06 Feb

I have often read that it is an anathema - regarding any possible future archaeological discoveries around the Rennes-le-Chateau/Rennes-les-Bains area - to mention that any of these artefacts go to a Museum. Robert Howells, in his book: 'Inside the Priory of Sion' said [on page 183]:

"...we are not dispassionate archaeologists, cataloguing and emptying the sacred places of the dead to fill museums with ornaments...'

For me this statement betrays an ignorance of what archaeologist's actually do. Archaeologist's do not 'work' to just fill museums - despite what one might see in films such as 'Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark'! Archaeologists, in fact, are led by a wonder of the past and a love and respect for that past. I know for me, personally speaking when I have been on 'digs' it is/was the sense of connectedness and wonder when meeting ancestors through archaeology; learning about their beliefs and their knowledge and resourcefulness positively inspires me.

Surely Howell's is exhibiting these same feelings of wonderment when he describes [in his book] about looking for the entrances to the fabled Underground Temple, which according to legend, is in the area of Rennes-les-Bains? What is he being led by when he goes looking for these tombs he thinks are to be found? Indeed, why is he even looking if not for the sense of connectedness of the past? 

Sites for archaeological 'investigation' are in the main treated respectfully and sometimes even reverentially. Look at the recent excavation and laying to rest of King Richard III in England. Artifacts are treated with respect and any bodies found also treated with the utmost dignity and respect. There are also laws surrounding that dignity and respect.

Our society today might appear to be dispassionate in all things 'sacred' but only because it has become immune to the sacredness in their lives. Immunity comes because of life's daily grind and struggle - and of course the onset of science hasn't helped but science itself helps people to see the 'sacred' in the universe around them! Those deep inter-stellar photographs of our distant universe inspire a kind of sacred reflection does it not? 

No person should never presume to take from people the opportunity to become in awe of the divine - which can take them beyond their mere existence and touch something divine within themselves! And on some occasions this is what a Museum can do for us.

Of course, Howell's may be referring to those early tomb-robbers - those notorious thieves who steal from sacred sites and loot for monetary gain. If so, then i agree with him. For archaeologists though, artefacts are not viewed as 'ornaments' to fill museums. Maybe if Howell was referring to the very earliest museums that began in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - which were essentially created as the private collections of wealthy individuals, families or institutions - he may have a valid point. These museum pieces were often displayed in so-called wonder rooms or cabinets of curiosities. The famous Fleury family of Rennes-les-Bains had one for the finds located around their lands and brought to them by villagers. Some of these artefacts have eventually made their way to the local village museum. Early public access to them [and other artefacts like them] were often only possible for the "respectable" [especially to private art collections] but it was mostly always at the whim of the owner and his staff. In fact, one way that elite men during this time period gained a higher social status in that world of elites was by becoming a collector of these curious objects and displaying them.

These first "public" museums, as i said, were often accessible only by the middle and upper classes. In other words the access to them was controlled and determined by who you were. As we saw above the collections were a way for 'elite' men to gain higher social status, pretty much like a modern Secret Society may try to do today - withholding any knowledge that belongs to humanity under the guise of 'when the time is right' or 'not for the profane'. I have often wondered what 'not for the profane' means. Does it mean those who don't believe in God? I'm not sure that I believe in a God in the way it has been fed to me. Does that make me profane? I do recognise the universal connectedness of all things but that was taught to me by science. Does that make me profane? I dont like what the Church has done in the name of 'religion' to the figure of Jesus. I consider them profane.

Howell claims in his book that members of the secret society called the Priory of Sion are found within the midst of big institution's, especially the Vatican. One internal group of Priory representatives in the Vatican was referred to as the 'Italian contingent'. This 'Italian contingent', we are told, is withholding any 'truth' surrounding Rennes-le-Chateau from becoming public. On page 60 of his book Howell tell us why. It is because: "understandably ...it does not suit the Catholic Church to hurry along its own personal demise, which is what the revelations ultimately imply...' In other words, truth is not the first and foremost concerns of those who are suppose to be 'in on the secret'. For the 'Italian contingent' they are protecting their own personal and selfish interests first. Nothing new there then. No noble reasons. Are they the profane?

