A Matter of Perception?

We assume that the ancients saw the world as we do today and that in two or three thousand years this will remain more or less unchanged. But is this really so?

Physiologically this assumption is probably true, but the modern understanding of the physiology of seeing and the nature of light that is fundamentally different from the ancients, and is likely to change in the far future.

In discussions about the signs of the zodiac and the constellations it is usually accepted that the signs of the zodiac derive their names from the constellations. The inverse view would then be that the constellations are named after the zodiac. We have two sources that express this. One source is Ibn ‘Arabi, who describes the ‘zodiacal’ constellations as being emanations of the zodiac. He speaks of the Sky without Stars, which is invisible, and the home of the Zodiac. The other source is mythology, where a constellation is formed by someone or something being lifted up into the heavens. A constellation is formed by a ‘living reality’ which has changed appearance. Our perception of it is another. The source of the constellation is no longer visible, it is concealed behind the constellation, and we need the story, the imaginative picture, to awaken the reality in our minds eye. So the next time we look at any constellation in the sky, whether zodiacal or not, we can try to imagine its story. The star cluster we look at takes on a new dimension. We can even imagine the stars as pinpricks in which the light of the story shines through. It is only a small step to imagine celestial intelligence looking down on us, not unlike the ancient Egyptian conception of the Sun and Moon as being the eyes of Ra. When the eyes were open they looked down on the world and brought it life and light.

If we look at the planets in this fashion, then they change from bodies of wandering reflected light into windows of a sphere of imagination. We look into a world coloured by said planet, or that world looks through to us; whether it is the cold world of Saturn with leaden sky and perpetual winter, or the hot and stormy world of Mars.

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