Today I would like to discuss what could be called the subjective experience of seeing. The physiology of seeing is something that we can think about, but it can’t be experienced directly.
Our vision has two components. The first component is the one we are generally aware of, focussed vision. It is the vision we need to read or to accomplish any number daily activities. The second component, which provides background, but which we generally ‘overlook’ is peripheral vision.
Try a little experiment. Ask yourself, while you are reading this article, what you see clearest, what is the most focussed at any given moment while reading. You will discover that your focussed vision is extremely small. It is capable of encompassing only one letter at a time, everything else is already slightly fuzzy and belongs to that much wider field of peripheral vision. So we have two principles at work. One is contractive, focussed, and the other is expansive, peripheral. In the language of astrology we could speak of Saturn and Jupiter.
A new born child has for example not yet learned how to focus his eyes. Its vision is entirely peripheral, undifferentiated. But from the moment of birth its surroundings, the periphery call forth a response, the child learns to focus. First on the face of its mother and other human beings who come into its field of vision. The child is seeing itself in its surroundings. If an adult practises focussing on the periphery he will experience his vision as coming from the periphery, he is the world of his vision and his body is only a mirror. He is the Sun that sends his light to his body, or if you wish to be more precise to the Moon, where it is reflected.
Now we can engage with our vision in three ways. We can revel in it, enjoy it, engage the principle of pleasure. This is Venus. Or we engage the principle of activity where we shape or destroy what is seen. Mars. A third possibility is to reflect on what is seen and our response to it. Mercury.
Now to return to focussed and peripheral vision. It seems surprising, considered from the standpoint of the planetary spheres that Jupiter (as a principal) should be followed by Saturn (as a principal). Shouldn’t it be the other way around? But Saturn isn’t the outermost sphere, it lies within that of the fixed stars. Traditionally Saturn is the doorkeeper, he stands at the gates of birth and death. Our ‘vision’ before birth could at best be described as purely spiritual, there is no differentiation. But with birth we undergo a substantial ‘contraction’. But contraction is always accompanied by expansion, if this wasn’t so we would undergo the ultimate physical contraction and die at birth. The contraction into the body is followed, as far as our vision goes, by expansion. We are not yet entirely ‘in’ the world, we are still the world that surrounds us! Saturn works on us in the course of our childhood, youth and adulthood. As adults we have learned to experience ourselves as entirely enclosed in our skins, which means that the contraction of birth has finally come to completion, we have gone through all of the planetary and elemental spheres until we have reached the sphere of the earth. Just as we contract into the body, the multitude of sense and intellectual experience expands. We speak of a widening of our horizon. Both expansion and contraction go hand in hand. One is never present without the other. We have it in our vision. If our vision were one of exclusive focus we would be in perpetual pain. If it were exclusively peripheral we would be unable to orient ourselves and would then be functionally blind.