There has been much speculation as to whether the Priory of Sion is a shadowy secret society made up of some of the world's most illustrious figures, a paranoid delusion, or an elaborate (but baseless) hoax. The men and women said to be its Grand Masters are certainly real, most of them key players in science, the arts, and the occult. Yet certain names seem to jump out from the list, seeming at first glance to be so absurdly inappropriate as to cast doubt upon the rest. Two such names would no doubt be those of Leonardo da Vinci and Jean Cocteau. Both Da Vinci and Cocteau were men of genius, and both evinced an interest in the occult/religious matters, but... guardians of the bloodline of Christ?
I offer a strange new piece of evidence which seems to link together Jean Cocteau, Leonardo da Vinci, and John the Baptist (and, by implication, the Priory.) It is a sculpture of Cocteau done by none other than the most famous sculptor of the Nazi regime, Arno Breker, and it is called Der Prophet. Now, it confounds all reason that the foremost Nazi sculptor would even do a sculpture dedicated to a leading French intellectual, not to mention a homosexual French sculptor, and then have the audacity to christen it The Prophet. But that's just for starters.
In the sculpture, Cocteau strikes the pose made famous in Da Vinci's well-known painting of John the Baptist, raising his overturned hand, with a single finger curling skyward. This is remarkable for a number of reasons. Firstly, because John the Baptist was a figure of key importance to both the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar, and no one can seem to satisfactorily explain why. Secondly, because all Grand Masters of the Priory assumed as a mantle of their leadership the title John (or Jean), and both Da Vinci and Cocteau were Grand Masters. And thirdly, because the figure represented in Da Vinci's painting of the Baptist was, in fact, Da Vinci himself. So here we have two famous artists, separated by centuries, both alleged Grand Masters, and both presenting themselves in the guise of John the Baptist, the prophet.
But why John the Baptist? This is a conundrum that has seemed to baffle more than a few researchers into the Priory/Templar mystery. And most who take up the challenge to delve into the mystery seem to come away with little more than baseless speculation or elaborate theories that are never wholly satisfying. I suggest that the answer to John the Baptist's pivotal importance for these groups and individuals may well be found within the title of Arno Brecker's Cocteau sculpture, The Prophet. It may be something so simple and straightforward that everyone's missed it entirely, looking instead for something occult, complex and secret.
What do we know of the Baptist? Little beyond the fact that he was related to Christ, and that he was the prophet who set the stage for the emergence of Christ as Messiah. Could it be that just as the first John facilitated the emergence of Christ, the Priory of Sion saw themselves as guardians of a secret tradition that would eventually facilitate the re-emergence of his bloodline, and so adopted his name as a title symbolic of their role and function? The Ochius Razor approach to the Grail mystery is very rarely of any use, but in this instance it seems altogether appropriate.
This may well explain only one small facet of the John the Baptist mystery. And it certainly presents us with another mystery altogether. Namely, how did a sculptor infamous for immortalizing ht likes of Nietzsche, Wagner and Hitler even come to sculpt the likeness of a decadent French poet like Jean Cocteau?
Believe it or nor, Breker and Cocteau had a very close relationship for nearly four decades. The two first met in 1924, at the time of Breker's first visit to Paris. When the sculptor returned to Paris to exhibit his work, he found Cocteau his most vocal advocate; extolling the virtues of Brecker's heroic realism at a time when such neo-classicism was decidedly out of favor with the modernist demi-monde. Even a skeptical Pablo Picasso came to the exhibition at Cocteau's insistence, and was indeed impressed. Still later, at the height of WWII, Cocteau remained a strong proponent of Breker's sculpture. If his enthusiastic support of such work seemed merely unfashionable prior to the war, during the occupation it was perceived by most French intellectuals as tantamount to treason. The French resistance was livid - yet many members who knew Cocteau secretly attended Breker's wartime exhibit nonetheless.
The bond between Cocteau and Breker seems to go deeper than mere art appreciation. Its one thing to play the enfant terrible during peacetime, but to adopt a stance as politically disadvantageous as Cocteau did during wartime can be downright dangerous. And Arno Breker too put himself in no less danger. Breker personally intervened with the S.S. just in time to prevent Picasso from being sent to a concentration camp. Upon hearing of the incident, Albert Speer strongly advised Breker to mind his own business if he knew what was good for him. Yet when Cocteau's leading man, Jean Marais throttles a pro-nazi journalist, Breker again stepped in to save him from the camps. Marais never even knew how close he had come to spending the war engaged in hard labor, and only learned of his timely reprieve after Cocteau's death.
To put this all in clearer perspective, it cannot be over-emphasized that Arno Breker was a member of Hitler's inner circle. He was a houseguest of Hitler and can even been seen flirtatiously frolicking with Eva Braun and her sister in Eva's home movies. The Nazis presented his art as being a manifestation of values that were diametrically opposed to those of modernist degenerate art (such as, for instance, the cubist abstraction of Picasso). For Hitler, Breker's work was a cultural manifestation of the same ideals he was trying to implement through political means. But beyond even that it was felt that the role of art fulfilled a spiritual function as well, embodying eternal values such as strength, beauty, tradition, heroism, and the will to power. There's no real evidence to indicate that this isn't exactly the light in which Breker, too, saw his work.
So why would a man like Arno Breker put his career on the line to save friends of Jean Cocteau, or for that matter, be involved with him to begin with? It would all seem to beg the question of whether or not Breker knew of Cocteau's involvement with the Priory of Sion. And if he did know, was he too involved? His connections to France are strong, having lived there from 1927-1934. He is said to have been initiated into a resistance movement called "The White Dove" by Cocteau, yet never exhibited any signs of being a "reformed" Nazi. After the war he neither renounced with past affiliations, nor altered the style of his art. In a strange way, despite their seeming differences, the art of these two men seems to share a common ground. Despite his modernist tendencies, Cocteau's art seems rooted in the same abstract notion of neo-classicism. When he stated that he "detested originality, and tried to avoid it at all costs", Cocteau wasn't being facetious. Both men shared an appreciation of the sacred as subject matter, and likewise, of themes rooted in mythology. Both, for instance, addressed the theme of Eurydice and Orpheus (Cocteau repeatedly.) It may well be that these two shared a far more fundamental accord with one another than their respective politics or lifestyles would lead one to believe.
While it doesn't exactly provide a solid enough basis to justify speculation as to whether or not Breker played some role in the Priory of Sion, the idea is intriguing nonetheless. We know that Breker certainly moved within a circle of powerful men (the Nazi hierarchy) who were at least as obsessed with the idea of the Holy Grail as Cocteau's circle. Perhaps the most we can say with certainty is that, at least on the surface, the figures of Jean Cocteau and Arno Breker seem to comprise one of the most unlikely alliances of the 20th century (or at least WWII.) We may never know the whole story, but at least for now, we've found an interesting new wrinkle on an old theory.