The All Seeing Eye, also known as the Eye of Providence, is a symbol depicting the reminder that all our actions and deeds are observed by a higher power. The symbol illustrates an eye which is often enclosed in the shape of a triangle and might even be surrounded by beams of light that seem to penetrate the triangle.
This symbol is seen everywhere, even on the monetary currency in America. This emblem is depicted in a variety of art and cultural representations, inspiring creativity within the artist realm.
Next time you visit an art museum, notice how many emblems of the all seeing eye you can find. It’s a fun game to play, because there’s truly an endless amount.
In this article, we will look at the journey of the all seeing eye throughout history. We will check out some common media movies and text that have symbology of the all seeing eye. We will observe how the all seeing eye appears in several religions.
We will take a look at all the artwork through different periods of time and culture that showcase all seeing eye symbolism. Finally, we will take a look at the all seeing eye as it commonly appears in society today. Let’s dive in now.
All Seeing Eye throughout History
Let’s go way back into the times of Ancient Egypt. Here, we begin to see the symbolism of the ancient eye through the depiction of the Eye of Horus. Known in Ancient Egypt as Wadjet, meaning’ whole one,’ the eye of Horus has a powerful mythological context to it.
According to one of the ancient myths, Horus was in a battle with his uncle Seth. In this battle, he lost his eye. The Goddess Hather kept a close eye on Horus during this time because legend has it she was his mother or wife. She restored his eye magically, thus creating this symbol of healing and love through the eye of Horus.
Because of the severe wound to Horus’ eye and the miraculous healing process initiated by the Goddess Hather, The Eye of Horus is thought of as a magical healing power, bringing faith to an area where there was once none.
A second origin myth behind The Eye of Horus goes as such. There are two brothers, Osiris and Set. Osiris was not your average joe.
He was the king of Egypt, while his brother was just a jealous little man. Set decided to poison his king brother to steal his throne and power. Osiris’s wife Isis had other plans.
She decided to use a bit of magic and bring her poor dead king husband back to life, just temporarily. While her husband was alive, she got pregnant with a son and named him Horus.
Osiris becomes the God of the underworld, and Horus ends up fighting, guess who, Set! That crazy king killer isn’t already dead yet? Not yet! Set goes on to tear out one of Horus’s eyes, and there are many ways the story goes from there. Each ending ends with Horus gaining his eye back through the healing power of the gods.
A third myth states that Horus’s father was gifted the eye by Horus to resolve order to the underworld. The eye was taken and eaten by his father, creating a symbolism of life and resurrection as represented by the eye.
Each of these myths demonstrates the magical protective power that the eye of Horus holds.
Like the symbolism of Horus’s eye, ancient Egyptians also had another symbol of an eye called the ‘Eye of Ra.’ However, this was not a protection symbol as the Eye of Horus was. Instead, it was a symbol of destructive forces.
According to the myth, there was once an old king named Ra. He had become so weak that he was taken advantage of. The eye of Ra was said to be a part of him that he took from the area between his eyebrows.
This energy became his daughter manifested in lion form. She caused chaos and war to disrupt the kingdom, killing everyone in sight.
When the king begged her to stop, she did not, so he tricked her into drinking barrels of beer, thinking it was blood. She fell silent for three days after because she felt so awful, and the kingdom was restored to balance.
This is not the only myth surrounding the eye of Ra, but it does depict the powerful and destructive symbolism behind the eye.
The interesting part of both of this symbolism is the dual nature inherently portrayed. On the one hand you have this protective eye of life and love, and on the other hand, you have this symbol of destruction and death.
Moving on through history, we begin to see the Eye of Providence appear during the Renaissance period. Providence literally translates to “divine guidance.”
The Eye of Providence was used in artistic depictions of Christian biblical stories to represent God, and the all seeing eye power this God has. The triangle surrounding the eye represents the holy trinity in Christianity, or The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. The light rays symbolize God’s divinity.
We’ve reached the All Seeing Eye and Freemason part of history
Freemasons were organizations that originated from the original stonemasons. These organizations quickly turned fraternal and took into account a higher power. The Freemasons adopted this symbol as a representation of a higher watchful power.
In 1792, The Great Seal was created in America as an image used to design American dollar bills. On the bottom of the seal is a motto, “Annuit Coeptis Novus ordo seclorum.” This translates as “The approval of this undertaking, a new order of the ages.” This motto is significant because it was written as the formation of a new country with a newly established government.
In 1798, during the French Revolution, the French government put out their “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.” You’ll never guess what symbolism shows up within this declaration.
Surprise, it’s the Eye of Providence. The symbolism here suggests that the revolution was being watched by God or a higher power, and there are times of unity ahead.
All Americans should be familiar with the all seeing eye because they see it on their dollar bills every day. Dig a little deeper, and you can see on the great seal a pyramid unfinished with an eye on top looking down at the pyramid structure.
At the very bottom of the pyramid, you can see some Roman numeral numbers starting 1776. A little bit of history mingles with conspiracy. Ah, we’ve finally reached the part of history where religious depictions take a turn for conspiracy theories.
Many conspiracy theories are surrounding the Freemasons and who they are. Some theorists believe that the Freemasons were the ones who founded the United States and remain in control. The eye of providence is thought to be the Freemasons way to depict an ever watching eye over society.
Other theorists question the Freemasons’ existence entirely and believe it is a government control tactic to use this symbolism as it is depicted in The Great Seal and other forms of symbolism.
Whatever the case may be, there’s no denying the All Seeing Eye’s symbolism throughout history, various cultural backgrounds, and the relevance it still plays in everyday ideology today.
The All Seeing Eye in the Media
The all seeing eye has become a famous depiction in modern media. Let’s take a look at some of the movies and writings using the all seeing eye symbol.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s popular middle earth novels, the all seeing eye imagery is associated with Sauron. Sauron’s orcs hold shields of imagery depicting this red-eye as a representation of him.
Frodo has a unique hell-like vision of a fiery eye. It seems that the eye symbolism in this story represents fear and dangerous wrath.
In the famous novel and now movie by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby depicts the all-seeing eye’s imagery. In this, the eye is seen on a billboard representing the eye of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.
This billboard is conveniently located over the valley of ashes. This is thought to represent the eye of God, always watching society’s flaws.
In The National Treasure movies, which are popular Hollywood films, the Eye of Providence is often depicted. This movie utilizes the symbolism in a more religious depiction, demonstrating the balance between religion and government.
In J. K. Rowling’s popular Harry Potter novels that are now movies, the all seeing eye can be depicted in photographs on the school walls. The symbol of the deathly hallows is also said to depict this all seeing eye imagery, as it is a triangle with a circle in the middle.
The photographs’ symbology seems to represent watchfulness and protective energy, while the deathly hallows symbol represents a dark and challenging presence.
As you can see, the All Seeing Eye symbol has become a popular depiction in modern-day media, each using this symbol to fit the purpose of their specific storyline.
The All Seeing Eye in Religion
In the history section, we sort of looked at the Eye of Providence, but let’s take a deeper dive.
The eye is said to represent God’s omnipresence and watchful protection and symbolize the holy trinity. You can find the Eye of Providence in many chapels and cathedrals, most notably the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The Eye of Providence is not only seen as artwork in these churches but can also be found in the foundational architecture itself!
In the abbey church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in Paris, there is a beautiful massive stained-glass imagery depicting the Eye of Providence.
In notable Christian artwork such as Supper at Emmaus by Italian painter Jacopo Pontormo, the Eye of Providence is painted above Christ’s head, representing God. This painting depicts a story after Jesus’s resurrection, in which he is having dinner with men at a town he is traveling through.
In Hinduism, the all seeing eye is depicted in many drawings in the yantras, which are religious texts. It is also symbolized as the third eye of Shiva.
Hinduism mythology creates Shiva as this God of balance through destruction and life. His right eye symbolized the sun, the left eye the moon. Both symbolize physical reality.
His third eye symbolizes fire and spiritual magic. Shiva is thought to use his third eye to restore balance to the forces of the world.
In Caodaism, the Eye of Providence is called the Divine Eye. Religious symbolism of this Divine Eye is everywhere throughout Caodaism art and text, and it symbolizes the total awareness of the universe.
The divine eye is seen in religious texts of Caodaism to symbolize everything and everyone, as well as nothing at all. In Buddhism, the third eye of the Buddha is known as the eye of inner wisdom that sees the world’s Dharma.
Dharma is often labeled the teachings of the Buddha, but the inner eye of wisdom depicts Dharma as the way the world just flows. Dharma is the universal truth and nature of the universe, which is seen of course, through this inner eye of wisdom.
>> Read more: Can you be a Catholic and Freemason?
The All Seeing Eye in Art
In the art world, the all seeing eye began as the Eye of Providence in Christianity’s renaissance art. Throughout art history, this eye symbology can be seen popping up in various art forms. You can google ‘All Seeing Eye Art’, all seeing eye tattoo, and up pops an Etsy page with tons of art pieces to choose from.
So why is this symbol so popular in artwork today?
There are a variety of reasons for the popularity of the all seeing eye. First and foremost, the all seeing eye’s history is deeply rooted in imagination and creativity, allowing for an outpour of artistic depictions.
Imagination gives birth to imagery and art.
Second, the all seeing eye can be traced to a variety of historical context, as you well know from this article. Because of this, many cultures resonate with the imagery of the all seeing eye.
Since art has its roots in different cultures, it’s only natural that many cultures create art around similar ideologies.
