Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Templar Legacy

Try as I might, I cannot resist the temptation to touch upon literature in this blog, so here goes the first post about a book – The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry.
Most books I read leave an impression and I’ve always thought there’s something to be learnt from any book, regardless of its quality or ranking in the bestseller charts. However, there are some books that leave more than an impression. There are books that leave you wondering, questioning the very principles and beliefs you’re based your entire life on. The Templar Legacy can have that effect, if you allow it.
It had been sitting in my bookcase for a couple of years already, waiting to be read, but it just sounded so similar to Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code, that I just couldn’t bring myself to read what I suspected would be virtually the same story in someone else’s words. The Knights Templar again, some sort of cape and dagger intrigue and chase again, another hero without a cause, bladdy blah all over again I thought. What is more, I wanted to avoid the unavoidable questions that The DaVinci Code had raised with me when I read it in 2005.
So what it took was actually another book written by Steve Berry, The Romanov Prophecy, which I read in two sittings and which proved to me that the author, no matter how Dan Brown-ish in style, deserves a chance. When I finally picked up The Templar Legacy, I had trouble putting it down again. Beyond the now acknowledged Steve Berry page-turning style, beyond the un-debatable historical facts which were equally well documented as those used in The DaVinci Code and the rapidly unfolding fictional storyline, the book certainly raises some issues for the believer and non-believer alike.
Dan Brown’s hypothesis was aimed at sowing the seeds of doubt about Jesus’ chastity, claiming that Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene and that they had children and a bloodline carried forward into the 21st Century, hence the Holy Grail being in fact Jesus’ direct descendant. Steve Berry on the other hand, started his quest and constructed his whole theory around an alleged statement made by Pope Leo X: ‘It has served us well, this myth of Christ.’ With the alleged words of a Pope as a starting point, with all the irrefutable historical facts thoroughly researched, with the established mystery of the Templar Order and their quick rise and quicker fall and with Berry’s unlimited imagination, I am sure it took longer to write and edit the book than plan to it out in his own head and make the connections between the jumbled up pieces of history and legend.
His biggest claim was that the Knights Templar did not gain all the political power they had by way of military strength, pious faith or wealth, but rather by knowledge. The 9 original Knights who founded the Order had somehow stumbled across some information and proof that had the potential to dismantle the whole of Christianity. The Templars referred to it as The Great Device. However, faced with it, the Catholic Church let itself blackmailed by the Templars and bought their silence by allowing them as much power and independence as they wanted. Eventually, they had become stronger and wealthier than whole kingdoms, and by the early 14th Century, they were too much of a threat to the Catholic Church and some European monarchs (mostly the French) and a joint decision was made to wipe them off the face of the Earth. On Friday, the 13th of October 1307, the French king, Philip the Fair, came down on the Templars with all the armed forces he had. Most were tortured and murdered, some were imprisoned and died later, but it seems that some got away. Some, but enough to carry on the traditions or the Order, albeit underground.
The supreme knowledge (especially of the Great Device) was only accessible to the Master of the Order and was passed down to his successor just before his death. Therefore, when Jacques De Molay, the Head of the Templars at the time of the 1307 purge, was captured and all remaining Templars fled for their lieves, there was no way he could have passed on the information, or indeed no one to pass it to. The great secret of the Templar Knowledge and wealth seemed to have died with him.
This is where historical fact ends in Steve Berry’s book, and where imaginative speculation begins. Based on far-fetched but still plausible connections between historical findings in connection with the Templars, Berry develops a theory according to which The Great Templar Device was in fact irrefutable proof that Jesus had not been the Son of God, but in fact had been no more than a simple man. When, at the end of the book, the characters’ quest comes to an end, what they find in the Templar hidden vaults are Jesus’ earthly remains – bones which can be scientifically assessed to be what they claim. Moreover, an unknown gospel is found with the bones, briefly recounting the blessed life Jesus had lead as a prophet, but also stating that his death had been on the cross, where he had hung for 3 days – not one afternoon, as the Bible tells us, where his bones were crushed on the last evening – although the Bible specifically tells us not a bone in his body has been crushed, and where he had been left hanging for the birds to pick at his corpse before it was dumped in a common grave. This unknown Gospel of Simon claims that the fisherman himself went, together with some other disciples, and retrieved the body and preserved the remains as they were found by the first Templars one thousand years later, under the ancient Temple of Solomon.
So, whereas Dan Brown implied that Jesus, although the Son of God, acted as human as possible while on Earth, married and had children, Steve Berry claims that Jesus may not have been the Son of God at all, but a mere mortal and a prophet among many. If taken into account as a possibility, this claim threatens to shatter the lives of billions, annul the whole of Christianity, churches and believers alike.
This topic has been debated by the various religions for thousands of years already. The Jews are still waiting for their Messiah and have always denied Jesus that quality, the Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet, but Christians base their whole system of beliefs upon Jesus’ Divine origin and mainly upon his death of the Cross and his resurection 3 days later. If the Church has made it all up in order to use it as a means to control their followers, as Pope Leo’s statement seems to indicate, the religious and social consequences are beyond imagination. Not only would all Christians be in fact Jews (which would only mean reverting to the beliefs they had before Jesus), but the millions of Christian priests and preachers would be unemployed, millions of nuns and monks would be homeless, the Churches redundant and powerless, the churches’ assets suddenly illegal since they could no longer claim any religious or social recognition, the Protestant Ethics on which capitalism was built would collapse, taking down society itself. The personal implications would, of course, vary, but I dare say the rate of suicide would skyrocket, as would the crime rate.
If there is any shred of truth in either of the claims made by the two authors, my only hope is that the Church continues to guard the secrecy at all costs, for everybody’s sake.In the end, no one can argue for or against faith, so it is up to each and every one of us whether we choose to believe and what we choose to believe into. The question is: is your faith strong enough to withstand such claims?


