ON DAN BROWN'S THE DA VINCI CODE: CHAPTERS 21 TO 40
1.A revelation forces Sophie to recall her childhood visit to Leonardo's famous painting. She recalls not liking the painting, but is admonished by her grandfather that it holds secrets he will someday reveal.
2.The novel swings now to Langdon's reflections as he wonders about the cryptic message that has implicated him in a crime he did not commit, but in dialectical fashion as he ponders, P.S. acquires a connotation apparently transcendent, but from what to what? Literal and metaphoric again contend.
1. Here we have the "Rose Line" (p111) as the clue to the Priory Keystone. Rose of course will be a major symbol in the novel.
2. Navigation in the chapter obviously means more than finding direction physically via the prime meridian. Epistemologically, the novel is about finding 'direction' to the truth, cryptically hidden unless one chooses the harder ascent up Donne's mountain to truth or out of Plato's cave.
3. The chapter ends with Aringarosa's belief that divine intervention (in italics in the novel, p. 114) will lead him to a profound secret truth. Remember who he is and what he ultimately really does believe.
1. The fact that Sophie feels remorse for her treatment of her grandfather suggests Platonically, she is coming out of the cave...growth / transcendence is important.
2. The darkness of the museum represents the cave they must fully exit, and Robert's asking about "P.S" will be an important step forward ironically strengthened by a "step backwards" as Sophie again reflects on her youth. Philosophically, such must constitute dialectical thinking--treating first principles ("I dislike my grandfather because....") as assumptions. In a Christian context, and especially for those who see the novel as scorning Christianity, perhaps dialectical thinking ought to be more carefully applied, for is not forgiveness essential to the Christian ethic? Maybe what the novel critiques is not the substance of Christianity but its abuses when the substance was incorrectly articulated in the "cave" of this world. If this assumption needs testing, then I would begin by asking why John Paul felt it necessary to apologize. The novel's ending will validate these assumptions.
3. Sophie's recollection of her childhood search for a birthday present reveals (p. 116) something quite different from what she expected--a beautiful engraved key with the letters "P.S." engraved thereon. Interesting, Brown provides a biblical allusion: "We'll talk about this some other time [her grandfather tells her] the garden needs to be weeded." (p. 117). Parenthetically, do you recall a Hamlet soliloquy that uses the same imagery, perhaps an archetype as well?
4. We learn for the moment that "P.S" means "Princess Sophie," (p.118), and of course in this novel, Princess has multiple symbolic connotations.
5. Of crucial importance is Langdon's conclusion (back in the present) that Sophie's grandfather was part of a secret society, giving yet another connotation to "P.S," explained as ..."the pagan goddess worship cult." (p. 120). [THE is italicized in the novel.]. Earlier sections of these pages have referenced the historical accuracy of the Priory and its membership. Certainly Brown relied on Holy Blood, Holy Grail the reliability of which has been questioned. In Secrets of the Code, Picket and Prince, authors of The Templar Revelation, the second key source book for Brown, are quoted as saying when admonished that the "Dossiers Secrets" "...appear to be complete nonsense": "...at first glance they do appear to be complete nonsense. Because so much of what's in them clashes with accepted history, it is tempting to just reject them as pure fantasy. But it's not as simple as that. While some of the information is demonstrably wrong and some deliberately misleading, some---unexpectedly---checks out." (p. 173). In the remainder of the interview, they:
a. note that Plantard never spoke of the blood line of Jesus
b. reject the idea in that the 'Grail' was a coded reference to Mary Magdalene
c. regard "point b. above" as "the central mistake of both Holy Blood, Holy Grail and, less seriously, The Da Vinci Code, which is, after all fiction." (p. 176).
d. warn that it is impossible to tell if Leonardo were a member of The Priory, but they doubt it. Readers of their book know their thesis involves what they call the "Johannite" heresy. (p. 177)
So do we have to agree to disagree? Current scholarship rejects the validity of these claims (about which they themselves cannot agree), and they may well be right today--but keep in mind that for over a thousand years, it was 'right' both biblically and scientifically to argue that the earth had to be the fixed center of the cosmos. Plato's dialectic mandates testing...but that does not mean complete philosophical - Hume like skepticism. Further, remember who is/will be explaining most of the Priory's history.
