The Eyes Have It

Third Eye NepalIndian-Goddess-Mask
Third Eye NepalIndian-Goddess-Mask

In yoga the sixth chakra (point on the body) relates to the mystical third eye – the organ of inner perception.  The purpose of this sixth chakra is to see the way, and bring the light of consciousness to all that exist within and around us.  In South Asia it is traditionally shown as a bright dot of red color (a bindi) applied in the center of the forehead close to the eyebrows, but it can also consist of other colors with a sign or piece of jewelry worn at this location.

Bronze Buddha with prominent third eye from National Museum of Korea
Bronze Buddha with prominent third eye from National Museum of Korea
Photo of Selena Gomez.  Credit:  Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Photo of Selena Gomez. Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Singer Selena Gomez found herself embroiled in a controversy involving a dance she did and the improper use of a bindi. Leaders at the Universal Society of Hinduism want Selena to apologize for wearing the religious adornment.

“The bindi on the forehead is an ancient tradition in Hinduism and has religious significance,” as Rajan Zed explained:  “It is also sometimes referred to as the third eye and the flame, and it is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol.  It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed. Selena should apologize and then she should get acquainted with the basics of world religions.”

Historically the eye symbol has been picked up by different religious faiths.  I was surprised to see the symbol on Shaker spirit drawings.

Sarah Bates sacred roll includes the Eye of Wisdom or spiritual eye, which allowed Holy Mother Wisdom to see the faithful members of the Shaker Community.    Credit:  Philadelphia Museum of Art
Sarah Bates sacred roll includes the Eye of Wisdom or spiritual eye, which allowed Holy Mother Wisdom to see the faithful members of the Shaker Community. Credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Freemasons borrowed this important symbol of the Supreme Being, from the nations of antiquity. Both the Hebrews and the Egyptians selected the open eye as the symbol of watchfulness, and the eye of God as the symbol of Divine care of the universe.

Masonic All Seeing Eye of God
Masonic All Seeing Eye of God

Egyptian Eye of Horus (shown below from King Tut’s tomb) was a symbol of protection, royal power and good health.

Credit:  National Geographic Society
Credit: National Geographic Society

The Eye-in-the-Hand symbol was used by the ancient Native Americans of the Mississippian culture.   The meaning of the Hand Eye is related to gaining entry to the Upperworld (heaven).  The Eye-in-the-Hand symbol is believed to be representative of a supreme deity.

Rendering of ceremonial disk mound Credit:  Alabama Museum of Natural History
Rendering of ceremonial disk mound Credit: Alabama Museum of Natural History

The universal symbol called Humsa (khamsa) by the Hindus is a powerful protection amulet and is often called the All Seeing Eye of Mercy helpful in banishing fear and oppression.

Tunisian Khamsa hanging inside a car.  Credit:  CarlesVA/Wikipedia
Tunisian Khamsa hanging inside a car. Credit: CarlesVA/Wikipedia
Collection of khamsa amulet collected in Israel.  Credit:  Bluewind/Wikipedia
Collection of khamsa amulet collected in Israel. Credit: Bluewind/Wikipedia

And finally here’s a contemporary African sculpture with the same symbol

Zimbabwean Sculpture Eye in Hand by Lameck Bonjisi
Zimbabwean Sculpture Eye in Hand by Lameck Bonjisi
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