  1. Un lucru bun învăţat la facultate(altii sunt mai prodigiosi si au invatat mai de timpuriu) a fost sa ma uit după cuvinte cheie după cum urmează: alleged statement, myth of Christ, unlimited imagination, knowledge that could dismantle the whole christianity, accessible only to the great master, imaginative speculation la care se adaugă cele două variaţiuni extrem de precare pe seama autenticităţii Domnului Iisus prezentate de aceşti maeştri ai penelului Dan Brown şi Berry guy.
    Firul ratiunii mele ma conduce la urmatoarea dilema: daca Biblia prin învataturile ei urmareste sa inalte omul, sa aduca lumina(si aici se desparte de cunoasterea de tip monopolistic al templierilor), sa ofere un orizont de tip sofianic pentru om,în ce fel cunoasterea templierilor(sa il intreb pe blaga daca o fi paradisiaca sau luciferica)ma oferteaza pe mine ca faptura aspiranta la desăvârşire?
    Daca tot vorbim despre mostenirea templierilor, unde e, ca nu o vad. Încercări din astea de a confunda soarele de pe cer cu astrul reflectat in baltă o sa tot fie. Deci, scumpă Focă cred că ti-am răspuns la întrebarea din finalul articolului.

  2. Anuta, apreciez spiritul analitic (as always... in ce ne-a transformat facultatea aia!!!) si iti raspund la dilema tot printr-un claim al lui Berry:

    Biblia, si mai ales Noul Testament (in care Biserica a refuzat sa includa The Gnostic Gospels - nu stiu cum se numesc in romana?! - urmareste intr-adevar sa ofere omului speranta, promitandu-i mantuirea. Aceasta mantuire ar fi posibila pentru bunul crestin doar pentru ca Iisus a murit pe cruce si a inviat din morti pentru fiecare dintre noi.
    Insa daca nu crezi in invierea lui Iisus, sau, mai rau, se demonstreaza (in cazul Templierilor lui Berry prin ramasitele pamantesti ale omului Iisus si prin marturia fictiva a lui Smon Petru) ca nu a fost decat un om, se surpa insasi baza crestinismului.

    In fond, Crestinismul are la baza aceleasi principii ca mai toate religiile, ba multe dintre ele chiar impuse prin lege de stat. 'Sa nu ucizi, sa nu furi, sa-ti iubesti parintii si aproapele, sa nu fii desfranat' sunt 'porunci' comune multor credinte si sunt, chiar si pentru cei care nu cred in nicio forma de divinitate, principii universale de convietuire in comunitate/societate.

    Prin urmare, promisiunea unei vieti vesnice si a invierii mortilor (posibila prin insasi moartea si invierea lui Iisus) este caracteristica definitorie a crestinismului si cea care il deosebeste vadit de celelalte religii. Daca indepartam acest element in jurul caruia s-a construit intreaga filosofie crestina, dar suntem, cum zici tu, 'fapturi aspirante la desavarsire', vom face tot posibilul sa ne desavarsim in viata asta, cea de pe pamant, pentru ca nu ne mai garanteaza nimeni ca va mai exista o alta. De exemplu, toata populatia monahiceasca (redundanta de altfel in cazul in care obiectul evlaviei lor ar disparea si o viata inchinata Lui nu le-ar mai garanta mantuirea) ar trebui sa caute desavarsirea in laicism. Fiecare ar contribui mai mult la viata comunitatii si la viata proprie pana la urma. Cei care aleg sa renunte la viata si sa o dedice vietii monahale in schimbul promisiunii vietii vesnice n-ar mai avea motive sa renunte si s-ar bucura de viata, functionand in comunitate si desavarsindu-se astfel in viata aceasta.
    Iar cei care ar alege oricum viata de mirean, ar avea libertatea sa se bucure de viata indrumati doar de propria constiinta, nu si de frica atragerii maniei lui Dumnezeu prin 'pacatele' comise.

  3. Andreea, nu se poate indeparta acest element constitutiv si vital al crestinismului, asta ar zadarnici venirea Domnului pe pamant, fiindca de asta a venit, sa fie Garantul vietii vesnice.Desavarsirea se poate realiza atat in laicism cat si in monahism.Propria constiinta se reflecta in alegerile pe care le faci.Si imi vine in minte o fraza de-a lui Dostoievsky care spunea ca daca ar veni cineva la el si i-ar demonstra adevarul,ca Iisus nu exista, atunci s-ar desparti de adevar si ar ramane cu Iisus.