6. Symbolically the "fleur-de-lis" (p. 120), the flower of Lisa are intertwined. The chapter ends with a musical metaphor (so important to the Romantics) suggesting here all being intertwined. Recall our assessment of Langdon's philosophy from Chapter 3:
7. 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; the failure to make connections may lead to misreads of a text as our discussion of Teabing will suggest.
l. What irony emerges in Chapter 24 regarding Silas and the keystone? Does he believe morally he is doing the right thing? Later in the novel, the Church will distance itself from Opus Dei. Remember Silas will prove a dynamic character.
2. More clues and archetypes emerge in this very short chapter: "secret purpose", "sentry," "distress..."
1. Dracula is told from multiple view points: letters, diaries, journals etc. Note too that this novel likewise seems fragmented: to what advantage? What perhaps have critics missed that is essential to Brown's philosophy?
2. How has Fache been deceived, and by whom? We know by know that universals are dramatized.
1. In a rather colorful flashback to an art history class for prisoners, Langdon's dialogue with the convicts reveals his explication of the Mona Lisa's mysteries which, as documented above, are hotly disputed by critics. (The notes for this chapter in Eble's Depths and Details: A Reader's Guide to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code) are extensive.
2. We learn the following from Langdon's interpretation of a convict's reference to a box of condoms:
Amon is the Egyptian god of fertility
its horned head has given meaning to "horny" in our own time
The "opposite" the sacred feminine goddess of fertility was Isis (AKA L'isa)
Hence: Mona Lisa and the reason the portrait is smiling!!! (pp. 127-128)
What is Brown's intent? Joseph Campbell comments when discussing ISIS: "The antique mode for the Madonna, actually, is Isis with Horus at her breast...in Egyptian iconography, Isis represents the throne. The Pharaoh sits on the throne, which is Isis, as a child on its mother's lap. And so, when you stand before the cathedral of Chartres, you will see over one of the portals of the western front an image of the Madonna as the throne upon which the child Jesus sits and blesses the world as its emperor. That is precisely the image that has come down to use from most ancient Egypt. The early fathers and the early artists took over these images intentionally" (pp. 176-179, The Power of Myth) Later Campbell says, "So Isis is able to say, "I am she that is the natural mother of all things. Mistress and governess of all the elements, Chief of the powers divine, queen of all that are in hell, but principal of all them that dwell in heaven. Manifested alone and under one form of all the gods and goddesses. (p. 179).
See also The Templar Revelation on the 'black madonna," and note the comparison: Egypt and Chartres Cathedral: Amon is in the center:
Accepting Campbell's credentials as self-evident, have we here the sacred feminine incorporated in the Christian tradition? It has been observed the Church 'borrowed' this iconography and in so doing mandated its authenticity.
3. Brown goes on to argue Mona Lisa as "androgynous" (p. 128). Eble (p. 87) cites Loyola University of New Orleans' web site which refers to Amon as "the hidden one..the god of wind, fertility and secrets" (p. 87). Brown is quite good at irony, and is Mona Lisa's smile ironic reversal? [I checked this page, and currently it is off line (June 21, 2006) Eble reprints it.]
4. The chapter ends with Sophie insisting a secret intended for her from Sauniere is yet to be decoded: what is scrawled on the Mona Lisa's face?
5. Endnote: Brown's scholarship has been critiqued as noted above, but an interestingly parallel would be to compare the "Son of the Goddess" chapter, p. 265 ff. in The Templar Revelation with what Campbell has argued. Do you think he would support Picknett and Prince?
1. One more victory for "the sacred feminine."
1. "SO DARK THE CON OF MAN." (P. 131). is scrawled...
2. Dark symbolically of course is the shadow archetype, dramatically presented by a flashback to the inquisition and a mention of the Malleus Maleficarum (the Witches' Hammer). This is a text I have used in teaching Macbeth: click here. My page also has a link to the full text.
Critics have argued that the number killed (five million) is wrong, but that's like saying the holocaust wasn't as horrific if the 6 million were an exaggeration ( and who has argued that?). In point of fact accusations of witchcraft were leveled against homeless, disabled women and prostitutes deemed unfit. This tradition by the way led eventually to Swift's Modest Proposal, a text based on fact.
