Another long silence ... for which I apologise. I have been struggling with this entry for far too long. You'll realise why if you read to the end.
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Rennes-le-Château changes with each year. In many ways it grows less and less like the village which Bérenger knew. Less, too, like the village as I first knew it, when Elise's cows still ambled to the cattle-trough by the château for their evening drink. The cows are now long gone ... (too much traffic!) ... though Elise herself, looking not a day changed, still tends her wonderfully productive kitchen garden.
The other day, I was sitting in Bérenger's own garden, which he had laid out in front of the Villa Bethania.
I had chosen the spot where I am always aware of his smiling ghost, sitting beside me on the edge of the fountain. Here, indeed, he seems closer than elsewhere in his domaine. I was sure that, like me, he would have been pleased to see the groups of happy visitors enjoying the shade which he had provided. On that day, more now than a century past, when the camera had captured Marie beside the chestnut sapling and Bérenger perched by the pool, there was no shade for either of them. He had planted the trees for us, knowing that he would never see them in their full beauty as we do now.
A few years ago, Jean-Luc gave me some tiny twigs from Bérenger's chestnut tree. One of them has survived and now - a sturdy knee-high, it promises to follow its parent's example in front of my own house. In a century from now, Bérenger's shade will still be bringing pleasure.
A BROKEN PROMISE
In my Blog entry for the 5th December 2009, I dealt with the question "Why did I not join with Baigent and Leigh in their Court action against Dan Brown?" I concluded my answer thus:
I said, as I began to recount this sorry tale, that I find it difficult to deal with. Nor do I wish to dwell on such matters. However, now begun and because I have promised honest replies to the questions put to me on this web-site, I feel constrained to get rid of the unpleasantness in order to return to more entertaining and instructive matters. To do so, I must deal with one other allied matter. But not now. Enough, I think, is enough for the time being. Part Two of this outrageous saga will follow at a later date.
Here is that "Part Two", which I begin with a preface:
Yes - I find it difficult to deal with. I have tried on several occasions to write a cool and objective account of this matter, but each time I have had to abandon the attempt. Those of you who have met me, know that I try not to take myself too seriously. But this is not a subject for levity, dealing as it does with truth, honesty and - if this is not too old-fashioned a word to use in our cynical modern age - honour.
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It can, I suppose, be readily understood that, at the height of the Da Vinci Code frenzy, almost any book with the word Jesus in the title, and bearing as author any of the names Baigent, Leigh or Lincoln would be guaranteed a fairly good sale.
Such a book did, indeed, appear in 2006 : The Jesus Papers by Michael Baigent.
I must here make a short but important digression:
When, in my Key to the Sacred Pattern (1997), I had occasion to refer to an important communication from Gérard de Sède, I thought it well to reproduce the document. I did this so that there would be no doubt nor question in the reader's mind that I might have edited the text in some way, to suit my purposes.
Baigent's book is built around and is totally dependent upon a letter from an Anglican clergyman. But this vital document is not shown to the reader. Moreover Baigent begins his second chapter with these words:
Throughout my career I've enjoyed correspondence with other historians and researchers into the truth behind accepted history, but some letters demand more attention than others. This letter certainly did.
He then goes on to quote from it and say:
"Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln and I simply didn't know what to do with this note."
It seems to me that this can give no other impression than that the letter was part of his own correspondence, even possibly stemming from his own researches.
I here reproduce that letter :
Should you find the handwriting difficult to decipher, I copy the text below:
With reference to your broadcast "The Lost
Treasure of Jerusalem".
May I advise you that the "treasure" is not one
of gold & precious stones, but a document containing
incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was alive in the
year 45 AD. The clues left behind by the good curé have
never been understood, but it is clear from the script that
a substitution was carried out by the extreme zealots on the
journey to the place of execution. The document was exchanged
for a very large sum & concealed or destroyed.
This would, of course, confirm part of the Gospel story
but utterly destroy "Christian" dogma.
As can clearly be seen, the missive is not the property of Baigent - nor did he have any right to reproduce it. The letter is addressed to me in response to my first BBC film and the date shows that I received it in 1972, a number of years before Baigent was even aware of the existence of Rennes-le-Château. One might think that, even as a minor courtesy, it would have been appropriate for him to have informed me - (as well as his publisher) - that he was intending to use it. In fact, it is usual for a book contract to include a clause in which the writer affirms that he owns all necessary rights.
Of more concern to me in this case - Baigent well knew that I had given the clergyman my word that I would preserve his anonymity - and the letter is clearly headed "Not for publication".
I also gave my word that we would not quote the letter directly, but only summarise its message. This promise was adhered to in The Holy Blood & the Holy Grail (see p 16), which explains why the letter was not reproduced in that book.
I publish it here, now, because the damage has been done. Baigent has caused my word to be broken. This I consider to be a disgraceful and uncaring insult, both to me and to the reverend gentleman. The fact that he is now dead has no relevance. I had given my word - and Baigent knew it. How, then, did the letter come into Baigent's possession? Not surprisingly, I gave him full access to my archive when he joined Richard Leigh and myself in our research. He was able to copy any document he chose. He now seems to consider that this gives him unfettered ownership of all the Rennes-le-Château material.
Why did I not pursue the matter? And why have I remained silent for so long? I can only repeat that I find Baigent's behaviour despicable and dreadfully unfeeling. I detest the manner in which money seems to be able to infect relationships. I hope now to be able to let this matter rest and that, as it deserves, it will slip into the Slough of Oblivion.
I have dealt with this unpleasant business because I have many times been asked to "set the record straight". Am I being partisan in my statements? Perhaps ...
But then, as Mr Justice Peter Smith - (quoting the Defence in the Dan Brown plagiarism case) - recorded in his Judgement (para 232):
They say that they do not know whether...[Baigent]...was deliberately trying to mislead the court or was simply deluded and that he is either extremely dishonest or a complete fool.
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BORIS KARLOFF'S DELICATE BEAUTY
As a total irrelevance - and to remove the rather unpleasant taste - I shall turn to something which cropped up the other day - a long-forgotten lunacy which has been making me chuckle ever since I was asked to rake over some distant (1968!) memories. Somebody was intrigued by the fact that, long ago, I had co-written - (with my Dr Who colleague, Mervyn Haisman) - a horror film in which Boris Karloff had appeared. It was, in fact, his last film and the wonderful Karloff was not in the best of health. We were told: "If he moves - he can't speak. And if he speaks - he can't move." We solved that little problem by putting him in a wheelchair.
However, the enquiry led me to search my library for a book which I vaguely remembered had made reference to this opus. I've been laughing ever since I found it. The book is titled A Heritage of Horror and says of the piece that it :
... has a delicate hesitant beauty which lingers irresistibly in the imagination and suggests possibilities for the English horror movie which are virtually untapped.
Well, I suppose that's true ... ! Mervyn and I never did write another horror film. But the note which I had scribbled into the book's margin says it all ...
"We were given a dreadful - unusable - script and told to re-write it completely.
We were given one week to write it and told - ‘If you put in one funny line or one clever line - I'll cut it !' That was the entire brief !
I make no comment on the reliability of the opinions of film critics, but ...
You have to laugh ... !