Let me first say that what I state below is simply my opinion, not fact.
In this article, I’m going to frequently examine details in order to illustrate the big picture. (If you have the book handy, I recommend taking it out if you’re truly curious, as I’ll often use references to specific pages and text.)
Humanity is going downhill, and this book, if nothing else, sheds light on a new perspective; the perspective they don’t teach you or even mention to you in high school, college or Bible school.
You may disagree with Brown’s ideas, but what it boils down to is that none of us were alive at the time of Jesus Christ, so none of us can ever really know what happened; we can only form our opinions based on the dispersed knowledge that is given to us. So if you claim Brown is wrong because he denounces the Bible, then who is to say the Bible is accurate? And if you believe Brown’s side, who’s to say the Bible doesn’t hold truth? You simply have to pick your battles, all the while accepting that anything you believe is most likely based off of faith, and not real knowledge.
I understand that Brown got flack for this book from others for two reasons: his writing style and his subject matter.
First, critics downsized Brown for his writing, pointing out specific sentences in the novel that seemed idiotic and badly written, claiming that a true novelist would never phrase a sentence so poorly. What I don’t think critics realized is that this novel in itself was not just meant to be a plot full of riddles and symbolism; the ENTIRE TEXT is a vast work of riddles and symbolism, down to the last word. If you feel that some of his sentences are juvenile, than you obviously missed this aspect of the novel, as many have. The only way one could feasibly incorporate so many metaphors and allusions piled atop each other, is to sacrifice sentence structure and word usage in order to get one’s point across.
As for subject matter…well, we all know the controversy there.
Many of the allegations against Brown stem from the beginning of the novel which starts off stating “Fact:” and then goes on to mention people, places and events in the novel which Brown states are all historically and culturally accurate.
To quote Friedrich Nietzsche, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” While Brown certainly may believe all of these things are true (and I am not discounting them personally,) I feel that any flaws you may find in his “historical accuracy” are flaws of specific names, places and dates. What is often less attacked is the ideas and events themselves. For example, Brown mentions the Priory of Sion, which indeed existed but was proven fraudulent in the public eye. Well, what if Brown was using the Priory as a name for another secret society entirely? The fact that the Priory did exist shows that Brown wanted his readers to research and discover the truth for themselves, but how do we know that this wasn’t meant to divert or guide us to another source? Furthermore, the Priory was exposed as false when Plantard admitted it publicly, yet how do we know that this Priory wasn’t the real deal, and this “hoax” was just meant to throw us off guard? After all, the novel states that the brotherhood never intended to reveal its secrets to the world, even after the new millennium.
Opus Dei is indeed a real organization, referred to in the novel as “The Work” versus “The Way.” While many supporters of Opus Dei claim Brown’s information was false or exaggerated, I think the important aspect to focus on is that Opus Dei IS real; such practices of corporal mortification HAVE taken place, even if they’re not common. One of Opus Dei’s main texts is “The Way-999 Points of Meditation,” as mentioned in the novel (although I wonder if this was an obvious play of 666.) Furthermore, in order to establish his plot, Brown needed an antagonist; of course, we see by the end of the novel that the real enemy was Teabing, even above the church. I feel that the point of using Opus Dei as an opposing force in the beginning of the novel was not to degrade the organization or the church itself, but to give support to his testimony about the brotherhood. Since the main point of this book seemed to be revealing the repressed aspects of history and culture, Brown really didn’t have a choice but to “expose” an organization like Opus Dei in order to get his point across. If he just said, “this is the history of mainstream religion, and it’s wrong,” the book would have no backbone. While the current Opus Dei may not feel they are “brainwashing” people, Brown simply used them as an example of how people in the beginning of time WERE brainwashed, thus giving the church the power it has today.
Going back to the first page, which claims that Priory members included Newton, Botticelli, Hugo and Da Vinci, I feel that even if these four men were not part of a secret society, they definitely would have played the roles well. Within these four men are professions of art, writing, poetry, painting and math; similar to the concept of “the bead game.” If there was a secret society, and it had four top members, certainly these members would all be exceptionally talented in these fields.
What I enjoyed most about The Da Vinci Code was that it did include some interesting AND true facts about history, monuments and culture, that I was not aware of before.
For example, the term “pagan” literally stems from “country-dwellers,” and has historical roots of being associated with nature. The picture of the “Vitruvian Man” shows man in the shape of a star and man in the shape of a cross, representing society’s conflicting beliefs of paganism and mainstream religion; the human body itself is designed in the shape of a star.
Da Vinci did take part in many controversial practices, such as exhuming bodies for study, writing in reverse and creating elixirs and inventions; some of which were later put to fruition although Da Vinci never got credit.
There are clear differences between “Madonna of the Rocks” and “Virgin of the Rocks.” “Garden of Earthly Delights” does accurately portray the real Bois de Boulogne.
PHI is considered the golden ratio, while “philosophy” does come from the words “Philo” and “Sophia.” The rose, in history, has been associated with secrecy, the female, and guidance.
As far as places, there really is a Castal Gandolfo in Alban Hills, which houses an astronomy library.
The Knights Templar was created in order to protect the Holy Land while achieving another purpose that was hidden from society and those in political power. The knights were burned at the stake as heretics on Friday the 13th.
The Dead Sea Scrolls and Coptic Scrolls do contain prophecies by men which are not found in the standard Bible. The Bible also does emphasize Jesus’s divine traits over his human traits.
(There is plenty more information I found to be true; the above is simply what I found to be the most interesting.)
Another aspect of the novel I found worthy of noting was the descriptions Brown made of each and every setting, particularly specific rooms in which the characters frequented. I’m sure his preciseness had a purpose; perhaps you can figure it out.
The curator’s room is described as being wormwood, with old master paintings and a knight in full armor. Langdon’s hotel is “Renaissance,” with “Louis XVI furniture,” hand-frescoed walls and a mahogany four-posted bed.
Silas’s dwelling is “Spartan,” made of hardwood floors, a pine dresser and a canvas mat. Opus Dei is a red brick building made of Indiana limestone, with floors 2, 8 and 16 composed of millwork and marble.
The Church of St. Sulpice has a stone floor, minimal furnishings, and an Egyptian obelisk with a massive marble shaft. Castal Gandolfo is described as a “stone monster,” with two domes on top, a travertine marble staircase an oak doors. London’s Ancient Temple Church has a stone pew, a bleak, stark annex, carvings of pained human faces and a white knight riding a rose colored horse.
The Depository Bank of Zurich has a giant, neon, equal-armed cross, no windows, a red carpet across cement floor and nothing but metal from wall to wall. Teabing’s residence has two private lakes and gardens, cobble stone entry, oak and cherry doors and is a “17th century palace.”
Even objects have telling descriptions, such as the box found in the curator’s safe, which is composed of rosewood, with crimson interior and with a white marble stone cylinder inside.
What I also found interesting was the description and names of the characters. (I feel that Brown used many anagrams within his text, and although I don’t quite have the time to sit and figure it out, maybe you can decipher some of the characters’ true names if you feel they are indeed symbolic of something.)
One of the most interesting chapters in the book was where Brown introduced the background of Silas. Silas is, of course, a member of Opus Dei, who feels that “pain is good” and “acts of war against the enemies of God had been committed for centuries. Forgiveness was assured.” Silas reflects on his violent past as being “saved” from it by religion, although it’s obvious his violent past still haunts him because anything in life will haunt us if we repress it (essentially, the idea of Jung’s “shadow” psyche.)
Interestingly, Silas’s past is eerily familiar to that of Jesus Christ, although while in the Bible, only Jesus’ divine traits are emphasized, while Silas’s human/primal traits (or urges) are emphasized in the novel. At age 7, Silas leaves a bad home life; this could be reminiscent of the “Joyful Mysteries,” which represents poverty, detachment and contempt for riches. At age 12, Silas encounters a girl who tries to steal his fruit and fish; at age 12 Jesus interacted with the elders at the temple, and furthermore, age 12 is one of the few ages of Jesus in the Bible that is mentioned before it skips over his years. This age could also be representative of the sacrament of Confirmation, or the “Luminous Mysteries.” At age 18, Silas is captured, and is imprisoned for 12 years, until the age of 30, when he is saved. While there is no concrete evidence of events occurring when Jesus was 18, many believe it was between the ages of 18-30 that Jesus’ wanderings were left out of the Bible, as this is when Jesus learned how to be a prophet, and moreover, these were the years Jesus may have made mistakes. At age 30, Jesus reappears in the bible as beginning his ministry.
Furthermore, a “boulder” crashed into the prison, freeing Silas, and while fleeing he sees the moon, runs through woods, and experiences hunger, bloodshed, struggles and beatings. “Stone” itself is used throughout the novel in reference to Paganism, while the Moon is also a strong symbol in the religion as well. The suffering Silas goes through could be representative of Jesus’ crucifixion; Silas thinks, “how long have I been dead…Three days?” Jesus, of course, was thought to have resurrected in three days.
Other characters hold symbolism as well, such as Captain Fache, which I feel is a play on the word “fascist.” In the novel, he is described with the words “master,” “cajole” and “robotic.” A quote from page 62 says, “…had run a cartoon recently depicting Fache as a police dog, trying to bite an American criminal, but unable to reach because it was chained to the U.S. Embassy.” I feel this is a metaphor for how fascism was not able to flourish in America, and why the upper-class elite had to infiltrate American culture with drugs, sex and crime (as seen from a quote on page 61: “Almost daily, DCPJ arrested American exchange students in possession of drugs, us businessmen for soliciting underage prostitutes, American tourists for shoplifting or destruction of property.”)
