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BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDE

Title: The DaVinci Code
Author: Dan Brown

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.

Questions:
1. If you were in the position to do so, would you make the Sangreal documents public?

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, religion?

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? Goddess?

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) and faith?

Related Information
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 a father?
o What would it mean if there were descendants who survived 2000 years later?

The widespread criticisms of the book and its author may be summarized thus:

-- 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 developments

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.

Dan Brown's Website

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.

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