Sensation and Thoughtby Titus Lucretius Carus
- Thouch and sight give us the same information: they must be affected by similar causes.Moreover, since a shape felt by the hands in the darkness is known to be in some way the same as is seen in the light and the clear brightness, it must needs be that touch and sight are stirred by a like cause. If then we handle a square thing, and it stirs our touch in the darkness, what square thing can fall upon our sight in the light, except its image? Wherefore it is clear that the cause of seeing lies in the images, nor without them can anything be seen.
The idols meet our eyes wherever we turn.Next those things which I call the idols of things are borne everywhere, and are cast off and meted out to every side. But because we can see them only n with our eyes, for that cause it comes to pass that, to whatever side we turn our sight, all things there strike against it with their shape and hue.They drive before them a current of air, by whose length we can judge the distance of the object. And how far each thing is away from us, the image causes us to see and provides that we distinguish. For when it is given off, n straightway it pushes and drives before it all the air that has its place between it and the eyes, and thus it all glides through our eyeballs, and, as it were, brushes through the pupils, and so passes on. Therefore it comes to pass that we see how far away each thing is. And the more air is driven on in front, and the longer the breeze which brushes through our eyes, the further each thing is seen to be removed. But you must know that these things are brought to pass by means exceeding quick, so that we see what it is and at the same time how far it is away.We do not perceive the separate idols, but the whole object. Herein by no means must we deem n there is cause to wonder why the idols which strike the eyes cannot be seen one by one, but the whole things are descried. For when wind too lashes us little by little, and when piercing cold streams on us,So we do not feel individual particles of wind or cold, and though we strike only the surface of a stone, we feel the resistance of the whole. we are not wont to feel each separate particle of that wind and cold, but rather all at once, and then we perceive blows coming to pass on our body, just as if something were lashing us and giving us the feeling of its body without. Moreover, when we strike a stone with our finger, we touch the very outside of the rock and its colour on the surface, yet we do not feel the colour with our touch, but rather we feel the very hardness of the rock deep down beneath.
Peculiarities of the mirror.Come now and learn why the image is seen beyond the mirror; for indeed it seems removed far within. It is even as those things which in very truth are seen outside a door, when the door affords an unhindered sight through it, and lets many things out of doors be seen from the house.1. The image seems to be behind the mirror, because, as with things seen through doors, we receive first a current of air, then the image of the mirror, then another current, and finally the image of the object. For that vision too is brought to pass by two twin airs. For first the air on our side of the jambs is seen in such a case, then follow the folding doors themselves on right and left, afterwards the light outside brushes through the eyes, and a second air, and then those things which in very truth are seen without the doors. So when first the image of the mirror has cast itself adrift, while it is coming to our pupils, it pushes and drives before it all the air which has its place between it and our eyes, and so makes us able to perceive all this air before the mirror. But when we have perceived the mirror itself too, straightway the image which is borne from us passes to the mirror, and being cast back returns to our eyes and drives on and rolls in front of it another air, and makes us see this before itself, and therefore seems to be just so much distant from the mirror. Wherefore, again and again, it is not right at all that we should wonder <that this appearance comes to be both for those things which are really seen out of doors, and also> 1 for those things which send back a vision from the level surface of the mirrors; since in either case it is brought about by the two airs.2. Right hand and left are changed in the mirror, because the image is turned straight back, like a plaster mask dashed against a post. Next it comes to pass that the part of our limbs which is on the right is seen in mirrors on the left, because when the image comes to the plane of the mirror and strikes against it, it is not turned round unchanged, but is dashed back straight; just as if one were to dash a plaster mask, before it is dry, against a pillar or a beam, and it at once were to preserve its shape turned straight to meet us, and were to mould again its own features dashed back towards us.3. Images may be reflected from mirror to mirror, changing their cheirality each time. Thus it will come to pass that what was before the right eye, now in turn is the left, and the left in exchange is now the right. It comes to pass too that the image is handed on from mirror to mirror, so that even five or six idols are wont to be made. For even when things are hidden far back in an inner part of the room, yet, however far distant from the sight along a twisting path, it may be that they will all be brought out thence by winding passages, and, thanks to the several mirrors, be seen to be in the house. So surely does the image reflect from mirror to mirror, and when a left hand is presented, it comes to pass that it is changed to the right,4. Curved horizontal mirrors return images with the right cheirality. and then once again it is changed about and returns to where it was before. Moreover, all flank-curved mirrors, n endowed with a curve like to our flanks, send back to us right-handed idols, either because the image is borne across from one part of the mirror to another, and then flies towards us, twice dashed back, or else because the image n is twisted around, when it has arrived, because the curved shape of the mirror teaches it to turn round towards us.5. The image in the mirror keeps step with us. Moreover, you would believe that idols walk step by step and place their feet as we do, and imitate our gait, just because, from whatever part of the mirror you retire, straightway the idols cannot be turned back from it, inasmuch as nature n constrains all things to be carried back, and leap back from things, sent back at equal angles.
