On Sight

2 09 2009

augustus

But, that there is some light, though small, in the eyes and brain, many animals which see at night can attest. Their eyes glow in the dark. And also, if anyone has pressed the corner of his eye in some certain way with his finger and twisted it, he seems to see a certain luminous circle inside himself. And it is said that the deified Augustus had eyes so bright and shining that when he stared at someone very hard, he forced him to lower his eyes, as if before the glow of the sun. Tiberius also is said to have had very large eyes which (this would be amazing) saw at night and in the dark, but only for a short time, and when they first opened from sleep; then they grew dim again.

-Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium on Love

In Mexico, it is said that people who give small children the evil eye (el mal de ojo) have la vista muy fuerte (a strong sense of sight). It is even said that a person can kill someone if his sense of sight is strong enough. This is almost always completely involuntary. Spanish speakers can see the short documentary, El Mal Visto, regarding this phenomenon. One wonders if such beliefs are remnants of the esoteric sciences of the Renaissance and earlier.