Censorship has a variety of points along its dark spectrum- from the outright removal of books to mere challenges; both fiction and non-fiction works are frequent targets of the flames of ignorance for various reasons.
Sometimes a book comes along that, by virtue of being so controversial, causes lines to be drawn in the sand by its supporters and opponents, and those caught in the middle are left scratching their heads in confusion.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail is one such work.
This non-fiction narrative published in 1982 was written by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln and served as the basis for the events in Dan Brown’s infamous fictional tale, The Da Vinci Code.
What exactly is the Holy Grail?
Some traditions hold that it was the cup that Jesus and his disciples drank from at the Last Supper; others believe it to be the cup Joseph of Arimathea caught Jesus\’ blood in as he hung on the cross.
But according to other traditions it was neither of these.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail suggests that the Grail isn’t a cup at all, but that it in fact refers to a bloodline that goes directly back to Jesus himself.
Leigh met co-writer Lincoln in 1975 and discovered that they had a common interest in the Knights Templar.
Lincoln was researching the strange story of an obscure 19th-century French country priest, Bérenger Saunière when Leigh recruited Bagient, a psychology graduate who was researching the infamous order for a film, to join the research team.
The authors tested the theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had one- or more- children, and that their descendants settled in southern France. There, they intermarried with the families which in time became the Merovingian dynasty, whose claim to the throne of France is championed today by a secret society called the Priory of Sion. The authors contend that the legendary Holy Grail is actually both the womb of Mary Magdalene and the sacred royal bloodline she gave birth to.
Unfortunately, the key component of their hypothesis, the Priory legend, was discovered to be a fraud and is now considered one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail stands as a powerful example of investigative journalism merged with religious conspiracy theory, an arcane fiction whose confrontational thesis threatened to undermine the Catholic Church\’s history.
The response from professional historians and theological scholars was universally negative, arguing that the majority of the claims and the archeological documents in support of the theory that are presented as facts are pseudo-historical at best. Their hypothetical premise was considered so blasphemous that the Vatican denounced it as heresy and the book was banned in Jordan, Lebanon, the Philippines, and many other Roman Catholic-dominated countries.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail quickly became the most controversial book of the 1980’s and one of the 10 most controversial non-fiction manuscripts of all time due to its subject matter. Ironically, the Christian Bible itself is number one on that list, as it has been argued against by other religious orders, and the contents even debated on by its own denominations. Furthermore, many historians and scholars regard The Bible– at least in part- as fiction passing itself off as historical fact.
The theories put forth in Holy Blood, Holy Grail aren’t necessarily new, by the way. The 1973 book The Jesus Scroll by Donovan Joyce also claimed that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had been married and had children together. The theme appears in many media genres, both fiction and non-fiction, throughout the 1990’s and new millennium.
Historian Marina Warner commented when Holy Blood, Holy Grail was first published, “Of course there\’s not much harm in thinking that Jesus was married (nor are these authors the first to suggest it), or that his descendants were King Pippin and Charles Martel. But there is harm in strings of lurid falsehoods and distorted reasoning.”
The human compulsion to find questions within answers fuels the intellectual minefield of what we deem conspiracy theories. These hypotheses look at the same data in a new way, and with a fresh perspective. Debate them, debunk them, ignore them as mad ramblings, but don’t ban them. That’s the dangerous power that censorship has- that an idea itself can be so feared, so shocking, so unconventional that the mere mention of it must be destroyed and buried simply for asking “what if?”
Today’s eccentric theories may well become tomorrow’s accepted fact, just ask Galileo. He, too, was branded a heretic for his theories.
For a complete list of titles covered and more information about the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project, please visit www.deepforestproductions.com
Sources: Wikipedia, Amazon, Associated Press
© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions