During my interview on "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer asked me a question about Leonardo Da Vinci's masterwork "The Last Supper." The question has become a common one in this era of post-"Da Vinci Code" interest, and questions about the union between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.
Given the e-mail I have received just since this morning, apparently my answer -- that I believe the figure on Jesus' right is one of Mary Magdalene's children -- surprised many people!
I do not believe that Leonardo Da Vinci painted Mary Magdalene in his "Last Supper." I do not, in fact, believe that Leonardo would have ever painted Magdalene willingly or voluntarily into any piece of artwork.
We know historically that Leonardo Da Vinci was a misogynist. He didn't like women; some would say he hated women. Therefore, the idea of old Leo as the defender of the divine feminine ideal, and Mary Magdalene specifically, doesn't add up.
In my book "The Expected One," Leonardo Da Vinci makes an appearance but in a very different light than most readers have ever seen. Certainly, readers of "The Da Vinci Code" may be shocked by my portrayal of Leonardo as a villain, as someone who detested the idea of women in virtually any capacity, much less that of spiritual leadership or divine union.
But I am certain that this is a more accurate portrait. I do believe that Leonardo was the leader of a secret society and that he painted codes into The Last Supper" (and other paintings, including "Madonna of the Rocks"), but these are related to another form of heresy: the Johannite heresy.
In my research, I uncovered that Leonardo was deeply involved in an organization that revered John the Baptist and recognized him as the only true Messiah. The Johannite heresy refers to Jesus in derogatory forms -- as a usurper, as a "wicked priest" and as someone who was responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the death of John the Baptist.
My book contains a very controversial perspective on the life of Mary Magdalene, and out of context it may seem difficult to accept for those who are new to this idea. However, in the interest of explaining my version of "The Last Supper," I will encapsulate this key plot element here (spoiler warning!).
I believe that Magdalene, as a Benjamite princess, was used as a pawn in marriage the same way that women in royal families were for centuries. She was betrothed to Jesus from early childhood (perhaps even birth). However, with the tumultuous and changing political landscape of the times, that betrothal was broken and she was given in marriage to John the Baptist. From this first marriage to John, a son was born -- also named John. For ease of understanding, we'll call him "Little John."
I believe that Jesus, in his goodness and grace, married Mary Magdalene following the death of the Baptist and adopted her baby boy to raise as his own. The idea of Little John as the Beloved Disciple, the apostle who Jesus loved best, comes from this -- that he was, in fact, Jesus' much beloved adopted child.
In terms of the painting, it was very common for John the Beloved to be painted in what appears to us now as an effeminate form. You can find examples of these all over the Internet. This was to illustrate that the "man" in the painting was a youth -- beardless and with long hair.