As I lecture around the world on the Da Vinci Code, a typical response is to tell me to relax, enjoy the book as a fun read of fiction, and move on. Let me say that it is indeed a “fun” read, that it is fiction — but like many works of fiction, it has a deep ideological agenda, suggesting that “relaxation” is hardly the appropriate response. But neither is panic or ignorance. Someone recently spoke about the debt we owe to heresy, because error opens up discussions about the truth — and no Christian can be against that!
The agenda of The Da Vinci Code is revealed clearly by Tim Freke, author of an equally radical book on Jesus, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God? When interviewed about the significance of Brown’s novel, he said, “People are looking for and hoping for a new interpretation of Christianity.”
At a time when the rejection of Christian spirituality, from the 1960s on, has succeeded in dislodging traditional Christian belief from its position of long-term dominance, an interest in alternate spirituality has exploded. Like no other modern art form (except Star Wars, perhaps), Brown has raised to the level of public consciousness what is really a deep, often subterranean strand of esoteric, anti-theistic religious tradition that constitutes the spiritual underbelly of Western history and draws its strength from the great public religions of the East. What is new is to call this spirituality, with breath-taking audacity, both new and also the original form of Christianity. It is actually, like ancient Gnosticism, the paganization of Christianity. His new-look Christianity involves the adoption of “harmless,” “pre-Christian” symbols that, he claims, early Christianity rejected to its own detriment.
Brown speaks innocuously of the “the simplicity of the circle.” However, the circle is a fundamentally pagan symbol. In ancient Egyptian religion, the symbol of the circle defined by the sun represents the all-inclusiveness of nature. Brown knows this and includes the description of a Templar church as “pantheonically [polytheistically] pagan,” a “perfectly circular church in honor of the sun.” Specifically, the circle is the classic, pagan expression of monism, the great philosophical theory of oneness, according to which everything is in the circle and everything shares the same substance. This all-inclusive circle automatically eliminates the God of biblical orthodoxy. There is nothing “harmless” about that.
Brown also wants modern believers to adopt the pentagram, the five-pointed star often found within the circle, as a pre-Christian symbol referring not to satanism but to nature’s perfection. However, the truth is that the pentagram is one of the most potent, powerful, and persistent symbols in human religious history, totally absent from the Bible. It has been found scratched on the walls of neolithic caves and in Babylonian drawings. It is the favored symbol of Pythagoreans, Free-masons, Gnostics, Kabalists, magicians, Wiccans and satanists.
A version of the pentagram is the figure of Baphomet, the five-pointed, goat-headed, goat-footed hermaphroditic, winged man with women’s breasts that Brown proposes to recuperate as a harmless symbol of androgynous sexuality and wisdom. This, though, is not innocent, since on one occasion Brown actually speaks of “the pagan god…Baphomet.”
Baphomet in Western religious history was understood as a form of the Devil, and it is thus not surprising that Anton LaVey in the 1960s established Baphomet as the sign of the present church of Satan. However, like many modern liberals, such as Elaine Pagel’s The Origin of Satan, Brown wants us to believe that Satan was an invention by late Jews and Christians to demonize their opponents.
In Brown’s world, if there is no Satan, there is no ultimate personal evil, no ultimate truth or falsehood, no original sin, no divine Savior, just a spiritual circle that includes everyone. Another symbol, appearing on virtually every other page of the novel, is the Goddess or the sacred feminine. Often known as the Great Mother, she is one of the most powerful symbols of the pagan occult. For Brown, she is the true meaning of the Holy Grail. Joseph Campbell, guru to George Lucas, states that “the world is the body of the Goddess, divine in itself, and divinity is not something ruling over and above a fallen nature.” Her circular womb envelops everything and renders everything divine. This goddess pantheism can be found in all the non-Christian religions, even where her name is not always mentioned — witchcraft, Hinduism, American Indian shamanism, and in peace-loving Buddhism.
These elements, presented as seemingly innocuous practices of well-meaning sophisticated people, ancient and modern, are actually coded invitations to the serious involvement in the age-old rituals of pagan thinking and spirituality, worshiping nature as god. This pagan spirituality is at the heart of contemporary religious syncretism, which, for Brown, is the great goal of religion.
If you want to understand the deep code of The Da Vinci Code look at the hard-to-miss clue found in the description of the architecture of Rosslyn Chapel, a Templar chapel outside Edinburgh, which Brown, with calculated effect, christens “the Cathedral of Codes”: “Each block [of the chapel] was carved with a symbol…to create a multifaceted surface…Christian cruciforms, Jewish stars, Masonic seals, Templar crosses, cornucopias, pyramids, astrological signs, plants, vegetables, pentacles and roses.… Rosslyn Chapel was a shrine to all faiths…to all traditions…and, above all, to nature and the goddess.”
Here are the symbols of all the religions blended together to give us a new-look inclusive “Christianity” where all the distinctives of biblical Christianity — God the creator, original sin, Christ the divine Savior, His cross and resurrection, in a word, the Gospel — have been consistently and deliberately eliminated, and worship is directed to her occultic Ladyship. It is important to see that Brown’s novel is neither a piece of harmless fiction nor a neutral, objective restatement of the historical “facts” of early Christianity. His massive ideological agenda colors everything he writes. People need to see that this is unashamedly a propaganda piece for a new spirituality Brown has recently embraced, for which he has become a modern and most effective missionary.
Why all the interest around this novel? Because Brown is touching the major ideological fissure in contemporary American and Western culture, that of the fading traditionalist Christian culture of the past and that of the rising neo-pagan spirituality of America’s and the planet’s “bright” globalist future.
We can deplore the success of this anti-orthodox Christian propaganda, race up the nearest mountain and wait for the rapture. Or close our eyes, go to church, and hope it all goes away. But the “lie” always calls forth a statement of “the truth.” Actually, Brown “gives permission” to raise the question of spirituality and provides a wonderful occasion for evangelism, when evangelism in the postmodern world seemed to be going out of style.
Understanding the deep code of The Da Vinci Code gives us the occasion to promote a responsible theological answer to the neo-pagan threat in our time and to point people to the truth. Failing to respond, we risk becoming a mere footnote in contemporary religious history. May God grant us a revival of true faith, clear thinking, and courageous witness in these difficult yet fascinating times.