Search This Blog

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mirrors: Part I

כַּמַּיִם, הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים--    כֵּן לֵב-הָאָדָם, לָאָדָם
As a face is reflected in water, so the heart of man to man.
Mishlei 27:19

“Young and eager psychoanalysts will no doubt be tempted to bring in their own individuality freely into the discussion, in order to carry the patient along with them and lift them over the barriers of his own narrow personality…Experience does not speak in favor of an affective technique of this kind...I have no hesitation, therefore, in condemning this kind of technique as incorrect. The doctor should be opaque to his patients and, like a mirror, should show them nothing but what is shown to him.”

Sigmund Freud, Recommendations to physicians practicing psycho-analysis, p. 118

"Watching the tapes helped me to visualize the counseling process more clearly. It was like Dr. Rogers was a magical mirror. The process involved my sending rays toward that mirror. I looked into the mirror to get a glimpse of the reality that I am. If I had sensed the mirror was affected by the rays being received, the reflection would have seemed distorted and not to be trusted. Although I was aware of sending rays, their nature was not truly discernible until they were reflected and clarified by the mirror. There was a curiosity about the rays and what they revealed about me. This experience allowed me an opportunity to get a view of myself that was untainted by the perceptions of outside  viewers. This inner knowledge of myself enabled me to make choices more suited to the person who lives within me."

Sylvia Slack, Reflections on a workshop with Carl Rogers. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Spring 1985, 25, 35-42.


“What would strike a modern textbook publisher is the space given in these works to the importance for artists to have true faith and strict morals. Virtue is inseparable from good art. It is taken for granted that a work reveals the artist’s soul as well as his mind. But what is more important, the work of art mist by its order mirror the hierarchical order of the world, which is a moral order. Whether by intuition or by convention, the artist must know how to convey this reality. Hence the (to us) irrelevant injunctions in the treatises. For example, in his Notebooks [which is a book to read], Leonardo makes excuses for not being a writer, but he nonetheless shows himself a moral philosopher, a psychologist, and a creator of semi-mystical parables. That all art must be moral is the rule until the 19C, when it cuts loose from moral significance, from regard for virtue in the maker’s character, and from the expectations of the public.”

Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, p. 67

“I’m sure I’m going to look in the mirror and see nothing. People are always calling me a mirror and if a mirror looks into a mirror, what is there to see?”

Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, p. 7


“Everyone wonders: Why is it necessary to travel to the tzaddik [righteous person] to hear ethical teachings directly from him, when it is possible to study the ethical teachings from books? But, the truth is that there is a great advantage [to visiting the tzaddik]. For there is a big difference between someone who hears directly from the true tzaddik himself and someone who hears from someone else who repeats it in his name, and certainly when he hears from someone who heard from someone else. Each time it descends from level to level, [becoming increasingly] distant from the tzaddik.  So, too, between someone who hears it directly from the tzaddik and someone who studies from a book there is an even greater difference.

“Now, the tzaddik has a pure countenance. Everyone can see his own face in the face of the tzaddik, as [he could] in a mirror. As a result, even without rebuke and without reproof, his friend will feel remorse for his deeds just by having looked into the tzaddik’s face. This is because by looking into his face, a person will see himself as if in a mirror and, [realizing] how he is immersed in darkness, will feel remorse.”

Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan, #19: 1-2 (trans. Moshe Mykoff)

The rabbi started crying even harder. “Rebbe [R. Yisrael Hofstein], I literally can’t bear to leave this world without children! Isn’t there someone, somewhere, who can open the Gates for us…?”

“Well,” R. Yisrael said thoughtfully, “there is one person. All the Gates of Heaven are open for him. But I have to warn you, it’s not easy to see him. Tell me, my dear Rabbi, have you ever heard of a Jew who lives near your city who’s called Schwartzer Wolf [Black Wolf]?”

“Schwartzer Wolf! You can’t mean that disgusting woodcutter who lives in the forest! Why, he’s so vulgar, so cruel, so brutal, nobody wants anything to do with him. He almost never comes to town or prays in our synagogue. But when he does, we fall all over ourselves trying to avoid him!”

“Yes, that’s him,” the Rebbe said quietly. “I want you to know, the Schwartzer Wolf is the head of the lamed-vav tzaddikim [thirty-six righteous people] of our generation. He’s literally the holiest man alive. If you can get him to invite you for even one meal of Shabbos and to give you his blessing…he’s the only person I know who can open the gates of Heaven for you…”
Now everybody knows that the lamed-vav tzaddikim – and their exalted families – are so holy that they perfectly mirror whoever is looking at them. If when you see them you think they’re disgusting, it’s because you’re disgusting. If they seem ugly, that means you’re ugly – not just on the outside, but in the deepest depths. Only if you are pure and holy can you see their beauty and their light.

The Story of Schwartzer Wolf as excerpted from Lamed Vav: a collection of the favorite stories of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, pp. 82-83 (minor changes)