of information indicates that William and John could be half brothers.
Interesting. Apparently more than one person is interested in genealogies. He is correct in identifying my father and his occupation,
[Pennsylvania State Troopers (circa. 1948)
The author's father is third from left, bottom row]
..and that his brother's name was William, but I do not know about the rest nor have I ever heard of Joe Nihen before the correspondence. My name is misspelled (Nighan is what I have always used ). His line, "A bit - a sliver, actually of information..." neatly dramatizes the much more complicated history this novel unfolds.
15. In Chapter 56, Teabing, repudiating the misogynism of Genesis, argues that the Grail is in reality a women, a secret encoded in The Last Supper which, if revealed, would shatter the mainstreams of Christianity so cherished by Opus Dei. The question is, would it?
1.This short interlude reminds us of police efforts to track down the 'fugitives,' as Collet knows where they are.
2. Silas does too having learned from The Teacher.
3. Thematically, the dual assault on Sophie (new wisdom) and Langdon (academic) might represent the reaction of secular and religious authority to non-conventional views. Brown would not have written the BBC interview involving Langdon based on the Preface to Holy Blood, Holy Grail had he not anticipated significant critical disparagement.
1. I noted above, Chapter 54, the importance of Teabing's study. What does the opening of this chapter suggest? (p. 249). Look at the first paragraph carefully, and note his line: "Learning the truth has been my life's love." (p. 250). That statement will require much subsequent commentary.
2. This long chapter, with its enlargements of sections of The Last Supper advances the argument that the Grail is actually Mary Magdalene, whom Leonardo painted, not John, and that if one examines the painting carefully, the letters "M" and "V" can be traced between Jesus and him or her...On page 71 of Abanes' book, the list is summarized and refuted, and I have discussed the importance of Mary above.
3. Burstein, pp. 45 ff, cites Deirdre Good, a Professor of The New Testament and a Ph.D. from Harvard Divinity School as saying," What The Da Vinci Code does is use fiction as a means to interpret historical obscurity...actually it isn't in da Vinci's Last Supper because art historians, looking at sketches of figures drawn by the artist to prepare for the painting, identify the figure to Jesus' right with John. Representations of John always depict him as young and thus beardless." (pp. 45-46). In the History Channel DVD documentary on the novel, Good is skeptical about Brown's contention.
She also argues that other writers such as Dickens have done this better, which reminds me of my favorite author: Shakespeare. Most people know that he used the stage to do what Brown does here: advance an unpopular thesis. His history plays, dramatizing the War of the ROSES, were written years after the fact, and for the Tudors whose family had won the conflict. See my web page for details. If Brown had advanced his thesis in the Seventeenth Century, he would have been executed just as Shakespeare would have been if his secret Catholicism (according to Greenblatt's Will in the World) had been known, so for example, intense scholarly debate arose concerning the identity of the ghost in Hamlet as purgatorial (Catholic) or from hell (Protestant). Now Shakespeare changed history and presented as fact many interpolations and assumptions. He had to. Brown is accused of the same thing. Why then do we read Shakespeare today since Medieval European history usually does not sell? Obviously Brown pales before the bard (as I think every other writer does), so that is not the point. Ask Ian McKellen. His Richard III AKA Adolf Hitler, although to the chagrin of purists who claim Shakespeare ruined the reputation of a not so evil king, provides a brilliant portrait of a psychopathic killer, done in a wonderfully entertaining way. Shakespeare, writing in a police state where rigid censorship was the rule, nonetheless managed to incorporate truths far transcending his time and place: see my article on the subject . This commentary will be important later on as we discuss Teabing.
4. To repeat, I am not saying that Brown is Shakespeare, but maybe Professor Good is right is arguing that Brown uses fiction to ask questions that have too long been ignored such as who was the real Mary Magdalene (see page 253 of the novel for the enlargement)? Was she a prostitute? Teabing of course says that charge was part of a smear campaign to demonize the sacred feminine. (See the comments outlined above, but he may have personal motivations.). Susan Haskins (Mary Magdalene" Myth and Metaphor) offers evidence she was not a prostitute. See Burstein's Secrets of the Code, pp. 23 ff).
5. The site, American Catholic, discusses Gregory the Great's interpretation error which had wrongly associated Mary with prostitution:
"Pope Gregory, who became pope in 590 A.D., clinched Marys mistaken reputation as sinner when he delivered a powerful homily in which he combined Lukes anonymous sinful woman (Lk 7:36-50) with Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene. He said, She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?
