Study Guide

The Da Vinci Code Power

By Dan Brown

Power

Silas was looking forward to finding the keystone and giving it to the Teacher so they could recover what the brotherhood had long ago stolen from the faithful.

How powerful that will make the Opus Dei. (10.2)

Why do people care so much about the power their religion can wield? Do religions need power? Do people?

His Holiness had secured the papacy through one of the most controversial and unusual conclaves in Vatican history. Now, rather than being humbled by his unexpected rise to power, the Holy Father had wasted no time flexing all the muscle associated with the highest office in Christendom. Drawing on an unsettling tide of liberal support within the College of Cardinals, the Pope was now declaring his papal mission to be "rejuvenation of Vatican doctrine and updating Catholicism into the third millennium."

The translation, Aringarosa feared, was that the man was actually arrogant enough to think he could rewrite God's laws and win back the hearts of those who felt the demands of true Catholicism had become too inconvenient in a modern world. (34.6)

Sometimes, when someone holds power with viewpoints in opposition to your own, it can feel really invasive and personal. Because the new pope is more liberal than Bishop Aringarosa, he feels like the guy is arrogant and out of line.

"They certainly did," Langdon said, explaining how it had taken nine years, but the Knights had finally found what they had been searching for. They took the treasure from the temple and traveled to Europe, where their influence seemed to solidify overnight. Nobody was certain whether the Knights had blackmailed the Vatican or whether the Church simply tried to buy the Knights' silence, but Pope Innocent II immediately issued an unprecedented papal bull that afforded the Knights Templar limitless power and declared them "a law unto themselves"— an autonomous army independent of all interference from kings and prelates, both religious and political.

With their new carte blanche from the Vatican, the Knights Templar expanded at a staggering rate, both in numbers and political force, amassing vast estates in over a dozen countries. They began extending credit to bankrupt royals and charging interest in return, thereby establishing modern banking and broadening their wealth and influence still further. (37.20-22)

Making someone a "law unto themselves" basically grants them unlimited power. That's, uh…pretty intense. Add the ability to accumulate vast amounts of wealth, and the Knights were pretty much unstoppable. What's interesting is that power is typically a corrupting force, so how do we know that they remained true to their original cause?

By the 1300's, the Vatican sanction had helped the Knights amass so much power that Pope Clement V decided that something had to be done. Working in concert with France's King Philippe IV, the Pope devised an ingeniously planned sting operation to quash the Templars and seize their treasure, thus taking control of the secrets held over the Vatican. (37.23)

History is so full of guys not wanting other people to have more power than them. Everyone needs to sloooow down.

In the back seat, Bishop Aringarosa smiled, feeling the weight of the bearer bonds in the briefcase on his lap and wondering how long it would be before he and the Teacher could make the exchange.

Twenty million euro.

The sum would buy Aringarosa power far more valuable than that. (50.1-3)

So, he keeps hinting at this mysterious power he's about to attain. Does he even know what the Teacher's promising him? Can he really be sure that this whole scheme will really work?

"It was all about power," Teabing continued. "Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power. I've written several books on the topic." (55.43)

So, Teabing's saying that, by making themselves the only "legitimate" source of holy redemption, the Catholic Church stole power from Jesus.

Sophie found herself again glancing at Langdon, who again nodded. She turned back to Teabing.

"But why would the early Church care if Magdalene had royal blood?"

The Briton smiled. "My dear child, it was not Mary Magdalene's royal blood that concerned the Church so much as it was her consorting with Christ, who also had royal blood. As you know, the Book of Matthew tells us that Jesus was of the House of David. A descendant of King Solomon— King of the Jews. By marrying into the powerful House of Benjamin, Jesus fused two royal bloodlines, creating a potent political union with the potential of making a legitimate claim to the throne and restoring the line of kings as it was under Solomon." (58.90-91)

For those of us without extensive Biblical history backgrounds, this can be pretty confusing. We are forced to just kind of take Dan Brown's word for it, which can be iffy when the author is known to take a bunch of liberties for the sake of fiction. (Not that that's a bad thing! The book would be far less interesting if he didn't.)

"Meaning that history is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books – books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, "What is history, but a fable agreed upon?" (60.37)

And when you are the group in power that gets to write the history books, your power becomes further cemented over time with the perpetuation of your version of history. What a diabolical cycle.

"This monk is not working alone, Robert," Teabing said, "and until you learn who is behind all this, you both are in danger. The good news, my friend, is that you are now in the position of power. This monster behind me holds that information, and whoever is pulling his strings has got to be quite nervous right now." (67.31)

Teabing's speaking from a position of authority here, because he is the person pulling the strings (although we still don't know that at the time). Think he's actually nervous?

"For the early Church," Langdon explained in a soft voice, "mankind's use of sex to commune directly with God posed a serious threat to the Catholic power base. It left the Church out of the loop, undermining their self-proclaimed status as the sole conduit to God. For obvious reasons, they worked hard to demonize sex and recast it as a disgusting and sinful act. Other major religions did the same." (74.35)

That's some kind of power, to be able to completely change an entire society's views on sex. Obviously it took some time, but that's a pretty impressive feat. Do you think sex as a religious experience would really have threatened their power base that much?