Normally the Rosslyn Templars review books having read them themselves. However, this review is interesting and detailed in its’ criticism and we thought it worth posting for you to read and judge for yourselves.

The Royal Myth of the Da Vinci Code

by Tim Callahan

A review of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, 2003

New York : Doubleday, 455 pages

Ordinarily, reviewing fiction doesn’t come under the purview of Skeptic Magazine. However, like The Exorcist in the 1970s, The Da Vinci Code has become so popular (it has for weeks been number one on the New York Times bestseller list) that the mythic elements within it have given energy to a set of beliefs about the real world, beliefs that do fall under the scope of skeptical investigation.

The popularity of The Exorcist was owed to its novelty, to its well researched material on the whole culture of the Roman Catholic church, and its approach to the subject of demonic possession and exorcism. It was, of course, a well-crafted work of fiction. But a deeper reason for the success of The Exorcist is that it tapped into a basic human fear of mind control from within. Possession would amount to the ultimate violation of one’s integrity, and the paranoid fear that unseen intelligences have specifically targeted one for such an invasion is sufficient to override rational objections against its likelihood. The popularity of The Da Vinci Code likewise owes something to the novelty of its central idea, the soundness of its supporting research, and the professional crafting of its plot and characters. However, it also owes much of its success to the provocative religious theory and mythic theme at its core.

The story opens with the murder of Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris late at night at the hands of a fanatical albino monk. As he is lying fatally wounded in the stomach, Sauniere tries to think of a way to pass on “the secret.” The novel’s hero, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor of religious symbology, is awakened after midnight by a visitor to his hotel room in Paris. Earlier in the evening he had given a lecture and slide show on pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres Cathedral. The visitor is from the Judicial Police (the French equivalent of the FBI). He informs Langdon of the murder of Sauniere, and says that his name was in Sauniere’s day planner. Langdon is wanted for questioning. Before escorting him to the murder scene at the Louvre, the visitor shows Langdon a photo of the body. Before he died, Sauniere stripped and lay down on the floor in the position of a male figure in a famous anatomical drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Vitruvian Man. He also drew a pentagram on his stomach in his own blood, and left a bizarre message written in a black light marker near his body:

O Draconian devil!
Oh, lame saint!

This, it turns out, is all an elaborate coded message Sauniere had left for Langdon. However, since Sauniere had originally intended to meet Langdon earlier in the evening, Captain Bezu Fache of the Judicial Police has all but concluded that Langdon is the murderer.

Meanwhile, Silas, the murderous albino, has spoken over the phone to a man identified only as “the Teacher,” informing him of the success of his mission. Silas is the devoted follower of Bishop Manuel Aringarosa, and both men are members of a rabidly militant Catholic organization called Opus Dei (Latin for “the Work of God”), bent on destroying a secret society called the Priory of Sion, founded in 1099.

Back at the Louvre, Fache is irritated by the arrival of the beautiful cryptographer from the Judicial Police, Sophie Nevue. By an elaborate ruse she secretly communicates to Langdon that he is the murder suspect and is in danger. She then proceeds to unravel part of Suaniere’s mysterious message. The numbers, when sequenced from low to high, are a Fibonacci series:

scrambled: 13-3-2-21-1-1-8-5
unscrambled: 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21

This is a sequence of numbers created by adding the last two numbers in the sequence to get the next one. Thus, starting with 1, we get 1 + 0 = 1, then 1 + 1= 2, then 1 + 2 = 3, etc. This sequential system was invented by the 13 th -century Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci. Sophie then reveals to Langdon the final line of the coded message, which Fache had covered up: “P.S. Find Robert Langdon.”

This is why Fache suspects Langdon of the murder. However, it turns out that the message Sauniere left wasn’t for the police at all, but for Sophie Nevue: P.S. stands for Princess Sophie, Sauniere’s nickname for her. Sophie is his granddaughter. Langdon figures out that the rest of the coded message is an anagram:

O Draconian devil! (Leonardo Da Vinci)
Oh, lame saint (The Mona Lisa)

Sophie also shows him that Fache’s men have planted a tracking device in his jacket. They throw it out the window to make Fache and his men believe that Langdon has fled the Louvre. With the police gone, Sophie and Langdon go to where the Mona Lisa is hanging and find another cryptic black light message scrawled over the protective plexiglass cover: “So Dark the Con of Man.” This, it turns out, is another anagram, leading to another work by Leonardo Da Vinci: “Madonna of the Rocks”

Sauniere, it turns out, was the last of the leaders of a secret society called the Priory of Sion, of which Leonardo, among other luminaries, including Isaac Newton, was the Grand Master. The Priory has been preserving the true religion started by Jesus and brought to France (then Gaul ) by his wife, none other than Mary Magdalene. This religion is much more egalitarian than historical Christianity, and Da Vinci and others were devoted to the sacred feminine, which was early on excluded by the church. The Priory has also kept secret the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, still in existence today. This bloodline, it turns out, is also the Holy Grail (the Grail as the cup of Christ, holding Christ’s blood, being merely symbolic).

The reason the society has to keep the bloodline secret is that the Catholic Church wishes to extinguish it and wipe out all traces of the rival religion, which it sees as a threat to its existence. This is why the crazed albino monk from Opus Dei is out to murder all of the leaders of the Priory. The rest of the story is a well-balanced mix of a harrowing, protracted chase-in which the hero and heroine are pursued both by the Judicial Police and the albino monk-and the gradual unraveling of the Da Vinci Code. It is full of meanings beneath meanings. For example, the “P.S.” in Sauniere’s message not only means Princess Sofie, but Priory of Sion as well. The book is an excellent read, its intricate plot twists and rich historical background putting it well above most books of this genre.

However, readers may reasonably ask: Is any of it true? The Priory of Sion, the author states, is a real organization, a European secret society founded in 1099, and Leonardo Da Vinci was a member. This was discovered in 1975 when certain parchments, known as Les Dossiers Secrets, wer

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