The Da Vinci Code: teaching that society is nothing but a conspiracy?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Perhaps it is no surprise that in an age when, for at least a generation now, the majority of humanist academics have been teaching that our society is essentially the creation of a victimizing patriarchy and its will to power, that one of the biggest best sellers is Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. However, I am not so sure whether to dismiss Brown's book outright, considering that I have not even bothered to read it. Maybe, in its own peculiar way, The Da Vinci Code will bring some people back to a place where they can take seriously questions of faith.

It's just that I'm not inclined to think that representing one of the fundamental texts and institutions of western society - the New Testament (with its omission of the Gnostic Gospels) and the Catholic Church - as founded on a denial of the supposed truth about Jesus and Mary Magdalene having had a child from whom has descended a "royal line", whose existence the church fathers deny in their supposed rejection of Mary Magdalene as symbol of the "feminine sacred", is all a good thing for the health of the west.

Still, I must admit that I took some pleasure in watching a recent program on the History Channel that was exploring the cultural history behind the claims and myths of The Da Vinci Code. There are inherent ascetic pleasures in the free-ranging symbolic imagination, quite apart from the actual, though never fully specifiable, relationship of our signs and corresponding myths to the reality of historical events.

Bringing me back to sobriety is this article by David Klinghoffer who argues it is not just the Church that is under attack:
You may wonder if Brown’s readers find his tale convincing, not as fiction but as truth. Seemingly they do. A Barna Group poll found that 53 percent of the book’s readers said The Da Vinci Code aided their “personal spiritual growth and understanding.”

But why should a non-Christian care?

Consider that the alleged conspiracy underlying the “biggest cover up in human history” bears a remarkable resemblance to another phony conspiracy, the famous hoax called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Apparently authored by Russian monarchist and anti-Semite Mathieu Golovinski in 1898, the Protocols tells of a secret society of Jewish elders that work to keep gentiles ignorant of a plot to rule the world through “Darwinism, Marxism, and Nietzscheism.”

In both conspiracy theories, an ancient world religion turns out to be a massive fraud perpetrated to gain or maintain power. In Dan Brown’s version, the “Priory of Sion” (“Sion” simply means “Zion” in French) is the good guys. They’ve been waiting for the right moment to reveal the secret about Jesus having children and to introduce the world to the worship of the “Goddess,” a.k.a. Mary Magdalene.

Meanwhile the Catholic Church plots to suppress forever the truth about the “sacred feminine.” Opus Dei is willing to go to any lengths, including murder, to keep the male church hierarchy in power.
Note the irony that it is today the children of Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche who are presumably Dan Brown's readers. The conspiracy in which they believe now comes wholly from the traditional order, not from the putative modern forces of a false liberation, forces that mask their service to an old Jewish conspiracy.
I emphasize that Dan Brown never intended to foment bigotry. Yet to the cause of conspiracy theorizing, he has done a wonderful favor, training his readers in the habits of paranoia and gullibility. For people committed to finding the truth through investigation and argumentation, that’s depressing.

As for Jews, we haven’t fared well when the culture we live in turns to entertaining fantasies and delusions at the expense of an unfashionable religion. The success of Brown’s book, now transformed into a movie blockbuster, is bad news.
All of this came home for me when I read at NoDhimmitude about a recent report: "Egyptian Cleric and Former Islamic Lecturer in the U.S.: "82% of All Attempts to Corrupt Humanity Originate From the Jews":
In the April 14, 2006, edition of his weekly show on Al-Resala TV, The Raids,in which he discusses the battles of the Prophet Muhammad, Egyptian cleric Hazem Sallah Abu Isma'il explains to his audience that, according to U.N. statistics, "Jews produce more than 82% of the video clips in the world," and adds that "82% of all attempts to corrupt humanity originate from the Jews."
This puts The Da Vinci Code and its screen adaptation by an ostensibly Jewish-dominated industry - so say the conspiracy theories, with whatever grains of truth - in a new light. It may well be that as dangerous people watch Dan Brown pocket the big bucks, it is the conspiratorial mindset that must become our biggest cultural target in the present war.

21 comments:

Knucklehead said...

The only conspiracy wrt Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is that between Dan Brown and his publisher - and associated folks - to milk this cash cow as long as possible for as much as possible.

I read the book about a year ago. As far as mystery, action thrillers go it is adequate (I wasn't able to get past the first chapter of his more recent book, Angels and Sumpin' Else or whatever it was). I've read worse and I've read better. Like most it worked OK until the end and then the author took a Zippo lighter to the loose ends to try and get them to stick together.

For giggles I went out and did some minor level of research about the conspiracy side of his claims and they seem to standard preposterous nonsense. But I don't hold that against a work of fiction beyond the fact that, IIRC, Brown claimed the thing was meticulously researched (or something similar).

I'm very reluctant to saddle fiction writers with doing either "good" or "harm" to culture, or civilization, or people, or whatever, through their work unless that was demonstrably their purpose. I generally leave 'em the benefit of the doubt and figure they're just people trying to make a living, or a better living.

The world is in a serious bit of transition at the moment and people can't figure out what's going on. In times like this people are prone to believing silly conspiracy stuff. Things can't just be "out of control" or moving faster, or in a different direction, than they can keep up with so they conjur up or resurrect conspiracy theories.

The way I see it, notions of the Illuminati or whatever "uber rich control the world for our own purposes" groups is nonsense. But even if it isn't, and we are just dumb sheep being driven according to their whims, the flock I got stuck in seems pretty darned fat, dumb, and happy (even if they're too dumb to realize how happy they are). The Illuminati ain't got me mucking mud pies in some Monty Pythonesque world, and the Cardinals ain't puttin' me in the Iron Maiden for not going to mass on Sundays, so where's the rub?

truepeers said...

Well, a fiction makes a kind of truth claim. A fiction is essentially a hypothesis, testing truth on some symbolic level, deferring confirmation but implicitly asking us to test this hypothesis against reality. In saying that his book is based on historical facts, Brown is trying to pre-judge what we should make of his fictional hypothesis. The danger, whether realized or not, is with people who want to believe what they read is fundamentally true, whatever its correspondence to certain known facts, and take their desire to believe in conspiracies to justify the resentment from which the desire stems - their resentment of the world as it actually is.

terrye said...

truepeers:

I read the book and I read a book debunking the book as well.

It is fiction. When I read Frankenstein I did not think that a mad scientist could reanimate the dead. When I read Jurrasic Park I did not believe there was an island of cloned dinosaurs somewhere near Costa Rica.

Brown makes assumptions, the most ridiculous is that the divinity of Christ was voted on centuries after the crucifixion. The nature of his divinity was voted on, not whether or not Jesus was divine. The Church chose the Gospels based not on message, but age and authenticity. It was a complicated and sincere process, even many agnostic religious scholars admit to this.

Knucklehead said...

TP,

Only the highest quality fiction can make that sort of claim. Even then it is a level of "truth" that rarely stands up to examination. Pulp fiction such as Brown is shilling is just entertainment. Making so much of it is just to keep the cash cow in the milking barn.

David Thomson said...

The premise of the Da Vinci Code is preposterous. Human beings do not commit their lives to a known fraud. One either believes that Jesus is divine---or the hell with it. Freely joining a conspiracy to con the world is senseless.

CF said...

It is fiction that draws on a lot of long standing myths. In Provence there are areas that still believe that the Three Marys landed there and lived out their lives in France. God grief!
I wish people paid the same attention to the far greater damage people like Oliver Stone do with their make believe history to history illiterates.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

cf,

I've paid plenty of attention, but what are you going to do?

loner said...

A Discovery Institute Senior Fellow spares Dan Brown a moment—enough to get me to the library were it not that I bought and read The Da Vinci Code years ago. I liked it a lot less than everyone else I know, but then I was right regarding the mystery and knowledgable regarding the source material. The thrills were nothing special. It is a huge improvement on the one earlier Brown thriller I read, Deception Point.

Sony cannot but be thrilled by all the controversy/publicity. I cannot but be thrilled that at least one of the good people at the Discovery Institute thinks that movies still matter—a small point of agreement.

terrye said...

Well, they try to reconstruct history in a way that it just impossible.

For instance, Brown says Mary Magdalene is of the House of Benjamin. There is no way they can prove that, not at all.

And why would the Church hide this? Mary the Mother is sacred, so how does that feed into the argument of trying to remove women from the sacred?

truepeers said...

Knuck: "Only the highest quality fiction can make that sort of claim. Even then it is a level of "truth" that rarely stands up to examination. Pulp fiction such as Brown is shilling is just entertainment. Making so much of it is just to keep the cash cow in the milking barn."
- no doubt the cash cow is on the top of some minds, and there is a distinction to be made between art and entertainment. But on the larger point i think every fiction has some truth in it; what makes a book is if it can discover something more about human truth than what was known before. If we are ignorant of the myths Brown is recycling, then his book will at least reveal to us something about the kinds of stories htat people have found appealing over the ages and this will tell us something about people, if we look into it.

truepeers said...

