One of the most important symbols in ancient
religion was the eye. A ubiquitous aphorism says, “The eyes are the
windows to the soul.” I’ve tried to trace the origin of this saying, but it may go back too far. The notion is very old. The Solar
eclipse probably played a large role in the formulation of the phrase,
for the ancients saw the eyes as solar orbs, enlightening the body.
many parts of the world, the winged sun-disk symbol resembling an eye
has been found graven in stone. In ancient Assyria, it represented the
sun god, Shamash; in Egypt, the sun god, Re. Many believe that the
symbol was fashioned from the appearance of a total solar eclipse, where
the sun’s corona resembles wings and the blackened sun looks a lot like
an eye. The symbol has been found with the Toltecs, Mayans, Aztecs, and
Incas, as well. Here is a good description of this phenomenon:
is more than noteworthy that, during the interval of totality of a
total solar eclipse, the black ball of the moon surrounded by the sun’s
corona bears a truly astonishing resemblance to a majestic eye gazing
down from the skies above our planet Earth. The darkened orb of the moon
occulting the bright disc of the sun forms the pupil of this celestial
oculus while the ethereal halo formed by the myriad streamers and rays
of the sun’s corona which radiate outwards all around the black
silhouette of the Earth’s single natural satellite vividly recalls the
iris of an eye. The black disc formed by the dark lunar orb is quite
analogous to the pupil of an eye. Knowing that the pupil of the eye is
essentially a hole in the eye via which light is transmitted to the
cones and rods of the retina, we might not be surprised to find that the
darkened moon observed during the total solar eclipse has been, at
least metaphorically, likened to a “hole in the sky” (Robin Edgar, Eye
This “all-seeing eye” represented, among other things, the belief that God was omniscient and omnipresent.
what does the eye signify microcosmically? Jacob Bohme said, “The Soul
is an eye in the Eternal Abyss, a similitude of Eternity.” To gaze into
the eyes of another is to gaze into the unlimited, unbounded depths of Soul. The gaze need not be a literal looking into someone’s eyes.
This is the realm of the Imaginal, a term coined by Henry Corbin, the
French orientalist, mystic, and phenomenologist. The Imaginal is this
unbounded realm of soul.
…alam al-mithal, the world
of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a world as ontologically real as the
world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a world that
requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a
cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of
sensory perception, or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the
imaginative power, the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination
that modern man identifies with “fantasy” and that, according to him,
produces only the “imaginary” (From Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam by
Henri Corbin, Translated by Leonard Fox).
It should also be
mentioned that the image produced by the solar eclipse is the perfect
juxtaposition of light and dark, producing the state of metaxy, which I
discussed in a previous article. The metaxy is the in-between state,
which is the realm of Soul, according to Plato. It is the middle course
Icarus was instructed to fly by his father, but disobeyed and perished.
It also reminds me of the Taoist Yin/Yang.
The images of Nature show us the correct path to take. The winged-eye of the solar eclipse is just one example.
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