Why do you come here, reader? Do you expect to find another review of The Da Vinci Code? The hassle and hubbub that book has brought us, you can't imagine. Perhaps you expect to read here once again that Brown's book is an accomplished thriller, but that the author got half his historical facts wrong and sketched out a huge and absurd conspiracy where none was to be found. Is this what you're looking for? How many articles and books have gone over this same ground? Or is it maybe a movie review you expect?
In any case reviews are not what I'm going to offer. What I will write here is far more momentous. I'm going to uncover a secret in the real world--a secret I've kept for years but have finally tired of keeping. With this brief declaration I intend to tell the truth as it is. And so. . . .
I am the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion.
There--I've said it. You may have a hard time believing it, but your skepticism won't change the fact. I am the current Grand Master and have been so for nearly a decade. Frankly I'm getting sick of all the secrecy.
The truth is I've been burning to tell about the Priory ever since they inducted me as an undergrad during my junior year abroad in France. But they insisted I keep my mouth shut, both there at the meeting house off the Rue de la Violette in Aix, and then back in the States as I finished my degree and moved up the ranks. I was persuaded to keep quiet and I was even threatened.
"It's a secret society," they'd tell me, pulling grave looks. "We protect an ancient secret. Any breach of the secret by a member will be severely punished."
Yeah, right. Even then I suspected the worst punishment those French frat boys could dole out would be forcing me to reread their "mystical" poems. Now that I'm Grand Master, I'm not afraid of the Priory rank and file and their silly threats. Besides, of the three snchaux I know for a fact that two are as tired of all this as I am. I'm unable to keep up the game any longer. With the recent craze and speculation surrounding Brown's book, with all the misconceptions floating around, the need to reveal the truth has only gotten more acute. And so I will come out with it.
The Grand Master is me. I'm the man you're looking for. You wouldn't know it on the surface--actually I hold down a pretty normal job--but then that's just how it should be with a Grand Master. It's the 3 D's: discretion, deniability, . . . I've forgotten the third one.
But enough about me. I should get to some of the good stuff, those questions that keep you up nights, that animate your dinner parties and echo round your chat rooms. Was Mary Magdalene really the wife of Jesus Christ? Did the Knights Templar really uncover the Temple Treasure in Jerusalem at the time of the First Crusade? Do we Priory members really worship the sacred feminine and engage in ritual sex? Do we really know where the Holy Grail is hidden? Is there really a sacred bloodline running from Jesus through the Merovingian kings and Pierre Plantard?
As for Mary Magdalene and Jesus, the truth is that not even I, the Grand Master, can tell you reliably about that one. And the reason is simple. The Priory of Sion doesn't go back that far, nor did our Founders (rest their maligned souls) ever come upon any secret gospels or any Temple Treasure either. Sorry to disappoint you. But what did you expect?
As for the ritual sex, you'll be glad to know that that part of Brown's book is mostly true. Except that during the Hieros Gamos the dancers do not hold "golden orbs," but orbs of moist clay. And the Grand Master does not engage in intercourse with a silver-haired matron, but rather with a young blonde or redhead--one of the younger Priory initiates to be sure. This younger initiate who takes part in the Hieros Gamos is selected by the Grand Master during an earlier sacred ritual called la Promenade de la Chatte.
As for the Holy Grail, I will tell you about that too. Rien ne se trouve si cach qui ne doive tre connu.
The Holy Grail is not some lost gospel or some descendant of a sacred bloodline like you read in HBHG or Dan Brown's book. Nothing of the sort. Instead it's a silver and gold chalice about five inches tall with a few of the precious gems missing from the rim. Though I saw photos of the Grail while in France, I didn't get to see the actual object until later in England, when I was made a snchal.
The late medieval design of the Grail chalice argues strongly against its having been used at the Last Supper. Any Priory member who believes this particular cup was used by Jesus of Nazareth is not likely to make it very far in the organization. Of course the Priory does not reject such initiates--quite the contrary. Younger and more gullible Priory members are a necessary part of the organization, as can be seen above re: the Hieros Gamos. But the upper ranks--the snchaux of course and any of the approaching ranks--certainly these do not actually believe this object to date from ancient times.
As for the story of the sacred bloodline, it is one that predates Pierre Plantard--it is one of the only authentic Priory stories he maintains--but once again: Priory members consider this story a legend, a metaphor rather than history. Plantard himself was not a full Priory member. He came to the Priory as a clown and was allowed to set up shop with his greasepaint intact. But this in itself is a long story, one I will not go into here.
An interesting aside: The writer Dan Brown does seem to have at least a fleeting connection to the real modern history of the Priory, though I don't know where he got it. I knew Sophie Neveu when a student in Aix. She worked at the caf on the Cours Mirabeau where most of us Priory members would meet for drinks. She even became a member eventually. She had long red hair just like in Brown's book. The last I saw her was in New York in 1998.
Now I've told you all the secrets I can tell you without really telling the secrets I can tell you. It's like with Strauss' Persecution and the Art of Writing. It's like with the purloined letter: sometimes the only safe place to hide things is out in the open. And what could be more out in the open than deadpan humor and ironic misdirection? Can you separate the one from the other? Can you find out the third?
If you're an attentive reader and have gotten this far, you can begin on a more diligent track by reading the following:
An Isle of Rubble where ends a freeman's court,
Inscribed as Adam half my clues consort.
The title to this couplet, you see, is missing. If you want the title, you must figure it out from the clues available. Kind of like in the book. If you can't figure it out, just send a check for $199.79, made out to me, to
[Address has changed.
For current address,
query by email.]
Z.E.I. will get me your letter. They may be slow about it, but they will get it to me. And for your pains I will send you the title. But be warned: If you get the title and finally solve the couplet, then your real difficulties will begin. Which should be no surprise. It isn't easy being a knight. And what did you expect? To read a pulp thriller and be given the Keys to the Kingdom?
Grand Master of the Priory of Sion