Another quote from page 71 says, “Fache was rumored to have invested his entire savings in the technology craze a few years back, and lost his shirt.” This could be another metaphor for how technology was created as a fascist attempt to invade our privacy with surveillance, while it also hurt the people in power as it allowed citizens more freedom of speech. Fache “lost his shirt,” leaving him naked; technology allows people to reveal the “naked truth,” as they see fit.
Sophie’s symbolism, of course, is portrayed in the novel within her relation to the sacred feminine and the principles of the divine male and female. Neveu could also be a play on “nouveau,” which means “new.” Sophia in Gnosticism is considered to be part of the Godhead; she is the protector and keeper of wisdom. Throughout the novel, Sophie shows signs of wisdom and intuition, such as being weary of meeting Teabing before she even meets him. Also, “P.S.” is known in society as meaning “Post Script,” or what is left out of the main contents of a letter; Sophia in religious context was thought to be discarded and exiled by mainstream religion and men in power; “P.S.” in the novel represents “Princess Sophie”; “P.S.” in Gnosticism often means “Pistis Sophia.”
As mentioned previously, the way Brown wrote this novel was brilliant in it’s own way. Below, I’m going to list some excerpts of text that especially got me thinking.
Brown mentions that three of the most important paintings in the Louvre are the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. As mentioned previously, the concept of “Sophia” is key in Gnosticism, and moreover, Sophia is thought to consist of two counterparts: Hecate (ugliness) and Lilith (Beauty.) In this sense, the Venus painting represents Lilith, the Mona Lisa represents Hecate, and the Winged Victory represents Sophia. The Mona Lisa itself is described as having layers of codes within its paint; Hecate, while being associated with ugliness, is also the goddess of the crossroads, meaning that a person has to face her (or solve her) in order to transcend to the next step. While Winged Victory is thought by some to once have had a head, I feel that the fact that the statue is headless could be representative of how “victory” is not associated with being ugly or beautiful, good or bad; it just IS.
A quote from page 23 says, “…Langdon could see the twin ascending escalators at the far end, both motionless”; immediately I pictured the Twin Towers when reading this. Also, I found it interesting that Brown, in dialogue, used monuments to describe other monuments. For example, Langdon describes the Grand Gallery as 3 Washington Monuments laid end-to-end, with the width accommodating 2 side-by-side passenger trains (which was eerie to me, as the pentagon was attacked on 9-11, and in 2005, the London trains were bombed.) Also, he describes the Louvre as 3 Eiffel Towers laid end-to-end; the Washington Monument was the world’s tallest structure until 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was built.
While I’m not sure if this is true today, in the novel it also mentions that the US Embassy changed its code from 3 to 5 digits “2 years ago”; this novel was published in 2003, so two years previous would be 9-11. Furthermore, this could suggest that 9-11 signified a change in culture, with “3” representing the standard, Catholic trinity, and “5” representing the pentagram, or the Goddess.
Of course, Brown’s references to the Old World Orders and its degrees are obvious. “Opus Dei was the fastest growing and most financially secure catholic organization in the world.” And on page 59, the Bishop says, “Money and faith were powerful motivators.” This represents the corruption of the Church, viewing itself as a financial organization vs. one of faith. Furthermore, Teabing, the novel’s true antagonist, inherited his wealth; inheriting wealth is one of the key signs of greed in the rich-elite. On page 28, the Bishop describes how certain people gave “The Work” a bad reputation, and he describes them as “misguided sheep.” The bishop is essentially describing the Ignavi, or in ignorant masses, while Brown uses his text to show how religion has ties to things like abuse of drugs, disease infliction and suicide.
A quote from page 32 describing Langdon’s thoughts while in the Louvre, says, “Still lifes, religious scenes, and landscapes accompanied portraits of nobility and politicians.” Still life paintings were portraits of inanimate objects or things, which would seem the opposite of religion, but were thought to hold enormous amounts of religious symbolism, while many politicians, of course, were not noble. In this sentence structure, landscapes stand alone, representing nature as separate from religion and politics. Furthermore, the curator pulled a Caravaggio from the wall in order to set the Louvre’s alarms and stage his death. Caravaggio’s were known for depicting religious scenes, shifting from light to dark with little middle value; they were also known as being of “dramatic illumination.” I found this interesting as illumination is a key word and concept in this novel, and the curator literally was dramatic in using symbols and codes in helping to “illuminate” Sophie and Langdon.
I also found interesting Brown’s use of color within the text. The Bishop has a purple amethyst ring which he rubs for good luck. The amethyst itself translates to “not intoxicated,” which is ironic as the Bishop was essentially drunk with power. Purple itself is historically symbolic of monarchies and those in power. Violet, however, is quite the opposite, representing the highest chakra or center of knowledge within us. Sophie is described as having burgundy hair, while violet itself consists of red and blue; the physical book (at least the copy I had) was blue, while the cover was red, representing harmony. One of my favorite lines in the novel is on page 118, when Brown describes Langdon: “…he strained to see beyond the cocoon of purplish light emanating from the black light in Sophie’s hand.” While in context the black light is a physical object, if you look at this sentence differently, it is almost as if Brown is foreshadowing Sophie’s mystical importance, portraying her as having an inner glow, or having knowledge, despite being temporarily in the dark, or ignorance.
In Kundalini, there is emphasis on feeling sensations on the left side of the body, which is considered the female side; I found it interesting that Brown mentions that Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa with emphasis on the left side to represent the female half. Also, the Bishop went to Castal initially in November, being told that six months later, a drastic change would come; six months later would mean the novel’s setting takes place in May, which represents spring, the harvest and change.
Another one of my favorite quotes was on page 55: “The Light came long after the thunder.” Although this quote was said in Silas’s thoughts in regards to being saved by The Work, this is ironic as The Work was essentially a false illusion, representing themselves as “the light.” Furthermore, thunder is symbolic of death in Gnosis, and is a key symbol in nature itself. Therefore, this statement could mean quite the opposite as it does within the context: Gnosis (thunder) came long before Evil (the Light.) Furthermore, a quote from page 394 describes when Silas accidentally stabs the Bishop: “The angry hands that grabbed at his bare shoulders felt as if they were infused with the power of the devil himself.” Obviously, the Bishop’s hands felt like the Devil’s because essentially they were the hands of the Devil; Silas was too blinded to recognize this until the end.
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the novel was Brown’s use of the word “Illumination.” As mentioned previously, the concepts of illumination are key in this novel, so when I noticed that Brown used the word “illuminated” in front of various words, but sporadically, I started to take note of it.
While this may just be by chance and have no importance whatsoever, I feel Brown used the word “illuminated” to describe these objects on purpose. Another code, perhaps?
-violet (bright purple)
-Eiffel tower (as phallus)
-Louvre gallery signs (stick figure bathroom symbols)
– Exit signs (displaying an arrow pointing down long corridor)
-Floor in front of mona lisa (Bare parquet)
-stone lit floor by fire
-lone light bulb on ceiling (wall switch)
-outside spotlights (grey stone facing)
– 2 pyramids (mentioned at the end of novel)
Lastly, here is a quote from page 316: “Langdon willed the light of day to bring with it a second kind of illumination, but the lighter it became outside, the further he felt from the truth.”
While I can’t say for sure the meaning of all of these objects, some of them seem obvious. Violet, as mentioned previously, is a color of wisdom. Fountains, or water, is known to be cleansing or purging, while this could also represent the fountain of youth or fountain of knowledge. The staircase is symbolic in Gnosis as leading to a place of transcendence; often a spiral staircase is found on a tower which leads to Gnosis. Monuments as genitalia is mentioned throughout the novel, with emphasis on buildings/machines as the masculine aspect of society that has taken root, vs. the female aspect of society, or nature, which is undermined. Bathroom symbols are used in society to divide us by gender, further driving us away from our androgynous beginnings. Exit signs (with emphasis on a long corridor) is a sign of hope; of being able to escape the boxes that we often are enclosed in. Parquet consists of geometric shapes, mainly squares, diamonds and triangles, and is frequently made of oak, walnut, cherry, lime, pine and maple; these shapes and materials also have influence in freemasonry; by suggesting the parquet in front of the Mona Lisa is bare, perhaps Brown is turning us away from freemasonry, or perhaps this represents how freemasonry has been corrupted over the years. “Fire and brimstone” is a common phrase in witchcraft, yet fire and stone seem to echo of serious importance throughout this novel. A light switch, lone bulb and spotlights seem to be representative of exile, standing alone and getting through the darkness of one’s life. The two pyramids, one inverted, I feel is symbolic of the change to come; that is, the Old World Order being overturned and the rich-elite no longer having unfair advantages over the rest of society.
There are still some questions I have regarding concepts presented in the book.
For example, the “brotherhood” is considered a negative thing in relation to the Old World Order, yet in the book, the brotherhood is a positive secret society. Also, the Knights of Templar supposedly held high regard to war and created banking, yet money and war are obviously negative aspects of today’s society.
Still, I felt the need to defend this novel as it contains more than just controversial subject matter.
If you’ve actually read through all of this, I urge you to share your thoughts and opinions.