The mirror self

Self is not self-sufficient. Self is like a mirror through which we look at everything. Everywhere we go we take the mirror and look at what is round about through it rather than looking directly. We find it very difficult to look directly, to put the mirror to one side. Sometimes it happens – when we are caught up in something so absorbing, so all-encompassing that the mirror becomes a restrictive hindrance and we let it go – listening to music, caught up in the collective emotion of a crowd, or group, etc. When we find ourselves in darkness the mirror becomes an obstacle. There is little or nothing to be seen so the tendency is to focus all the attention on the mirror itself. We become engrossed with our own feelings and preoccupations. It is a bit like being on the periphery of a wonderful spectacle and turning our back to it so that we can look through the mirror to see ourselves in the context of the spectacle. Of course we can see very little because our face is in the way. That’s as far as the analogy goes. There is, in fact, no spectacle to be seen but we do not know that because our face is taking up pretty well most of the mirror. But we feel there is something there to be seen. We are sure of it because we have had intimations of it, feelings of joy and sudden elation, feelings of a loving presence. So we intensify our gaze in the mirror but all we see is the reflection of self. Because, apart from the mirror and the reflection in it, there is nothing there to be seen. We must put the mirror of self aside – very, very difficult – and, to parody one of the desert fathers, learn to sit in the darkness and the darkness will teach us everything.

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