The Self & the Mandala
I have been a “Qabalististic artist” for over 35 years. That is to say, Qabalah is the primary thread that weaves through all my graphic and written work one way or another. The history of Hermetic philosophy in Visionary Art is very rich, an often unconscious esoteric current that pervades Western art from the Renaissance forward. Similar symbolic imagery always permeated Eastern art under different philosophies.
Even Botticelli, Michaelangelo, Titian, Ficino, Blake, Tchelechew, Grey, and others owe a debt to the Hermetic revolution and philosophical syncretism. The Renaissance was about developing a stereoscopic perspective, and the task of today’s visionary Digerati is to take that vision hyperdimensional. As ever, it is all about recontextualization and multisensory evocation of psychobiological states.
Great art has impact; it stops us in our tracks with aesthetic arrest, then leaves an aesthetic afterglow. It concentrates transformative insights in skillful, original forms. For the visionary, art becomes a literal description of extreme mindbody states. Mission is committed vision. With a perceptual acuity tuned to discovery, the artist beckons the viewer further, to share her vision, albeit, in silence.
On Summer Solstice 2005, I got a spontaneous influx of creative energy. I presumed it would end there, but it has kept right on going. Of course, that is not to say that I am ever blocked, as I simply don’t know what that feeling is. I’m not bragging though, because the flip side of my characteristically fluid or fluent process is that I must serve it when the prolific Angel is upon me. I could only ignore it at my peril. Ah, but then what the heck? Dylan said we all gotta serve somebody.
The summer influx came in the form of a wide variety of what I could characterize as Ionic Vortices, psychic quadratic equations, holographic interference patterns, electromagnetic quadratic monopoles of highly saturated brilliance, even visions of the morphing quaternions (hypercomplex numbers) of the Zero-Point virtual field. It really doesn’t matter what domain they are viewed from, as the patterns repeat at all levels in nature and our nature in an infinite fractal reiteration.
In cymatics, a vibrational field ALWAYS acts holistically. These mandalas formed essentially the same way, varying their frequency and amplitude of color and form, as well as symbolic content. Surely, the onlooker will have his or her own point of view and interpretation of the rather abstract medium. It might be as simple as a sort of universal stirring of the pot, so to speak. In any event, if I had actually tried to depict field forces, I don’t think I could have come up with a better idea: but this one was a spontaneous eruption, an emergence at the creative edge of chaos, where if you just get out of the way, things flow forth, effortlessly.
Jung has linked mandalas to the imaginal net of the Self archetype, and implied that they often emerge when a person is in need of healing, of holistically feeling that deepest connection to the source of being and imagination, of imposing order on disorder. Do I need healing? Who among us doesn’t? Who can’t benefit by taking a moment to connect with sensuous Beauty, technological, archetypal and spiritual? What higher goal could we have for our artistic intentionality? Its unique beauty is its radiance, its spirit, beyond reason and words.
The symmetry of mandalas somehow creates a neurological calm within us. We see through it to another world outside our mundane existence. As we contemplate The Center we identify with that Cosmic Axis at an existential level, and it recalibrates the psyche. We don’t know “how”. THAT is the penetrating Mystery, the marriage of the soul with the divine. All we can do is rest within it.
Mandalas are as old as the first circles scrapped on sand and stone by our ancient ancestors. Perhaps the oldest mandala was the rotating, circular bowl of the heavens. But what can be expressed through morphs of this form, both visually and symbolically is virtually infinite. Mandalas can be so symbolically dense, that from a distance all we perceive is an undifferentiated vortex. But this vortex holds the seeds of our potential spirituality.
The Tree of Life is a glyph entirely composed of circles, lines and color but it conveys and orders an encyclopedia of symbolic associations. Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas likewise symbolically represent the creation and reabsorption of the entire universe. Mandalas, like the horoscope or wheel of I Ching hexagrams or Tarot deck, have been used as divinatory devices. They are aids to inner recollection, aids for connecting with the divine. Solar systems and galaxies are mandalas, and so is the atom.
