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The all-seeing eye / 'evil eye'


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#1 John Litster

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Posted 04 June 2008 - 08:45 PM

Not to be getting too off topic, but speaking of the archangel Michael I own a small paper icon (Greek, I believe), depicting the archangel holding a shield upon which is a cross and an all-seeing Eye within a triangle. It could have been copied right off a greenback dollar, yet there it was. I've never seen anything like it - I know that the Eye image is associated with Freemasonry, which makes its appearance all the more unusual in Orthodox iconography. Anybody else seen this, or anything similar?

#2 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 02:27 PM

Not to be getting too off topic, but speaking of the archangel Michael I own a small paper icon (Greek, I believe), depicting the archangel holding a shield upon which is a cross and an all-seeing Eye within a triangle. It could have been copied right off a greenback dollar, yet there it was. I've never seen anything like it - I know that the Eye image is associated with Freemasonry, which makes its appearance all the more unusual in Orthodox iconography. Anybody else seen this, or anything similar?



John,
I have seen it a few places before. I bought an icon from Greece once of Ss. Joachim and Anna that had a large "all-seeing" eye in the center on the top. I have also seen it in a church, to my dismay. At the Greek church in Tucson, AZ, there is a very large "all-seeing" eye on the wall of the choir loft. I couldn't help calling it the evil eye the whole time I was there, just because it seemed so out of place in a church.

Perhaps Olga can elaborate on the use of the all-seeing eye in iconography, although I have not seen it in Russian iconography before, but I could venture a guess that the practice of painting the "Ancient of Days" icons resembling God the Father could be a Russian equivalent to the "all-seeing" eye in Greek iconography. Just a guess though.

Subdeacon Anthony

#3 Michael Stickles

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Posted 05 June 2008 - 07:48 PM

Not to be getting too off topic, but speaking of the archangel Michael I own a small paper icon (Greek, I believe), depicting the archangel holding a shield upon which is a cross and an all-seeing Eye within a triangle. It could have been copied right off a greenback dollar, yet there it was. I've never seen anything like it - I know that the Eye image is associated with Freemasonry, which makes its appearance all the more unusual in Orthodox iconography. Anybody else seen this, or anything similar?


I haven't seen the "all-seeing eye" on an icon before, but I did note that, in an online page with excerpts from "These Truths We Hold: The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teaching", the list of symbols at the bottom of the page includes this:

All-Seeing Eye: The All-Seeing Eye of God looks out from the triangle, which represents the Trinity. This reminds us that God always watches over us in love (Ps. 33:18).


There are no pictures on the page, and no mention of the eye in the excerpts, so I'm not sure what (if any) context it gets in the book.

I've only actually seen one symbol set which looks anything like what you describe, and it didn't include an eye. It had a cross over a triangle (point-up) containing a rising sun, and was one of symbols associated with the occult group Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. I don't recall it ever being on a shield or associated with any angel, though.

In Christ,
Mike

#4 Olga

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 11:13 AM

The symbol of the eye within a triangle predates Christianity, and possibly originated in ancient Egypt, as a variant on the Eye of Horus. It is true that this symbol is most associated with Freemasonry and similar groups and societies, which is hardly surprising, as many of their symbols are of Egyptian and Classical origin. The presence of the motif on US currency may well be explained by the tendency of the newly-independent American state to adopt Classical forms in its architecture and artistic expression, which, of course, coincided with the Arcadian movement in art, and the neoclassical Palladian/Georgian movement in architecture. Many more recently-appeared groups, such as the New Age, and neo-gnostics, have also adopted this motif.

