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Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

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11:30p
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Some times things just work out ... in the previous book reviewed here, Henry Lincoln's The Holy Place: Discovering the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World was referenced several times, and I was surprised that I hadn't heard of it before. So off I went to Amazon, and was able to snag a used copy (it does appear to be out of print). As regular readers of this space may recall, I've read quite a lot in the Rennes-le-Château genre over the years, so I brought "a lot of baggage" to this book, which might not be fair to it. It is an interesting book in its focus on the place, but ...

The supposed topic of this book, "the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World", is frustratingly hard to find within its pages. Maddeningly hard to find, especially given that the end papers of this hardcover edition are reproductions of detailed topographic maps of the region, but in such a scale that it's hard to even make out place names. If Lincoln and his publishers were able to get permission to USE these maps in the book, you would think they'd have done some of their graphing on the maps, but noooooooo ... it's all pentagrams and hexagrams showing "straight lines" through places on blank paper. Lincoln posits that the whole region was one vast "temple", anchored at various points by churches, etc., but at NO POINT in the book are these diagrams and descriptions plotted against the maps, which is supposedly how he discovered them. Sure, this was published in 1991 (in that time before the Web), so we can forgive him not using Google satellite imagery (there is a great view of Rennes-le-Château there!), but how blatant a "tease" is it that he didn't reproduce the very evidence that led him to his premise?

Call me unimaginative, but I also have a very hard time with the whole "diagram on top of the text" thing. There is a very complicated, convoluted, and arcane cipher involved in part of this, and this is eventually "solved" (albeit with certain echoes of the "bible code" text crunching), why then start drawing stuff over it like you're going to come out of the exercise with a treasure map? I'm also much less impressed with "pentagrams" that are grossly distorted so that their points, intersects, and centers can fit over certain locations. Show me a regular figure that fits and I'll start thinking that maybe there's a "grand temple" there ... but I'm guessing that I could come up with just as good pentagrams by connecting Chicago suburbs on a map as what's presented here. Oh, yeah ... and they're not shown on a map so we pretty much have to take his word on it.

I hate to seem this irritated, but there is so much stuff hinted at in here that's just left hanging. Lincoln implies that there is a substantial pre-historic (or otherwise "lost") city sitting there waiting to be dug up at "Great Camp", among other things, only it's impossible to find these places, despite the enticing photos reproduced in the book.

Again, maybe it's me, but I find these carefully drawn out diagrams of 5, 6, even 10-pointed stars and various grids less than convincing when one considers how "random" the placement of landmarks appear to be on their lines ... and, as the book goes on, these keep getting bigger, more complicated, and including more "stuff".

You might be surprised to find that, despite all these caveats, I generally liked the book, and found much of the material quite engaging. It certainly puts the focus in on this one small (I was quite surprised to see what a tiny place Rennes-le-Château actually is) mountain village, and the countryside around it. It was fascinating to read of the possible pre-history of the area, hints of which come up in older ruins, and ruins incorporated into later structures. Of course, the whole "Magdalen" aspect is of interest as well. Ultimately, though, I don't feel convinced of the sub-titular premise ... it seems to me that Lincoln could have made a very substantial case by linking his various diagrams to topographic maps or aerial photography of the sites discussed ... trying to merge his descriptions and lay-outs to Google imagery seemed to go nowhere.

As noted, The Holy Place appears to be out-of-print, so if you'd like to get a copy, you'll be in the hands of the used vendors ... however, this is available fairly reasonably (I got my copy for $2 plus shipping). While this suggests more questions than it answers, it certainly looks at aspects of the whole Priory of Sion mystery without bogging down in the more florid aspects of that story. This shouldn't be one's introduction to the subject, but if one has had some experience with the topic, it does have enticing bits to add.


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