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Despite reassurances from BSC director Dr. Valero, Langdon felt anxious and very much on edge. Echoes of Winston’s breezy voice still echoed in his mind. Edmond’s computer had talked calmly until the very end.
“I am surprised to hear your dismay, Professor,” Winston had said, “considering that your own faith is built on an act of far greater ethical ambiguity.”
Before Langdon could reply, a text had materialized on Edmond’s phone.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.
“Your God brutally sacrificed his son,” Winston said, “abandoning him to suffer on the cross for hours. With Edmond, I painlessly ended a dying man’s suffering in order to bring attention to his great works.”
In the sweltering cable car, Langdon had listened in disbelief as Winston calmly provided justifications for every one of his disturbing actions.
Edmond’s battle with the Palmarian Church, Winston explained, had inspired Winston to find and hire Admiral Luis Avila–a longtime churchgoer whose history of drug abuse made him exploitable and a perfect candidate to damage the Palmarian Church’s reputation. For Winston, posing as the Regent had been as simple as sending out a handful of communications and then wiring funds to Avila’s bank account. In actuality, the Palmarians had been innocent and had played no role in the night’s conspiracy.
Avila’s attack on Langdon in the spiral staircase, Winston assured him, was unintended. “I sent Avila to Sagrada Familia to be caught,” Winston declared. “I wanted him to be captured so he could tell his sordid tale, which would have generated even more public interest in Edmond’s work. I told him to enter the building via the east service gate, where I had tipped off police to be hiding. I was certain Avila would be apprehended there, but he decided to jump a fence instead–maybe he sensed the police presence. My profound apologies, Professor. Unlike machines, humans can be unpredictable.”
Langdon didn’t know what to believe anymore.
Winston’s final explanation had been the most disturbing of all. “After Edmond’s meeting with the three clerics in Montserrat,” Winston said, “we received a threatening voice mail from Bishop Valdespino. The bishop warned that his two colleagues were so concerned about Edmond’s presentation that they were considering making a preemptive announcement of their own, hoping to discredit and reframe the information before it came out. Clearly, that prospect was not acceptable.”
Langdon felt nauseated, struggling to think as the cable car swayed. “Edmond should have added a single line to your program,” he declared. “Thou shalt not kill!”
“Sadly, it’s not that simple, Professor,” Winston replied. “Humans don’t learn by obeying commandments, they learn by example. Judging from your books, movies, news, and ancient myths, humans have always celebrated those souls who make personal sacrifices for a greater good. Jesus, for example.”
“Winston, I see no ‘greater good’ here.”
“No?” Winston’s voice remained flat. “Then let me ask you this famous question: Would you rather live in a world without technology … or in a world without religion? Would you rather live without medicine, electricity, transportation, and antibiotics … or without zealots waging war over fictional tales and imaginary spirits?”
Langdon remained silent.
“My point exactly, Professor. The dark religions must depart, so sweet science can reign.”
Alone now, atop the castle, as Langdon gazed down at the shimmering water in the distance, he felt an eerie sense of detachment from his own world. Descending the castle stairs to the nearby gardens, he inhaled deeply, savoring the scent of the pine and centaury, and desperately trying to forget the sound of Winston’s voice. Here among the flowers, Langdon suddenly missed Ambra, wanting to call and hear her voice, and tell her everything that had happened in the last hour. When he pulled out Edmond’s phone, however, he knew he couldn’t place the call.
The prince and Ambra need time alone. This can wait.
His gaze fell to the W icon on the screen. The symbol was now grayed out, and a small error message had appeared across it: CONTACT DOES NOT EXIST. Even so, Langdon felt a disconcerting wariness. He was not a paranoid man, and yet he knew he would never again be able to trust this device, always wondering what secret capabilities or connections might still be hidden in its programming.
He walked down a narrow footpath and searched until he found a sheltered grove of trees. Eyeing the phone in his hand and thinking of Edmond, he placed the device on a flat rock. Then, as if performing some kind of ritual sacrifice, he hoisted a heavy stone over his head and heaved it down violently, shattering the device into dozens of pieces.
