the mirror as a curve of the nature of self-awareness (morris berman, part 2)

“I assume that if mirrors are present in a culture at any point, it means a greater interest in self-awareness. It turns out that the Venetians began to manufacture silvered glass on the Isle of Murano during the Renaissance—part of the so-called ’emergence of the individual.’ The obsession with mirrors climaxes at the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, where people constantly looked at themselves.

Chart the manufacture and diffusion of reflecting surfaces, and you get a curve of the nature of self-awareness in any period. The mirror as the map of the evolution of consciousness is a god example of the types of methodology we might consider when examining somatic history. Technology is also a record of consciousness.”


From an interview with Morris Berman for Omni magazine by Murray Cox (August 1991 issue). Merriam-Webster defines somatic as “of, relating to, or affecting the body especially as distinguished from the germplasm or the psyche; of or relating to the wall of the body.” Merriam-Webster defines germplasm as “germ cells and their precursors serving as the bearers of heredity and being fundamentally independent of other cells.”

So, we can interpret “somatic history” as the interpretation of history through the body and the awareness of self, rather than through mere artifacts and constructs. (Da? Nyet?)

Aside from Mr. Berman’s books, he oversees a rather interesting blog, Dark Ages America. DAA is noteworthy not only for his observations, but for the many comments he receives from his readers and his interacting with them. Go ahead and give it a read.

Comments, suggestions, additions, and arguments welcome!