Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D. Author of the Month for November 2008
When Symbol-Minded Becomes Simple-Minded: Defending America's Symbols (cont.)
By Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D.
The One Dollar Bill and the 20th Century Birth of the Great Seal Conspiracy Theories
It was possibly an anti-Roosevelt backlash generated by the 1935 dollar bill design that first linked this symbol with the conspiracy theory. The first use in print we have found so far that mis-identifies the reverse of the Great Seal as an insignia of the Illuminati is William Guy Carr's Pawns in the Game, first published in 1955. Carr capitalized on the anti-Communism scare of his time by updating the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Nesta Webster and the proven hoax, The Protocols of Zion. We are currently looking into the possibility that Carr appropriated these connections between the Great Seal and the Illuminati from an earlier source, possibly the American Nazi anti-Roosevelt literature of the 1935-1936 era tying his reforms to a Jewish-inspired Illuminati conspiracy.
Identifying the Illuminati with the Great Seal, or anything remotely resembling it showing a pyramid or an eye, is a fabrication. Unfortunately this erroneous link has effectively filtered into the consciousness of our nation to the point that today, though they may not know quite why, many people think the reverse of the Great Seal is a little bit spooky. Much of this is thanks to works of fiction like the popular role-playing game developed by Steve Jackson in the 1980s, and a series of novels by tricksters Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea in the 1970s, both elaborately detailed tongue-in-cheek satire. There is no documentation linking the eye in the triangle with the Bavarian Illuminati, and the best the conspiratorialists can do is claim that documents proving the Bavarian Illuminati used this symbol were formerly on display at the British Museum until they mysteriously disappeared.
Even though the link to the Freemasons or the Illuminati is not there, the irrational fear that a vocal group today has of these secret societies infects everything they say about the Great Seal. This means that everything they say about the seal is based on a false assumption. We found this situation repeating itself frequently as we looked at the astoundingly negative interpretations that have been proposed for some of our other beloved American symbols. For the most part the fundamentalist-conspiratorialist assumptions are based on jumps in conclusion resulting in faulty interpretations that apply to only one level of the symbol.
Creating a sense of fear about our Founding Fathers, or about the Freemasons, or about any of our American symbols is a waste of time, but it could also be a carefully planned distraction from the religious right. The George W. Bush administration was elected in large measure thanks to the support from the fundamentalist evangelical voting block. As a result, we have an administration that is driven by war profiteering interests and is ignoring the world scientific consensus regarding needs for environmental safeguards threatening even the short-term future for our children. Instead of standing up to vote them out, many of our fundamentalist-conspiratorialist friends are absorbed in finding clues to prove our Founding Fathers were secretly Satan-worshipping Illuminati Masons.
The Age of Enlightenment
The real reasons our founders often borrowed symbols from the Greco-Roman era are far less exciting than the currently popular theory that they were anti-Christian libertines coaxing future generations to unwittingly venerate pagan icons. Though the majority of our founders were Christians, to be sure, what the Founding Fathers deliberately did not create was a Christian nation. They created a land of religious tolerance, so that all faiths could worship as they choose without persecution from the state. Christianity was not being promoted. Religious tolerance and liberty were being promoted. These are also Christian ideals, of course, cite for reference the story of the Good Samaritan, but our Founding Fathers were declaring that it was the American way to be respectful of those who worship differently.
The biggest influence on the designs that were intentionally created for this country was the Age of Enlightenment. Indeed, our revolution is often cited as one of the most successful outcomes of these new ideas of freedom and knowledge spreading all over Europe. The architects of our government were excited by the democratic and educational ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, and they boldly took the next step beyond what was still only theory in Europe. They put the experiment into action, and surprisingly, they won. Our Founding Fathers declared they would live and operate under self-rule and dreamed of recreating earlier democratic societies where men lived in general peace and self-governance. They determined that their new country would carry this torch of freedom forward. As a natural course, the symbols they chose and the art and architecture they left behind were styled mainly after their role models: ancient Greece and Rome. Symbols of enlightenment from other cultures were also used, but most often it's the Greco-Roman influence that we see in early American art, architecture and symbolism. The largest example of this neoclassical trend in design is our nation's capital, Washington, DC.
Our founders believed they were making history. They believed they were witnessing the end of oppression, of church-state alliance, and government-promoted religion. The "New Order of the Ages" was the beginning of rule by the people. Today's religious right who currently sit in power have tried to rewrite this essential element of our history to claim their authority for legislating morality according to their own narrowly defined ideas.
From the Great Seal, it's a Hop, Skip, and a Jump to Attack America's Other Symbols
Go to your average anti-Masonic websites and you will read that the Statue of Liberty is a not-so-veiled symbol for the Illuminati Enlightening the World. The writer will then go on to tell you that all goddesses are evil, and ultimately are expressions of the Great Whore of Babylon, the arch-enemy of Christ. This belief is frighteningly common among the hugely popular Pentacostal and Evangelical mega-churches spreading all over this country with followers including the current (October 2008) Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.
Other anti-Masonic websites like those of David Bey and Texe Marrs will tell you that every time you see the eagle symbol it is actually a secret nametag proclaiming membership in the club of Satan-worshipping Illuminati Masons. They link the American eagle to the Freemasonic double-headed eagle symbol, as well as to the Nazi use of the German Imperial eagle. By selectively emphasizing two groups they fear who also used the eagle, they can then claim that when Hillary Clinton wears an eagle lapel pin, it "proves our contention that Hillary and Bill Clinton are practicing Illuminists," according to David Bey. Texe Marrs uses the Freemasonic eagle symbol to conclude that the allegedly coded phrase of "The eagle has landed," proves that NASA is controlled by the Illuminati.
And we can't forget our national capital, chock full of symbols ripe for the picking. Other Anti-masonic websites have a field day tracing geometrical symbols in the street layout of Washington, DC, and forcibly interpreting the neoclassical statuary to fit their argument that Satan is lurking in every corner!
I invite you to read my new book where we look at each of these arguments in turn and balance them against the documentable historical data that refutes most of their claims. We also provide numerous, considerably different interpretations of America's symbols based on potential influences by world cultures, religions, secret societies, archetypes and popular usage. What we conclude is that they are all ultimately about balance and unity. Strength in numbers. Out of Many One. Or as the Woodstock generation put it, We Are All One.
America's symbols really do contain clues to treasure maps just as the summer blockbusters tell us, but the treasure is not gold and silver. It is knowledge of the path to higher consciousness, which is our country's destiny. The Great Seal was chosen as a symbol for early Americans to emulate, and to remind us that we are not complete as humans or as a nation without God or the conscious soul. It was not designed as a clue that any one particular group was secretly in charge. Secret and non-secret societies for centuries have honored the individual symbols that make up the reverse of the Great Seal for the same reasons Americans today should still honor them. They remind us that illumination from the Creator source gives knowledge of the life purpose - for both the soul and the nation - a condition which when achieved creates a balanced whole individual, or a unified nation.
I'm hoping that a deeper and more timeless appreciation of American symbols can be gained when we account for the classical inspirations of the designers together with a humanistic archetypal interpretation. I wrote this book to confound conspiracy theorists, while at the same time inspire budding political activists. It's time for us to take a second look at the symbols we all take for granted. By learning their intended meanings, we can activate the political will to defend our liberty, like the symbol of the eagle tells us to do, with eternal vigilance.
Bio: The research of Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D. has been used by the White House and State Department, and published in the Congressional Record. His earlier books have been featured repeatedly on the History and National Geographic channels, and the Discovery Channel is producing a 2-hour documentary based on his new book called "Secret America" scheduled for release in January 2009. In it he is seen working on his new Artcar, the Biodiesel "We The People." One of his best-known Artcars, the Woodstock bus, is being turned into a diecast model by Sunstar, Inc. for release in 2009 and the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. More about his radio program at http://www.21stcenturyradio.com, and about his new book at http://www.UnitedSymbolismofAmerica.com.