There is an "icon" called The All-seeing Eye, which appeared in 16th-17thC Russia, which has no real resemblance to the eye in the triangle. I have not come across any equivalent images in other parts of the Orthodox world. Below is a brief description:
Posted Image
This attempts to portray a spiritual concept rather than a sacred person or event. The inscription says, The All-seeing Eye of God. The figure at the top is titled Lord Sabaoth. He is blessing and has an eight-pointed star inscribed in His halo which reminds us of the perfect eighth day of eternity. This representation of God is also called. The Ancient of Days. On His abdomen we may find the Holy Spirit represented as a dove in a halo, an element taken from the Theophany icon. They are flanked by two cherubim who are facing each other. Clockwise, we have an eagle holding a Gospel book and wearing a halo with the inscription Mark in front of him. Next is another cherub, marked cherubim. Then a winged-ox marked Luke and another cherub. Next is a winged-lion marked John, another cherub, and finally a winged-youth marked Matthew. This symbolic depiction of the four evangelists is found very often in Russian iconography. At the top centre of the circle we see the Mother of God with her hands raised in prayer. In her circle are three more cherubim. In the inner circle at the top we see two eyes and a nose, on the sides two more separated eyes, and at the bottom the end of a nose and a mouth. This configuration is the basis for the title of the icon. In the innermost circle surrounded by the eyes we have the Lord Jesus Christ Emmanuel.

Christ is the Sun of Righteousness who sees all, i.e. the four corners of the world. Like the sun which sees everything and enlightens the entire world with its light, Christ knows everything and enlightens the earth with the light of His teaching.

The original intent of the iconographer probably was to remind the viewer that we are all always in the sight of God. There is nothing hidden, secret or unknown to Him, but at the same time we are all also always in His care and protection as He is watching over us. Although the concept is edifying, the icon is confusing, typical of the complex didactic icons which were popular from the 15th to 18th centuries. We encounter a problem similar to the “personification” icons, such as Sophia The Divine Wisdom. Here the eyes, nose, and mouth in the inner circle substitute parts of God’s figurative or poetic “body” for the whole, which always results in something grotesque. For some reason God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not represented in the innermost circle. We assume the original painter and his viewers were sincere Orthodox Christians who were influenced by ideas coming in from the west, and considered this theme to be something pious.

Unfortunately, as honourable and pious the intent may be, this type of image fails the canonicity test on many counts.

Returning to the "eye in the triangle" motif: I have seen many examples of this emblazoned on the shield of Archangel Michael, however, all such examples I have come across are images painted in a naturalistic style, therefore all are comparatively recent, i.e. mid-to-late 18th C at best, and the overwhelming majority 19th or 20thC. They are very plentiful in regions where there was a particularly heavy western influence, such as western Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Cyprus, and many of the Greek islands. In one church I attended often enough as a child, the eye motif was placed above the Royal Doors, surrounded by a strip of neon light. This triangular neon light lit up at the point in the Divine Liturgy at the opening of the Canon of Eucharist, at the words "Let us stand well, let us stand in awe ..." After an absence of setting foot in this church for some 25 years, I had cause to attend it for a memorial service a few years ago. Interestingly, and to my great relief, this motif and its accompanying neon border had been removed.

Is such a motif compatible with canonical Orthodox iconography? Given the very clear canonical prohibitions against the pictorial depiction of any of the Persons of the Trinity in symbolic form, other than those forms which have been expressly revealed to us, the answer, IMHO, is no.

#5 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 05:15 PM

John and Olga, I don't know if the following has anything to do with the eye that is in some churches, but I read it last night in one of my books and I thought it might be connected.

"In the original Greek version of the Gospels, there is a reference in both Matthew 6:22 and Luke 11:34.36 to an eye that is (h)aplos. This Greek word (h)aplos has been translated into English as single, pure, clear, or healthy. Once the eye in these passages is understood as being the heart, and the light is understood as being a spiritual light rather than a physical light, then the scriptural passage which says, "If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light (Matt. 6:22) can be understood as describing an interior, mystical experience."

Could it be that the eye depicted is a symbol for the heart?

That the pure in heart will see God? (Matt 5:8).?

I am only speculating of course. When I read the above passage I immediately thought of John's post.

Effie

#6 Paul Cowan

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 07:53 PM

Father Pat Reardon of All Saints in Chicago and Ancient Faith Radio has a homily on "The Simple Eye". You may have to scroll through several pages perhaps 6 or 7 to find it. It also talks about the simple eye as envy. It is a well done homily.

Paul

#7 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 05:02 AM

John and Olga, I don't know if the following has anything to do with the eye that is in some churches, but I read it last night in one of my books and I thought it might be connected.



