In The Beginning

October 29, 2006



I had a thought: if I could accomplish anything in this life, it would be occasionally to cause others I encountered, by my words and deeds, to look at things in ways contrary to their habitual manner. Put differently: since each of us is a mirror for the projections of our fellows (or, so I believe), to reflect traits in them not immediately distinguishable to them as their own. This should not sound vainglorious: but, consider the following:


Why do we look into a mirror – vanity, curiosity, wonder? What do we want to see? What do we hope to see? We frequently address our mirror image from the aspect that reflects how we think we best look, as if to replicate another person’s looking at us, a someone not us at all. We may affect a minuscule down tipping of the head, a slight shift of the nose angle; even flash a smile, as when we respond to the directive say cheese. And, when we think we look good – we rush out into the world to show people how attractive we are. We long to see our reflection in approving others. Often though, this backfires, and vanity crumbles – our lack of humility becomes humiliating.



Video clip: in a zoo. Ambient sound: the buzz of a large crowd, watching a monkey’s performance. The Macaque aimlessly turns a circular make-up mirror repeatedly over in his hands. Eventually, he catches the direct reflection of his image. He jumps back in surprise. The crowd explodes in laughter.




Many years ago I read about a peculiar quality of the word CHOICE: it reflected back from a mirrored surface intact, with no apparent inversion of alphabetical characters: CHOICE, in the flesh, as it were, it read, and CHOICE in the mirror, too. And as the years rolled by I often amused people with this oddity. It was an entertaining little parlour prank.


There is mounted on a wall in my home a chalkboard onto which I routinely scrawl words or messages that pique me. At the beginning of March of this year, I jotted down the word “CHOICE,” and, above it, the Pythagorean symbol for that word, a “Y” form. My reason for doing this escapes me now – was it that I remembered my little parlour game of the perfectly reflected word, and wrote it on the board, or was it vice versa, and did the scribbling of the word remind me of the game.





Some time later, on an impulse, I enclosed the “Y” with a heart. And although my conscious mind didn’t realize it until later, this glyph enjoyed the same kind of relationship with the mirror as did the word CHOICE: a pure reflection.


The glyph fascinated me and I spent long intervals meditating on it. I felt it in my mind as if it were a stone carving: traced with my mind’s hands its pregnant swellings and deep, precise creases: the haptic way of knowing. It reminded me of my Sprout sculptures, and of Constantin Brancusi’s several versions of The Kiss. It reminded me of a drawing from the liner notes of a Leonard Cohen CD release: two hearts, overlaid as are the triangles comprising the Seal of Solomon, a Mogen David. It reminded me of twin fetuses, of nestling doves, of entwined lovers, of conjoined twins and of a baseball umpire’s chest protector. Of many things it reminded me … but nothing so much as the cerebral hemispheres of the human brain. Certainly, nothing so much as that!



November 1, 2006


I regularly house foreign students passing time in Canada to improve their English language skills. One young such woman, noticing the word/glyph on the chalkboard, asked me what it meant. I hurriedly dashed down the word CHOICE on a piece of cardboard and walked her to the full-length mirror on our hall closet door. I positioned the card where we both could see it and said, “Notice anything strange?” After some moments she was unable to uncover the oddity; but she reacted with predictable surprise when I pointed it out to her. The conversation ended and I put the CHOICE- inscribed card on my desk. But the entire extended episode – from the jotting down of the word CHOICE on the chalkboard days earlier, to the casual setting aside of the piece of cardboard – worked diligently away, it later would prove, beyond my conscious awareness.



November 4, 2006


I’m not certain how the following happened, but some days later I found myself before a sliding mirrored door in my bedroom tipping the CHOICE-marked card towards my reflected image. I kneeled, placed the card in front of me and withdrew a pencil from my breast pocket. Looking into the mirror, yet with pencil point upon the card, I set about tracing the upper-case letters of that word that so intrigues me. I struggled some to accomplish this task, and then repeated the operation using my left hand. (I am familiar with the basic tenet of two-brain theory, that the left hemisphere controls the right hand side of the body while the right hemisphere controls the left hand side). In this brief encounter with my intuition: Mirrorwork (the gleanings of this investigation) had it’s beginning. I turned my attention to something else, to let the experience settle in.


