The ritual of Freemasonry is well
endowed with symbols – things familiar that could convey a
hidden meaning to those initiated.
Man uses signs, pictures, emblems
and words etc to convey ideas from individual to individual
and some of the afore-mentioned lend themselves to symbolism
more than others.
This was especially so in the Age
of Enlightenment during the 18th century and much more so in
what we know today as the USA, which came under French
The War of Independence won, it
was resolved on Independence Day 4/7/1776 by the Continental
Congress [pre Senate] and the victors to set about to devise a
Seal of the USA. Congress wanted a design that would reflect
their values to future generations.
Those involved were Benjamin
Franklin, J Adams and Thomas Jefferson assisted by the artist
Pierre Eugène Du Simitière. Du Simitière was an accomplished
portrait painter and had designed the state seals for Delaware
This lecture, in the main, revolves round this Seal. Some say that the Seal, now visible on the $ note [view pictures] is not a Masonic emblem but this shall be left to the reader’s conjecture as this essay evolves
Six weeks later the first
report was tabled and subsequently shelved for over 3 years. In 1780 the initial request was
referred to a new committee. [Messrs.Lovell, Scott and
Houston]. Artistic help was received from Francis Hopkinson
who was also responsible for designing the new flag. However
no further progress was made for another 2 years.
In early 1782 a 3rd
committee was chosen [Middleton, Rutledge and Elias Boudinot
and some assistance from a William Barton who was well-versed
in the science of heraldry] and in less than five days, they
came up with two rather complex designs. whose design was
deferred by Congress. The then Secretary of Congress
[Charles Thomason] took it upon
himself, with Barton’s assistance, to make some alterations
and a third design inspired by Hopkinson's image from the 1778
fifty dollar bill [a pyramid surrounded by the word DEO
FAVENTE PERENNIS = God favouring through the years] was then
resubmitted via the committee to Congress and the Seal was
At this point I would like to
point out that known Freemasons so far involved were Franklin,
Jefferson, Houston and William Barton but none of the final
designers were Freemasons. However we know that essentially
they continued working with the original basic schematic. Did
they use Masonic symbolism to assist their original and
subsequent art work – we do not know, but, if we examine the
Great Seal this is what we find:
I refer you at this point once
again to the green sheet in front of you. I have here also a
colour image of the Seal.
The USA Great Seal
Paleways of 13 pieces, argent and gules; escutcheon on the
breast of the American [ Bald] eagle displayed proper, holding
in his dexter [ right] talon an olive branch , and in his
sinister [ left ] a bundle of 13 arrows, all proper, and in
his beak a scroll inscribed with the motto, “ E PLURIBUS
For the CREST: Over the head of the eagle, which appears above
the escutcheon, a glory, or, or breaking through a cloud,
proper, and surrounding 13 stars, forming a constellation,
argent, on an azure field.
an unfinished pyramid. In the zenith, an eye in a
triangle, surrounded with a glory proper. Over the eye these
words, “ANNUIT COEPTIS.” On the base of the pyramid the
numerical letters MDCCLXXVI. And underneath the following
motto, “NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM”
ANNUIT COEPTIS: What does this mean?
the motto ANNUIT COEPTIS the
subject of the verb must be supplied, and the translator must
also choose the tense. In 1892 it was suggested that the
missing subject was in effect the eye at the apex of the
pyramid ... and thus the motto became-in the present tense-as
"it (the Eye of Providence) is favorable to our undertakings."
In later publication the missing subject of the verb
construed to be God, and the motto has been translated in more
recent Department publication-in the perfect tense- as "He
(God) has favored our undertakings".
NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM: What does this mean?
The motto has been traced to
Virgil, the renowned Roman poet who lived in the first century
B.C. – to a line in his Eclogue IV, the pastoral poem
that expresses the longing of the world for a new era of peace
"Magnus ab integro seclorum
Virgil's line has been translated
in different ways, including:
The great series of ages begins anew.
The ages' mighty march begins anew.
A mighty order of ages is born anew.
The majestic roll of circling centuries begins anew.
"Novus" means: new, young, fresh, novel.
"Ordo" means: series, row, order.
"Seclorum, a shortened form of
seculorum (sæculorum), is the plural of seculum (sæculum),
means: generations, centuries, or ages.
