Reverse and obverse of the Great Seal of the United States, engraved on the back of the American dollar bill, with Campbell’s description from The Inner Reaches of Outer Space (see earlier post).

Great Seal of the United States, Reverse

“Whereas behind the pyramid there is only a desert to be seen, before and around it are the sprouting signs of a new and fresh beginning… a ‘new order of the world’ (novus ordo seclorum)” (p126).

“There at the summit of a symbolic pyramid (the World Mountain) we see an eye within a radiant, upward-pointing triangle (the World Eye, God’s Eye, Eye of Spirit). It is at that point of rest (stasis) at the summit where the opposed sides come together” (p125).

Great Seal of the United States, Obverse

“In the radiant disk above the American bald eagle’s head the stars of the original 13 states are composed to form a Solomon’s seal symbolic of the union of soul and body, spirit and matter. Each of the interlaced equilateral triangles, one upward turned, the other downward, is a Pythagorean tetraktys, or ‘perfect triangle of fourness,’ of nine points, four to a side, enclosing a tenth representing the generative center (‘still point of the turning world’) out of which the others derive their force. The upward triangle is of spiritual, the downward pointing, of physical energy. Thus interlaced, the two represent the physical world as informed by the spiritual” (p128).

“When viewed as outlining a pyramid, the upward pointing triangle matches the pyramid on the reverse of the Seal, with the single point at its apex corresponding to the Eye out of which the expanding form of the universe has proceeded. As symbolized in the traditional Pythagorean tetraktys, the energy emanating from that initial point (which is of the opening both from and to Eternity [cf. prajna eye]) yields, first, duality (2 points: measure and chaos, subject and object, light and dark, odd and even, male and female, etc.), which then relate to each other in three ways (3 points: either a dominant, b dominant, or a and b in accord), whence derive all the phenomenal forms in the field of space-time (4 points: 4 quarters of the earth and heavens). There is a verse in the Tao Teh Ching: ‘The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things'” (p128).

“Connotations of the same order pertain, of course, to the downward turned tetraktys, with its single point at the apex opening also from and to Eternity; so that, ‘What is above is below,’ and the energy of the Spirit (however named), whether from without (as from the Eye, the apex above) or from within the world (the apex below) is one” (p128).

9 Responses to “Interlaced Tetractyses and the Great Seal of the United States”

  1. Greg Pass Says:

    Mirco —

    In view of your stirring comments, here you have a flattened, interpenetrating (a la Fludd), and likewise encircled 6 + 1 configuration that evokes much the same set of “advice”.

    Btw, this particular constellation was not always so configured, as seen in earlier paintings, though took shape by the cutting of the first die in 1782 (six years after its first description).

  2. Mirco Says:


    this is a FASCINATING posting!

    Campbell’s comments are quite apt: indeed the EYE at the summit of the piramid is well placed. The top is the zenith, and in the human body it corresponds to the brain’s chakras, particularly the bai hui, representing Heaven (but also the infamous THIRD EYE of your Suzuki’s posting, through which duality is overcome and SEARED).

    Also, the piramid is placed in a desert, as it should: the desert is the DRY milieu where the WORK’s conditions may happen (the dry path of the alchemists).

    I never thought of the second emblem (thanks for bringing it up): again, Campbell’s comments are right on target. The double tetraktys is precisely the 2-dimensional representation of the universal symbol.

    Aor (aka Schwaller De Lubicz) has something truly remarkable on that in the midst of Vandenbroeck’s book Al-Kemi.

    America started her journey on a VERY solid footing!


  3. Polygonal Numbers and a Slice of Pie « Unurthed Says:

    […] And the 4th such triangular number? 10, the tetractys, a figuration “so holy [to the Pythagoreans] that they even swore oaths by it” (p61, c.f. the obverse seal): […]

  4. Dno Marrano Says:

    This is the symbol of the magician – the all seeing, all knowing eye of the elite. Hovering above the corpus of lower castes/classes/’the animals’ is the self endowed ‘godhead’ of the ‘enlightened’ and ‘fully human’. Such is the wisdom of man that will prove to be foolishness – we are not fit to decide who is ‘god’ and who is not. Surely GOD is both capable of deciding such a thing AND alone in worthiness to do so.

    Permanent circumcision from GOD is the destiny of those sons of god with such arrogance to think they decide who is god and who isn’t.

  5. David Says:

    Your stars on the top of the seal are incorrect. The original was a six pointed star meaning Heaven. You have a 5 pointed star, referring to Earth

  6. hubert Says:

    Please answer my question.If one draws liones on the 13 stars it becomes the star of David
    wich meansJewisch-Zionists?Yes?It is known openly that the USA goverment of to day is govern by Zionists.

  7. Robert Knowles Says:

    I have read and enjoyed Joseph Campbell for right at 35 years. He was great.

  8. Stephen Gutknecht Says:

    In reply to 2010 comment “It is known openly that the USA goverment of to day is govern by Zionists”

    No, it isn’t *open*, that’s the entire point. There is nothing more “closed” than the secret thinking of conspiracy and exclusivity. Campbell points out the this is Power – to keep secrets. “power is tied to knowledge” – a good discussion of the topic:

  9. james Says:

    Hi, just thought I’d share this”
    “Square the circle,” then triangulate the Soul. In the Atalanta Fugiens it says
    to make the circle, chaos, (containing the man and woman) into a square, which is the
    four elements; and then to make the square into a triangle, the Tria Prima of
    Salt, Mercury, and Sulphur; then to make the triangle into a Circle; the
    completion of the Philosopher’s Stone.

    The Pyramid Decoded?
    Last of the Seven Wonders left,
    a giant three-dimensional hieroglyph;
    symbol epitomizing Egyptian mythology,
    “square the circle,” triangulate the Eye.
    Circle of chaos, the id unrefined,
    earthy instinctuality in the mind;
    raised on the Benben hill, capstone,
    from Nu, the waters of emotion.
    Airy thinking bubbles-up from below,
    how to conquer nature’s death-blow?
    Fiery intuition dreams-up an answer,
    transcend the earth by crossing over.
    Thus the Ankh was duly formed,
    symbol of an ideal Soul reborn;
    inflated by Pharaoh’s pneumatic breath,
    Ka, Ba, and Akh of Self consciousness.
    The triangulated square sublimates,
    four into three sublime states;
    focally converging into one Stone,
    all-seeing Eye of a pyramidion.
    Aido Hwedo, African rainbow serpent,
    through the prism re-concentrates;
    reverse refraction of four essences,
    immanent Spirit unto transcendence.
    Into the Tria Prima of Alchemy,
    Ka, our refined Salt, crystal clarity;
    Ba, reflective Mercury, a winged man,
    and Akh, Sulphur of the golden Sun.
    Ankh is the Anchor of the Soul,
    grounding the mind in heaven’s realm;
    the “Field of Reeds” for the Ibis Bird,
    Akh, the Seer wading in a higher World.

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