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THE LATE-AFTERNOON SUN blazed on the spires of Sagrada Família, casting broad shadows across Plaça de Gaudí 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 Família 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 Beña 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?” Beña laughed. “Maybe tomorrow.”

“A different ambience from last night,” Langdon said, motioning to the sanctuary.

“Natural light does wonders,” Beña 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 Beña through the crowds, he could hear the sounds of construction reverberating overhead, reminding him that Sagrada Família was still very much an evolving building.

“Did you happen to see Edmond’s presentation?” Langdon asked.

Beña 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 Beña had been his childhood priest. “Has the Vatican issued an official statement yet?”

“They’re trying, but there seems to be a bit of”—Beña 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!” Beña said, laughing. “I don’t believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect—”

“—intended us to forgo their use?”

Beña 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 Família 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 Família—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 Família was going to be far more important than anyone could ever imagine.

Beña was now leading Langdon down the same winding staircase they had descended last night.

The crypt.

“It is very obvious to me,” Beña 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, Beña motioned past Gaudí’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,” Beña 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 Beña’s. “‘The dark religions are departed and sweet science reigns’?”

Beña 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.”

Beña 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.’”

Beña 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 Beña, 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, Chichén Itzá—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.