Gregory, like the much later Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) and many other famous preachers, loved to give a moral spin or interpretation to Scripture. How could the pope as pastor use the story of the Magdalene to encourage repentance during a time of famine and war in Rome? The seven devils morphed into the seven capital sins, and Mary Magdalene began to be condemned not only for lust but for pride and covetousness as well, just to add insult to injury. But, the pope concluded in a sentence that rehabilitates Mary into an example of conversion, She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance. " So was Mary 'demonized' to repress the sacred feminine, or portrayed as repenting to illustrate Jesus' mercy and forgiveness (Would this be the anima within him, for which Mary is the objective symbol?)
The article continues, comparing Brown's presentation to contemporary church teachings, not always of course endorsing Brown, but I find in light our discussions in these pages the bolded line fascinating. Is not that what Brown is accused of doing?
(An interesting aside...for you Sci Fi fans, a season six Star Trek Voyager, episode telecast 3/24/99 entitled The Voyager Conspiracy offers a futuristic glimpse of 'conspiracy theories' that quite aptly reflects our present discussion. The moments of crew reflection as they evaluate meticulously compiled evidence seem especially apt.)
6. It would be useful to examine Joseph's Campbell's thinking on Grail mythology as I did earlier in these pages, to see if his encompassing perspective would be consistent with Brown's. The text is his The Power of Myth, cited before:
a. Although beginning with the metaphor as the literal cup, that was used at the last supper and held Jesus' blood at the crucifixion, he later adds it was used in the war in heaven between good and evil to represent a spiritual path by which one acquires moral authenticity: "The Grail represents the fulfillment of the highest spiritual potentials of the human consciousness." (p. 196-197).
b. Campbell believes the Grail becomes "symbolic of an authentic life that is lived in terms of its own impulse volition that carries itself between the pairs of opposites of good and evil, light and dark...The best we can do is lean toward the light, the harmonious relationships that come from compassion with suffering, from understanding the other person." (p. 197) Archetypal opposites are of course male and female and mind and matter, one of the 'keystones' of western thought. Is Teabing right is arguing (more vehemently though than Campbell; the two would not always agree) that the historical suppression of the sacred feminine deranged these balances with the consequent decline in compassion resulting in wars, assassinations etc. Read carefully what Campbell argues:
c. Beginning with a discussion of Luther's impact on Christianity, he adds...it's very interesting to think of the history of Christianity...the vandalism involved in the destruction of the pagan temples of antiquity is hardly matched in world history...[done by] the organized Church...It's power, it's power. I think the power impulse is the fundamental impulse in European history. And it got into our religious traditions." (p. 199)
7. Notice now what Teabing argues:
a. "...the modern Church's desire to suppress these documents [Gnostic gospels] comes from a sincere belief in their established view of Christ. The Vatican is made up of deeply pious men...' (p. 243) What does this line say about Teabing?
b. "The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womenhood [Campbell's compassion?], and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess...virtually eliminated by the Church." (p. 246)
c. [In reference to The Last Temptation of Christ...] which Sophie's grandfather defended, she recalls a priest's response: "It's pornography...Martin Scorsese is a blasphemer, and the Church will permit him no pulpits in France!" (p. 257)
How substantive are the parallels? If Brown is accused of embellishing history, does Campbell do the same with myth? Are Teabing's beliefs in any way validated by Campbell's conclusions? Fortunately Campbell discuses the Gnostic gospels in terms of Galahad's quest: each of us, he argues, can be a Galahad, and he quotes Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas; "He who drinks from my mouth will become as I am and I shall be he." This is the idea in those Romances of the Grail." (p. 200). If such is true and given the impact of Luther on Christianity-ie. each his own Galahad (priest?), does the suppression of that which threatens established power bases explain much of what Teabing argues? See my Gothic Literature course for Nietzsche's views . In what terms relevant here does he discuss power and the history of Christianity? Note these lines from Tennyson's Sir Galahad
Sometime on lonely mountain-meres
I find a magic bark;
I leap on board: no helmsman steers:
I float till all is dark.
A gentle sound, an awful light!
Three angels bear the holy Grail:
With folded feet, in stoles of white,
On sleeping wings they sail.
Ah, blessed vision! blood of God!
My spirit beats her mortal bars,
As down dark tides the glory slides,
And star-like mingles with the stars.
When on my goodly charger borne
Thro' dreaming towns I go,
The cock crows ere the Christmas morn,
The streets are dumb with snow.
