Holy Blood, Holy Grail co-author Richard Leigh, who died last week at the age of 64, would have loved this Dan Brown-style story about secret messages concealed within the works of Leonardo da Vinci.
Apparently, by playing about with mirrors you can find esoteric hidden images in some of Leonardo's best-known masterpieces. In the Last Supper, for example, images of demons and angels, as well as the Holy Grail, magically appear if you place a mirror along the length of the table and then rotate the picture. Hidden in the Mona Lisa's sleeve is what looks vaguely like the head of Darth Vader. The artist's painting of John the Baptist, when subjected to the mirror treatment, reveals what could be a naked four-legged female Buddha meditating under a tree. However, we are given to understand,
it is not a human female, as explained by Philo of Alexandria, but the symbolic name given in the Bible to the corporal sensibility (the biblical woman) that transmits the five senses to the intelligence which was symbolically called “man”.
Several videos demonstrating the technique, along with much philosophically-dense commentary of this sort, can be found on a website entitled The Mirror of the Sacred Scriptures and Paintings. It is the work of what The Telegraph describes as a "mysterious group", and is linked to a forthcoming book. Well worth a look. The pictures are pretty, even if the theory is completely bonkers.
It's a sort of Rorshach test, of course. It reminds me slightly of the work of Maurice Cotterell, who discovered messages concerning the end of the world in Mayan carvings by manipulating strips of acetate. He went on to "decode" the arrangement of the treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun to equally enlightening effect. Come to think of it, Leigh's erstwhile colleague Henry Lincoln predicated many of his ideas about secret societies on symbolic designs he "discovered" in Nicolas Poussin's painting The Shepherds of Arcadia. The world of the esoteric is like politics or soap opera: the same old themes keep recurring in slightly different guises. There's nothing new under (or indeed in) the Sun.