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Da Vinci is Da Truth?

It?s interesting to see how the powerful Catholic church quietly flexes its muscles in having state after state in Hindu India banning the film, writes Ashok Row Kavi

india Updated: Jun 18, 2006 01:53 IST

Just imagine! Just imagine all the Gandhiana in the country being written not in the 20th Century but in the 24th Century. How authentic would you think it would be? Well, I have news for you: the earliest the Christian ‘Gospels’ can be historically dated is that far away from the ‘birth’ of Jesus. The very ‘fact’ of that lovely fable of Bethlehem can be traced to Emperor Constantine’s mother, the ebullient, effervescent Helena who “discovered” Bethlehem and then went on to discover so many pieces of the Holy Cross that if they were put together we would have a crucifix 200 feet high! However much they try, Christians can’t seem to date modern Bethlehem further than 330 CE (Common Era) which is again four centuries after Jesus of Nazareth was allegedly born. The caustic American Gore Vidal has put it down quite vividly in his biographical fiction (again) on Julian, the last non-Christian emperor of the Byzantine Empire situated in what is now modern Istanbul, formerly Constantinople.

After this dose of history, let’s fast forward to the release in India of that new post-modern, post-fictional, magical realism a la Hollywood called The Da Vinci Code. Smack before the release, as if on a strange cue, the venerable Times of India, from her stable at Boribunder, suddenly publishes the only interview with the head of the shadowy secretive Opus Die, the Catholic Church’s superbly organised parallel policing force. The interview was by Carol Andrade, a dear friend I’ve been following judiciously for decades now. Carol is also the Indian Correspondent for Vatican Radio. Now the interview sounds so casual, so dismissive of The Da Vinci Code that it immediately made me put on my tattered little pagan rags and rush to the box office. Simply because Carol doing her PR job on the Opus Die is like Osama bin Laden writing objectively about 9/11 or Sitaram Yechury writing an objective piece about the Nepal Royal imbroglio.

Yet review after review slugged The Da Vinco Code as boring, pathetic etc etc when it was the biggest seat-hanger of modern movie times. Who might have managed all those reviews I can never say but we must remember that the present Panzer Pope was previously heading the Congregation of the Doctrine, the Vatican’s Ministry which throttled humankind with the Inquisition.

Never mind that Mahesh Bhatt totally fudged the issue by suddenly going for Modi over Fanaa when state after Indian state was officially banning one of the best religio-political films of modern times. Not only that but an oxymoron called the Catholic Secular Forum carried on a near successful pogrom to get it out of cinema houses calling it ‘blasphemous’. Another venerable secular forum called the Raza Academy based in the other modern place called Mohamedali Road contributed its two-bit Islamic muscle.

Seeing Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was thrilling because it gives the female perspective to the ‘Gospels’. Not the fable about Jesus so much as about how the Catholic Church and its mighty men suppressed all the original female religious sects to raise the patriarchal pomposity in Rome. The very fact that Dan Brown took up the film’s direction showed because the extra footage given to the burning of witches and powerful female religious figures of medieval Europe is something some of us noticed as slightly different from the novel and well-filmed to expose the Vatican’s 2,000-year plan to
suppress the truth.

So let’s try and get to the truth. Flavious Josephus, the prolific historian of the Jews during the period 100 BCE (Before Common Era) to around 100 CE, writes about the horrible Roman colonisation of Palestine but there is not even a credible mention of Jesus. What was interesting was when some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were being analysed and translated, one of the Biblical scholars, John M Allegro, discovered that he was being asked to heavily edit not only his research but remove all mention of the secret letter of Clement of Alexandria, a Church leader of the second century. The letter mentions some explicitly sexual rituals and attacks the teachings of the most important Gnostic groups called the Carpocratians who flourished as early as that period. Professor Morton Smith discovered the letter when reading some old manuscripts in the old monastery of Mar Sheba in the Judean Wilderness in the early 20 th century.

The most interesting statement by Clement of the Second Century is: “Not everything that is true needs necessarily to be divulged to all men….” Bravo! We cannot have a more fitting finale for banning The Da Vinci Code centuries after. And so it has been through the centuries. Like all religious myths that have become established as ‘truths’, the most important landmark of the Occident is now being demolished through equally powerful myth-making factories, this time the most powerful of them all — Hollywood.

First, what needs be said is that no religious figures of historic times are beyond myth-making. Jesus of Nazareth, most of all. By the 2nd Century, Buddhist missionaries had reached as far as Syria, something every western historian scrupulously ignores. There are monastic orders like the Essenes, very much like our sanyasis, holed up in the Judean deserts, even taking oaths of celibacy, something Judaic religious leaders have never accepted even today like their other counterparts in Islam.

In fact, like the Naqshbandis and other Sufi orders in India, these so called ‘monks’ had male disciples who wrote love poems to their Gurus or vice versa. Leviticus had by then (around 350 BCE) banned even the Holy Male Prostitutes called ‘Kadheshim’ from Jerusalem’s Holiest Shrine. The Buddhist contribution to modern Christianity has been well camouflaged for obvious reasons and the Roman Church has officially banned all talk of the Essenes. No less than the modern history-re-writer, Time magazine itself, came out with a cover story rubbishing The Da Vinci Code, obviously with cues to save the last bastion of Western civilisation.

The point I’m making is that Dan Brown hides another ‘truth’: there is no Jesus of history to even give the fig-leaf of imagination that little nail for Dan Brown to hang his fable on. Historian after historian really places the Mary Magdalene fiction on that other great mother goddess of Canaan, Astarte, the Biblical Ashtoreth mentioned in the Torah’s King lists similar to the Mesopotamian Ishtar. These fertility goddesses are taken up by Dan Brown because he knew the patriarchal themes of the edited new testament are now running out. What better than to dust off the old legends and run them down Hollywood way to revive the old Biblical story? The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Hammadi, a bone dry area of Israel, changed the early perceptions of what life must have been in the colonial period under Rome for the Jews. The Roman boot was heavy; their Temple in Jerusalem was finally destroyed in 67 CE leading to a vast Diaspora that is still reflected in what is now Israel. The Jews were so mentally disoriented as the smart people of the middle-east, that a whole slew of religious mythologies based on fertile mixtures of Zorashtrian and Macichaean thought grew up to keep the Jews going into first internal and then external exile.

Both philosophies gave some hope in light versus darkness dialogic. Three separate Jesus legends seem to coalesce and seek expression is various scriptural texts over a period of two hundred years. In the west in Egypt there are the Coptic Gnostic Gospels which even talk of an elder brother of Jesus, which conclusively destroy Jesus’ virgin birth. In the east there are the Essenes, a strange mix of tantric Buddhism and Jewish Zionist thought processes. Between them, the real Jesus falls through the interstices of history to disappear as fact and reappear as myth.

But by 400 CE, the whole of the West Asia and Asia Minor seemed to need Jesus more than he needed humans. It is not strange at all that Constantine did not become Christian except on his deathbed but nevertheless used the new doctrine to hammer his empire into a “Holy Empire” that would then shift westwards into what we now know as the classical Roman arena where Tiberius lay the foundation of the glorious tyrants; finally raising the myth we now called the Vatican.

But that is another story for Dan Brown who is now busy with perking up Solomon and the earlier period when the Jews become a people from a wandering tribe of very smart absorbers of legends in West Asia. In any case, I think Dan Brown is definitely an excellent public relations officer for the garrison state we now have in West Asia. He’s at least given the Jesus legend a little more steam than needed.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see how the powerful Catholic church quietly flexes its muscles in having state after state in Hindu India banning the film as if on cue. Is another experiment being tried out quietly? As YSR ‘Samuel’ Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, is, busy supplanting the Jesus legend onto Balaji on State Transport buses there? Maybe he has an answer.

The Da Vinci Code sure hides a truth but it’s not in the book or the movie; it’s in the way the movie is being used as a template to invent new truths all over the rapidly disintegrating “Christian world”.

(The writer is chairman, Humsafar Trust)

Counterpoint will be back next week

First Published: Jun 18, 2006 01:53 IST