sepoy notes: Apparently, DaVinci Code made 200 plus million $s around the globe this weekend. Understand how Tom Hanks' Coif triumphed over the Pope's Mitre by reading the conclusion of Farangi's charming foray into historical memory.
V. Pass Go, Collect Awareness
The DaVinci Code begins where it endsâ€šÃ„Ã®at the Louvre. Paulo Coelhoâ€šÃ„Ã´s charming The Alchemist begins where it ends. John Fowlesâ€šÃ„Ã´, The Magus â€šÃ„Ã® a vexing novel of initiation, also begins where it ends. To Einstein, matter and energy form an eternal loop of exchange. Phillip Dickâ€šÃ„Ã´s Martian Time Slip whipsaws us through time, repeatedly touching the same place. Donnie Darko revisits the past to understand his present. The movie Memento keeps returning us to go before it reveals its intent. And those of us persistent or stoned enough to make it through Finneganâ€šÃ„Ã´s Wake found ourselves back at Adam and Eveâ€šÃ„Ã´s house.
Like most Occult organizationsâ€šÃ„Ã´ processes, Freemasonryâ€šÃ„Ã´s schedule of initiation also begins where it endsâ€šÃ„Ã®after terrifying ordeals, the initiate finds himself on the other side of Chapel Perilous, still alas himself, alone, back in the world, but changed.
This is the ultimate Secret, and value, and joke, of the Occult. Through a progressive system of clues, shocks, dead ends and revealing, an initiate learns to pay close attention to the world around him, and that the ultimate end of all â€šÃ„Ãºmagickalâ€šÃ„Ã¹ operations is quite mundaneâ€šÃ„Ã®there is magic in everyday life, and one need only open his eyes to see. Yet how much hard is it for us, who spend most of our hours in two dimensions, to stop and smell the Rosicrucians? The philosophers told us. Aliester Crowley told us. Weâ€šÃ„Ã´re sleeping. And itâ€šÃ„Ã´s hard to wake up without subjecting ourselves to shocks.
This is why I claimed earlier to believe each of the Templar legends. In fact, I believe none of them, but I also donâ€šÃ„Ã´t disbelieve any of them, either, especially to the exclusionary benefit of normative received wisdom. However, I have learned through practice to be as humble as an admitted megalomaniac can beâ€šÃ„Ã®what the fuck do I know? I canâ€šÃ„Ã´t dismiss any of them out of hand, no matter how easy that might make discussions with Sepoy. The mere fact that I have been conditioned, through study and practice, to doubt, to expect proof, to suspect the motives of those whose comfort is ensured by singular, easy belief, leaves me shrugging my shoulders. Even where madness is concerned, I try to think in probabilities, not possibilities. This may have come naturally to some of you. As I was raised a fundamentalist, It didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t for me, and was a long time coming.
The weirdness ascribed to sane Occultists, and the powers alleged to its sincere practitioners, is the powerful weirdness of those who are awake, or enlightened. Try, one day, to live as a Freemasonâ€šÃ„Ã´s Lodge, or the Buddhists eightfold path directsâ€šÃ„Ã®with full attention to now, with an open heart, and a will to do good. The world will appear different, and you will appear different to the world.
As many Westerners are ostensibly Christians, and until the 20th century, our faithsâ€šÃ„Ã®especially Catholicismâ€šÃ„Ã®have been very guilty of propagating the memes, and working the levers of the goddamn apparati mentioned above. This conflicts terribly with the words our forefathers laid out for us, but not, perhaps with the words they preferred we not read, e.g., the Gnostic gospels.
The current obsession with the DaVinci Code reflects the latest attempt by those who see gender equality as a matter, and obligation, of faith to reframe tired arguments about faithâ€šÃ„Ã®between conservatives and reformersâ€šÃ„Ã®as a discussion of basic premises; asking, finally, what if we need to start over? What if our suppositions are wrong?
It would appear to be an effort that is more concerted than spontaneous. Whether or not the planning takes place in some Dr. Strangelove war room (and it most likely has not), like minded people have decided, perhaps independently of one another, that the time is finally right to challenge some of the most basic precepts of Christianity. Be they Templars, Cathars, Albigensians, Anabaptists, Lutherans, Masons, Mormons, Jehovahâ€šÃ„Ã´s Witnesses, or whomever, Christian history is full of characters acting in loose concert for change.
