By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Compared to the vital Nag Hammadi Gnostic manuscripts unearthed in the same region of Egypt half a century earlier, The Gospel of Judas is significant mainly for its singularity (no other copies have ever been found) and for its reinforcement of knowledge about the Gnostic tradition, rather than for anything substantial it adds. And the timing of its publication may not be so great after all: In a decade when so many are feeling betrayed, sympathy for Judas is running low.
“DR. IAN BROWN”?’SThe Da Vinci Mole: A Philosophical Parody is a silly little book, but it’s actually pretty funny. Hinting that it’s written by Tom Cruise, it goes on to make every other kind of dumb conspiratorial connection, as its swollen-headed hero, Hank Thomas (cf. Tom Hanks), bumbles his way through discovering the hidden meanings of everything from Scientology to Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings. Try as it might, Mole can hardly be more ridiculous than the book it parodies, but it has its own rewards and insights:
“But what if we spend many days and risk countless dangers tracking down this secret, only to have it turn out to be a secret that your grandfather never wanted revealed anyway and so all our efforts would be pointless?”
“That would be absurd, Hank,” Saphie replied. “That would make no sense at all.”?
FORBIDDEN FAITH: The Gnostic Legacy From the Gospels to The Da Vinci Code | by RICHARD SMOLEY | Harper San Francisco, also an e-book | 234 pages | $25 hardcover
THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS | edited by RODOLPHE KASSER, MARVIN MEYER and GREGOR WURST | National Geographic | 185 pages | $22 hardcover
THE DA VINCI MOLE: A Philosophical Parody | by “DR. IAN BROWNE”| BenBella Books | 144 pages | $10 paperback
Since distortions and the demands of plot are likely to render unrecognizable many of the real historical and contemporary people and institutions referenced in The Da Vinci Code, here are some brief definitions of how they should be understood in this context. If this seems too complicated, just keep one main point in mind: Catholicism is bad. Very, very bad.
MARY MAGDALENE: Though barely mentioned in the New Testament, M.M. is the most important person who ever lived — the carrier of vital mystic knowledge and a crucial symbol of femininity suppressed throughout history.
JESUS OF NAZARETH: Mary Magdalene’s boyfriend.
MARY OF NAZARETH: Mary Magdalene’s mother-in-law. A minor character of insufficient importance to rate any mention in Da Vinci Code World.
THE SACRED FEMININE: The principle of fertility and the underworld, as worshipped by the ancients in the form of such goddesses as Isis, Ishtar and Aphrodite. The Feminine was widely acknowledged until suppressed by a masculine collusion between the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church, which carelessly neglected to suppress Mary of Nazareth, a Catholic saint who, some say, may have been a woman.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: A world religious institution whose entire purpose is to acquire wealth, promote evil and trample truth.
OPUS DEI: The paramilitary wing of the Catholic Church, founded by the Spanish priest Josemaría Escrivá in 1928 to train assassins who can stand ready to kill enemies standing in the church’s way, such as museum curators and unlucky nuns. Its devotees (often psychotic albinos) practice self-flagellation, self-mutilation, political intrigue and prayer. Some of Escrivá’s more outrageous injunctions, published in numerous books, include the ominous “Be useful,” the sexist “Be a man!” and, suggesting that revenge is a paella best served cold, “Never reprimand anyone while you feel provoked . . . Wait until the next day, or even longer.” Despite his Fascist associations, St. Josemaría was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002 in return for a massive bribe from Opus Dei.
SECRET ESOTERIC SOCIETIES: Luckily, the Truth, in the form of suppressed Christian Gnostic philosophy and ancient Egyptian wisdom, has been preserved over the millennia by a number of secret societies. These “good guys” include the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, the Masons, the Priory of Sion, Skull and Bones, and the Church of Satan.
LEONARDO DA VINCI: A cranky Italian Renaissance artist and inventor; chronically unemployed, he whiled away his time by hiding subversive messages and gay in-jokes in his paintings.
EMBEDDED IMAGERY: Artists are always social deviants; otherwise they would have chosen more useful careers, such as weapons design, oil marketing or filmmaking. Fortunately, Da Vinci vented his own sick frustrations by subtly emphasizing the Sacred Feminine in his masterwork The Last Supper, thus undermining a Satan even greater than art — Catholicism. In similar fashion, the Feminine and its Gnostic/Masonic guardians have surfaced in American tradition via art: the goddess Liberty and pyramid symbols on our coins and currency. That’s all very well, but as the recent film Rape of the Soul points out, embeddings in religious art can also be used to advance the dread Catholic agenda with hidden images of demons, phalluses and buggeries. Do you find yourself strangely driven to frequent playgrounds after turning the illustrated pages of your church calendar? Now you know why.
RON HOWARD: Playing the part of young Opie on The Andy Griffith Show in the ’60s, Ron Howard was a victim of child-labor exploitation and who knows what else under the iron hand of noted Catholic executive producer Danny Thomas. The trauma may have led him to an uncredited part in The First Nudie Musical (1976) and unpleasant ’70s associations with trashy Catholic director/producer Roger Corman. Now, as director of the filmic Da Vinci Code, his opportunity for revenge on the church has arrived.