The Eye of Providence or the all-seeing eye is a symbol showing an eye surrounded by rays of light or a glory, and usually enclosed by a triangle. It is sometimes interpreted as representing the eye of God keeping watch on humankind. In 1782 the Eye of Providence was adopted as part of the symbolism on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. The Eye, however, was first suggested 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.
On the seal, the Eye is surrounded by the words "Annuit Cœptis", meaning "He approves (or has approved) our
undertakings," "Novus Ordo Seclorum," meaning "New Order of the Ages," and the lowest level of the pyramid showing the year 1776 in Roman numerals. The Eye is positioned above an unfinished pyramid with thirteen steps, representing the original thirteen states and the future growth of the country. The combined implication is that the Eye, or God, favors the prosperity of the United States.
The Eye of Providence also appears as part of the iconography of the Freemasons. Here it represents the all-seeing eye of God, and is then a reminder that a Mason's deeds are always observed by God (who is referred to in Masonry as the Grand Architect of the Universe). Typically the Masonic Eye of Providence has a semi-circular glory below the eye — often the lowest rays extend further down. Sometimes the Eye is enclosed by a triangle. Other variations of the symbol can also be found, with the eye itself being replaced by the letter ‘G’, representing both the art of geometry and God.
It is a popular conspiracy theory 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. This was dramatised in the 2004 Disney film National Treasure. The Masonic use of the Eye does not incorporate a pyramid, although the enclosing triangle is often interpreted as one.
Among the three members of the original design committee for the Great Seal, only Benjamin Franklin was a confirmed Mason. Thomas Jefferson was an open supporter of the aims of Freemasonry who attended lodge meetings and corresponded with many masons, but no direct evidence exists to support that he was a member himself.
Possibly the most famous use of the eye is on the back of the United States one-dollar bill. The original design for the 1935 bill was initially approved by then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt, a 32° Scottish Rite Mason, then changed his mind and placed conditions on his approval. With his signature, Roosevelt included a drawing that reversed the appearance of the sides of the Great Seal of the United States on the dollar, such that the Seal's reverse (back) including the Eye, counterintuitively appears first on the left. He then added the words "The Great Seal" to appear beneath the Eye of Providence design, and added "of the United States" to appear below the Bald Eagle design of the obverse of the Seal, which he moved to the right. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace and Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., both Freemasons, were heavily involved in the 1935 dollar design change as well. Some Masonic organizations have explicitly denied any special connection to the original creation of the Seal. Frequently cited as public evidence to this are the claims that the pyramid portion of the seal holds no symbolic significance to Masons, and that records suggest the Eye of Providence was not adopted as a Masonic symbol until 1797.
The Eye of Providence symbolizes the eye of good, anyone that says otherwise is a complete ass.