When I was young I often wondered why mirrors seemed to flip left and right but not up and down. As I would move my right hand, the mirror depicted my left hand moving. How could this be?
In many cultures mirrors take on mythic proportions. Carlos Castaneda has written about the Toltec tradition of holding a mirror in a shallow stream to open a portal into another realm. Judaism adherents cover mirrors during shiva to deter idol worship and honor the memory of the recently departed.
Regardless of their physics or metaphysics, mirrors clearly serve a useful purpose. Just try switching lanes in busy traffic without them.
But mirrors also have a curious personal effect. It is very difficult to walk past one and not notice your reflection. Which quickly leads to some form of judgment. My hair looks good today. Or perhaps my hair looks terrible today. Or even where did my hair go?
We look in a mirror and we see me. Our self-image. And oh is it prominent!
Much like a photograph. If you look at an image of a group of people that includes you, two aspects of the photo will immediately present themselves: first, your eye will be drawn to you before anyone else; and second, you will notice you look younger. Even if the image is from the recent past.
It’s no surprise we are smitten with this concept of me - even if we despise aspects of our body or life. After all, we’ve spent quite a bit of time - at least in this incarnation - inhabiting this skeletal structure.
And mirrors give us a chance to witness this me in all its splendor and horror.
So the topic I’d like to pose for discussion is whether mirrors are good or bad. Would shunning mirrors and their attendant self-contemplation help one more rapidly advance on a spiritual path? Or could embracing a self-image help transport us beyond the enticing realm of form?
The answer is neither. Mirrors are not good nor are they bad. They simply are. And their value lies solely in the meaning we ascribe to them.
As we read in A Course in Miracles:
The test of everything on earth is simply this; “What is it for?” The answer makes it what it is for you. (T-24.VII.6)
If we use mirrors and photographs as opportunities to judge ourselves, then they will hold us back. Yet if those same objects help return awareness to our mind, they become the most sacred things on earth. Holy mirrors.
Like everything we encounter in our daily lives - they have no meaning on their own. If used to perpetuate the drama of the world and our body, they will simply reinforce the ego and all our attachments. If given a different purpose - leading us back to the mind where we can make a different choice - they help lead us out of all pain and the path becomes much clearer.
Join me in Thursday’s class where we’ll explore the concept of holy mirrors - actually, holy everything - the idea that anything and everything can be used to help us awaken from this traumatic dream we call life. I look forward to seeing you then.
PS: Mirrors do not swap left and right. Instead they invert front and back. If you’re curious, this short Minute Physics clip does a brilliant job explaining how it works: