One People, One Planet, HON!

American Beauty

1986, watercolor, 31”x 48”

In 1986 and 1987 Hieronimus painted a series of watercolors called “The American Beauty,” different perspectives on American flags where the seven red stripes were composed of as many as 16 intertwined red roses, and the blue canton full of gradations of blue vibrations around the stars. Most of these paintings today reside in the hands of private collectors and family. The red rose is symbolic of love, respect, and courage, and Hieronimus was deliberately striving with this series to reconnect these ideals to our flag. He chose 16 roses in honor of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who gave his life to perpetuate the American experiment. In the mystical I Ching, the 16th hexagram is “enthusiasm,” which assists one “to install helpers and to set armies marching.” Following numerological procedure, 16 = 1 + 6 = 7. Seven in the mystical Hebrew Kabbalah is “victory.” Adding 16 roses to the American flag projects a balance of strength, courage, and honor with love, beauty, perfection, and achievement. This “American Beauty” presents a complete picture of the American experience inspiring both patriotism and higher ideals.

Betsy Ross did not design the American flag. She may have sewn one of the first flags, but the actual artist who created the design of our red, white, and blue stars and stripes, Francis Hopkinson, is little remembered today despite the fact that he was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Nor did Hopkinson get paid for his artistic efforts for the fledgling country, that in addition to the flag also included his work on many official seals for branches of the military and government, and denominations of currency notes and coins. During his own time, Hopkinson was actually quite famous, but not as an artist or the designer of the first America flag. He was best known as an author of pop songs and satirical plays, which served as most effective propaganda for the masses in gaining support for independence.

Our colonial leaders knew the power of symbols, and Hopkinson was well versed enough in heraldry and symbolism to design a flag with the intention to inspire individuals to the radical new belief that the people could actually govern themselves. Although there is no documentation that Congress considered any of these deeper interpretations when accepting this design, an archetypal rendering of these symbols can be most revealing, especially if we accept that a “divine providence” was overshadowing the early words and decisions of our Founding Fathers.

The cosmic drama of our flag goes briefly like this: the rectangular shape of the flag and the blue canton within it are symbolic of a temple within a temple, or the perfection of the physical body in alignment with the spiritual temple. The color blue has always been used to represent the heavens, where one looks for wisdom. Blue is also related to the planet Jupiter. A field of blue with white stars suggests our country is designed to be in line with the spiritual elements of the heaven worlds, as above, so below. The color white often symbolizes silver, the moon, and therefore the feminine. White is symbolically the combination of all colors, and therefore says, “out of many, one.” The color red is traditionally linked to the planet Mars, which symbolizes more or less a masculine energy, though it is also associated with the blood of fertility. The red rose is the symbol of love and fidelity. Red is frequently used to symbolize blood. Blood is the element that flows within all of us carrying the genetic structure of the energy of the seven bodies, where all is interconnected from the physical to the divine.

Before recent times thirteen was seen as a number of transformation, symbolizing renewal, rebirth and regeneration. Thirteen is the number of the Zodiac when you include the sun as it travels through them in the year. Thirteen is the initiate, the one regenerating himself. The zodiacal sign of Scorpio is most often associated with the number 13, the sign that is also linked to themes of regeneration and rebirth. One could conclude that in order for America as a nation to reflect the 13 in our flag, many trials and errors over many lifetimes, many rebirths and regenerations will be required for the ultimate success. When we add together the numbers 1 + 3 to assess the number 13 numerologically, we arrive at the number four. Four can refer to the four elements of the physical world: air, earth, fire and water. It is in the physical world where rebirth and regeneration must take place to be reborn in spirit or attain spiritual vision.

The number of Colonies uniting in 1776 as 13 was fortuitous, as an attempt to coerce Canada into becoming a 14th state failed miserably early on. But once they were the Thirteen Colonies the founders really played up that number in their propaganda and symbolism. By doing so, they very well may have been consciously emphasizing rebirth and renewal as much as the number of united colonies. When the artists depicted them as stripes, or stars, or tiers on the pyramid, or arrows in the eagle’s claw, or berries on the olive branch, it meant the 13 individual states were united as one in their effort of renewal. Fear of the number 13 was not a common superstition of the time.

There is no existing documentation that explains why or when the five-pointed star came into use on the American flag. Many of the earliest depictions of the Stars and Stripes flag show it with six-pointed stars, though seven-, eight-, and five-pointed stars also make appearances early on. The explanation may be as simple as the practical decision of seamstresses in upholstery shops around the Union (perhaps Betsy Ross herself) that it was easier to cut out five-pointed stars. The symbolic difference is significant, but it does not appear that anyone was giving it that much thought, even though the five-pointed star was almost unheard of in flags before this time. Hexagrams, or the intersection of two triangles, represent the union of male and female energies, like fire and water, or spirit and matter, and would have symbolically reinforced balance and unity. The five-pointed star is sometimes called the star of man, as it can be likened to the head above the torso with two arms and two legs (think of DaVinci’s “Vetruvian Man”), or even to man’s five physical senses. It is thought to have first been deemed sacred by the ancients tracing the path that Venus makes in the sky as it traverses the Zodiac. The pentagram has a long history as a magical symbol for many cultures and religions, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, early Christians, and Freemasons. It was not until the last century that the pentagram became associated with Satanism, possibly due to a misunderstanding of ceremonial magick.

An entire chapter in Hieronimus’s United Symbolism of America is devoted to the symbolic design of the American flag together with the flag’s fascinating history. Hieronimus contends that a deeper appreciation of these symbols could lead Americans once again to recognize themselves as a nation of one people. Our diversity can be our strength when we rally around the flag of unity.