BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDE
Summary: In a two-day span, American symbologist Robert
Langdon finds himself accused of murdering the curator of the Louvre,
on the run through the streets of Paris and London. He teams up with
French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu to uncover the secret location of
the Holy Grail. It appears that a conservative Catholic bishop might
be on the verge of destroying the Grail, which includes an alternate
history of Christ that could bring down the church. Whoever is ordering
the deaths of the Grail's guardians--modern-day members of an ancient
society descended from the famed Knights Templar--must be stopped before
the treasure is lost forever. To do so, Langdon and Neveu have to solve
a series of ciphers and riddles while evading a tireless French police
commander and a ruthless albino monk.
1. If you were in the position to do so, would you make the Sangreal
2. What difference do you think the information would make in the world?
3. What does this narrative suggest about the past? The future?
4. How has this book changed your ideas about: faith, history, science,
5. Do we have a right to "truth" and "facts" or
should governing bodies keep some things hidden for our own good?
6. What other words or images do you associate with these words: God?
7. What did you find "entertaining" in this book?
8. How does the ending of the novel make you feel?
9. Einstein stated, "The most beautiful thing we can experience
is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder
and stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
How do you see our world dealing with the conflicts between reason (science)
Since publication in 2003, this hugely successful thriller
has generated enough conversation, spin-offs and attacks to warrant
close examination. A burst of books and articles as well as talk-show
segments demonstrate that this novel touches deep nerves in the world's
collective psyche. Why?
All mystery stories are about a quest for truth, to find out what really
happened. In American fiction, spirituality and the mystery genre have
blended before in the 1995 book The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield,
so this book is not an entirely new mode. But everything about The Da
Vinci Code is mysterious - Langdon doesn't even know what kind of plot
he is caught up in at first: the opening looks like a murder mystery.
Before we are finished, it seems as if everything in our reality can
be a code, means something else, is unreliable. What do we make of a
book that depicts a world where everyone is suspect, words may mean
many things or nothing, and symbols have multiple meanings?
If we read the novel as pseudo-history, it raises these questions:
o What difference would it make in the world if these "secrets"
about the Christian story were made known?
o What would it mean if the historical Jesus had been married? Been
o What would it mean if there were descendants who survived 2000 years
The widespread criticisms of the book and its author may be summarized
-- that he asserts facts that are really opinions debated by serious
scholars - the line between fact and fiction is deliberately blurred
-- characters use the old Protestant critique of Catholicism, showing
the 19th century bias that spread sermons and documents against the
Catholic Church in that period
-- characters reflect US stereotypes of Europeans
--there is just too much bad writing - improbable plot elements and
Why does this book resonate so in our time?
My theory is that it cracks the foundation of contemporary religious
practice and opens it to exploring core assumptions about faith and
politics. This reveals an essential conflict between two world views:
the Judeo-Christian understanding of our situation in the world tells
us that humans have sinned against God and need to have their offenses
set right, giving Jesus a very specific purpose on Earth; the ancient
Christians (Gnostics) believed that Christ's purpose on Earth was not
to redeem sinners but to transmit some special wisdom that would bring
spiritual liberation to every individual, "enlightenment,"
and that out of that wisdom would come all right action - compassion,
justice, ethics, love, etc.
Current events suggest that the cultural pendulum is swinging back
toward fundamentalism like the Judeo-Christian emphasis, from a period
of openness and inclusiveness, a time of "pick 'n mix" religious
practice, and that this fundamentalism is working in many faiths including
Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. This movement is toward rule-governed
decisions and a "dominator" paradigm of political power instead
of a cooperative model.
This novel seems to insist that unity, joined dualities, individual
spirit quests that honor and join male and female qualities are the
alternative to violence, domination, and dangerous secrecy in the world.
The open celebration of "The Divine Feminine" leads to a world
where shared goals, cooperation, intuition, and spiritual rather than
materialist values are mixed with the energies associated with masculinity
for a balanced universe.
Questions and related information provided by Kathy Winter.
This discussion guide made possible with public
funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency. Sponsored
by the Mohawk Valley Library System and participating member libraries.