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Behind the Masonic Symbols: The Eye of Providence

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The Eye of Providence, also known as the all-seeing eye, is a well-known symbol. It’s an important emblem in Freemasonry. Masonic symbols are used to make important concepts deeper and more profound. The All-Seeing Eye is one of the most well-known symbols in Freemasonry.

Visual symbols and emblems have been utilized by people throughout history to symbolize deeper meanings and value systems. In Freemasonry, the symbols, tales, and practices that reflect our path toward self-improvement and growth are often used to link us through common experiences and beliefs. Masonic coins, the Blazing Star, and the Beehive have all been studied in prior articles.

You are invited to join us as we examine the significance of the “Eye” in art and history and “The Eye of Providence” in the Masonic experience.

The Eye of Providence

Historical Origins and References of the Eye of Providence

‘Eyes’ have been used by cultures all throughout the world to transmit meaningful values. As far back as Sumerian history (c. 4500–1900 BCE), larger eyes were seen as a symbol of alertness and enlightenment. Eyes in ancient hieroglyphics were frequently linked to Horus’s narrative in Egyptian culture. According to Egyptian mythology, Horus, the god-king of Egypt, lost an eye in a battle with his uncle Set. His eyes were later restored to health by Thoth, and the eye was seen as a protective symbol representing the capacity to develop, heal, and triumph.

Later, reinterpretations of these older references to ‘eyes’ appeared. According to historical documents, the Eye of Providence was depicted in Renaissance art as a depiction of God or a higher power. A divine allusion can be seen in paintings like Pontormo’s Supper at Emmaus. The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in philosophical inquiry, is often cited by historians and social scientists as the impetus for the widespread use of this emblem. Seeing the eye served as a reminder to keep our eyes wide open and our minds open to the presence of something greater.

Behind the Masonic Symbols The Eye of Providence 2
Pontormo’s Supper at Emmaus, Oil on Canvas, 1525

The Eye of Providence first appeared in print in the 1593 edition of Iconologia, a book of emblems. It was written by Cesare Ripa, a well-known Italian author, and it was filled with references to Egyptian, Greek, and Roman iconic figures. Throughout the book, beautiful graphics and written descriptions based on oral history interviews were both employed. Symbols for virtues, vices, passions, and sciences were drawn from this text by orators, artists, poets, and enlightened philosophers. People have relied on symbols for guidance for millennia because they provide life, values, and character with a richer, more meaningful context.

The Eye of Providence, in Masonic Symbolism

Bro. Robert Moray’s personal seal is one of the first examples of the Masonic All-Seeing Eye (1609-1673). Freemason Bro. Moray was noted in Great Britain for his contributions to contemporary Freemasonry as well as his military service. Historicists have examined a wax impression of the seal that exhibits an eye in the middle of a circle and rays spreading outward. However, many historians believe that there is a strong link between this and the Eye of Providence.

Thomas Smith Webb’s book The Freemason’s Monitor, or Illustrations in Masonry, published in 1797, established a link between the Eye of Providence and American Freemasonry. The York Rite, in particular, owes a lot to the ideas presented in this book. The Eye has only recently emerged as a recognized emblem in the Craft prior to the release of this book.

Freemasons use the all-seeing eye symbol to recall the Great Architect’s vigilance. For us, brotherhood is living a life dedicated to helping others while also always working on our own personal growth and illumination. These symbols remind us of our commitment to Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth as we carry out our mission in all that we do. As a result, the Eye of Providence serves as a constant reminder that we must act justly and with humility before God and the rest of creation.

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