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).
In the Jungian therapy, which includes the recognition and the conscious integration of the contents of the collective unconscious, the spontaneous drawing of mandalas is required.
There are a lot of illustrations that testify this technique practiced by Jung himself.
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