In the days that followed, I performed this little exercise often, and began noting some observations in a sketchbook. I considered similar operations of ambidextrous feats from other contexts, too: switch-hitting baseball players who bat according to whether opposing pitchers are righties or lefties; the right hand/left hand written dialogues therapists use in inner-child recovery work; the baton-tossing of drum majorettes; the keyboard wizardry of ten-finger typists; musicians, mechanics, plumbers. And, the TV weatherman who renders from behind a transparent map, a flawless, two-handed depiction of the weather fronts and temperatures we might expect of the morrows of our lives. Examples of inter-hemispheric cerebral virtuosity, all!



I remembered a book from my college days: The Transformative Vision by Jose Arguelles. It had left an inestimable impression on me, and because of its current relevance to my CHOICE exercises (cerebral lateralization), I wished again to have a copy. I knew the title to be long out of print and not easily attainable – the original 1975 edition had survived only a single 1992 reprint. But, a Google search landed me a used copy that I could expect to receive in a few weeks.


Redacted from The Transformative Vision:


Human history and culture may be viewed as the attempt to achieve a dynamic integration of a motivating set of polar but complementary archetypes. In its simplest essence, the feminine archetype is psyche, the inherent capacity to know or realize, and the masculine archetype is techne, the innate ability to achieve or put into practice. To the former belong the qualities of mind, intuition and spirit, to the latter, body, intellect and matter. Psyche is primary and techne is secondary, for realization precedes actualization … psyche and techne are expressions of the two primary aspects of consciousness, whose complementary dynamics determine the very destiny of the planet.


Moreover, Arguelles argues:


… contemporary world conflicts stem from a major polarization of consciousness that parodies the geographical division of the Eastern and Western hemispheres, the bi-section of the vertical, polar plane characterized by the rhythmic fluctuations of day and night, commonly known as the Old World and the New World.


And, a blurb from the dust jacket says of the contents:


… a reflection on the nature and history of human expression and a celebration of the reunification of form and soul, techne and psyche, at the end of the 20th century … mingling such diverse threads as art history and cultural history with psychobiology and Jungian archetypal theory … an exposition of creative expression from medieval times to the present.


… a facilitation of awareness of the split between mind and body, the rational and the irrational, the scientist and the artist, in an effort to return to the individual his own personal and creative responsibility.


November 6, 2006


Following are some of the observations I noted during the early days of performing the Mirror-Choice exercises – I now began referring to these meditations as Mirrorwork.

Remember: I am looking in the mirror while penciling on the paper:


March 9, 2006


If the tracing seems to be going easily, say with the right hand, I switch to the left and note the differences. In one instance, continuing with the left hand was more difficult. A dialogue ensued between the two hands (sides of the brain). “Here, let me help,” said the right hand (techne). “Thanks,” said the left hand (psyche). “You’re welcome. We’re in this together, you know. We have to use each other to balance our WHOLE,” said techne.


While tracing the straight edge of an obliquely-positioned protractor pattern: using the right hand I observed that I could best perform the task by allowing the moving point to fall upwards. I switched to the left hand and found great difficulty using the same strategy. Then, I allowed the point to fall downward, and the task became easier. This brought to mind Valentin Tomberg’s discourse on terrestrial vs. celestial gravitation (see: The Hanged Man – Meditations on the Tarot).


March 10, 2006


An exercise: Two people conversing with each other, each into their own mirror.


March 20, 2006


In the CHOICE exercise: Sometimes the bridge of the letter “H” is more difficult to trace than the goal posts – the stylus veers upward – or, downward.


Sometimes when tracing the “O” the stylus takes a wide berth at the upper or lower curve.


April 8, 2006


Working with geometrical templates: some easy, some difficult. I got the idea to alternate the tracings within and without the mirror. I conversed with myself, voicing encouragement from the without to the within: and, when within, between the alternate hemispheres. Things like: “Here, let me show you how it’s done – now, you try it.” And, in response, “Thanks, sometimes I do better with your help.” Kind of like force-feeding friendship upon the contrary tendencies.


