The New Age Magazine and Occult Explanations of the Great Seal
by Terry Melanson ©, Dec. 3rd, 2005
I‘ve recently acquired sixty issues of The New Age Magazine, spanning the years 1968-73. The New Age Magazine was “the official organ of the Supreme Council 33°, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Southern Jurisdiction.” The magazine was inaugurated in 1904 and still continues today. In 1990, however, the title of the publication was changed to the Scottish Rite Journal—probably in an effort to distance themselves from being identified with the New Age Movement. In any case, the original name for the magazine alludes to those same esoteric yearnings of the socialist utopians and occult theosophists at the turn of the 20th century. They believed that the world was on the cusp of a New Age of enlightenment. The Age of Aquarius was about to begin; occultists had generally agreed that a shift in consciousness was imminent, and the transformation of society—based upon a masonic ideal—would soon be realized. It is thus appropriate that Grand Commander George Moore, in 1904, named the magazine after the “rite of perfection” conferred on those who partake in the ritual of the 18th degree, the Rose Croix. Candidates who pass through this degree symbolically ascend the mystic ladder from darkness to glory and perfection. The Rose Croix degree, in turn, refers to the 17th Century mystic secret society of adepts, the Rosicrucians, who themselves called for a new age. They practiced the transformation of self through an amalgam of rituals involving hermeticism, gnosticism, alchemy and the kabbalah.
The February 1971 edition of The New Age Magazine has an article about the Great Seal of America, pp. 51-5. Simply titled “The Great Seal of the United States,” Elmer W. Claypool, 32°, gives his own opinion of the symbolic meaning of the seal and then quotes from a 33rd degree mason who elucidates a more esoteric viewpoint. I will include the whole piece and make a few comments afterwards (illustrations are mine):
Familiarity has a blinding effect sometimes, and if we see something often enough, we don’t see it at all. We overlook it; take it for granted. For instance, when was the last time that you looked at the symbols on a one-dollar bill and thought of what they stand for? On the back of the dollar bill you will notice two symbolic circles; one circle has an eagle, and the other has an uncompleted pyramid. Now, these two circles constitute the front and the back of the Great Seal of the United States. The familiar American eagle is the face of the Great Seal. The unfinished pyramid is the unfamiliar back of the Great Seal, often referred to as the “Lesser Seal.”
These two symbols and the numerical symbol of thirteen which is an integral part of both the eagle and the pyramid are very meaningful and beautiful. This number, thirteen, has played an important part in our great history. There were, of course, the Original Thirteen States and the signatures rep resenting the Thirteen Original States affixed to that great document, the Declaration of Independence. There are also the thirteen stripes on the American flag with thirteen stars on the Bennington Rag; the circle of thirteen stars on the Betsy Ross flag; and the thirteen letters on the motto of the Rattlesnake flag: “Don’t Tread On Me!” Later on, there were the thirteen stars in the Confederate flag.
If you look closely at the front side of the Great Seal, the side with the eagle, you will notice that there are thirteen stars surrounded by clouds in the crest above the head of the eagle. This is called the glory or constellation. On the breast of the eagle there are thirteen stripes on the shield, also known as the escutcheon; thirteen arrows in the eagle’s left claw, known as the sinister side; thirteen fruit and thirteen leaves in the olive branch in the eagle’s right claw, or dexter side; and, finally, there are thirteen letters in the Latin motto inscribed on the banner held in the eagle’s beak: E Pluribus Unum which means “One Out of Many.” The eagle itself, of course, represents the United States.
The wings of the eagle are not like the straight out and expanded wings of heraldry, but rather displayed upward as a rising eagle with a slight upturned head, denoting a rising and upcoming Nation. The escutcheon or shield, which is borne on the breast of the eagle without any means of support, denotes that the United States ought to rely on its own virtue and be self-supporting.
The shield is composed of a horizontal blue bar, known as a chief. The vertical bars or stripes, six red and seven white, represent the several States all joined together in one solid, compact entity supporting the blue bar of chief which unites the whole and represents Congress. The E Pluribus Unum motto alludes to this union. The vertical stripes are kept closely united by the chief. The chief depends on the union of the stripes and the strength from it for support just as the United States depends on the union of the States in and through Congress.
The colors of the shield also have an emblematic significance. The white signifies purity and innocence; red means hardiness and valor; and blue, the color of the chief, signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
The olive branch and the arrows denote the power of peace and war, which is exclusively vested in Congress. If peace is not possible, the arrows represent our determination to defend our way of life. The constellation of the stars, or the glory above the eagle’s head denotes a new state taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.
Now let us take a look at the design on the reverse side of the Great Seal, the side with the pyramid. The pyramid is there because the pyramid is one of the strongest structures known to man, and it represents the democratic way, the strongest governmental structure. The pyramid has thirteen steps or thirteen layers of stone. The pyramid is left unfinished because there always is work to be done in a free world. In the zenith of the pyramid is the familiar All-Seeing Eye of Deity, in a triangle surrounded by a glory which stands for the fact that America stands under the All-Seeing Eye of divine protection. The motto above the pyramid, Annuit Coeptis, means: “He has prospered our undertaking.” There are thirteen letters in this motto. The date carved on the base of the pyramid in Roman numerals, MDCCLXXVI, is the year of the Declaration of Independence, 1776. Underneath the pyramid is another motto, Novus Ordo Seclorum, meaning “The New Order of the Age.” It signifies the beginning of the new American era, which was born on that grand and glorious date of July 4, 1776.
Another interpretation of the Great Seal, Masonic in nature, taken from Masonry in Texas, Background, History and Influence to 1846 by James D. Carter, 33°, G.’.C.’., is as follows:
“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 sees: 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 reserve, 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.”
The Great Seal was established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 20, 1782; and, without any essential change in design, it has been in continuous use up to the present day.
The first document to which it is known to have been affixed was one dated September 16, 1782, granting full authority to General George Washington to arrange with the British for an exchange of prisoners of war.
Although the Great Seal had been in service since the year of 1782, it was not official until seven years later when on September 15, 1789, Congress passed a law declaring it to be the official seal of the United States. In the same year the Secretary of State appointed the custodian of the dies and press of the Great Seal. The custodian keeps the seal under lock and key when it is not in official use.
In the complex and beautiful symbolism of the Great Seal we see the strength and purpose of the United States carefully inscribed. We must not be blinded by familiarity, and, thereby, allow the lesson of the Great Seal to escape. As we see the mission and meaning of Masonry clearly embodied in Masonic symbols, so we can see the high destiny of America in the Great Seal of the United States.
The most revealing part is the explanation by the higher ranking mason, James D. Carter. Regarding the symbolism Carter emphasizes an occult interpretation, and writes that it will be evident to the “informed Mason.” First, he says that the number of feathers on the two wings and tail allude to the union between American and French Freemasonry, the common struggle for “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” Indeed, this phrase had originated within the French lodges even before the French Revolution. It is a contradiction in terms, however. One cannot have complete equality without giving up certain liberties, and vice versa:
“Communism, which is the application of the principle of absolute Equality, regards humanity only in the mass, and would cut all men down to one dead level; Anarchy, which proclaims complete Liberty, would leave every man free to live as he pleases, to do as he will with his own, to rob or to murder. The former is rigid bureaucracy; the latter, Individualism run mad”– Nesta Webster, World Revolution: The Plot against Civilization, 7th edition, 1994, p. 123.
In 1790, the words nationalism and communism were invented to “define the simpler, more sublime, seemingly less selfish ideals of fraternity and equality, respectively” (James H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men, p. 4). Social revolutionaries have been using these idealogical slogans ever since. It is important to realize that Liberty has been a battle cry since the sixteenth-century in Holland, then in seventeenth-century England and again in eighteenth-century America. The collectivist ideal—forming a revolutionary triad by including the masonic-inspired equality and fraternity—had only surfaced during the bloody revolutions in France.
As the Jacobin atrocities began, the cry of “Vive notre Roi d’Orleans” gave way to the masonic revolutionary slogan “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternity.” The tricolor national flag of France, in turn, was replaced by the red flag of socialism. The campaign against religion, the massacre of the priests, the storming of the Bastille; venerating the dead was moved from “open Christian graveyards into closed pagan pantheons”; more than three hundred thousand Frenchmen “from all over the country” marched “in procession through driving rain to hear a vast chorus commend the unified French nation to the Sun”; at the “Feast of Indivisibility” in August 1793, the predawn gathering in the Champs de Mars “watched the sun rise over the statue of Nature.” The Cathedral of Notre Dame was looted and converted into a Temple of Reason; Robespierre, the master of terror, subsequently declared a new state religion in 1794: The Cult of the Supreme Being. (See Billington, op, cit., Chapter 2: Locus of Legitimacy, pp. 24-53.) As the famous Scottish Rite Freemason Albert Pike, had said: “[Freemasonry] aided in bringing about the French Revolution.” Author Phillip D. Collins reiterates, “Indeed, the French Revolution represented the first full-scale attempt to tangibly enact the Masonic vision of a ‘scientific dictatorship.'”
Carter goes into the Kabbalah to give meaning behind the added values of sixty-five for the combined feathers on both of the eagle’s wings. This, he says, gives the equivalent of “together in unity,” signifying the first degree of Freemasonry. The meaning behind the 24 sections of the “Glory” above the eagle, and the colors used throughout the seal have masonic meaning if gematria and the Kabbalah are consulted.
The five-pointed stars and the combination of the thirteen stars forming a hexagram are also significant to Carter. He says that the “five pointed stars remind [the mason] of the Masonic Blazing Star and the five points of fellowship.” The five points of fellowship has many significant meanings. It teaches the story of the masonic legend of Hiram Abiff and the ritual rebirth of the candidate:
“Hiram’s grave lay in the lodge and contained secrets … the five points of fellowship embrace recalled the raising of the body from the grave. A central theme in many initiation ceremonies was ritual death and rebirth, the transition celebrated being regarded as of such fundamental importance that it involved the candidate’s death in one state and his birth into another. Putting these points together, it is likely that the seventeenth-century masonic ritual involved the candidate in some sort of ritual death, and subsequent raising from the dead or being born again into the world of masonry through being lifted from the grave in the five points of fellowship embrace.”– David Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590-1710, pp.160-1
The five points of fellowship is mirrored in modern day Wicca as well:
“… both Masons and witches today refer to their cult as ‘the Craft.’ The Third Degree of the witches refers to ‘the Five Points of Fellowship,’ just as the Third Degree of Freemasonry does, though with a rather different meaning. In the third Degree initiation, the candidate is blindfolded, has a cable-tow placed about the neck and is admitted upon the point of a sharp instrument, in both Gardnerian witchcraft and Freemasonry.”
Raven Grimassi, in the Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft, finds similarity between the images, symbols and tools of Freemasonry with those of the ancient cult of Mithras; and another correlation between the masonic five points of fellowship and the Orphic statue of Mithras which was divided into “five segments by a serpent coiled around his feet, knees, chest, back and head” (p. 171). Mithras—it is well worth noting—was a god who had the power to end one cosmic cycle and begin a new one. The power to bring about a transformative renewal into a new age.
According to Robert Hieronimus, the world’s foremost authority on the Great Seal, the whole design is meant as a symbolic representation of America’s secret destiny. He received a doctorate from the Saybrook Institute in 1981 for his thesis, An Historic Analysis of the Reverse of the American Great Seal and Its Relationship to the Ideology of Humanistic Psychology. Dr. Hieronimus’ research has been used in “the speeches, literature, and libraries of the White House (1976, 1982), the State Department (1978), and the Department of Interior (1982). His Independence Hall speech on the Great Seal’s bicentennial was published in the Congressional Record (1983, 1984), and his research was shared in a personal meeting with the late Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat.”
Hieronimus founded the Aquarian University of Maryland in 1969. It was the only State approved center for the study of occult subjects. Offering certificates in Religious Metaphysics, Occult Sciences and the Mystical Arts, Hieronimus had taught a tarot card course there. The AUM Esoteric Study Center included Savitria, a New Age commune. A PBS documentary was filmed about Hieronimus in 1971: “Artist of Savitria.”