Peculiarities of vision.Bright things moreover the eyes avoid, and shun to look upon. The sun, too, blinds, if you try to raise your eyes to meet him, because his own power is great, and the idols from him are borne through the clear air, sinking heavily into the deep, and strike upon the eyes, disordering their texture.1. Bright things blind and burn the eyes, because of the seeds they contain. Moreover, any piercing brightness often burns the eyes for the reason that it contains many seeds of fire, which give birth to pain in the eyes, finding their way in. Moreover, whatever the jaundiced look upon becomes sickly-yellow, because many seeds of yellow stream off from their bodies to meet the idols of things,2. Jaundiced persons infect the images with their own yellow. and many also are mixed in their eyes, which by their infection tinge all things with their pallor.
Now we see things that are in the light out of the darkness, because, when the black air of the gloom, which is nearer, first enters and seizes on the open eyes,3. We can see things in the light out of darkness, because the light clears the eyes; but not in the darkness out of light, because the darkness chokes the eyes. there follows in hot haste a bright air full of light, which, as it were, cleanses the eyes and scatters abroad the dark shadows of the former air. For the latter is many times more nimble, many times finer and more potent. And as soon as it has filled the passages of the eyes with light, and opened up those which before the black air had beleaguered, straightway follow the idols of the things which are lying in the light, and excite our eyes so that we see. But, on the other hand, we cannot do this in the darkness out of the light, because the air of the gloom, which is denser, comes on afterwards, and fills all the channels and beleaguers the passages of the eyes, so that none of the idols of things can be cast upon them and stir them.
- Square towers look round from a distance, because the angles are worn off the images in transit.And when we see from afar off n the square towers of a town, it comes to pass for this cause that they often look round, because every angle from a distance is seen flattened, or rather it is not seen at all, and the blow from it passes away, nor does its stroke come home to our eyes, because, while the idols are being borne on through much air, the air by its frequent collisions constrains it to become blunted. When for this cause every angle alike has escaped our sense, it comes to pass that the structures of stone are worn away as though turned on the lathe; yet they do not look like things which are really round to a near view, but a little resembling them as though in shadowy shape.5. Our shadow seems to follow us, because, as we move, the light is cut off from successive pieces of the ground. Likewise our shadow seems to us to move in the sunshine, and to follow our footsteps and imitate our gait; if indeed you believe that air bereft of light can step forward, following the movements and gait of men. For that which we are wont to name a shadow can be nothing else but air devoid of light. But in very truth it is because in certain spots in due order the ground is bereft of the light of the sun wherever we, as we move on, cut it off, and likewise the part of it which we have left is filled again; for this cause it comes to pass that, what was but now the shadow of our body, seems always to follow unaltered straight along with us. For always new rays of light are pouring out, and the former perish, like wool drawn into a flame. Therefore readily is the ground robbed of light, and is likewise filled again and washes away its own black shadows.
In all such cases sensation is not false, but the mind draws a wrong inference.And yet we do not grant that in this the eyes are a whit deceived. For it is theirs to see in what several spots there is light and shade: but whether it is the same light or not, whether it is the same shadow which was here, that now passes there, or whether that rather comes to pass which I said a little before, this the reasoning of the mind alone must needs determine, nor can the eyes know the nature of things. Do not then be prone to fasten on the eyes this fault in the mind.1. Stationary objects seen from a moving ship seem to move. The ship, in which we journey, n is borne along, when it seems to be standing still; another, which remains at anchor, is thought to be passing by. The hills and plains seem to be flying towards the stern, past which we are driving on our ship with skimming sail.2. The stars seem to be at rest. All the stars, fast set in the vault of the firmament, seem to be still, and yet they are all in ceaseless motion, inasmuch as they rise and return again to their distant settings, when they have traversed the heaven with their bright body. And in like manner sun and moon seem to abide in their places,3. Passages between mountains are not seen at a distance. yet actual fact shows that they are borne on. And mountains rising up afar off from the middle of the waters, between which there is a free wide issue for ships, yet seem united to make a single island. When children have ceased turning round themselves, so sure does it come to appear to them that the halls are turning about, and the pillars racing round,4. To giddy persons their surroundings seem to spin. that scarcely now can they believe that the whole roof is not threatening to fall in upon them. And again, when nature begins to raise on high the sunbeam ruddy with twinkling fires, and to lift it above the mountains, those mountains above which the sun seems to you to stand, as he touches them with his own fire,5. The rising sun seems close to mountains in the east. all aglow close at hand, are scarce distant from us two thousand flights of an arrow, nay often scarce five hundred casts of a javelin: but between them and the sun lie the vast levels of ocean, strewn beneath the wide coasts of heaven, and many thousands of lands are set between, which diverse races inhabit, and tribes of wild beasts.6. A tiny pool of no depth can reflect the whole sky. And yet a pool of water not deeper than a single finger-breadth, which lies between the stones on the paved street, affords us a view beneath the earth to a depth as vast as the high gaping mouth of heaven stretches above the earth; so that you seem to descry the clouds and the heaven and bodies wise hidden beneath the earth—yet in a magic sky. Again,7. A horse standing in a stream seems to be borne upstream. when our eager horse has stuck fast amid a river, and we look down into the hurrying waters of the stream, the force seems to be carrying on the body of the horse, though he stands still, athwart the current, and to be thrusting it in hot haste up the stream; and wherever we cast our eyes all things seem to be borne on and flowing forward, as we are ourselves.8. Perspective. Though a colonnade runs on straight-set lines all the way, and stands resting on equal columns from end to end, yet when its whole length is seen from the top end, little by little it contracts to the pointed head of a narrow cone, joining roof with floor, and all the right hand with the left, until it has brought all together into the point of a cone that passes out of sight.9. Sunrise at sea. It happens to sailors on the sea that the sun seems to rise from the waves, and again to set in the waves, and hide its light; since verily they behold nothing else but water and sky; so that you must not lightly think that the senses waver at every point. But to those who know not the sea,10. Refraction. ships in the harbour seem to press upon the water maimed, and with broken poop. For all the part of the oars which is raised up above the salt sea spray, is straight, and the rudders are straight above; but all that is sunk beneath the water, seems to be broken back and turned round, yes, and to turn upwards again and twist back so that it almost floats on the water’s surface.11. Moving clouds make the stars seem to move. And when winds in the night season carry scattered clouds across the sky, then the shining signs seem to glide athwart the storm-clouds, and to be moving on high in a direction far different from their true course.12. A finger on the eyeball makes it see double. Then if by chance a hand be placed beneath one eye and press it, it comes to pass by a new kind of perception that all things which we look at seem to become double as we look, double the lights of the lamps with their flowery flames, double the furniture throughout the whole house in twin sets, and double the faces of men, double their bodies.13. Dreams. Again, when sleep has bound our limbs in sweet slumber, and all the body lies in complete rest, yet then we seem to ourselves to be awake and moving our limbs, and in the blind gloom of night we think to see the sun and the light of day, and, though in some walled room, we seem to pass to new sky, new sea, new streams, and mountains, and on foot to cross over plains, and to hear sounds, when the stern silence of night is set all about us, and to give answer, when we do not speak. Wondrously many other things of this sort we see, all of which would fain spoil our trust in the senses; all in vain, since the greatest part of these things deceives us on account of the opinions of the mind, which we add ourselves, so that things not seen by the senses are counted as seen. For nothing is harder than to distinguish things manifest from things uncertain, which the mind straightway adds of itself.
