Nataraj Express

Journey to the Self

Mirrors

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Art: ‘Not To Be Reproduced’  by René Magritte

A mirror’s ultimate purpose is to reflect. It’s existence is based merely on what it reflects. It IS what it’s reflection is. Until it’s gone. And then it is a mirror. The essence of mirrors is to be a surface for reflection; the one of looking, and the one of thinking.

Mirrors for me have always been a doorway to another world. Like the Moon reflects the light of the Sun, so do mirrors reflect our essence. I feel they contain the past, they keep the memory of consciousness protected and hidden, until someone is ready to ‘see’.

I was going to write a post about Mirrors but I couldn’t resist sharing Cirlot’s explanation of them in ‘A Dictionary of Symbols’:

Mirror As a symbol, it has the same characteristics as the mirror in fact; the temporal and existential variety of its function provides the explanation of its significance and at the same time the diversity of its meaningful associations. It has been said that it is a symbol of the imagination—or of consciousness—in its capacity to reflect the formal reality of the visible world. It has also been related to thought, in so far as thought—for Scheler and other philosophers—is the instrument of self-contemplation as well as the reflection of the universe. This links mirror-symbolism with water as a reflector and with the Narcissus myth: the cosmos appears as a huge Narcissus regarding his own reflections in the human consciousness. Now, the world, as a state of discontinuity affected by the laws of change and substitution, is the agent which projects this quasinegative, kaleidoscopic image of appearance and disappearance reflected in the mirror. From the earliest times, the mirror has been thought of as ambivalent. It is a surface which reproduces images and in a way contains and absorbs them. In legend and folklore, it is frequently invested with a magic quality—a mere hypertrophic version of its fundamental meaning. In this way it serves to invoke apparitions by conjuring up again the images which it has received at some time in the past, or by annihilating distances when it reflects what was once an object facing it and now is far removed. This fluctuation between the ‘absent’ mirror and the ‘peopled* mirror lends it a kind of phasing, feminine in implication, and hence —like the fan—it is related to moon-symbolism. Further evidence that the mirror is lunar is afforded by its reflecting and passive characteristics, for it receives images as the moon receives the light of the sun. Again, its close relationship to the moon is demonstrated by the fact that among the primitives it was seen as a symbol of the multiplicity of the soul: of its mobility and its ability to adapt itself to those objects which ‘visit’ it and retain its ‘interest’. At times, it takes the mythic form of a door through which the soul may free itself ‘passing’ to the other side: this is an idea reproduced by Lewis Carroll in Alice Through the Looking Glass. This alone is sufficient explanation of the custom of covering up mirrors or turning them to face the wall on certain occasions, in particular when someone in the house dies. All that we have said so far by no means exhausts the complex symbolism of the mirror: like the echo, it stands for twins (thesis and antithesis), and specifically for the sea of flames (or life as an infirmity). For Loeffler, mirrors are magic symbols for unconscious memories (comparable with crystal palaces). Hand-mirrors, in particular, are emblems of truth, and in China they are supposed to have an allegorical function as aids to conjugal happiness as well as a protection against diabolical influences. Some Chinese legends tell of ‘the animals in the mirror’. 

Author: Danah Blanco (Nataraj Express)

Yoga Teacher~Dive Master~Art Historian

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