The tempest crackles on the leads,
And, ringing, springs from brand and mail;
But o'er the dark a glory spreads,
And gilds the driving hail.
I leave the plain, I climb the height;
No branchy thicket shelter yields;
But blessed forms in whistling storms
Fly o'er waste fens and windy fields.
A maiden knight--to me is given
Such hope, I know not fear;
I yearn to breathe the airs of heaven
That often meet me here.
I muse on joy that will not cease,
Pure spaces clothed in living beams,
Pure lilies of eternal peace,
Whose odours haunt my dreams;
And, stricken by an angel's hand,
This mortal armour that I wear,
This weight and size, this heart and eyes,
Are touch'd, are turn'd to finest air.
The clouds are broken in the sky,
And thro' the mountain-walls
A rolling organ-harmony
Swells up, and shakes and falls.
Then move the trees, the copses nod,
Wings flutter, voices hover clear:
"O just and faithful knight of God!
Ride on! the prize is near."
So pass I hostel, hall, and grange;
By bridge and ford, by park and pale,
All-arm'd I ride, whate'er betide,
Until I find the holy Grail.
...and in Idylls of the King, the Grail is described first as literally existing:
"The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
... if a man
Could touch or see it, he was healed at once,
By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
Grew to such evil that the holy cup
Was caught away to Heaven, and disappeared."
but then, non literally,
'O my brother, Percivale,' she said,
'Sweet brother, I have seen the Holy Grail:
For, waked at dead of night, I heard a sound
As of a silver horn from o'er the hills
Blown, and I thought, "It is not Arthur's use
To hunt by moonlight;" and the slender sound
As from a distance beyond distance grew
Coming upon me--O never harp nor horn,
Nor aught we blow with breath, or touch with hand,
Was like that music as it came; and then
Streamed through my cell a cold and silver beam,
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail,
Rose-red with beatings in it, as if alive,
Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed
With rosy colours leaping on the wall;
And then the music faded, and the Grail
Past, and the beam decayed, and from the walls
The rosy quiverings died into the night.
Later we will examine Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as one of the most important Grail quest poems in English.
Northrup Frye has noted that a culture's sophistication can be measured in terms of its ability to transcend from the literal to the figurative, so if Campbell, and Tennyson see the Grail as non-literal, but rather a symbol of one's need to achieve fulfillment, in Jungian terms by reconciling opposites, is Teabing wrong in saying the sacred feminine needs to escape suppression? Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" speaks of such a transcendence, in which our blood becomes suspended, and we "see into the life of things." Interestingly in the present context, Worsworth believes that his poem would be incomplete without the concluding stanza that acknowledges his "sacred feminine," his sister Dorothy. Jung warns that the anima-animus imbalance if left unredressed can produce dire consequences. Langdon and Sophie are on a quest to liberate; others to repress, and does that repression account for the murders in the novel?
8. All of this was supposedly known by Leonardo who as a Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, encoded the Last Supper with references to the sacred feminine which the Church had suppressed. Thus M and V and /\. become potent symbols for the male and FEMALE archetypes embedded in the painting, but as has been discussed, art historians strongly contest. Affirmation comes from The Templar Revelation, pp. 19-34, some of which is reprinted in Secrets of the Code. The chapter alleges Leonardo's unconventional eccentricities mandate him as an unconditional thinker. When examining the Virgin of the Rocks, Pickett and Prince also suggest that Leonardo believed John the Baptist to be superior to Jesus. They believe that Leonardo would not have dabbled in heresy unless he had a "passionate belief in them." (p. 31). However, Burstein's book presents contrary evidence from more skeptical academic sources: Denise Budd: "...clearly there is no dispute. That figure [in The Last Supper] is St. John the Evangelist." (p.229). Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, a professor of religious art, argues that what we accept today as gender appropriate portraits does not mirror 15th century depictions (p. 230). In the History Channel DVD, Burstein himself is skeptical regarding the novel's claims.
9. Much to Sophie's surprise, and ours, Teabing presents as self evident then that Jesus was married and fathered a line of children, an event he calls, "the greatest cover up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal blood line of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth." (p. 26). Such is the thesis of the novel!!!
10.Lingusitically, then, "Sangreal derives from San Greal--or Holy Grail. But in the most ancient form, the word Sangreal was divided in a different spot....Sang Real...Sang Real literally meant Royal Blood." (p. 261). [Sangreal and its etymological forms are italicized in the novel].
