Self-misunderstanding and the mirror of Narcissus

A while ago, I have posted some reflections on “the mirror of Narcissus”, a phrase that Tim Wu uses to characterize the Instagram culture of mass self-presentation in pictures. That phrase implies some kind of narcissism. But is that just a vague association with an old myth, or is there a deeper connection?

The mirror of Narcissus

There is a chapter (naturally) on smartphones and Instagram in Tim Wu’s "The Attention Merchants", his very readable and eye-opening history of the attention industry; its title: “The fourth screen and the mirror of Narcissus”. This choice is very apt indeed.

The mirror and the windows

There is in human experience a perennial contrast between the external world and the inner world, the interior. With both worlds, we interact; and to some small extent we can influence and control them. But mostly, they’re wide-open ranges of the unknown: abundant, overpowering, and utterly “other” than ourselves.

The mirror theory of eros: synchronicities

Jung says that synchronistic phenomena appear when an archetype of the collective unconscious is triggered (or ‘constellated’). He also points out that this usually goes along with projections. Interestingly, the mirror theory of eros arrives at a similar result.

The mirror theory of eros: projection

When a person becomes infatuated, their soul is dominated by the phantasm that represents the loved one; the phantasm cannibalizes the entire psyche of the subject. In such a case, the unconscious image (the phantasm) acquires an astonishing power and autonomy.

The mirror theory of eros: the spiritual mirror

A word about this “spiritual mirror” business. It is called spiritual because in Ficino’s views, the notion of “spirit” is central, and among other things, the spirit acts as a mirror through which the soul can access what the senses take in from the external world. The setup is similar to an old-fashioned camera, with the eye (and the other senses) corresponding to the lens, the psyche (the...

The mirror theory of eros: phantasmata

1. Suppose a subject becomes enamoured with another person. In that situation, we can assume in the subject’s mind a cluster of ideas, perceptions, presumptions, etc., all of which have the other person (the “love object”) as their content in some way. For example, there may be memories (“When we first met, she looked like this …”), general ascriptions of personality (“He’s a very attentive...

Death: walking out of the mirror

As every lover of Eurospy knows very well: death is a woman. If you fall in love with her and have the good luck to find it requited, she may sacrifice herself in a kind of Liebestod, Which makes you — immortal! (Logically…)

The hypocritical mirror-critic

Returning from his year-long stay on a Greek island, the protagonist of The Magus makes an intermediate stop in Rome. But he compares his impressions unfavorably with those he had in that other Mediterranean world: The sun shone as certainly, the people were far more elegant, the architecture and the art much richer, but it was as if the Italians, like their Roman ancestors, wore a great mask of...

Leif Frenzel is a writer and independent researcher. He has a background in philosophy, literature, music, and information technology. His recent interest is Jungian psychology, especially synchronicities and the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious.

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