The Portal by Patrice Chaplin

The Portal: An Initiate’s Journey into the Secret of Rennes-le-ChâteauThe Portal: An Initiate’s Journey into the Secret of Rennes-le-Château by Patrice Chaplin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book of two by Patrice Chaplin relating to her experiences in Girona as an adolescent, and linking them to the well know mystery of Berenger Sauniere and Rennes le Chateau. Originally adumbrated by a Chronicle programme presented by Henry Lincoln in 1970, this story has continued to tantalise until one of its premises suddenly reached a global audience through Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' which was based on the premise, set out in 'Hold Blood, Holy Grail' by Michael Baigent and Henry Lincoln, that Sauniere had stumbled on a secret concerning the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, which formed a holy (and secret) bloodline in France.

Chaplin explores an alternative and equally seductive theory that Sauniere was an initiate of a group of mystics who had preserved and carried on the tradition of Kabbalah in Catalonia. The members of the society gathered to perform a ritual that raised their consciousness to a higher plane, but also opened a portal into another world.

In this second book, Chaplin describes her own journey as a somewhat reluctant initiate, pursuing a journey that is both physical and spiritual. As a long-standing fan of the mystery of Rennes le Chateau, I found the story completely compelling. The sceptic in me believes that it must be a load of old cobblers, but something about this mystery remains seductive, and Chaplin's story carries much greater credibility than the rather laboured account of the holy bloodline (apologies to Baigent and Lincoln, whose book I enjoyed immensely).

Chaplin is an accomplished writer and the book makes fascinating reading whether or not one believes the central premise of the story. I would love to visit Girona and to attempt the journey which she describes. It is interesting to note that apparently many people walk the Camino del Santiago who are not remotely religious. This not only the story of a walk, under the tutelage of an inspiring and infuriating instructor, but also of the writer's own attempt to come to terms with her past, until she is ready to face the final, fearsome encounter with Mt Canigou itself.

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