If the sceptic denies that anything can be known, how can he know that? Where does he get his criterion of truth?Again, if any one thinks n that nothing is known, he knows not whether that can be known either, since he admits that he knows nothing. Against him then I will refrain from joining issue, who plants himself with his head in the place of his feet. And yet were I to grant that he knows this too, yet I would ask this one question; since he has never before seen any truth in things, whence does he know what is knowing, and not knowing each in turn, what thing has begotten the concept of the true and the false, n what thing has proved that the doubtful differs from the certain?If the senses are false, he must find a truer standard. You will find that the concept of the true is begotten first from the senses, and that the senses cannot be gainsaid. For something must be found with a greater surety, which can of its own authority refute the false by the true. Next then, what must be held to be of greater surety than sense?But (a) reason, resting on sensation, cannot refute the senses; (b) the senses cannot refute one another; Will reason, sprung from false sensation, n avail to speak against the senses, when it is wholly sprung from the senses? For unless they are true, all reason too becomes false. Or will the ears be able to pass judgement on the eyes, or touch on the ears? or again will the taste in the mouth refute this touch; will the nostrils disprove it, or the eyes show it false? It is not so, I trow. For each sense has its faculty set apart, each its own power, and so it must needs be that we perceive in one way what is soft or cold or hot, and in another the diverse colours of things, and see all that goes along with colour. n Likewise, the taste of the mouth has its power apart; in one way smells arise, in another sounds. And so it must needs be that one sense cannot prove another false.nor (c) can the senses convict themselves. Nor again will they be able to pass judgement on themselves, since equal trust must at all times be placed in them. Therefore, whatever they have perceived on each occasion, is true.Sensation is true. It is better to admit that reason may fail than to impugn the senses, the foundation of all knowledge, and the only guide for life. And if reason is unable to unravel the cause, why those things which close at hand were square, are seen round from a distance, still it is better through lack of reasoning to be at fault in accounting for the causes of either shape, rather than to let things clear seen slip abroad from your grasp, and to assail the grounds of belief, and to pluck up the whole foundations on which life and existence rest. For not only would all reasoning fall away; life itself too would collapse straightway, unless you chose to trust the senses, and avoid headlong spots and all other things of this kind which must be shunned, and to make for what is opposite to these. Know,To deny the veracity of sensation is to build a fabric with faulty instruments. then, that all this is but an empty store of words, which has been drawn up and arrayed against the senses. Again, just as in a building, if the first ruler is awry, and if the square is wrong and out of the straight lines, if the level sags a whit in any place, it must needs be that the whole structure will be made faulty and crooked, all awry, bulging, leaning forwards or backwards, and out of harmony, so that some parts seem already to long to fall, or do fall, all betrayed by the first wrong measurements; even so then your reasoning of things must be awry and false, which all springs from false senses.
The other senses.Now it is left to explain in what manner the other senses perceive each their own object—a path by no means stony to tread.
- Hearing is produced when sounds strike the sense. Sound is corporeal: (a) it can strike the sense; (b) shouting makes the throat sore; (c) continued speaking weakens the body.First of all, every kind of sound n and voice is heard, when they have found their way into the ears and struck upon the sense with their body. For that voice too and sound are bodily you must grant, since they can strike on the senses. Moreover, the voice often scrapes the throat and shouting makes the windpipe over-rough as it issues forth; since, indeed, the first-beginnings of voices have risen up in greater throng through the narrow passage, and begun to pass forth: and then, in truth, when the passages are crammed, the door too is scraped. There is no doubt then that voices and words are composed of bodily elements, so that they can hurt. And likewise it does not escape you how much body is taken away and drawn off from men’s very sinews and strength by speech continued without pause from the glimmer of rising dawn to the shades of dark night, above all if it is poured out with loud shouting. And so the voice must needs be of bodily form, since one who speaks much loses a part from his body.Roughness or smoothness of sound is due to the form of the component atoms. Now roughness of voice comes from roughness in its first-beginnings, and likewise smoothness is begotten of their smoothness. Nor do the first-beginnings pierce the ears with like form, when the trumpet bellows deep with muffled tones, and when the barbarous Berecyntian pipe shrieks 1 with shrill buzzing sound, and when the swans at night from the cold marches of Helicon lift with mournful voice their clear lament. 2
