By Mary Ziemer © 2013
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
—1 Corinthians 13:12, King James Version
The word ‘lucidity’ implies ‘clarity’ but what if we also see the lucid state as holding the potential for ‘transparency’? Photons pass through transparent materials without becoming dispersed. As a result, we can see light through the surface of a clear window or a lake. In this context, what might it mean when, in our lucid dreams, we become ‘transparent to transcendence’? What if, in lucid dreams, we can learn to ‘pass through the mirror’ and then experience our inner light and the light of Being?
My own lucid, mirror experiences have evoked these questions in me. The more ‘transparent’ the dream-mirrors, the more the mystery deepens. The dreams answer and ask, reveal and conceal, illumine and veil. In this article I will share with you some of my own dreams-as-mirrors from non-lucid to fully lucid dreams.
Before 2005, I’d experienced mirrors in dreams as two-dimensional surfaces. However, encounters with dream mirrors, such as in this non-lucid dream (2005), peaked my curiosity about mirrors as possessing multiple dimensions:
In the dream, I recognize the setting as one of my first pre-verbal memories from infancy: During my afternoon naps, because the contrasting light and dark shadows through the small rips in the blind covering my bedroom window frightened me, I would climb out of the crib and crawl down the hall to find my mother. She would pick me up and put me back in the crib only to have me crawl out again. Eventually, she gave up on putting me down for naps.
In the dream, I stand in darkness as an adult watching the closed blind, wary of the bright light emerging through its seams and tears. A white beam of fiery laser-white light cuts a vertical line in the blind. I feel deeply afraid. Then I notice that another horizontal line forms at a right angle to this line and recognise a word beginning with the letter H.
Many years later I realized that the word I perceived in the dream appeared in mirror writing, as it would if written on the other side of the blind. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to read the text from my vantage point in the dream. If you place a mirror at a right angle to the text in the box, you’ll be able to read the word as it appeared in the dream —>
Reflecting upon this dream some years later, I see the darkness of the blind as revealing not only my unconscious position towards myself—one that veiled my inner light—but also as mirroring back to me the mysteries of the inner world and the potential contained within it. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the dream intimated the revelatory mirroring experiences in lucidity that would follow in spite of my fear and resistance.
From a psychotherapeutic perspective, dreams function like mirrors, reflecting aspects of our body, mind, soul, and Spirit—in a way metaphorically similar to how the moon reflects the light of the sun. In the Kabbalistic tradition, I have come across the idea that God withdrew the Absolute to reveal the mirror of existence—dreams form part of that revelatory mirror. Thus, how we relate to our dreams-as-mirrors and to mirrors reveals much about our physical, psychological, and spiritual condition.
In my own case, as a child I felt rather frightened of both my dreams and mirrors, even as their beauty attracted me. The mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs left me distrustful of mirrors and their magic. The looking glass world of Alice in Wonderland unsettled me. Like many children, I had the dim awareness that I’d somehow been born on the other side of the looking glass to begin with, a place of unpredictably, broken teacups, mad hatters, tantrums, and creatures under the influence!
I longed to escape that world into the ‘real’ world of beauty. But the worst association with mirrors came from ‘Bloody Mary’— when at an all-girls slumber party someone whispered that if you chant ‘Bloody Mary’ into a mirror in a dark room, the image of Bloody Mary would appear in the mirror. After that I felt afraid to enter a dark room if it had a mirror in it.
At fifteen my relationship with mirrors began to change when I decided I wanted a large antique dresser with a matching mirror and a four-poster bed. So, I worked at my father’s office, saving up until I could buy the set. The mirror stood about four -feet high and six-feet wide with a strong wood frame that curved along the top and was straight on the sides. Two smaller side mirrors flanked the large central mirror.
Though I could easily see the beauty of the mirror, I could not see my own beauty in it. When I went to Europe in 1990, the mirror and bed stayed behind in the United States, but they have reappeared in significant dreams. And now, after a series of more illuminating mirror-dreams from 2006 to 2013, mirrors no longer frighten me, not even in the dark.
In honour of these mirror-dreams, I have collected a number of mirrors and now feel a resonance with the alchemical and Sufi idea that mirrors reflect the light of the Soul and Spirit. The Sufi mystic and teacher ‘Abd al Qadir quoted Mohammed’s observation: ‘The man of knowledge makes images while the wise man polishes the mirror upon which the truth is reflected.’ Abd al Qadir explains: ‘When the mirror of the heart is completely cleansed by being polished with the continuous evocation of the divine Names, one has access to and knowledge of the divine attributes.