Just for some perspective for everyone, here is the "all-seeing" eye that is in the Greek church in Tucson, AZ, that I mentioned.

http://www.monachos....5&pictureid=665

Subdeacon Anthony

#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 01:33 PM

Just for some perspective for everyone, here is the "all-seeing" eye that is in the Greek church in Tucson, AZ, that I mentioned.


It appears to be sleeping.

#9 Deanna Leonti

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 02:24 PM

John and Olga, I don't know if the following has anything to do with the eye that is in some churches, but I read it last night in one of my books and I thought it might be connected.

"In the original Greek version of the Gospels, there is a reference in both Matthew 6:22 and Luke 11:34.36 to an eye that is (h)aplos. This Greek word (h)aplos has been translated into English as single, pure, clear, or healthy. Once the eye in these passages is understood as being the heart, and the light is understood as being a spiritual light rather than a physical light, then the scriptural passage which says, "If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light (Matt. 6:22) can be understood as describing an interior, mystical experience."

Could it be that the eye depicted is a symbol for the heart?

That the pure in heart will see God? (Matt 5:8).?

I am only speculating of course. When I read the above passage I immediately thought of John's post.

Effie


imo....Well if they did use that symbol years ago, why in todays day & age they just don't use a heart then?

I guess if one doesn't understand the underlying theme to it, it can appear to be a little abnormal & strange just to have one eye, no face etc.

Deanna

#10 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 03:00 PM

I haven't seen the "all-seeing eye" on an icon before, but I did note that, in an online page with excerpts from "These Truths We Hold: The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teaching", the list of symbols at the bottom of the page includes this:



There are no pictures on the page, and no mention of the eye in the excerpts, so I'm not sure what (if any) context it gets in the book.

.

In Christ,
Mike


This definitely sounds like the most likely explanation. I also have seen this eye but I can't remember where or whether it was enclosed by a triangle.

All-Seeing Eye: The All-Seeing Eye of God looks out from the triangle, which represents the Trinity. This reminds us that God always watches over us in love (Ps. 33:18).

Thank you Mike. I think I have already mentioned the fact that things in the church and its customs that sometimes seem strange to us today always have a logical explanation
behind them.

Effie

#11 Peter S.

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 11:27 PM

Just for some perspective for everyone, here is the "all-seeing" eye that is in the Greek church in Tucson, AZ, that I mentioned.


It appears to be sleeping.

Dear Fr. Raphael,

If it is true that it sleeps, does that mean something special?
I think I ve heard about this before.

Peter

#12 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 07:28 AM

A single eye in a triangle is also used on the reverse side of the US Great Seal!

"The Eye of Providence

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." – Closing sentence of the Declaration of Independence "



Effie

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 01:07 PM


Dear Fr. Raphael,

If it is true that it sleeps, does that mean something special?
I think I ve heard about this before.

Peter


No, sorry- it was just my poor attempt at humour.

The one explanation for the Eye most often heard in old Russian parishes is that parents used to point to it and tell their children that God is watching.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#14 Deanna Leonti

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 05:26 AM

A single eye in a triangle is also used on the reverse side of the US Great Seal!

"The Eye of Providence

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." – Closing sentence of the Declaration of Independence "



Effie


I also am aware of the evil eye that Europeans are familiar with.
(alot of jewelry going around w/eyes on it) However, I do not think it has anything to do with the Eye of Providence"

Does anyone know how the evil eye thing got stared, I know it is in scripture some where.

Deanna

#15 Paul Cowan

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 05:33 AM

Let your eye not be evil is from the prayers when we receive mother and child into the church after birth and also from the parable of the land owner paying the talents to the workers. It is an evil eye of envy. It is a moral term.

Paul

#16 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 06:02 AM

I also am aware of the evil eye that Europeans are familiar with.
(alot of jewelry going around w/eyes on it) However, I do not think it has anything to do with the Eye of Providence"

Does anyone know how the evil eye thing got stared, I know it is in scripture some where.

Deanna


Deanna, our church does believe in the "evil eye" because there is a prayer, I believe, to protect you from it. We know that some people, from envy, jealousy or even hatred, can wish harm on someone else. If we are the recipients of someone's love and feel better for it, why not the opposite?

