(Excerpted from United Symbolism of America by Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D.)
In my doctoral thesis and 2006 publication, Founding Fathers, Secret Societies: Freemasons, Illuminati, Rosicrucians and the Decoding of the Great Seal, I demonstrated how the evidence does not support a Freemasonic influence on the design of the United States Great Seal. As I browsed the web in preparation for this new book, however, I was amazed to realize that, almost without exception, most other people posting interpretations about our Great Seal all make this fatal error in assumption. And it is an error, there is no question about it. It is factually incorrect. There is NO direct connection between the Freemasons and the creation of the Great Seal. There is a relationship between the Freemasons and the Great Seal, and an indirect connection in that regard, as we will discuss in Chapter Two, but it is entirely untrue to say something like, “Freemasons designed our Great Seal,” or that “There is a Freemasonic message or intent behind the Great Seal.” The irrational fear that a vocal group of people has of the secretive Freemasons infects everything they say about the Seal. This means that everything they say about the Seal is based on a false assumption. We will find this situation repeats itself frequently as we look at the astoundingly negative interpretations that have been proposed for some of our 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.
What is a fundamentalist-conspiratorialist? It is a loose term I invented for this book to describe the sub-group of the religious right that believes everything that does not fit their strict definition of “Christian” is a priori therefore “of Satan.” Others don’t use the Christian vernacular, but they also see a conspiracy of evil intentions all around us, organized by the ultimate tempter and the powerful ruling elite. Anything that is non-Christian in their definition is not only to be feared and avoided, but also removed or destroyed, sometimes violently. This would include any cultures that existed before the time of Christ, and all the art, philosophy, and science that they advanced. There have been numerous violent upheavals during the past 2,000 years as Christians tried to exterminate various non-Christians (for example, the pagan massacres in Greece and Rome throughout the first millennium, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.). Other non-religious conspiracy promoters simply enjoy searching for clues that a mysterious “them” is responsible for all that is wrong with the world. It is this mindset today that is attacking our beloved American symbols.
The symbols most often lied about by the fundamentalist-conspiratorialists are the reverse of the Great Seal and Washington, DC. I say “lie” because the great weakness of these writers is a scant interest in documented history. They selectively filter information to support their perspective, because they believe they already have the truth and are searching for examples to make a showy case for others. Fundamentalist-conspiratorialists fear our American symbols because they are under the assumption that the leaders of the American Revolution were motivated by evil intentions. I know this will sound anathema to the rational and educated majority of our readers, but it’s an important point to make and refute, because this is the key difference between my interpretations and the majority of all other symbolic interpretations out there today. One of the purposes of this book is to put the brakes on some of the negative shifts happening in America’s appreciation of her own symbols.
Each successive Republican Administration that has assumed power in the past 25 years has grown increasingly closer to the fundamentalist-conspiratorialist school of thought, and as a result, this small but vocal group has grown even more powerful and widely quoted. The average American may not know why, but they think they know there is something spooky about the Great Seal, probably because they’ve caught a whiff of the well-spread rumors on TV documentaries and the web that are inspired by the fundamentalist-conspiratorialists. It’s almost as if a conspiracy campaign has been launched to defame these uplifting and empowering symbols. Some Americans are now afraid of anything that is even remotely “symbolic.” No matter what it is, if it appears ancient or mythological, someone has attacked it as being motivated by Satan and thus worthy of being purged. I have been absolutely astounded at the evil intentions and negative interpretations being attributed to the Statue of Liberty, the eagle, the Washington Monument, and even the Liberty Bell, which you will read about in each of their respective chapters.
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. Those who are really in control behind the scenes are probably pleased to see this misrepresentation continue as a diversionary tactic. These connect-the-dots conspiracy theories that rely on a hyper-analysis of our nation’s symbols using the entire world as a reference point take people’s attention away from our real duty of keeping a close eye on the current administration to prevent them from taking advantage of their positions of power.