Secret History and Sacred Geometry
Cocteau’s Mural at the Chapel of St. Peter
by Boyd Rice
Cocteaus most prominent mural at the Chapel of St. Peter at Villefranche-sur-Mer (entitled St. Peter Walking on Water) is one of the most interesting and intriguing works of his entire career. At first glance it appears a fairly strait-forward work of religious art, depicting Christ at the seaside. It appears that he may perhaps be in the process of raising Lazarus from the dead. Above him a flock of angels descend, while fishermen out in boats look on. Almost immediately however, one begins to notice the presence of strange elements that would be quite out of place in any common work of religious art. Directly behind Christ is the figure of Poseidon (Dagon) holding a trident, who forms the mast on a black-colored boat. The fishermen are also holding tridents, though it is readily evident that they are fishing with nets and not spear fishing. A man in the foreground appears to be glaring at Christ, and points one finger of his left hand skyward (like the John the Baptist hand signal.) He appears at first glance to be pointing at St. Peter, but closer examination reveals that hes not pointing at any of the figures in the painting, but seemingly at something outside of the mural's border. Strangely, most of the other figures in the painting (angels, fishermen, etc.) seem to be looking at the same thing. No one is looking at Christ. Though he appears to be one of the central figures in this painting, the few people who at first appear to be looking at him are actually looking beyond him. A man immersed in the sea to his shoulders is staring straight up into the sky - and such figures show up repeatedly in Cocteaus work. Christ appears to be gesturing towards this man.
Another noteworthy thing is that all of the fish depicted in the scene seem to be swimming through the air. The angels swirling about amidst these flying fish look oddly androgynous, and most are depicted as both faceless and bald. The Poseidon/Dagon masthead is also sans face and hair. The single angel whose facial features can clearly be seen still appears sexless.
The subject of this painting is religious, centered on Christ. The subtext of this painting seems to be about a religion beyond Christ, perhaps an older tradition whom which his own descended, as suggested by the descending angels which surround him.
Many academics tell us that the symbolism of Christianity comes from earlier solar religions, yet they are very vague with the details they provide connecting the two. They tell us that the ancient tale of a dying and resurrected god is based on the myth of Osiris, but not a whole lot more. While the similarities of this symbolism are obvious and undeniable, there is not a great deal of Christian doctrine that would identify it as having originated from a solar cult. However, while compiling and translating a list of early Sumerian king titles, a connection seemed to present itself. Virtually all the titles of early gods and kings in this culture seems to have a strange dual meaning. And a good many of the combined meanings pertained to both the sun and the sea, or fire and water. For instance, "AKU" could be both AK-U (meaning "shining sun" or "fire of the sun"), and A-KU (meaning "son of the fish.") "Muru" is a conjunction of "Mur" (the sea) and U (the sun.) We see the same combining of imagery retained in the much later Roman god Mercury ("mer" meaning sea", and "Kur" meaning sun.) There are countless other examples of such titles, but for our present purposes, well limit the examples to these few.
Initially, this appears to be perhaps the earliest symbolic means of communicating an essentially Hermetic idea. The imagery of sun and sea, or fire and water, represent (respectively) the masculine and feminine principles which govern the universe, and their union is emblematic of the reconciliation and transcendence of these seemingly opposed forces. This would certainly explain why gods reputed to be solar deities often times had their lower bodies depicted as fish. While this thesis is altogether a satisfactory one, an even more straight-forward explanation exists.
As it turns out, the modern word "fish" is identical to the same word in ancient Sumeria, and likewise has the same meaning. But the Sumerian "fish" has two additional meanings: "god of the waters" and "the sun." Here, then, may be the key which explicitly reveals the hidden continuity between the ancient solar cults and Christianity (as well as its attendant fish symbolism.) The ancient peoples who worshipped the sun viewed it as a dying and resurrected god. It would be born each day, rising out of the sea, and die each night, sinking back into the sea. For these peoples, the sea into which the sun sank was the underworld, and the sky wasnt merely the sky, but a vast celestial sea. its easy to see how they could have equated the sun with a fish: it came out of the ocean, moved across the celestial sea, and then returned to the waters from which it had come. This goes a long way towards explaining the mythology associated with Dagon, who reportedly came out of the sea each day to teach men his wisdom, always returning to the waters each night. It also explains two meanings of the title "Dagon." The "ON" aspect of the title means both "fish and "day." So his is the "Lord fish" and "Lord of the Day." The ancient pictogram for "Dag" is a representation of the rising sun. The word "dag" also meant "day" in such languages as ancient Briton, Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, Norwegian, and German, where it is the root or their word for "day", "tag."
