Conspiracies & Santa Claus
Cocktail Party FodderI love a good conspiracy theory or hypothesis and Dan Brown's, "The Da Vinci Code" is excellent fodder for a cocktail party "conspiracy/religious" debate. The old saying goes "don't discuss politics or religion...," but I don't seem to adhere much to those kinds of limitations -- perhaps it is naiveté or stupidity, because even if one gets through it successfully, one really must consider how badly it could've gone. Either way last New Years Eve [12/31/2003] was ripe for such a discussion. A group of us broke off from the main party and began a great discussion on the premise of the Dan Brown best seller. Since it was a New Year's party, a bit of the grape helped to loosen the tongues, making it quite enjoyable to run through the details of the story, but it was even more interesting to find out how the book's controversial theme would lead to a variety of diverse sub-discussions, revolving around Knights Templar, Church [Catholic] conspiracies and some personal conclusions.
The Book In a NutshellThe premise of the book is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene (who according to Brown was erroneously [or maliciously] labeled a prostitute by the Church). The book further puts forth the belief that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children whom Mary Magdalene brought to the south of France. The children married into the ruling families of the region and the bloodline became part of the "Merovingian Dynasty" -- among the first Kings of France.
Their secret pedigree was protected for centuries. The book goes on to claim that Mary and the heirs have been metaphorically (or literally) referred to as the "Holy Grail." The secret organization that has protected this "Holy Grail" is called the "Prieure de Sion" (Priory of Zion or Priory of Sion ) -- directly related to the Knights Templar. That's the premise in nutshell.
Our discussion that evening began with the book then later moved onto the Knights Templar and eventually the Freemasons. My friends were quite candid -- contributing a wealth of knowledge and speculation to the discussion, which was perhaps made even a bit more creative by the presence of the evening's spirits [refreshments]. We were soon discussing all sorts of conspiracies, dogma and doctrine, as well as the personal ramifications that the book's premise posed.
Squelching and a "Grand Master"A Jewish friend of mine (who did not read the book but listened to the basic outline) noted how the Church tends to squelch things that are not in its interest. No one disagreed, since the Church is one of the only ones to ever admit even some of the wrongs that it committed and has even asked for forgiveness, albeit quite belatedly, but regardless of the 500 or 600 year tardiness, it did admit some errors. The book's tie-in to Leonardo da Vinci is through his purported involvement as a "Grandmaster" of the Prieure de Sion and their covert underground activity, which was forced upon them by various pogroms directed toward them in the 13th and 14th centuries. Brown promotes the idea that Da Vinci left clues to the Jesus and Mary Magdalene relationship in his painting of the Last Supper, as well as other works.
Beliefs Challenged?Well interestingly enough, I am ambivalent to the whole thing -- oh surprise, that's a new position... Anyone who knows me or has read the "Why" page of this collection of columns pretty much knows that I often change positions. Concerning the book though -- I simply don't know whether it happened or not. I guess the Church's position is opposed to the belief that any type of personal relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene existed or could exist, but I certainly don't know. I suppose faith would require that I turn away from entertaining the possibility that there could be any truth to it... but I like to believe that I am open-minded [ego] to such possibilities and I simply cannot dismiss such a notion. It doesn't change my core beliefs concerning Jesus and divinity. Either way Jesus and divinity remain the same.
After New Years and The Santa Claus ConspiracyLet me premise this paragraph by stating clearly that I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS! With that declaration I would like to discuss my favorite example of a widespread cultural conspiracy -- a conspiracy that a large portion of western civilization promotes continuously and in which millions of non-believing adults participate annually. Literally millions of adults, who have no belief in Santa Claus, Kris Kringle or any other variation of this Christmas celebrity, will promote his existence despite their non-belief. They will swear to his existence, yet they do not believe. They participate in their deception with others and manage to perpetuate Santa Claus. Despite my fellow adults' non-belief in the entity of Santa Claus, I choose to believe in Santa Claus because I believe selected thoughts, spirit and materialization are all real. I am fascinated that such a widely promoted deception by so many non-believers is so successful and I often think about "The Santa Conspiracy" when conspiracy debunkers claim that wide-spread or institutional conspiracies are impossible, therefore the existence of a conspiracy should not be discounted simply because someone cries "conspiracy."
Now back to the Da Vinci Code...The Priory's Origins... and Monks from Calabria(?)Over the course of the next few months, the subject of the book has popped up several times and there is no shortage of speculators and as for the web, there is apparently no shortage of debunkers. I just find it intriguing that so much has been written about the subject of The Priory of Sion and its origins... Something that caught my attention is the origination of the Knights Templar and the origination of their authority as well as the Priory's authority. Many sites reiterate a common story:
"The Prieure du Notre Dame du Sion, or Priory of Zion, is said to be the cabal behind many of the events that occurred at Rennes-le-Chateau. According to the Prieure's own documents, its history is long and convoluted. Its earliest roots are in some sort of Hermetic or Gnostic society led by a man named Ormus. This individual is said to have reconciled paganism and Christianity. The story of Sion only comes into focus in the Middle Ages. In 1070, a group of monks from Calabria, Italy, led by one Prince Ursus, founded the Abbey of Orval in France near Stenay, in the Ardennes...." (Note this passage is found in many websites).Related accounts tie the Calabrian monks to the Priory even more profoundly:
"...have found interesting links between the Order de Sion and the Carmelites. St. Berthold, the founder of the Carmelites, also originated from Calabria. Fra Lippi, a tutor of Botticelli, who is listed as a PoS GM [Priory of Sion Grand Master], lived in Calabria and was known as "The Carmelite". Crotone in Calabria was the home of the Pythagorean school, and Pythagoras is said by Iamblichus to have visited Mount Carmel. Calabria was the "stomping grounds" of Joachim of Fiore and Giordano Bruno. Most interestingly, recent archaeological articles suggest the Essenes had encampments on both Mount Carmel and Mount Zion. St. Therese of Liseux turns up in a number of "PoS churches", and she took her name both from Theresa of Avila, a Discalced Carmelite and mystic, and Therese of Lidoine, a Carmelite nun who was murdered by the Revolutionary Terror in Compeigne."Since my family is Calabrese (Calabria is a region in southern Italy), I found the Calabria references even more interesting. I have enjoyed many summers in Calabria and am quite familiar with the region, so the accounts of mysterious monks originating in Calabria really got my attention. In the future, I hope to look into some of the locations a bit further and if nothing else just let my imagination run wild.
Well in any event, "The Da Vinci Code" has certainly sparked some interesting debate and some creative speculation.
Gigliotti, Lorenzo. "The Da Vinci Code, Conspiracies & Santa Claus." The Random Times
Is there no help for the Widow's Son?
The quixotic mind of Lorenzo Gigliotti
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