Eye of God
The word “mandala” is from the Sanskrit language. Its definitions are: “holy circle,”
“magic ring,” “wheel,” “center,” or “that which is the essence” (Huyser, 2002, p. 2).
Mandalas are symmetrical or circular diagrams that are organized around a central point. They
vary widely in complexity and exhibit seemingly endless variety. Some follow traditional
patterns, while some are highly personal and unique. Paintings, sculpture, architecture, and
movement based rituals and dances have all been based on the form of the mandala.
Mandalas can be found in the art and architecture of all times, from the Paleolithic age through
the present, and in all parts of the world. They have been seen in visions by mystics from both
western and eastern spiritual traditions, and by shamans from indigenous cultures. They are
found in the sacred art of Tibet and India, in the Medicine Wheels of the American southwest, in
the diagrams of the alchemists, and in the art of children.
Personal visions of mandalas arise in the dreams and art of all people as they evolve on the inner
journey toward wholeness and unity. This process has been extensively explored and
documented by the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. According to Jungian theory, personal
visions of mandalas represent inner images of the Divine (Flanigan in Cornell, 1994, pp. 140149).
Mandalas as Symbols
The mandala is a transpersonal symbol revealing the essence of the divine that has arisen in the
visions and dreams of human beings throughout time and throughout the world. By definition, a
symbol alludes to a greater pool of meaning and energy than the intellect is capable of absorbing.
Exploring a symbol through thinking alone blocks true understanding. Experiencing a symbol
through intuition alone is enough to open the door to an inpouring of energy from other than
conscious sources (Corbett, 1996).
Before the terms and concepts of depth psychology were available as a way of speaking about
mandalas, they were understood to be magical symbols. Magical symbols mediate between
archetypal energy and consciousness resulting in transformation. Viewers participate in bringing
the energy of a magical or archetypal symbol into the physical world when they meditate on it
(Brown, 2007, pp. 1-5).
Encountering the divine through a symbol brings about a feeling that has been called
“numinous.” Numinous experience consists of an intense feeling quality combined with a sense
of being in contact with something beyond comprehension. There is a fascinating quality to
numinous experiences. As a numinous symbol, the mandala represents an opening and path to
the divine, a way to find inner harmony and peace (Corbett, 1996, pp. 11-16).
The Mandala Ritual
The creation of mandalas is associated with healing and spiritually oriented rituals. All mandala
rituals tend to follow a common sequence of steps. The first is self purification. This prepares the
creator to receive visions and participants to receive healing. Attention is then withdrawn from
the external world and focused inward. The space where the mandala will be created is
consecrated or prepared; then the actual creation of the mandala can take place. The finished
mandala becomes an object of meditation. Its energies are consciously absorbed for healing and
spiritual renewal. When the ritual is completed, the finished mandala is either destroyed, or kept
as an object for future meditation, or displayed in order to create a healing or sacred environment
(Argüelles & Argüelles, 1995, pp. 83 – 99).
Mandalas as Art
Mandalas are a form of sacred art. In the cultural and spiritual traditions that grant importance to
mandalas, models can be found for both the role of the artist as creator and the participation of an
audience. An artist is thought of, not as we are accustomed to thinking of artists in our culture,
but as a combination of artist, craftsperson, priest, and magician. Artists are seen as people who
are capable of facilitating profound changes in the consciousness of others through both finished
works of art and the ritual of creating them. The role of the artist is to contact transpersonal
levels of reality, and then give expression to their visions through art. Contemplating and
meditating on the resulting works of art serves viewers by helping them to transcend ego
consciousness and reconnect with the transpersonal levels (Shearer, 1993, p. 16).
Mandalas and Personal Transformation
Mandalas are archetypal symbols of unity. When a mandala arises in the imagination of an
individual, it passes from the transpersonal through the personal, bringing with it personal
contents and images, and reorganizing them in the process. It reconciles opposites on a higher
level of consciousness. Encountering and giving expression to personal mandalas is known to
have a healing effect, and can bring about the transformation of consciousness (Corbett, 1996, p.
Carl Jung pioneered the use of the mandala ritual for personal spiritual transformation and inner
healing in the 20th century. He kept a journal of daily mandala drawings and based his
observations on his own experiences. He stated:
The mandala symbol is not only a means of expression, but works an effect. It reacts upon its
maker. Very ancient magical effects lie hidden in this symbol for it derives originally from the
“enclosing circle”, the “charmed circle”, the magic of which has been preserved in countless folk
customs. The image has the obvious purpose of drawing a sulcus pimigenius, a magical furrow
around the centre, the templum, or temenos (sacred precinct), of the innermost personality, in
order to prevent “flowing out”, or to guard by apotropaic means against deflections through
external influences. The magical practices are nothing but the projections of psychic events,
which are here applied in reverse to the psyche, like a kind of spell on one’s own personality.
That is to say, by means of these concrete performances, the attention, or better said, the interest,
is brought back to an inner, sacred domain, which is the source and goal of the soul and which
contains the unity of life and consciousness. (Jung in Wilhelm, 1962, pp.102-103)
Jung felt that each personal mandala contained everything that it needed to bring about inner
transformation, and that through contemplation its purpose and meaning would become evident
(Chodorow, 1997, p. 14).