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NOTE: The Great Seal of the United States can be easily
viewed on the back of a one-dollar bill. Although the colors
mentioned in this article won't be visible, it is still an
easily obtained reference point for your convenience. The
OBVERSE is on the right side (the eagle), while the REVERSE
is on the left side (the pyramid) of the instrument.
Man is an enigmatic creature having a dual nature,
temporal and spiritual. His institutions reflect the
multiple facets of his complex and varied mental processes.
He is at once occupied with the routine of satisfying the
basic human needs for food, clothing, and shelter and the
less tangible and more varied spiritual and social needs.
His viewpoints are as varied as the individuals, subject not
only to the external changes of environment but to self-
created internal changes. Man alone has within himself any
considerable power of thought or imagination. One facet of
man's behavior to come out of his imagination, superstition,
spiritual groping, and reasoning is symbolism.

Signs, pictures, objects, emblems, words, numerals,
music, or any means of conveying ideas from one individual to
another become the vehicle of symbolism or symbols. Certain
of man's activities lend themselves more readily to symbolism
than others. The ritual of Freemasonry is especially rich in
symbols - familiar things that convey a hidden meaning to the
initiated. Philosophic Masonry is the heir to the symbolism
practiced in the ancient mysteries, the Hebrew Cabal, and
medieval Rosicrucian societies.

In this present age, where material things engross
almost every waking hour, symbolism has lost much of its
fascination, but this was not so in the eighteenth century
when the [American] revolutionary heroes pledged their lives,
their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the erection of the
new nation. As the crisis moved toward its climax the ideals
for which they fought began to assume symbolic form. Late in
the afternoon of July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress
"resolved, that Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams and Mr. Jefferson
be a committee to prepare a device for a Seal of the United
States of America." On August 20 the committee reported its
design to Congress; but the report was tabled, and for three
years and a half no further action was taken. On March 25,
1780, the report of the first committee was referred to a new
committee consisting of James Lovell, John Morin Scott, and
William Churchill Houston. This committee received artistic
assistance from Francis Hopkinson. A new design was reported
on May 10 (or 11), 1780, but debate was followed by
recommital to the committee with no further progress for two
more years. In the spring of 1782, a third committee,
composed of Arthur Middleton, John Rutledge, and Elias
Boudinot with the assistance of William Barton, A.M.,
reported a third design for a seal to congress which was also
found not satisfactory. On June 13, 1782, Congress referred
all of the committee reports to Charles Thomason, Secretary
of Congress. Thomason prepared a design from these reports
and submitted it to Barton who suggested a few changes on
June 19, 1782. Thomason immediately wrote his report to
Congress and submitted it on June 20, 1782; the report was
accepted the same day and thus the design of the great seal
was fixed. It is described as follows:

ARMS: Paleways of thirteen pieces, argent and
gules; a chief, azure; the escutcheon on the breast of
the American eagle displayed proper, holding in his
dexter talon an olive branch, and in his sinister a
bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, and in his beak a
scroll, inscribed with the motto, "E PLURIBUS UNUM."
For the CREST: Over the head of the eagle, which
appears above the escutcheon, a glory, or, breaking
through a cloud, proper, and surrounding thirteen stars,
forming a constellation, argent, on an azure field.
REVERSE: A pyramid unfinished. In the zenith, an
eye in a triangle, surrounded with a glory proper. Over
the eye these words, "ANNUIT COEPTIS." On the base of
the pyramid the numerical letters MDCCLXXVI. And
underneath the following motto, "NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM."

Among those who helped design the Great Seal of the
United States the following are known to have been Masons:
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, William Churchill
Houston, and William Barton. Whether they drew heavily upon
Freemasonry in this work it is impossible to assert but when
an informed Mason examines the Great Seal here is what he

On the obverse is an eagle whose dexter wing has thirty-
two feathers, the number of ordinary degrees in Scottish Rite
Freemasonry. The sinister wing has thirty-three feathers,
the additional feather corresponding to the Thirty-Third
Degree of the same Rite conferred for outstanding Masonic
service. The tail feathers number nine, the number of
degrees in the Chapter, Council, and Commandery of the York
Rite of Freemasonry. Scottish Rite Masonry had its origin in
France; the York Rite is sometimes called the American Rite;
the eagle thus clothed represents the union of French and
American Masons in the struggle for Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity. The total number of feathers in the two wings is
sixty-five which, by gematria, is the value of the Hebrew
phrase YAM YAWCHOD (together in unity). This phrase appears
in Psalm 133 as follows: "Behold, how good and how pleasant
it is for brethren to dwell together in unity," and is used
in the ritual of the first degree of Freemasonry. The glory
above the eagle's head is divided into twenty-four equal
parts and reminds the observer of the Mason's gauge which is
also divided into twenty-four equal parts and is emblematic
of the service he is obligated to perform. The five pointed
stars remind him of the Masonic Blazing Star and the five
points of fellowship. The arrangement of the stars in the
constellation to form overlapping equilateral triangles and
the Star of David calls to the Mason's mind King David's
dream of building a Temple, to his God, the Companions who
rebuilt a desecrated Temple, and the finding of the Word that
was lost. The gold, silver, and azure colors represent the
sun, moon, and Worshipful Master, the first that rules the
day, the second, the night, and the third, the lodge. While
silver, connected with the letter Gimel or G and being
surrounded on an azure ground by a golden glory, reminds the
Mason of the letter G, a most conspicuous furnishing of a
proper lodge room. The shield on the eagle's breast affirms
by its colors, valor (red), purity (white), and justice
(blue), and reminds the Mason of the cardinal virtues. The
value of these colors, by gematria, is 103, the value of the
phrase EHBEN HA-ADAM (the stone of Adam) and suggests the
perfect ashlar, or squared stone, of Freemasonry. One
hundred and three is also the value of the noun BONAIM, a
Rabbinical word signifying "builders, Masons." Thus the
national colors spell out, by gematria, the name of the
fraternity. The scroll in the eagle's beak, bearing the
words E PLURIBUS UNUM (of many one) reminds him also of the
unity which has made brothers of many.

On the reverse, is the All Seeing Eye within a triangle
surrounded by a golden glory. Besides the obvious Masonic
significance of this design, it has a cabalistic value of
seventy plus three plus two hundred, equaling two hundred and
seventy-three which is the value of the phrase EHBEN MOSU
HABONIM (the stone which the builders refused) familiar to
all Royal Arch Masons. It is also the value of the Hebrew
proper noun HIRAM ABIFF, the architect of Solomon's Temple
and the principal character of the legend used in the Master
Mason degree. The triangle is isosceles, formed by two right
triangles having sides of five, twelve, and thirteen units in
length, illustrating the 47th Problem of Euclid. The
triangle also represents the capstone of the unfinished
pyramid and reminds the Mason of the immortality of the soul
and that in eternity he will complete the capstone of his
earthly labors according to the designs on the trestle-board
of the Supreme Architect of the Universe. The unfinished
pyramid cannot fail to remind him of the unfinished condition
of the Temple when tragedy struck down its Master architect.

The blaze of glory found on either side of the Great
Seal cannot fail to remind the Mason of the Great Light in
Masonry which is the rule and guide to faith and practice and
without which no Masonic lodge can exist. It reminds him
that only more light can dispel the pall of ignorance in
which he stumbles until he enters the Celestial Lodge where
all light is given.

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