The Eye

Great Symbols Series @ Theosophy Trust


 All the world knows that Nuu was called 'the one without eyes' and it was Ra, the Sun, who addressed him as "Thou oldest god, from whom I have arisen." Thus, out of that which sees not, the golden eye was born. And Ra said:

There were formed many forms,
The forms of the forms in the forms of the children.
What 1 ejected was Shu,
What I spat out was Tefenet,
My father, the abyss, sent them.
My eye followed them through the ages of ages.

 This eye, called the udjat, possessed a will of its own and became lost in the waters of Nun, in the depths of the abyss of Khnum. Shu, whose name means 'to raise apart heaven and earth' and Tefenet, symbolizing world order, found their father's eye and restored it to him. In this way, according to the most ancient Egyptian texts, order was created out of chaos through the loss of the deity's eye. It then became the sun which Shu and Tefenet separated each day from the waters and restored to the world. In later texts it was said that the first eye was brought back only to find it had been replaced by a second. To appease the angry orb, Ra placed it upon his forehead as the uraeus, a symbol of rulership in heaven and on earth. The second eye of Ra is sometimes identified with Thoth, the lunar clerk of the Sun who helps him organize the world. Thus, Egyptian symbolism, like that of many other cultures, depicted the sun and the moon as the eyes of God.

 Polynesian and Siberian peoples also believed this, and the Chinese specified that the sun was the left eye, the moon the right. The Tlingit of North America called the sun and moon 'the eyes of heaven and the rays of the sun were identified as his 'eyelashes.' The Egyptians associated the cat, as well as Thoth, with the moon, believing that, with their luminous orbs, they could both see at night. The moon as cat was regarded as the eye of the sun because it reflected solar light. A more philosophical interpretation of the two eyes of Ra, based upon The Egyptian Book of the Dead, viewed them as twin solar orbs representing the dual force or power of the universe, the positive and negative Toum which The Secret Doctrine identifies with Fohat.

 Just as the One becomes Two, so the Two synthesize again in the One and a succession of reflections in the golden eye commences to unfold. The Eye of Ra becomes the Eye of Horus. Lost by Osiris to Seth, it is won back in battle by Horus, who thus makes good the wrong done to his father and restores him to his rightful seat by returning to him his eye. Seth represents the disturbance of law and order which is put to rest by Horus, sometimes called 'Horus in front of the One Without Eyes,' the blinded, eclipsed sun god. The Eye of Horus symbolized the act of offering to God. In old Norse tradition, one of Odin's eyes was pledged to Mimir the waterspirit in the well by the roots of Yggdrasil. In exchange, Odin received wisdom, while his eye was used as a cup to water the tree of life. This eye is generally regarded as the sun reflected in the water - a lunar reflection of the single solar eye of the heavenly god. Similarly, the loss of Ra's Eye may be seen as a pledge or sacrifice made to acquire knowledge through the manifestation of the world. The return of the lost eye in myriad ways in nature signifies the task of the progeny of the solar deity. It is noteworthy that everything in the manifested universe has the capacity to reflect light.

 It is written that in the 'All-Presence' sensed by the opened Eye of Dangma, there is no darkness or light as we know them in the differentiated world. The Darkness out of which Light comes is darkness to our intellect. The first Light is the offspring of "the first flutter in undifferentiated matter which throws it into objectivity and into a plane from which will start manifestation." Differentiated light and darkness are the result of the presence of objects to reflect and absorb, while the specific colour of an object depends upon its ability to absorb certain wavelengths and reflect others. This is a function of the fine structure of the object and, m terms of the most arcane level of manifestation, the breaking up of the one white light into its seven 'companions' o- the Seven Eyes of the Logos.

  Light is electro-magnetic vibration as well as radiant energy. It behaves in a wavelike manner when transmitted through a medium, and in a quantum or particulate way in its transactions with form. It is emitted, reflected and absorbed in definite multiples of a quantum unit, the energy of which depends upon the frequency, and hence colour, of radiation. Light, to us, is what the eye sees. If the range of visible light were compared to a single octave on the piano, the range of 'invisible' radiation known to modern science would include seventy more octaves. This observation led one savant to comment that "although not completely blind, man is not far removed from it." The light we do see is broken up in infinite ways. When an advancing wave-front is partially blocked by a reflecting or opaque object, a secondary set of reflected waves spreads out from the object and interferes with the original wave-front. Passing from one medium to another at various angles, light bends and changes velocity. Through multiple processes of diffraction and refraction, light reaches the eye bearing with it, for example, the detailed traces of its interaction with endless blades of grass. Marvellously, all this information is deciphered and synthesized in the eye and mind.

 The human eye is formed by a series of unfoldings of the outer coat of cells of the primitive embryo. Some of the original embryonic cells compose the emerging retinal surface and later become part of the light-sensitive rods and cones. The optic vesicle is visible in the embryo within its first month and is one of the central organs around which subsequent development takes place. Perhaps an intuitive awareness of the deeper spiritual significance of this process provided a basis for a Bushman myth telling of the god Mantis whose child was killed by baboons. The eye of the child was kept like a seed in water until the whole body grew back and the boy was restored.

 Light enters the eye and is refracted at all the interfaces, the convex lens having the ability to bend a stream of divergent rays, causing them to converge to a focus in the retinal plane. The image formed there is by necessity extremely small as well as inverted and is not what we 'see' at all. Instead, the light-image is variously absorbed by the pigmented rods and cones and converted into chemical energy which initiates a nervous impulse conducted to the optical brain centers. Light energy per se is thus dissipated at the point where the electro-chemical conversion takes place, and in this way the human eye harnesses energy to 'see.' The brain acts as a synthesizing and correlating agent, integrating the 'visual' impulses with other aspects of bodily activity, completing at its level an evolutionary sequence of elemental transformations that mirrors the involutionary order outlined in the Vishnu Purana.

 'Seeing' as man sees is largely a mental activity, like using a language, and inter-sensory experimentation is required before a human learns to make judgments on the basis of what his eyes tell him. The eye sees sharply only what it is concentrating upon, a process greatly influenced by acquired selective approaches to experience that vary according to culture. As William James put it:

Millions of items of the outward order are present to my senses which never properly enter into my experience. Why? Because they have no interest for me. My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind. Without selective interest, experience is utter chaos.

 The omniscience of the Eye of Ra, floating in the endless waters of space, must be constricted, brought back and placed on a set path to permit the ordered unfoldment of life. In the mind of man the floating eye is constricted and focussed upon inherited views of formative life. Man sees what he believes. Human vision involves mental projection as well as mental receptivity.

 The Orawak Indians of the Caribbean believe that when they can no longer see their own reflection in another's eye, the soul of that other has fled and become a dreaded zemi. While the pupil is the opening to the inner eye, the outer layer of the eye, the cornea, should act as a mirror. If no reflection of the onlooker's image could be seen, the indication would be that the light striking the cornea of the soulless one is being completely absorbed. More of this profoundly mysterious phenomenon can be understood by examining the teachings of ancient traditions

  Pythagoras, unlike modern scientists, taught that light was emanated from the eyes, and Plotinus thought:

It is first of all necessary to make the organ of vision analogous and similar to the object to be contemplated. Never would the eye have perceived the sun if it had not first taken the form of the sun; likewise, the soul cannot see beauty unless it first becomes beauty itself and every man must make himself beautiful and divine in order to attain the sight of beauty and divinity.

  Given that the sun, as the source of light, is symbolic of intelligence and spirit, then the process of seeing represents a spiritual act and symbolizes understanding. 'To see' is an active verb. The Vedic Seer or Drasta is in an active state obtaining drsti, which is sight or revelatory knowledge. Similarly, the eye is the intelligent intermediary between the gift of outer light and the light which burns within. "Light is both a part of the process of knowing and that which is known." A loss of soul results in the loss of inner light which ceases to illuminate the cornea of the eye, causing it to absorb rather than reflect light particles. The ability of the body to reflect light is dependent upon the presence of luminous astral fluid, the physical correlate of which is the blood that courses through every part of the organism except the transparent cornea of the eye. If the inner source of light is lost, there is no astral film in the cornea to sustain the luminous quality necessary for reflection.

