The Two-Way Mirror Analogy of Aging

 
The Two-Way Mirror was part of my early clinical psychology training in graduate school. Therapy rooms in our training clinic had been constructed with see-through mirrors. You’ve probably seen similar arrangements on television crime shows where those behind a mirror watch a suspect’s interview. What you see through a two-way mirror depends on which side is dark and which side is lit. In my clinical training, therapists and their clients sat in the lit side observed by faculty and other students from the unseen dark side. After the session, teacher and students would discuss how things went.

I was always struck by what happened when someone turned the lights on in the dark side after a session. Suddenly you could see the observers on the other side! If the therapy room was then darkened, the mirror effect reversed and only the observers would be visible. Recently I’ve been sensing that this fascinating scenario might serve as a metaphor for aging.

I believe the two-way mirror is an apt analogy for the spiritual transition of age. Most of our lives we only see one side of reality while the other side remains dark (i.e., unconscious) from the ego’s perspective. In other words, what we actually “see” is a mentally constructed projection of the world consisting of countless layers of thought, belief, labels, fantasy and identity. I’ve called this projection the World of Man. A left-brain construction, it attracts all the divine light for decades. The mirror also symbolizes the narcissism of constantly focusing on self-reflections.

As we grow older, we gradually withdraw interest from the obsessive left-brain world of goals, achievements and position. We know we are preparing to leave and the energies of ambition and identity steadily lose their allure. As we cleanse the “doors of perception,” we begin to “see the light” with an awakening consciousness housed in the right brain.

At first, divine light shines through our consciousness, for we are opening an internal aperture to the other side, which in turn affects our experience of reality. The world seems to brighten, becoming more radiant, beautiful, sacred and miraculous. In short, it becomes more mystical. Also, as aging brings us closer to the passage of death, we instinctively (though unconsciously) focus our awareness toward the light from the other side which then grows brighter. My recent dream of Jeremy Taylor’s death (see the previous blog) reflects this expanding experience of divine light.

For me, the two-way mirror analogy of aging captures this shift in spiritual awareness and way of values change accordingly. Of course, not everything in the dark is positive or healthy for darkness also symbolizes the unconscious with its unrecognized and sometimes sinister impulses, affects and fantasies. As the Washington Post’s motto proclaims, “Democracy dies in darkness;” so, too, mystical awakening can be lost in violence and drama. In sum, we must also shine our enlightening consciousness into the dark side of the World of Man, giving rise to the sacred activism of enlightened elders.

It might also be said that our Soul, the unrecognized consciousness housed in the nonverbal right-brain, has been watching us from the darkness of the other side for decades, waiting patiently for our left-brain ego self to finally discover its presence, consciousness and wisdom. But now the dark space of Soul can light up. We begin to see what this life has been about. Moving the light from one side of the brain to the other, we finally wake up.

John C. Robinson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Website: www.johnrobinson.org

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