Did Jesus survive crucifixion? What happened to the famous Templar treasure? Did Marilyn Monroe overdose or was she killed? Why did the assassination of JFK provoke such an unprecedented public response that has never stopped challenging the official version of his death expounded in the Report of the Warren Commission?
As we know, there are some real conspiracies, although, once proven, they might not be called ‘conspiracies’ (e. g. Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal). Some others – well, they seem more like gossip on a grand scale.
Conspiracy theories tend to appear to make sense of things that are otherwise confusing, in a simple, good-against-evil way and they are presented as secret knowledge. Whether you believe in them or not, no one denies they can be entertaining reads…
Take The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) for example, the mutual effort of a journalist, a novelist and a TV-writer to unveil one of the oldest (and still ongoing) conspiracies.
Using their considerable media skills and talents, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln present us with an overwhelming amount of seemingly well-researched historical speculations, manipulating the evidence to fit their theories: Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered several children. After the staged crucifixion the young family fled Palestine, ending up near Marseilles. Jesus' descendants founded the Merovingian dynasty, helped to lead several heretic movements, were the gray eminency of a long succession of secret societies, including the Knights Templars, Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and, as Kirkus Reviews points out, "they are well and hard at work today in a shadowy French organization called the Prieuré de Sion--an offshoot of the Templars whose Grand Masters, believe it or not, included Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Claude Debussy, and Jean Cocteau..."
And that is only the beginning. It turns out King Arthur's knights and many others were chasing rainbows, for the holy grail isn't a grail at all, it’s the best kept secret - hence all these secret societies, established with the sole purpose of guarding Jesus’ descendents. According to Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, the Holy Grail (Sangraal) is Jesus' royal blood (Sang Réal), brought to France in the person of his pregnant wife.
And of course, the Vatican has known all about it, establishing its own secret orders and societies to keep out of public knowledge that Jesus was a man, a fact that can destroy the very foundations of the Church.
Two decades later, Dan Brown will use the dubious facts of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail for his equally factually-unconvincing yet wildly popular novel The Da Vinci Code.
Naturally, as soon as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was published, numerous scholars, Church experts and serious researchers set about pointing out false facts, half truths and convenient conclusions drawn from incorrect premises. The most interesting answer to this galimatias came in the form of a novel that has been, due to its complexity, read and appreciated only by a few: Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum (1989), a masterful deconstruction of conspiracies, focusing not on the mystery itself but rather on its influence on the development of the protagonists. In a process of transformation from their skeptical to their diabolical selves, three editors, fascinated by an improbable conspiracy theory embracing all of European history, decide to investigate its possibilities, ultimately becoming the victims of their own creation.
If conspiracies are your cup of tea, then we have a few more suggestions and plenty of books, both fiction and non-fiction, in our collection. You might want to try The Templar Legacy (2007) by Steve Berry (book 1 in the Cotton Malone series).
The Knights Templar, a small monastic military order formed in the early 1100s to protect travelers to the Holy Land, eventually grew and became wealthy beyond imagination. In 1307, the French king, feeling jealous and greedy, killed off the Templars, and by 1311, the last master, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake. The whereabouts of the Templars' treasure--and their secrets--have been the subject of legend ever since. Like Dan Brown, Berry draws on the seminal nonfiction work Holy Blood, Holy Grail for many of his themes….
The Magdalene Legacy: the Jesus and Mary Bloodline Conspiracy (2005) by Laurence Gardner
A proponent of alternative and controversial religious and historical views, British author/lecturer Gardner continues to espouse the theories he presented in his 1996 UK best seller, Bloodline of the Holy Grail. He joins the ranks of those claiming Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children whose descendants are living today, including the Royal House of Stewart claimant Michael of Albany…
Next time we'll present a few books related to some modern-day events that sent those prone to seeing conspiracies everywhere into overdrive...