The Templar Revelations
Authors: Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince
reviewed by Theresa Welsh
This book was an exciting find for me because it is the first real follow-up to the theories presented in Holy Blood, Holy Grail (by Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh). The Templar Revelation repeatedly refers to that earlier work, which an informal poll conducted at the web site, The Daily Grail, showed to be the favorite of alternative history buffs (including myself!). It was the earlier book that caused many Christians to shed their naivete about the origins of their religion and to question whether Jesus had, in fact, died on the cross. Had he actually survived and fled with his wife, Mary Magdalene, to the south of France? Had their descendants founded the Merovingian dynasty? And was this the explosive "secret" preserved by that shadowy organization known as the Priory of Sion?
In Search of the Early Christians
In this ambitious and controversial work by Picknett and Prince we find much more on the legends of France concerning Mary Magdalene and her possible connection to Jesus and the Christian movement. The authors also delve into the mystery of Rennes le Chateau, the story which originally inspired Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh to do the investigation which led to their astounding theories. Since that time, other books have also questioned the standard story of Christian beginnings, and have even revived the idea that historical Jesus did not exist. The controversy surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls has only added to the confusion about who the early Christians actually were and what they believed.
I recently visited a wonderful exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls that came to the Grand Rapids (Michigan) public museum; it featured actual pieces of the scrolls along with many representations of the community at Qumran, thought to be the origin of the scrolls. Research into the scrolls is important because they were concealed in caves near the Dead Sea at a time slightly earlier than the time of Jesus' public life. Interest in the meaning of the Scrolls is intense; to see the exhibit, I had to purchase tickets ahead of time and was given a time to arrive. Controversy swirls around the fact that some of the material from the scrolls seems "Christian" but actually predates the Jesus movement. This, like the material in The Templar Revelation, seems to show that the central ideas of Christianity are not new. Other authors have shown that the "suffering savior" theme was present in many pagan religions of the era. Many of us have absorbed and accepted the idea that Christianity is not based on any new ideas.
Roots in Egypt, Clues in France
Picknett and Prince take the idea further and show that the roots of Christianity are in the Egyptian religion, especially the cult of Isis and Osiris. Osiris was killed on Friday and resurrected three days later by the power of his wife Isis, who then conceives their son, Horus. But even more parallels with Jesus can be found in the basic beliefs of the Isis religion, which emphasized repentance and confession. It was not Jesus who originally brought this message to the Jews, but another character who figures prominently in occult circles, John the Baptist. John is seen by the authors as a rival of Jesus who founded a substantial movement that continued to exist even though persecuted by Jews, Christians, and Moslems. John too took his ideas from Egypt, including immersion in water as a purification rite.
The most exciting part of this book is the material the authors collected in their travels through France. They found numerous churches dedicated to Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist as well as statues of the Black Madonna. The devotion to the Magdalene is especially interesting, since the legends of her presence in this area are so common and there are numerous claims by local townspeople to have her remains or some relic of her. The shrines to Mary Magdalene are frequently at sites formerly associated with Isis. The authors labor at making the connection these sites have with the hermetic tradition embodied in the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. What was the secret knowledge of these organizations that caused them to hold John the Baptist and the Magdalene in higher regard than Jesus? It was, they say, the knowledge of the Female principle once so important to ancient religions. They devote a whole chapter to the history of "sacred sex" and show how it was practiced in Egypt and the hermetic undergound stream that persisted through organizations like the Templars and Masons. This is the same idea as the Eastern "Tantric Sex" that leads to enlightenment. The male-dominating Church had to suppress these ideas, along with any texts that tended to show the importance of women in theological ideas or in active roles in church organizations. In fact, the early Christians had women priests and equality of the sexes, according to some sources.
The authors point out that the knowledge of alternate "gospel" texts from the period of Jesus's ministry had only come to light in the last few hundred years, and the Dead Sea Scrolls date from 1947. These new sources tend to show a different picture of the Jesus movement than we have in the Bible gospels, which were chosen by the Church hundreds of years after the crucifixion. Most of Christianity's important dogma was set in 325 AD at the Council of Nicea.
So, What Does it all Mean?
While I find much of the material illuminating and believable, the authors ultimately fall short of pulling it all together in the magnificent way of Baigent , Lincoln and Leigh in Holy Blood, Holy Grail. I'm left with, Is that it? Jesus was a rival of John; he was a practitioner of an ancient religion and his message was altered by the Church, and the the "secret" is ... what? There are certainly organizations that don't believe Jesus was the Messiah (the Jews, for instance), so how explosive is that revelation? Does the Priory of Sion have some sort of proof that Jesus survived the crucifixion? If so, would anyone accept it? The authors constantly point out how ignorant most Christians are about the origins of their own religion. Since Christianity emphasizes "faith" (belief with no proof), why should the existence of proof make any difference? There are even people w ho say Christianity could survive without any belief in Jesus, as a sort of "do good to others" kind of philosophy.
I have to think any "secret" possessed by the Priory of Sion must be more than this, and I think they must have a heavy political agenda, and some means of carrying it out. I remember that Holy Blood, Holy Grail ended with the idea that the Priory would be behind the scenes making things happen in Europe. Well, we now have a much more united Europe. As an American, I don't fully understand European history or its meaning. I visited central Europe (Prague and the Czech lands, Vienna and Dresden) for the first time this year, and came back with many impressions of how Europe and America are different. Europe was the land where the Inquisition and Crusades were played out, and where secret societies had to keep beliefs and knowledge alive. But America was actually founded by believers in the underground stream! George Washington was a high-level Mason, as were many of our founding fathers. America was born with the ideas of tolerance and the separation of church and state, and many settlers came to our shores seeking relief from European religious intolerance. Even our money carries the occult image of the pyramid and all-seeing eye. And don't forget the theories (see my review of Steven Sora's The Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar) that the Templar treasures are to be found, not in Europe, but on a island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The "European Heresy" of Picknett and Prince made its way to the New World and formed the basis of a great nation. Are we living in a time when we are meant to discern these truths, already known to those who founded the United States?
(I mean no disrespect to Europe. One of the strong impressions I brought back was of the essential wastefulness of Americans. Europeans are more frugal with resources and are less acquisitive than Americans.)
The Templar Revelation adds to the overall picture of the suppression of truth down through the ages, but it does not reveal any Great Truth. It's major contribution to this endless and wonderful debate is the Egyptian origins of Jesus' teachings. I previously assumed that Christianity began as a cult within Judaism, but these authors show that this may be a misperception, one fostered by the Church to hide its true, pagan origins. The original "holy family" was Osiris, Isis and Horus.
Buy The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ at Amazon.com.