3. The chapter notes such activities suppressed the sacred feminine by supplanting female with male dominated religions. Such however did not originate with the Catholic church. The same happened in Greek mythology. Joseph Campbell's The Gift of the Goddess in The Power of Myth supports that contention. His chapter opens with this etching:
The caption reads: "Early Goddess
When you have a Goddess as the creator; it's her own body that is the
universe. She is identical with the universe.
a. Citing Egypt, Campbell argues that the female principle has been the "prime parent" (p. 165)
b. Such is based on the notion that the mother figure will most likely be more proximate than the "absentee" father. Campbell cites The Odyssey and Star wars (Luke and the search for his father).
c. Historically, Campbell argues that agricultural societies familiarity with planting and the earth 'giving birth' would naturally develop maternally orientated religions. He again cites Egypt, but such changed when hunters appeared. He suggests referencing the Genesis story of Shechem's demise:
And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.
2And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.
3And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.
4And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.
5And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.
6And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him.
7And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter: which thing ought not to be done.
8And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.
9And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.
10And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.
11And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.
12Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.
13And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:
14And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:
15But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;
16Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.
17But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.
18And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son.
19And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.
20And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,
21These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.
22Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.
23Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? Only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.
24And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.
25And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.
26And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.
27The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.
28They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,
29And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
30And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.
31And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?
Notice what the bolded text suggests in our present context: "...And these invasions bring in warrior gods, thunderbolt hurlers, like Zeus and Yahweh." (p. 169), and "...The semetic people were invading the world of the Mother Goddess systems, and so the male-oriented mythologies became dominant, and the Mother Goddess becomes, well--sort of Grandmother Goddess, way, way back." (p. 170)
4. No doubt Brown would agree to a point because Campbell warns after Moyers suggested that male clergy seized on this sociology "...for the purpose of power." (p. 171): "You can put an accent on it that way, but I think it's a little to strong because there were the great female saints. Hildegarde...Eleanor of Aquitaine...One can look back and quarrel with the whole situation, but the situation of women was not that bad by any means..." (p. 171)
5. When Moyers noted that women could never be Pope, Campbell deflected by observing such was really only a "business position," and that no pope could ever be the mother of Christ. Men he said, protected the women, but ironically as the above scripture passage noted, they were often raped, which in macrocosm, explains Campbell, Zeus' conquests.
6. So Campbell might agree with Brown, but only to a point. Further on, (p. 172 ff) Campbell argues that a different cultural bias occurs when the role of women is subordinated. Campbell sees a synthesis coming from female hegemony to male to a stage "..where the two are in interaction..." If this is a dialectic, then Campbell sees a synthesis philosophically that perhaps Brown might not fully accept: on page 133, for example:
"The days of the goddess were over. The Pendulum had swung. Mother Earth had become a man's world, and the gods of destruction and war were taking the toll. The male ego had spent two millennia running unchecked by its female counterpart. The Priory of Sion believed that it was this obliteration of the sacred feminine in modern life that had caused...an unstable situation marked by testosterone-fueled wars, a plethora of misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth." (p. 133). Campbell would not agree, as his metaphoric read of the Virgin Birth suggests:
"The Virgin Birth represents the birth of compassion in the heart, the birth of spiritual man, out of the animal man. This is a spiritual birth--the Virgin conceived of the word..." (p. 174). On the previous page, he hyphenates compassion as com-passion, "...shared suffering: experiencing participation in the suffering of another person...That's the beginning of humanity. And the mediations of religion properly are on that level, the heart level." The emerging God, Campbell says, is YOU...with the implication that the God suffers, dies and is resurrected or born again. Other writers have noted this. Tolkien in The Silmarillion speaks of the "flame imperishable" of Illuvatar, and Coleridge writes in the Biographia of the "divine spark." Both men were very conservative. See my Tolkien web page for his views on women.
7. Brown's most controversial chapter and the one consequently that has aroused the most passionate criticism is 55, and we will return to these ideas at that time. For the moment, we might posit that Brown reviews the main stream criticism, and then spins it to inspire discussions the points which might missed if, for example, Teabing is examined too literally. New positions are worth exploring. One does not, for example, remember the dozens of political schemes advanced by bureaucrats to "solve" the Anglo-Irish question, but everyone who reads A Modest Proposal recalls its premise--seeming outrageous but based on factual occurrences.
