Saturday, September 25, 2010

A universe of traveling images

Lucretius thought that images penetrate people through the pores of the skin, producing dreams. In Book IV of De rerum natura ("On the Nature of Things") the Roman poet-philosopher describes a universe of traveling images (eidola) that influence humans as they enter the body.

The eidolon of the beloved, traveling from a far, can drive the lover into frenzy.

All people and all things, including the gods, constantly emit eidola, which fly through space in all directions. They include doubles identical in shape and color to their originals, but more delicate and subtle. They stimulate the senses, which release their own images, which enter the mind.

The word and the concept fascinated Walt Whitman, who wrote a poem called "Eidolons" that contains these verses:

Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,
Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
The entities of entities, eidolons.

Unfix'd yet fix'd,
Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.


nina said...
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Robert Moss said...

Nina - Vicky's story sounds like another example of how the gift lies in the wound. It also evokes the theme (common in legend and mythology) of the blind or sight-impaired seer whose power to see clearly into the Otherworld comes at the price of the loss of ordinary vision.