Of course Brown realized such a read would invoke criticism--and it did as I have noted, but is it really blasphemy? If all negative criticism were absolutely sustained, then how could Christianity be harmed? And if these chapters were suddenly validated, then how again would Christianity be harmed? If there is truth that for a Jew not to be married would be construed as abnormal, then would not Jesus' human nature have been more fulfilled even more enhanced if he had a child. In our own time, I knew a very devout Protestant clergyman whose two sons went on to be ministers like their father. He often told me that he felt his vocation and love of God enhanced through his family life, so if Jesus were married, then should not Roman Catholic clergy be granted the same right? (See page 409 of Holy Blood, Holy Grail for more commentary)
1. Chapter 59 recalls the angst of Aringarosa as he is contacted by the DCPJ. (Fache?)
2. We momentarily are left to wonder about specifics...Fache? Aringarosa? the teacher?
1. Thematically, this chapter summarizes much in one line: "Sangreal....Sang Real...Royal Blood...Holy Grail. It was all intertwined. The Holy Grail is Mary Magdalene...the mother of the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ." (p. 263). What I have bolded should not be invalidated, even if, or especially if we are working dialectically. Recalling Galileo, proved a great many at least partly mistaken, and he argued that as a Catholic astronomer, his intention was never to assault or displaced a Christian world view, so: "The Bible teaches how to go to heaven; not how the heavens go" is correct.
2. We have examined some of the authorities Teabing cites in validation, especially the text he most endorses, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. However, its authors, are more speculative than Brown. They note: "We cannot point to one man and assert that he is Jesus' lineal descendent...Needless to say, out our understanding of those objectives can only be speculative.:" (p. 409-411)
3. Teabing argues (p.264) that the Church was prompted to suppress these ideas, fearing a their revelation would reek havoc with Jesus as divine. Why? His argument seems to touch on a reason for an orthodox repudiation of the Gnostic gospels. Although scholars argue that even their acceptance in the canon would not per se validate Jesus being married, another reason emerges as articulated, for example, by Lance Owens, a doctor and priest. As quote in Secrets of the Code, p. 158, he says, "The Gnostics were not so much interested in dogma or coherent rational theology," rather he argues they stipulated a "divine seed" existed in all of us that could blossom via a direct and intuitive, mystical-like union with god. Now who would feel threatened? I have a friend, while probably not a Gnostic, enjoys a direct and mystical relationship with God that could only be described as profoundly moving. She soon will be married, but chooses to do so outside--in nature--close to God. The Church will not allow it. Does that mean, her union will be any less sacred?
4. Metaphorically, as some Grail passages cited above imply, the sacred feminine (in this case Mary) became clandestinely known as the Grail, the chalice and the rose, the latter being an anagram for EROS contends Langdon, p. 264.
5. We learn in this chapter:
a. Mary, the sacred vessel (chalice) carried Jesus' child, Sarah, and with Jesus' uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, fled to France to avoid persecution. Such is validated given scriptures emphasis on Jesus as heir to the throne of David, and hence preserving his blood line would be an essential.
b. Hence we have the Sangreal documents guarded by the Priory of Sion.
c. Jesus' lineage grew in secret until intermarrying with the Merovingian kings of France, a contention even Holy Blood, Holy Grail regards as skeptical.
d. The tomb of Mary is a carefully guarded secret as its revelation would confirm the sacred feminine's literal existence via empirical evidence plus the genealogies found in the secret documents, (p. 267)
e. The chapter ends with a new connotation for P.S. We have had the obvious Post Script, Priory of Sion, but now P.S. (Princess Sophie) may mean something else entirely as Sophie speculates on a cryptic message from her uncle: "Princess, I must tell you the truth about your family." (p. 268). [Italicized also in the novel]. This was prefaced by: "Descendents of Jesus who survived into modern times." If the novel means literally, not many would agree, is Professor Good comment cited earlier correct: "What The Da Vinci Code does is use fiction as a means to interpret historical obscurity..."
6. However fanciful and speculative, Teabing does make a substantive point on page 266: "...history is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, "What is history but a fable agreed upon?"
...true? Perhaps not the best authority to cite, but at Nuremburg, Goring was reputed to have said that he was tried only because Germany lost the war. If Hitler had won, would our history read the same? If the colonies had lost the revolutionary war, how would Washington, Adams, and Franklin be seen today?
Ironically, however bizarre and not main stream Teabing's conclusions are, how would a skeptic react to the most sacred truths of Christianity: that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he rose from the dead, that there are three distinct persons in God, but only one God. etc.