Drawing from Ancient Egyptian mythology, Horus is often created in statue form. He is depicted as a falcon-like creature usually seated on a throne with a large eye representing the Eye of Horus.
Likewise, the Hindu god Shiva is often manifested into artwork such as statues and paintings. In these statues and paintings of Shiva appears the detail of his third eye, which we know represents the spiritual realm.
There is even art created through mathematical equations of the eye of Horus. According to the myth, because the eye of Horus was torn into six parts, there are six variables that offer an equation of each part.
The right side of the eye is ½, the left side of the eye is 1/16, the pupil inside the eye is ¼, the eyebrows above the eye are ⅛, the tail curving beneath the eye is 1/32, and the teardrop formed beneath the eye is 1/64.
This is a mathematical, artistic rendering of a very esoteric idea. Now that we’ve skimmed the top of a very deep ocean of artwork, let’s check out the symbolic structure of the all seeing eye.
Let’s take a look at symbolism within the All Seeing Eye
As stated earlier, the all seeing eye originated as a depiction of an eye inside a triangle surrounded by rays of light. Let’s break these elements down.
The eye represents a higher power and the ability of that higher power to be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. This watchful energy is ever-present, this presence will never stop watching.
The eye is a reminder of a higher power.
The triangle is thought to be derived from Christianity and represents the holy trinity. The holy trinity in Christianity is of course God as Father, God as Son, and God as the Holy Spirit.
All of which are the same but different manifestations of God and provide different support to the triangle. In Hinduism, the threefold represents the sun, the moon, and the heavens, the three forces responsible for all existence.
In New Age Spirituality, a triangle can be a representation of the geometric folds of the universe.
While there are diverse definitions of what precisely the triangle represents, it all represents some sort of higher power and connection with reality.
The rays of light and sometimes clouds that are depicted behind the triangles are thought to represent God, Holiness, Spirit, the Universe, etc. The rays of light are also thought to represent spiritual enlightenment or a spiritual illumination of sorts.
If you take a look at some religious artwork, you’ll find rays of light behind crosses, mythological gods, behind mountains and trees, you’ll find light beams all throughout religious artwork.
Light equals the opposite of dark. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, the opposite of confusion, weakness, and hatred as depicted by satanic works of art.
Therefore, light is often associated with the highest good, God, or peaceful bliss, while dark is more commonly associated with evil and malicious deeds.
Like the All Seeing Eye and the Eye of Providence, the Eye of Horus also is broken down into elements that have individual symbology relating to the senses of our body.
Think back to the artistic, mathematical rendering we discussed in the art section. There were six parts. Similar to each part having a mathematical equation, each part symbolizes a sense we have.
The right side of the eye symbolizes the sense of smell. The left side symbolizes the sense of hearing. The pupil represents our sense of sight, as it is right in the middle of our witnessing orbs.
The eyebrows are symbolic of thought, a sense that is often forgotten among the greater five senses. The curved tail symbolizes our sense of taste, and the teardrop symbolizes the sense of touch.
How is the All Seeing Eye used today?
As we’ve discussed earlier, modern religion uses the all seeing eye symbol often. The Eye of Providence is built into the structural architecture of cathedrals and chapels.
The Eye of Providence is also commonly found in religious artwork, ranging from prophets’ paintings with this eye to stained glass windows inside churches.
The Eye of Providence is not the only all seeing eye symbolism found in modern-day religion. The all seeing eye can be depicted on statues of Shiva in Hinduism as the Third Eye.
Once worn as an occult to protect oneself from evil energy, the Eye of Horus can be found in popular everyday jewelry.
Some still wear it as an amulet for protection, while others just like the charm of the eye itself. Whatever the case may be, there’s no denying the popularity of the Eye of Horus in modern-day fashion.
In Mediterranean countries, fishermen would paint their boat with the symbol of the Eye of Horus to call for protection from the gods. It is still a famous sea symbol today.
The Eye of Horus was used when conducting funeral services in ancient Egypt. Amulets were often found in temples, pyramids, and tombs. Not commonly done today, some religions still honor the symbol as a religious passage for the person who died.
Some also say that the Rx found on our pharmaceutical bottles was constructed from depicting the Eye of Horus.
Today, many people consider the all seeing eye, whatever form it manifests as, to be a symbol of knowledge and power.
Whatever the case may be, there’s no denying this is a powerful symbol with a deep and meaningful connection derived through various cultures throughout many time periods.
We’ve taken a look at the history of the all seeing eye. We’ve seen it portrayed in the media. We see it’s symbology pop up in a number of different religions. We’ve seen it in different artworks throughout time.
We’ve broken down the symbolism of the all seeing eye. I hope you gained insight into the powerful cultural background the all seeing eye holds. Take time to reflect on all this information, and figure out what the all seeing eye means for you.