This identification of the fish with the sun would seem to shed some light on the true identity of the mysterious Fisher King of the Grail lore. He is not the fisher king so much as the fish king, the sun king. He is the dying god of the ancient solar cult whose kingdom can only be restored by the power of the Grail. The names of many ancient deities translate into "Sun King", "Sun Lord", "Son of the Sun", and so on. When Louis XIV of France learned the secrets of the Grail, he adopted the title of "Sun King" as well. When Christ called himself the "Son of Man", he could have also meant the "Sun of Man." He was undoubtedly aware of the tradition of which he was a descendant, and from all appearances, it looks as though he were trying to harness and embody the symbolism attendant to the myth.
The idea of the Son of God is not unique in the least. It goes back to the earliest deified kings whose solar cults viewed the sun as the living God himself. The kings were seen to be the earthly living manifestations of God, and the virtual sons of God, or sons of the sun. This is a concept going back to Sumer, and is most well-known as having been practiced in Egypt. In life, Pharaohs were seen as being living incarnations of Horus, the son of Osiris. In death, they became one with Osiris. The king was the son of God, who in death became God.
Was Christ trying to revive this primordial idea of the king as the son of God? If so, he both succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, and missed the mark completely. While his mythos is suffused with solar symbolism, the religion that bears his name shows nary a trace of the ideas which such a notion embodied. The "Icthys" fish symbol associated with Christ is (next to the cross) the most recognized Christian symbol in the word, and yet it is doubtful that a single living Christian understands its meaning, or has any inkling of its origin. The tradition of the deified king ended with Christ, and he was a king without a throne.
Though Christs true doctrine was either misunderstood in his own lifetime, or consciously misinterpreted after his death, the tradition of which he was an inheritor has nonetheless been preserved and passed down. Witness the Jean Cocteau mural previously described. The imagery which in the context of orthodox Christianity seems so obscure becomes glaringly straightforward in the light of the more ancient traditions weve discussed. The fish that seem to be swimming through the air represent the idea of the sun-fish. Trace several lines between them and they form a perfect equilateral triangle, an emblem of God as unity and totality. The figures who are looking, pointing or gesturing beyond Christ toward something outside our field of vision are all indicating the same thing: the sun.
The figure whose eye is a fish seems to represents a more ancient culture (perhaps Egyptian.) He sneers at Christ and point toward the sun with his left hand. This gesture, so reminiscent of the John the Baptist hand signal, may be more than just a reference to either the Sun or to Baptist. It may indicate the Hermetic doctrine of unity, or "oneness", implied in the symbolism of the solar cult. As weve demonstrated, solar theology was, contrary to popular misconception, not a superstitious cult of "sun worship." It involved an appreciation of sophisticated occult concepts; ideas which formed the bases for the traditions of alchemy and the cabala, and indeed the entire corpus of Hermetic thought.
Perhaps our interpretation of this figure gesturing skyward represents the very reason why Leonardo da Vinci painted John the Baptist in this trademark pose to begin with. Christ, meanwhile, gestures downward with his right hand, using two fingers. Does this signify that the "right-hand path" , as typified by orthodox Christianity, has been the harbinger of a dualistic, self-divided worldview? That it has caused the downfall of the most ancient, more spiritual religious doctrines of our ancestors? Perhaps. But the "original doctrine" was a long bygone memory by the time of Christ, and if indications are correct, he was making a serious attempt to revive it.
At first glance, it appears that Christ is reaching towards St. Peter to help him across the water, like in the Biblical narrative found in Matthew 14:28. But clearly he is not. His arm is rigid, and makes no effort to reach out towards the hand just inches away. Instead he seems to be gesturing towards the figure shoulder-deep in the water. This figure is unique in that he seems to be one of the murals focal points, and the depiction of his face is far more specific in its rendering. While most of those depicted in the mural seem little more than emblematic characters (and fully half have no faces whatsoever), the man in the water is the only one rendered in the style of classical art. And indeed he resembles a well-known figure from classical art: he looks remarkably like Michelangelo's David. Is Christ indicating his ancestral heritage, derived from the solar cult of the fish and King David of Judah? It would certainly appear so.
The David figures left hand gestures up towards the Poseidon mast, seeming to indicate his descent from the older god-king. Even this gesture, the upraised left hand, seems significant. In Sumeria the pictograph of an upraised hand symbolized the tile of "Kad", and meant both "god" and "king." An alternate rendering of "Kad" was a double-barred cross - the Cross of Lorraine. In due course we will discover that this symbol too is encoded into the painting.
