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23.5 Degrees: Bloodline: The Priory of Sion Dossiers
The Secret Society Silly Season Begins
By Stella Maris
July 04, 2009
When curiosity inevitably got the better of us, we broke down and bought the collection in order to investigate.
© 1244 Films LLC, 2008
It appears that the recent auction of a mysterious medieval illuminated manuscript, as reported here in 23.5 Degrees last month, has kicked off a new Secret Society Silly Season of "leaked" documents and dossiers, which we will be examining as more information comes to light.
But, for now, the most commercially available “secret” documents are The Priory of Sion Dossiers, which are being touted by the team who made Bloodline: The Movie. So, when curiosity inevitably got the better of us, we broke down and bought the collection in order to investigate.
Disappointingly, this half-inch thick amateur-bound compilation of photocopies contains what appears to be poor reproductions of the same Priory of Sion documents that most of us already have access to via Pierre Jarnac's Melanges Sulfureux, along with extensive email communications between the alleged Priory spokesperson, Nicolas Haywood, and the Bloodline team.
However, upon further examination, I grudgingly decided that the investment was worthwhile in the end, if for no other reason than the hours of endless amusement provided by the email exchanges.
Although most of the discussions contained the usual evasive hints that we have come to expect from these quarters, there are a couple of pearls worth relating, as they say more about the veracity of the sources than actually providing any useful information.
To my immense surprise, a reference in Nic Haywood's Prefatory Notes not only checked out, but also provided an extremely interesting subtext, if one knows what to look for.
Haywood writes, "It would be a joyous recollection to tell you of my close friendship with old Geoffrey Watkin, my subsequent involvement with the Magnum Opus, and eventually with the Prieure de Sion."
As it happens, I know someone who was around back in the old days when Geoffrey Watkin owned London's famous Watkins Bookstore and, astonishingly, my contact actually thought he remembered a young boy by the name of Nicolas Haywood being part of Geoffrey's hermetic cabal.
Furthermore, the reference to Watkins was intriguing in itself because Watkins Bookstore performed the crucial role of a "secret letter drop" location back in the 1990s, when I myself first started cruising around the world of secret societies, acquiring dodgy dossiers. Small world, eh?
But sadly, after this promising start, matters swiftly plummeted downhill from there when Haywood solemnly relates the old chestnut about the Black Isis in the Paris Observatory, which has been circulating the researchers’ grapevine for years:
"In Paris, at the Observatory there exists a curious version of this Black Isis. In the corner of the underground gallery, (the edifice rises 28 metres above ground and 28 metres below), in 1671, when the first thermometric reading was recorded there, was placed this wonderful statue. [...] This little known virgin of Paris, who personifies in the capital the mysterious subject of Hermes, appears to be a replica of the one at Chartres [...]."
Unfortunately for Haywood, I know the Paris Observatory well via my former Paris office and have been there several times. The "edifice" that Haywood is referring to is actually a shaft dug into the underground Catacombs constructed from an ancient Roman quarry below the Observatory by Nicolas Foucault to conduct his original pendulum experiments in the Meridian Room. Digging down into the Catacombs below was the only way that Foucault could obtain the required length for the pendulum to oscillate in tandem with the earth’s rotation. Granted, the Catacombs have a fascinating history for other reasons, but this Black Isis tale is a red herring...
Then matters get worse when Haywood tries to imply that he, on behalf of the Priory, "navigated" Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, two of the co-authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (HBHG). This was a big mistake, as I all had to do was call up Michael and relate the following quotes to him over the phone to verify their accuracy. Haywood’s first assertion was a real humdinger:
"I well recall an evening to which both Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh had been invited with a view to furnishing them new information. However, Mr Leigh's fiery temperament did get the better of him and the evening was curtailed far sooner than intended, but not before it had been ascertained that they had explored, physically, the area in question. [...]
Nonetheless, it had been made all-too-clear that, despite the glaring anomalies of Lavaldieu none of their team had conjectured a more in-depth study of the place, its proximity to Rennes-le-Chateau, it's man-made shape, it's glaringly sacred 'heart' and it's blatant name, etc. The very fact that the place had been ringed on a photocopied map which had been sent through usual channels and that they had even ventured to observe it from the air, (and subsequently the ground), accomplished little at the time. However, it did leave an uneasy impression.
Both men had remarked on the perfect geometry of the small pasture at it's centre, as it appeared from their aircraft. Furthermore, all three had visited it the following day [...]"
Haywood's tactical error here was in not realising that Richard Leigh was a delicate and sensitive angst-ridden writer who hated to travel. Despite all the controversy surrounding the book that he helped to co-write, Richard had never actually been to Rennes-le-Chateau in person... therefore, it's impossible that "all three" had visited the site at Lavaldieu “the following day”.
In fact, in verifying this claim with Baigent, a very interesting scenario emerged. It transpired that a sequence had been filmed at Lavaldieu for a very early television documentary that Henry Lincoln had organised, but this segment--which Baigent felt was crucial to the points they had been trying to make in the film--had been very controversially cut by the director at the last minute.
I'm sure that someone will now try to claim that the Priory was behind the crucial exclusion of this vital segment (which is why I'm not specifically naming the documentary!), but it's probably more likely that grapevine gossip was inevitably circulated, which Haywood has conveniently latched onto.
Then, Haywood further claims:
"Many years ago the authors of HBHG confided in me, what they thought to be, a secret involving a cipher parchment and a previously unknown, unseen Leonardo which involved an elaborate and complex system of colour attribution much in the fashion of 'paint-by-numbers'. The revelation was a zodiac wheel with Leonardo's head at its centre. They were, however, abruptly prevented from further involvement in the matter shortly thereafter."
To which, Baigent commented that, firstly, he doesn't actually ever remember meeting Nic Haywood (although he vaguely remembers someone matching Haywood's description, identifying himself as an "artist", setting up an "interview" with him) and, secondly, that this claim about their research into an "unseen Leonardo" was pure bunkum.
There’s loads more, but you probably get the idea. So, what do we make of all this?
Well, from my point of view, within the context of the bigger picture, when specific details such as these don't check out, it's hard to take the entire performance seriously. Furthermore, a quick trawl around the grapevine reveals that apparently Haywood and various colleagues turned up at a well-known researchers’ convention about ten years ago, wearing "Priory of Sion" badges and claiming to be the English branch, but nobody took them seriously back then, either.
Having said all that, maybe I just have a perverse sense of humor, but I still find these permutations to be endlessly entertaining. Therefore, as I've already got one of Rat's Marie de Negre Tombstone teeshirts, if anyone wants to send me a complimentary Priory of Sion badge, I can be contacted through Mania...