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by Bro. S. BRENT MORRIS 33° G.C.
THE EYE IN THE PYRAMID
must be cautious about many well-known “facts.” George Washington chopped
down a cherry tree when a boy and confessed the deed to his father. Abner
Doubleday invented the game of baseball. Freemasons inserted some of their
emblems (chief among them the eye in the pyramid) into the reverse of the Great
Seal of the United States. These historical “facts” are widely popular,
commonly accepted, and equally false.
eye in the pyramid (emblazoned on the dollar bill, no less) is often cited as
“evidence” that sinister conspiracies abound which will impose a “New
World Order” on an unsuspecting populace. Depending on whom you hear it from,
the Masons are planning the takeover themselves, or are working in concert with
European bankers, or are leading (or perhaps being led by) the Illuminati (whoever
they are). The notion of a world-wide Masonic conspiracy would be laughable, if
it weren’t being repeated with such earnest gullibility by conspiracists like
Masons are sometimes counted among the gullible who repeat the tall tale of the
eye in the pyramid, often with a touch of pride. They may be guilty of nothing
worse than innocently puffing the importance of their fraternity (as well as
themselves), but they’re guilty nonetheless. The time has come state the truth
plainly and simply.
Great Seal of the United States is not a Masonic emblem, nor does it contain
hidden Masonic symbols.
details are there for anyone to check, who’s willing to rely on historical
fact rather than hysterical fiction.
Benjamin Franklin was the only Mason on the first design committee, and
his suggestions had no Masonic content.
None of the final designers of the seal were Masons.
The interpretation of the eye on the seal is subtly different from the
interpretation used by Masons.
The eye in the pyramid is not nor has been a Masonic symbol.
Independence Day, 1776 a committee was created to design a seal for the new
American nation. The committee’s members were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Jefferson, and John Adams, with Pierre Du Simitière as artist and consultant.[i]
Of the four men involved, only Benjamin Franklin was a Mason, and he contributed
nothing of a Masonic nature to the committee’s proposed design for a seal.
Simitière, the committee’s consultant and a non-Mason, contributed several
major design features that made their way into the ultimate design of the seal:
“the shield, E Pluribus Unum, MDCCLXXVI, and the eye of providence in a
The eye of providence on the seal thus can be traced not to the Masons, but to a
non-Mason consultant to the committee.
single eye was a well-established artistic convention for an ‘omniscient
Ubiquitous Deity’ in the medallic art of the Renaisance. Du Simitière, who
suggested using the symbol, collected art books and was familiar with the
artistic and ornamental devices used in Renaissance art.”[iii]
This was the same cultural iconography that eventually led Masons to add the
all-seeing eye to their symbols.
Second and Third Committees
declined the first committee’s suggestions as well as those of its 1780
commitee. Francis Hopkinson, consultant to the second committee, had several
lasting ideas that eventually made it into the seal: “white and red stripes
within a blue background for the shield, a radiant constellation of thirteen
stars, and an olive branch.”[iv]
Hopkinson’s greatest contribution to the current seal came from his layout of
a 1778 50-dollar colonial note in which he used an unfinished pyramid in the
third and last seal committee of 1782 produced a design that finally satisfied
Congress. Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress, and William Barton, artist and
consultant, borrowed from earlier designs and sketched what at length became the
United States seal.
misinterpretation of the seal as a Masonic emblem may have been first introduced
a century later in 1884. Harvard Professor Eliot Norton wrote that the reverse
was “practically incapable of effective treatment; it can hardly, (however
artistically treated by the designer,) look otherwise than as a dull emblem of a
“Remarks and Explanations” of Thomson and Barton are the only explanation of
the symbols’ meaning. Despite what anti-Masons may believe, there’s no
reason to doubt the interpretation accepted by the Congress.
Pyramid signified Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & the Motto allude
to the many signal interpositions of providence in favor of the American cause.[vi]
committees and consultants who designed the Great Seal of the United States
contained only one Mason, Benjamin Franklin. The only possibly Masonic design
element among the very many on the seal is the eye of providence, and the
interpretation of it by the designers is different from that used by Masons. The
eye on the seal represents an active intervention of God in the affairs of men,
while the Masonic symbol stands for a passive awareness by God of the activities
first “official” use and definition of the all-seeing eye as a Masonic
symbol seems to have come in 1797 with The
Freemason’s Monitor of Thomas Smith Webb—14 years after Congress adopted
the design for the seal. Here’s how Webb explains the symbol.
although our thoughts, words and actions, may be hidden from the eyes of man,
yet that All-Seeing Eye, whom the Sun,
Moon and Stars
obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous
revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will reward us
according to our merits.”[vii]
Eye in the Pyramid
the subtly different interpretations of the symbol, it is notable that Webb did
not describe the eye as being in a triangle. Jeremy Ladd Cross published The
True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor in 1819, essentially an
illustrated version of Webb’s Monitor.
In this first “official” depiction of Webb’s symbol, Cross had illustrator
Amos Doolittle depict the eye surrounded by a semi-circular glory.[viii]
all-seeing eye thus appears to be a rather recent addition to Masonic symbolism.
It is not found in any of the gothic constitutions, written from about 1390 to
1730. The eye—sometimes in a triangle, sometimes in clouds, but nearly always
surrounded by a glory—was a popular Masonic decorative device in the latter
half of the 18th century. Its use as a design element seems to have been an
artistic representation of the omniscience of God, rather than some generally
accepted Masonic symbol.
meaning in all cases, however, was that commonly given it by society at large—a
reminder of the constant presence of God. For example, in 1614 the frontispiece
of The History of the World by Walter
Raleigh showed an eye in a cloud labeled “Providentia” overlooking a globe.
It has not been suggested that Raleigh’s History
is a Masonic document, despite the use of the all-seeing eye.
eye of Providence was part of the common cultural iconography of the 17th and
18th centuries. When placed in a triangle, the eye went beyond a general
representation of God to a strongly Trinitarian statement. It was during this
period that Masonic ritual and symbolism evolved, and it is not surprising that
many symbols common to and understood by the general society made their way into
Masonic ceremonies. Masons may have preferred the triangle because of the
frequent use of the number 3 in their
ceremonies: three degrees, three original grand masters, three principal
officers, and so on. Eventually the all-seeing eye came to be used officially by
Masons as a symbol for God, but this happened towards the end of the eighteenth
century, after congress had adopted the seal.
pyramid, whether incomplete or finished, however, has never been a Masonic
symbol. It has no generally accepted symbolic meaning, except perhaps permanence
or mystery. The combining of the eye of providence overlooking an unfinished
pyramid is a uniquely American, not Masonic, icon, and must be interpreted as
its designers intended. It has no Masonic context.
hard to know what leads some to see Masonic conspiracies behind world events,
but once that hypothesis is accepted, any jot and tittle can be misinterpreted
as “evidence.” The Great Seal of the United States is a classic example of
such a misinterpretation, and some Masons are as guilty of the exaggeration as
The Great Seal and Masonic symbolism grew out of the same cultural milieu. While the all-seeing eye had been popularized in Masonic designs of the late eighteenth century, it did not achieve any sort of official recognition until Webb’s 1797 Monitor. Whatever status the symbol may have had during the design of the Great Seal, it was not adopted or approved or endorsed by any Grand Lodge. The seal’s Eye of Providence and the Mason’s All-Seeing Eye each express Divine Omnipotence, but they are parallel uses of a shared icon, not a single symbol.
Jeremy Ladd. The True Masonic Chart or
Hieroglyphic Monitor, 3rd ed. New Haven, Conn.: By the Author, 1824.
Robert. America’s Secret Destiny.
Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 1989.
Thomas Smith. The Freemasons Monitor or
Illustrations of Masonry. Salem, Mass.: Cushing and Appleton, 1821.
Robert Hieronimus, America’s Secret
Destiny (Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 1989), p. 48.
Patterson and Dougall in Hieronimus, p. 48.
Hieronimus, p. 81.
Hieronimus, p. 51.
Hieronimus, p. 57.
C. Thomas and W. Barton in Hieronimus, p. 54.
Thomas Smith Webb, The Freemasons
Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry (Salem, Mass.: Cushing and Appleton,
1821), p. 66.
Jeremy Ladd Cross, The True Masonic
Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor, 3rd ed. (New Haven, Conn.: By the Author,
1824), plate 22.