But, I also believe that a lot of this is just superstition and has been influenced by old myths that used to circulate in many European countries. I remember I was walking once with my mother and we met a friend and her baby. I made a remark about the beauty of the baby and my mother said, "don't say that! Spit!". I was thoroughly surprised that she would say such a thing. She explained that it was unlucky to remark on someone's beauty or good luck in case the gods or the devil became jealous and took revenge on the person. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable.

Definitely not something that derives from Christianity.

Effie

p.s. When I say spit, I mean of course just the gesture not the real thing...............................................................................

The Roman Catholics also have a tradition of the eye in the triangle.

I read this in the Nun's story by Kathryn Hulme.
(I read this book when I was a teenager and found it on a book site and downloaded it last week -
haven't finished it yet )

"Then there were the visits she used to make with her doctor
father to homes in the provinces as they were in the old days,
every one with a big old-fashioned rosary hanging on the wall
from two pegs spaced far enough apart to make the crucifix
fall heart-shape to a point at the base. You seldom saw such
visible piety now. Nor did you see nowadays the great single
eye in a triangle which used to be painted over the zinc bars
of country cafes where her father refreshed himself after his
rounds. She remembered his explaining that the strange com-
pelling design meant that the Eye of God was upon the place
and no cursing would be permitted. The old-fashioned reli-
gious childhood, she thought. God was like one of the family
and this above all is why I am here. I learned to love Him
when I was very young* "

#17 Deanna Leonti

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 06:59 AM

Deanna, our church does believe in the "evil eye" because there is a prayer, I believe, to protect you from it. We know that some people, from envy, jealousy or even hatred, can wish harm on someone else. If we are the recipients of someone's love and feel better for it, why not the opposite?

But, I also believe that a lot of this is just superstition and has been influenced by old myths that used to circulate in many European countries. I remember I was walking once with my mother and we met a friend and her baby. I made a remark about the beauty of the baby and my mother said, "don't say that! Spit!". I was thoroughly surprised that she would say such a thing. She explained that it was unlucky to remark on someone's beauty or good luck in case the gods or the devil became jealous and took revenge on the person. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable.

Definitely not something that derives from Christianity.

Effie

p.s. When I say spit, I mean of course just the gesture not the real thing...............................................................................

The Roman Catholics also have a tradition of the eye in the triangle.

I read this in the Nun's story by Kathryn Hulme.
(I read this book when I was a teenager and found it on a book site and downloaded it last week -
haven't finished it yet )

"Then there were the visits she used to make with her doctor
father to homes in the provinces as they were in the old days,
every one with a big old-fashioned rosary hanging on the wall
from two pegs spaced far enough apart to make the crucifix
fall heart-shape to a point at the base. You seldom saw such
visible piety now. Nor did you see nowadays the great single
eye in a triangle which used to be painted over the zinc bars
of country cafes where her father refreshed himself after his
rounds. She remembered his explaining that the strange com-
pelling design meant that the Eye of God was upon the place
and no cursing would be permitted. The old-fashioned reli-
gious childhood, she thought. God was like one of the family
and this above all is why I am here. I learned to love Him
when I was very young* "


yes, my Grandmother and all of her friends (Italian & Sicilian descents) also had those prayers along with the rituals said them and they worked...at least I thought so (when I was young I did)

Deanna

ps. yes I have seen that eye also but can't remember in which RCC.
There also is a triangle shape built RCC here.
( I think triangle shape is suppose to be symbolic for the Trinity)

#18 Owen Jones

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 12:21 PM

There is an icon of the eye also at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Augusta, GA. They also had an icon of the Father in the Narthex -- a wizened looking old man -- for many years. I think it was finally removed by a recent priest. They go through priests about every 18 months.

#19 Ken McRae

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 01:31 PM

'The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.' - St. Matthew 6:22

#20 Deanna Leonti

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 03:56 PM

There is an icon of the eye also at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Augusta, GA. They also had an icon of the Father in the Narthex -- a wizened looking old man -- for many years. I think it was finally removed by a recent priest. They go through priests about every 18 months.


The Triangle RCC here is called Guardian Angel, and have many visiting priests.

Deanna




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