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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Book Thirty-Six

The thirty-sixth book we read this year is The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ, by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. The book originally came out in 1998, but received a recent surge in popularity after mention by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. We, of course, obtained our copy through BookMooch.

As we have already seen in The Jesus Mysteries, Christianity is but paganism reshaped. J.M. Robertson declared in 1903:
There is not a conception associated with Christ that is not common to some or all of the Savior cults of antiquity.
But The Templar Revelation ventures beyond that premise, finding a strong current of Egyptian religion and myth in the actions of Jesus. They cite the Jewish Talmud, which states that Jesus came not from Nazareth or Galilee, but from Egypt. They believe Mary Magdalene functioned as a high priestess who christened Jesus by her anointing (the words messiah and christ meaning "the anointed one"), thereby bestowing upon him the attributes of the god-king, just as Isis had done for Osiris. We found it most interesting that the gospel of Mark has Jesus comment on this:
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
To us, this statement carries the same weight as Jesus command at the Last Supper to "do this in remembrance of me," yet when does Christianity offer a memorial to Mary Magdalene? In addition to her anointing, she also served not as the wife of Jesus, but as his consort in the practices of sacred sexuality.

The authors investigate Leonardo's works and find numerous references to John the Baptist. (One of their previous books showed that Leonardo was the creator of the Shroud of Turin.) They follow the reverence for John and Mary Magdalene throughout southern France. They trace the history of the shadow groups--Templars, Rosicrucians, Priory of Sion--that Leonardo was connected with. Secrets and hidden knowledge abound.

The strength of the book comes in the minute analysis of the canonical gospels, not so much what the evangelists say as why they say it. The authors present a persuasive case, although it is admittedly easy to fall under the spell of any argument when surrounded by it, and there have been countless theories about the real Jesus:
... [he] was a divorced father of three, a Freemason, a Buddhist, a conjurer, a hypnotist, the progenitor of a line of French kings, a Cynic philosopher, an hallucinogenic mushroom--and even a woman!
The authors set out to question every piece of accepted knowledge and view Jesus without preconceptions.

The authors suggest the raising of Lazarus was an initiatory rite, a symbolic death and rebirth into a new living that preceded the final revelation of secret knowledge to the adept. This also is probably what was recorded in the gospels as the resurrection of Jesus.

The authors find that Jesus' cry from the cross in Mark and Matthew has been misinterpreted. What was recorded as "eloi" and "eli" and thought to be "Elias" by some bystanders was not "My God," which should have been "ilahi" in Jesus' native Aramaic. As a follower of Egyptian mysteries, Jesus' cry was actually to the sun god Helios.

Finally, the authors state what they have been hinting at all along, and what they believe is the secret that the Templars and others have kept: Christianity's true message as preached by John the Baptist was hijacked and perverted by Jesus. John the Baptist was revered as the King of Light, while according to the gospel written by John the Beloved Disciple, Jesus was handed over to Pilate as "a doer of evil" which in Roman law defined a sorcerer. The two were rivals, until John was killed and Jesus assumed his leadership. What began as a mission of repentance and baptism was turned into a cult of personality.

What bothered us most was the tendency of the authors to declare certain conclusions based on weak evidence, often highlighted by their narrative assertion, "as we have already seen," and then build on those conclusions. At times it even felt like they would cast doubt on a clue, and then immediately use that clue as if beyond doubt to support their argument. But to complain that the authors make leaps to reach the conclusions they desire misses the point of the facts they reveal. What those facts mean may be open to interpretation, but what they are they are. To explain away anomalies in the gospels as the mysterious works of God is at best to deny the truth, and at worst to bury it.

We are certainly not experts in Gnosticism or even Christianity, but for the last ten years we have made a hobby of exploring the beginnings of the organised church--this is the first time we have heard the rivals theory. This book is stunning in what it reveals, and overfull with information. Our brief review does not begin to suggest the wealth of details presented by the authors. The material they cover ranges far beyond what the book title hints at, though it's all related. What we wished the authors had done was tie it all together much more tightly and neatly. We were left rather unsure of how everything fit together. Perhaps they were overcome by the depth and breadth of their material and became similarly lost. However, the completed puzzle is not what makes The Templar Revelation interesting, it is the unraveling of dogma and the formation of theories.