This is a possible scenario, and the one I encourage you to consider: adherents to Templarism cum Freemasonry/European Occultism, and sundry fellow travelers, have, since the 18th century, had a rough time with the whole enlightenment thing. The French Revolutionâ€šÃ„Ã®an overplayed hand. The forces of reaction have, even today, run up to the ramparts of the Scientific Method itself; the twentieth century was a long, blood-bath pause dominated by crazy wars over economics. Religious nuts seem to rule the hour.
But with the Catholic Church reeling from institutionalized pederasty, and with a rising disgust worldwide over the myopic policies of conservative, right-wing elitesâ€šÃ„Ã®prominent among them Protestantsâ€šÃ„Ã®there has been a general darkness creeping over the globe, and a desire by people to find a new way to look at the world. I have listened to Radioheadâ€šÃ„Ã´s Kid A. I know of what I speak.
Plantardâ€šÃ„Ã´s surrealist, solipsistic, Cocteau-inspired whisperingsâ€šÃ„Ã®which were a reserving of Templar myths, which were themselves, as we have suggested, the seedbed of the Enlightenment and the Western Occult traditionâ€šÃ„Ã®inspired Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln to broadcast a very heretical, but intriguing viewâ€šÃ„Ã®that the West could have an alternative to the queer ideas that now hold us in thrall. We can have a humanistic, egalitarian, sex-positive Christianity that moves us past a Madonna/Whore dichotomy, and the bullshit, and painfully evident cultural-dissatisfaction, such nonsense inspires. The Christian faith neednâ€šÃ„Ã´t be an altar-boy buggering sausage party, but a living, vibrant thing that recognizes life as it is, and wonders, with eager hands, what could be. Millions read, and believed.
Yet people believe stories, not facts, and Brown, who shares a publisher with Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, stamped out a potboiler polemic dramatizing narratives that were once the contemplative province of weekend magi, like myself. The book, as we know, has owned publishing for five years. It was inevitable that the notion would take itself to Hollywood, bringing 30% of the books audience with it, as true believers. And now, over a billion peopleâ€šÃ„Ã®most of them conditioned to listen to controversies related to Christianityâ€šÃ„Ã®will hear.
All of this requires agreement, at every level, which I call a small-c conspiracy. Perhaps a narrative journey that began with a mourning, pregnant widow landing on the Riviera, with her consort, Joseph of Arimathea, and pops throughout European history, as though to test the wind for the right scentsâ€šÃ„Ã®first as a claim to right of rule, then as a matter of nationalist tradition, then as a continent wide raison dâ€šÃ„Ã´tre for lovers, artists and intellectuals, then as a basis for heresy, then as a cause for great hoax-art, then as a non-fiction bestseller, then as a brittle pulp novel beloved by millions is readyâ€šÃ„Ã®is ready to come to light once and for all, and nudge us back toward go.
If 450 Million people suddenly become Christian heretics, and begin having quasi-pagan orgies in adoration of the whore that Christ purportedly came to love, does that make Brownâ€šÃ„Ã´s thesis more palatable? No. Has Brown written history? No. But historiansâ€šÃ„Ã®who, whether they know it or notâ€šÃ„Ã®employ the critical thinking principles a Mason learns as a matter of practice, and might as well be brothers of the 3rd degree, neednâ€šÃ„Ã´t worry that false histories will take root.
Historians should sit back and watch, because courtesy Dan Brown, and the loosely coordinated remaining bedfellows of the Enlightenment, the culture en masse may just be starting the journey that most academics took at an early ageâ€šÃ„Ã®a narrative took holdâ€šÃ„Ã®Washingtonâ€šÃ„Ã´s cherry tree, the Muslim invasion of the Sindh, what have youâ€šÃ„Ã®and as the thoughts and thinker matured, the bogus narrative became tarnished with inconvenient truths. But by then the narrative was not what matteredâ€šÃ„Ã®a love for stories, and the shreds of evidence we bend and weave to make them, and awareness of the human impetus to do so, has brought the historian to higher levels of awareness. Those dedicated enough, like their Masonic pals, even receive â€šÃ„Ãºdegreesâ€šÃ„Ã¹ for their efforts.