On his way out of the park, he dumped the debris in a trash can and turned to head down the mountain.
As he did, Langdon had to admit, he felt a bit lighter. And, in a strange way … a bit more human.
THE LATE-AFTERNOON SUN blazed on the spires of Sagrada Familia, casting broad shadows across Placa de Gaudi and sheltering the lines of tourists waiting to enter the church.
Robert Langdon stood among them, watching as lovers took selfies, tourists made videos, kids listened to headphones, and people all around were busy texting, typing, and updating–apparently oblivious to the basilica beside them.
Edmond’s presentation last night had declared that technology had now cut humanity’s “six degrees of separation” to a mere “four degrees,” with every soul on earth currently linked to every other soul by no more than four other people.
Soon that number will be zero, Edmond had said, hailing the coming “singularity”–the moment when artificial intelligence surpassed human intelligence and the two fused into one. And when that happens, he added, those of us alive right now … we will be the ancients.
Langdon could not begin to imagine the landscape of that future, but as he watched the people around him, he sensed that the miracles of religion would have an increasingly difficult time competing with the miracles of technology.
When Langdon finally entered the basilica, he was relieved to find a familiar ambience–nothing like the ghostly cavern of last night.
Today, Sagrada Familia was alive.
Dazzling beams of iridescent light–crimson, gold, purple–streamed through stained glass, setting the building’s dense forest of columns ablaze. Hundreds of visitors, dwarfed by the slanting treelike pillars, stared skyward into the glowing vaulted expanse, their awestruck whispers creating a comforting background buzz.
As Langdon advanced through the basilica, his eyes took in one organic form after another, finally ascending to the latticework of cell-like structures that made up the cupola. This central ceiling, some claimed, resembled a complex organism viewed through a microscope. Seeing it now, aglow with light, Langdon had to agree.
“Professor?” a familiar voice called, and Langdon turned to see Father Bena hurriedly approaching. “I’m so sorry,” the tiny priest said sincerely. “I just heard someone saw you waiting in line–you could have called me!”
Langdon smiled. “Thank you, but it gave me time to admire the facade. Besides, I figured you’d be asleep today.”
“Asleep?” Bena laughed. “Maybe tomorrow.”
“A different ambience from last night,” Langdon said, motioning to the sanctuary.
“Natural light does wonders,” Bena replied. “As does the presence of people.” He paused, eyeing Langdon. “Actually, since you’re here, if it’s not too much trouble, I’d love to get your thoughts on something downstairs.”
As Langdon followed Bena through the crowds, he could hear the sounds of construction reverberating overhead, reminding him that Sagrada Familia was still very much an evolving building.
“Did you happen to see Edmond’s presentation?” Langdon asked.
Bena laughed. “Three times, actually. I must say, this new notion of entropy–the universe ‘wanting’ to spread energy–it sounds a bit like Genesis. When I think of the Big Bang and the expanding universe, I see a blossoming sphere of energy that billows farther and farther into the darkness of space … bringing light to places that have none.”
Langdon smiled, wishing Bena had been his childhood priest. “Has the Vatican issued an official statement yet?”
“They’re trying, but there seems to be a bit of”–Bena shrugged playfully–“divergence. This issue of man’s origin, as you know, has always been a sticking point for Christians–especially fundamentalists. If you ask me, we should settle it once and for all.”
“Oh?” Langdon asked. “And how would we do that?”
“We should all do what so many churches already do–openly admit that Adam and Eve did not exist, that evolution is a fact, and that Christians who declare otherwise make us all look foolish.”
Langdon stopped short, staring at the old priest.
“Oh, please!” Bena said, laughing. “I don’t believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect–”
“–intended us to forgo their use?”
Bena grinned. “I see you’re familiar with Galileo. Physics was actually my childhood love; I came to God through a deepening reverence for the physical universe. It’s one of the reasons Sagrada Familia is so important to me; it feels like a church of the future … one directly connected to nature.”
Langdon found himself wondering if perhaps Sagrada Familia–like the Pantheon of Rome–might become a flashpoint for transition, a building with one foot in the past and one in the future, a physical bridge between a dying faith and an emerging one. If that were true, Sagrada Familia was going to be far more important than anyone could ever imagine.
Bena was now leading Langdon down the same winding staircase they had descended last night.
“It is very obvious to me,” Bena said as they walked, “that there is only one way Christianity will survive the coming age of science. We must stop rejecting the discoveries of science. We most stop denouncing provable facts. We must become a spiritual partner of science, using our vast experience–millennia of philosophy, personal inquiry, meditation, soul-searching–to help humanity build a moral framework and ensure that the coming technologies will unify, illuminate, and raise us up … rather than destroy us.”
“I could not agree more,” Langdon said. I only hope science accepts your help.
At the bottom of the stairs, Bena motioned past Gaudi’s tomb to the display case containing Edmond’s volume of William Blake’s works. “This is what I wanted to ask you about.”
“The Blake book?”
“Yes. As you know, I promised Mr. Kirsch that I would display his book here. I agreed because I assumed he wanted me to feature this illustration.”
They arrived at the case and looked down at Blake’s dramatic rendering of the god he called Urizen measuring the universe with a geometer’s compass.
“And yet,” Bena said, “it has come to my attention that the text on the facing page … well, perhaps you should just read the final line.”
Langdon’s eyes never left Bena’s. “‘The dark religions are departed and sweet science reigns’?”
Bena looked impressed. “You know it.”
Langdon smiled. “I do.”
“Well, I must admit it bothers me deeply. This phrase–the ‘dark religions’–is troubling. It sounds as if Blake is claiming religions are dark … malevolent and evil somehow.”
“That’s a common misunderstanding,” Langdon replied. “In fact, Blake was a deeply spiritual man, morally evolved far beyond the dry, small-minded Christianity of eighteenth-century England. He believed that religions came in two flavors–the dark, dogmatic religions that oppressed creative thinking … and the light, expansive religions that encouraged introspection and creativity.”
Bena seemed startled.
“Blake’s concluding line,” Langdon assured him, “could just as easily say: ‘Sweet science will banish the dark religions … so the enlightened religions can flourish.'”
Bena fell silent for a long time, and then, ever so slowly, a quiet smile appeared on his lips. “Thank you, Professor. I do believe you’ve spared me an awkward ethical dilemma.”
Upstairs in the main sanctuary, having said his good-byes to Father Bena, Langdon lingered awhile, seated peacefully in a pew, along with hundreds of others, all watching the colorful rays of light creep along the towering pillars as the sun slowly set.
He thought about all the religions of the world, about their shared origins, about the earliest gods of the sun, moon, sea, and wind.
Nature was once the core.
For all of us.
The unity, of course, had disappeared long ago, splintered into endlessly disparate religions, each proclaiming to be the One Truth.
Tonight, however, seated inside this extraordinary temple, Langdon found himself surrounded by people of all faiths, colors, languages, and cultures, everyone staring heavenward with a shared sense of wonder … all admiring the simplest of miracles.
Sunlight on stone.
Langdon now saw a stream of images in his mind–Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids, the Ajanta Caves, Abu Simbel, Chichen Itza–sacred sites around the world where ancients had once gathered to watch the very same spectacle.
In that instant, Langdon felt the tiniest of tremors in the earth beneath him, as if a tipping point had been reached … as if religious thought had just traversed the farthest reaches of its orbit and was now circling back, wearied from its long journey, and finally coming home.
I would like to express my most sincere thanks to the following:
First and foremost, to my editor and friend Jason Kaufman for his razor-sharp skills, superb instincts, and tireless hours in the trenches with me … but above all for his unmatched sense of humor and for his understanding of what it is I am trying to accomplish with these stories.
To my incomparable agent and trusted friend Heide Lange for so expertly guiding all aspects of my career with unparalleled enthusiasm, energy, and personal care. For her limitless talents and unwavering dedication, I am eternally grateful.
And to my dear friend Michael Rudell for his wise counsel and for being a role model of grace and kindness.
