02 November 2005

The mirror as powerful tool

My friend Kris passed this New Scientist article on to me a bit ago, "Ease pain by taking a good look at yourself." In it, studies at the University of Bath in the U.K. show that people are highly susceptible to the feedback created by gazing upon oneself in a mirror. The research is based on pain in sufferers that they believe "the pain results from a mismatch in the way the brain perceives the body and the actual condition of the body."

I'm in no position to criticise this theory, but it seems an odd thing for a scientist to be delving into "beliefs" as such; this is very holistic for medicine, no? It's an interesting little read for any occultists out there, regardless.

On this note, last night I was reading the beginning to Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco, and came across this passage about mirrors, as well:
First, all those mirrors. Whenever you see a mirror — it’s only human — you want to look at yourself. But here you can’t. You look at the position in space where the mirror will say “You are here, and you are you,” you look, craning, twisting, but nothing works, because Lavoisier’s mirrors, whether concave or convex, disappoint you, mock you. You step back, find yourself for a moment, but move a little and you are lost. This catoptric theater was contrived to take away your identity and make you feel unsure not only of yourself but also of the very objects standing between you and the mirrors. As if to say: You are not the Pendulum or even near it. And you feel uncertain, not only about yourself, but also about the objects set there between you and another mirror. Granted, physics can explain how and why a concave mirror collects the light from an object — in this case, an alembic in a copper holder — then returns the rays in such a way that you see the object not within the mirror but outside it, ghostlike, upside down in midair, and if you shift even slightly, the image, evanescent, disappears.

Then suddenly I saw myself upside down in a mirror.

Intolerable.

What was Lavoisier trying to say, and what were the designers of the Conservatoire hinting at? We’ve known about the magic of mirrors since the Middle Ages, since Alhazen. Was it worth the trouble of going through the Encyclopédie, the Enlightenment, and the Revolution to be able to state that merely curving a mirror’s surface can plunge a man into an imagined world? For that matter, a normal mirror, too, is an illusion. Consider the individual looking back at you, condemned to perpetual left-handedness, every morning when you shave. Was it worth the trouble of setting up this hall just to tell us this? Or is the message really that we should look at everything in a different way, including the glass cases and the instruments that supposedly celebrated the birth of physics and enlightened chemistry?

This moves me on to the last bit about mirrors here, from Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus, by Julius Evola and the UR Group. In it, there is a powerful ritual called "The Hermetic Caduceus and the Mirror," in which the writer known as Abraxas proceeds to summarise the spiritual accomplishments one should have grasped by this point (early on) in the book. Thus, once one is aware of the affects of external stimuli and comes to terms with the notion that nobody is real outside of themselves (even if it is just for the use of these exercises), truly comfortable with these perceptual metamorphoses, they can move onto the exercise — which is also explained in terms of alchemy, which I'll avoid here for lack of ASCII characters. Let's cover some highlights, as I'm too busy to quote it in its entirety here. And all of you should purchase this highly important book on magic if you want to learn from true masters:—
  • Every teaching of ours is illusory until it is translated into a practice and an action. [I have preached this on numerous occasions to those too fucking lazy to put theory to use.]

  • First, you need to become the master of a part of your life, or at least of your day, in order to firmly and actively establish a new quality […] Become innerly detached from yourself and from what surrounds you; maintain a sober, effortless, neutral, and well-balanced lifestyle, without excesses. […] Other beings do not exist. Do not let their actions, thoughts, or judgments affect you […] Observe all things in silence with your mind and remain unperturbed, stopping every judgment with a firm hand. […] If passions bother you, do not react or become perturbed. Bring them deliberately to satisfaction, and then get rid of them.

  • Grow in this direction until you are able to realize the frivolty, uselessness, and the threat of every thought, so that your mind, too, may slowly calm down and crouch at your feet.

  • Observe this sensation and retain it. When you will posses it entirely (through an inner act that I cannot tell you about, since you will learn it only after you have invented it), try to connect it with the body so that it may pervade it as warmth pervades water; in the end, of the two, only one thing, one state will result. […] When you have counquered this point, you can be sure you have progressed far enough.

  • You should not destroy feelings, but rather destroy your stubborn clinging to them, namely pleasure, desire, aversion, and anguish. […] Only then will feelings be able to speak to you — when you cease to be lost in them and concernedonly with enjoying or suffering. They will reveal to you a new organ of sense beyond the animal ones, as "objective" as they are, though oriented to a more subtle aspect of reality.

  • Having done that, attempt the liberation of the central power [described as alchemical Gold] and the encounter with the Serpent. This happens when the consciousness of your "Self" is able to transfer itself into the seat of the fluidic body, and when the latter is detached from the animal senses and consequently isolated from the physical world.

  • There are several techniques that can be employed. Scorn the cautiousness of the petty methods of "meditation," which can rarely free you — truly, not just your imagination — from the quagmire of mental forms and the prison of the brain. Employ instead direct techniques. Use the "Mirror."

  • The "Mirror" technique acts on the optical nerve and fatigues it, until the power concentrated in the act of staring is freed from the physical organ and actualized in the fluidic light. [This is the same goal of the yoga technique called pratayara. (Note by UR.)]

This goes on for a few more pages, describing how to find your state of mind and then the staring into a mirror, followed by the subsequent sensations to follow. As one keeps their stare on and everything else slowly phases out, "this point will turn into a black hole. The black hole will first grow into a bluish spot, then into a faint aura, and finally into a milky white one." The description is akin to the experiences I recently posted on, link.

I've practiced The Hermetic Caduceus and the Mirror in the past and had wonderful success with it, but remember that it requires an introspective awareness as well as the physical act of sitting your ass in front of a mirror. On the other hand, according to Bath, certain holistic results can be achieved without such training.

My theories on the mirror have always been that it creates the paradox of one reality upon another, à la Alice and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. Something that reason can discern between, but that, with enough concentration (relaxation?), the mind can wander in-between worlds and find the astral or "fluidic" realm spoken of here by the UR Group, by Robert Bruce in his excellent Astral Dynamics, and numerous other texts and grimoires. It is the paradox that allows the mind to think in a sidereal manner, and it's that manner that can bring about these desired results.

Read the books. Do the work.

To make things slightly amusing at the moment, "The Doll House" songs, by Kenji Kawai on the Ghost in the Shell: Innocence soundtrack, are playing in my headphones. Anyone who's seen the movie, where Batô and his partner go into that hacker's palace and reality goes all to hell, will know why this funny.

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