The Legend of the Three Mirrors

A Parable

What would we do without mirrors? We have a fascination with them—although it is true some people have an aversion to them. We have experienced, or know about, those warped mirrors that distort our appearance—making us appear tall and skinny or short and fat! Stories abound of mirrors with magical properties or powers too. For example, in Snow White, the mirror on the wall told the wicked queen who was “the fairest of us all”. In Harry Potter, the Mirror of Erised (‘desire’ spelled backwards) shows us, in the words of Professor Dumbledore, “nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” Some mirrors in literature, and in antiquity, were thought to reveal the future. When we break a mirror, we are meant to have seven years bad luck. As I say, mysterious mirrors with magical powers intrigue and captivate us. But, as in the stories of Snow White and Harry Potter, our desire to know the mirrors’ secrets distort reality and, hence, warps our own lives. We can become addicted or enslaved by their enchantment. Again Dumbledore warns, “The mirror (of Erised) shows neither truth nor knowledge, and some have in fact gone mad from staring at it.”

There is an ancient legend of three mirrors.

The first is the Mirror of Beauty. As you look at your reflection in this mirror, you see yourself as you really are. In that sense, it is like all common mirrors. But this mirror also has subtle magical powers. No, the Mirror of Beauty doesn’t airbrush your imperfections and blemishes away, as if it would tell you the result of the finest plastic surgeon or a team of beauticians. Rather, its name arises because when you look at your reflection you feel genuinely good about yourself, affirmed in your own identity as a person of priceless value—a precious and beautiful work of art. Moreover, you know without a doubt, both in your head and in your heart, that what the mirror shows is, in fact, true.

The second mirror is called the Mirror of Truth, and few like to look at it for long. Initially the reflection is similar to that of a normal mirror, yet the image is mysteriously enhanced by one’s good deeds, noble thoughts, and honorable speech. All that is best about us is truthfully reflected. But that is only one aspect of the reality about our lives and character. The image then slowly deteriorates and becomes distorted by our flaws, weaknesses and shortcomings. This aspect of the reflection is, alas, also true and we don’t like to be confronted by our failings; we have not forgotten them. Oddly enough, it is ironic that those with large egos who cannot gaze at this mirror for long. While the person who has recognized and acknowledged their own brokenness is able to see this aspect of their evolving reflection in context. The Mirror of Truth, then, cycles through genuine images of ourselves that reflect the truthfulness of the best and worst about us.

The third mirror is the Mirror of Hope, which simply reflects what could become possible in the future, based on our life’s present trajectory. The range of images reflects the ultimate outcomes of the myriad of life choices we have yet to make. If we make wise choices, the mirror shows the positive extent of our hope; although, of course, nothing we see is inevitable or predestined. Having seen the fullest extent of our reflection in the Mirror of Truth, the Mirror of Hope does not—indeed, need not—show us reflections of those possible outcomes if we persist in unwise decisions. Rather, its reflection encourages and inspires us to confidently hope for the future, as the mirror’s name implies. To see that healthy and praise-worthy change, indeed transformation, is possible—so that we need not live in fear or bondage.

Beauty, Truth and Hope; three magic and mystical mirrors that reveal more than a simple optical reflection. Rumor has it that only one person had the identical reflection in all three mirrors.