Of yin, yang and the free sex
"The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown is all about the balance...the balance between the sexes. Rooted deep in the foundations of the most popular religion on earth, the novel is a work of fiction that bares apart the foundations on which Christianity stands in the world as of today. The excellent part about the book is its use of what the author calls symbology. Even in a country like India, people are aware of most of the symbols that the book mentions. The crucifix, the cross, the very unique architecture of churches, and above all, The Holy Grail are symbols that even a non-Christian but educated Indian will identify. This book goes one step ahead and actually tells the readers the significance behind the symbols and what they actually stand for.
At the very outset, the book claims that it is an authentic work based on truth and as such, the different analogies and symbolic explanations provided by it come across very strongly. The basic premise of the book that is brought forward by the explanation of these symbols and their hidden meanings is actually an aberration as far as the teachings of the church are concerned. Directly opposing the very premise of Christianity, the book claims that Jesus Christ was like any other human and had been immortalised just to encounter the Pagan worship prevalent in the society. The author tries to explain that Pagans were not necessarily Devil-worshippers but were the original worshippers of nature and Gods like the Sun God. However, with Christianity taking hold, Pagans were made the scapegoats and Christ immortalised to make Christianity prevail.
The ploy of the church had to face stiff resistance from the fact that there were proofs of the mortality of Christ (it will be unfair to the readers of the book to disclose the exact nature of those proofs). These proofs were held safe by The Templars, followers of the Pagan faith and King Solomon's faithfuls. A secret group is said to have been formed, called the brotherhood, or the Priory of Sion, that is given the responsibility of safeguarding these proofs. The group is believed to have many members, the prominent among them being The Grand Master and three others who follow the Grand Master and share the ultimate secret of the location of these proofs. The book goes on to mention distinguished names in the history of art as the previous Grand Masters of this Priory of Sion. The names include heavy weights like Issac Newton, Victor Hugo, and above all, Leonardo Da Vinci.
The book begins with the murder of the three followers and the Grand Master, who are collectively in charge of the secret. To ensure that the truth does not remain buried forever after their deaths, the Grand Master, Jacques Sauniere, decides to leave clues for his grand daughter, Sophie to enable her to find the location of the secret proofs. The cryptic message that The Grand Master leaves is based on the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and thus partially(there are other associations of Da Vinci with the book, too), the name The Da Vinci Code. The proofs being so sensitive and mysterious in nature, Jacques instructs Sophie, through his last message, to contact Robert Langdon, a Professor of Symbology at Harvard. Robert and Sophie, in the following portion of the book go on a treasure hunt based on the cryptic message and further clues kept in place by the last Grand Master. There are several other characters in the story, including the villain, The Teacher, who is the one who gets the Grand Master murdered and wants the proofs for himself.
The primary reason because of which the book appeals to the reader is that it sends the reader on a wild goose chase after a secret that is so well hidden for ages. It gives the protagonists as well as the readers, the same platform, from which they go ahead. It is not that the clues provided by the cryptic messages of Sophie's Grand Father are not solvable by an average Christian who has some knowledge about the religion and more importantly, the lore. When the clue actually gets solved and the reader is able to view the truth, it looks too simple, even for the ones uninitiated to the world of symbology.
The other good thing that this book does is to bring to life the various master pieces of art that have fascinated the human beings across borders and across generations. The famous works like The Last Supper, The Mona Lisa, symphonies of music maestros, etc form the basis of this book and the sheer revelation of hidden meanings in these works of art might force the readers to even a second look on these masterpieces. The way this book reveals the meanings of some of the most common concepts and understanding that we have of the Christian way of life and even the English language, as such, is amazing. For example, did you know that the word 'sinister' is actually a manifestation of the Pagan suppression that the Church practised and that it did not originally have a negative connotation? Similarly, the horns of the devil are actually symbolic of the Greek God of fertility who was worshipped by Pagan followers the world over, that is, before the church decided to project the devil as a horned creature.
All this notwithstanding, the theme of this book, as I mentioned in the very first line of this post, is the balance between the sexes. The book talks liberally about the yin and the yang and how the balance between the left and the right is vital to the survival and growth of the world. It also talks about the sacred feminine, the Goddess, who has been neglected by the church. The book stresses the fact that the male dominated church actually disturbed the pefect harmony that existed and should have existed by belittling the sacred feminine. The church made witches out of women who were progressive and even the midwives were not spared because of the technical skills and knowledge that they possessed. The church made the priest take the vow of celibacy and made sex, expecially, free sex, a thing to be frowned upon and discussed only within doors. This was in direct conflict with the spirit of Hierros Gamos, the sacred game that celebrated the joy of free sex and actually made it a ritual.
I know that it might ring a bell in the minds of the Osho followers and some might even think of the other Sadhus of India who have had the notorious distinction of advocating free sex. Though the book does not explicitly mention this, I believe that this might as well be an indicator of the closeness of Indian culture and the Hindu religion with the Pagan faith. In fact, the Goddess worship is so very prominent in the Hindu mythology that half of the things that the Secret society, the Priory of Sion, is shown to have believed in, is actually an open belief-turned-fact in India. The game of free sex, Hierros Gamos, is also not very different from the Raas Leela that Lord Krishna of the Hindu faith is said to have indulged in with abandon.
For the Indian reader, therefore, the book makes even more sense, not just because it is a good work of fiction carrying the thriller element along. Indians do love their spices, even in the books they read. More than that, however, is the association that they feel when they see a direct relation between their faith and the actual origin of one of the most popular religions in India (not popularly practised, but still popular because of the long English occupation of India). In fact, personally speaking, while reading the book, I even felt a sense of superiority and respect for my faith which was the original faith, the faith that had to be suppressed by Christianity, the world's so called most popular religion...the faith that refused to die in front of all opposition...and the faith that took in so much and gave out so much despite the oppression, despite the mistrust.