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Symbols (front)
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 MDCCLXXVI

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   Masonic?

Themes
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 Thirteen

Related
 Wild Turkey
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Is the Pyramid & Eye on the Great Seal
(and Dollar Bill) a Masonic Symbol?

The unfinished pyramid with an eye in a triangle in its zenith is an original and revolutionary design created in 1782. It is the centerpiece of the reverse side of America's Great Seal, the official sign of sovereignty that represents the United States and its citizens. Prior to 1782, this imagery was not used as a symbol by any organization.

Together, the two sides of the Great Seal are a unique combination of images from nature (eagle, olive branch, stars, cloud, light rays, eye) and culture (pyramid, arrows, shield). But no one has an exclusive association with any of these symbols.

Designing the Great Seal involved three committees, six years, and several of America's most gifted Founders who represented diverse experiences and points-of-views. But only four men actually contributed elements to the final design. And they were not Freemasons. Their names are linked below.

Members and Consultants
of the Great Seal Design Committees

  • Definitely a Mason: Benjamin Franklin.
  • Definitely not Masons: John Adams and Charles Thomson.
  • No firm evidence of a Masonic connection, although allegations of such a connection have been noted: Thomas Jefferson*, James Lovell, Francis Hopkinson, Arthur Middleton, and John Rutledge.
  • No records at all, so presumably not Masons: Pierre Du Simitière, John Morin Scott, William Church Houston, Arthur Lee, Elias Boudinot, and William Barton (although he has at times been confused with another William Barton who was a Mason).

"It seems likely that the designers of the Great Seal and the Masons took their symbols from parallel sources, and unlikely that the seal designers consciously copied Masonic symbols with the intention of incorporating Masonic symbolism into the national coat of arms."

The Eagle and the Shield:
A History of the Great Seal of the United States
.
Meticulously researched, this 1976 book
is still the finest reference on the U.S. Seal.

*Research since 1976 concludes that Jefferson was not a Freemason.

Commentary:

Together with other colonists, Freemasons helped found and build the United States. And like many Americans over the centuries, they have appreciated the Great Seal that symbolizes their nation. Also because it resonates with their fraternity's ideals. This includes Henry A. Wallace and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the men responsible for putting both sides of the seal on the one-dollar bill in 1935.

But just because some masonic lodge somewhere at sometime used a symbol, doesn't make it a "masonic symbol," let alone an exclusive one. Freemasonry involves many many symbols, including the five-pointed star. Does that make the American flag a masonic symbol?

And it's nonsense to think that if someone recognizes the significance of the Great Pyramid or believes Providence favored the American cause, then they must be a Freemason.

"A pyramid, whether incomplete or finished, however, has never been a Masonic symbol."

"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."

"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."

"The Great Seal of the United States is not a Masonic emblem, nor does it contain hidden Masonic symbols."

Masonic Service Association of North America

If after 1782, the Great Seal's symbolism was adopted by the Freemasons, or by any group, that does not change the original meaning of this key founding document.

But the perception of a symbol's meaning can change. That's why Americans must honor and protect their seal, their heritage, from being commandeered by any group whatsoever – whether it be fraternal or religious, political or commercial.



Historical content is based on the official history of the Great Seal.
Copyright ©2014 by John D. MacArthur.