April 11, 2006


Working on the CHOICE/heart-glyph tracings: I am developing a more co-operative dialogue between the hands and their oppositely positioned hemispheres. Tracing one of the “C”s, I easily performed the task, but, in returning, I experienced some difficulty … I remembered an incident from my early childhood: I went off with an older cousin, in wonder of a new experience, assured that my parents had sanctioned the outing, only to return home and be harshly spanked because they in fact had not approved of it. This event has stayed with me as a major memory – I relive it often. Maybe what was in play in the Mirror exercise was my reluctance to go home (along the “C”) because of the anticipated punishment at the other end. The important revelation for me, I think, was that I was able to use both hemispheres in my attempt to balance (justify) that childhood memory. “I’m afraid to go home,” said one hand. “I’ll help you explain it to your parents. Try not to worry,” said the other.


April 12, 2006


On a reflected circle: initially, tracing with the left hand I was having a relatively easy time, then ran into some difficulty. I switched to the right hand in mid-stream and allowed my hemispheres’ voices to converse amiably – as if they were rowing a boat together. I found that the hand to which the baton had been passed had just as much trouble as had the lead-off hand. They joked about the situation, laughing aloud at their ineptitude – no defensive reactions, just good-natured fun. Love and understanding for the plight of the other. How could they help but do better from this. LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF. This puts your geographical neighbours in a new light.


Sometimes, when I see one of my hands struggling to find its way, it becomes a small boy afraid to go home. This is an opportunity for the other hand to parent it.



November 7, 2006


Some notes on the principles of reflection and inversion (undated, but jotted down around the time of the observations noted above):


To invert: to reverse in position or relationship; to turn inside out or upside down; to move inward.


Mirror image: the direct opposite.


Latin: mirari – to wonder at.


The flop: physiologically, we see upside down (does this mean inverted?) – and our brain performs the flop so that we can see the world upright. What function of consciousness compels this operation – and, if the brain cells required to do so are damaged, is the image resulting from the flop skewed? What efficacy do we place on what we see at this stage (earliest inception?)?

Do we have here the key to spiritual seeing?

Does a person’s potential for spiritual capacity depend on his (unconscious) performance of the flop – and, what if his temporal lobe was crushed in childbirth?





To see; sight: the process of seeing; to look carefully in a particular direction; mental or spiritual perception; the capacity to look at or regard.


To apprehend: to become aware of; to anticipate (especially with anxiety, fear, dread); to grasp with understanding; to recognize the meaning of.


Agni tattva: in Hindu occultism – the subtle principle of sight.




November 17, 2006


I was intoxicated with my new toy and began foisting it on everyone who visited me. It was more entertaining than the original parlour trick of simply showing people how the word CHOICE behaved in the mirror; now it became an interactive game they could take part in by performing the left hand-right hand exercises. I used the same inscribed piece of cardboard I had used with my language student as the pattern for each new tracing. A wonderfully dense evocation of the word was thus built up – a palimpsest of ambidextrous rendering; a swelling signature of inter-cerebral kin.


I watched closely as each new person navigated the challenge: their degree of concentration, their body language, the actual tracings each one made, things like that. And I noticed that each one performed the task in a specifically unique way. Of course, I realized, how could it be otherwise? I found myself interpreting the idiosyncrasies of performance in each case, whenever a point of indecision arose in their renderings. You couldn’t learn much from the smooth sailing, I noticed, but you could learn a lot from the crisis points – when they were stumped as to how to proceed. One leaned in her chair, seeming to steer the pencil along with body language; one momentarily abandoned the world of the mirror to sneak the occasional peek in the real world to help him continue on; one simply skipped over portions of the letters as if they didn’t exist at all, to facilitate his meandering.


November 21, 2006


People launched into the challenge in diverse ways, too: trying to position the pencil point atop the first “C” on the card while looking into the mirror – remember: down was up and up was down. One person boldly missed the mark, then stomped off in the wrong direction trying to right himself; a woman tried to settle in by fitfully stabbing the air like the needle of a sewing machine; and one enterprising man simply conjured ever-diminishing circles in landing his point down onto the mark, a circuitous bull’s eye if ever there was one.