The witnessing of this vision is only possible in the mirror of the heart.’ Thankfully, as I have found in my own dreams, even if we feel our heart’s-mirror may need more polishing than we can manage in a lifetime—or even, perhaps, many lifetimes—an agent of ‘grace’ can cleanse our heart’s-mirror for us, revealing the archetypal Spiritual realm to us.
An engraving from the work of Athanasius Kircher, a 17th century Jesuit Scholar and alchemist, illustrates a similar idea from an alchemical point of view. In the physical world, Kircher had an interest in optics and constructed his own prototype of the magic lantern, an interest this image reflects. Alchemically, the image also depicts the calcinatio or heating up stage of the alchemical process.
On the plane of spiritual alchemy, I view this engraving as illustrative of the light of Spirit or Pure Awareness that shines upon the alchemical flask of the individual psyche through the light reflected in the mirror of the heart. To me, the image suggests that in dreams-as-mirrors and dream-mirrors, the light of spirit and light of the individual interpenetrate and ‘heat up’ the unconscious, bringing to light both our hidden Shadow and divine potentialities.
As the physicist Richard Feynman notes: ‘Photons don’t really bounce off the surface of the glass, they interact with electrons inside the glass.’ Tracking my own mirror dreams over a twentyyear period, I’ve noticed that the initial mirror images appear to ‘interact’ with the make up of my inner world, reflecting back a perception of my own self-image and psycho-spiritual development.
The more psychological reflections have depicted psychodynamic scenes from my childhood or images of myself in which I have appeared rather disembodied and ‘ugly’ to my own eyes. By 2008, perhaps a result of much inner work in a psychotherapy-training program, I became more able to see my own beauty reflected in a dreammirror, as in this dream excerpt:
…At this point, I have become semi-lucid and think that I want out of the dream scene. I get up and go to open the door. A large mirror with a golden frame hangs on the back of the door. In the mirror’s reflection, I see ‘myself’ or what looks like an enhanced version of me wearing a long, white cotton hand-made nightgown. While I recognise myself, it also feels strange to think of this beautiful being as me. At this point, I realize that I’ve made the ‘mistake’ of staying caught in my mind and trying to get ‘out of the room’ rather than becoming fully lucid and getting out of my mental realm. Then I wake up.
But, not until 2009 could I see and contain mirror reflections of my inner beauty in a more embodied way, as in this sub-lucid dream from 2009 called ‘Inside, Out’:
I wear a white dress to a wedding where I will be giving a teaching. The dress looks like one I bought in my mid-twenties but only felt comfortable wearing in my forties. The wedding takes place in a sanctuary that reminds me of the Baptist church of my childhood, but much larger and full of people. I give a teaching on the Holy Spirit.
After the ceremony, a man with dark, curly hair—who has appeared in other dreams—walks up to me and says, ‘You still have no idea of the impression you make on people. How full of the Spirit you are. How you touch them and how beautiful you are and how you change the room when you walk in.’ I recall that I had said the same about my father that same day in waking physical reality and have the vague recognition that I dream.
In the next scene, I stand in the church’s bridal dressing room in front of a three-part, body-length mirror feeling desirous of having a colorful dress. I notice I have bare feet and that I have put the white dress on inside out. For a moment I feel terribly embarrassed, and then I think, ‘Well, the man still said what he said even so.’
To me, the mirror’s reflection marked a movement towards a fuller expression of the soul’s inner beauty in the outer world. Since this dream, perhaps in keeping with the fairy-lore that wearing clothing inside out makes one invisible, my own reflection has rarely appeared in a dream-mirror. Interestingly, in waking physical reality, the thinner the glass, the less light it reflects as more photons pass through the surface. In the inner realm, we can liken this to a thinning of our ego defences that makes the psyche more ‘transparent’ to archetypal dimensions.
