Mandala is a graphical representation of the center (the Self at Jung). It can appear in dreams and visions or it can be spontaneously created as a work of art. It is present in the cultural and religious representations.
Examples of mandala can be found in all the ancient cultures. We find it in Christianity under the form of frescos with animal images representing apostles and under the form of the zodiac. The astrologic zodiac and its versions are an excellent example of mandala. Also, in the Indian spiritual practices we find fascinating representative cases of mandala, with symbols of the local pantheon.
In the yoga practices, mandala can be a support for meditation or an image that must be internalized through mental absorption. Moreover, this image organises the inner energies and forces of the practitioner and puts them in relationship with his ego-consciousness.
History of Mandala
Through meditation and following a path of thought and action, Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, attained enlightenment, freeing himself from the cycle of death and rebirth. He taught this path to his followers who still practice these principles today.
As Buddhist monks traveled the Silk Road, a major trade route through Asia, they brought Buddhism to many other lands. They carried mandalas with them and brought the practice of creating these works of art to other parts of Asia. The earliest evidence of Buddhist mandala art dates to the first century B.C.E. but appeared in other regions, such as Tibet, China, and Japan by the fourth century. Although rooted in Buddhism, mandalas later became present in Hinduism, New Age Spirituality, and other religious practices.
Analytical psychology and Mandala
Individuation is the psychic process by which one becomes himself, indivisibly, uniquely, a monad, as an expression of uniqueness and self-sufficiency at microcosmic level. It is, in Jung’s terms, the realisation of the Self .
Jung discovered this process during his confrontation with his unconscious, and especially when he was painting the first mandalas.
In our dreams, the mandala indicates the phenomenon of centering of the ego in relation with the psychic wholeness. It is part of the individuation process as described by Jung in his works.
Nowadays, modern dreams mandala can be a sophisticated electronic device: an electronic watch or a sophisticated circular machinery. Often the UFOs seen in the sky or in dreams are also mandalas.
Other mandala images can be circular fountains, parks and their radial alleys, square market places, obelisks, buildings with a circular or square shape, lakes, rivers (radial water networks).
Jung on Mandala
“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self – that is, my whole being…”
“The self, I thought, was like the monad which I am, and which is my world. The mandala represents this monad, and corresponds to the microcosmic nature of the psyche.”
Excerpts from Jung’s Book – Memories, Dreams and Reflections
In the analytical psychotherapy, which includes the recognition and the conscious integration of the contents of the collective unconscious, the spontaneous drawing of mandala is required. While a finished mandala bears importance as a focus for meditative practice, the creation process remains equally important. You can analyze your finished mandala using a map that shows the areas corresponding to important symbols of the psyche and Jungian Archetypes, such as the Persona, Animus & Anima and the Shadow.
Active imagination is intended to bring about a state of hypnagogia. This is the state in between sleep and wakefulness, where people may be partially aware that they are dreaming.
Always remember that the principle is always the same: to allow the unconscious to manifest into consciousness and then trying to integrate its lessons, thus making important progress towards achieving what Jung called individuation.
Active imagination is a meditation technique in analytical psychology used to bridge the gap between the conscious and unconscious minds: opening oneself to the unconscious and giving free rein to fantasy, while at the same time maintaining an active, attentive, conscious point of view. This strategy leads to a synthesis that contains both perspectives, but in a new and surprising way. Active imagination is considered an important aiding technique in the process of individuation and you can learn how to practice it alone by exploring the most obvious expressions of your unconscious mind – your dreams.
The wise old man (also called senex, sage or sophos) is an archetype as described by Carl Jung, as well as a classic literary figure, and may be seen as a stock character. The wise old man can be a profound philosopher distinguished for wisdom and sound judgment.
In literature, the sage often takes the form of a mentor or a teacher to the hero, playing a crucial role in the hero’s journey. The sage archetype may be portrayed by a God or a Godess, a magician or wizard, a philosopher or an advisor.
Anima and animus are gender specific archetypal structures in the collective unconscious that are compensatory to conscious gender identity.
One of the most complex and least understood features of his theory, the idea of a contrasexual archetype, developed out of Jung’s desire to conceptualize the important complementary poles in human psychological functioning. From his experiences of the emotional power of projection in his patients and in himself, he conceived first of the anima as a numinous figure in a man’s unconscious.
The persona, for Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, was the social face the individual presented to the world—”a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual”.
Jung’s individuation process starts from this level, of the persona, of the social mask, trying to break the artificial convention through awareness of its presence and function, and the attenuation of its often oppressive-imperative character.