Mirror neurons and the Seven Essene Mirrors
A number of brain areas contain mirror neurons. These brain structures include the Superior parietal area for language processing in the Parietal lobe, and the VLPFC area for motor inhibition in the Frontal lobe. There may be more areas. Mirror neurons fire in our brains when we observe the same behaviour in another person. (It appears that Beta waves are involved in the firing of mirror neurons). In addition to helping us learn what they are doing, this is also thought to help us empathise and understand the feelings of others, and with theory of mind.
The spiritual qualities of compassion, holism and humility all require good empathy and understanding of other people. Mirror neurons could be one mechanism supporting the development of these qualities.
This also leads on to a discussion about the Seven Essene Mirrors. I first came across this material in Gregg Braden’s Walking Between the Worlds. Interactions with other people are interesting situations and we tend to keep attracting the same types of people into our lives and going through the similar situations time and time again – until we see what is happening and break out of the loop. This teaching was said to come from the Essene brotherhood (Nag Hammadi library, origin being the dead sea scrolls discovered in 1947, perhaps a remnant of texts that were not lost when the library of Alexander was destroyed between 48 BC and 300 AD ). The mirrors are:
- First mirror – reflects back to us that which we are.
- Second mirror – reflects back to us that which we judge, those things with which we are emotionally charged.
- Third mirror – reflects back to us something that we have lost.
- Fourth mirror – reflects back to us our most forgotten love.
- Fifth mirror – reflects back to us our Mother or Father.
- Sixth mirror – reflects back to us our journey into the Dark Night of the Soul.
- Seventh mirror – reflects back to us our own perception.
It helps to work through some example situations to get some clarity on what these mean and how they affect us in our daily lives. When you are interacting with other people and some emotional tension or disagreement arises, try and discern the root cause. Are they reflecting back to you the way the you behave (the first mirror) – controlling or bullying or micromanaging the situation? Or are they reacting in such a way as to fire you up on something, eg you are particular about cleanliness so they deliberately make a mess (the second mirror, they are reflecting back to you your opposite).
When two people interact the outcome is the combined effect of the mirror they see in you, and the mirror that you see in them. For a simple example, consider a work interaction between John and Mary who is his manager. In discussion a task that needs to be done, John is annoyed that Mary is micro-managing him, and Mary is frustrated that John is being evasive and isn’t giving her straight answers. In reality, John is an organised person who knows what he is doing and wants Mary to delegate to him – what is being reflected back to him is the second mirror, his opposite; he is very organised and he detests being micro-managed. Mary is very indecisive and John is reflecting back to her exactly what she is; for her it is the first mirror. If these two people were practising Buddhist mindfulness and were aware of themselves and each other, they would recognise that all Mary’s needs to do is delegate to John and ask him what his recommendation is. She needs to move past her indecisiveness and ask him for a decision. John needs to realise that he must tell Mary enough about what he is doing to allay her fears, and then proceed knowing that Mary is relying on him to do what he says he is going to do. All very simple, yet 7 billion+ people on this planet are involved in emotional conflict each day and will continue doing so until we become aware of ourselves and other around us.
The first two mirrors are the most commonly recognised. I find the 5th and 6th a little esoteric, and you may not encounter these frequently. Gregg Braden expands on the examples in his YouTube video, and it is worthwhile studying and understanding these as you can learn a good deal about yourself (your personality) and other people. A good understanding will assist in more harmonious interactions with the other human beings around you – and usually that is a good thing!
Be a mirror for other people
No matter what you do, you cannot avoid other people reacting to one of the 7 mirrors they see in you. So what should you do? What is your best course of action? From descriptions of the lives of enlightened people it seems that they are most likely to be a mirror type 1 when they interact with others – when you talk to them you are most likely to see yourself reflected back. If you are consciously aware and empathising with another person when interacting with them and they are seeing in you reflecting to them as a 2nd, or 3rd or 4th mirror it is relatively easy to change your response so as to reflect back to them exactly how they are acting towards you. For example, if they are angry with you then you can become angry (in a controlled fashion) back at them. It is probably the most direct way of making them aware of how they are acting.
Before leaving mirror neurons, MRI imaging has shown that when we see another person yawn, mirror neurons in Brodmann Area 9 (mPFC) are triggered in ourselves. And so we yawn too.