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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Da Vinci Code and Deceit in American Literature

I'm going to go all English major on you for a second. Bear with or move along.

I've been reading The Da Vinci Code mostly because it might help me win the Google Code Quest finals (which, thanks to the ginormous taxes that would come with ... I'm not even sure I want to win ... but ...). The last puzzle, for instance, would have taken me a fraction of the time if I had read the book. I bemoaned about this earlier, arguing the case that it belittled the contest in general somewhat. I hadn't even considered the fact that the answers to the puzzle appeared on the net a few minutes after that puzzle appeared. In other words, some of the people who finished before me may have done nothing more than google for it.

But I digress. In for penny and whatnot. I'll play the finals tomorrow and perhaps reading The Da Vinci Code will help, or perhaps it won't. I'm here on a different matter.

The Da Vinci Code, in my opinion, is exemplary of a something wrong with American literature these days. It got some notice with Frey's A Million Little Pieces, exposed by The Smoking Gun as a work of fiction rather than an autobiographical account as Frey insisted. Dan Brown, on the other hand, opens his novel with this disclaimer:


The Priory of Sion—a European secret society founded in 1099—is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.
The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as “corporal mortification.” Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million World Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.

This disclaimer occurs before the prologue (which, to be honest, is simply chapter zero). So before the reader is introduced into the story itself ... Dan Brown wants you to know: this is based on the truth. He sets himself up as an authority for the reader and creates a foundation for which the reader should take the events, including the fictional ones, in his novel.

The problem is that either Dan Brown (or his publisher) is lying or was grossly negligent with his research. In fact, the Priory of Sion is not an organization founded in 1099 with members including Da Vinci and Victor Hugo ... but rather an organization founded in 1956 as a hoax with the intention of supporting a known con man's claim to the throne of France. His description of Opus Dei is misleading at it's best and slanderous at it's worse. His description of "artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals" is likewise fraught with inaccuracies and mistakes.

My problem with this is that the book clearly has benefitted with this deceit. For one thing, The Da Vinci Code is at best an average example of literature when it comes to form, dialogue and plot. It's a beach read. Like Frey's novel, without the premise of being based on real world facts ... it would be never have reached the level of popularity it's received today. It was Brown's insistence that he was basing his fiction on fact that raised the ire of so many to dispute his story.

It's a basic function of storytelling to illicit a suspension of disbelief from readers. To simply write a paragraph insisting that the entire foundation of your story is based on fact, when it's clearly not the case, cheats the reader and undermines the art form. It's a degradation of literature. It takes an artist to lead a reader down a path and weave enough detail and substance that they ignore the world around them and suppose, utterly on their own accord, that maybe if this was real.

But anyone can put in a fraudalent claim of factual evidence. Insisting, after that, that "it's simply fiction and shouldn't be taken so seriously" is hardly a defense when even before the story begins ... the author has already defrauded the reader.

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Tablesaw said...

I totally agree, but I keep having to ask myself, How is this different from Nathaniel Hawthorne's elaborate "this is a true story I found in my attic" introduction to The Scarlet Letter?

Seven Star Hand said...

Hey Josh and other seekers,

Pay close attention, profundity knocks at the door, listen for the key. Beware, scoffing leads to blindness...

There is a way to verify the truth...

There's a bit more to the story of the Vatican's reaction than most are yet aware of. Read my missive below to understand what they truly fear. It's not the DaVinci Code or Gospel of Judas per se, but the fact that people have been motivated to seek out the unequivocal truth about an age of deception, exactly when they expect me to appear. The Gospel of Judas and DaVinci Code controversies are allowing people to take new stock of the Vatican/Papacy and the religions Rome spawned.

Remember, "I come as a thief..." ?

Yes, the DaVinci Code is a novel. It is no more accurate as a literal version of history than is the New Testament. In other words, neither is the literal truth, which is a key fact of the story and ancient history. The primary sub-plot is about purposeful symbology being used to encode hidden meanings, exactly like the Bible and related texts. Arguing about whether the DaVinci Code, Gospel of Judas, or the Bible are accurate history is a Machiavellian red herring designed to hide the truth by misdirecting your inquiry away from the heart of the matter.

Want to truly understand why we can't let the Vatican succeed at telling us what to think about ancient history? There is a foolproof way to verify the truth and expose centuries-old religious deceptions. It is also the common thread connecting why the ancient Hebrews, Yahad/Essene, Jews, Gnostics, Cathars, Templars, Dead Sea Scrolls, DaVinci Code, and others have all been targets of Rome’s ire and evil machinations. What the Vatican and its secret society cohorts don’t want you to understand is that the ancient Hebrew symbology in all of these texts purposely encodes and exposes the truth about them. Furthermore, the structure of ancient symbology verifiably encodes the rules to decode messages built with it. This is what they most fear you will discover.

If the Bible represented the literal truth or even accurate history, there would be no need for faith in the assertions of deceptive and duplicitous clergy and their ilk. Wisdom and faith are opposing concepts, because wisdom requires the unequivocal truth where faith obfuscates and opposes it. Religion is therefore the enemy of truth and wisdom.

It is undeniable the New Testament is framed by ancient Hebrew symbolism and allegory. The same is evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic texts, biblical apocrypha, DaVinci Code, and other related texts. All ancient religious, mystical, and wisdom texts have been shrouded in mystery for millennia for one primary reason: The ability to understand their widely evidenced symbology was lost in antiquity. How do we finally solve these ages-old mysteries? To recast an often-used political adage: It’s [the] symbology, stupid!

It is amazing the Vatican still tries to insist the Gospels are literal truth. It is beyond obvious they are replete with ancient Hebrew symbology. Every miracle purported for Jesus has multiple direct symbolic parallels in the Old Testament, Apocalypse, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other symbolic narratives and traditions. This is the secret held by the ancient Gnostics, Templars, and Cathars, which is presented with dramatic effect in the DaVinci Code. None of these narratives or stories were ever intended as the literal truth. That is a key fact to unraveling ages-old mysteries.

Likewise, the following Washington Post article ( The Book of Bart) describes how many changes and embellishments were made to New Testament texts over the centuries, unequivocally demonstrating they are not original, infallible, or truthful.

It's no wonder the Vatican fears the truth more than anything else. Seek to understand the symbolic significance of my name (Seven Star Hand) and you will have proof beyond disproof that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have long been duped by the great deceivers I warned humanity about over the millennia. What then is the purpose of "faith" but to keep good people from seeking to understand truth and wisdom?

Now comes justice, hot on its heels... (symbolism...)

Not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk...
Here is Wisdom!!

Revelations from the Apocalypse

Josh said...

Seven Star Hand: interesting points ... but it's good to note that even Brown's handling of Jewish and Hebrew facts are highly questionable.

I'm all for a spirited discussion about the fallacies of relgious doctrination over the years. I just don't think subverting literature is the way to do it.

Tablesaw: That's an excellent point and one The Girl and I have been debating ourselves.

There's a distinction, though, between an author inserting himself as a preamble to the narrative and simple disclaimer attributing truth where there isn't some. Hawthorne is framing his narrative with himself as the storyteller and neither does he flatly declare that either his own account nor the story which follows it is flatout factual.

It's not uncommon, especially in gothic or horror genres, to try and create the illusion of authority by putting a little reality upfront. Lovecraft, for instance, often wraps his stories as though they were confessions or police accounts.

Where either would be crossing the line, in my book, would be by starting the whole thing off with "This story is based on actual documents which can be found in the Library of Congress."

Thomas said...


You might look up the legal case that was brought against Dan Brown by the authors of the book he used as a basis for DVC. It covers some of the same points, but in a surreal fashion: the first book is also blatantly false, but they sued Brown claiming that he had stoled their work. They also claimed that their work was factual non-fiction. If I remember correctly, they lost because of it--you can't rip off history, said the judge.

Pride, fall, and all that.

But I also remember Slate had an article about Brown's brief for that trial, where he detailed the formulaic methods he uses to build his thrillers. Fun stuff. Slate claimed it was better writing than his fiction.

Josh said...

It's kinda odd they lost that since IIRC, Brown even refers to their within the novel.

That novel also feel prey to the claims of the same Priory hoax. Chief difference is that when Holy Blood was written, the hoax was still a matter of some debate.

By the time Brown comes along, it's 2003 and Plantard has been proven as a fraud for almost a decade (not to mention deceased).

I'll have to hunt that Slate article down though. I would guess their claims are true. I just finished the book, actually. It's not horrible per se in the wide world of literature - but it's more akin to the kind of novel you'd pick up in an airport bookstore to alleviate boredom for a coming trip. Were it not for it's claims to be material evidence of a conspiracy, it would never merit a second thought.

Mrs. Morley said...

I could not agree more and I am preparing to write a blog on that subject as soon as I get some time. I thought the "Code" was a great thriller and I admit that I stayed up all night to see how it ended. That's all it was, though, a great read, a superior escape from the workday. It is, by no means, a book that will define the current generation of literature. Similarly, even though Brown truthfully states that the organizations and places in the novel are factual, this is no anomaly. Fictional stories are often based on real events, real times, and out of real institutions . In fact, this is far more the norm than a story of complete fictional basis. People are making far too big a deal of this book.