The Shepherds of Arcadia: Decoded

By Andrew Swan

  • Proposed original format: jacketed hardcover 6” X 9”
  • Manuscript delivery date: Available now
  • ~66k words – will need to include illustrations
  • All rights currently available

Clearly, Nicolas Poussin was a talented, motivated, and exacting, painter, one who took pleasure and pride in the creation of painted works which conveyed a great deal of information to those who made the effort to understand them.


Something of profound significance where the presence of an important hidden message is concerned as a possibility cannot be entirely discounted, for as we shall see, the idea that Poussin’s painting consists, at least in part, of a shocking revelation relating to the crucifixion of Jesus, is not as farfetched or as implausible as one might at first be inclined to think.


Nicholas Poussin’s famous painting The Shepherds of Arcadia has intrigued and fascinated people for centuries. The depiction of three shepherds and a shepherdess arrayed around a tomb which bears the Latin inscription ET IN ARCADIA EGO has fueled endless speculation regarding its ultimate meaning.


That the painting possesses an occult, or esoteric, significance appears entirely reasonable owing to subtle but definite details encoded in the work. If one is wise enough to study the picture without bias, or without viewing it through a distorting theoretical prism, then the work will ‘speak’ to the viewer and reveal its fascinating secrets.

Several important questions are immediately raised:

  • Does the painting possess a legitimate esoteric dimension?
  • Just what type of information has been encoded in the picture?
  • Why has no one identified these esoteric elements before now?
  • And if the occult significance of the painting has, over the centuries, quite possibly already been identified, then why has the painting’s esoteric meaning gone undocumented for so long?


Those are all legitimate questions and as we shall see during the course of our inquiry into the nature and importance of Poussin’s work, those vital questions possess clear and comprehensible answers. Indeed, it is the answers to those aforementioned questions which serve to make the painting’s occult aspect so shocking. There can be no doubt that Poussin was determined to convey to posterity, via his picture, some of the great secrets which he had, by his own admission, been made privy to. The precise nature of those secrets will be rendered apparent here in The Shepherds of Arcadia: Decoded.


King Louis the XIV of France certainly believed that esoteric information has been encoded in the painting, for right after he took possession of the painting, having purchased it in 1685, he immediately locked the picture away in his study and refused to allow anyone else to see it! No doubt the King spent many an hour poring over his newly acquired masterpiece, but whether or not his majesty successfully deciphered the work, history does not say.


The association of the painting with the entombment of Jesus Christ is perhaps the most controversial way in which the painting’s esoteric significance has attempted to be explained. In their 1996 book The Tomb of God, writers Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger assert their belief that the body of Jesus was located by Templar Knights when they occupied the Holy Land and then removed to the south of France, where it was entombed inside Mount Cardou.


The tomb’s inscription, in their opinion, is an anagram, one which not only requires the usual unscrambling of letters, but also, the inclusion of the Latin word sum, which means ‘I am’. The amended phrase then becomes ‘et in arcadia ego sum’

which they interpret anagrammatically as ‘arcam dei tango iesu’ which translates to English as ‘I touch (or I am touching) the tomb of God, Jesus’.


This theory has been largely dismissed by others, but as we shall see, it is not that wide of the mark. The new phrase does not tell us who the ‘I’ or person is, who is touching the tomb, but in an amusing twist, the person touching it is Jesus himself! That fact was apparently unknown to the authors and therefore, constitutes a striking coincidence.


It should by now be apparent that there are as many theories as to the meaning of Poussin’s painting as there are researchers, and while most of the aforementioned theories possess at least some merit and are clearly intellectually, if not evidentially, defensible, they all have one thing in common; the theories are predicated on the assumption that the theorists have correctly identified Poussin’s precise motive for creating the picture. They also depend on imposing a preconceived view on the painting and then selecting and interpreting only those details which validate whatever is being posited. The problem with this approach is that the painting, and thus Poussin, are not being given the opportunity to speak, but are instead, being spoken for. Such intellectual ventriloquism obviously hinders the picture’s ability to speak for itself, and in doing so, effectively blocks the transmission of the knowledge which Poussin sought to convey.


As we shall come to appreciate, there is no need to impose logic on the painting, because Poussin has supplied his own. The manner in which he has crafted his picture is as skillful, effective, and at times, amusing, as any serious piece of art. Our illustrious painter has spared no consideration where composition, detail, and symbolism are concerned and has ably and effectively encoded at least some of his treasured secrets

into this work, so that we can identify and appreciate the significance of his underground knowledge, centuries later.


After a complete and detailed analysis of Poussin’s picture, we will come to appreciate that the real meaning of the painting is hidden in, more or less, plain sight, and does not require the employment of mental gymnastics, Zen-like powers of concentration, or speculative flights of fancy, in order to be properly understood. Poussin has skillfully and cunningly crafted an exquisite picture of two essential solitudes. For the uninitiated, the painting’s memento mori interpretation will have to suffice, but for those with ‘eyes to see’ the painting offers some startling and revelatory pieces of information.


The answer may well be the discovery of a great secret, one which challenges a central claim of the Christian faith. This secret is of such a controversial nature that even today there is still a genuine reluctance on the part of its guardians to openly admit to the existence of it. That this secret was transmitted to, and thereafter occupied, the hearts and minds of people such as Poussin and Sauniere is not open to debate, their

efforts to preserve and perpetuate that secret, being, to the initiated observer, apparent.


Andrew Swan is a writer/researcher from Ontario, Canada. He has spent many years pursuing knowledge in subject areas such as pre-dynastic Egypt, Atlantis, the Knights Templar, and most recently, the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery. His interest in Rennes-le-Chateau was inspired by the book Holy Blood/Holy Grail, which set him on a multi-year quest to uncover the village’s secrets. His successful analysis of Nicolas Poussin’s painting, The Shepherds of Arcadia, which was a major part of his research, has enabled him to reach that goal, and in the process, create an unprecedented book full of unique insights and compelling conclusions. Andrew Swan has long been interested in writing, and enjoys being creative, the fruits of which are several screenplays, a novella, and a full-length novel. The Shepherds of Arcadia: Decoded is his most recent manuscript and reflects his lifelong interest in historical mysteries, lost civilizations, and other thought-provoking issues. While neither an art historian nor a bible scholar, he has crafted a book which is certain to raise eyebrows (and blood pressure!) among people in both fields. Unhindered by the need to protect an academic reputation, Andrew’s maverick scholarship has enabled him to make discoveries which will change the way people think about history, religion, and spirituality.


The Shepherds of Arcadia: Decoded by Andrew Swan is represented by the Kelly Consulting Agency. For more information, please contact Lloyd Kelly at or in the message box below.

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