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4.0 out of 5 stars Esoteric symbolism in western religious art and architecture, 20 May 2010
This review is from: Cracking the Symbol Code: The Hidden Message within Church and Renaissance Art (Hardcover)
Subtitled: The Hidden Message within Church and Renaissance Art, the book deals with the history and significance of symbolism in Christian art, explaining how and why heretical ideas were hidden from the church hierarchy right under its nose. Wallace-Murphy points out the indicators of hidden symbolism and explores the manifold layers of meaning thus conveyed.

Section I covers the birth and development of sacred symbolism and the legacy of ancient Egyptian gnosis. This section includes discussions of cave paintings, the power of sacred sites as well as Sumerian & Egyptian religious symbolism. The author then explores the origins of Egyptian civilization, astronomy and religion, demonstrating how Egyptian symbols have survived to the present day.

In the next section he discusses the Bible, the supposed Egyptian origins of Judaism, and two conflicting views of the life and ministry of Jesus. The Old Testament text's four levels of meaning receive a thorough explanation as do the dating & compilation of the various books. In this regard, I recommend Richard Elliott Friedman's Hidden Book in the Bible.

The connection between Atenism and Judaism has been made before and is not convincing as Wallace-Murphy is clearly unaware that the word "Adonai' functions as a substitute for the Tetragrammaton or Holy Name in the Shema Yisrael confession. He furthermore fails to recognize the fundamental differences between Egyptian and Hebrew religion; greater clarity may be obtained from Thomas Troward in Bible Mystery and Bible Meaning. He is on much firmer ground when discussing the two conflicting accounts of the life and message of Jesus, the variants of Judaism at that time and the nature of the New Testament.

Drawing on the pioneering work of the great Robert Eisenman, the author provides a brief but fascinating look at early Christianity, the person and religion of Saul or Paul of Tarsus, his struggle with James the Just, the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent development of Christianity. Here he further deals with the foundations of Christian symbolism, the consolidation of Christian Europe and Gothic symbolism.

The last section discusses the hidden streams coming to the surface through what he claims to be the descendants of Jesus and of Jerusalem's priestly families. It includes arresting passages on Sacred Geometry and its use in architecture with reference to Gothic buildings like Amiens, Chartres, Notre Dame de Paris and Santiago de Compostela's cathedrals plus Rosslyn Chapel.

Great significance is attached to Bernard of Clairvaux, the Knights Templar and their symbols. Other topics include the Tarot, the craft of Freemasonry and the implication of the richly symbolic Grail Legends. Leonardo da Vinci and the Medicis feature in the informative chapter on Renaissance paintings. Less clear is the relationship of the Black Madonna to these themes; one could hardly imagine a greater anathema to the teachings of Jesus, James & John the Baptist than this sinister fertility goddess of prehistoric Europe that has become connected to the Magdalene Myth.

In the epilogue, the reader is brought up to date in discussions of the Cathars, Rennes-le-Chateau, relevant TV programmes of recent decades, books like The Holy Blood & the Holy Grail and new discoveries at Amiens. For more detailed studies of important aspects of this thought-provoking work, I recommend Symbolism by Alfred North Whitehead, The Mind In The Cave by Lewis-Williams, The New Testament Code by Robert Eisenman, A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart Ehrman, The Nag Hammadi Library edited by James M Robinson and Cracking the Bible Code by Jeffrey Satinover.

Black & white figures throughout the text enhance the reading experience and the book contains 30 beautiful plates of sculptures, carvings, pillars, stained glass windows and paintings, plus photographs of features at Rennes-le-Chateau. There are thirteen pages of source notes arranged by chapter, an extensive bibliography and an index.
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