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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Not Another Da Vinci Blog!

First of all, I apologize for not writing a blog for a while. And just now, many of you will be asking me, "Who am I apologizing to? Who reads these blogs anyway?” I wouldn't blame you for having that assumption, not many readers of my blogs leave a comment. But I am really appreciative of those of you who do write a comment. Thank you! Maybe I should just start commenting on my own blogs anonymously. I could have all kinds of arguments between fictional characters, flaming each other, telling each other things about their mamma, it would be so much fun! Come on guys start commenting! (But please remember to add a name or some other identification tag to let me know who it is, even if it is something like MaleLatinLover. Long story, maybe some other blog)

There are thousands of blogs out there currently about the Da Vinci Code and I didn't want to write one too and be part of the crowd, but I couldn't help it. The Da Vinci Code has been very integral in my daily routine in the past few weeks, mostly because of the Da Vinci Code quest on Google that I had discussed previously. Well I completed all the 24 puzzles and I became on of the 10,000 finalists. After that I received a cryptex in the mail (see photo). A cool device to have, it was easy to solve the puzzle and discover the clue to the final puzzle. But this whole phase of the competition was purely for novelty. Subsequent to that, I too sat through and struggled through the final puzzles, which I must say were hard, getting frustrated at that elusive "Restoration challenge" to which I have not come up with any logic on how to solve. It ended up being random clicks in the end as their was no method to that madness, or at least none that I could see. I spent 15 minutes on that puzzle. The other 4 I brisked through in 10 minutes, making my final time not close to the winning time I suppose. But I must say it took me a total of 10 seconds to finish the chess challenge. I am told that Google has decided to continue these daily puzzles from May 26th onwards. They wont be related to Da Vinci Code anymore, perhaps making them fairer puzzles, and neither will their be prizes for completing it. But I suppose they are perfect for those slow days at work.

The puzzles were one of the reasons why I liked the book much. I have always liked solving puzzles, a friend suggested that I should possible consider a career in cryptography, but I don't think I have the patience for it. Plus after seeing "A Beautiful Mind" the side effects of such a profession doesn't seem too inviting. I liked the intrigue and mystery in the book pertaining to the puzzles, and before turning the pages, I could have a crack at it too. I remember how I figured out the Fibonacci numbers before the narrative revealed them. That was one of the reasons why I was a little disappointed in the movie. The movie wasn't much about the puzzles but focused more on the story. They tried to gear the movie towards all the people who wanted to see just exactly what the whole controversy was about. For plot and story and sheer excitement, "Angels and Demons" was a much better book. A novel version of "24" sans Jack Bauer of course. But the action takes place in 24 hours and the suspense is thrilling and the final twist in the end is very 24-esque. That would have made a better movie for all audiences in my opinion.

The controversy behind The Da Vinci Code is well known to everyone, there are a million blogs about it. There are all sides of the story, ranging from the Opus Dei's letter stating the realities behind their organization, the religious advocates who want the books burned into flames for its blasphemous content, the fans of the book who proclaim that it is a book of fiction only and should be enjoyed as such, and then the true fanatics who see the story of the book as the truth. I must say, I am among neither of those groups. I have a very different outlook to the Da Vinci code, and I will share that outlook in this blog.

Sorry I will take an aside here. I was looking for some of my previous books to find some references that I needed. I discovered that one of the books I needed is still missing. I hate it when people don't return my books. I hope Ahmad, that if I mention you by name in my blog you would feel some guilt and return my book sometime soon. I hope its still in one piece. The last time I loaned a book to Usaid , I only got the first 60 pages back. I must say that you chose a really good place to rip the book in half; page 60 leaves a great cliffhanger. But the whole point of this is to let you know that I have had a prior interest in this topic, mainly Templar history. And when I had read the Da Vinci code, it was this history that made me intrigued in the book, apart from the codes and puzzles. This real history, as opposed to the fake history (all the controversial stuff) that is rare to see in many books. The book is a good work of fiction.

First I will go over the fake history. Much of what you need to know about the Priory of Sion can be found here. As you can read, the organization was founded in 1956 as a club by a man named Pierre Plantard who's fabrication is well documented. Nearly all historians and academics agree that the Priory is a hoax. The story about Mary Magdalene was first proposed in the book "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" which was published in 1982 becoming an instant best seller, it was the Da Vinci Code of the 80s. The authors of the book sued Dan Brown for copyright infringement in 2005 and rightfully so, as the plot behind the Da Vinci Code is fundamentally inspired from "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail". They should have won the case but they were probably only looking to make some money from the Da Vinci code hype. "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" was directly influenced by Plantard and used his "fabrications" as its fundamental source. Simply speaking, the crux of the Da Vinci Code is factually not true.

I have done a lot of research in Crusader history and I find it as a fascinating era. Actually I must say, one of the most historically accurate crusades history movie I have seen in recent times is "Kingdom of Heaven". Except for the historical inaccuracies about Balian (Orlando Bloom), the other characters are depicted accurately. I suppose some artistic license should be allowed to movie makers, after all, they are looking to make a profit and therefore must create something that is entertaining. As depicted in the movie, the Knights Templars are very real.

There is a long history of the Templars, with a wide variety of opinions about them through the ages. The story begins even before the Crusades. They were an influential voice in proposing for the crusades in the first place. Ironically they were absent from the first crusade. Most members came to the Holy Land after it had been conquered by the crusaders. Upon their arrival they established a monastic order and called themselves Knights of the Temple of Solomon and are commonly known as the knights Templars. They pledged themselves to protecting pilgrims on their road to Jerusalem. But mostly they fought in the expansion of their territories. They made their abode on the Temple Mount. Their has been evidence that they conducted excavations under it. No one knows what they found but what is known is that they became very rich. They came back to Rome and after a meeting with the Pope, became answerable to only him. As the Templars grew richer, mainly through their banking activities, the despise for them from other groups grew too, until Friday, October 13th, 1307, (giving rise to superstition that Friday the 13th is unlucky) when all the Templars in France were arrested simultaneously on an order of King Phillip IV of France and subsequently, their Grandmaster, Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake with the rest of the Templars as heretics to the Catholic church. Some of the Templars escaped from France to Scotland where they found refuge under Robert the Bruce (Maybe you know him from Braveheart), who had been excommunicated by the church earlier. Here, the Templars formed a new organization, the Freemasons of the Scottish Rite. It was these masons that built the Roslyn Chapel.

Because of the Templar's residence at the Temple of Solomon, many legends grew about the Holy Grail. People were surprised at the Templars sudden rise to riches, they were also wary of their sudden rise to power and were answerable to no one but the Pope. People attributed their power with the possession of the Holy Grail. It is interesting to note that the King Arthur legend, which became central to the Grail quest for some, was first written during this time by some Templars in French Normandy. The Grail history is very much mingled with the Templar's history, as depicted in the Da Vinci Code.

Roslyn chapel has become the favorite as the hiding place for the Grail. The reason lies in its striking design. The Chapel seams unfinished, unknown if it’s that way by design. The western wall of the chapel is a scaled replica of the Western Wall of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. There is also a mystery surrounding what is known as the Apprentice Pillar in the chapel, and the story behind it has become one of the rituals of freemasonry.

There is tons more to talk about. As you can see I have read up a lot on this subject. There are many everyday things we have, whose origins can go back to Templar history. Bank checks for instance being one. Some even say that the Templars knew about America, also Columbus is related to a well known Templar, he even sailed with the Templar insignia, the famous white sail with the red cross on it, a sail that Templar ships carried. But their isn't enough evidence to support that. There is though, a long Masonic history in the US too, the foundations of this country lying on them. The movie "National Treasure" might be familiar to many, our nation's beginnings lie in Masonic culture. There is a whole range of other stuff in the Da Vinci code that is historically accurate, such as the Council of Nicaea, which settled the debate in the church whether Jesus Christ was divine or a man, as proposed by the followers of Arius in Alexandria, and the selection of the canonical gospels.

I guess that was some separation of the facts and the fiction in the Da Vinci Code. There were two main reasons why I liked it, the codes and puzzles being one, and the familiar history that I had already researched being the other. But here also lies the dilemma. Was it right to read/watch the Da Vinci Code knowing that it contained blasphemous content? How does "only fiction" stand when it comes to sensitive religious beliefs? There is a similar recent analogy with the Danish cartoon's row. Freedom of speech was used to argue for that. Many countries banned The Da Vinci Code from its theaters, was that right?

It not everyday that you read books containing mysteries like Codex, Cryptex, Holy Grail and other things that intrigue us. It’s also not everyday that you read books about such blasphemies. I suppose it is this dichotomy that has made the book so famous today. Is it a heretical work trying to undermine Jesus Christ? Or is it just simply fiction, in bad taste?

Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed on any external site are not those of my own.

4 Comments:

  • Ok dude u really gotta let the whole "I only returned half your book" thing go. Its not liked I messed up your Star Wars DVD set...oh no, if I recall...I returned that in the condition in which it was given to me...SO ENOUGH ALREADY...

    P.S. Templars suck...go marmalukes and War Elephants, thats an aok joke...yes I know I'm a loser...but your a bigger one for getting the joke

    By Anonymous Usaid, at 5/26/2006 1:18 AM  

  • 11 (thats an AOK joke too)

    By Blogger MCMLXXXII, at 5/26/2006 1:21 AM  

  • Meh, the blue sports car pwns all in AOK.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/26/2006 3:33 PM  

  • An interesting blog read. A few things if I may, I went to Israel and visited Jerusalem and the upper room is not so ornate and grand as Da Vinci has depicted nor does Jerusalem have large fields
    filled with Cyprus trees like the scene from the movie the Gladiator. Sorry its just not there.

    One major point that is missed by so many concerning the painting is that Mr. Da Vinci was not there so it is his interpretation. I have read that Da Vinci was and enjoyed being quite a trickster/prankster so to take what he wrote at face value is just absurd.

    I noticed you made a point to make it clear about the controversial stuff being fake history for it
    truly is. I won't argue the locations and the buildings for some still stand to this day.

    As far as the story and the whole Jesus and Mary Magdalene theme it very is offensive and disgusting to me as a Christian. I'm sorry but even in fiction I wouldn't go and defame another's belief for a great thrill. As far as the questions at the end, well anything controversial, partly
    fictious or wholy would undermine Jesus Christ and it is most certainly in bad taste to me. I
    can't read the fun puzzles and mystery and location description and ignore what knaws at both my
    mind and heart. I read the book to the point where this controversial point came and had to put it down. I will finish the book when I have made peace with it and use it as a reference for knowing just how easily people can be influenced by a book. I recently read and article or two about its effect on other countries. Click http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,198073,00.html and http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,196793,00.html to read them for yourselves. In India they wish only to allow adults to watch it and it is totally banned in Pakistan out of respect for the beliefs of the Christians residing there and the blaspheme and offense they take against it.

    This blog had a lot more to say about the actual places and puzzles but feeling so strongly about this subject matter as I do I had to say what I said above. I found http://www.carm.org/features/davincicode.htm useful for some truths as far as the Bible and what the Da Vinci Code had to say.

    M

    By Blogger M, at 6/07/2006 12:22 AM  

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