My recognition of a mirror’s beauty generally sparks full lucidity and ‘opens’ the mirror so that I can pass through it, as in this 2009 dream called ‘The Oval Mirror’:
I carry a young girl playfully piggyback style in a large room of neo-classical design. Sheer, white curtains billow in the floor-to-ceiling windows. I notice my footfall on the wooden floor and our laughter filling the space. The room looks empty apart from an enormous, 10-foot oval mirror with a golden-gilt frame that we pass by on our right. Two immense, living figures stand on either side of the mirror. I set down the child and return to the mirror. Standing before the mirror, I do not see my reflection, but I do become acutely aware of the unusual size and beauty of the mirror. With this awareness, lucidity comes. Again, I feel the bittersweet realization of both the potential before me to enter the mirror and my own weariness. But this time, rather than giving in to the feeling of weariness, I decide to ‘wait on the Lord’—if the Lord wants me this way, the Lord will take me. And then, after a moment of such waiting with my head bowed, I feel lifted into the mirror.
My dream body disappears and again my being feels taken into a black, luminous space vibrating with a gentle wind full of the Spirit. At first the refrain, ‘Oh Holy One’ comes to my lips, but then I just remain silent. My ‘hands’ feel full of spirit, and my being fills with ecstasy. The pleasure feels exquisite, but I focus on receiving the infusion of knowledge it contains. After some time, I feel ‘returned’ and ‘see’ the mercury-like surface of the mirror as I tumble through it, popping back into a dream….
Through entering mirrors—or finding oneself taken into mirrors—in lucid dreams, I have come to realize that how we interact with reflective surfaces in our dreams can open up new dimensions in our experience of the dream reality and of ourselves. When we see a dream-mirror, we effectively see a mirror-within-a-mirror giving us the potential to look into infinity.
For example, if you have ever stood between two mirrors facing each other, such as in a dressing room or beauty salon, you may have noticed that the mirror imagery appears in an apparently infinite series. By extension, we can consider mirroring surfaces within dreams as holding the potential to create a similar effect with the dream-as-mirror, inwardly opening up a window into our infinite potential.
The following lucid dream (2009) illustrates the effect of looking-into-infinity both literally and figuratively through a dream-mirror:
In the dream, I find myself exiting through the main doors of the sanctuary in the Baptist church that I attended growing up. Normally, the doors open to a foyer lined with windows floor-to-ceiling, but in the dream the long, horizontal window looks like a mirror, and two wall-sized side-mirrors angle out from it at either side to my left and right. With the recognition of this incongruity, I become aware that I dream. An intense white light radiates from within the mirror and nearly blinds me. I experience the light as an infusion of the Spirit and think of it as purifying light. In the dream, although I feel very curious about the world beyond the mirror, the intensity of the light awakens me.
Although in this dream I remain unable to contain the light, I recognize the Spirit’s inner radiance and my desire to engage with ‘the world beyond the mirror’.
It seems to me that the shape of a mirror can represent our capacity to contain the infinite potential reflected in the mirroring surface. In alchemy, the alchemical flask symbolises the principle of containment in which the transformation of matter takes place. Similarly, the framed mirror also serves as a fitting alchemical image that refers to a dreamer’s capacity to contain his or her emotions as well as paradoxical positions
For instance, from a psychotherapeutic perspective, a mirror without a frame may refer to a lack of healthy ego-boundaries and/or openness towards liminal experiences. More symmetrical mirrors and frames can indicate a movement towards inner balance and harmony. The color of a mirror frame may link to a process of psychospiritual development. But only exploration of the dreamer’s associations with a given mirror can reveal the mirror’s full range of psychological resonances.
Over time, in my own experiences, dream-mirrors have not only initiated but also facilitated deeper lucid dreams. In such instances, it has felt as if the mirrors serve as thresholds into ever deepening dimensions of consciousness as in this lucid dream (2010):
…. With lucidity, my being feels lifted onto the black winds as the dreamscape and my body fall away. The winds carry my consciousness hard and fast a great distance and then suddenly I experience a deep descent…. My being approaches a sea of golden hexagons and for a moment I think of a honeycomb…Again, after plunging through the hexagons, I feel surprised when my consciousness emerges into a vast tabernacle of blue and white like the sky…
I feel whisked to the front of the massive sanctuary where two apparently celestial beings hasten to open a small arched door. With great joy I think, ‘The Holy of Holies! I am being permitted to enter in!’ I feel surprised that the back of the altar looks like a mirror out of which an intense white light shines. For a split second, I recall how in the Jewish tradition the searing light contained therein could kill those who entered the Holy of Holies unsanctified, but the deep joy I feel outweighs this concern…. As my being gets brought closer, I briefly ‘see’ my mother in the altar’s shining mirror.
In the mirror’s surface, she looks radiant and well. She beams out at me. A backdrop of azure blue and white frames her blonde, shining hair. It becomes apparent that at this speed I, too, will enter the mirror’s surface into the blue and white light. My mother has died some years ago, and I believe that I see her revealed as fully herself in another dimension. The thought comes, ‘Does this mean I have died?’ I sense she has appeared to silently welcome and reassure me.
But we have no chance to communicate because, at great speed, my being feels taken through the mirror’s white light into a black cloud that cools, cleanses, and refreshes me. The cloud envelops me in love. I recognise this cloud from other lucid dreams. My soul repeats, ‘Oh Holy One’ and sings out hymns of praise and feels delight. This goes on for some time with the cloud whirling around and through me in a kind of dance…
Then I become curious and notice that since going through the glass, I’ve been carried ‘back’ first, so I ‘flip’ over and feel amazed to ‘see’ what I call the fingerprint of God: a golden sphere with swirls of golden light in it similar to the whorls in a fingerprint…I gaze at this form in wonder feeling I see the true Holy of Holies…. From this one light, two red diamond lights emerge.
The red, shining light feels deep with both joy and suffering and traces the golden lines of the fingerprint. The red fills the image, spills over its edges, embraces me, surrounds me completely and pierces my heart. Although I wasn’t raised a Catholic, a part of my being thinks, ‘This is the sacred heart of Christ. This is what is meant by being in the sacred heart of Jesus!’ There comes tremendous humility, healing, and hope in this. Then my consciousness feels moved through the red back into a dream. At this point, I realize I have not died…
In the lucid dreams, mirrors within mirrors appear, reflecting increasingly subtle dimensions of conscious and light. The mirrors have a kind of magical active essence, but this doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t get to the bottom of the rabbit hole, so to speak, because I have the sense that in the dreams, as in holy tabernacles, there resides a Holy of Holies, literally and metaphorically. When we reach this point, the dream opens its central teaching to us.
Over time, I have noticed that lucid and non-lucid dreams may mirror one another in intriguing ways, even if dreamed years apart, reaching across time and space. For instance, in 2006 I had a non-lucid dream in which the dresser mirror of my teens showed up with a large, moonlit rattlesnake curled up at its base.
In that dream, the snake bit me between my brows. Waking Dream work with the dream suggested an opening of the inner-eye of insight associated with the third eye. After this dream, there came many in which the snake reappeared in various guises. But, in 2011, for the first time a snake appeared in a fully lucid dream I call ‘The Lucid Snake,’ that a dream-mirror heralded:
Wake up in the night. Still feel very weary. Say some prayers. There comes that strong rush of feeling without words. It takes me moment to realize I stand before a wall-sized mirror because I can’t see my own reflection. As a result, it looks as if the room simply continues. Finally I recognize that the sky blue sofa with white pillows looks so long because its length has apparently doubled in the mirror.
The colour reminds me of the azure blue space that sometimes appears in lucid dreams and with this I become lucid. I say spontaneously, ‘Okay God, let’s go!’ I move towards the mirror and enter it in a rather forward manner that surprises me as the mirror gives way. It takes me a while to find my equilibrium on the black winds as the feeling of desire consumes me.
The black winds carry my soul a great distance. Then, I experience a sharp descent that opens to a still place. Find myself back in a dream body resting on what I first imagine as a large square mosaic of a tiled floor. The square contains me as I rest in the middle on my side in a foetal position eyeing the design— a mandala like pattern with four parts and a central core radiating outwards in black, white, beige, and brown. Then, I once again feel surprised as the square tile begins to undulate.
Turning my head to the right, I see a large snake’s head looking round back at me. But I feel safe, because, like a mother protecting its young, the snake sniffs gently around my face with its long, dark tongue. I realize the snake won’t harm me as it moves around me, embracing me in its coils. With this awareness, the feeling comes that I’ll be taken out of the dream back to waking consciousness….
For me, these two dreams taken as a whole remind me of the alchemical symbol of the ouroboros, the alchemical snake that eternally eats its own tail—an evocation of life’s constant re-generation. The symmetrical, circular form of the ouroboros not only depicts life’s eternal cycle of birth, death, and resurrection, but also the union of opposites. In some alchemical images the ouroborus has wings. The winged ouroborus balances the qualities of Spirit and Earth, imaging the alchemical principle: Make the volatile fixed and the fixed volatile. In other words, materialize spirit and spiritualize matter.