These voices then, when we force them forth from deep within our body,The voice is formed to words by tongue and lips. At close quarters it keeps its form, and shoot them abroad straight through our mouth, the pliant tongue, artificer of words, severs apart, and the shaping of the lips in its turn gives them form. Therefore, when it is no long distance from which each single utterance starts and reaches to us, it must needs be that the very words too are clearly heard and distinguished sound by sound. For each utterance preserves its shaping and preserves its form.but at greater distance is dislocated and becomes indistinct. But if the space set between be over great, passing through much air the words must needs be jostled together, and the utterance disordered, while it flies across the breezes. And so it comes to pass that you can perceive the sound, yet not distinguish what is the meaning of the words: so confounded and entangled does the utterance come to you.One voice can travel to many ears, Again one single word often awakes the ears of all in an assembly, shot out from the crier’s mouth. Therefore one voice flies apart immediately into many voices, since it sunders itself into all the several ears, imprinting on the words a shape and a clear-cut sound.or else it is scattered abroad. But that part of the voices which falls not straight upon the ears, passes by and perishes scattered in vain through the air. Some beating upon solid spots are cast back, and give back the sound, and at times mock us with the echo of a word.Solid things can beat the voice back. Hence the echo, And when you see this clearly, you could give account to yourself and others, in what manner among solitary places rocks give back the counterparts of words each in due order, when we seek our comrades wandering amid the dark hills, and with loud voice summon them scattered here and there. I have seen places give back even six or seven cries, when you sent forth but one: so surely did one hill beat back to another and repeat the words trained to come back again. Such places the dwellers around fancy to be the haunt of goat-footed satyrs and nymphs,which gives rise to country stories of fauns, &c. and they say that there are fauns, by whose clamour spreading through the night and sportive revels they declare that the dumb silence is often broken; and that sounds of strings are awakened, and sweet sad melodies, which the pipe pours forth, stopped by the fingers of players; and that the race of country folk hears far and wide, when Pan, tossing the piny covering of his half-monstrous head, ofttimes with curling lip runs over the open reeds, so that the pipe ceases not to pour forth woodland music. All other marvels and prodigies of this kind they tell, lest by chance they be thought to live in lonely places, deserted even of the gods. Therefore they boast such wonders in discourse, or else are led on in some other way, even as the whole race of man is over greedy of prattling tales.
We hear where we cannot see,For the rest, we need not wonder by what means voices come and arouse the ears through places, though which the eyes cannot see things clear to view. Often too we see a talk carried on through closed doors, because, we may be sure, voice can pass unharmed through winding pores in things, but idols refuse to pass.(a) because voices can pass through any kind of pores, the idols of sight only through straight openings; For they are torn asunder, unless they stream through straight pores, as are those in glass, through which every image can fly. Moreover, a voice is severed in every direction, since voices are begotten one from another, when once one voice has issued forth and sprung apart into many, even as a spark of fire is often wont to scatter itself into its several fires. And so places hidden far from sight are filled with voices;(b) because voices are multiplied in all directions, the idols only move straight as they start. they are in a ferment all around, alive with sound. But all idols press on in the direct line, as they have once been started; wherefore no one can see beyond the wall, but can perceive voices outside. And yet even this voice, while it passes through the walls of the house, is dulled, and enters the ear all confounded, and we seem to hear a sound rather than words.
- Taste is produced when the savour squeezed from the food enters the pores of the palate.Nor do the tongue and palate, n whereby we perceive taste, need longer account or give more trouble. First of all we perceive taste in our mouth, when we press it out in chewing our food, just as if one by chance begins to squeeze with the hand and dry a sponge full of water. Then what we press out is all spread abroad through the pores of the palate, and through the winding passages of the loose-meshed tongue.Smooth elements will produce pleasant taste, rough unpleasant. Therefore, when the bodies of the oozing savour are smooth, they touch pleasantly, and pleasantly stroke all around the moist sweating vault above the tongue. But, on the other hand, the more each several thing is filled with roughness, the more does it prick the sense and tear it in its onslaught.Taste is confined to the palate and does not accompany digestion. Next pleasure comes from the savour within the limit of the palate; but when it has passed headlong down through the jaws, there is no pleasure while it is all being spread abroad into the limbs. Nor does it matter a whit with what diet the body is nourished, provided only you can digest what you take, and spread it abroad in the limbs, and keep an even moistness in the stomach.
Different foods suit different creatures, and what is sweet to one is bitter to another.Now how for different creatures there is different food and poison I will unfold, or for what cause, what to some is noisome and bitter, can yet seem to others most sweet to eat. And there is herein a difference and disagreement so great that what is food to one, is to others biting poison; even as there is a certain serpent, 1 which, when touched by a man’s spittle, dies and puts an end to itself by gnawing its own body. Moreover, to us hellebore is biting poison, but it makes goats and quails grow fat. That you may be able to learn by what means this comes to be,This is caused (a) because many different seeds are mingled in things; (b) because the formation of the palate and its pores differs in different animals. first of all it is right that you remember what we have said ere now, that the seeds contained in things are mingled in many ways. Besides all living creatures which take food, just as they are unlike to outer view and a diverse outward contour of the limbs encloses them each after their kind, so also are they fashioned of seeds of varying shape. And further, since the seeds are unlike, so must the spaces and passages, which we call the openings, be different in all their limbs, and in the mouth and palate too. Some of these then must needs be smaller, some greater, they must be three-cornered for some creatures, square for others, many again round, and some of many angles in many ways. For according as the arrangement of shapes and the motions demand, so the shapes of the openings must needs differ, and the passages vary according to the texture which shuts them in. Therefore, when what is sweet to some becomes bitter to others, for the man to whom it is sweet, the smoothest bodies must needs enter the pores of the palate caressingly, but, on the other hand, for those to whom the same thing is sour within, we can be sure it is the rough and hooked bodies which penetrate the passages.For similar causes a man’s taste may change when he is ill. Now from these facts it is easy to learn of each case: thus when fever has attacked a man, and his bile rises high, or the violence of disease is aroused in some other way, then his whole body is disordered, and then all the positions of the first-beginnings are changed about; it comes to pass that the bodies which before suited his taste, suit it no longer, and others are better fitted, which can win their way in and beget a sour taste. For both kinds are mingled in the savour of honey; as I have often shown you above ere now.
- Similarly smell streams off things to the nostrils,Come now, I will tell n in what manner the impact of smell touches the nostrils. First there must needs be many things whence the varying stream of scents flows and rolls on, and we must think that it is always streaming off and being cast and scattered everywhere abroad;and different scents attract or repel different creatures. but one smell is better fitted to some living things, another to others, on account of the unlike shapes of the elements. And so through the breezes bees are drawn on however far by the scent of honey, and vultures by corpses. Then the strength of dogs sent on before leads on the hunters whithersoever the cloven hoof of the wild beasts has turned its steps, and the white goose, saviour of the citadel of Romulus’s sons, scents far ahead the smell of man. So diverse scents assigned to diverse creatures lead on each to its own food, and constrain them to recoil from noisome poison, and in that way are preserved the races of wild beasts.
Smell never travels as far as sound,This very smell then, whenever it stirs the nostrils, may in one case be thrown further than in another. But yet no smell at all is carried as far as sound, as voice, I forebear to say as the bodies which strike the pupil of the eyes and stir the sight. For it strays abroad and comes but slowly, and dies away too soon, its frail nature scattered little by little among the breezes of air. Firstly, because coming from deep within n it is not readily set loose from the thing:(a) because it starts from deep within things; for that smells stream off and depart from things far beneath the surface is shown because all things seem to smell more when broken, when crushed, when melted in the fire.(b) because it is made of larger atoms. Again, one may see that it is fashioned of larger first-beginnings than voice, since it does not find a path through stone walls, where voice and sound commonly pass. Wherefore too you will see that it is not so easy to trace in what spot that which smells has its place.Consequently it is less easy to trace to its source. For the blow grows cool as it dallies through the air, nor do tidings of things rush hot to the sense. And so dogs often go astray, and have to look for the footprints.
The same thing occurs with sight: certain things hurt the eyes of certain creatures: e.g. lions cannot look at cocks; 1 Yet this does not happen only among smells and in the class of savours, but likewise the forms and colours of things are not all so well fitted to the senses of all, but that certain of them are too pungent to the sight of some creatures. Nay, indeed, ravening lions n can by no means face and gaze upon the cock, whose wont it is with clapping wings to drive out the night, and with shrill cry to summon dawn; so surely do they at once bethink themselves of flight, because, we may be sure, there are in the body of cocks certain seeds, which, when they are cast into the eyes of lions, stab into the pupils,because there are certain seeds in cocks which hurt their eyes, but not ours. and cause sharp pain, so that they cannot bear up against them in fierce confidence; and yet these things cannot in any way hurt our eyes, either because they do not pierce them or because, although they do, a free outlet from the eyes is afforded them, so that they cannot by staying there hurt the eyes in any part.
The cause of thought.Come now, let me tell you n what things stir the mind, and learn in a few words whence come the things which come into the understanding. First of all I say this, that many idols of things wander about in many ways in all directions on every side, fine idols,Idols, wandering everywhere, may unite, which easily become linked with one another in the air, when they come across one another’s path, like spider’s web and gold leaf. For indeed these idols are far finer in their texture than those which fill the eyes and arouse sight,and piercing through to the mind, make us think of monstrous forms. since these pierce through the pores of the body and awake the fine nature of the mind within, and arouse its sensation. And so we see Centaurs and the limbs of Scyllas, and the dog-faces of Cerberus and idols of those who have met death, and whose bones are held in the embrace of earth; since idols of every kind are borne everywhere, some which are created of their own accord even in the air, some which depart in each case from diverse things, and those again which are made and put together from the shapes of these. For in truth the image of the Centaur comes not from a living thing, since there never was the nature of such a living creature, but when by chance the images of man and horse have met, they cling together readily at once, as we have said ere now, because of their subtle nature and fine fabric. All other things of this kind are fashioned in the same way. And when they move nimbly with exceeding lightness, as I have shown ere now, any one such subtle image stirs their mind; for the mind is fine and of itself wondrous nimble.
