Mandala and the Self Art Process


                                                             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).


2 thoughts on “Mandala and the Self Art Process

  1. wow wow wow wow wow. thank you so much Joy! That's a lot to take in, but it was so helpful to see and hear your process and thoughts and view your space and see you and hear you! Feeling very inspired and grateful and hopeful after this post. Aho Sisterwoman!


  2. Clair thank you so much for your comment it means so much form sommeone I think of as gifted with such wisdom. I am honored that I can share my mandala work with you and I very much look forward to your sharing in the Mandala group. It is a powerful inner "work" on so many levels. I am so happy to share with others and be on this journey together… Joy


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