Eye of Providence – all-seeing eye of God
The Eye of Providence, or the all-seeing eye of God, is a symbol showing an eye often surrounded by rays of light or a glory and usually enclosed by a triangle. It is sometimes interpreted as representing the eye of God watching over humankind. (see Divine Providence).
Religious use of the Eye
Imagery of an all-seeing eye can be traced back to Egyptian mythology and the Eye of Horus. It also appears in Buddhism, where Buddha is also regularly referred to as the “Eye of the World” throughout Buddhist scriptures (e.g. Mahaparinibbana Sutta) and is represented as a trinity in the shape of a triangle known as the Tiratna, or Triple Gem.
In Medieval and Renaissance European iconography, the Eye (often with the addition of an enclosing triangle) was an explicit image of the Christian Trinity. Seventeenth-century depictions of the Eye of Providence sometimes show it surrounded by clouds or sun bursts.
In 1782, the Eye of Providence was adopted as part of the symbolism on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. It was first suggested as an element of the Great Seal by the first of three design committees in 1776 and is thought to be the suggestion of the artistic consultant, Pierre Eugene du Simitiere.
On the seal, the Eye is surrounded by the words Annuit Cœptis, meaning “He approves (or has approved) [our] undertakings”, and Novus Ordo Seclorum, meaning “New Order of the Ages”. The Eye is positioned above an unfinished pyramid with thirteen steps, representing the original thirteen states and the future growth of the country. The lowest level of the pyramid shows the year 1776 in Roman numerals. The combined implication is that the Eye, or God, favors the prosperity of the United States.
Today, the Eye of Providence is usually associated with Freemasonry. The Eye first appeared as part of the standard iconography of the Freemasons in 1797, with the publication of Thomas Smith Webb‘s Freemasons Monitor. Here, it represents the all-seeing eye of God and is a reminder that a Mason’s thoughts and deeds are always observed by God (who is referred to in Masonry as the Great Architect of the Universe). Typically, the Masonic Eye of Providence has a semi-circular glory below the eye. Sometimes the Eye is enclosed by a triangle.
Popular among conspiracy theorists is the claim that the Eye of Providence shown atop an unfinished pyramid on the Great Seal of the United States indicates the influence of Freemasonry in the founding of the United States. This was dramatized in the 2004 Disney film National Treasure. However, common Masonic use of the Eye dates to 14 years after the creation of the Great Seal. Furthermore, among the members of the various design committees for the Great Seal, only Benjamin Franklin was a Mason (and his ideas for the seal were not adopted). Indeed, many Masonic organizations have explicitly denied any connection to the creation of the Seal.
Other selected uses of the symbol
- The Coat of Arms of Brasłaŭ, Belarus
- On the original publication of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which also borrows iconography of the Ten Commandments
- The logo of the former Information Awareness Office, a division of DARPA within the United States Department of Defense
- The Steve Jackson Games logo
- Several college fraternities use the Eye of Providence in their coats of arms and/or badges, notablyDelta Tau Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Delta Theta and Delta Kappa Epsilon.
- The seal of The University of Mississippi.
- United States one-dollar bill – as part of the Great Seal (see above)
- The 50 Estonian krooni note
- The 500 Ukrainian hryvnia note
An alchemical woodcut showing the all-seeing eye of God floating in the sky.
A 1525 Jacopo Pontormopainting using the Eye of Providence in a triangle as a symbol of the Christian Trinity.
An all-seeing eye that appears on the tower ofAachen Cathedral.
An all-seeing eye that appears on the pedestal decorations of Alexander Column.
An all-seeing eye that appears on the top of Declaration of Human Rights (1789), French Revolution.
- ^ The eye as a Christian symbol, catholic-saints.com
- ^ Page on the Eye as a religious symbol from Religiousfacts.com
- ^ Freemasonry and the All-seeing Eye – from the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon website
- ^ The Great Seal of the United States booklet, published by US Dept. of State
- ^ Masonic Service Association webpage on the Eye in the Pyramid
- ^ Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, Anti-masonry Frequently Asked Questions
- ^ Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry, The “Masonic” One Dollar: Fact or Fiction? by W.Bro. David Barrett
- ^ Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache 1, 268.13
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