The mind sees as the eyes do: therefore the process is the same.That these things come to pass as I tell, you may easily learn from this. Inasmuch as the one is like the other, what we see with the mind, and what we see with the eyes, they must needs be created in like manner. Now, therefore, since I have shown that I see a lion maybe, by means of idols, which severally stir the eyes, we may know that the mind is moved in like manner, in that it sees a lion and all else neither more nor less than the eyes, except that it sees finer idols.So too the visions of sleep are caused by images visiting the mind, And when sleep has relaxed the limbs, the understanding of the mind is for no other cause awake, but that these same idols stir our minds then, as when we are awake, insomuch that we seem surely to behold even one who has quitted life, and is holden by death and the earth. This nature constrains to come to pass just because all the senses of the body are checked and at rest throughout the limbs, nor can they refute the falsehood by true facts.and memory is not awake to check their veracity. The movement of the dreamvisions is due to the constant flux of ever-different images. Moreover, the memory lies at rest, and is torpid in slumber, nor does it argue against us that he, whom the understanding believes that it beholds alive, has long ago won to death and doom. For the rest, it is not wonderful that the idols should move and toss their arms and their other limbs in rhythmic time. For it comes to pass that the image in sleep seems to do this; inasmuch as when the first image passes away and then another comes to birth in a different posture, the former seems then to have changed its gesture. And indeed we must suppose that this comes to pass in quick process: so great is the speed, so great the store of things, so great, in any one instant that we can perceive, the abundance of the little parts of images, whereby the supply may be continued.
Problems of thought and dreams.And in these matters n many questions are asked, and there are many things we must make clear, if we wish to set forth the truth plainly. First of all it is asked why, whatever the whim may come to each of us to think of, straightway his mind thinks of that very thing.1. How can we think at once of anything we want? Do the idols keep watch on our will, and does the image rise up before us, as soon as we desire, whether it pleases us to think of sea or land or sky either? Gatherings of men, a procession, banquets, battles, does nature create all things at a word, and make them ready for us? And that when in the same place and spot the mind of others is thinking of things all far different.2. How in sleep do we see moving images? What, again, when in sleep we behold idols dancing forward in rhythmic measure, and moving their supple limbs, when alternately they shoot out swiftly their supple arms, and repeat to the eyes a gesture made by the feet in harmony? Idols in sooth are steeped in art and wander about trained to be able to tread their dance in the nighttime.Because at every instant there is an infinite succession of images; Or will this be nearer truth? Because within a single time, which we perceive, that is, when a single word is uttered, many times lie unnoted, which reasoning discovers, therefore it comes to pass that in any time however small the several idols are there ready at hand in all the several spots. So great is the speed, so great the store of things. Therefore when the first image passes away and then another comes to birth in a different posture, the former seems then to have changed its gesture.and the mind only sees sharply those to which it attends. Again, because they are fine, the mind cannot discern them sharply, save those which it strains to see; therefore all that there are besides these pass away, save those for which it has made itself ready. Moreover, the mind makes itself ready, and hopes it will come to pass that it will see what follows upon each several thing;The same is really the case with waking sight. therefore it comes to be. Do you not see the eyes too, when they begin to perceive things which are fine, strain themselves and make themselves ready, and that without that it cannot come to pass that we see things sharply? And yet even in things plain to see you might notice that, if you do not turn your mind to them, it is just as if the thing were sundered from you all the time, and very far away. How then is it strange, if the mind loses all else, save only the things to which it is itself given up? Then too on small signs we base wide opinions, and involve ourselves in the snare of self-deceit.
The incoherence of dreams is not noticed in sleep.It happens too that from time to time an image of different kind rises before us, and what was before a woman, seems now to have become a man before our very eyes, or else one face or age follows after another. But that we should not think this strange, sleep and its forgetfulness secure.