On Sight

2 09 2009


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.



5 responses

3 09 2009

Just be sure to stay away from the Evil Eye, having a crucifix from Holy Land may help

2 09 2009

-I don’t think it’s po-mo to wonder if large swaths of what we understand as being “obvious” or “proven” is in fact a mass-scale placebo effect.-

I have wondered the same thing.

2 09 2009
Tom Smith

Out of curiosity, from where in the text of the Symposium does Ficino draw this piece of analysis?

2 09 2009
Ben George

The reality experienced by the people as a function of the contemporary science: Here you say perhaps the ideas about the evil eye were influenced by the classical/Medieval idea that light comes from the eye as from a source.

This makes me wonder what sort of realities we experience viscerally that is in fact simply a result of our understanding of contemporary science. I don’t think it’s po-mo to wonder if large swaths of what we understand as being “obvious” or “proven” is in fact a mass-scale placebo effect.

2 09 2009

-It is even said that a man can kill his own child if his sense of sight is strong enough.-

In Honduras I was forbidden to look at my infant son immediately after coming home from work, covered in sweat. My wife and in-laws claimed it would curse him. It wasn’t necessary to shower, but I had to somehow rest and clean up before I could look directly at him or hold him. Being an uncouth American, I would frequently look at him anyway just to piss off my wife and in-laws.

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