8. Why dramatically, does the chapter end with an arrest?
1. There might be an allusion to Lear in this chapter. Tortured with madness, he reflects in III, iv:
Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou
owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep
no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on
's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself:
unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,
forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings!
come unbutton here.
Here is Silas 'unaccommodated' as he removes to cloak to at Saint-Suplice? Notice too he is descending as he digs...the archetypes continue. What is used to be under the church? What archetypes are struggling to be reconciled? There is of course a clear allusion to Job (38:11), and the reference is stunning not only for the dramatics, but for our read of the novel in general. Microcosmically, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further" occasions horror for Silas...had he been deceived? Morally, Sister Sandrine's horror cannot be contained as she wonders "What kind of God would want a body punished this way?" (p. 137) [Italics also in the novel]. We know of course what the dramatic irony is, but her assumption that Opus Dei is searching for the keystone matters a great deal. It spurs her into protective action, and is another way of the sacred feminine being validated. She makes some phone calls.
Macrocosmically, Job offers more. Traditionally, we know that Job accepts God's will even at the loss of all holds dear, but what do we make of these lines:13: 12-19...
12:Your maxims are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay.
13: "Let me have silence, and I will speak, and let come on me what may.
14: I will take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand.
15: Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope; yet I will defend my ways to his face.
16: This will be my salvation, that a godless man shall not come before him.
17: Listen carefully to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears.
18: Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be vindicated.
19: Who is there that will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die.
We note that Job rejects the advice of this three well-meaning friends that he had sinned, resolves to confront God demanding answers, and feels, like a prosecutor, that he has made his case. If so, who is the defendant? Demanding accountability from God might be seen as blasphemous to some, and indeed God asks in 38:
1: Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3: Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
5: Who determined its measurements -- surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
6: On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,
7: when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
All Job can do is submit in 40:
1: And the LORD said to Job:
2: "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it."
3: Then Job answered the LORD:
4: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.
5: I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."
So be it: Amen!!, but The Book of Job does not end there. Back in the frame that enclosed the poetry, we learn what God did in 42:
7: After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eli'phaz the Te'manite: "My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
8: Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."
9: So Eli'phaz the Te'manite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Na'amathite went and did what the LORD had told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer.
10: And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
11: Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house; and they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.
12: And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses.
13: He had also seven sons and three daughters.
Job is rewarded for doing right, and his three friends are punished!! Why? How does the 'second' ending to Job mirror philosophically what Brown is doing? How is the dialectic operative? Parenthetically, Angles and Demons offers and interesting spin on an important aspect of the present question.
1.How does Sophie Neveu 'disarm' Security Warden Claude Grouard? Apparently the sacred feminine can be quite persuasive in many ways. If her identity is as the book contends, then there might be another biblical allusion.
2. Would she have acted on her threat?
3. What did she find behind the 'other' painting that recalls a child hood experience with her grandfather that evokes mixed feelings?
4. The painting by Leonardo is also explicated (and reproduced) in The Templar Revelation to advance a thesis that is not entirely consistent with Brown's. See their discussion of the so-called "black madonna." The fact that Brown chooses THIS painting is important for his view of the sacred feminine. On page 147, the illustrated edition of The Da Vinci Code prints The Madonna of the Rocks and The Virgin of the Rocks. Chapter 30 of Eble's book discusses the paintings. Richard Abanes' The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code (Harvest House, 2004), acknowledges as the novel argues, that the painting may have rejected but for reasons, perhaps other than a contractual dispute, that will never be known, since "Leonardo was "...an ultimate free thinker and consumate artist...he never copied, he created. And with his creativity, he saw the world including its religious forms differently. His art expressed his feelings." (p. 69-70) Ironically, though in a book highly critical of Brown, Abanes adds that Gabriel in the original painting is "...actually looking away from the scene, pointing a finger and practically smirking." (p. 70).
1. As in Dracula, the viewpoint shifts again, and back to Sister Sandrine whose terror continues as she realizes "...the upper echelon has been breached..." (p. 143). [Italics also in the novel]. Whom and what has she been sworn to protect and by whom?
2. What is the crime? Can one kill in God's name? Recall John Paul's apology? Much has been in the news lately (summer of 2006) about IED or Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The web site Medical News Today outlines a Harvard study that reviews the symptoms which describe quite accurately Silas' behavior including the circumstances of his childhood outlined above. Recall also our discussion of Hoffer's True Believer. Can a correlation be established? As noted, we will discuss how ultimately Silas confronts his past as will the Bishop, but not just psychiatrically.
3. It is quite easy, as in the holocaust, to establish a 'good-guy / bad guy' perspective, but both Sandrine and Silas purport to serve the same church and its God. Dramatically, is this one more example of the sacred feminine being metaphorically and this time literally crushed. Did the 'Witches' Hammer' fall again?
1. We learn that SO DARK THE CON OF MAN is Madonna of the Rocks. (p. 146), and the chapter outlines why the first version (Madonna of the Rocks) was rejected by the church in favor of the second (Virgin of the Rocks). The Gallery of Art (used by Eble) offers analysis and close ups of the two paintings. The web site does not reflect Brown's thesis that the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception was horrified because Jesus was subordinated to John the Baptist (a thesis very much supported in The Templar Revelation), but it does add this,
For this work, too, Leonardo made numerous studies, and the figurative expression is slowly adapted to the program of depiction. In fact, the drawing of the face of the angel is, in the sketch, clearly feminine, with a fascination that has nothing ambiguous about it. In the painting, the sex is not defined, and the angel could easily be either a youth or a maiden.
The last sentence has been addressed before on these pages, but Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel (The Truth Decoded) explicate this chapter arguing against Brown's read: "Actually, Leonardo did not follow the Confraternitys directives as to the subject matter of the painting. The original contract was to include a depiction of God the Father overhead, with two prophets on the side panels (The Virgin of the Rocks was the centerpiece). There has been much scholarly discussion about the exact nature of the contract and what exactly transpired between Leonardo and the Confraternity. What is clear is that Leonardo deviated substantially from the original plan for the subject matternot that it contained several disturbing un-Christian anomalies. In any event, Leonardo did paint a differing version of the first painting.
2. If The Templar Revelation is correct, the John the Baptist-Jesus relationship might be the cause, or is this an example of Brown embellishing a 'fact--the contract dispute' with his own spin.
The web site, Universal Leonardo quotes the artist as saying, "Drawn by my eager desire, wishing to see the great manifestation of the various strange shapes made by formative nature, I wandered some way among gloomy rocks, coming to the entrance of a great cavern, in front of which I stood for some time, stupefied and incomprehending such a thing Suddenly two things arose in me, fear and desire; fear of the menacing darkness of the cavern; desire to see if there was any marvellous thing within."
3. We learn that Sophie's interaction with the painting resulted in her finding a key "Embossed with a fleur-de-list and the initials P.S." (p. 148). The key triggers a flashback to the disturbing childhood memory hinted throughout this novel. Coming home unexpectedly, she witnesses (using the descent archetype), a ritual so horrific involving her grandfather that she is left revolted to the extent that she severs all future contact with her relative until the current events of the novel forces her, with a mixture of regret and anger, to recollect: "I WAS THERE. DON'T TRY TO FIND ME," (P. 151), Sophie had written to him.
4. Meantime, recall, these flashbacks have occurred during their frantic escape attempts from the DCPJ.
1. Brown asks us to connect: a murder, a secret, a mysterious rite, more murders, a special key, and the Priory.
2. The chapter ends with a ruse to escape Paris.
1. Philosophically this chapter mirrors a conflict within the Catholic church: the conservative head of Opus Dei, Bishop Aringarosa, clashes with a pope (recall Angels and Demons) whose "Vatican II" like liberalism he finds offensive and morally dangerous to the faithful: "People needed structure and direction from the Church." (p. 158) [Italics also in the novel.] In an articulate essay entitled Liberal Church? Conservative Church? Why? Catholicism is not a Denomination and What That Means, George Weigel notes,
Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, an almost obsessive focus on the Catholic Church as institution has preoccupied many Catholics in North America and western Europe. That obsession with the institutional dimension of the Church helps to explain why so much of the contemporary Catholic debate is framed in terms borrowed from politics: as a debate between "liberals" and "conservatives." Shortly after the council, virtually everything in Catholicism began to be described this way. There were liberal and conservative bishops, priests, nuns, parishes, religious orders, seminaries, theologians, newspapers, magazines, and organizations. There were liberal and conservative positions on every question imaginable, from the structure of worship to the fine points of doctrine and morality.
