Whatever its flaws or merits as literature, The Da Vinci Code cannot be accused of suffering from a lack of symbols and metaphors! Indeed, how could any novel starring a professor of religious symbology be other than packed full of multiple, multivalent symbols, revealing level upon level of meaning over time? As Langdon himself tells his university students near the novel’s outset, “the world [is] a web of profoundly intertwined histories and events. The connections may be invisible… but they are always there, buried just beneath the surface (p. 16).” The statement virtually functions as the novel’s main thesis.
Bearing that thesis in mind, then, this NovelGuide can only briefly consider a few of the most prevalent, potent symbols and metaphors in the text. Many more abound, and students are well advised to conduct their own research into the “invisible connections” binding the book’s various symbols together. A standard reference work on the subject—such as Hans Bidermann’s Dictionary of Symbolism (1989); or, for the specifically biblical symbols invoked throughout the novel, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit & Tremper Longman III, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVaristy Press, 1998)—may prove valuable study aids.
The Da Vinci Code overwhelmingly concerns itself with symbols that emphasize the unity of the masculine and the feminine principles. One notable sequence involving such a symbol is Langdon and Teabing’s explication of the “wedge” (^) (also referred to as the “blade”—e.g., the Epilogue) and the “chalice” (V) symbols in Freemasonry (Chapter 56). They are presented as ancient symbols of the feminine—the V-shaped “chalice,” indicative of women’s womb as the vessel for childbearing—and male—the upside down V, “a rudimentary phallus.” When united—as not only in Freemasonry use but also in the Star of David (Ch. 105, pp. 480-481)—the wedge and chalice symbolically represent “the perfect union of male and female… the Holy of Holies, where the male and female deities—Yahweh and Shekinah—were thought to dwell” (p. 481). In other words, only the healthy and holistic union of male and female—a spiritual reality symbolized in the enacted, physical metaphor of Heiros Gamos (see Ch. 74, pp. 334-335)—is true holiness, pure wholeness: the intended equality of the sexes broken by male patriarchy and reinforced by the suppressive actions of the Church.
The mention of Heiros Gamos reminds us that sexual intercourse is a metaphor in the novel (although, in that ancient esoteric ritual, it is enacted literally, though ostensibly not for prurient or erotic reasons). In response to Sophie’s scoffing suggestion of “orgasm as prayer,” Langdon can only reflect that, on the physiological level, “the male climax was accompanied by a split second entirely devoid of thought. A brief mental vacuum. A moment of clarity during which God could be glimpsed” (p. 335). Again, then, the sex act is important as a symbol in the novel because it signfies, in a nearly sacramental way, the union of male and female: physically, psychically, spiritually.
The novel also contains a second, almost as important set of symbols and metaphors that represent the feminine element in and of itself. These symbols—the five-petaled rose, the Rose Line (Roslin), the Holy Grail (i.e., the womb of Mary Magdalene) itself—need to be held distinct from masculine symbols because, the novel argues, they represent all that the Church has eradicated from religion and society: “The days of the goddess were over… Mother Earth had become a man’s world…” (Ch. 28, pp. 134-135).