 The pupil of the eye is that aperture in the human body through which the higher spiritual light can manifest. Patanjali taught that the luminosity conjoined with the eye is Sattva. This luminousness must interact with that of another in order that two individuals may truly 'see themselves' in each other. This ineffable experience bears witness to the inseparability of our inner natures. The 'seeing' of oneself in another involves an exchange of astral fluid and can create unbreakable bonds between souls which will not be lost with physical death. The soulless one has cut himself off from his luminous essence and the ghostly condition is perceivable in his empty eyes.

 The eye of the wise man is directed by him at will and when at rest is focussed on infinity. The thoughtless man's eye wanders and will absorb both the good and the bad around him. The astral beam from the sorcerer's eye can enter into the passive eye of the unwitting just as surely as the colourful rags of dugpas can divert the concentrated eye of the mountain climber and plunge him into the depths below. Thoughts of envy or dislike will attract similar ideas through the astral light and an evil eye will absorb and emit evil. In many parts of the world, people who wish to protect themselves from the 'evil eye' wear rings or amulets with ceramic eyes in the hope that the eye-bauble will absorb evil and dissipate it. In Mexico, villagers place the yolk of an egg under the bed of one afflicted with the 'evil eye,' believing that the 'eye' of the egg will absorb the effects of malevolent thoughts that have lodged themselves in the victim. Plato spoke of these electro-magnetic emanations of human thought as effluences varying in consistency. Weak currents produced by a diffused condition of mind break up and are dissipated rapidly whereas a coherent and strongly focussed ray of consciousness is like a laser beam. It can kill or cure depending upon precisely how it is used. A concentrated beam of light diffracts all other less intense light waves and penetrates deeply within the folds of matter. It is in this sense that Jesus said "The eye is the light of the body; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." The body, in so far as it has colour and form, "passes through the experience of being the object of the action of the process of knowing relevant to the eye."

 Like Ra after the loss of his original eye, man has two eyes which must work together in a simultaneous and balanced manner in order for normal vision to occur. To achieve, sustain and elevate this balance is the necessary basis of man's critical role in evolution. The condition of the two physical eyes can only reflect the balance of forces from within. Most modern savants see the eye as a purely passive organ, just as the act of 'seeing' remains a passively vague process for most of the human race. In this condition the eye can only absorb the world that disseminates itself before its uninspired gaze. Active eyes cast their light upon the world. They are an indispensable agency through which man may fulfill his role as the wise and intelligent link between spirit and matter.

 To the active eye of Spirit the Dhyanis are no more a subjective abstraction than are states of super-sensuous matter. The lens that automatically adapts to receive external light can be consciously controlled by the Adept-Seer to focus and direct inner light through the pupil of the eye, out upon the world. If we mistake reality for the world that strikes our passive physical eye, it is plausible to believe that the sun is an external source of light. But following the mythological accounts of the metaphysical descent of vision into the human eye, the world may be described as an image existing upon the surface of a great universal retina. The disc of the sun is a pupil out of and back into which stream light rays from the solar brain and Being beyond. The rays converge through the solar cornea in a region on the other side of the sun, just as in their passage through the lens into the human inner eye, which is itself a tiny sun. All forms we see in this world, including our own, are small, inverted images cast upon the wall of the vast retina, and darkly depict greater, archetypal forms existing in a dimension within the universal light source. This entire matrix is the result of "the only universal and eternal reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial depths."

 To grasp the perspective of the Adept-Seer, we must not only imagine ourselves on the other side of the solar eye and manasically synthesized with the Agnishwatha Pitris, but also that the eye itself has been reversed. The Light Source would extend inexhaustibly behind while the intelligent Self within It would focus Its rays through the lens and pupil out through the transparent cornea, into the world. On that side of the eye, the Seer, due to his omniscient perspective, is one with that which is seen and the act of seeing, and indeed is vision itself. In this state he can live in the world and know that the physical sun is but a magnetic vessel and a mayavic image of the true reflective veil or vase of golden light hiding the dark pupil of pure Divine Light. He knows that the luminiferous Sudda Satwa streaming forth into manifested existence is the consciousness forming the vestures of the highest Gods and Dhyanis. Through the opened third eye, the Eye of Shiva, whose spiritual activity is analogously reflected in the pineal gland synthesizing and converting light-energy, he perfectly reflects the Spiritual Sun. Like Shu and Tefenet, he restores the Eye to the God Within.