Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Da Vinci Code

I have finally watched The Da Vinci Code, based on the 2003 bestselling book by Dan Brown. And it was pretty impressive.

Spoilers follow.

If you don't know, in this novel, some mysterious murders turn out to be results of a big battle between two social or religious groups. One of them is supposed to protect the descendants of Jesus Christ and his wife, Mary Magdalene, who could prove that Jesus was a human being. The other one wants to protect the big dirty secret of the Christian Churches, namely Jesus's humanity.

Not too surprisingly, the movie was banned at least in Sri Lanka.

In the movie, recreational mathematics plays a big role. A permuted Fibonacci sequence hides the key to an important anagram. Another "cryptex" has a password "Apple" invented by Isaac Newton. In the movie, the Holy Grail, naively thought to be a big cup for wine, is redefined to be either Mary Magdalene herself or her only living descendant which turns out to be the female cryptologist working for the French police.

After some dramatic confrontations and flights, she learns about her identity. But she's unable to walk on the water or do any miracles, sorry. Her main partner from the movie realizes that the Holy Grail is hidden in the Louvre, right below the modern glassy pyramid. But when you get there again, don't get mystified by the seemingly changed geography of the space below the pyramid. The space is actually different than you see and Mary Magdalene sleeps beneath it. ;-)

Isaac Newton was painted as an advocate of the "atheist" movement defending the humanity of Jesus Christ and his romantic relationships with Mary Magdalene. That's clearly bullshit, historically speaking, because Isaac Newton genuinely believed in God and the Bible. He also understood it as a source of profound recreational mathematics. Dan Brown apparently wanted to rewrite history of science, trying to paint all big guys as "de facto" atheists. That was surely not the case.

Another mistake was that there was only one living descendant of Jesus. There are actually 10 of us. It was very surprising to learn that your humble correspondent was one of them - but let's postpone this interesting topic for a later article. ;-)

The mysterious feelings are cool and I've been often attracted to similar mysteries in the past although, let me admit, the degree of mystery I can feel when thinking about similar stuff is lower than when I was a kid. At any rate, I think that Brown and others are right that the history of the religion is nontrivial and included a lot of "mutations", "deletions", "censorship", "unification of traditions", as well as "splitting of traditions".

When the Bible is being presented these days, it depends on a large number of independent parameters which should be viewed as unquestionable facts by the believers. That's not how Nature naturally works. Some of these parameters were accidents, others emerged as mutations of some pagan traditions - modified in such a way that someone had benefited. There were gospels that have been completely removed because they were inconvenient, and so on. The sequence of verses in the Bible is a result of a similar historical sequence of mutations as the DNA code of a typical modern organism.

So if Jesus Christ has lived, he was almost certainly a human. Apologies to my Christian readers. Mary Magdalene didn't have to be a prostitute. Judas didn't have to be a nasty corrupt traitor. Little boys didn't have to be discriminated against by Herodes the Great. Instead, the early Christians could have genuinely gone after the girls' necks, and the witch hunts could be a transformed version of the same tradition.

Many events - some of which could surprise us (but they could also make a lot of sense and pass a lot of consistency checks) - could have happened. Because of the existing religions and their longevity and partial continuity, many of these old events remain explosive in the world we inhabit.

Besides the history of religions, similar complicated - and possibly sensitive - history exists concerning the early migration of the humans, the creation of the white race thousands of years ago, the origin of primordial languages, and many other processes that were necessary for the civilization to be born. Fascinating stuff.

Pope comes to Czechia

Believing readers: sorry for all the blasphemies above. ;-)

Next week, The Holy Father arrives to Czechia, the most secular country of Europe where only 5 percent of the population attend masses regularly (can the Dutchmen compete with us in this respect?). That could look like a bold step but you should understand that a secular country doesn't really mean that he should feel threatened in any way.

Quite on the contrary. He comes to a country that views the Vatican as a relatively problem-free little foreign country (that almost no one cares about). Well, the Holy Father is not considered to be a key to the Heavens by the majority but rather a decent leader of a tiny administration. And the relationships to the Vatican usually boil down to the properties - which, of course, most Czech infidels don't want to be given to the Church. ;-)

However, I still think that it could be pretty relaxing a visit for Joseph Ratzinger. For a little while, he will mostly surrounded by the people who don't view his papacy too seriously which could be a pleasant change, at least for a little while. ;-)

The contemporary high degree of atheism in Czechia - which makes us so different from Poland and even Slovakia, seemingly similar nations - is a result of many historical twists and turns. In 863, we were brought the Orthodox Christianity by Cyril and Methodius. However, the German influence from the West won a century later, and the Czech lands became a standard part of the Western, Catholic civilizational space.

However, various events used to create the contrast between the Czechs and the Germans on our territory. Being Czech or anti-German was often identified with being anti-Catholic. After John Huss who was a very honest early reformed and the Hussite movement which were really cute terrorists and communists, approaches detached from the Christian orthodoxy were spreading more rapidly.

The U.S. liberals shouldn't imagine that this was necessarily a symptom of an advanced nation. A few centuries ago, education was closely linked to Christianity, so the lower degree of belief in our nation was a symptom of the lower education among typical Czechs - e.g. peasants - rather than their higher education.

At any rate, all these things are mostly a history.

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