This last one is a 2004 book about Dan Brown's book that was first published in 2001. I know this is a subject that was popular 100 years ago in pop culture time, but if you've been reading this blog very long, you know I love to read about books I've read. This isn't the first time I've read a book that supplements The Da Vinci Code. I already own Da Vinci Code Decoded by Martin Lunn (which I've read) and The Unauthorized Dan Brown Companion edited by John Helfers (2006 - I have skimmed it, but not read it the whole way through).
Now I've read Breaking the Da Vinci Code. I very much enjoyed it. Bock is a Protestant Biblical scholar, and his book looks at various ancient texts mentioned in Dan Brown's book to show systematically, using the original source material, that 1) the books of the Bible are as authentic a historical source as any other ancient text, and probably much more so, and 2) the ancient texts show very clearly that the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene was understood by witnesses of their time to be teacher/student, not sexual or a marriage relationship.
One of the sources that Bock addresses is Against Heresies (Adversus Haereses in Latin), a second-century work by Irenaeus, considered one of the "church fathers" and a Catholic saint. Irenaeus, a bishop of what is now Lyons, France, but which was then part of the Roman Empire, wrote in part to combat the Gnostic writings of Valentinus, which were popular in Lyons at the time. Valentinus was a Hellenic Egyptian; he or his followers wrote The Gospel of Truth, which was rediscovered in modern times at Nag Hammadi in 1945.
Bock quotes Frederica Mathewes-Green, an Eastern Orthodox Biblical scholar, in her magazine article "What Heresy?" (Books and Culture, November-December 2003). Mathewes-Green wrote:
"The version attributed to Valentinus, the best-known Gnostic, is typical. Valentinus supposedly taught a hierarchy of spiritual beings called 'aeons.' One of the lowest aeons, Sophia, fell and gave birth to the Demiurge, the God of the Hebrew Scriptures. This evil Demiurge created the visible world, which was a bad thing, because now we pure spirits are all tangled up in fleshy bodies. Christ was an aeon who took possession of the body of the human Jesus, and came to free us from the prison of materiality.
"'Us,' by the way, didn't mean everybody. Not all people have a divine spark within, just intellectuals; 'gnosis,' by definition, concerns what you know. Some few who are able to grasp these insights could be initiated into deeper mysteries. Ordinary Christians, who lacked sufficient brainpower, could only obtain the Demiurge's middle realm. Everyone else was doomed. Under Gnosticism, there was no hope of salvation for most of the human race."
Bock explains that "demiurge" is simple a Greek word that means "maker" or "builder," referring to the making of the material world.
This is the text of the manifesto:
That the text represents Gnosticism is not my idea, but rather something I read at MKCulture (which you may remember from last year's conspiracy theory post), an inactive blog that is, as of this writing, still able to be accessed. The blogger doesn't elaborate much in the blog post "Descendants of Sophia," but writes, "In my last post I explored the ever-present theme of the Goddess archetype within the context of pop culture. That inquiry ended with 'Born This Way,' the latest [as of April 2011] music video from pop star Lady Gaga. In the video Lady Gaga embodies Gnostic Goddess Sophia." The rest of the post veers off into Kate Bush's album, Ellen Page's career, and then goddesses associated with the owl and the peacock.
The blogger has a YouTube account as well, on which this video can be found. It explains the Gaga-as-Sophia concept in a little bit of detail.
Madonna may be the Material Girl, but Lady Gaga-as-Sophia gave birth to the creator of the material world. Maybe that's why "Born This Way" subtly samples Madonna's "Express Yourself," according to some listeners.
My trusty Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets has more than two pages on Sophia, under the heading "Saint Sophia." Barbara J. Walker describes Sophia (the name literally means "wisdom" in Greek) as "God's mother" but also the shakti, or female soul/power source, of God. Her symbol was the dove, as some of her incarnations include Aphrodite, Isis/Hathor, and "The Holy Ghost." She writes:
"Some said Jesus became Sophia's spouse and his glory depended on this sacred marriage; for he was only one of the Aeons, a minor spirit, the 'common fruit' of the Pleroma [the Gnostic "one true God," a transcendent being].
"Some said Sophia was also Jesus's mother, for she was the Virgin of Light whose spirit entered into the body of Mary to conceive him...Some said Sophia was to God as Metis was to Zeus, his 'mind.'"
Walker goes on to report that when the Church of Hagia Sophia was constructed in Constantinople in the 6th century, it was a shrine to Sophia the Goddess, but to cover up the appearance of goddess worship, Christians made up the "virgin martyr" Saint Sophia. Walker cites the 8th and 9th chapters of the Biblical book of Proverbs as having an ambivalent attitude toward Sophia, or wisdom. In one passage, following Wisdom is to be praised, but in another, "she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city [her temple]," calling to passersby to turn toward her, but if anyone turns into her temple "he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell." Walker sees this as two factions - one in favor of worshiping the Goddess Sophia and another that worships only the male God - having a debate.
If Sophia is thought of as the mother/spouse of Jesus, and she's associated with the "high places of the city" (the temple or watchtower, magdala in Hebrew), it's possibly Sophia is also associated with Mary Magdalene. Perhaps this is another reason why Lady Gaga appears as a Mary Magdalene figure in her "Judas" video, which came out after "Born This Way."
(However, after having watched a little video about Kenneth Anger and Hollywood Babylon the other day, I learned about Anger's experimental film Scorpio Rising. In it, Anger intercut clips of a Biblical drama featuring Jesus with footage of a leather-clad biker, set to 1950s rock 'n roll. The "Judas" video may be an homage to Scorpio Rising. Now, Kenneth Anger - he was openly a Satanist, and would proudly have told you he followed the teachings of Aleister Crowley.)
Neo-Gnosticism is a favorite topic of a blogger I mentioned yesterday, Christopher Loring Knowles. He seems to genuinely believe there is a world of spiritual or energy beings, hidden from us most of the time in the material world, but which seems to break through at times and communicates with us in a language of symbols and coincidences (synchronicities).
VISUP will occasionally mention Gnosticism as well. In one post, VISUP mentions that some Gnostics referred to the Demiurge as Samael, which VISUP says means "blind idiot." Where have I read that name before? In Devil's In the Details, where Samael is the name of Satan's fiance. Synchronicity? Maybe. Dog days of summer weirdness? It's a little early for that, but perhaps.