The contours of the ouroboros frame infinity like a mirror. In lucidity, our consciousness can become ‘the still small point’ through which infinity then enters into the finite physical world. In my own experience, it has felt like dream-mirrors form a crucible for this process. The following lucid dream provides a snapshot of this process in action:
Wake up in the night and pray…. Suddenly, although it doesn’t seem to me that I’ve fallen asleep, I see myself in a mirror. ‘Oh, a mirror,’ I think, ‘I can enter this.’ With this realization, lucidity comes, but just as my being begins to move through the mirror, I see in the momentary reflection that the area between my brows swells, dissolves, and opens. This brings to mind what my dream teacher in waking physical reality had said about the third eye serving as my main entry point to the inner world.
Only this time, I feel aware that my mind has lingered too long on the mirror image. And as a result, just as the mirror dissolves and the black light infuses my being, my consciousness moves back into waking physical reality. As I rest on the bed, the joy and power of the black winds continues to rush through my being. My body feels absolutely electric.
For a brief moment, the mirror in this dream apparently captures the process of becoming ‘transparent to transcendence’.
The reciprocity between myself and this dream-mirror reminds me of ‘Abd al Qadir’s teaching on the nature of human consciousness as a mirror that shows two sides—both what we perceive as dense and coarse as well as that which we perceive as fine and exquisite. He describes the human heart as possessing two eyes—one we use to see the realm of forms in manifestation that the outer light reveals and one we use to see ‘only that which is rendered by the light of unity and oneness.’ I believe that in dream-mirrors we can sometimes see simultaneously with both eyes of the heart. Because of this, we can become simultaneously aware of the outer and inner light of unity that the mirror and our being contain and reflect.
In dreams, when I come upon a dream-mirror, even now I may become too preoccupied with the image the mirror holds, and with my own projections into the mirror, to recognize the call to lucidity and the look-into-infinity the mirror holds. Yet, without fail, I have found that the mirroring surface, ever calm and clear, reveals, without judgement, the state of my heart, helping me to more fully know even as I become known.
In my own experience, it has felt like dreams-as-mirrors and dream-mirrors can help us to become more transparent to transcendence. The mirror’s equipoise holds the promise of not just an experiential look-into-infinity illumined by the light of Being but, ultimately, an experience of Being’s beauty and love mirrored in our hearts.
- Campbell, Joseph, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Myth as Metaphor and Religion (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1986) 20.
- For more on potentialities within the lucid state refer to: E. W. Kellogg III, ‘The Lucidity Continuum’ (Presented at the Eighth Annual Conference of the Lucidity Association, Santa Cruz, June 28, 1992 and at http://www.driccpe.org.uk/portfolio-view/the-lucidity-continuum-ed-kellogg.
- Jung, Carl Gustav, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, trans. W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes (London and New York: Routledge, 1933, 2002) 185 -186.
- For more on my experience of lucidity as a child, see the Dreamspeak interview with Robert Waggoner http://www.dreaminglucid.com/lde/lde1_4.pdf
- For a detailed description of the Waking Dream Technique used with this mirror, see http:// www.driccpe.org.uk/portfolio-view/the-waking-dream-technique-in-practice-nigel-hamilton-video
- Hadrat Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, The Secret of Secrets, trans. Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti (The Islamic Text Society: Cambridge, 1991) 76.
- Feynman, Richard P., The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Books: Great Britain, 1990) 16 & 76.
- Feynman, 28.
- See http://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/look_into_infinity/ for more on this effect.
- For more on the technical nature of mirrors see ‘The Science of Mirrors’ www.luciddreamalchemy.com/ Resources, my work for the 2013 PDC, and the Dreamspeak interview with Robert Waggoner http:// www.dreaminglucid.com/lde/lde1_4.pdf
- For a brief breakdown of key colors linked to alchemical processes reflective of psycho-spiritual transformation see http://www.luciddreamalchemy.com/page/lucidity-symmetry.
- I will write more on this theme in an upcoming IASD Dream Time issue.
- For a detailed description of the Waking Dream Technique used with this mirror, see http:// www.driccpe.org.uk/portfolio-view/the-waking-dream-technique-in-practice-nigel-hamilton-video
- Al-Qadir, The Secret, 62.
- Al- Qadir, The Secret, 56.