Chapter Ten Other Themes Explored in The Da Vinci Code

Cryptology and the Atbash Cipher

The term cryptology comes from the Greek kryptos, “hidden,” and logos, “word.”

The first recorded use of cryptology for correspondence was by the Greek Spartans in about 400 BC. They used what is called a skytale sz that military commanders could commu­nicate secretly. A message was written on a piece of leather or parchment and wrapped spirally around a tapered baton. When unwrapped, the message appeared to be a jumble of letters, and could only be read when put around another tapered baton of exactly the same size and proportions.

The Atbash cipher is~ m in which the last letter repre­sents the first, and the second letter the second to last.

In the Roman alphabet, it appears like this:
PLAINTEXT a b c d e f g h i j k 1 m
PLAINTEXT n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The cipher was discovered by Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield. Dr. Schonfield was one of the original researchers working on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran and his most notable book on Biblical history is The Passover Plot. He applied the code to some of the scrolls that were otherwise indecipherable to his fellow researchers. It had been used to conceal names in Essene/Zadokite/Nazarean texts in the first century. In fact, it was used as early as 500 BC by scribes writing the Book of Jeremiah. It is one of the few code systems that are used in the Hebrew language.

In The Messianic Legacy, Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln write that Dr. Schonfield describes in The Essene Odyssey how he became fascinated by the Baphomet that was worshiped by the Knights Templar and applied the Atbash cipher to the word “Baphomet.” To his surprise, he found that the word decod­ed itself into Sophia, the Greek word for “wisdom.”

The word “Baphomet” in Hebrew is as follows, bearing in mind that Hebrew is read right to left:
[taf] [mem] [vav] [pe] [bet]

Applying the Atbash cipher to the above, Schonfield found the following:
[ alef] [yud) [pe] [vav] [shin]

which results in Sophia, the Greek word written in Hebrew right to left.

Sophia doesn’t only mean “wisdom.” Sophia was also the god­dess who was supposed to be the bride of God. Many believe that the Knights Templar worshiped this goddess.

The fact that the Knights Templar were familiar with the Atbash cipher strongly suggests that there were people around from a Nazarean sect at the time of the Knights Templar who were familiar with the code.

Dan Brown’s idea that English is the “purest” language may be fanciful, but it is not new. Abbe Henri Boudet of Rennes­-le-Bains, a neighboring village of Renne-le-Chateau, wrote a book called Le Vrai Langue Celtique, claiming that English was a sacred language which had perhaps been spoken before the time of the destruction of the Tower of Babel. It has been said that the book is not meant to be taken literally and conveyed a different message, written in code. We also have to bear in mind that, similar to many other European lan­guages, many English words have their roots in Latin. As Tracy Twyman in the pages of her Dagobert’s Revenge magazine points out, the English language has 2 6 letters and so can be used perfectly with the Atbash Code. Other European lan­guages do not ·have an even number of letters. Additionally, she has always thought that the Priory of Sion favored the English language.

The Cryptex

This appears to be an instance of The Da Vinci Code’s author exercising his poetic license and creating a completely fic­tional device. I could find no evidence that “The Cryptex” ever existed in realJife, although it is perhaps not entirely unlikely that Lei:mardo could have come up with such an invention.


Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable tells us that “Baphomet” is a corruption of “Mahomet” or “Mohammed” in English, the Muslim prophet. As the Templars associated themselves with the Muslim Hashashin, some believe that they adopted Muslim ways, but this ignores the fact that the Muslim religion forbids idolatry. There is also the theory that the word comes from the joining of two Greek words meaning “absorption into wis­dom.” During their persecution, the Knights Templar were accused of worshipping an idol named Baphomet. It was said to take the form of either a head or a black cat.

It is believed that the imagery of the Baphomet derives from the ancient Egyptian god Amon, meaning “The Hidden One” who is also known as the Goat of Mendes.

To a great extent, the beliefs about Baphomet have been sub­ject to the fashion of the age. In the nineteenth century it was popular to consider the Knights Templar as devil wor­shipers, whereas in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the belief that they were battling against a corrupt govern­ment and church is more prevalent. However, the story about Baphomet has survived.

