Rules for Staring at the Sun

Diaphanous cloud-cover makes the morning sun seem like a white dot above the horizon.

Perhaps not surprising, there are relatively few reports of early philosophers and astronomers going blind from observing the sun. However curious people might have been about the nature of the sun, they still avoided looking at it directly because doing so is painful. When one looks into the sun, the pupil focuses light onto the macula tissue which is responsible for filtering blue and ultraviolet light entering the retina. Prolonged and intensified exposure to sunlight can burn the macula, causing it to blister and split. When the tissues heal, scarring and irregularities distort light entering the retina. The result is blindness.

Joseph Plateau, inventor of the phenakistoscope and stroboscopic effect, found that the brain did not respond instantaneously to light stimuli and that an impression of the light lingered in the retina for a period. This delay could be manipulated to make a series of static panels shown in rapid succession seem to be animated. This was the principle behind early flipbooks and the zoetrope. In an attempt to affect extended sense impression upon the retina, Plateau conducted an experiment wherein he gazed into the sun for 25 seconds. The experiment caused him to go blind.

It seems right that the sun should be worshipped as a god. The sun is both supreme and impossible to know. It is always present and yet impossible to address. It reveals forms and shapes in the world but it is itself a thing without form. It oversees everything and yet it remains unseeable. The sun will not abide you staring at it. It can both command that you avert your gaze and enforce the rule.

Some believe the sun imparts nourishment which a person can use to subsist on, independent from food and water. Practitioners of Sungazing encourage people to look at and welcome the sun. From what I can tell, they do this not to receive the sun’s energy and make it there own, like a plant might, but to learn from it by watching its behavior as a focal point of power that radiates outward. Sungazing enthusiasts publish a website at sungazing.com that you can consult for more information.

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