The Grail Code 
The intellectual epidemic of our time

A while ago I saw an auction on eBay offering a photograph dated 1708. That was intriguing enough, since I had not been aware that the art of photography predated the nineteenth century. But what was even more intriguing was that the people in the photograph were dressed in the fashions of the early 1900s. Obviously what was on offer here was an actual photograph of time travelers, a couple who had probably borrowed Mr. Wells’ time machine and gone on a sightseeing tour two hundred years into the past.

Now that I know that photography was in use as far back as the early 1700s, I’m convinced that there must be even more striking images out there waiting to be found. Surely the photographers of those days took the trouble to document the great figures of their time at the decisive moments of their careers.

Just for one example, I’d love to have a snapshot of Thomas Jefferson sitting down at his old Remington to bang out the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson would have used one of those cumbersome understroke machines, the kind where you have to lift the carriage to see what you’ve just typed, but I’ll bet he could get going at a pretty good clip once he got started. Getting started is always the hard part, though, as any writer will tell you. I imagine the picture would show him surrounded by crumpled rejects (“Every once in a while it seems like a good idea…”; “When, every once in a while, it seems like a good idea…”; “When, in the course of this and that…”; “When, in the course of human eveb oh DANG”).

I’d also like to have a photograph of Napoleon, fresh from his conquest of the Soviet Union, stepping off the plane at Charles de Gaulle Airport with his mistress Britney by his side. He’d be standing in front of a forest of old-fashioned microphones, getting ready to give his first interview to the newsreel reporters.

But most of all I’d like to have a snapshot of my hero Dr. Johnson carefully enunciating a bon mot into his friend Boswell’s Dictograph. That would be a sentimental favorite with me.

All right, so I’ve had my fun at the expense of some innocent person whose only sin was in not knowing as much about the history of photography as I do. I ought to be ashamed of myself. Obviously, what really happened is that someone misread the date 1908 as 1708. What’s my point?

My point is this: that there was a very big difference between the technology and the styles of 1708 and of 1908. But here’s someone who’s obviously educated (the words were all spelled correctly and organized into well-constructed sentences, and the punctuation was unobjectionable) and quite capable of dealing with complex computer transactions, yet that person has no idea of the historical context that allows me to deduce so easily that the date was 1908.

I bring this up because I think the lack of historical context is the great intellectual epidemic in Western culture. (Some Eastern cultures have exactly the opposite problem: a lively sense of historical context that keeps up grudges from thousands of years ago.) You and I would be able to look at a photograph and tell right away that it didn’t come from 1708. Even if we didn’t know when photography was invented, we know that the somber suits of 1908 were very different from the colorful tights of 1708.

This lack of historical context—a sense of where things fit in history—is exactly what makes things like The Da Vinci Code possible. (You knew I’d blame Dan Brown evenetually.) It’s why The Grail Code takes a different approach from many of the books written in direct response to Dan Brown. Trying to refute every one of the historical revisionists’ assertions makes one feel a bit like a little Dutch boy trying to hold back the North Sea with his finger. But when you know the whole story—the whole outline of how the legends of the Holy Grail developed—then when you see that there’s just no room for the odd ideas of Holy Blood, Holy Grail and all its derivatives, including The Da Vinci Code. They just don’t fit anywhere in history. It’s the context that makes us good judges of what’s true and what’s false.

2 Responses to “The intellectual epidemic of our time”

  1. The Grail Code» Blog Archive » One year Says:

    [...] Johnson, Samuel [...]

  2. Grover Schwarze Says:

    Im thankful for the post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

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(C) 2006 Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey