From the book Kashmir Shaivism The Secret Supreme by Swami Lakshmanjoo, verbally revealed the essence of the first fifteen chapters of Abhinavagupta’s Tantraloka.
Chapter 4 - Pratibimbavada
In the ordinary worldly course, sound is reflected outwardly in ether and inwardly in the ear. Touch is reflected outwardly in air and inwardly in the skin. Form is reflected outwardly in fire and in a mirror, and inwardly in the eye. Taste is reflected outwardly in water and inwardly in the tongue. Smell is reflected outwardly in earth and inwardly in the nose. These reflections, however, are just like the reflections in a mirror. They only take place individually. All five reflections are not available at once; only one thing is reflected in each. In a mirror form is reflected. Touch cannot be reflected in a mirror nor can taste, smell, or sound. A mirror will only reflect form. It is only in Supreme God Consciousness that you find all five reflected at once. In fact, although these reflections are experienced individually in all of the sense organs—sight in the eye, sound in the ear, etc.—these reflections could not even be observed if consciousness were not there. Awareness is needed and this is found in consciousness, not in the organs.
The universe, therefore, is reflected in the mirror of consciousness, not in the organs, nor in the five gross elements. These are merely tattvas and cannot reflect anything. The real reflector is consciousness. In consciousness, however, you see only the reflected thing and not anything that is reflected. That which is reflected (bimba) is, in fact, svatantrya (absolute independent freedom of Lord Shiva).
"This whole universe is the reflection of svatantrya in God Consciousness."
There is no additional class of similar objects existing outside of this world that He reflects in His nature. The outside element, that which is reflected, is only svatantrya. The infinite variety, which is created, is only the expansion of svatantrya.
You can understand this by taking the example of cause and effect. When a potter makes a pot, he takes clay and gives form to that clay with his potter’s instruments, such as a stick, a string, and the potter’s wheel. Within the potter’s creative activity, two kinds of causes can be distinguished. There is the material cause, which in Sanskrit is called upadana karana. This is that cause which travels with the effect. It cannot and does not become separated from the effect. Second, there is the formal cause, which in Sanskrit is called nimitta karana. The formal cause does not travel with the effect. The material cause is the potter’s clay and the formal cause is the potter himself with his stick, string, and wheel. In the ordinary worldly course, the reflected object (bimba) seems to be the cause of the reflection (pratibimba), because the reflected object cannot exist without that which is reflected. We have seen, however, that all reflection is really a reflection in God Consciousness.
If the reflected object is really the cause of the reflection, then what kind of cause is it? Is it the material cause, which travels with the effect, or is it the formal cause, which does not travel with the effect?
It cannot be the material cause because that would mean that there is something outside of God Consciousness, which travels to become part of the effect, which is the reflection. It is our theory in Shaivism that nothing can exist outside of God Consciousness. There cannot, therefore, be any agency which is separate from God Consciousness which travels with the cause, because if it is separate from God Consciousness, and therefore from the effect, it would not exist.
If the reflection of some object is existing in the mirror of God Consciousness, then of what is that object a reflection?
We have seen that if the object which is reflected were to remain outside of God Consciousness, then it would not exist. There can be nothing, therefore, which is outside to be reflected in the mirror of God Consciousness. There is only the mirror. There is no external cause, which has gone into the reflection, which is the effect. There is only the mirror of God Consciousness.
But what then is the cause of this reflection?
Svatantrya is the mirror. Svatantrya, the absolutely independent will of God, is the cause of this reflection. Unlike ordinary reflection which we experience in the world, wherein an object can be distinguished as the cause of that reflection, in God Consciousness only the reflection exists and not anything that is separate and reflected. In this causality, svatantrya is the formal cause, not the material cause of the reflection. It does not travel from the cause into the effect because, as I have explained, there is no cause which could be separate from God Consciousness. It is His free will, that He wills, and what He wills appears in the mirror of His Consciousness. It is simply His will (svatantrya). In reality, only the reflection exists and not anything that is reflected.
This universe, therefore, is found in the reflector of God Consciousness, not through the agency of anything of which it is a reflection (bimba), but through His svatantrya, where the universe is contained in seed form.
"Svatantrya is the seed of everything. Everything exists in the mirror of God Consciousness with svatantrya as its cause."
The theory of reflection (pratibimbavada) is meant for advanced yogins. This theory teaches them how to be aware in their daily activities, while talking, while walking, while tasting, while touching, while hearing, while smelling. While they are performing all of these various actions they see that all of these actions move in their Supreme Consciousness. Their vision, their perception, heretofore limited, becomes unlimited. The mode of their actions becomes absolutely unique. They see each and every action in their God Consciousness. They exist in the state of Sadashiva. Each and every action of their life becomes glorious. This is the awareness that comes from the practice of pratibimba.
OM NAMAH SHIVAYA