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Stained Glass Panel, Eye-Catcher

A portion of a large, 4-story stained glass window at St. Joseph's Hospital.

 

I looked online for the symbolism of the eye on the pyramid, a symbol you may recognize from the American dollar bill. Here is what I found:

 

"The Great Seal was first used on the reverse of the one-dollar Federal Reserve note in 1935. The Department of State is the official keeper of the Seal. They believe that the most accurate explanation of a pyramid on the Great Seal is that it symbolizes strength and durability. The unfinished pyramid means that the United States will always grow, improve and build. In addition, the "All-Seeing Eye" located above the pyramid suggests the importance of divine guidance in favor of the American cause.

 

The pyramid signifies strength and duration: The eye over it and the motto, Annuit Coeptis (meaning He, [Godj has favored our undertakings), allude to the many interventions of Providence in favor of the American cause.

 

"As you know if you've read the fine print, what you see on the back of a dollar bill is the great seal of the U.S., established by Congress on June 20, 1782. The official interpretation is that the pyramid represents strength and durability. It's incomplete because so is the work of building the nation. The eye in the triangle is the all-seeing eye of providence.

 

What makes the story interesting is that the eye and pyramid have links to Freemasonry. The eye, for example, is said to be a symbol of the Great Architect of the Universe, i.e., God. The symbolic significance of the pyramid and the eye were well known to educated folk of the 18th century, and one may argue that the Masons and the designers of the seal were merely drawing on the same symbolic sources. But what if ... one pauses pregnantly ... there's more to it?

 

Due to incomplete records, nobody knows exactly how many of the founding fathers were Masons. But there were quite a few, including George Washington, Ben Franklin, and possibly Thomas Jefferson. Franklin and Jefferson were on the committee assigned to design the great seal. This group produced a design calling for, among other things, an all-seeing eye. While the eye was cool, the design otherwise pretty much stank, and the job wound up getting dumped on the secretary of the Congress, Charles Thomson. Thomson enlisted the aid of Philadelphian William Barton. The two cooked up the scheme we have today, incorporating the all-seeing eye plus a pyramid, because everybody liked the idea of Egyptian symbolism.

 

It's not known if Barton and Thomson were Masons, and judging from surviving correspondence there's no indication a Masonic connection crossed anybody's mind at the time. But it's crossed lots of minds since....Joseph Campbell, in The Power of Myth, proposed a wacky but basically genial interpretation that works in Solomon's Seal and the Pythagorean tetrakys and Egyptian folklore. Upshot: the seal is a symbolical representation of democracy. Fine as far as it goes, but lacking the essential element of paranoia. For this we turn to the religious right, which sees the eye and pyramid as evidence of a Masonic plot (by George Washington!) to destroy Christianity."

 

from the Cecil Adams ("The Straight Dope") column on the subject.

www.straightdope.com/

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Taken on July 26, 2006