Eye of Providence
From About FreemasonsFreemasonry, although it should be noted that not only Masons have used the symbol over the years. The Eye of Providence depicts an eye which is usually contained in a triangle and usually with rays of light emanating from it. For some masons and for some other individuals and groups, The Eye of Providence is a symbol of God’s watchfulness over the world and over the people of the earth. However, conspiracy theorists and those mistrustful of Freemasonry sometimes assign ominous meanings to The Eye of Providence, believing that it is threatening in some way. Some conspiracy theorists suggest that the symbol represents dominance or authority, although most serious scholars and experts agree that this is not true. The Eye of Providence can be seen in Masonic Lodges and also appears on the Great Seal of the United States as well as on the United States One Dollar Bill.
Since Freemasonry began as an esoteric group, with many early members interested in the classic and pre-Christian worlds, it is not surprising that The Eye of Providence has some ancient roots. A similar symbol was used in Egyptian times, known then as the Eye of Hours. A symbol similar to The Eye of Providence has also been significant to Buddhism and Christianity (where it represented the Trinity).
Historians believe that Freemasons first used the symbol of The Eye of Providence in 1797. In that year, Thomas Smith Webb published his influential work, Freemasons Monitor. He used The Eye of Providence to represent the all-seeing eye of God, overlooking all the actions and thoughts of all Masons. Many Masons still interpret The Eye of Providence this way.
To some people, The Eye of Providence seems sinister, and in fact conspiracy theorists suggest that the fact that The Eye of Providence appears on the dollar bill and the Great Seal of the United States is “evidence” of Masonry’s undue influence over America. In fact, however, scholars have found that the Great Seal was created about 14 years before Masons began using The Eye of Providence widely. As well, historians often point out that a committee of designers created the Great Seal. Although Benjamin Franklin, a Mason, was on this committee, his designs were rejected. Therefore, the Great Seal was designed by people who were not Freemasons.
In addition to the Masons, many currencies and groups use a symbol similar to The Eye of Providence. Many fraternities and sororities, for example, use a similar symbol for their logos. Ukrainian and Estonian as well as American currencies have the symbol. The Coat of Arms of Braslau, Belarus, has a symbol that is very similar to The Eye of Providence. The Eye of Providence appears on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and on the seals of some universities. It is unlikely that all these groups and uses of The Eye of Providence can be traced back to Freemasonry. It is more likely that these uses have adopted the symbol from its earlier Egyptian, Christian, or other historic origins.