Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has suppressed alternative and unapproved Christian beliefs. -- Simon Cox, Cracking The Da Vinci Code
How can a poorly written thriller become the publishing sensation of the 21st century?
That is the question posed by The Da Vinci Code.
Could it be the underlying subject matter has struck a raw nerve?
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has become more than a run-of-the mill thriller, it appears to have opened up a debate that the Church, meaning the Catholic Church, thought it had closed down a few hundred years after the death of Jesus Christ.
It has brought to the laity subject matter that was until its publication, the reserve of arcane discussions. Exposed the dogma that is passed off as Christian tradition, that was placed in place by the Church, and not necessarily follows from the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those who begged to differ, were branded heretics, and were ruthlessly suppressed.
The Crusades were not only against infidels in the Middle East. A Crusade took place in Europe against the Cathars.
The Cathars believed one could could commune with God direct, a priest was not necessary. For their beliefs they were slaughtered.
No small wonder then that the Church has reacted in the way it has. March 2005, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop of Genoa, one time seen as the next Pope, took it upon himself to personally lead the attack on what he saw as a book of 'fables'. April 2006, the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, used the opportunity afforded by his Easter Address to launch a strong attack on The Da Vinci Code.
Places featured in The Da Vinci Code have seen a huge rise in visitor numbers, the Louvre has seen a 50% rise in visitor numbers, Rosslyn Chapel has been overwhelmed, Saint-Sulpice has posted on the door a notice denouncing the contents of The Da Vinci Code.
Saint-Sulpice refused filming rights for The Da Vinci Code, as did Westminster Abbey. Lincoln Cathedral doubled as Westminster Abbey. It remains to be seen whether being used as a film set, as opposed to a mention in the novel, greatly influences visitor numbers.
Dozens of books and articles have been published exploring various facets of The Da Vinci Code. Yale University has even set up an on-line course.
Novels, not by Dan Brown, exploring similar themes, have themselves become best sellers.
Dan Brown (and he is amazed at the controversy The Da Vinci Code has caused) has opened up a Pandora's Box.
A theme that runs throughout The Da Vinci Code and we are introduced to it right at the very beginning is that of the sacred feminine.
The sacred feminine is not something unique to Dan Brown. The sacred feminine also runs through the work of Paulo Coelho, and is particularly prominent in The Witch of Portobello.
It is the denial of the sacred feminine, that is the main plot in The Da Vinci Code.
Why does the Church and in particular the Catholic Church have such a problem with the sacred feminine?
The Church never fully closed down the debate that arose within the diversity of the early church in the years immediately following the death of Jesus, though it was not through the lack of trying. It was always there, and came back with a vengeance with the Nag Hammadi find which unearthed a library of early Christian writings which the Church thought it had long since destroyed. The Da Vinci Code merely served to pour salt on an open wound and popularised what was already known within scholastic circles.