Now, the mandala enters the era of SCIENCE-ART (the fusion of art and physics), where it continues expressing that which is unseen in the inner realms except by the dark-adapted or Third Eye. First we had the molecules, then atoms, then the undetermined waveforms of subatomic particles, and now virtual fields of the pulsating vacuum fluctuation and their pure potential, sometimes called the scalar field.
Computers have been generating mechanical mandalas practically since their inception. But these soulless forms don’t have the depth of a “considered” piece. Mandalas themselves are mnemotechnical systems or devices. In this case, the computer doesn’t make my mandala, nor does it make source, content or morphing choices. It doesn’t make the creative choices where to start or when to end. The artist creates the qualitative field within which synchronistic events manifest and from which uncontrived art emerges.
I use the computer to create it, the same as I used to employ the brush. If it helps me shortcut the process, good, as fluency comes from keeping up with mental processes in execution. The secret, as ever, is the source material, the palette, the Light. These mandalas are Rorschachs for the third eye. If you are lucky, perhaps one will “capture” you.
FOUR IN ONE
Jung described wholeness as a quaternio. Some electromagnetic field interaction is described as quaternions. These mandala fields aren’t accurately called quaternions, but I call my mandalas QuaternIONAs. The four contains a powerful retrograde connection to the One. It is a mythopoetic unified field theory. As quaternions are related to matrices, so these mandalas are related to the old alchemical formula of Maria Prophetessa: the Four in One.
“Out of the One comes Two, out of the Two comes Three, and from the Third comes the One as the Fourth.”
Marie-Louise von Franz wrote of this formula extensively in her classic, Number and Time. She was one of the original Jungians with a definite eye for the interface of psyche and matter or that elusive instant where the center of Nothing, (which is everywhere, always, forever), becomes Something. It is the vacuum fluctuation of the Imagination, where the amorphous unconscious becomes an eidetic image, alive in the mind’s eye.
The mandala, a quaternary thought-model, is a creative means of holding the tension of psychological opposites, discrete but conjoined, including those of potential and actual. One is openness; two is plurality; three is engagement, and four is integrability. Jung corresponded this four-fold process with integration of the psychological functions of Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, and Sensation.
THE SELF & THE MANDALA
A geometrical God-image, the mandala is the psychic counterpart of the alchemical unus mundus, one world where soul and spirit are not divorced from the body. The body is the unconscious, the memory and repository and expression of our essential nature, our Self.
According to Jung, his archetype of the Self, or the metaphysical Higher Self, is an archetype of wholeness, the entire contents of the psychophysical field. Synchronistic phenomena are its parapsychological equivalent. It manifests symbolically in the inherently hypnotic form of the mandala, which draws us inward like a black hole.
I contend, according to both Qabalah and the holographic concept of reality, this implies it is the personification or embodiment of the entire Universe, for we are a microcosm of that. Mandalas depict the magic circles that coordinate or explore the meaning of cosmic order. The man-dala is the symbol of man as the intercessor between micro- and macrocosm. Finding its secret center means finding illumination. It is a cosmic portal, and a psychotronic device.
This is why we see through these primal forms when we look inside ourselves, as visionary artists, mystics, or depth psychologists. The Self is the ultimate muse, the source of all inspiration. Its abstract representation is the highly coherent Cosmic Mandala form, order which is infinitely rich in meaning.
We resort to art when we cannot articulate our vision with concepts alone, when our reach exceeds our grasp. The oneness of existence transcends our conscious comprehension, insisting on a comprehensive symbol. In a moment of synchronicity, it is the vehicle of transcendence.
When we have gone out and been overwhelmed by ten thousand outer things, we can make them one through the image of the One Mind. Making a mandala is a discipline for pulling the scattered aspects of ourselves and the spiritual forces of life together and coordinating that with the universal circle. But we can’t identify with undifferentiated nothingness, so we have to give it qualities. And the most primal of these are color, line, and volume with motion - symbolized force.
This centering meditation can realize itself through art, uniting heaven and earth - vision and substance. Granted, in the digital era, that substance is more ephemeral - the pulsating EM stuff of the temple of living light. But then, doesn’t that reflect Nature’s Way even better? The animated mandala as pure frequencies carries this further than the static print or wall art, since nature is never still. It is a unified field of dynamically unfolding rhythmical sequences, a fractally reiterating manifold of the imagination, transpersonal energies beyond temporal flux.
