"The Priory," Langdon whispered. "This proves your grandfather was a member!"Sophie looked at him in confusion. "You understand this?""It's flawless," Langdon said, nodding as his thoughts churned. "It's a proclamation of one of thePriory's most fundamental philosophies!"Sophie looked baffled in the glow of the message scrawled across the Mona Lisa's face.
SO DARK THE CON OF MAN"Sophie," Langdon said, "the Priory's tradition of perpetuating goddess worship is based on a beliefthat powerful men in the early Christian church 'conned' the world by propagating lies thatdevalued the female and tipped the scales in favor of the masculine."Sophie remained silent, staring at the words.
"The Priory believes that Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the worldfrom matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda thatdemonized the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever."Sophie's expression remained uncertain. "My grandfather sent me to this spot to find this. He mustbe trying to tell me more than that."Langdon understood her meaning. She thinks this is another code. Whether a hidden meaningexisted here or not, Langdon could not immediately say. His mind was still grappling with the boldclarity of Saunière's outward message.
So dark the con of man, he thought. So dark indeed.
Nobody could deny the enormous good the modern Church did in today's troubled world, and yetthe Church had a deceitful and violent history. Their brutal crusade to "reeducate" the pagan andfeminine-worshipping religions spanned three centuries, employing methods as inspired as theywere horrific.
The Catholic Inquisition published the book that arguably could be called the most blood-soakedpublication in human history. Malleus Maleficarum—or The Witches' Hammer—indoctrinated theworld to "the dangers of freethinking women" and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture, anddestroy them. Those deemed "witches" by the Church included all female scholars, priestesses,gypsies, mystics, nature lovers, herb gatherers, and any women "suspiciously attuned to the naturalworld." Midwives also were killed for their heretical practice of using medical knowledge to easethe pain of childbirth—a suffering, the Church claimed, that was God's rightful punishment forEve's partaking of the Apple of Knowledge, thus giving birth to the idea of Original Sin. Duringthree hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five millionwomen.
The propaganda and bloodshed had worked.
Today's world was living proof.
Women, once celebrated as an essential half of spiritual enlightenment, had been banished from thetemples of the world. There were no female Orthodox rabbis, Catholic priests, nor Islamic clerics.
The once hallowed act of Hieros Gamos—the natural sexual union between man and womanthrough which each became spiritually whole—had been recast as a shameful act. Holy men whohad once required sexual union with their female counterparts to commune with God now fearedtheir natural sexual urges as the work of the devil, collaborating with his favorite accomplice...
Not even the feminine association with the left-hand side could escape the Church's defamation. InFrance and Italy, the words for "left"—gauche and sinistra—came to have deeply negativeovertones, while their right-hand counterparts rang of righteousness, dexterity, and correctness. Tothis day, radical thought was considered left wing, irrational thought was left brain, and anythingevil, sinister.
The days of the goddess were over. The pendulum had swung. Mother Earth had become a man'sworld, and the gods of destruction and war were taking their toll. The male ego had spent twomillennia running unchecked by its female counterpart. The Priory of Sion believed that it was thisobliteration of the sacred feminine in modern life that had caused what the Hopi Native Americanscalled koyanisquatsi—"life out of balance"—an unstable situation marked by testosterone-fueledwars, a plethora of misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth.
"Robert!" Sophie said, her whisper yanking him back. "Someone's coming!"He heard the approaching footsteps out in the hallway.
"Over here!" Sophie extinguished the black light and seemed to evaporate before Langdon's eyes.
For an instant he felt totally blind. Over where! As his vision cleared he saw Sophie's silhouetteracing toward the center of the room and ducking out of sight behind the octagonal viewing bench.
He was about to dash after her when a booming voice stopped him cold.
"Arrêtez!" a man commanded from the doorway.
The Louvre security agent advanced through the entrance to the Salle des Etats, his pistoloutstretched, taking deadly aim at Langdon's chest.
Langdon felt his arms raise instinctively for the ceiling.
"Couchez-vous!" the guard commanded. "Lie down!"Langdon was face first on the floor in a matter of seconds. The guard hurried over and kicked hislegs apart, spreading Langdon out.
"Mauvaise idée, Monsieur Langdon," he said, pressing the gun hard into Langdon's back.
"Mauvaise idée."Face down on the parquet floor with his arms and legs spread wide, Langdon found little humor inthe irony of his position. The Vitruvian Man, he thought. Face down.