On page 52 Dr. Mackey interpreted the All-Seeing Eye as a symbol of God's omniscience, and in doing so had at the time (about 1870) the support of the Masonic students of his generation. The soundness of that interpretation need not be questioned in the sense that it represents the logical goal toward which any other possible interpretation may be aimed; but it is doubtful if it can be supported by Masonic history. Almost less is known about the symbol (and it is a symbol!) than any other; it did not once come into the purview of the studies on which this Supplement is based, and if any researcher has found anywhere solid data on the origin of the symbol it must be hidden in a book of more than average obscurity. There are a number of considerations based on other known data which throw some sidelights on the question :
1. During the long formative period of the Ritual from about 1717 to about 1770 Lodges were small, convivial, worked while seated about their dining table; they were serious, reverent, and the great majority of Masons were members of a church, but they were neither theological nor mystical, and they instinctively shrank from anything which bordered too closely upon the province of the Church. It is a sound rule in the interpretation of the symbols on the Tracing Boards used by those Lodges not to begin by assuming a theological meaning, because as a rule they shrank from theology. In Freemasonry before 1717 they shrank from it even more. They were a Brotherhood, a Fraternity, carrying on the traditions of the building craft, and they never had any consciousness of standing in the tradition of religion. Solemnity, seriousness, symbolism, ritualism, these do not betoken theology because they belong to man by nature and are found everywhere. Though the All-Seeing Eye is one of the religious symbols, it does not follow that the early Speculative Masons used it as a religious symbol.
2. The All-Seeing Eye may have denoted the Divine omniscience. Also, it may have symbolized any one or more of some five or six other truths or ideas. It may have denoted the sun originally, as it came up at dawn - it had been thus used by Shakespeare and many other writers. It may have meant the Grand Master or the worshipful Master, and been a reminder of the fact that wherever a man is and in whatever he may be doing he continues to be a Mason, and the eye of the Craft is on him. It may have stood for enlightenment, wisdom, intelligence ; and it may have been the Tracing Board representation of the Blazing Star in the Tessellated Pavement, in which case it was again the sun, or day-star, which shines on through day and night. (Note: Until modern astronomy made a number of its difficult facts familiar to everybody the majority of men did not see any necessary connection between daylight and the sun, because the day begins before the sun appears, and remains after it has sunk.) There are many omnisciences in addition to those known to theology and metaphysics-the omniscience of the law, the omniscience of the Government which keeps its eye on every citizen, etc.; if the first Freemasons had a symbol for omniscience it does not follow that it was therefore the Divine Omniscience that was meant.
3. If their symbol signified the Divine Omniscience it does not follow that it would have had for them a depressing meaning, as if that Omniscience were for no other purpose than a final Judgment Day. Omniscience needs not search a man out in order to condemn him for sins he has tried to hide ; it may search him out to honor him for virtues he has tried to hide. The Sword Pointing at the Naked Heart is another emblem which need not have a depressing meaning; it should have, rather, a cheerful meaning, because when justice searches out every heart it means that men have security, live in civil order, and therefore can be happy. We could use the All-Seeing Eye as a symbol of the Divine Omniscience we could use it at the same time as a symbol for what ought to be the Fraternity's own omniscience (the word need not be defined so absolutely as many think it should) in the sense that it never loses sight of a man once that man has become a member, not even if he does not attend Lodge, or is confined at home by illness or accident, or has moved away.
The Encyclopedia Masonica exists to preserve the wealth of information that has been generated over the centuries by numerous Masonic authors. As Freemasonry is now Speculative and not Operative, the work of a Mason is now conducted in the quarries of symbolism, literature, history and scholasticism. Freemasonry encourages intellectual exploration and academic achievement in its members and many Masons over the years have taken up this calling. The result has been that an incredible amount of philosophy, symbolic speculation and academic insights have been created. However, as Freemasonry teaches, human knowledge is frail and fragile. It is easily lost in the turnings of the ages and unforeseen catastrophes can result in great setbacks to human knowledge.
For too long these great works have sat on forgotten shelves, gathering dust and concealing the light that could be shed on the darkness of our ignorance. The Encyclopedia Masonica has been created to act as an ark, sailing through time, to ensure that future generations of Freemasons have access to the same knowledge that inspired the Brethren that came before them. It will contain the works of such Masonic Luminaries as Albert G. Mackey, Manly Palmer Hall, G.S.M. Ward, Albert Pike and many others. The Encyclopedia Masonica is a living work and the volunteers of Universal Co-Masonry will continue to labor until the most comprehensive Masonic reference work the world has ever seen has been created. The Encyclopedia Masonica is open to any who wish to use it and will remain open so that the treasures contained within may increase the wealth of all those who seek its wisdom.
- BROTHER ISAAC NEWTON
P.O. BOX 70
Larkspur CO 80118
Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry