|Born||Michael Barry Meehan|
27 February 1948
Nelson, New Zealand
|Died||17 June 2013 (aged 65)|
M.A. in Mysticism and Religious Experience
|Alma mater||University of Kent|
|Occupation||author and lecturer|
|Known for||Co-author The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail|
Michael Baigent (born Michael Barry Meehan, 27 February 1948 – 17 June 2013) was an author and speculative theorist who co-wrote a number of books that question mainstream perceptions of history and the life of Jesus. He is best known as co-writer of the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
Baigent was born in 1948 in Nelson, New Zealand and grew up in the nearby communities of Motueka and Wakefield. His upbringing was Catholic, and he attended church three times a week, as well as being tutored in Catholic theology from the age of five years. His father left the family when he was eight years old and with his mother Jean, Baigent went to live with his maternal grandfather, Lewis Baigent, a sawmill owner, and took his surname. His great-grandfather, Henry Baigent, had founded a forestry firm, "H. Baigent and Sons".
His secondary schooling was at Nelson College, and then he moved on to the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, initially intending to study science and continue in the family career of forestry, but then switched to studying comparative religion and philosophy, studying Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. He travelled to Australia and Southeast Asia, occasionally living on the street. He then returned to Auckland, receiving a BA in Psychology.
Baigent worked briefly at the BBC photographic department, and worked night shifts at a soft-drink factory. Later in life, Baigent earned an MA in Mysticism and Religious Experience at the University of Kent.
A Freemason and a Grand Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England, he was editor of Freemasonry Today from April 2001 (deputy editor Matthew Scanlan), which he used as a platform for a more liberal approach to Freemasonry. He was a trustee of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre.
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
In 1976, Baigent moved to the UK, where he met Richard Leigh, the man who was to be his roommate and frequent co-author. Leigh introduced him to the alleged mystery of Rennes-le-Château in France, and Baigent launched into research on the matter. In the same decade, Leigh introduced him to Henry Lincoln, a British television scriptwriter, while Lincoln was lecturing at a summer school. The three discovered that they shared an interest in the Knights Templar, and took their Jesus bloodline theory on the road during the 1970s, in a series of lectures which later developed into the 1982 book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
Published on 18 January 1982, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail popularised the hypothesis that the true nature of the quest for the Holy Grail was that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child together, the first of a bloodline which later married into a Frankish royal dynasty, the Merovingians, and was all tied together by a society known as the Priory of Sion. These ideas were later used as a basis for Dan Brown's international bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code.
The theory that Jesus and Mary were in a carnal (physical) relationship is based on Baigent's interpretation of the Holy Kiss on the mouth (typically between males in early Christian times, thus signifying Mary's emancipation), and spiritual marriage, as given in the Gospel of Philip. The theory was perpetuated by authors Laurence Gardner and Margaret Starbird.
The day after the publication the authors had a public clash on BBC television with the Bishop of Birmingham and Marina Warner. The book rapidly climbed the bestseller charts, and had a sequel, The Messianic Legacy.
The book has been described as "a work thoroughly debunked by scholars and critics alike" and it was called "one of the all-time great works of pop pseudohistory" in a review in The New York Times Book Review. Arthurian scholar Richard Barber has commented, "It would take a book as long as the original to refute and dissect The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail point by point: it is essentially a text which proceeds by innuendo, not by refutable scholarly debate".
Later, he and Leigh co-authored several books, including The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception (1991) in which they primarily followed the controversial theories of Robert Eisenman concerning the interpretation of the Scrolls. This was discredited by Otto Betz and Rainer Riesner in their book Jesus, Qumran and The Vatican: Clarifications (1994).
Dan Brown lawsuit
In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown named the primary antagonist, a British Royal Historian, Knight of the Realm and Grail scholar, Sir Leigh Teabing, KBE, also known as the Teacher, in homage to the authors of The Holy Blood and Holy Grail. The name combines Richard Leigh's surname with 'Teabing', an anagram of Baigent.
Concurrent with the plagiarism trial, Baigent released a new book, The Jesus Papers, amid criticism that it was just a reworking of themes from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and timed to capitalize on the marketing hype around the release of the movie The Da Vinci Code, as well as the attention brought by the trial. In the postscript to the book (p. 355), Baigent points out that the release date had been set by Harper Collins long before.
On 7 April 2006, High Court judge Peter Smith rejected the copyright-infringement claim by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, and Dan Brown won the court case. On 28 March 2007, Baigent and Leigh lost their appeal against this decision and were faced with legal bills of about 3 million pounds.
Baigent's interpretations of history sometimes attracted hostile criticisms from scholars and historians. For example, Bernard Hamilton, writing in the English Historical Review (Vol. 116, No. 466 (Apr., 2001), pp. 474–475) described Baigent's treatment of The Inquisition in his 1999 book of the same name (with Richard Leigh) as pursuing "a very outdated and misleading account of this institution [the Inquisition]". In a review in the Spectator magazine (8 January 2000), reviewer Piers Paul Read said the authors: "show no interest in understanding the subtleties and paradoxes in the history of the Inquisition".
Baigent himself conceded that none of his theories yielded any positive results: "I would like to think in due course a lot of this material will be proven," he said, "but it’s just a hope of mine."
- From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia (1994) ISBN 0-14-019480-0. 2nd edition published as Astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Science of Omens and the Knowledge of the Heavens (2015) ISBN 978-1591432210
- Ancient Traces: Mysteries in Ancient and Early History (1998) ISBN 0-670-87454-X
- The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History (2006) ISBN 0-06-082713-0
- Racing Toward Armageddon: The Three Great Religions and the Plot to End the World (2009)
Co-written with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln
- The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, 1982, UK ISBN 0-09-968241-9
- The Messianic Legacy, 1986
Co-written with Richard Leigh
- The Temple and the Lodge, 1989, ISBN 0-552-13596-8
- The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, 1991
- Secret Germany: Claus Von Stauffenberg and the true story of Operation Valkyrie, 1994
- The Elixir and the Stone: The Tradition of Magic and Alchemy, 1997
- The Inquisition. 1999
- The Astrological Journal (Winter 1983-84, Vol. 26, No. 1) with Roy Alexander, Fiona Griffiths, Charles Harvey, Suzi Lilley-Harvey, Esme Williams, David Hamblin, and Zach Mathews, 1983
- Mundane Astrology: Introduction to the Astrology of Nations and Groups (co-written with Nicholas Campion and Charles Harvey) 1984 (reissued expanded edition, 1992)
- Freemasonry Today, (editor) 2001-2011
- Obituaries, page 15, The Bulletin, The Magazine of the Nelson College Community, December 2013 
- Tait, Morgan (21 June 2013). "NZ author dies of brain haemorrhage". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- Michael Baigent Obituary, The Guardian, 30 June 2013
- Michael Baigent from HarperCollins Publishers
- Michael Baigent, editor of Freemasonry Today, said he had always felt odd "meeting with friends dressed as though I am attending a funeral". Referring to the origins of the black tie tradition, he added: "This period of mourning became enshrined in tradition, and we have mourned ever since." Masons end their black tie affair
- Hamill, John (5 September 2013). "Michael Baigent obituary". Freemasonry Today. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- Milne, Jonathan (12 March 2006). "The Kiwi trying to break the Code". Herald on Sunday. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- Elizabeth Sherr Sklar, Donald L. Hoffman (editors), King Arthur In Popular Culture, page 214 (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002). ISBN 0-7864-1257-7
- Miller, Laura (22 February 2004). "The Da Vinci Con". New York Times.
- cited in Richard Barber, "The Search for Sources: The Case of the Grail", in Norris J. Lacy, editor, A History of Arthurian Scholarship, page 34 (D. S. Brewer, 2006). ISBN 978-1-84384-069-5
- London: SCM Press, 1994.
- NZ author claims copyright breach in Da Vinci Code[permanent dead link], 28 February 2006
- Slotnik, Daniel (22 June 2013). "Michael Baigent, Writer Who Sued Over 'Da Vinci Code,' Dies at 65". New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
- Kiwi author takes on Dan Brown[permanent dead link], 1 March 2006
- see Guardian article
- see review[dead link]
- DaVinci, other books fit conspiracy fixation