What I see underway is the first in a long stage of universal Western initiationâ€šÃ„Ã®an induction of half the globe, if you will. Following the pattern of all Occult organizations, those small-c conspirators in the DaVinci codeâ€šÃ„Ã´s orbitâ€šÃ„Ã®Hollywood greedheads, Occultists, literati, big and small-c conspiracy theorists, and freethinkers of every stripe--are asking readers, viewers and thinkers to ask the basic question that moves both philosophers and conspiracy theoristsâ€šÃ„Ã®why, and why not? This is to the detriment of free-thoughtâ€šÃ„Ã´s traditional enemies, and such enemies actually have much to fear. if we take the bait, and start sifting through evidence, we will discover what every initiate discovers.
It is the journey that matters: the process of thinking, of evaluating, of assigning value to propositions. The clearer light invoked by this great work does something wonderful to the human soulâ€šÃ„Ã®expanding, sensitizing, enlightening. Also, it shows that perception is faulty, and the stories that move us are almost impossible to distill to certainty. Mystery is everywhere, and the solutions are ultimately irrelevant. Whatâ€šÃ„Ã´s important is the journey from passivity to activity, from consumption to creation, from dependence to responsibility.
Howdy! I think that you have rather eloquently expressed the basic essentials of my own thougts regarding the compelling nature of Templar-based conspiracy thinking. Indeed, its most beneficial effect may be that it gets more people to take medieval history classes and thus means that the History Department and St. Michael's College need to hire more TA's, which might wind up with me having enough hours of TAing to be able to go out to the pub rather than buying a case of cheap beer with friends. What's so fascinating about the power of stories in history is that the Grail itself doesn't originate in any history, chronicle, or pseudopigripha. It originates in Arthurian Romances, in rhyming poetry read aloud not in the Latin of the intelligentsia, but in the French of the lay aristocracy. It is a great testament to the storytelling genius of Chretien de Troyes that his graal would eventually come to inspire so many spin-offs. And you are right that the end of the Templars *is* compelling. So compelling that a historian might use it as a backdrop for his Dark Ages Vampire campaign. As a historian, though, it puts my teeth on edge to hear that "In 1307, the Vatican ordered..." or "For the last two thousand years, the Vatican has..." It grates to hear that Constantine fixed the biblical canon and that the debate at Nicea was not over whether or not Jesus was co-equal with the Father, but whether he was the Son of God. On the other hand, I find it amusing to learn that the Merovingians were not a collection of fratricidal savages who let Gaul collapse into a backwards cesspit but rather the secret descendants of Jesus. In the end, thgouh, I look forward with great annoyance to the day when I find my undergrads learnedly writing about the Priory of Sion.
So lots of people went to see the Da Vinci Code over the weekend. I hear it reported on the radio yesterday that the "DVC" had the second biggest opening weekend in the UK, only after Gone with the Wind. The presenters and reviewers wrang their hands, Why?! after such terrible reviews at Cannes? Sadly, for the UK I must offer more prosaic reasons than a culture industry duped public: it was a filthy weekend in southern England. It blew, it poured with rain, it hailed, the wind ripped half the fresh new leaves off the trees and if there wasn't warm and dry at the other end (like the cinema), it wasn't worth stepping out far. Oh, and the football (blessedly) is over. But why the story and the book/film though? Certainly some stories and ideas have a peculiar 'stickiness', and seemingly religious ones particularly (Pascal Boyer writes about this in similar terms to Dawkins and memes; for Boyer these are aspects of human congnition which are universal, but insufficient on their own - until they meet a particular kind of intuitively unnatural idea; hence human societies have religious ideas - but not all have the same beliefs/ideas!). If religious ideas are 'sticky' then why not ideas which involve similarly 'intuitively unnatural ideas' - like ones about religion - and more particularly conspiracy theories? These must share some similar facets with religous ideas, not least attempts to explain imponderables, and particularly using counterintuitive ideas? Europe might not be so religous now, but I would guess that ideas which play with the same bits of the mind as religion/belief are probably just as catchy as ever? Sadly, I can also report for Andrew, that the Da Vinci Code as already made it to the undergrad seminar room so my office mate reports...and that course was 'Nation and Identity'! She and I are still trying to work that one out....