Parable of the Magpie and the Mirror

A certain scientist had a cage, and took a magpie, and put the magpie in the cage.

And the magpie’s head and neck were black, and black were its beak and eyes, but the breast and belly of the magpie were white as paper.

And the scientist watched the magpie in the cage.

And after a time the scientist said, It is said that the magpie is the wisest of all birds.

I will set a test for the magpie; and if the magpie pass the test, therefore will I know it is my equal.

The scientist took a tall mirror therefore, and placed the mirror in the cage.

And the scientist watched the magpie in the cage.

The magpie in the cage looked at the magpie in the mirror; the magpie in the mirror looked at the magpie in the cage.

And the scientist watched, and wondered, and said: How will I know whether the magpie in the cage sees that the magpie in the mirror is its own true self, rather than another identical magpie; because I cannot read the black lacquered eyes of the magpie, neither can I parse the jagged scribble of its voice.

Therefore will I mark the magpie and observe; if the magpie see the mark in the mirror, and if it remove the mark on its body, therefore shall I know the magpie knows its own true self, even as I know myself.

And the scientist took therefore the magpie, and placed a yellow sticker on the magpie’s black neck, and placed the yellow sticker so the magpie could not see it except that the magpie see the yellow sticker on the magpie in the mirror.

And the scientist watched the magpie in the cage.

And the magpie in the cage looked at the magpie in the mirror, and the magpie in the cage reached up with its black claw, and tore off the yellow sticker, and crushed it in his claw, and let the crumpled sticker fall to the soiled newspaper at the bottom of the cage.

And now the magpie spoke and said, Scientist, I submitted when you placed me in the cage, and then I said this scientist therefore will know me as an equal.

And Scientist, I submitted when you placed a mirror in my cage, and then I said this scientist therefore will know me as an equal.

But, now Scientist, you have marked me with a yellow sticker, and to this marking I do not submit.

But because I do not submit, you know therefore that I know myself, and you know me therefore to be your equal, so now, Scientist, you shall release me from this cage.

And the scientist said, not unkindly for the scientist did not mean to be unkind, Not so, magpie, for you have known yourself in the mirror, and you have seen yourself marked with the yellow sticker, and you have torn the yellow sticker from your neck.

And therefore you have passed the test by which I know you as an equal.

But because you are an equal, you must be marked with a yellow sticker in order to leave this cage.

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