Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 11:52 AM
As it happens, I read HBHG in the mid-1980s and remember vividly proselytizing its fascinating claims amongst friends because I thought it gave credence to my ingenuous apostasy. In fact, I especially relished challenging Christian fundamentalists in my family with “proof” that, although Jesus might have been a saint, celibacy was not one of his virtues (and, what better justification can there be for one’s own promiscuity…). Because HBHG asserts that Jesus not only “had carnal knowledge” of Mary Magdalene but also fathered children with this woman who Catholic dogma insists was nothing more than a “harlot” (whore).
HBHG purports to retrace the 2000-year odyssey to protect the secret of this holy bloodline. And it begins with a revolutionary claim, which makes a mockery of all of Christendom: namely, that Jesus was never crucified. He lived! HBHG then posits why his bloodline posed a threat to the established secular and religious order of the day. (Indeed, one gets the uncanny sense that his putative offspring were in as much peril as he was when King Herod ordered his assassination upon hearing news of his birth.) But this is why they supposedly fled from Palestine to France where their secret was variously protected and sought after by Knights Templar, Freemasons, the Prieure de Sion and pretenders to the Merovingian Throne. Ultimately, though, HBHG leaves us with the utterly blasphemous notion that there are Frenchmen living today who are direct descendants of Jesus Christ; which I suppose explains the messianic complex so many of them suffer….
“There are at least a dozen families in Britain and Europe today-with numerous collateral branches who are of Merovingian lineage….And the Devonshire family, among others, would seem to have been privy to the secret. All of these houses could presumably claim a pedigree from Jesus; and if one man, at some point in the future, is to be put forward as a new priest-king, we do not know who he is.”
(Of course, this begs the following observation, which tends to undermine the central thesis of HBHG: Where one can appreciate the fear of revealing their holy bloodline throughout the ages, it seems so incredible – as to be specious – that heirs to the Son of God would not reveal themselves to the faithful protestants of the world’s only superpower in America. After all, this nation of born-again Christians would surely protect them (against dreaded Catholic assassins) with a religious zeal that even the heavily-guarded president of the United States would envy.)
Yet, as fantastical and heretical a story as this is, it seems few people had ever heard of HBHG until Brown cited it in the introduction to his DaVinci yarn. But Brown was smart to acknowledge that DaVinci traced the trail that was blazed so quietly by HBHG; because there can be no reasonable doubt that HBGB spawned many bastard novels – including DaVinci. Brown also deserves credit for cleverly setting his story in modern times and taking his readers on a backwards trail to the place where HBHG began. Although, Steven Spielberg should probably sue him as well for using an Indiana Jones-inspired Harvard professor to move his story; which has this adventuresome professor trying to solve a murder that took place in the Louvre and uncovering the (HBHG) plot by the Catholic Church to conceal the sexual nature of therelationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the bloodline she established in France.
Therefore, the only question facing the High court is to what degree is it acceptable to “lift the whole architecture” of another person’s research “to save the time and effort that independent research would have required” to construct one’s own yarn – as the authors of HBHG allege Brown has done?
First and foremost, I submit to you that this question must necessarily arise whenever the alleged plagiarizer sells 30 million books and the original author only about 30. However, Brown cleverly attributes the original idea for DaVinci, in part, to HBHG. And, since novels based on historical scholarship have a hallowed tradition dating back to the time of William Shakespeare, it is a precedent that British courts are loath to overturn.
Therefore, as a legal matter, claimants Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh will lose….
But here’s the rub: Brown was so cocksure about his “two-year” research that he inserted a “fact page” delineating the “truth” of all of his fairytales. Indeed, it is this page that has induced so many people to buy his book and go on DaVinci pilgrimages to Paris. However, if the judge finds this fact page too contrived (as Olson and Miesel argue), he might be moved to rule in favour of the original HBHG story tellers.
Therefore, as an equitable matter, claimants Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh should win – at least a split (Solomon-like) decision…
NOTE: The timing of this lawsuit is very shrewd indeed. Because the highly anticipated movie based on Brown’s book is scheduled for release in May. And nothing concentrates the minds in Hollywood quite like the prospect of a summer blockbuster. So, if the claimants win even a partial victory, they will have considerable leverage to extract tens of millions of dollars in damages from Brown’s publisher Random House, if only to allow the movie to open as planned.
ENDNOTE: There is, nonetheless, an upside to this whole farce f
or all parties involved. Because, as James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces demonstrated, there’s nothing like controversy to boost sales of a book (or movie). Indeed, even if they lose, Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh’s HBHG might see their 30 copies in sales increase to 3 million before the dust is settled…
Hooray for Hollywood!