At the heart of symbolism

Dollar and euro

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Isis and Osiris myth

The one dollar note refers to a large extent to Egypt and the myth of Isis in quest of the remains of Osiris to be reassembled. Any resemblance with the constitution of the United States is far from being purely accidental.

First children of Nut, the Heaven goddess, and Hem, the god of Earth, Osiris and Isis are twins as well as husband and wife. Their younger brother and sister, Seth and Neftis, are also married

Lack of attention or deliberate cunning, the fact remains that Osiris sleeps in the bed of Neftis who will give birth to a son, Anubis, the god with a jackal head.

Seth is not very pleased with this and decides to take revenge. Having taken Osiris measurements, a splendid sarcophagus adapted to his dimensions is manufactured. During a feast, Seth announces that he has a magnificent sarcophagus, which will belong to the person fitting perfectly inside. Everybody tries in vain to get in until Osiris who (Ô surprise!) is a perfect fit. Straight away, a group of servants are rushing, closing the top over Osiris and sealing the sarcophagus with iron circles before throwing it into the Nile. Floating and drifting, it touches finally the Persian coast. A huge tree grows where the sarcophagus ends up. Its fragrance is so wonderful that the King of the place cuts it down and transforms it into one of the pillars of the palace constructed in honour of his newborn son.

In the meantime, Isis has gone in search of her husband and discovers that he stands in one of the palace pillars, easily recognizable through the wonderful smell emanating from it. Invited to the court to look after the young prince, she accepts to be a nurse. After plenty of adventures, she explains to the King that her husband is standing in one of the pillars and that she would like to bring him home. Wishing to help, the King responds to her request and the pillar is brought on a barge. Isis releases the sarcophagus from its container, lies on Osiris and conceives Horus, the god with a hawk head.

Seth having taken possession of the throne, Isis is afraid to go back to the palace and hides among the papyrus where she gives birth. Meanwhile, Seth has gone hunting and follows a boar on the moors when he discovers Isis near Osiris” dead body. Becoming angry, he cuts Osiris into 14 pieces (or 15 according to some versions) and spreads them all around. With the help of Neftis and Anubis, provided with a sniffing nose, Isis manages to collect all pieces, except one. A fish had swallowed the missing piece, the phallus. Isis makes an image of it with the help of the magic arts of her sister Nephtys. Now, she is able to bring all the pieces together. When assembled, the body of Osiris is embalmed by Anubis who acts as a priest…

It is out of the question to go into all the details gathered in this myth, rich of so many meanings. The important thing to remember is that the sarcophagus, tree, pillar and phallus are representations of the “World Axis”, which is linking Heaven and Earth, celestial and terrestrial power.

In other respects, gathering what is scattered means to restore the existential or manifested world into its non-manifested original state. It is a matter of return to the principial Unit. This re-integration into the non-manifestation is only the counterpart to the disintegration of the Principle in its manifested form. The alternation of both phases of disintegration and re-integration represents the whole cosmic process.

Similarly, in the construction domain, the builder gathers scattered materials to create the edifice, clear allusion to the constitution we are dealing with.

The symbols carried by the greenback

The symbolism holds essentially within the two seals on both parts of the nominal value of the note.

One dollar note carrying two lateral seals

The left seal

The circle contains a pyramid with a square base symbolizing the four compass points of the Left seal and the pyramid manifested world. Composed of 13 degrees, it is topped by a pyramidal stone or keystone neglected during the construction of the different degrees and which finds its place as a building crown. Surmounting the edifice, the pyramidal stone, source of light, refers to the Being or Principle at the origin of the manifestation of all things. It holds “The All Seeing Eye”, the third eye, which is frontal or central. Beyond the binocular vision, the third eye symbolizes the omnipresence or the total perception within the perfect simultaneity of the eternal present peculiar to the non-manifested world.

Behind the pyramid, the desert symbolizes the emptiness or the Principle and the cultured land in front represents its manifestation.

At the bottom of the seal, the inscription “Novus Ordo Seclorum” refers to the new order of the ages (of the manifested world) while the top one “Annuit Coeptis” means that He (the Being) has favoured our undertakings.

The date of the Constitution of the United States is written in Roman numbers on the pyramid basis or 1776.

The right seal

Here, the circle contains an eagle, symbol of the World King, possessor of both spiritual and Right seal and the eagle temporal authority. From the unique head comes down the Principle polarized and manifested within both claws. One is holding 13 arrows, symbol of Justice or royal power, and the other a branch of 13 bay leaves, symbol of Peace, which means sacerdotal or spiritual authority.

Above the eagle head, 13 stars are drawing a luminous Solomon seal composed of 12 outlying stars symbolizing the zodiac, which surrounds the cosmic world of manifestation, and a central star representing the Principle at the origin of the manifestation.

The Solomon seal consists of two reverse triangles, holding 10 stars each, which are arranged according the tetraktys symbol:1+2+3+4. The number 1, located at the summit, refers to the Principle, the number 2 to its polarization and the number 3 = 1+2 to its non-manifested and “manifested” aspects. These numbers have an “ontological” Solomon's seal and the tetraktys character while the number 4, at the triangle basis, is equivalent to all numbers and symbolizes the universal manifestation. Indeed, the quaternary generates ten (1+2+3+4 = 10) and therefore all numbers. Consequently, the tetraktys represents the 10,000 (or 104) beings, that means the multitude of the universal manifestation generated by the Principle or the primordial Unity (1).

