The Da Vinci Code

A note on Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code

How is the extraordinary popularity of this book to be accounted for?  Unfortunately, from my point of view, it may well be because it is seen as undermining the Catholic religion, and hence destroying the last remnant of belief in anything ‘supernatural’ or in any way extending the range of what human beings regard as ‘real’.

I would not have supposed that the possibility that Jesus had an offspring was a serious problem for any version of Christianity; they are mostly only too keen to claim that he was as thoroughly human as anyone else.

The possibility that he survived the crucifixion, and came to France would appear to be more serious, since the ideas of a sacrificial atonement for the sins of humanity, and a miraculous revival from death, are theologically important points of doctrine.

Modern atheistic socialists resent any concept of God as unfair competition with their claims to be sole arbiters of what is right and good for everybody, and what is and is not to be regarded as real or important.

Exponents of this point of view are keen to undermine any dogma which is not in line with common sense, or what appears to be most immediately plausible, and consider that by doing so they are eliminating any possibility of there being anything to be understood which the human mind does not already understand about, or which it may never be able to understand at all.

Of course no rejection of any particular dogmatic belief can disprove the possibility that there may be more to the situation in which human beings find themselves than meets the eye.  However, modern philosophers such as Bede Rundle and other academics such as Richard Dawkins would like to claim that this is the case and are prepared to offer ostensible proofs that this is so.

Catholicism, with its clearly stated doctrines, some of which are obviously at variance with common sense, probably appears to many people as the last bastion of belief in the supernatural still standing in the modern world.  And it would appear to be acceptable to discover that it was suppressing rival ideas about the ‘sacred feminine’ – i.e. the importance of sex and fertility.

While the branch of Christianity which was promoted by St Paul (and perhaps largely invented by him) certainly did suppress other branches of Christianity, many of these other branches were apparently characterised by a far more extreme interest in the spiritual, as transcending the material, than its own.

These branches certainly appear unlikely to have worshipped the ‘sacred feminine’, since they regarded the entrapment of souls or consciousnesses within the physical world as deplorable, and to be overcome as soon as possible.  The Cathars were vegetarians because eating meat was encouraging the breeding of animals and hence the imprisonment of fragments of the spiritual in new animal bodies.

Liberation from the physical was very much to be desired, and was to be obtained either during life or after death by a variety of methods.  If obtained while alive, immortality was associated with the ‘gnosis’, which was a psychological state apparently providing access to information about inconceivable realities or ‘knowledge of the unknowable’.     

Catholicism, with its clear and explicit beliefs, is an easy target, but in my view it is far less pernicious than the prevailing system of unexamined assumptions and beliefs which attacks it from the cover of an undefined position.

Although not a Catholic myself, I happened to be sent to a convent school in Ilford.  The vague sense that life was dramatic, as being played out against a cosmic backdrop in which incalculable things were of incalculable importance, was far more compatible with my own agnostic scepticism than the oppressively reductionist antagonism of a state school to which I was sent later, and at which I was forced to remain in spite of my clear perception, at the end of the first day, that I should on no account return for a second.