De Fabel van de illegaal 67, autumn 2004
Author: Harry Westerink
Extreme Right conspiracy in thriller "The Da Vinci code"
According to Dan Brown human history is determined by secret societies. His well-known religious thriller "The Da Vinci Code" is based on the fantasies of the French anti-Semite Plantard. Just like all other authors who popularized Plantard's myths before, Brown also feeds the anti-Semite and anti-freemason conspiracy thinking.
The thriller is really no more than a simple boys adventure book. The main character, professor Robert Langdon, is suspected of murdering conservator Jacques Saunière of the museum Louvre in Paris. Saunière left a message. Chased by the police and struggling with the catholic organization Opus Dei (1) Langdon together with cryptologist Sophie Neveu starts a quest for the hidden meaning of Saunières message. They discover a mysterious society, the Priory of Sion, which has been guarding a treasure for some 900 years: the "holy grail", the cup from which Jesus supposedly drank at the last supper and in which his blood was caught during his crucifixion. In the end, after many developments, Langdon and Neveu do not find the grail.
Browns book is a hype. Worldwide more than 10 million copies have been sold, some 200 thousand in the Netherlands. It will shortly be made into a movie. Readers discuss the thriller on internet and in pubs. Hordes of tourists have already visited the places in Paris that Brown describes. The tourist industry makes a lot of money with special "Da Vinci code" trips.
Conspiracy stories are always about a large bad and invisible power which suppresses the good. The genre is characterized by a mixture of all kinds of half truths with straight lies, by the absurd manner of combining various historical and dreamed events, and by the Right and reactionary interpretations of these events. Conspiracy connects with real feelings of powerlessness, but it directs our attention away from the concrete daily oppressive relations and puts dreamed and mythical powers in their place. Instead of making readers "aware" and thus liberating them, as conspiracy authors often claim, this type of stories create a feeling of powerlessness, diminish the ability to understand social and political situations and in this way limit the possibility of a serious Left liberation struggle.
The storyline and the characters in "The Da Vinci code" are fictitious, says Brown. But the essence of the story is based on "facts" which were suppressed for centuries by the catholic church, Brown stresses in his book and in interviews. The Priory of Sion (Prieuré de Sion) would really exist. That "secret society" was supposedly founded in 1099 and would always have had a lot of influence in powerful circles and would guard a big "secret" about the origin of Christianity.
According to Brown that suppressed "secret" is that Jesus was married with Maria Magdalene, who was a prostitute according to Vatican doctrine. Jesus and Magdalene supposedly had children. The suppression of the "truth" about Maria Magdalene is supposedly symbolic for the oppression of women in the catholic church. The Priory in this way supposedly favors a better Christianity, in which the role of mother is, of course falsely, presented as liberating. After Jesus' crucifixion Maria Magdalene supposedly fled to the south of France and lived on in a Jewish community there. Jesus' children supposedly also got children, and their offspring supposedly spread more and more. In the fifth century a descendant of Jesus supposedly married someone of "French royal blood". According to the story, that was the beginning of the dynasty of Meroving kings. The word "grail" is supposedly based on the concept "royal blood" ("sang real"). "The grail" should not only be seen a an object, but also as a symbol and a family tree. The French duke Godfrey of Bouillon supposedly was one of the descendants of Jesus. At the end of the eleventh century he started the first crusade, conquered Jerusalem and became king there. In this way, Brown suggests, Jesus' offspring got back what was rightfully theirs. For Jesus supposedly had been "king of the Jews". Seen in this way, the crusades were perfectly legitimate, instead of robbery, murder and plunder against "non believers".
Because the catholic church considers itself the only true heir of Jesus, these kinds of ideas supposedly did not please the people at the Vatican. Also the opinions about a more emancipated Christianity supposedly did not sound good to the male dominated Vatican. That's why Rome supposedly fought to suppress these ideas. To save "the secret" after his death, the duke of Bouillon supposedly founded the Priory of Sion. According to the story, its members had to keep "the secret" from generation to generation. Later Priory members supposedly heard that there were documents proving "the secret" in Jerusalem, buried under the ruins of Herodes temple which is built on the temple of Salomon. The Priory then supposedly founded a military wing, the knights of the temple, who, posing as protectors of pilgrims, went after these documents. The story goes that they indeed discovered these documents and a huge treasure, which made them a lot more powerful in the thirteenth century. The Vatican supposedly didn't like that, and persecuted and murdered these heretics mercilessly in the beginning of the fourteenth century. The Priory, however, supposedly kept the documents. Later the Vatican and the Priory supposedly silently agreed that the Vatican would not attack the Priory if they would keep the "sang real" documents a secret. In this story Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo and Claude Debussy were amongst the leaders – "the grandmasters" – of the Priory. These "grandmasters" supposedly still want to some day show "the secret" to the world. These are "the facts" in Brown's book.
Orthodox Christians react furiously to the idea that Jesus was married and had sex, and scientists criticize Brown because his "facts" are not correct or very implausible. But the concepts of God and his divine son Jesus are fiction anyway and all religions are first and foremost oppressive ideologies. Furthermore, it is not possible anymore to find out what exactly happened back then. Critics shouldn't even try to find out if Brown's "facts" contain much truth, because that's precisely what conspiracy thinkers like him want us to do. It is this kind of thinking in conspiracies that should be fought, that's important. The main problem is this structure of thought, and the reactionary analysis of society on which it is based. Brown should be criticized because he stimulates people to join the worldwide fast growing mass of believers in conspiracy theories.
Brown's "facts" about the existence of the Priory, its political and economic influence and its power struggle with the Vatican, are completely based on the fantasies of the French anti-Semite and anti-freemason charlatan Pierre Plantard. He was obsessed by the idea of conspiracies. Before the second World War Plantard founded the French Union, a movement against Jews and freemasons. In 1940 he warned marshal Pétain, the leader of collaborating Vichy France, in a letter against a conspiracy of Jews and freemasons. In 1942 and 1943 he published the anti-Semitic and anti-freemason magazine "Vaincre" in which he for instance criticized that some members of the Vichy government sometimes aided Jews. "I want to let Hitler's Germany know that every obstacle to our own plans will cause him damage too, for it is the resistance founded by the freemasonry that undermines German power."(2)
In 1956 Plantard founded a rather boyish and stupid little club with his friends which he called the Priory of Sion, after a nearby mountain named Sion. All the stories about a powerful and centuries old Priory society are ultimately based on Plantard's fantasy. He called himself "grandmaster" of his Priory, and fantasized a family tree which supposedly proved that he descended from the Meroving kings. In reality Plantard's oldest known forefather was a sixteenth century farmer cultivating walnuts. (3) According to André Bonhomme, back then a friend of Plantard and chairman of their little Priory club, Plantard always fantasized a lot. (4) In short, Brown's Priory is Sion is pure nonsense.
Plantard's fantasies are so often reproduced by scores of writers, 'researchers' and documentary makers, that in the eyes of many people they simply have to be true. Famous 'conspiracy experts' like for instance Jim Marrs (5) and David Icke (6) have given a lot of attention to Plantard's fantasies. Brown says his book "The Da Vinci Code" is mostly based on the book "Holy blood, holy grail" by 'researchers' Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh en Henry Lincoln, published in 1982. "A book not to be missed for all Da Vinci Code fans", the cover of a 2004 reprint says. Readers can hand in a coupon that comes with the book and get a discount on "The Da Vinci Code". Recently "The bloodline of the holy grail" by the Scottish "genealogist" Laurence Gardner was published, a sequel to "Holy blood, holy grail" and again a must for "Da Vince Code" fans. "Gardner starts where are others end", the book cover says. Tiresome.
"Holy blood" supposedly proves the existence of the Priory since 1099. In reality it is completely based on fantasy. To 'conspiracy experts' and anti-Semites like Peter Edel, who feel strongly attracted to the book, that poses no problem. Because it cannot be determined what really happened, the book could surely be based on the truth, Edel for instance writes. (7) According to the three authors "The protocols of the wise men of Sion" could ultimately prove to be "the most convincing evidence of the actual existence of the Prieuré de Sion". In reality "the protocols" are an infamous anti-Semite fantasy about a Jewish conspiracy, which also motivated the Nazi's. The three authors, however, argue that "the protocols" are not a fantasy but a forgery, based on an earlier authentic text. That "had nothing to do with Jewry or an "international Jewish conspiracy", but came from circles of freemasons or a similar secret society which carried the word "Sion" in its name", the three charlatans write. The original text "could well have contained a program to grab power, to infiltrate in the freemasonry and to get social, political and economic institutions under control." (8) Even without a Jewish component, this kind of conspiracy thinking remains dangerous nonsense.
According to the three authors, the Priory has "influence on important international events and also plays a role in the internal politics of some European countries." The Priory supposedly was involved "at important events in western history". The purpose of the Priory supposedly is "the bringing to power again of the Meroving dynasty and their offspring, not only in France, but also in other countries". That would be "justified" because the offspring of those kings also have "the royal blood" of Jesus streaming in their veins and are therefore the rightful heirs to the throne. "The several families stemming from the Meroving kings were in the past also closely involved in politics and seeking political power. That also seems to be true for the Prieuré de Sion and some of its grandmasters", the authors write. "There's no reason to assume that politics are today less important to Sion and the families. Everything seems to point to Sion thinking of a unity between church and state, a combination of the spiritual and secular, the holy and the down to earth, of politics and religion. In many documents Sion ensures that the new king, according to the Meroving tradition, will "reign, but not administrate"." "It would have to be a "priest king" in "a theocratic United States of Europe", "a kind of twentieth century feudal system". The Priory would be doing "the actual administration".
The three take Plantard's Priory fantasies extremely serious. "We know that the Prieuré is not an organization of 'fools'. We know they have a lot of money and that people in influential positions in politics, the economy, the media and the arts are members or have sympathy for them. We know that the membership has quadrupled since 1956, as if they are preparing for something. Plantard told us that his order and he himself work according to a rather punctual time scheme. We also know that Sion has leaked certain information since 1956. They did that bit by bit, just enough to make people curious and to give them interesting prospects. The time seems ripe for the Prieuré de Sion to show its cards. The political systems and ideologies, which seemed to promise so much at the beginning of the century, all more or less went bankrupt. Communism, fascism, capitalism and western democracy have all broken their promises, disappointed their followers and the dreams they invoked, and did not deliver." (8) According to the authors there is therefore "a renewed need for something holy", for "a real leader". "Not a Fuehrer, but a wise, lovable figure, a priest king whom humankind can trust." Fortunately the Priory was just one of the omnipotence fantasies of Plantard, who died in 2000. Unfortunately his anti-Semite and anti-freemason myths still survive.
(Most quotes are not directly taken from English originals, but have been translated back to English from Dutch translations.)