||Oct 10, 2007
Barnes & Noble.com
The Rozabal Line
Did Jesus spend his "lost years" in India studying under Buddhist teachers? Did he survive the crucifixion? Did he then return to his spiritual home and leave a bloodline? Is this bloodline fighting a Jihad in Kashmir?
The tomb of Rozabal in Kashmir has contained the body of a great saint called Yuz Asaf since 112 A.D. But who was Yuz Asaf and what secret does the ancient tomb contain? Father Vincent Morgan is unwittingly sucked into the Rozabal tornado when flashes of his own previous lifetimes reveal some uncomfortable truths about the life and death of Jesus Christ. Vincent is soon caught in the crossfire between the Osama-bin-Laden inspired warriors of Islam, led by Ghalib-bin-Isar, and the fundamentalists of the Crux Decussata Permuta. The secret held securely within Rozabal for two millennia threatens to upset the world's balance of power. Zipping around the world caught up in a whirlwind of events, people, religion and time, from Jesus to Muhammad; from the Crusades to 9/11; from the Vatican to the White House; from Skull & Bones to the Illuminati; from Buddhist meditation to past-life regression; from the Virgin birth to nuclear destruction; and from Mary Magdalene to Osama-bin-Laden; The Rozabal Line has it all.
The onset of winter in idyllic Kashmir meant that the days were gradually getting shorter. Even though it was only three o'clock in the afternoon, it felt like nightfall. Icy winter winds, having wafted through the numerous apple and cherry orchards of the area, sent a spicy and refreshing aromatic chill to the man's nostrils. The leather jacket and lamb's wool pullover underneath it were his only comfort as he knelt to pray at the tomb.
Father Vincent Morgan rubbed his hands together to keep warm as he took in the sight of the four glass walls, within which lay the wooden sarcophagus. The occupant of the tomb, however, resided below in an inaccessible crypt. Standing in front of a Muslim cemetery, the tomb was located within an ordinary and unassuming structure with whitewashed walls and simple wooden fixtures.
Vincent's blonde hair, blue eyes, together with his athletic build and pale skin clearly marked him out as separate and distinct from the locals. The goatee and rimless spectacles completed the slightly academic look.
The sign outside informed visitors that the Rozabal tomb in the Kanyar district of old Srinagar contained the body of a person named Yuz Asaf. Local land records acknowledged the existence of the tomb from 112 A.D. onwards.
The word Rozabal, derived from the Kashmiri term Rauza-Bal, meant "Tomb of the Prophet". According to Muslim custom, the gravestone had been placed along the north-south axis, however, a small opening revealed the true burial chamber beneath. Here one could see the sarcophagus of Yuz Asaf, which lay along the east-west axis as per Jewish custom.
Nothing was out of the ordinary here - nothing that is except for a carved imprint of a pair of feet near the sarcophagus. The feet were normal human feet - normal, barring the fact that they bore marks on them; marks that coincided with puncture wounds from a crucifixion.
Crucifixion had never been practised in Asia, so it was quite obvious that the resident of the tomb had undergone this ordeal in some other, distant land.
To visit the tomb of Jesus, skip Jerusalem and catch a plane to Srinagar, Kashmir. Anyone in town can give directions to the Roza Bal shrine. That crypt’s occupant preached a Buddhism-influenced Christianesque doctrine under the name Yuz Asaf (which means “son of Joseph”). The Rozabal Line sprints ahead with this claim as an intelligent but awkwardly assembled historical thriller built around dangerous secrets, falling in the same sub-genre as Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code.
Perhaps “Jesus Christ had not died on the cross after all,” but was drugged, revived, and spirited to safety. If it is proven that he, like St. Thomas the Doubter lived for decades in India, that news could topple the church hierarchy. No one in the story is sitting back and waiting to see how it plays out. A Vatican sect, the “Crux Decussata Permuta”; militant Muslim agents reporting to a Bin Laden associate known only as The Sheikh; and even the shadowy Illuminati race to shape the world’s beliefs and advance their pointed agendas. A femme fatale named Swakilki disposes of male seekers casually, as if they’re squares of toilet paper.
Fictional players are successfully conflated with actual events, enhancing the plot. Fanciful speculation is given greater currency by a raft of endnotes citing scholarly papers and mainstream sources. The author has a definite flair for comparisons and delights in the use of anagrams to obscure identities or explain covert affiliations. That includes his own name, which is a recombination of the letters in “Shawn Haigins.” The reason for the pseudonym is left to the imagination.
This book is so prolifically decorated with side trips, descriptive detail, and the search for cross-tradition commonality that the story suffers an impeded flow; cohesion is perforated by alternating bursts of narrative action and myth-building. The setting often jumps eons to extend a point and to show incarnations of those karmically linked to one another. The primary setting in the near-future of 2012 is less than rosy, and stability isn’t increased by the actions of America’s first female President. That year is marked by coordinated monthly terrorist incidents in various countries. The first century AD churns with the unconventional rites of fertility cults, with dissenting Gnostics and Essenes who preserve apocryphal gospels in buried jars.
The diffusion of page-time among multiple characters relieves any one of them the burden of being the complete hero. Hidden links between opposed organizations are revealed quite gradually, and so are the principals’ true goals. Countless runners converge at a bombshell revelation. Indeed, Haigins’ ideologically provocative outcome is every bit earned, but shreds of the whole picture make less sense when presented individually. Armchair philosophers, conspiracy believers, and fans of Mary Magdalene tales will find The Rozabal Line to be worthy of examination. The author points to a real subject ripe for further investigation and comes down firmly against antagonism between major religions, which may be more closely related than anyone reckoned before.
Midwest Book Review
The Rozabal Line is a suspenseful novel about modern-day religious tensions. Father Vincent Morgan becomes immersed in a storm of controversy over the ancient tomb of Rozabal in Kashmir, which has contained the body of the saint Yuz Asaf since 112 A.D. Caught in the crossroads between extreme Islamic fundamentalists and the equally extreme fundamentalists of the Crux Decussata Permuta, Morgan must question whether the world-altering secret held within Rozabal should be revealed at all. Religious wrath, ruthless controversy spanning the globe, and the threat of nuclear destruction make for a gripping read from cover to cover.
The Rozabal Line is a new thriller á la The DaVinci Code in which the author, through his fictional characters, investigates an actual world myth. In this case, the myth is quite controversial: what happened to Jesus after the crucifixion. We all know what the Bible says - even those of us who aren’t religious. This novel offers up another point of view.
Haigins’s far-flung plot is incredibly convoluted. At its simplest, a priest, Father Vincent Morgan, has been the recipient of visions of the crucifixion as well as some of his own past lives. As he sets out to follow the clues contained in his visions, he stumbles upon the alternative religious theory — that Jesus did not die upon the cross but was instead rescued and taken to India where he lived out the remainder of his life as a prophet, a husband, and a father. Obviously, the Catholic Church’s leaders do not want Father Morgan to find any proof of these theories and they send an assassin to stop him.
Further complicating things is the involvement of thirteen fringe terrorists (the leader of which it is insinuated may be descended from Christ and the twelve other men, when they are finally killed, are each murdered as each of the Twelve Disciples were killed) who are attempting to bring about Armageddon. This fringe group ultimately works for Osama bin Laden who in turn is being manipulated by Opus Dei and the Illuminati (recently made popular in Dan Brown’s books).
Amid the religious quest and terrorism plot is an enormous amount of comparative religion, some imparted as exposition-heavy dialogue between the fictional characters but mostly set forth in narrative flashbacks. There’s a lot of ground covered: one chapter alone bounces from North India 3127 B.C., to the Indo-Nepal border 566 B.C., to the Judean Desert 26 A.D., to Persia 1000 B.C., to Syria 2000 B.C., to Egypt 3000 B.C., back to Persia 600 B.C., returning to Judea 23 A.D., then North India in 2001 A.D., Constantinople 337 and 553 A.D., France 185 A.D., and finally Turin, Italy 1988 A.D. The Christian Gospels, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Apocrypha all get discussed in a fair amount of detail, as well as the cult of the divine feminine and the beliefs of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Incans. There’s even some tantric yoga and past-life regression hypnotherapy thrown in for good measure.
The story part of the story is difficult to follow because of the many, many jumps between plot - and timelines. In addition, I found that I really didn’t care what happened: so little time was spent with any of the various fictional characters that I was unable to relate to them. I was actually more interested in the comparative religion discussions than I was in the fiction. At one point, Haigins points out that many world religions have “gods, prophets, messengers or angels who [share] commonalities with Jesus Christ.” He mentions, among others, Osiris and Horus (Egyptian), Perseus, and Hercules (Greek), Mithras (Indo-Iranian), Baldur (Norse) and Quetzalcoatl (Aztec), all of whom existed in legend prior to Jesus, and each of whom shared something with - or contributed something to - the Christian Messiah, whether it be virgin birth, performance of miracles or resurrection after death. I am not a religious person, but I have always loved to read different mythologies and I found this fascinating.
The Rozabal Line is Haigins’s first work of fiction. According to the “About the Author” note, he is currently working on two more books, another novel and a non-fiction book on the history of religions. Given this current novel’s strengths and weaknesses, I think the history text will be very interesting as Haigins obviously has a comprehensive knowledge of and affinity for the subject. I just may wait a little while before picking up his next cliff-hanger.
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