The star situated at the centre of the seal is central for each triangle as well. So, these triangles meet in perfect harmony in relation to the Principle. Moreover, the triangle pointing upwards, related to fire, has a celestial nature while the one pointing downwards, associated with water, has a terrestrial nature. So, the whole symbolizes the perfect union of celestial and terrestrial aspects realized within the “Universal Man”, mediator par excellence between Heaven and Earth.

The dollar sign $

Most of the explanations on the origin of the sign naturally refer to the serpentine shape. In connection with Isis quest to recover the scattered pieces of her husband and to reconstitute him, we may add, from the anecdotal point of view, another explanation about the dollar sign origin:

Letter ILetter SLetter ILetter S

The vertical line represents the “World Axis”, bridge between Heaven and Earth. The earlier drawing of the sign contained two vertical bars, instead of one, which referred to both ascending and descending phases alongside the axis.

The serpentine line symbolizes the cycling way around the axis as explained in the euro symbol part. For more details regarding this point, consult the double spiral.

The symbols on the euro notes

The wording euro notes, common to all countries of the European Union, are supposed not to hint at any myth and to come only from the imagination of their creators. Nevertheless, they carry symbols conveyed since the mists of time. In fact, they represent various bridges on the back and arches, arcades, pillars and columns as well as gates and windows on the first side.

The symbolism of the twelve star circle is treated in the framework of the European flag.

Five euro note Bridge over Gard

By the way, notice that the bridge on the 5 euro note, far away from emerging from any imagination, comes directly out of our childhood History book pictures worded “pont du Gard” (bridge situated close to Nîmes in France).

The bridge

The bridge over a river connects one bank to the other. However, both banks are not identical; they portray two different states of the being linked only by the bridge.

The bridge is equivalent to the pillar in Isis and Osiris myth. It connects Earth and Heaven, the human condition to the spiritual state and frames another symbol of the World Axis. As such, it appears to be more a vertical bridge through which the communication between the sensitive and supra-sensitive world operates.

The bridge crossing corresponds to the route alongside the axis joining two different being states. The departure bank is the manifested world to which we belong; the arrival bank symbolizes the spiritual or Principle world at the source of all manifestation. Depending on whether we reach to cross the bridge or not, due to obstacles plaguing the route as in fairy tales, the passage will be benefic or malefic. This double aspect results from the fact that the bridge may be crossed in both directions when it should only be in one, from the current state to a superior state and not the opposite. Hence the warning within myths where any return or backwards look involves a danger. Therefore, each bridge portion already covered has to disappear to the eyes of the person crossing. One should cast a glance backwards only after having reached the other bank.

In various forms of tradition, the only person identified to the bridge, the vertical axis, was able to establish the communication between both banks.“Wang” (or Emperor) ideogram In China, the “Wang” or Emperor was entitled to fulfil the rites associated with that function. Identified to the vertical axis, the “Wang” joined within his person the sacerdotal and royal functions. He was the one making the bridge between the three worlds (terrestrial, human and celestial) depicted by the three horizontal lines of the “Wang” character shown on the besides diagram. The vertical line symbolizes the three-world union, which means the bridge linking them. As such, the “Wang” was the “Universal Man”, real mediator between Heaven and Earth.

As a mediator between Heaven and Earth, the Emperor is a Pontiff. As such, he is simultaneously the builder of the bridge and the bridge itself. In the Middle Age story of Mabinogion, titled “Branwen, Daughter of Llyr”, the Welsh armies invade Ireland to avenge the evil lot imposed upon Branwen by her husband Matholwch, King of Ireland. On the way, they are stopped by the Shannon, a river without any bridge and on which no ship can sail. What does King Bran do ? He lies across the river from bank to bank and the soldiers march over his body. The Welsh attribute to this story the origin of the saying “The chief should be a bridge”.

The arches, arcades and columns

The bridge related to the vertical axis calls up the straight road resting on pillars connected by arches. The arch echoes the arch bridge as well, also called “rainbow” bridge in China, another symbol of the union of Heaven and Earth. This half or full circular link expresses more a cyclic than linear vision of being transformations. According to that vision, a cycle series wrinkling around the vertical axis represents various being states. The end or death of a cycle coincides with the beginning or birth of a new one, just as the arch sequence of a straight bridge. Certainly, this other passage route through diverse cycles, organized into a hierarchic state suite, bypasses the straight way, but it follows the same goal at least. There is no fundamental difference between the straight and arch bridges, between the direct path alongside the axis and the cycling path along the helix around the axis, only a form difference.

The various spirituality degrees are often represented as ladder rungs or stair steps. A ladder or a staircase which could only be covered in one direction, upwards. The straight or spiral staircases may illustrate the difference between both straight and cyclic ways.

As arch or arcade supporting elements, the columns stand for as many being states on one or the other river bank. To get more details about, consult the Temple columns.

The euro sign €

The two horizontal lines represent both traffic directions on the bridge linking the two banks. As the lines are horizontal, they may not bridge Heaven and Earth or spiritual and temporal world, but only two equivalent states of the terrestrial world. On the contrary, the arch crossing both lines symbolizes the cyclic path around an invisible vertical axis.


  • René Guénon:
  • “Symbols of Sacred Science”, Sophia Perennis Publisher 2004;
  • More specifically, chapters 63 and 64 on the symbolism of the bridge.
  • “The Great Triad”, South Asia Books Publisher;
  • Particularly, chapter 17 related to the Pontiff.
  • Joseph Campbell:
  • “Transformations of Myth through Time”, Harper Row Publisher, 1990.
  • “Power of myth”, Publishing Group Inc. 1988.