Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Carl Jung on Mandalas

The "squaring of the circle" is one of the many archetypal motifs which form the basic patterns of our dreams and fantasies. But it is distinguished by the fact that it is one of the most important of them from the functional point of view. Indeed, it could even be called the archetype of wholeness.
- C. G. Jung, Mandalas

1.8.2010, mixed media

The goal of contemplating the processes depicted in the mandala
is that the yogi shall become inwardly aware of the deity.
Through contemplation, he recognizes himself as God again, and
thus returns from the illusion of individual existence into the
universal totality of the divine state.

[mandalas] ... are all based on the squaring of a circle. Their
basic motif is the premonition of a centre of personality, a
kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is
related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a
source of energy. The energy of the central point is manifested
in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what
one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that
is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances.

Mandala by C. G. Jung

This centre is not felt or thought of as the ego but, if one may
so express it, as the self. Although the centre is represented
by an innermost point, it is surrounded by a periphery containing
everything that belongs to the self -- the paired opposites that
make up the total personality. This totality comprises consciousness
first of all, then the personal unconscious, and finally an
indefinitely large segment of the collective unconscious whose
archetypes are common to all mankind.

1.3.2010, mixed media

... the fundamental motifs are repeated so often that marked similarities occur in drawings done by the most diverse patients. Most mandalas have an intuitive, irrational character and, through their symbolical content, exert a retroactive influence on the unconscious. They therefore possess a "magical" significance, like icons, whose possible efficacy was never consciously felt by the patient.

Tibetan Sand Painting

... there must be a transconscious disposition in every individual which is able to produce the same or very similar symbols at all times and in all places. Since this disposition is usually not a conscious possession of the individual I have called it the collective unconscious, and, as the bases of its symbolical products, I postulate the existence of primordial images, the archetypes. ... the identity of conscious individual contents with their ethnic parallels is expressed not merely in their form but in their meaning.

Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:
'Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind's eternal creation'
(Faust, II). And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality,
which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate
-C. G. Jung, Concerning Mandala Symbolism

Mandala by C. G. Jung

I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. ... I saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point -- namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation... I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate. - C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections


Betty Cloer Wallace said...

I used to think mandalas were just beautiful designs and that the seemingly interminable analysis of them was just a bunch of hooey, but I’ve changed my mind in recent years.

After wondering for a lifetime about the exact point at which an organic being is alive and when it is dead, I’ve come to believe that living and dying is a gradual process and not an “either-or” at all, but something more transformative. The archetypal patterns of life and growth are there, in all living things, and when you begin looking for them, you’ll see the world in a whole new way.

I especially like the statement by Jung that "The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances."

If you’re drawn to mandalas, you’ll be fascinated by studying “dynamic symmetry” regarding archetypal patterns in all living things, how plants and animals live and grow in predictable patterns that can be described mathematically (algebraically and geometrically). You’ll also find a whole new appreciation of mathematics, a kind of mathematics not taught in public schools, at the lower levels anyway.


When I lived in the Arctic, I noticed that a lot of Inuit Eskimo art (carvings, masks, dance circles, old house shapes) was based on a circle or concentric circles with meaningful objects sticking out all around the edges. When I asked lots of people about the origins of their artwork, no one ever had an answer beyond that they had just always done it that way, or they sometimes said something similar to the idea that everything in nature is round.

GULAHIYI said...

Thanks...very interesting observations. Yes, I happen to have that "Beginner's Guide" book and think it is wonderful. You never see numbers quite the same after reading that book. I have a whole stack of books that go even deeper into those subjects, but I seem to lack the mental acuity to comprehend them as I would like. (That's another way of saying they aren't light bedtime reading.)

Jim Parker said...

I find it very interesting that many mandalas have endlessly repeating patterns much like fractals. I believe this recursive pattern which almost seems to collapse upon itself is part of what makes the mandala such a wonderful object for meditation.

A Bach fugue does the same thing for us musically with patterns that build upon themselves.

Many way exist to quell the monkey mind and help us get to our true nature. Thank you for pointing out one of the most beautiful.