Eye of Providence
The Eye of Providence (or the All-Seeing Eye of God) is a symbol that depicts an eye, often enclosed in a triangle and surrounded by rays of light or glory, meant to represent divine providence, whereby the eye of God watches over humanity. A well-known example of the Eye of Providence appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, which is depicted on the United States one-dollar bill.
Use by governments and confederations
In 1782, the Eye of Providence was adopted as part of the symbolism featured on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. It was first proposed 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, and at the time, was a conventional symbol for God’s benevolent oversight.
In his original proposal to the committee, du Simitiere placed the Eye over shields so as to symbolize each of the original thirteen states of the Union. On the version of the seal that would eventually be approved, the Eye is positioned above an unfinished pyramid of thirteen steps (again symbolizing the original States, but also incorporating the nation's potential for future growth). Such symbolism is explained through the motto that appears above the Eye, annuit cœptis, meaning "He approves [our] undertakings" (or "has approved").
Perhaps due to its use in the design of the Great Seal, the Eye has made its way into other American seals and logos, such as, for example:
The Eye of Providence has been used among various forms of currency throughout U.S. history, including:
- the United States one-dollar bill, as part of the Great Seal
- the Vermont Copper
- Nova Constellatio patterns of 1783
- Nova Constellatio coppers of 1783 and 1785
- some Immune Columbia issues
The Eye of Providence appears on several Lithuanian insignia, including:
- The Coat of Arms of Alovė
- The Coat of Arms of Baisogala
- The Coat of Arms of Kalvarija
- The Coat of Arms and Flag of Plungė
- The Coat of Arms and Flag of Šiauliai
The Eye of Providence appears on the Coat of Arms of Brasłaŭ, Belarus, and of Wilamowice, Poland. The Eye was also part of the flag and coat of arms adopted by the Confederation of the Equator, a short lived 1824 secessionist revolt in the Northeastern provinces of Brazil. In the United Kingdom, the symbol was part of the Guards Division insignia, created in 1915.
The Eye was included in the original publication of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which also borrows iconography from the Ten Commandments. Similarly, the symbol is featured on the front page of the Constitution of Serbia from 1835. Similaly, in Nigeria, the eye symbol is part of Nigeria Customs Service logo. It's also the logo of DSTV's popular reality programme, Big Brother Naija.
Today, the Eye of Providence is often associated with Freemasonry, first appearing as part of the standard Freemason iconography in 1797 with the publication of Thomas Smith Webb's The Freemason's Monitor.
In this use, the Eye, representing the all-seeing eye of God, serves as a reminder that humanity'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 semicircular glory below it, and is sometimes 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. However, common Masonic use of the Eye dates to 14 years after the creation of the Great Seal. Furthermore, the only Mason among the members of the various design committees for the Great Seal was Benjamin Franklin, whose ideas for the seal were not adopted. Likewise, various Masonic organizations have explicitly denied any connection to the creation of the Seal.
Use in religion
The association of an eye with the concept of Divine Providence is found in Christianity. In late Renaissance European iconography, the Eye, surrounded by a triangle, was an explicit symbol of the Christian Holy Trinity. The Eye of Providence was later painted above an image of three faces in Pontormo's 1525 Supper at Emmaus. Seventeenth-century depictions of the Eye sometimes show it surrounded by clouds or sunbursts. The Eye of God in a triangle is still used in church architecture and Christian art to symbolize the Trinity and God's omnipresence and divine providence.
The Eye of Providence is notably featured on the following Eastern Orthodox, Latter-day Saint, and Catholic buildings, among others:
- The Kazan Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, Russia
- The Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Jesuit Church, Mannheim, Germany
- Shio-Mgvime Monastery, Mtskheta, Georgia
Commonly in the context of a reference to the Illuminati, numerous video games, TV shows, films, books, and websites contain depictions of the Eye.
University/college insignia and logos of organisations
Several universities and college fraternities use the Eye of Providence in their coats of arms, seals, or badges, notably:
- Delta Tau Delta, based in Bethany, West Virginia
- Phi Kappa Psi, based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
- Phi Delta Theta, based in Oxford, Ohio.
- Delta Kappa Epsilon, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan
All-Seeing Eye on the pedestal decorations of Alexander Column
All-Seeing Eye on the gate of Aachen Cathedral
All Seeing Eye cross
- "The eye as a Christian symbol". catholic-saints.com.
- "The Eye as a religious symbol". Religiousfacts.com. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2009-12-09.
- "Freemasonry and the All-seeing Eye". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.
- Bureau of Public Affairs. July 2003. "The Great Seal of the United States." Washington: U.S. Department of State Archive; See also "Great Seal." Bureau of Public Affairs. 2002. Both retrieved 6 June 2020.
- Wilson, Matthew. "The Eye of Providence: The symbol with a secret meaning?", BBC, 13 November 2020
- "Annuit Coeptis - History of Motto Above Great Seal's Eye of Providence". greatseal.com.
- "Thirteen - America's Number On the Great Seal of the United States". greatseal.com.
- Spurrier, Lianna. 7 November 2018. "Lost & Found: The Nova Constellatio Set" (video, 5:40). YouTube.
- "Constellatio Nova Coppers - Introduction". coins.nd.edu. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
- "Immunis Columbia Copper (backdated) 1787: Introduction". coins.nd.edu. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
- Morris, S. Brent. 13 January 2010. "The Eye in the Pyramid." Short Talk Bulletin. Silver Spring, MD: Masonic Service Association. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
- Webb, Thomas Smith.  1821. The Freemasons Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry. Salem, MA: Cushing and Appleton. p. 66.
- "Anti-masonry Frequently Asked Questions". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.
- Barrett, David, W.Bro. "The "Masonic" One Dollar: Fact or Fiction?". Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry.
- David Baker (February 21, 2020). "Optical connections: The all-seeing eye". opticianonline.net.
- Potts, Albert M. (1982). The World's Eye. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 68–78. ISBN 978-0-8131-3130-6.
- Media related to Eye of Providence at Wikimedia Commons