The representation of Poseidon on the mast of the boat is at one the most specific symbol in the painting, and the most seemingly out of place in what is supposed to be the Sea of Galilee. But Poseidon, if you will recall, was said to have been a king of Atlantis. We have hypothesized that Christ was a descendant of the Atlantean kings, and the inclusion of Poseidon along with this depiction of Christ seems to support that thesis. At the apex of the mural is an odd-looking island which clearly resembles Tyre. The angels seem to be issuing forth from this island. In a previous Dagoberts Revenge article (in Volume 4#1), we speculated that Tyre was built by King Hiram as a symbolic recreation of Atlantis, the ancestral homeland of his race. Does Cocteaus island represent the same thing, both Tyre and Atlantis? Such an explanation would certainly explain the unusual presence of Poseidon representation.
So too would the presence of one of the most recurrent symbols in Cocteaus work: a strange X-shaped symbol turned on its side and closed at either end. It resembles an overturned hourglass, or perhaps a squared-off infinity symbol. In fact, it is a well-known character of the Runic alphabet (albeit not that well-known outside of certain esoteric circles.) It might seem far-fetched to imagine that Cocteau was employing this emblem in its Runic sense, or that he may even have been conversant with the rune, were it not for the symbols name and meaning. This particular tune was called "Dagaz" (Dag-As), and would seem to have the same intrinsic meaning as Dagon - "Lord of the Day", "Lord Fish", and "Lord of the Mountain." Its esoteric meaning has to do with the equilibrium between light and darkness, the day and the night. Such a meaning is in perfect accord with Dagons title of "Lord of the Day", and ties in neatly with his symbolic role as the solar fish, or solar serpent. It would appear, then, that Cocteau was consciously using this rune, and that he not only knew full well its esoteric meaning, but employed it as an emblem of Dagon. It is not only encrypted into the mural itself, it is painted repeatedly on the archway bordering the mural. And again, it is one of the most persistent symbols to recur in Cocteau's visual art from throughout his entire career.
The mural in question is St. Peter Walking on Water, in the "Chapel of St. Peter" in Villefranche sur-Mer, dedicated to the patron saint of that regions fishermen. St. Peter is associated with fishermen because, of course, he himself was a fisherman, and Peter is represented in Catholic iconography by the "Barque of Peter", a fishing boat which itself represents the Catholic church. St Peter is considered by the Catholic Church to be the father of their institution, and refer to him as the first Pope. But a man of Cocteaus bent would have chosen to represent Peter in much more esoteric terms. "Peter, as many of you probably know, means "stone." So a reference to the "Rock of Sion would seem a fairly natural explanation. The English version of the name "Peter" sounds remarkably like "Pater", a word meaning "father", or "patriarch." Of course, the chapel which Cocteau painted was titled with the French version of Peters name, "Pierre." Strangely, the name "Pierre" is much like the French word "pere", which also means "father." Taken collectively, all these explanations seem to work, and seem to allude to a single idea: a primordial patriarch who was the Rock of Sion. Interestingly, the root word "dag" (in "Dagon" and "Dagaz"), besides meaning both "fish" and "day", also means "stone."
So in the most simple terms, this mural relates a dual history. The first is that of Christs genealogy: his descent from David, and Davids descent from Atlantean kings (Dagon and the fallen angels.) The depiction of angels both emanating from and gesturing towards an island kingdom clearly seems to be an allusion to their antediluvian origins on Atlantis, an idea reinforced by the representation of Dagon/Poseidon. The second theme would seem to be the history of the Catholic Church, and its origins in an ancient Hermetic solar monotheism; one which extolled the union of the sun and the sea, the heavens and the Earth, the father and the son (or the Sun and the Son of the Sun.) Ultimately, both of these histories are the same history. Both are ultimately interconnected, and both have a shared genesis in the antediluvian world.
Despite the multiplicity of meaning found hidden in this strange scene, it represents only the first and most obvious layer of meaning. Though the symbolism employed is both complex and arcane, the narrative told is fairly straightforward. But where the exoteric story leaves off, the esoteric story begins.
Another level of meaning present in the mural has to do with sacred geometry. This painting abounds with geometry. Even the most casual perusal of these images reveals that they appear to be constructed according to a series of grids. The mural is intersected by vertical and horizontal lines which meet in the center. Two other lines crisscross at angles, also intersecting at the same precise point. Again, this is no mere coincidence, but part of a carefully contrived design. While on the surface, Cocteau is relating a fairly simple (albeit highly subtle) narrative, beneath the surface hes revealing a depth of knowledge which demonstrates in no uncertain terms that he knows of what he speaks. And that which lies beneath the surface seems to have been a preoccupation of Cocteau's. His ongoing references to subterranean themes (the Underworld, Orpheus, etc.) are all thematic signposts that should direct us to look deeper, beneath the surface. And beneath the surface of this mural can be found a kaleidoscopic geometrical web of grids, so complex in their order and so perfect in their symmetry that the mere contemplation of them seems to noticeably impact the consciousness of the observer. One of the functions of sacred geometry was to bring one into accord with the mind of God. In due course we will elaborate on this notion. But first things first.
