The mirror has an immediate relationship to higher space, its inversion of the visual plane giving an image of the incongruent counterparts we cannot invert in three-dimensioned space. Indeed, we might read the looking glass as the higher spatial portal through which we can never pass in lived space. As Alice declares:

Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through.[1]

Barely has she wished it than Alice is ‘through the glass’.


‘In itself, the reflection is an equivocal theme,’ writes Genette:

the reflection is a double, that is to say at the same time an other and a same. This ambivalence provokes in baroque thought an inversion of significations which makes identity fantastic (I am an other) and otherness reassuring (There is another world, but it is similar to this one).[2]

The space through the mirror is simultaneously alienating and comforting; it reflects and multiplies. The mirror itself, like the knot, is a form through which matter and thought are made fluid. In a text giving detailed instructions on the theory, use, and construction of magnetic mirrors for occult ritual and scrying, Paschal Beverly Randolph described the source for the form of the reflective glass, or crystal ball:

It was found, also, that the shape of the brain, at the foundation-point, was of the same general form or shape as the earth on which we dwell; that is to say, an oblate spheroid, whence, by experiment, it was deduced that such section of a figure, oblately spheroidal, was also the very best form of a magic mirror. Such a figure having two mathematically true and absolutely certain foci, so that a stream of magnetism being thrown upon one focus slid along the surface and returned to the centre of the other focus, from the centre of the fore-brain, thus completing a magnetic circuit and rendering the portion of brain in the line of contact exceedingly active, by reason of its increased magnetic play and motion of the brain-particles there situate.[3]

The mirror becomes materially one with the self, a magical prosthetic channelling the matter of the brain. Pancho, the hero of The Talking Image of Urur, finds himself in a hall dominated by such an occult mirror:

This light was reflected in all the mirrors; but more especially from one great concave mirror in the middle of the front wall, which caught the rays of the light and threw them into the little mirrors, where they sparkled like so many diamonds.

Full of surprise Pancho approached that mirror and saw his own image reflected, although magnified into superhuman dimensions. While his attention was directed intensely toward that mirror, and while he was wondering about this strange phenomenon, his consciousness became suddenly centred in that image, and then it seemed to him as if he himself were that image, looking out of the mirror, and he beheld his figure reflected from all the little mirrors along the walls.[4]

The occult mirror channels and multiples the self as the textual mirror multiplies its internal spaces, the spaces that displace our reading space; both leave us feeling discombobulated. We should note that all three structures through which Vane is led to the region of the seven dimensions—mirrors, paintings, and texts—are capable of creating the effect of mise en abîme, of locating the subject in spaces of thought that appear to have the potential to recede ad infinitum.

[1] Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (London: Academy Editions, 1977), p. 12.

[2] Gérard Genette, ‘Complexe de Narcisse’, in Figures I (Paris: Editions de Seuil, 1966), pp. 21–8 (p. 21). Translation author’s own.

[3] B. Randolph, Seership! The Magnetic Mirror (Toledo, OH: K.C. Randolph, 1884), p. 55.

[4] Franz Hartmann, The Talking Image of Urur (New York: John W. Lovell and Company, 1890), p. 290.