The Dictionary of the Occult and Supernatural by Peter Underwood gives us the following definition:

Baphomet was the deity worshipped by the Knights Templar, and in Black Magic as the source and creator of evil; the Satanic goat of the witches’ Sabbath and one of the names adopted by Aleister Crowley.

Eliphas Levi (real name Alphonse Louis Constant) the nine­teenth century occultist, described some of the more com­mon and varied descriptions of Baphomet:

-An idol with a human skull
-A head with two faces
-With a beard
-Without a beard
-With the head of a cockerel
-With the head of a man
-With the head of a goat and the body of a man but with wings and cloven feet (the Sabbatic Goat)

The last concept of the Sabbatic Goat that he depicts led to the present -day perception of the devil. As Dan Brown tells us in The Da VInci Code, Baphomet’ s head became that of the Christian devil. The sign of the devil, the two fingers raised behind a friend’s head, that he also mentions as being jokingly employed in group photographs, is also used in southern Europe to signify a cuckold. Both British occultist Aleister Crowley and Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey later adopted the Baphomet imagery. It was only under the torture that was meted out to the Templars at the hands of the French King, Philippe, who was in collusion with Pope Clement V, that the Templars admitted to the worship of a large idol of the demon. The Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, as he was roasting to death on the spit, said that the only thing that the Templars were guilty of was lying under torture.

According to Tracy Twyman, co-author of Vessel of God, when the Templars’ Paris preceptory was raided another Baphomet head was found. This was described as “a great head of gilded sil­ver, most beautiful, and consisting of an image of a woman. Inside were two head bones wrapped in a cloth ofwhite linen, with another red cloth around it. There was a label attached upon which was written the legend ‘Caput 58M.”‘

Other depictions of the origin of the Baphomet include the (head ofJohn the Baptist, who was considered by the Templars to be the true messiah, in favor of Christ who was considered to be false. The image that Eliphas Levi propagated of the Baphomet now illustrates the Devil in the Waite version of the Tarot cards as half male, half female, half human, half animal. As the Baphomet is depicted with not only women’s breasts but men’s sexual organs, he is androgyne. The purpose of this image was to indicate the struggle between two conflicting opposites. Some readers may recall that Marilyn Manson also utilized Levi’s Baphomet at one point in his “branding.”

The Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio

The “Fibonacci Sequence” was the invention of the mathe­matician Leonardo Fibonacci (born in about 1170, probably in Pisa, died after 1240.) He was also known as Leonardo Pisano. In 1202 he wrote Liber Abaci (“Book of the Abacus”). He was the first European to work on Indian and Arabian mathe­matics. His father was appointed consul for a community of Pisan merchants in what is now Algeria and Leonardo studied mathematics under an Arabic tutor. He also studied mathemat­ics in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Sicily and Provence.

When Liber Abaci first appeared, the Hindu-Arabic numerals were known only to a few intellectuals. The book soon spread very quickly and drew the attention of Holy Roman emperor Frederick IL Leonardo was invited to appear before him where he was asked to solve various mathematical problems. This was the start of several years’ correspondence with Frederick II and his scholars, exchanging mathematical problems.

The Fibonacci Sequence derived from a problem in Liber Abaci:

A certain man put a pair of rabbi ts in a place surrounded on all sides by a wall. How many pairs of rabbits can be produced from that pair in ayear if it is supposed that every month each pair begets anew pair which from the second month on becomes productive?

The resulting sequence is, as Dan Brown tells us, l-l-2-3­-5-8-13-21, and then goes on to 34-55 and on forever. Each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers and it was the first such number sequence known in Europe.

The mathematician Robert Simson at the University of Glasgow discovered in 1753 that as the numbers got greater, the ratio between succeeding numbers approached the number (), the golden ratio, or the Divine Proportion or its Greek name “Phi.” It is the num­ber l.6l80339887498948482 which is similar to “Pi” in that its decimal points go on into infinity without repeating the sequence. It can be calculated exactly using this formula:()) = (1 + * 5) / 2.