THE SELF & CREATIVITY
Creativity expresses itself through a specific act. Originally, in primal shamanic cultures, there was no separation between art and the sacred -all art was sacred, and it still is, if we hold that attitude of reverence toward its source in Spirit. Similarly, before our addiction to so-called scientific objectivity, physics was not separate from philosophy, but known as Natural Philosophy.
In the quantum era, physics has returned to a philosophy, since there is no consensus but only theories about the nature of ultimate reality and matter (strings, holographic, multiverse, transactional, etc.). SCIENCE-ART is a form of mythopoeisis, a sacred psychology that delves deep enough to creatively see their unification.
To be creative means to invent, to originate, to perceive old patterns in new relationships, or rearrange old patterns in new ways. This is the hallmark function of the real self. Ironically, it is the recycling of consciousness, eternally morphing force and form. Our individual capacity for expressing this varies. There are forms of personal creativity that have nothing to do with artistic expression.
Through the function of our emerging self we can make original, unique, creative rearrangements of our own inner psychological patterns. Every artist knows what these are, because they form the basis of our recurrent, even autobiographical themes - our neuroses, proclivities and obsessions. We tend to revisit them often, morphing our relationship with eternal forms, over and over again. They are expressed outwardly as originality and style.
It is style - a consolidated perspective - that separates the great artist from the mediocre. Art we make for our Self rings far more authentic than art contrived for consumption in the popular marketplace. The artist who is true to his or her Self best exemplifies the zeitgeist of the times.
Art also requires a devotion to the vision, a willingness to stick to the image as presented in the unconscious, to follow where it leads. The practice of therapy has the same kind of creative requirement. Often it involves effort and struggle and the willingness to endure anxiety. Some people are just unwilling to make the necessary effort or to endure the unavoidable anxiety. They forego creative fulfillment as a result. They consume, rather than have a love affair with images.
The self is our unfixed aspects that transcend and encompass ego. Qualities of the self are qualities of creative spirit: 1). Spontaneity and aliveness of affect (passion); 2). Self-entitlement (pleasure at environmental support); 3). Self-motivation, Self-activation, assertion and support ; 4). Acknowledgement of self-activation and maintenance of self-esteem (adaptive coping); 5). Self soothing of painful affects or emotions; 6). Continuity of self; 7). Commitment and perseverance toward goals; 8). Creativity to transmute old patterns; 9). Capacity to express Intimacy.
Tales of artists’ struggles with their own creativity are legendary. In this process, however, psychological scars can be transformed into genius. Or, perhaps it would be better to say, transformed by genius. The inner muse, genius, or Self is what Plato called our Daemon. Under inspiration we are ridden by this Daemon, and bent to do its will, rather than creating solely from the ego, employing craft and technique.
Thus, genius is not something we are, but something we occasionally are lucky to have or enjoy, manifesting transpersonal energy through us. To the extent that our theme expresses common developmental conflicts it will touch more people, who identify with or yearn for that existential position. Like therapy, art can be a proxy vehicle for discharging feelings and discovering a-ha solutions. Great art can alter our worldview, at least for a time of magical aesthetic transport. Space and time become suspended, superceded.
The fully developed real self - our genius - has access to its creativity for it is indissolubly connected to Source, the wellspring of creativity. But we can be artistically creative even without full development of the self - though it is a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Self-esteem is established and reinforced by self-activation in our art. Creativity is the vehicle of a quest to establish a real Self.
We are ARTificers - doers and makers. Art is a verb, not a noun - process, not merely product. It is an end in itself; the imaginal or visionary telos. The real self provides an internal visual grammar and repertoire. It is finite and fixed, but varied and flexible enough to blend the need for real self-expression with the external roles required by adaptation. Part of the joy of the creative process is the pleasure of increasing mastery, a biophysical gestalt.
Visionary art is a process of Self-Actualization. Artists individuate in expressing their original statement that also speaks to the collective consciousness. I am sure as time goes on, these mandalas will morph again, and I will continue to fuse my own images with them.