I understand that for many people today the demise of the Catholic church would be detrimental to their mental health - but what about all the people currently suffering today, here and now, because of policies and actions of that Catholic church? I also recognise that the Church has done some 'good things' and that things are never that black and white. But truth is truth right? Dangerous or not? However, I am persuaded that Dostoyevsky and his parable of the 'Grand Inquisitor'  in his novel The Brothers Karamazov is probably nearer the truth.

On page 199 of his book Howell states: "Imagine for the moment that the relic of all relics - the corpse of Jesus - was discovered. Would it be instantly recognisable, an uncorrupted body, charismatic even in death? What strange worship would grow up around it? Would the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations clamour for Christ's body, claiming right of ownership? Or would they continue to deny its existence? Would they loot the tomb of Jesus and scatter its contents to fill the collection plates of churches, cathedrals or God forbid, museums?'

Most of that paragraph betrays the understanding of times gone past and how institutions such as the Church/Vatican have behaved in relation to artefacts and relics. A way to stop that behaviour is in fact to create a world museum for such a relic as the 'relic to end all relics' to never undergo the processes he describes. The scrabble for such a placement of this Museum is obvious despite where a body might found. It would be Jerusalem.

The value of a Museum is the sharing of knowledge and the inspiration it gives us. The objects and stories [artefacts] – are our accounts from the past – that have been accumulated over the centuries and now in the public domain. Museums have been designated by governments as the custodians of this public heritage, in order to carefully preserve it and make it accessible to a wide audience – both now and for future generations.

And what is the social value of museums? Museums have been shown to inspire powerful identity-building among humanity along with learning in all ages, be it children, young people or whole communities. They also help create that connectedness that people perhaps are missing - by re-connecting with their ancestry and 'history'. Not dry history - but an understanding of how we got here and why. A recent survey regarding the worth of Museums suggested that they give us:

• Enjoyment, Inspiration, Creativity - 97%

• Knowledge and Understanding - 97%

• Action, Behaviour, Progression - 92%

• Attitudes and Values - 91%

 Skills - 91%

Museums are also powerful in bringing communities together - if used in the right way [i.e. if the archaeological interpretation is not used to bolster a particular political or religious ideology to the exclusion of others and to re-interpret the past incorrectly to bolster the same] and can bring all races and cultures together. Our idea of sacredness comes from seeing we are part of one big whole. This is mostly shown to us via science and museums. Palmer has said the way in which we create sacredness is as follows:

"Communities decide upon a site that is holy to them, and then build a church, chapel, synagogue, mosque or temple .....[..] the second type of sacred might be a raging sea viewed from a cliff top, or a giant redwood forest that stretches to the horizon, or a peaceful grove that dances with sunlight...[...] the third type of sacred place has been made holy by history or legend ...and finally there are the sacred places that mean something special to individuals .... places where you go to think, or where you have experienced great happiness..[...]". [Sacred Land: Martin Palmer 2012, pp 4-6]

Palmer went on to say:

"All four types of sacred place tell us something about ourselves in relation to a greater story, a purpose greater than merely our individual lives ...[...] They are sacred because they link us to the divine and give us a sense of meaning ...they add significance to what lies around us ....[...]Believing that some places are sacred means that we do not see ourselves as mere selfish genes or as random acts of procreation but as part of a greater narrative within which we have the opportunity to play a part. .....this combination of the sense of sacred and meaning has literally shaped our landscape.'
[Sacred Land: Martin Palmer 2012, pp 4-6]

Howell reported on page 60 of his book that an alleged Priory of Sion representative said that the aim of Sion 'is all in the service of a greater cause'. He wrote:

"The fundamental goal of the Priory of Sion is the unification of mankind by means of engendered cultural and spiritual shifts in perception and values'.

You would think then that Sion would appreciate and accept the worth of an insitu Museum if it supported the above aims. Let us not forget that those priests Sauniere and Boudet went relic hunting and in some cases were very disrespectful in relation to artefact's. The Templars are not any less 'profane' - they were relic hunters and they endeavoured to remove relics from their insitu place of origin - and if legend is to be believed - bring them to a little corner of France once called Septimania.

After all, the 'relic of all relics' would belong to no one but humanity.

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