Michael Baigent (born 1948) is 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 March 1948 in Christchurch, New Zealand. He grew up in Motueka and Wakefield, small communities on the sparsely-populated South Island of New Zealand. His upbringing was Catholic, and he attended church three times a week, as well as being tutored in Catholic theology from the age of 5. His father left the family when he was 8 years old, and Baigent took the name of his maternal grandfather, Lewis Baigent. His great-grandfather had founded a forestry firm, "H. Baigent and Sons".
His secondary schooling was at Nelson College, and then he moved on to Canterbury University, 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 traveled to Australia and Southeast Asia, occasionally living on the street. He then returned to Auckland, receiving a BA in Psychology.
Michael 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 has been editor of Freemasonry Today since April 2001, which he has used as a platform for a more liberal approach to Freemasonry. He is a trustee of the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre.
He currently lives in Bath with his wife, Jane. They have two daughters, one of them named Tansi (born c. 1986).
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
In 1976, Baigent moved to England, 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, an English 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. This 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. 
Later, only with Leigh as co-author, he penned 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.
Dan Brown lawsuit
Some of the ideas presented in Baigent's earlier book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, were incorporated in the bestselling American novel The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.
In March 2006, Baigent and Leigh filed a lawsuit in a British court against Brown's publisher, Random House, claiming copyright infringement.
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.
Michael Baigent's interpretations of history sometimes attract 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".
- Ancient Traces: Mysteries in Ancient and Early History (1998) ISBN 067087454X
- The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History (2006) ISBN 0-06-082713-0
- From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia (1994) ISBN 0140194800
- Racing Toward Armageddon: The Three Great Religions and the Plot to End the World (2009)
Co-written with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln
Co-written with Richard Leigh
- Mundane Astrology: Introduction to the Astrology of Nations and Groups (co-written with Nicholas Campion and Charles Harvey) 1984 (reissued expanded edition, 1992)
- ^ Speaker biography
- ^ 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
- ^ Canonbury Masonic Research Centre
- ^ Milne, Jonathan (12 March 2006). "The Kiwi trying to break the Code". Herald on Sunday. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/6/story.cfm?c_id=18&objectid=10372236. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- ^ Elizabeth Sherr Sklar, Donald L. Hoffman (editors), King Arthur In Popular Culture, page 214 (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002). ISBN 0786412577
- ^ Miller, Laura (22 February 2004). "The Da Vinci Com". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/22/books/the-last-word-the-da-vinci-con.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm.
- ^ NZ author claims copyright breach in Da Vinci Code, 28 February 2006
- ^ Kiwi author takes on Dan Brown, 1 March 2006
- ^ see Guardian article
- ^ see review