Inside the Salle des Etats, Langdon stared in astonishment at the six words glowing on the Plexiglas. The text seemed to hover in space, casting a jagged shadow across Mona Lisas mysterious smile.
The Priory, Langdon whispered. This proves your grandfather was a member!
Sophie looked at him in confusion. You understand this?
Its flawless, Langdon said, nodding as his thoughts churned. Its a proclamation of one of the Priorys most fundamental philosophies!
Sophie looked baffled in the glow of the message scrawled across the Mona Lisas face.
So Dark the Con of Man
* * *
Sophie, Langdon said, the Priorys tradition of perpetuating goddess worship is based on a belief that powerful men in the early Christian church 'conned' the world by propagating lies that devalued the female and tipped the scales in favor of the masculine.
Sophie remained silent, staring at the words.
The Priory believes that Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever.
Sophies expression remained uncertain. My grandfather sent me to this spot to find this. He must be trying to tell me more than that.
Langdon understood her meaning. She thinks this is another code . Whether a hidden meaning existed here or not, Langdon could not immediately say. His mind was still grappling with the bold clarity of Saunieres outward message.
So dark the con of man, he thought. So dark indeed.
Nobody could deny the enormous good the modern Church did in todays troubled world, and yet the Church had a deceitful and violent history. Their brutal crusade to reeducate the pagan and feminine‑worshipping religions spanned three centuries, employing methods as inspired as they were horrific.
The Catholic Inquisition published the book that arguably could be called the most blood‑soaked publication in human history. Malleus Maleficarumor The Witches Hammerindoctrinated the world to the dangers of freethinking women and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture, and destroy them. Those deemed witches by the Church included all female scholars, priestesses, gypsies, mystics, nature lovers, herb gatherers, and any women suspiciously attuned to the natural world. Midwives also were killed for their heretical practice of using medical knowledge to ease the pain of childbirtha suffering, the Church claimed, that was Gods rightful punishment for Eves partaking of the Apple of Knowledge, thus giving birth to the idea of Original Sin. During three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women.
The propaganda and bloodshed had worked.
Todays world was living proof.
Women, once celebrated as an essential half of spiritual enlightenment, had been banished from the temples of the world. There were no female Orthodox rabbis, Catholic priests, nor Islamic clerics. The once hallowed act of Hieros Gamosthe natural sexual union between man and woman through which each became spiritually wholehad been recast as a shameful act. Holy men who had once required sexual union with their female counterparts to commune with God now feared their natural sexual urges as the work of the devil, collaborating with his favorite accomplice . . . woman.
Not even the feminine association with the left‑hand side could escape the Churchs defamation. In France and Italy, the words for leftgauche and sinistracame to have deeply negative overtones, while their right‑hand counterparts rang of right eousness, dexterity, and correctness. To this day, radical thought was considered left wing, irrational thought was left brain, and anything evil, sinister.
The days of the goddess were over. The pendulum had swung. Mother Earth had become a mans world, and the gods of destruction and war were taking their toll. The male ego had spent two millennia running unchecked by its female counterpart. The Priory of Sion believed that it was this obliteration of the sacred feminine in modern life that had caused what the Hopi Native Americans called koyanisquatsilife out of balancean unstable situation marked by testosterone‑fueled wars, a plethora of misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth.
Robert! Sophie said, her whisper yanking him back. Someones coming!
He heard the approaching footsteps out in the hallway.
Over here! Sophie extinguished the black light and seemed to evaporate before Langdons eyes.
For an instant he felt totally blind. Over where! As his vision cleared he saw Sophies silhouette racing toward the center of the room and ducking out of sight behind the octagonal viewing bench. He was about to dash after her when a booming voice stopped him cold.
Arrкtez! a man commanded from the doorway.
The Louvre security agent advanced through the entrance to the Salle des Etats, his pistol outstretched, taking deadly aim at Langdons chest.
Langdon felt his arms raise instinctively for the ceiling.
Couchez‑vous! the guard commanded. Lie down!
Langdon was face first on the floor in a matter of seconds. The guard hurried over and kicked his legs apart, spreading Langdon out.
Mauvaise idee, Monsieur Langdon, he said, pressing the gun hard into Langdons back. Mauvaise idee.
Face down on the parquet floor with his arms and legs spread wide, Langdon found little humor in the irony of his position. The Vitruvian Man, he thought. Face down.