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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Awright, put down that Da Vinci crap and check this out

So far no one in my circle of friends has told me that I absolutely must read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (right now we all seem to be reading Michael Crichton's State of Fear, re-reading all the current Harry Potter novels, or the first serious biography about Oskar Schindler... that's me :-). Not really expecting anyone too either. And already plenty confident that I won't waste a single dime or moment of life reading this tripe.

We're told that The Da Vinci Code is a "phenomenon". Heck, Ron Howard is doing the film adaptation (starring Tom Hanks) right now: I like both of 'em but I'm not gonna plunk down good money to see their movie either. In fact, they're making a huge mistake by having anything to do with this project. No doubt it seems like THE sure-fire hit right now, but enough people have complained that the story is "juvenile", badly manages its plot and boasts characters with all the depth of a kiddie pool. Ten years from now it'll be laughed at, but The Da Vinci Code will no doubt dazzle enough people to merit a mini-franchise... all because of its central premise: that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and had children through her and that a centuries-old secret society has concealed this knowledge from lay Christianity.


This crap is so old that it long ago ceased being "intriguing" at all. The Prieure de Sion, the Cathars and Knights Templars, those pesky Merovingian descendants and their "sang raal", whatever is laying around Rennes-le-Chateau in southern France... I'd already known more about this stuff than probably anything Brown put in his tale. And that was years BEFORE I'd even read Holy Blood, Holy Grail... by every indication the book that Brown shamelessly ripped-off when he wrote The Da Vinci Code!

Speaking of which, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, first published in 1982, is currently ranked #50 on Amazon's list of top-selling books. It's the original source for this theory, which doesn't validate it at all 'cuz it's a curious mix of journalism, archaeology, religious conjecture and conspiracy theory: from which the resulting syncresis should not be taken at face value. Not "dissing" Holy Blood, Holy Grail per se, just that it's... odd. Definitely to be read with a discriminating mind.

But if this is the sort of thing that strikes your fancy and you want something REALLY juicy to focus your curiosity on, this lil' item is just what you're looking for. Wanna say this: my jaw literally dropped when I saw this on television this afternoon. Because as recently as 10 or 12 years or so ago, there were no photographs of Otto Rahn that were known to exist anywhere.

While randomly searching for something to watch on the tube I came across the Discovery Times channel and something called "Nazis: The Occult Conspiracy". It was a two-hour documentary on the religious underpinnings of Hitler and his followers... something that's been sorely under-researched or publicized despite its eighty-plus years of history. It was just starting and I tuned in and about halfway through it or so, they start talking about Otto Rahn: perhaps the most baffling and mysterious figure ever associated with the Third Reich yet a name so obscure that even many credentialed experts on Nazism have never heard of him.

Born in 1904, from an early age Rahn showed an intense interest in history and literature, and then of things occultic in nature. In 1929 he began excavations of Montsegur - once a fortress of the Cathars - and from his studies determined that it was most likely the Montsalvat from the Holy Grail stories. The Cathars, Rahn believed, had been the custodians of the Holy Grail itself.

Well, long story short, being the time that it was and that he was German, Rahn aroused the attention of one Heinrich Himmler. Himmler (a) had a jones for occult weirdness second only to Hitler (that thing in Raiders of the Lost Ark about Hitler being "obsessed with the occult" was WAY real, y'all) and (b) was just made head of a new group called Schutzstaffel... better known as the SS. Himmler recruited Rahn to be a civilian attached to the SS, which sponsored his further research into Grail lore. It was pretty clear that Himmler intended to locate the Grail and make it another relic (like the Lance of Longinus) that the Nazis would draw strength from. In effect, Otto Rahn was the real-life Indiana Jones looking for an object of reputed unimaginable power... albeit for the bad guys!

What happened after that is... well, no one's sure what happened exactly. Otto Rahn was found dead in 1939 in the Tyrol Mountains: no cause of death was ever given. Some say he was killed by the SS. Others hold that Rahn killed himself, in a manner that paid homage to the Cathars he long studied (and may even have adopted their faith as his own), because his conscience could no longer bear the burden of knowing that his life's work was being exploited by a evil regime readying itself to unleash war upon humanity.

Now, The Da Vinci Code and most of its associated lore is speculative, at best. The story of Otto Rahn is quite real, and as much a part of modern history as that of any other 20th century figure. And it's a most fascinating story, at that.

And until this afternoon, I'd always wondered what exactly Otto Rahn looked like, but no source ever produced an actual photograph of the man. Looks like a LOT has happened in the field of Nazi history in a few short years, 'cuz the Discovery Times documentary must have shown at least four or five pics of Rahn. I did a Google search and located even more of him. Would be neat to know where these have been all this time.

But anyways, if you read The Da Vinci Code and maybe found it lacking but wonder if there was ever anything legit to all this, you owe it to yourself to look into the story of Otto Rahn. I left a lot of stuff out of the story for you to discover if you're so inclined, and plenty of it is sure to raise your eyebrows a bit. Sure as heck did mine when I first stumbled on the tale :-)