Looking in the mural for patterns relating to our research took very little effort. It was easy to spot angles that suggested pentagrams, hexagrams, and so on. Tracing lines from the points implied readily produced results. This mural is literally packed with these symbols - big ones, small ones, perfectly symmetrical ones, and strange asymmetrical examples. A gigantic pentagram was found that spanned the whole mural, and an equally gigantic inverted pentagram. There were small seals of Solomon, and huge seals of Solomon. There were hexagrams superimposed over pentagrams which shared key planes with one another. The resultant configuration looked organically geometrical, but like nothing ever seen before. And again, these construction were clearly meant to be defined by specific details encoded in he painting. It is plainly evident that these shapes were consciously placed there, and that the mural is not just some Rorschach test upon which any conceivable image could be projected. Yet, the geometric grid seemed to encompass almost any and every conceivable shape.
At one point, it occurred to this author that the angle of the large upright pentagram mimicked the shape of a Masonic compass. The accompanying Masonic square was easily found, right in the expected position. Had Cocteau consciously placed this symbol here, or had he managed to create a series of grids so complex and all-encompassing that it was indeed possible to discern anything within them? Both possibilities seemed equally compelling. If he had placed the compass and square in this depiction of Christ, what was he trying to imply?
There is an ongoing debate as to what the letter "G" within the Masonic square and compass signifies. Some say "God", others say "Geometry." Some assert that it stands for "Great Architect of the Universe." Each point of view seems valid, and yet - could not all three possibilities be correct? If the "G" represents "God" or "Great Architect", then the compass and square framing it seem to equate with the "Geometry" explanation. The notion that the workings of God can be glimpsed of comprehended in certain aspects of geometry is not a new one. But the sheer complexity of the geometry manifested in the Cocteau grid prompted this author to contemplate the notion anew. Here was a geometry of totality: lines, angles, and superimposed patterns containing within them an infinity of possibilities and potentialities.
Man did not invent geometry. At best, he came to recognize its presence in the world, and came to understand its underlying principles. In the world of man, as in the organic world, geometry is omnipresent. It exists everywhere. Its presence precedes every material thing that comes into being. All of organic life conforms to a pre-existing patter, and is an emanation of a sacred geometric principle, which is itself a manifestation of the force that shapes and defines nature, and life itself. Man, recognizing the divine harmony demonstrated by this principle, sought to incorporate it into his own creations:
art, architecture, landscaping, and so on. He made of it a
sacred science, a secret science, known only to the
initiated. Thus sacred geometry became part of the secret
gnosis of the "Underground Stream"; a gnosis said
to have been passed down by figures such as Pythagoras, Hermes,
and Enoch. It was a knowledge of the previously mentioned
force, the life principle which shapes and defines all things,
and which lives in and through all things. Some call this
force "God", and this, perhaps, may constitute the
reason why certain secret societies (and, it would seem, Jean
Cocteau) hint at an interconnectedness between geometry and
God. Geometry, like God, exists before existence, and is manifest
before creation. This idea seems implicit in the Cocteau grid
in St. Peter Walking on Water, all the more so because
it is not visible to the naked eye.
This configuration, although complex, starts off with the
most basic possible foundation: a simple grid composed of
vertical and horizontal lines. Superimposed upon this is a
pentagonal grid, a series of five sets of lines crossing the
image at angles reflecting a perfect pentagram. Over this
is a hexagonal grid, whose sets of lines crisscross the image
at angles congruent with those of a hexagram. Thus we see
a union of the geometry inherent in two of the fundamental
emblems of sacred geometry and the esoteric tradition: the
pentagram and the Seal of Solomon. Needless to say, these
are also the two symbols most central to the Grail tradition
and the mysteries which surround it. Furthermore, they are
symbols which seem to have had a profound significance to
Jean Cocteau. As a younger man, Cocteau always signed his
signature with a pentagram. In his later years, he drew a
glyph beneath his name composed of three intersecting lines
forming a sort of star pattern. Laying these lines out as
three sets of grids will produce a pattern which is made up
of a series of hexagrams of every conceivable size. Place
this same star symbol in the hexagonal interior of a Seal
of Solomon, and its bars define the shape of the hexagon.
So it would seem that this mural, Cocteaus last, was
both the final culmination of a lifelong preoccupation with
these symbols and their meanings, as well as a final revelation.
This may well constitute Cocteaus most explicit testament
as to the nature of the secret tradition to which he was an
heir - a tradition rooted in a secret history, and the sacred
science that formed an integral part of it.
The syllable has a number of other connotations. See the article
Sleeping Beauty and the Sacred Mountain elsewhere in