To be sure, there was something to all this. Some Catholics eagerly welcomed the revision of the Churchs worship; others were offended, appalled, or heart-stricken by "the changes." Some Catholics were entirely comfortable in the dialogue with modern culture; others thought that opening the Churchs windows to the modern world was a grave mistake; still others welcomed the new conversation but thought the Church should challenge the modern world to open its windows, too. The liberal/conservative grid was moderately useful for sorting out some of the players and a few of the issues during and immediately after Vatican II.
4. So...should the mass be in the vernacular, should clergy be allowed to marry, what about homosexuality, should "cafeteria catholicism" be eradicated? Interestingly for this novel, he writes,
"Every year the pope meets with the senior members of the Roman curia, the Churchs central bureaucracy, for an exchange of Christmas greetings. Its a formal occasion, rather far removed from the typical office Christmas party. Popes traditionally use the opportunity to review the year just past and suggest directions for the year ahead. On December 22, 1987, Pope John Paul II made this the occasion to drop something of a theological bombshell.
For some years, Catholic theologians had speculated about different "profiles," or "images," of the Church, drawn from prominent New Testament personalities. The missionary Church, the Church of proclamation, is formed in the image of the apostle Paul, the great preacher to the Gentiles. The Church of contemplation is formed in the image of the apostle John, who rested his head on Christs breast at !the Last Supper. The Church of office and jurisdiction is formed in the image of Peter, the apostle to whom Christ gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven. All of these images are in play in the Church all the time. Yet, in a Church accustomed for centuries to thinking of itself primarily in institutional terms, the Church formed in the image of Peters authority and office has long seemed to take priority over all the rest.
Not so, suggested John Paul II, to what we can only assume were some rather startled senior churchmen. Mary was the first disciple, because Marys "yes" to the angels message had made possible the incarnation of the Son of God. The Church is the extension of Christ and His mission in history; in the image made famous by Pope Pius XII, the Church is the "mystical body of Christ." Marys assumption into heaven was a preview of what awaits all those whom Christ will save. For all !these reasons, John Paul proposed, Mary provides a defining profile of what the Church is, of how the men and women of the Church should live, and of what the eternal destiny of disciples will be.
This understanding of Mary and the Church challenges the institutional way in which many churchmen (and many Catholic laity) are used to thinking about themselves and their community. The "Marian profile," John Paul said, is even "more...fundamental" in Catholicism than the "Petrine profile." Though the two cannot be divided, the "Marian Church," the Church formed in the image of a woman and her discipleship, precedes, makes possible, and indeed makes sense of the "Petrine Church," the Church of office and authority formed in the image of Peter. That Petrine Church, the pope continued, has no other purpose "except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary." John Paul argued that these two profiles were complementary, not in tension. He also insisted that the "Marian profile is...pre-eminent" and carried within it a richer meaning for every Christians vocation. It was a striking message: Discipleship comes before authority in the Church because authority is to serve sanctity. In a Church of disciples, formed in the image of Mary, the first disciple, what is fundamental is the universal call to holiness. Everything else in the Churchincluding the work of those with authority in the Churchexists to foster the disciples answer to that call. This is not a liberal view of the Church and its mission. This is not a conservative view of the Catholic reality. This is a vision far beyond those categories."
5. Read again what I bolded. What would Dan Brown think? Would the Marian church in the present context, augmented by gnosticism, be a different Mary...is there a new dialectic? The article concludes...
"One of the great tasks of the Church in the 21st century will be to retrieve and renew the concept of tradition. In the distinctively Catholic understanding of the term, "tradition" (which from its Latin root, traditio, means "handing on") begins inside the very life of God the Holy Trinity. That handing onthat radical giving that mysteriously enhances both giver and receivertook flesh in the life of Christ and continues in the Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit. A venerable formula distinguishes between tradition, the living faith of the dead, and traditionalism, the dead faith of the living. Pope John Paul IIs teaching on the Marian Church of disciples that makes possible (and makes sense of) the Petrine Church of jurisdiction and office is a good example of traditions capacity to inspire innovative thinking. The great Marian doctrines set boundaries for !Catholic faith. In doing so, they compel fresh thought and new insight into the riches of the Churchs heritage and the mysteries of Gods action in the world. Doctrine is not excess baggage weighing Catholics down on the journey of faith. Doctrine is the vehicle that enables the journey to take place."