Thomson, a Latin expert, coined
the motto: "novus ordo seclorum"
and explained its
meaning: "The date underneath [the pyramid] is that of the
Declaration of Independence and the words under it signify the
beginning of the new American Era, which commences from that
The official English
translation of "novus ordo seclorum" is:
"A new order of the ages"
NOTE: "Novus ordo seclorum" was
not intended to mean (nor does it correctly translate into)
"new world order." Seclorum is plural (new worlds order?). And
Thomson said the motto refers to the beginning of a new age –
an American era beginning in 1776. The pyramid's rising rows
of construction help illustrate this new series of generations.
Thus together, the words signified
the beginning of the new American Era commencing from that
date seen at the base of the Pyramid.
Castings for seals were done in
1782 and 1841 but in 1883 the reverse was officially rejected
by a committee headed by Professor Elliot Norton of Harvard
University who said unequivocally that it was a dull emblem of
the Masonic fraternity. It was never cut! Further more it was
never really seen until 1935 when it appeared on the dollar
Now, are the symbols on this
Seal Masonic or here by chance? Is it our wishful thinking?
Let us examine these one by one
referring to the copies in front of you.
Let us reflect and consider
whether they are Masonic or whether we are deriving Masonic
benefit from them.
A point of historical interest.:
Before continuing, I should like to clarify that the Great
Seal is like a coin with two sides which now appear on the one
$ bill at the instigation of President Roosevelt in 1935;
separated left and right – the front [ obverse ] being on your
right and the reverse [ the pyramid ] on your left. I also
wish to point out hat the face of the eagle originally faced
the arrows but on President Truman’s insistence was redirected
in 1945 to the olive branches.
The eagle has 32 feathers on its
right wing, the number of ordinary degrees in Scottish Rite
The left wing has 33 feathers,
corresponding to the 33rd degree of the same rite
conferred for outstanding Masonic service.
The tail feathers number nine –
the number of degrees in Chapter, Council and Commandery of
the York Rite.
Scottish Rite had its origins in
France which with the York Rite being American there is a
representation of union of French and American masons in the
struggle for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
The total number of feathers
totals 65 which, by gematria, is the value of ‘gam yachad’ (
3+40+10+8+4) [Psalm 133- Hinei ma tov etc] a phrase
often used in Freemasonry.
The glory above the eagle’s head
is divided into 24 equal parts reminiscent of the 24 inch
gauge and is emblematic of the service you are to perform
every hour of the day.
The 5 pointed star may remind you
of the Masonic Blazing star and the 5 points of fellowship.
The arrangement of the stars in
the aforementioned constellation can form overlapping
equilateral triangles and this, the Star of David, brings to
mind the dream of a Temple.
The gold silver and azure colours
represent the sun moon and the WM i.e. the three small lights
certainly of the Nederlandic rite [which had its origins in
The golden glory may remind you of
the letter G, a conspicuous furnishing in any Lodge room.
The colours of the shield on the
Eagle’s breast – red, white and blue –are familiar to Royal
On the reverse [your left] is the
All Seeing Eye within a Triangle surrounded by a golden glory.
Besides the obvious Masonic
significance of this design [just look behind the WM] it is
also evident on the jewel of a Grand Master. – but not known
However this triangle is
equilateral entertaining a reference to the number 3; of
The triangle is well known to all
masons and may represent the capstone of the unfinished
An isosceles triangle [2 even
length sides] illustrates the Pythagorean Theorem or 47th
Problem of Euclid.
Note that this triangle is not
equilateral. Look carefully.
The pyramid has 13 steps.
It has light and dark sides –
symbolical of the profane and initiated?
Now one might think that number 13
was unlucky for some but consider the following:
13 original colonies
13 signatories to the declaration
13 stripes on the flag
13 letters in Latin over the
pyramid ANNUIT COEPTI S
13 stars above the eagle
13 bars on the shield
13 leaves on the olive branch
13 is the gematria of ‘echad’ i.e.
one denoting unity
So how are we doing so far?
Who is in favour of accepting Masonic influence?
Now let us pay attention to
the Treasury Seal – the side with George
This Seal in its present form
To many of you, without a shadow
of a doubt, this is definitely Masonic; especially to those in
the Scottish Rite, previously mentioned.
We see 3 predominant
items: Balancing scales obviously representing justice
A square with 13 stars [once
again the original states]
However let’s look closer. It is
NOT a square; it is a Chevron. The
represents the roof of a house, derived from the French word "chevron"
meaning rafter. It signifies protection. An artist may draw
at the height and angle that will best suit the accompanying
Prior to 1969 the chevron did
indeed look like a mason’s square.
Notice the date. This is the year
the Department was created.
By the way, the basic design of
the Treasury Seal is older than the Federal Government.
So there is nothing really
surprising here .That Freemasons use these symbols in a
symbolic manner could be a matter of expedience.
A note about Scottish Rite:
was founded in France 1754 and formalised in USA in 1786 but I
shall point out here that Benjamin Franklin was Ambassador
Royal to France and well acquainted with French Masonry.
I am now going to return to the
original principles and concerns behind the original artistic
creation of the one dollar bill.
Re the original design:
These four men worked together and
independently for a month and then each presented a design to
Congress. Adams presented a design by Simon Gribelin entitled
"Judgment of Hercules". From a note in Benjamin Franklin's
own handwriting he proposed a Biblical scene. "Moses standing
on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby
causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an
open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand.
Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, to
express that he acts by Command of the Deity." The motto
Franklin chose was "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to
God." Thomas Jefferson's concept was an image of the
children of Israel being led through the wilderness by a cloud
by day and a pillar of fire by night. For the reverse he
suggested an image of the brothers Hengist and Horsa who were
the leaders of the first Anglo-Saxon settlement in Britain.
In three other early designs a harp of David was depicted.
Most of the designs included an olive branch including the
final approved design and it carries on to today's seal. The
Biblical symbolism of the olive branch is of hope and peace,
the number of olives and leaves were not finalized at thirteen
until later committees.
Now we understand why it was
rejected and the project shelved.
single eye was a well-established artistic convention for an
'omniscient Ubiquitous Deity' in the art of the
Renaissance. The eye of Providence was part of the
common cultural iconography of the 17th and 18th Centuries
In 1614 the frontispiece of The History of the World
by Sir Walter Raleigh showed an eye in a cloud labeled "Providentia"
overlooking a globe. Du Simitiere, who suggested using the
symbol, collected art books and was familiar with the artistic
and ornamental devices used in Renaissance art. 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.
all-seeing eye of God is noted several times in the Bible:
Psalm 32:8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way
which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Psalm 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them
that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
Ezekiel 20:17 Nevertheless mine eye spared them from
destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the
As far as can be established the
All Seeing Eye was adopted by Masonry in 1797.
In his report Barton stated “The
Pyramid signifies Strength and Duration”
It is tenable, possibly, to draw a
correlation with our 2 pillars - strength and establishment.
Remember that Barton was a Freemason.
However, you will never find a
pyramid being used as a symbol in a Masonic ritual.
The 13 stars > Star of David
It has been said that this design
was done deliberately in recognition of Chaim [Haym] Solomon
(1740 - 1785) who was a prime
financier of the American side during the
American War of Independence against Great Britain. A
Jew born in Prussia/Poland, he died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
the paymaster-general of the French military forces
in the early times of the United States. It is
asserted that over $100,000 he advanced was never repaid. He
lent the young United Sates government about $600,000, and at
his death about $400,000 of this amount had not been repaid.
This was irrespective of what he had lent to statesman and
others while performing public duties and trusts.
In 1975 the United States Postal Service
issued a commemorative stamp honoring Haym Solomon for his contributions to the cause of
the American Revolution. This stamp was uniquely printed on
the front and the back. On the glue side of the stamp, the
following words were printed in pale, green ink:
"Financial Hero - Businessman and broker Haym Salomon was
responsible for raising most of the money needed to finance
the American Revolution and later to save the new nation from
Many Historians have said that
without his contribution to the cause "there would be no
Everything I have written is not
original work and is available on the Web in many various
sites, some more accurate than others. Indeed there are
several Masonic lectures and question& answer postings.
However research was needed to
bring the whole together and I am grateful to all those who
went before me to make my preparation a little easier.
I thus conclude that the Great
Seal is not a Masonic emblem and nor does it contain hidden
Masonry did, I am sure, borrow and
include these imageries wherever it was expedient to stress a
All the rest is coincidence and
wishful thinking, and in many cases propagated by persons with
distasteful anti-Masonic criticism.