¨Your heart is a polished mirror. You must wipe it dean of the veil of dust that has gathered upon it, because it is destined to reflect the light of divine secrets.¨
“Between the mirror and the heart is this single difference: the heart conceals secrets, while the mirror does not”
An Old Analogy
Polishing the Mirror of our Souls it’s an old symbolic image commonly used through antiquity, now day something most people have no idea, what are you talking about.
When searching in the Internet for a meaning, the only thing I could find was a reference to lesbianism!
And Ram Dass using it as a title for a book.
Shame on us!
The Sufis, and many other ancients seekers, speak of polishing the heart into a mirror, so that through our love we can reflect the heart of everything. This is one practice that in time can help us to find who we really are, not the illusory dreamlike life, that most people live.
What does it mean to you to polish your heart? Where does your heart need polishing right now?
Mirrors In Ancient Times
The looking glasses of the ancients were usually made of metal, at first of a composition of tin and copper, but afterwards more frequently of silver (Plin, l.c.). Pliny says that silver mirrors were first made by Praxiteles in the time of Pompey the Great, but they are mentioned as early as that of Plautus (Most. I.3.111). Under the empire the use of silver mirrors was so common, that they began to be used even by maid servants (Plinio. H. N. XXXIV.17 s48): they are constantly mentioned in the Digest, when silver plate is spoken of (33 tit. 6 s3; 34 tit. 2 s19 § 8). At first they were made of the purest silver, but metal of an inferior quality was afterwards employed (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.9 § 45). Frequently too the polished silver plate was no doubt very slight, but the excellence of the mirror very much depended on the thickness of the plate, since the reflection was stronger in proportion as the plate was thicker (Vitruv. VII.3, p204, ed. Bip.). We find gold mirrors mentioned once or twice by ancient writers (Eurip. Hecub. 925; Senec. Quaest. Nat. I.17; Aelian, V.H. XII.58); but it is not impossible, as Beckmann has remarked, that the term golden rather refers to the frame or ornaments than to the mirror itself, as we speak of a gold watch, though the cases only may be of that metal.
Polishing The Mirror
As you can imagine ancient mirrors made out of metal needed constant polishing, in order to retain their polished reflecting qualities. and therefore their usefulness as mirrors.
This quality become a myriad of analogies to symbolize the constant work and effort in order to keep the mirror of the heart without blemishes.
¨Let me give you the mirror, but if you see some fault on its face, do not blame the mirror, but something reflected onto the mirror. Know that it is your own image; find the fault in yourself!¨
— Excerpt from The Conversations (Maqalat) of Shams of Tabriz
Everything that we experience as a problem is within ourselves. Consequently the solution to the problem is also within us.
We need to cleanse ourselves from our vices, and forgetfulness, so we can heal. We need to work constantly into restraining our ego so we can love, and forgive, and we can be blessed, by receiving the pure Light of Spirit on a qualified instrument of purity, that becomes our heart after the constant polishing.
How does one polish the mirror of the heart? Prophet Mohammad says in a well-known Hadith (tradition) that the polishing of the heart is the act of invoking or remembering God (dhikr). In other words, the more one remembers God and burnishes the mirror of his substance, thereby cleansing it of the stain of forgetfulness that stubbornly clings to it, the more the heart becomes cleaner and clearer. Rumi explains it in this way:
“Through remembrance and meditation, the heart is polished until the mirror of the heart receives virginal images.”
A sort of returning to the primordial condition of Eden, but with the Wisdom and love acquired through practice.
Rumi’s Chinese and Greek argument.
The Chinese and the Greeks}were arguing as to who were the better artists.
The King said,
“We’ll settle this matter with a debate.”
The Chinese began talking,
but the Greeks wouldn’t say anything.
The Chinese suggested then
that they each be given a room to work on
with their artistry, two rooms facing each other
and divided by a curtain.
The Chinese asked the King
for a hundred colors, all the variations,
and each morning they came to where
the dyes were kept and took them all.
The Greeks took no colors.
“They’re not part of our work,”
They went to their room
and began cleaning and polishing the walls. All day
every day they made those walls as pure and clear
as an open sky.
There is a way that leads from all-colors
to colorlessness. Know that the magnificent variety
of the clouds and the weather comes from
the total simplicity of the sun and the moon.
The Chinese finished, and they were so happy.
They beat the drums in the joy of completion.
The King entered their room,
astonished by the gorgeous color and detail.
The Greeks then pulled the curtain dividing the rooms.
The Chinese figures and images shimmeringly reflected
on the clear Greek walls. They lived there,
even more beautifully, and always
changing in the light.
The Greek art is the Sufi way.
They don’t study books of philosophical thought.
They make their loving clearer and clearer.
No wanting, no anger. In that purity
they receive and reflect the images of every moment,
from here, from the stars, from the void.
They take them in
as though they were seeing
with the Lighted Clarity
that sees them.
As translated By Coleman Barks.
The purity of the Sufi is due to his constant remembrance of God. The more he remembers God, the more he comes to know Him; and the more he comes to know Him, the more he comes to love Him. This is why the act of polishing the mirror of the heart is the key to entering into a love-relationship with God. The Sufi’s heart, in other words, is like white snow because of its purity, which it has attained through the remembrance of God. In one important tale, Rumi seeks to illustrate this idea in a more concrete way.