6. Is Brown "compelling fresh thought and new insight into the riches of the Church's heritage?" The Marian and Petrine, female and male archetypes, fuel Brown's novel, but with a different Mary of course. Nonetheless in the Bible and literature, including the plays of Shakespeare, marriage suggests unity, harmony and reconciliation of opposites. Macbeth is tragic for many reasons, but here since his marriage cannot withstand the horrors of murder. In Act III, scene ii, Lady Macbeth asks of her husband,
How now, my lord! why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what's done is done.
...but in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the lovers experience discord and even cruelty, but are eventually paired with whom they were meant to wed. Puck's epilogue summarizes:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
The bolded lines are informative in the present context. However, for The Da Vinci Code, the most apt Shakespearean comparison would be Measure for Measure, a 'problem play.' See my study guide. The crises faced by The Duke [disguised as], Angelo and Isabel may not be resolved as smoothly as in the comedies. Note the Duke's epilogue:
She, Claudio, that you wrong'd, look you restore.
Joy to you, Mariana! Love her, Angelo:
I have confess'd her and I know her virtue.
Thanks, good friend Escalus, for thy much goodness:
There's more behind that is more gratulate.
Thanks, provost, for thy care and secrecy:
We shill employ thee in a worthier place.
Forgive him, Angelo, that brought you home
The head of Ragozine for Claudio's:
The offence pardons itself. Dear Isabel,
I have a motion much imports your good;
Whereto if you'll a willing ear incline,
What's mine is yours and what is yours is mine.
So, bring us to our palace; where we'll show
What's yet behind, that's meet you all should know.
Will there be a marriage? What does the Duke represent given his disguise? Whom might Isabel mime in the present context? Jesus' first 'public miracle' was at Cana. In fact, the Templar Revelation, p. 250 ff. argues that the wedding was probably Jesus, since among other conclusions, it would have been unheard of in Biblical times for a Jewish male not to have been married.
7. To return to the present chapter now, is the above argument too 'liberal' for a conservative theologian-has traditional scholarship been 'tweaked' too much, or has the dialectic been of necessity advanced? We know where Silas and Aringarosa for the moment stand as evidenced by the latter's distaste at the Vatican's having "...gone mad" (p. 160) [Italics in the novel.] Why he argues to himself would the Vatican dabble in science at the expense of providing moral guidance? We learn his summons to the observatory will shock him, and adding to his consternation is no word from The Teacher. Angels and Demons explore the faith-science dichotomy suggesting perhaps it is not as wide as history has led us to believe.
8. During this visit, Aringarosa's faith will be devastated when he learns the real reason for his summons by the Vatican, the details of which will be revealed via a flashback in Chapter 100. We will have to hypothesize how substantially the effect of the news shaped his future behaviour.
-Chapters 35 and 36:
1. Chapter 35's exposition reveals an address on the back of the key: "24 Rue Haxo" (p. 163),
and a request from Sophie to learn more of the Priory's history.
2. Chapter 36 dramatizes Fache's frustration at not being able to apprehend Sophie and Langdon. "They slipped through my fingers," (p. 165) he rages. His anger at Sophie is most intense as he plans a thorough background check...is this the resentment of the sacred feminine's besting him at his own game?
-Chapters 37 and 38:
1. Why is Chapter 37, psychologically, set in a forested park referred to by Parisians as "The Garden of earthly delights." (p. 165). What they see at Bois de Boulogne would shock conventional sensibilities but the key line, "...earthly delights to satisfy one's deepest desires" (p. 166) suggests an initiation rite. See for comparative purposes: The Divine Comedy, The Canterbury Tales, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Kubla Khan, Heart of Darkness.
2. Brown's sources for the Priory's history of course are Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and The Templar Revelation, both of which have been quoted and discussed above. Is Brown's use of these sources intended to authenticate them, or has he another purpose, especially regarding Teabing?
The' on line Encyclopedia Wikipedia That Anyone Can Edit devotes dozens of pages to the critique, noting for example:
It should be understood that this fictionalized treatment completely reverses the judgment of real-world researchers. Except for dedicated conspiracy theorists, investigators have dismissed the Dossiers Secrets as obvious forgeries, planted in the library by Plantard and his companions. Furthermore, no "historians" had ever suspected that Newton, Botticelli etc. were members of any "Priory of Sion"; this claim first appeared in the Dossiers themselves.
I chose this source for the precise reason that since 'anyone can edit' the content, the preponderance of opinion 'out there', both on the WWW and in print suggests the 'facts' at the heart of the novel are more imaginative speculation than historically accepted. According to Langdon, however, the Knights Templar discovered 'something' beneath the Priory which allowed them unprecedented power and wealth even to the point of possibly blackmailing the Vatican until Friday, October 13, 1307 when Pope Clement V "decided that something had to be done." (p. 169), and the result was a purge.
The Catholic Encyclopedia offers a detailed history of these events which, while not exonerating the Pope, does not endorse Brown's thesis. The motives seems to be economic and political resentment incurred by the Templars which particularly aroused the fear and resentment of King Philip the Fair. Interestingly the Pope is described as of "weak character and easily deceived." New members of the Templar were "...subjected to a secret test concerning the nature of which nothing has ever been discovered, although it gave rise to the most extraordinary accusation."
As with the Inquisition, the suppression was born more of political than theological motives. Are the bolded lines examples of a traditional interpretation being 'tested' by Brown? What is the secret? Are we speaking metaphorically or literally?
3. The Chapter's concluding reference to "the story of the sangreal" (p. 170) is at the heart of the novel. Again, metaphor or literal? Recall the 'forest' setting.
4. Chapter 38 continues their discussions in which Langdon recalls, perhaps miming how Brown knew his thesis would be received, what his publisher, Jonas Faukman, said: "You're a Harvard historian, for God's sake, not a pop schlockmeister looking for a quick buck. Where could you possibly find enough credible evidence to support a theory like this?" (p. 172) As noted earlier in these pages, Brown had been criticized for research compiled by UFO advocates, but consider John E. Mack? Until his tragic death, this Harvard Professor maintained that his study of the dreams of those claiming to be abducted by aliens confirmed the following:
"I would never say, yes, there are aliens taking people. [But] I would say there is a compelling powerful phenomenon here that I can't account for in any other way, that's mysterious. Yet I can't know what it is but it seems to me that it invites a deeper, further inquiry." [from the BBC.]
Does the Priory thesis deserve the same, or must it be dismissed out of hand as 'lunatic fringe' since mainstream history rejects the premise out of hand. As support, Langdon offers support from none other than Sir Leigh Teabing, the British Royal Historian (p. 172). Using the same motif that opened the previous chapter, this one ends with a reference to "...our magic forest" (p. 174) that Sophie trusts Robert has seen enough of, but as in Heart of Darkness, they will penetrate deeper and deeper. Teabing, as we will observe, has his own reasons for the interpretations he advances.
1. Silas examines his conscience. He has killed four people and a nun. He will have cause to examine it again later in the novel.
2. Recall The True Believer, cited above, concerning criminals being sought by mass movements. What is the mutual appeal? Do you feel sorry for Silas; any pathos? Aringarosa had told him how God needed his help to do His work. (p. 175). Is such a metaphor for the Pope's apology quoted earlier?
3. Silas prays for forgivingness, but for what?
1. More history of the Grail, and perhaps what makes Brown's novels so appealing: "Everyone loves a conspiracy." (p. 177) As an aside, prior to 9-11 suppose a novelist had outlined a plot involving two fully loaded airliners that crashed into the Twin Towers and another the Pentagon and still a fourth destined for the White House. If you were on the editorial board, how might you have reacted? Everyone does love a conspiracy, and today's fantasy does have a way of becoming tomorrow's fiction. Ask Neil Armstrong, ask two reporters who were employed by The Washington Post in 1972. The Da Vinci Code is mimetic.
2. Langdon cites Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi's "dark secret" that resulted in the painting being removed from the Uffizi Gallery "for restoration." (p. 179) as proof of the artist's desire to tantalize future generations with cryptic clues...that would cause Mona Lisa to smirk.
3. Much to their surprise, the address on the key leads them to Swiss bank in Paris!!!