Terrye: "Mary the Mother is sacred, so how does that feed into the argument of trying to remove women from the sacred? "

-Terrye, this just shows that you are too sensible to fall for the conspiracy idea, that you know that history is not a conspiracy of the powerful, but rather a collective endeavor to evolve from somewhere where all humans had little freedom, towards a future that is opening up for all of us... if not exactly at the same speed or time for all of us.

truepeers said...

I just heard that Christians in India are threatening to starve themselves if the film isn't banned there.

Syl said...

I bought and read The Da Vinci Code years ago.

I read a book a few years ago that I was sure had that title. Maybe it was something else but I don't think so. Or maybe it was different, it ended up with some actual descendant of Jesus somewhere in Massachusetts.

That's how much that book impressed me--I don't remember it. I do remember thinking at the time that eventually every idea and possibility will get explored and now it was this idea's turn. Ya gotta keep coming up with new angles to sell books anymore.

I thought it was a good enough read to finish it. Then I simply shrugged it off.

But maybe it was a different book. Or maybe not. I have no special desire to find out for sure.

At least nobody has had a fatwa issued because of it.

Laclos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laclos said...

Why do people waste their time on this rubbish? If there was some grand all powerful illuminati, I'm sure they could easily prevent previously minor writers like Dan Brown go away. But then the current debate is so banal that those writters are doing one hell of a good job debunking their own myths and conspiracies.
The BBC 2 documentary "History of a Mystery" showed that a lot of the "clues" seen at Renne le Chateau and within the Poussin painting are very circumstantial and so any coherent theory about Christ or of a secret society is more fantasy than fact. If most of these pseudo-historians used Occam's razor or proper academic research methods then there would be a lot less mystery - but mystery and conspiracy sells books and now MOVIES.
Can't wait for Brown's other book to be filmed - dead Popes a plenty!
As for Browns "research";all you need is an hour or two of imagination - isn't it all just castles in the sky?
So now we have Mary Magdalane nuts along side the more traditional UFO and Kennedy assassination "experts".
But no amount of reasoned argument is going to stop those who want to believe in powerful cabals that have manuipulated history be it Opes Dei or Area 51. Michael Ignatieff has suggested that belief in conspiracy is a replacement of Gods all seeing eye in a secular society.
Anyway I live near Roslyn Chapel, study in an institution founded in 1583 and work for the government - so its in my own best interest to stop the public finding out the truth - please expect a Man in Black to knock on your door later.

Syl said...

Conspiracy theories will always be with us. Some cultures embrace, some tolerate, some snigger. But they seem to be a part of the human condition.

BTW the vast majority of FOIA requests involve Area 51. I think the Kennedy assassination is a far second.

Our government is open to concerned citizens and nutballs alike. Seems the nutballs may outnumber us all. :)

Eric Blair said...

People love conspiracies. It enables them to blame somebody else besides either themselves or the uncaring universe for their wretched situations.

Syl said...

Has anyone ever blamed their own good fortune on a conspiracy? :)

truepeers said...

laclos, that might explain why Michael Ignatieff wants to be leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, MM help us all.

Seriously, though, I'm not sure it is such a good argument since conspiracy theories long preceed the "death of God". What, ultimately, we blame the conspirators for is their usurpation of the sacred center, something that can be alleged in both a religions and secular world.

truepeers said...

"Has anyone ever blamed their own good fortune on a conspiracy? :)"

-naturally, if it isn't the church or the government, it's gotta be your parents' getting together who are to blame for everything.

Laclos said...

"Has anyone ever blamed their own good fortune on a conspiracy? :)"
Good point! Apart from the folks over at the BBQ social Illuminati Weekend, I dont think anyone does.
I sometimes wish I was a conspiracy nut as when things screw up (and they do with a strange recurrence)I could blame "them" and not myself.

Perhaps conspiracy is a more acceptable form of bigotry?
There are a lot of Catholics who equate Dan Brown's book as part
of an intollerance to their church
and faith.
It's as if Dan Brown is the new
Salman Rushdie. Why are these books always so poorly written?

Over here in the UK we've been told that the London bombers acted alone with only minimal contact with Al-Qaeda. When I heard the news I found it hard to swallow - I wanted the "enemy" to be some well planned cabal with an HQ and a heirarchy of operatives and not just a bunch of loosers who wanted to blast their way to heaven via the London Underground.
My Sister lives in London and worked near to where the bus exploded and so (and I know this sounds odd) I prefered to think that there was some organization behind this terrorism and that we can deal with that and not some collection of geeks, thugs and boy next door types dreaming of bombs and 9/11 actions in their cellars or cafes.
Perhaps that is the attraction of conspiracy? The idea that there is someone out there who pulls the strings. It gives a veneer of order to what is crazy and chaotic.