As promised, Sophia and I entered the church of Saint Sulpice de Paris shortly before midday on the Vernal Equinox. Then, traveling from west to east, we worked our way through the stanzas of the Priory of Sion's poem, Le Serpent Rouge, which corresponded to various locations within the church, curiously terminating in the Chapel of Saint Martin.
"Deliver me out of the mire", we solemnly recited in unison, quoting Psalms 69:14 from the plaque on the chapel wall. According to the text in the Serpent Rouge, this verse was meant to awaken us from a dream sequence but, unsurprisingly, nothing happened.
So I decided to add my own improvisation to our ecclesiastical performance art piece by leading Soph out of Serpent Rouge territory into the Chapel of the Virgin. Engulfed in a sea of beeswax-scented candles at the far eastern end of the church, we stood in awe of Pigalle's glorious marble statue of the Madonna triumphantly reigning over the earth, ironically crushing a serpent beneath her feet.
Mischievously anticipating Soph's reaction, I laughed when she gasped upon seeing our MemoryMap recording studio logo prominently displayed on either side of the Madonna. Smiling, I explained that, in fact, it wasn't the MemoryMap logo at all, but that both the MemoryMap and the Sulpician glyphs were ultimately derived from the same source.
This was an ancient symbol used to invoke the auspices of the Virgin Mary, known as the Auspice Maria. It can be found in most Notre Dame churches and chapels throughout Europe and it was also used by monarchs such as Marie Antoinette and Mary Queen of Scots as their own royal devices, presumably to petition the protection of Our Lady... although it didn't seem to do either of them much good, as they were both traumatically beheaded.
I had adapted the Auspice Maria glyph as my own logo, morphing the transposed MA initials into two counter-rotating Ms, when I first launched MemoryMap as a fledgling sound engineer and digital synthesizer programmer – “memorymap” was an early term for a computer motherboard. But the symbol also had a personal meaning for me, too... with my middle name being Ann and my confirmation name being Marie, the initials of which also configured as MA.
However, I had to admit to Soph that it was quite disconcerting to see what I had intended to be my own clever personal monogram turn up in increasingly intriguing circumstances throughout my adventures, almost as if I was following a trail of Marian breadcrumbs.
Then, mindful of the time, we moved to position ourselves on the Gnomon's solar marker in front of Saint Sulpice's altar for the precise moment of midday, when the sun would be at its highest point in the heavens on the Vernal Equinox - labeled as MC, for Midi Coeli, on the Serpent Rouge diagram. I explained to Soph that the Gnomon was now broken, pointing to the blobs of light on the stone slabs under our feet where a focused beam of sunlight from the south transept window should have illuminated the midway point of the copper track bisecting the transept.
Absorbed by the curious rainbow refractions dancing around us while we spun dizzyingly between the rose windows marked “P” and “S”, as per the instructions in the poem, we didn't notice the arrival of an elderly gentleman, accompanied by a young woman, until he spoke to us.
Ah, there you are, he said in heavily accented English. I suppose you're here for the Equinox, too?
Introducing himself elusively as an author and his research assistant, he launched into a lecture on the purpose of the Gnomon as a timekeeping device to aid in the correct calculation of Easter, most of which we already knew. Then, spotting the Serpent Rouge manuscript that Sophia had rolled up in her hands, he suggested that we all should have lunch together seeing as it was midday, afterall. He said that he knew a nice bistrot around the corner called Aux Charpentiers, supposedly located on the former site of the original church's Carpenters Guild.
Reassured by the presence of his female assistant and unable to contain our curiosity, we intrepidly followed The Author out of Saint Sulpice, past Rue Lobineau, and into the restaurant.
No sooner were we seated then the waiter brought us menus and uncorked a bottle of red wine, sending our host into another lecturing frenzy about the grafting of vineyards and the exalted art of wine production, pausing only to savor the peppery earthiness of the Chateau Merlin from the Corbieres region of France. A very magical vintage, said The Author, winking broadly at his own lame joke.
Perhaps it was the effect of the Chateau Merlin or maybe just the general weirdness of the day, but over lunch we embarked on possibly the most surreal discussion that I have ever experienced in my life. I think I made the mistake of commenting on how the curious documents in the Priory of Sion’s Dossiers Secrets bore no actual relationship to anything meaningful.
Take the Serpent Rouge, for instance. It hadn’t taken us much effort at all to demonstrate that the cryptic stanzas of the poem were actually fairly mundanely based around locations in Saint Sulpice. And, anyone who performed even a cursory amount of research would quickly discover the difference between Sulpice’s solar meridiana and the Paris Zero Meridian, which was rather blatantly located just three hundred meters to the east on the other side of town, at the Paris Observatory. Even the poem’s creators hinted at this distinction with their punning Perrault reference, indicating that they knew exactly what they were doing,
So, why did someone go through so much trouble to officially deposit these fabricated manuscripts into the archives of the Biblioteque Nationale? What kind of cryptic game was this?
The Author took a deep slug of Chateau Merlin as we braced ourselves for another lecture.
The first important lesson that any serious collector of enigmatic curiosities learns, he droned, is that nothing is true. The second thing we learn is that it's completely irrelevant whether anything is actually true or not.
Once the collector stops trying to make sense, we begin to perceive information firstly as random synchronicities, then maybe as patterns, then eventually as archetypal symbols or even "characters", which can take on a life of their own.
At this point, seemingly mystifying references become cues, or encoded signals, to "pay attention". Sometimes a convenient reference will become so accepted among connoisseurs, that it becomes adopted as standard vocabulary to indicate the presence of a kind of subconscious process which is being triggered.
This, in turn, leads to the development of a kind of a "language", which isn't actually real, but becomes a useful device for communicating nevertheless. This vocabulary can then be deployed in music, books, comics, movies, art, architecture, even in video games, eventually becoming integrated into popular culture.
Why don't you try it for yourself, The Author suggested. As a pop music producer, there must be plenty of opportunities to subtly influence the music of your clients, he said.
Ironically, just a couple of months later, an opportunity came up for us to insert a hermetic trigger into a pop album. We chose the “archetype” of Mary Magdalene, more to be mischievous than anything else, but also for reasons that will become clear as our saga continues. It took a good seven years for anyone to realize what we had done.
And this is exactly what we're doing with this column. Over the next few weeks, we are going to be embroidering information into the storyline that won't resurface until months, maybe years, into the future. One day you might read a book and it will all seem vaguely familiar, but you probably won't even remember why...
So, with that, we finished up our lunch and went our separate ways. I never saw The Author again, not even on future equinoxes at the church of Saint Sulpice. I never even found out his name.
But, I later discovered that there was one aspect of this curious imaginary game he hadn't told me about. Which is… when you start playing with the Universe, it plays back.
And that’s when I realized that I didn’t have an instruction manual.
Newton Coordinate:- The Vernal Equinox, March 20th, on the Paris Solar Meridian.