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Secret Symbols: The Chevron & The Freemasons

The chevron in its most basic sense is a V-shaped symbol that today is so ubiquitous that it can be found on anything from architecture, to the badges of military officers, to the local gas station. Unfortunately, however, this omnipresence has served to obscure the origins and meaning of this ancient symbol in a religious context.

In fact, this ambiguousness has not been lost on modern scholars. There is still much debate over which religious sects (if any) can claim ownership of the symbol, and more specifically, how the symbol relates to other so-called ‘secret symbols’, such as the All-Seeing Eye and the Compass. Indeed, Dan Brown was not the first to assert that the Chevron might be a symbol of the secret brotherhood of the Freemasons.

All-Seeing Eye

The symbol of the All-Seeing Eye represents the Supreme Being, and appears to have its origins with both the Hebrew and the Egyptians, who conceived the eye as being a symbol of God’s watchfulness over humanity and the universe as a whole. Indeed, the Egyptians used the symbol to represent Osiris, their most supreme God, using it to decorate all of their temples. In the Book of Proverbs, the meaning of the symbol is made clear when King Solomon says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (15:3).

Within the context of Freemasonry, the first representations of the All-Seeing Eye seem to have come in 1797 with The Freemasons Monitor when Thomas Smith Webb states,

    ...and although our thoughts, words and actions, may be hidden from the eyes of man yet that All-Seeing Eye, whom the Sun Moon and Stars obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will reward us according to our merits.

The Compass

In addition to the All-Seeing Eye, the symbol of the chevron comes to us in the form of the crossed compass and set-square, a traditional icon of the Freemasons. The tools themselves are meant to symbolize God as an architect of the universe. This idea stems from the platonic philosophy espoused in Timaeus, which the Freemasons have interpreted as Plato’s message of God as the Great Geometrician.

In this way, the compass itself represents the realm of the spiritual, while the square represents the physical. Combined, they form a hexagram, symbolizing the union of earth and heaven, mind and body.

The angle itself has been a point of contention both for Freemasons and non-Freemasons. Whether the measurement of the angle bears any particular significance is as yet undetermined.

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