"A Glance into Space"
August Strindberg, 1896
It was Easter Day when the mezereon was in bloom in Haga Park. Mezereon which has a lilac's flower and scent, but is no lilac.
We were to see the sun dance, as the legend has it, on this day of resurrection. When I raised my eyes to the day star I saw at first only a brilliant clarity, a cloud of white fire, and I immediately refrained from this dangerous spectacle.
Many Easter Days have passed since then, and at length it happened that I wanted to look at the sun, in order to trace its spots. Because it was the vernal equinox, it was located in the celestial equator. Raising my eyes I saw at first nothing but a large white cloud of fire, which little by little converged to form a golden yellow disk, which rotated within another disk that was now silver white, now iron black.
It was then that the thought struck me: is the sun round because it looks round to us? And what is light? Something outside me or within, subjective perceptions?
Light is a force, not an element, and should of course be invisible, since forces are not otherwise visible.
Might the sun be the omnipresent primeval light, which my imperfect eye can only apprehend as that round, yellow spot on the retina?
And what is light when darkness is not its opposite, which may easily be confirmed by going into a dark room and pressing upon one's eyeballs. This is the very experiment that I have carried out, repeated and controlled.
When it is dark and l press on my eyeballs, I see at first a chaos of lights, stars or sparks, which are gradually condensed and gathered up into a brilliant disk, which rotates. This disk then begins to give off sheaves of red light, imitating the sun's flares, but also resembling a sun-spot, a tourbillon, or the spiral nebulae in Virgo or Canes Venatici.
At the extremity of pain occasioned by this pressure, the sun disappears and a single, blinding star remains. When the pressure is reduced, the lighting effects cease, and a display of colours begins. In the centre there appears a cavity in Scabiosa atropurpurea, surrounded by a soft sulphur yellow and in outline resembling a sun-spot.
Is it in that case the inside of the eye that the astronomer reproduces in word and image, and is it the lenses of the telescope that he photographs on the photosensitive plate? And there for the moment I paused.
However, I chanced upon an ophthalmoscopy with colour prints, and readily admit to my surprise when I saw in the reproductions of the powerfully illuminated interior of the eye these illustrations of the retina which imitated the cloud of light, the sun, the concentric rings, the stars, the Milky Way and the whole firmament's every phenomena.
Where does the self begin and where does it end? Has the eye adapted itself to the sun? Or does the eye create the phenomenon called the sun?
According to Schopenhauer, "The world with infinite space, in which everything is contained, with infinite time, in which everything moves, with the wonderful multiplicity of things which occupy both, is only a cerebral phenomenon."
The sun delineates an imaginary circle in the imaginary firmament. This circle forms an angle of 13° to the celestial equator.
The eye, which is formed as a globe, possesses a round yellow spot, resembling the sun, and this single light-sensitive spot in the eye is situated 23° above the point at which the optical nerve enters the eye.
What might this mean? Is it possible that when he emerged from the primal matter and looked the sun straight in the eye, man was blinded in what is now the blind spot, and that the sun, the omnipresent light, created for itself a new focal point?
Or did the earth, when it shifted on its axis, compel man to rise these 23°?
He who knows, lee him speak out, and may he at the same time say why the heart also assumes an angle of 23°!