“Mirror is a reflective container whose source of power is light. Our English word ‘mirror’ comes from the Latin mirari, to wonder or marvel at. The wonderous nature of the mirror is how it draws our imagination into its seeming depths, the sense that beyond the mirror image of our immediate reality might be seen something entirely different. In Lewis Carroll’s famous story, the world of dreams lies ‘through the Looking-glass.’ Personifying the unconscious and its compelling capacity to reflect the unknown and potential, alchemy attributed to its figure Sulfur, the possession of ‘a mirror in which the whole world is to be seen. Whosoever looks into this mirror, can see and learn therein the parts of the wisdom of the whole World…’ (CW 14:137, n 108). At the same time, the more destructive aspects of the unconscious, like consuming appetites and ‘lunatic’ tendencies, were projected on the changeable and cyclically dark Luna, ‘the great poisonous mirror of nature.’ Yet as the illuminating speculum or ‘looking-glass,’ Luna could also mediate self-knowledge and the face she showed was affected by the receptiveness or resistance of the adept to the insights she offered.
What do we see when we look in a mirror? To ‘reflect’ means to bend back or around, suggesting a linking. Attuned mirroring of the infant and young child contributes to the bringing of their substance into being. Derangements in mirroring have been associated with pathological narcissism, borderline states and chronic depression. In the Greek legend of Narcissus, the youth, divinely spellbound by his own reflection, wastes away. Two twentieth-century women, Virginia Woolf and Freud’s patient, Anna O, testified to the traumatic experience of seeing a beast or monster in their looking glass—projections, perhaps, of the distorting effects of mental illness. Everyday, we confront mirrors in the reactions of others to our behavior. Saint Paul saw the mirror as an analogue to our experience of the divine here and now as opposed to the afterlife: ‘For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face’ (1 Cor. 13:12). Schopenhauer, however, compared the human intellect to a mirror. In its magical aspect, the mirror is a trickster’s tool, an implement of illusion, often making us appear as more, or less, than we are. But the mirror as an emblem of our capacity to reflect is also an instrument of salvation. In the myth of Perseus, it is only by looking at the reflected image of what is too dangerous to absorb directly, that the hero is able to slay the snake-headed Medusa.”
Source: The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, pp.590, 592
World and Heart as Mirror
“The attributes of the complete human being are the attributes of God appropriately reflected in human nature. God has innumerable qualities, ninety-nine of which are mentioned in the Qur’an. Some of these are the everyday attributes of a human being: seeing, hearing, speech, will, life, awareness. The Sufi recognizes that these qualities are reflected through the human being from the Absolute Being. Becoming completely human is being able to reflect more and more of the divine qualities in everyday life.
The world is viewed as the mirror of divine qualities, the site of their manifestation. The human heart is even more so a site of their manifestation.”
Source: Kabir Helminski, The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation, p.22
“…in the process of purification that culminates in illumination, both St John and the Sufis polish the mirror of their soul to the point where it is so burnished that it can reflect the light of God: ‘the mirror [of the] heart has been so polished with divers classes of mortification. . . whose effect is the polishing that must be accomplished so that the forms of mystical realities can manifest themselves with all their brightness in the heart.’ These words are from Abu al-Mawahib al-Shadhali…but the image is repeated over and over by Rumi, Ibn ‘Ata’Allah, Ibn Arabi, Al-Ghazzali, and even the ancient Bistami (d. 874), Hakim Tirmidhi (d. 898), and Hasan Basri (d. 728). St John sounds like them all, and his soul, ‘through the brightness that comes supernaturally,’ becomes a ‘bright mirror’ (N II: 24:4; VO 459).”
Ibn Arabi on Man as mirror of God, God as Mirror of the World:
“…the most important metaphor used by Ibn Arabi to depict the relation between God, the world and man in particular, remains that of the mirror. Ibn Arabi did not invent the symbol of the mirror, but he resorted to it to clarify the nature of the relation between God and His creatures. A real mirror reflects the image of the person looking at it. In the same way, symbolically, a mirror reflects ideas. When we say, figuratively, that a poet is the mirror of his age, or that one person is the mirror of another, we mean by that, that the poet or the person has been able to capture the characteristic image of his age or of the other person, and show it to people. Perhaps if Ibn Arabi had lived in our time, he would have made use of the screen, and used it as a symbol. For the screen has an amazing ability to receive and transmit images. Within this framework, we may say [that]:
(i) Man is a double mirror, being the isthmus between God and the world. One face is the mirror of the Divine Names, while the other is the mirror of the cosmic names. [or, on the one side stands the Absolute and on the other side, creation. The latter is like a mirror, sign, signifier, or image, but in all cases but a reflection or shadow of the Real.]
(ii) Man is the mirror of God, and God is the mirror of man. They are two mirrors, each reflecting the other. God is the mirror of man, with man seeing himself in the Divine mirror. And man is the mirror of God because he reflects His Names back to Him.
The following are some of Ibn Arabi’s texts which describe these two mirrors.
(a) Man as mirror of God
The texts of Ibn Arabi successively describe the world as a mirror, and the mirror means the place which accepts the image of a thing and not the thing itself. Thus, the mirror is at the same time a deception, for the image of a person in a mirror is the person himself, while being quite other. In the same way, there is in the mirror nothing of the reflected person. He says: ‘The world […] is the mirror of God. The people of Knowledge (‘arifun) see there only the image of God.’
(b) God as Mirror of the World
The traveller exerts himself that his Lord may be unveiled to him, but at the end of his spiritual retreat, what is unveiled to him is his own truth, and he sees his own image in the mirror of God. This is reminiscent of the final arrival of Fariduddin Attar’s birds and their vision of the Simurgh. Regarding the fact that God is the mirror of the world, Ibn Arabi says: ‘God is the mirror of the world. They [the creatures] see in this mirror only their own images.'”