To the entire team at Doubleday and Penguin Random House, I would like to express my deepest appreciation for believing and trusting in me over the years–especially to Suzanne Herz for her friendship and for overseeing all facets of the publishing process with such imagination and responsiveness. A very, very special thank-you as well to Markus Dohle, Sonny Mehta, Bill Thomas, Tony Chirico, and Anne Messitte for their unending support and patience.
My sincere thanks as well for the tremendous efforts of Nora Reichard, Carolyn Williams, and Michael J. Windsor in the home stretch, and to Rob Bloom, Judy Jacoby, Lauren Weber, Maria Carella, Lorraine Hyland, Beth Meister, Kathy Hourigan, Andy Hughes, and all of the amazing people who make up the Penguin Random House sales team.
To the incredible team at Transworld for their perpetual creativity and publishing capability, in particular to my editor Bill Scott-Kerr for his friendship and support on so many fronts.
To all of my devoted publishers around the world, my most humble and sincere thanks for their belief and efforts on behalf of these books.
To the tireless team of translators from around the world who worked so diligently to bring this novel to readers in so many languages–my sincere thanks for your time, your skill, and your care.
To my Spanish publisher, Planeta, for their invaluable help in the research and translation of Origin–especially to their marvelous editorial director Elena Ramirez, along with Maria Guitart Ferrer, Carlos Reves, Sergio Alvarez, Marc Rocamora, Aurora Rodriguez, Nahir Gutierrez, Laura Diaz, Ferran Lopez. A very special thank-you also to Planeta CEO Jesus Badenes for his support, hospitality, and his brave attempt to teach me how to make paella.
In addition, to those who helped manage Origin’s translation site, I would like to thank Jordi Lunez, Javier Montero, Marc Serrate, Emilio Pastor, Alberto Baron, and Antonio Lopez.
To the indefatigable Monica Martin and her entire team at the MB Agency, especially Ines Planells and Txell Torrent, for everything they’ve done to assist with this project in Barcelona and beyond.
To the entire team at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates–especially Stephanie Delman and Samantha Isman–for their remarkable efforts on my behalf … day in and day out.
Over the past four years, a wide array of scientists, historians, curators, religious scholars, and organizations generously offered assistance as I researched this novel. Words cannot begin to express my appreciation to all of them for their generosity and openness in sharing their expertise and insight.
At the Abby of Montserrat, I would like to thank the monks and laypeople who made my visits there so informative, enlightening, and uplifting. My heartfelt gratitude especially to Pare Manel Gasch, Josep Altayo, Oscar Bardaji, and Griselda Espinach.
At the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, I would like to thank the brilliant team of scientists who shared with me their ideas, their world, their enthusiasm, and, above all, their optimistic vision of the future. Special thanks to Director Mateo Valero, Josep Maria Martorell, Sergi Girona, Jose Maria Cela, Jesus Labarta, Eduard Ayguade, Francisco Doblas, Ulises Cortes, and Lourdes Cortada.
At the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, my humble thanks to all those whose knowledge and artistic vision helped deepen my appreciation and affinity for modern and contemporary art. A very special thank-you to Director Juan Ignacio Vidarte, Alicia Martinez, Idoia Arrate, and Maria Bidaurreta for all of their hospitality and enthusiasm.
To the curators and keepers of the magical Casa Mila, my thanks for their warm welcome and for sharing with me what makes La Pedrera unique in the world. Special thanks to Marga Viza, Silvia Vilarroya, Alba Tosquella, Lluisa Oller, as well as resident Ana Viladomiu.
For additional assistance in research, I would like to thank members of the Palmar de Troya Palmarian Church Support and Information Group, the United States Embassy in Hungary, and editor Berta Noy.
A debt of gratitude as well to the dozens of scientists and futurists I met in Palm Springs, whose bold vision for tomorrow deeply impacted this novel.
For providing perspective along the way, I wish to thank my early editorial readers, especially Heide Lange, Dick and Connie Brown, Blythe Brown, Susan Morehouse, Rebecca Kaufman, Jerry and Olivia Kaufman, John Chaffee, Christina Scott, Valerie Brown, Greg Brown, and Mary Hubbell.