As a psychedelic artist, Hieronimus painted the Woodstock Bus in 1968. It incorporates most of the major subject matter of his later artwork. Afterwards, he was commissioned to paint a series of murals which include themes about the Great Seal, Freemasonry and the founding fathers, the new age, a new world order and a plethora of occult, Egyptian symbolism.
On the Great Seal, the work of Dr. Hieronimus centers around Rosicrucian, secret society and Theosophical interpretations. In America, The Cradle of the 6th Root Race – Its Spiritual Heritage, Hieronimus explores the Great Seal from the point of view of the Ageless Wisdom Teachings. It includes many of the themes present in his later work, America’s Secret Destiny: Spiritual Vision and the Founding Of A Nation. America, to occultists like Hieronimus, represents the manifestation of a Divine Plan: a new continent, a new beginning—set aside to herald the dawning of a new race of “God-men.” This is the sort of vision Hieronimus communicates when he is received by government officials seeking an authoritative interpretation of the symbolism embodied in America’s Great Seal.
America’s central role in the manifestation of a New Order of the Ages is shared by many of the elite today. Jim Garrison is one of them. He’s the founder of the Gorbachev Foundation and the president of the State of the World Forum. In a February, 2004 interview for Lightworks magazine, Garrison spoke about the Baconian vision of America:
“… who was the first person in history in Europe to really understand the magnitude of what was going to happen in North America? There’ve been thousands of nations. There’ve been maybe 20 or 25 empires and there’s two that have emerged to the front rank of empire. That was Rome 2000 years ago and America today. The aggregation of power is so immense, that you’ve got to ask some deeper questions about how it happened here. Why did it happen here as opposed to Russia or China or Brazil? So I went back to the history books and asked the question, ‘Who was it? What was the original visionary imprint of what became the United States of America?’ It came actually from Francis Bacon, who was one of the great mystics of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He wrote a book right before he died that was unpublished because he died very soon thereafter, called New Atlantis. He believed and asserted that the North American Indians were the survivors and descendants of the original Atlantean civilization, and he called to mind that Atlantis had risen to global power and then been destroyed because of its hubris. So whatever was going to be built in North America would be Atlantean in its basic archetypal pattern and destiny path, and at some point it was going to rise to the level global dominion. Then it would, like ancient Atlantis, have to make a choice between power for the sake of service and power for the sake of more power, and as it decided, the fate of the world would be determined.
It’s also worth remembering that the founding fathers of the United States, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, etc., were all Masons and Rosicrucians. They were all students of Bacon. They believed that what they were creating was the new Atlantis, the new Israel, the new Rome, the new Athens, and they consciously set forth to build a nation around light and power. Look on the back of a dollar bill and see the pyramid and the all-seeing Eye of Horus. It’s important for Americans to understand that we were born out of a mystical vision of human perfection that was basically Atlantean in its impulse. So the challenge today is to reconnect with the Wisdom Tradition that gave rise to Atlantis, that gave rise to the United States of America, and that is ultimately an esoteric pursuit. In order for us to survive the politics of Bush and the Neo-Conservatives we have to bring to the fore the wisdom of the founding fathers. That’s the connection with someone like Carolyn. She’s writing a book which I think will come out in 2005 on the sacred contract of America. It will be a sort of mystical history of the United States. What I’ve done in my book is to trace this Atlantean vision of Francis Bacon and tell the story of how Bacon influenced our founding fathers, and how we have a mystical vision as the origin of the American experiment. Carolyn and I are not only good friends going back some twenty years, but we’re similarly convinced that we have in our generation come to the fullness of time.”
This “New Atlantis” isn’t some sort of beneficial, utopian plan for the benefit of the common man. Jim Garrison subscribes to the proposals put forth by Gorbachev for the creation of a Global Brain Trust. It is a belief rooted in the Saint-Simonian vision of an authoritarian elite who are tasked with the scientific reorganization of society. The upper-class intellectuals alone have the knowledge and genes necessary to transform politics, human society and culture. The pyramid on the back of the dollar bill does not represent the “democratic way,” as Elmer W. Claypool would have us believe. The pyramid is a classic symbol for an authoritative, hierarchical system.