And in mid-CHOICE, the renderings variously caused increasing frustration, fatigue, and self-consciousness; while upon completion of the exercise, the navigators were pensive, or prideful, or wanting more. No one began anywhere other than at the first “C” or altered the order of the letters as they struggled towards the last “C.” It was a panoply of problem solving. And although the candidates performed the test with varying degrees of success, there was nary an adept among them.



Now: I think each of us solves most of our problems in an unvarying line of attack. Put another way: if we want to bake a pie from a recipe, or travel to a destination we haven’t previously visited, or make points with someone with whom we desire a tryst, a conditioned problem-solving apparatus kicks in.

Let’s consider the example of baking the pie: the woman who fitfully stabbed the air like the needle of a sewing machine probably will not have organized her ingredients, or gotten the eggs and the stove to the correct temperature before putting the pie in the oven, thus sabotaging her effort at a workable crust

In traveling to an unfamiliar destination, the guy who conjured ever-diminishing circles in landing his point down onto the mark will conceivably approach his geographical destination in a like manner, using twice as much gas as you or I.

Or, in the example of the desired tryst: the guy who boldly missed the mark in the mirrorwork exercise and stomped off in the wrong direction may take his best shot and become passively aggressive (or downright ornery) upon his being rebuffed.

In any event: I think each individual will display remarkable similarities in the way they try to accomplish ANY task they face.


Fine: but I wondered to what practical use I could put the Mirrorwork? It was interesting all right, good fun, but it wasn’t going to substantively change anything in the world. I kept doing the exercises, by myself and with others, while all the time something was settling in. Settling in. A vessel was forming. I didn’t know what shape it would take, and further away than that, I had no idea what I’d put into it when finally it had been formed.


I remembered something I had read in the Pauline Epistles that seemed relevant, about the way the Apostle himself did things; this memory ran to a piece of my own writing about the way people in general did things. I put the two together as from one voice, with the following result:


A man in his youth heard someone say that you could tell a lot about people by the way they drove their cars. In short time he observed that this was true. As he grew older, he applied this theory to other activities: the way people butted their cigarettes, their manner of shopping, how they tore the limbs from live animals, and many other things. As he got older still, he realized that of course these things were true. You could tell a lot about people by the way they did anything. The man, in his later years, became increasingly troubled with the way he himself did things; his behaviour puzzled and vexed him. He never acted as he meant to, but did the things he hated. Though the will to do good was in him, the power to do it was not. The good thing that he wanted to do, he never did, and the bad thing that he didn’t want to do – that is what he always did. Such was his dilemma. The man began trying to adjust the way he did things, but found it difficult to concentrate. His mind either jumped ahead to the things he had to do, or dwelled on the things he had already done. It seemed impossible for him to experience presence. Then, one day, looking into a mirror, he went blind. Thereupon: he spent his remaining years telling others what he saw.


How did all of the above lead to the idea that we really could change the world; not by willfully changing the way we did the things (the inevitable failure of life-style changes and New Years Resolutions), but by effecting our own cerebro-hemispheric integration? By changing our consciousness!


And with that: the vessel was formed. Now the challenge was to fill it with spirit, give it a persona and bring it into the world. Here’s what I did next:


November 18, 2006


Atop the preceding tad of a tale – A man in his youth … I inserted the title The Way We Do Things: A Short Story. Below the story I wrote the following:


This is an invitation to become part of a contemplative society whose reflections, put into action have the power to change the world.


The group will have no director (although it may decide, for the sake of decorum, to have a weekly chairperson). For the time being, meetings can be held at (my address).


If you would like to contribute your energy to this service: please reply to: (my e-mail address, telephone #, and mailing address.)


I placed copies of the invitation in 10 manila envelops, into which I also put sharpened HB/2 pencils, 3” x 5” sketch books, and lovely 4” x 6” beveled mirror tiles. I sealed the envelopes and numbered them 1 through 10.


I contacted 10 people whom I knew to be spiritual warriors and invited them to a gathering. Nine attended.












(C) 2013 arne torneck all rights reserved

images arne torneck


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The Core Group