In a Golden Rectangle, the ratio of the length to the width is the Golden Ratio. Therefore if one side of the rectangle is 3 units, the other side will be 3 x 1.62 = 4.86.

The term Fibonacci Sequence was first used by the French mathematician Edouard Lucas. From this point onwards sci­entists began to note more and more examples of such sequences in nature, for example, the spirals of a sunflower head, in pine cones, the arrangement of leaf buds on a stem, the growth pattern of seeds into plants and animal horns. Also the growth pattern of human beings goes through the stages of fetus, baby, child, adult using the Golden Ratio.

Take any Golden Rectangle using the above formula and you will find that if you remove a square from it, you will be left with another smaller Golden Rectangle. Constant removal of squares from the resulting Golden Rectangles will result in smaller and smaller Golden Rectangles.

Similarly with the Fibonacci Sequence, you can do the oppo­site by st~th a square of measurement unit 1. Add a square of the same size and you will form a rectangle. If you continue adding squares to the longer sides of the rectangles that you form, the longer sides will be successive Fibonacci numbers, and you will eventually reach a Golden Rectangle.

Draw two squares measuring I x 1 each, next to each other, and then draw a 2 x 2 square next to them. Then draw a square measuring 3 z3 on the edge of one I x I side com­bined with one 1x 2 side. The next step is to put a 5 x 5 next to the 3 x 3 and 2 x 2, and the spiral effect will become apparent. If, as is inevitable, the piece of paper you are using runs out, draw in the spiral itself, connecting one corner of each square to the opposite corner with a curve. The Parthenon in Athens fits into a Golden Rectangle. Leonardo da Vinci and more modern artists such as Seurat and Mondrian also used this geometry.

The solar system itself is a Fibonacci spiral, acting as a vortex, of which the center is the Sun. In fact Leonardo said, “A vor­tex, unlike a wheel, moves faster to its center.” For example Mercury’s year lasts 88 Earth days whereas Pluto’s lasts 248 Earth years. According to Tracy Twyman and Boyd Rice in Vessel of God, it goes even further than that: the distance between the Sun and Mercury added to that between Mercury and Venus equals that between Venus and Earth.

Secret Societies

The Da Vinci Code’s main theme is the effect that at least one secret society, the Priory of Sion, has had on history and all our lives as a consequence. Secret societies have been around since the dawn of human existence because men have always felt the need to manipulate world events behind the scenes, whether for good or evil. A secret soci­ety is often referred to as a “cabal.” This word originated with a committee of five ministers under Charles II of England whose surnames began with C, A, B, A and L. In some religious traditions, such as Judaism and Buddhism, there exist cabals of carefully chosen individuals, living throughout the world, who ensure that the world operates in the way that their God intends. In Buddhism this involves the reincarnation from one generation to the next of “Secret Masters.”

There are, of course, degrees of secrecy and to a greater or lesser extent secrets exist in all religions. The inner order of the Jesuit arm of the Catholic Church was until recently the Holy Office, otherwise known as the Inquisition. That has now developed into Opus Dei, discussed in Chapter Nine. The Rosicrucians managed to maintain such a high degree of secrecy that some suspect the Order may not have even existed at all. And of course, the Priory of Sion is about as secretive as is possible.

The most familiar “secret” society today is Freemasonry, which is no doubt the largest secret society in the Western world. It has the ambiguous identity of being both a posi­tive charitable organization, and, some suspect, something more sinister -at least in its upper echelons.

Other present day societies that can be considered “secret” include the Mafia, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, the Skull & Bones Society, Bohemian Grove, and according to some, the Illuminati (prominently featured in Dan Brown’s first Robert Langdon novel, Angels & Demons). As well as being powerful in their own right, they also have the ability to inspire fear and it is in this way that they exercise their greatest controlling power.

Throughout history, such people as Charles Nodier, who was reputed to be one of the Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion, played upon the fear that secret societies inspire. He would invent societies, write about them and then accuse perfectly innocent people of belonging to them. This pro­voked the hapless individuals involved to form themselves into a real secret society to offer each other mutual protec­tion, rendering the fictitious secret society an omen of the real one, a self-fulfilling prophecy.