"At first we were skeptical":
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
Anything possible to be believed is an image of the truth.
I first read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in the late 1980s. Back then, age 22 and new to the Priory in France, I couldn't assess exactly what in the book was fact and what fiction. Still, as I worked my way through it, it was clear that many of the authors' claims were built on little but rhetoric. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln were mainly in the business of constructing a legend. The game seemed obvious: How far could they push their theory and still maintain a semblance of narrative logic?
The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail go to admirable lengths to convince the reader that the smoke of a hundred different kitchens all issues from one stove. Their ruses are transparent, their attempts to appear skeptical are shoddy. Regardless of the shamming, however, their work may justly be called the most impressive pseudo-history ever written. Sifting through the material they've gathered, by sheer creative will they accomplish something almost monumental. One reviewer praises this smorgasbord of holy conspiracy ($14.99 all you can eat) by saying that it "possesses all the ingredients of a classic 19th century mystery novel." This is apt: the Priory of Sion they describe exists just as surely as Eugene Sue's Wandering Jew. But it somehow exists more so.
How do the authors make so much disparate material hold together? It isn't easy. In good pseudo-historical fashion, they have to issue themselves a new blank check nearly every other page. Following is one of the more obvious examples--the grim foisting of one of the several grand meta-historical claims that make their game possible. The authors are discussing the problem of tracing the Priory's activities from century to century. How, in short, does one write a history of an organization that is secret?
If it was indeed genuinely secret, we did not, of course, expect to find the Prieur de Sion explicitly mentioned by that name. If it had continued to function through the centuries, it would have done so under a variety of shifting guises and masks, 'fronts' and faades--just as it purportedly functioned for a time under the name Ormus, which it discarded. Nor would it have displayed a single obvious and specific policy, political position or prevailing attitude. Indeed, any such cohesive and unified stance, even if it could be gleaned, would have seemed highly suspect. (169)
It's not inherently illogical to say that a society that wants to remain secret over the span of centuries needs to change its name now and then. But on the other hand, isn't it painfully clear that once the authors start working from such a hypothesis they pretty much have the right to claim whatever they want as yet another mask worn by that society? This methodology allows them to bend nearly everything to fit their needs. Their accountability becomes carte blanche.
It was necessary for us to synthesise in a coherent pattern data extending from the Old Testament to a semi-secret society in Europe today, from the Gospels and Grail romances to accounts of current affairs in modern newspapers. For such an undertaking, the techniques of academic scholarship were sorely inadequate. To make the requisite connections between radically diverse bodies of subject matter, we were obliged to adopt and develop a more comprehensive approach, based on synthesis rather than on conventional analysis. (12)
And synthesize they do. Whether it's the Cathars, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, the Masons or the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement--in fact they're All the Same Thing, if we are to trust the authors of this book. Nicholas Poussin knew, Hugo knew, Saint Bernard knew, the dockworkers at les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer surely knew, and now we know too: the Bloodline of Our Lord is out there.
Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln's map of the Priory of Sion claims far too much territory. By its very scope, their history defies the laws of probability as well as the laws of human psychology. It could never happen that so many people could keep such a monumental secret so well--to keep such a secret and parade it before the world's eyes besides! Yes, how many great artists and poets, according to our authors, painted and penned allegorical versions of the Secret? And the inspiration for these works was not even guessed until the late 20th century?
But though the map they draw is too vast, in fact there are places where their map overlaps with actual Priory territory. This is something I came to learn slowly, as I worked my way up in the organization. In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail one does glimpse the real Priory in places, if only through a glass darkly. I will not now indicate, however, just where this overlap occurs. To do so would be breaking statutes I'm sworn to uphold.
I will say that there's only one important Priory document Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln ignore. I'm speaking of the Voynich manuscript of course. Given everything else the authors cover, it's hard to see how they could have missed this one. Because the Voynich manuscript is classic Priory material. As we inside the organization are well aware, the manuscript is in fact a brochure for a 16th century Priory health and wellness spa, one of the many spas the Priory set up to provide rest and rejuvenation for the aching knights and sore desposyni conspirators of the Renaissance. Located in the Bohemian coastal town of Kutna Hora, the spa was finally ransacked in 1660 by an army of shock troops in the pay of Cardinal Mazarin. Most of the precious ointments and herbal unguents were lost in the attack, but the Priory did manage to save some of the original monogrammed towels. The monogrammed towels and the manuscript itself are all that remain.
As Grand Master I have the rights to one of these towels. I don't use it of course, but have the right to keep it with me. Right now it's upstairs in my sock drawer, next to a small ivory and gold reliquary that contains one of the few postcards Mary Magdalene sent from France back to the Holy Land:
"The people here are snotty, but the food is wonderful. Baby doing fine," etc., etc.
I'd be willing to scan the towel and put an image of it online, but I'm afraid the light from the scanner might damage it. I really need to get a digital camera one of these days. One might be bought for me with Priory funds, of course, but to tell the truth, we aren't as rich as we were back when we were known as Templars. In fact we in the real Priory don't even have half the budget Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln now have, not to mention that golden boy novelist they recently tried to sue.
Image from a brochure for the Priory of Sion spa at Kutna Hora,
now known as the Voynich manscript.
What was publicly known about the Voynich manuscript before I posted my remarks above:
This page is at http://www.necessaryprose.com/