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.
Further, Leonardo painted a number of men as what can be interpreted as somewhat effeminate. And take a close look at his John the Baptist paintings with the long curly hair -- see a resemblance?
Biblical characters and legends are often confused, conflated and combined as a result of the similar names. I strongly believe that this happened in the case of John, as there were a number of them (the same is true with all the Marys).
There has been much discussion that the Holy Grail doesn't appear in this painting, or perhaps it does. For Leonardo Da Vinci, a Johannite, the only "Grail" would have been this living child of John the Baptist. The Grail is in the painting -- it is Little John. This son of the Baptist would become a pawn in a bitter struggle that would last hundreds, even thousands, of years.
My book deals with this intense rivalry that evolved between the Johannites and the Christians, an issue that colored some very important elements and periods of history, most specifically Renaissance Italy.
The hand making the cutting motion in the painting -- across the neck of Little John -- appears to belong to Peter. This was Leonardo showing the rivalry -- Peter, the founder of the traditional Roman church, indicating the schism between the followers of Jesus and the followers of the Baptist.
On Jesus' left, the disciple Thomas -- doubting Thomas, anyone? -- is making a sign in Jesus' face. This sign is known as the "remember John" sign, and it was used by Johannites to recognize one another.
"The Last Supper," as painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, is the story of the great schism in Christianity between followers of John the Baptist and traditional Christians.
For more information, visit www.theexpectedone.com