Messianic Legacy

Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. The Messianic Legacy, Cape, 1986.

This is the sequel to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, I rather enjoyed that, but did not take it seriously enough to do more than skim through, and now remember little about it (Jesus was a real person who ended up in France, married into the local aristocracy, his descendant is a Euro MP, and all this got lost and rediscovered by a secret society called the Priory of Sion - something like that)

Interesting I wrote of taking it seriously as if that activity were self-evidently intelligible, but what would we have to do to be described as taking Holy Blood seriously? Checking their sources of information, perhaps? But they don't provide enough information to do that. Rather than provide full-scale academic documentation they opt for shifting a lot of copies; which is fair enough but the result is a piece o{ work which the academics in the various fields they wander through are hardly likely to be citing. All of which applies to this sequel, but like its predecessor it does contain interesting bits and pieces.

The book is in three, almost entirely unrelated, sections, The first is a good old rummage through recent writings on the question 'Who was Jesus?' I couldn't care less about that, but the authors are interested in supporting their claims about him made in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. How good a job they do on this material I can't say, I haven't been inside a church for at least 20 years, and what I know about Bible study and ancient history (which is what this first section is) could be written on the back of my hand.

The second part is unadulterated piffle: pompous sub-Alvin Toffler pop sociology/ psychology/anthropology, grandly (absurdly) titled 'The Search for Meaning', Apparently, we humans are all really, deeply religious at heart, and are inclined to latch on to the nearest passing religion (the authors are not fans of the Enlightenment: that's when it all began to go wrong). I remain unconvinced that the authors actually understand most of the material they fling around in this section, especially the Jungian concept of the archetype (but I'm one of those people whose brain starts to die when I read the name Jung),

The final section, 'The Cabal' is the most interesting, It has the advantage (for me) of dealing with events in the last 40 years, my own lifetime, Thus I am more confident that I could, if I really wanted to, try and verify some of their claims, Unfortunately this section is also badly organised and under researched: the authors are well out of their depth here - interesting that this should happen with the area closest to ordinary reality,

However in trying to identify the 'Priory of Sion' the authors appear to have stumbled on some trails in the clandestine history of the post-War years, Starting with Jesus they end up with the Knights of Malta, P2, the CIA and all the rest of the contemporary paranoid's chess pieces. Unfortunately, to pad the section out they insist we share the awful tedium of doing their basic research with them. What could have been simple footnoted assertions take pages, as we yawn through endless meetings and phone calls.

And what have they discovered? I don't know and they don't know, It looks like a complicated intelligence operation run - probably by the CIA and MI6 - in support of the basic church-state-monarchy axis of pre WW2 Europe, another piece in the jigsaw of post-WW2 anti-communism in Europe. Priory of Sion personnel crop up in the same places as CIA money, Chapter 24, 'Secret Powers behind covert groups' is a reasonable GCSE-level account of this area, destroyed by the repeated citing of David Yallop's In God's Name - a book which has no sources for most of its assertions and is quite useless (even if interesting),

It is possible that the authors have stumbled onto something - an ambitious psy-ops job running through the recent history of Western Europe, But if they have, then the very fact that they have been given access to some of this material suggests very strongly to me that Lincoln and Co, have become co-opted by the operation and their books are, willingly or unwillingly, now part of it,

Both these books present themselves as great detective hunts through the undergrowth of history, I suspect that they're merely following a trail carefully laid by a bunch of smart-aleck spooks, and towards the end of the final section there is a hint that the authors suspect this too. Will the third 'volume be called How we Were Conned? -- Robin Ramsay, from Magonia 25, March 1987.

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