Kepler's Dream Journey -or- Science Fiction's Trek to the Stars
"So strong was the support from the combination of my labor of seventeen years on the observations of Brahe and the present study, which conspired together, that at first I believed I was dreaming, and assuming my conclusion among my basic premises." Johannes Kepler
Somnium -or- The Scientific Revolution
From antiquity on, the dream had been psychologically linked to the divine and the supernatural. On November 10, 1619, Rene Descartes pressed the dream into the mathematical service of rational thought and science. Descartes' three dreams, and his meditations about them, showed Europeans the mathematical and rational road ahead.
It was however left to Johannes Kepler "Somnium" as one of the first individuals to pragmatically wander with his mathematical imagination and geometric perspective off the surface of the Earth and travel to the moon. The dream vision of Somnium (written between 1620-1630) is considered by many as the first modern novel of "science fiction".
The mathematical imagination revolutionized the scientific visual observational perspective, which had already been instituted in the arts by Leonardo da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti and Brunelleschi. This epochal watershed moment in the intellectual history of the European imagination was further fueled and influenced by Galileo and his technological design of the telescope.
The telescope would drive the scientific imagination and the mathematical dreams of the scientific revolution. In this mathematical sense, Kepler's imaginary trek to the stars laid down the scientific paradigmatic foundation for further dream journey's in the scientific mind's eye. This European intellectual transformation using the scientific and mathematical paradigm, would drive the rational frame of European discourse and modern "thought experiments" in the arts, sciences and humanities.
It could be argued, that Kepler's dream, and science fiction journey to the moon would later fuel the satirical imagination of Daniel Defoe and the imaginary voyage to the moon in his novel "The Consolidator" (published in 1705). Defoe would verbally attack the political, economic and religious beliefs and behaviour of the English from his lunar stronghold as the "The Man in the Moon". If William Thackeray "Vanity Fair" (published 1847-48) uses the literary technique of the "omniscient narrator", then one can only surmise that Thackeray had joined Defoe at this lunar observatory to watch the English happenings on the Earth and was also giving his social commentary from the moon.
Watch the video "Kepler's Somnium" narrated by Carl Sagan.