Art as a sacred service creating human good, truth and beauty.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Art is a reflection of the artist, as true art lies within. To envision we must embody - for in being we become. We are all artists collaborating in this Great Work of Art. We create our world as Jesus (and others) said: "It is done to you as you believe." So let us create beauty through the balance of our lives according to a belief in a better world.
A new yet ancient tradition...
Iconic mandalas combine the sacred form-building traditions of the East and West.
Found in ancient Indian texts as the Rig Veda, mandalas denote a chapter, a collection of verses, hymns or mantras, a round (as in a song or the sound of manifestation). A mandala is a yantra or visual representation of a pattern as a symbol used in contemplation or meditation to facilitate a reorientation and connection, concretion and abstraction. Like fitting a key to a lock and turning it to open a door, mandalas transport the viewer into other realms, both microcosmic and macrocosmic. A world model or archetype of creation, mandalas emerge from the unmanifest to reflect the divine order of the universe and map its manifestation.
From a bindu seed or center point the mandala unfolds in dimension and form. Sacred geometry narrates and illustrates the first and last creation myth.
A properly drawn mandala is a book in itself containing a great deal of information but he who would read the symbols must learn the language.
Robert S. de Ropp
The language of symbology is a lost art newly rediscovered. It is reiterated in every age upon a higher order. As with all symbols and mythologies, a story is unlocked by the key or eye of the beholder; so it evolves as we evolve. Or, more aptly, we evolve from alpha to omega to understand the logos or embodied word that always was and will be. It is the understanding that we are turning in orbit and what we "see" is a constant though not constantly within our line of vision. So we come to reexamine the traditions of the mandala and the icon from a new (and greater) light.
The icon is a representation of an individual of veneration, an ideal embodied to give guidance or lend inspiration. The surrounding of the icon is often symbolic and symmetrical, portraying the divine order of creation. As mandalas often have iconic central figures, icons often have mandalic surrounds. In this sense they are not only kindred spirits but complementary disciplines.
As East and West have shared influence through the years, a dance of distance and approach, so the mandala and icon are related art forms of common purpose:
worship, understanding, emulation and contact through alignment with the divine.
To receive influence and inspiration from an object one must approach it. To understand a work of art one must stand under and observe it - becoming one with it. To do this we must find our center. In finding our center we find the common ground of all being.
The Vegetative Universe opens like a flower from the earth's center in which is Eternity...
Alignment is central to both creative traditions, as it is from the center that balance unfolds. The earth, as a living mandala, has a center, a positive and negative pole, an equator and an orbit through which it spins in the greater mandala of the universe. Ever unfolding from the Zoroastrian prediction of an expansive point to the big bang of scientific understanding to the black hole at the center of creation, life evolves from a point to a sphere and back to a point. We are the exhalation and inhalation of matter, involution and evolution in due turn, product and process, a point and a wave in stillness and in motion, concentric rings that ripple outward and within.
Every thing in manifestation is dual - it facilitates evolution. So alignment is both vertical and horizontal - symmetrical. The 2 dimensional symmetry of a mandala mirrors a multi-dimensional reality of space and time. Thus the 2 dimensions reconcile the motions of up and down, forward and backwards, in and out, stillness and motion in a simultaneity, the bindu or seed.
When the pa kua intermingle, that is, when they are in motion, a double movement is observable: first, the usual clockwise movement, cumulative and expanding as time goes on, and determining the events that are passing; second, an opposite, backward re-movement; folding up and contracting as time goes on, through which the seeds of the future take form. To know this movement is to contracted into a seed, we understand the future unfolding of the seed into a tree.
Book of Changes
William Blake's painting, Ancient of Days, reflects the point of contact between the unmanifest and the manifest, the transcendent and the immanent, as the father of Fathers reaches down to singularly touch the void. From this action and chain of reaction occurs.
Similarly, a mandala is an overlaid graph upon the void through which we may imagine the creation of our being through the cross of the cardinal points through fractal replication in space and in time. It consists of the supernal trinity or primary 3 and the secondary 4 - producing 7 rays of aspect and attribute. The 1 becomes the 3 becomes the 4 becomes the 7 which in turn become the 3 and the 1 which is the 10 of completion and a full circle. Each number represents and reflects corresponding symbolism and vibration in sound and in color. It also has certain ray qualities and affinities. This can be arrived at through contemplation and meditation. For this purpose an abbreviation of Patanjoli's meditation on symbols (seeds) from Alice Bailey is included below:
Meditation on Seed (Thought-Image-Symbol)
Excerpt from and summary of Alice Bailey
As his mind assumes increasingly the meditative attitude
of the soul, the brain becomes also increasingly subjugated
to the mind as the mind is to the soul. Thus is the lower man
gradually identified with the spiritual man who is omniscient
and omnipresent. This meditative attitude is assumed
through a fourfold process:--
Thus through these four stages of meditation upon an
object, the aspirant arrives at his goal, knowledge of the soul,
and the of the soul powers. He becomes consciously identified
with the one reality, and this in his physical brain. He finds that
truth which is himself and which is the truth hidden in every
form and in every kingdom of nature. Thus he will eventually
arrive (when knowledge of the soul itself is gained) at a
knowledge of the All-Soul and become one with it.
Correspondences to consider
- Meditation on the nature of a particular form, realizing, as
the form is pondered upon, that it is but a symbol of an inner
reality, our whole tangible objective world being built up of
- Meditation upon the quality of any particular form, so that
an appreciation of its subjective energy may be gained. It
should be borne in mind that the energy of an object may be
regarded as the colour... This is "discriminative participation,"
at-oning one's self with object.
- Meditation upon the purpose of any particular form. This
involves consideration of the idea back of or underlying any
form manifestation and its display of energy. This realization
carries the aspirant onward to a knowledge of that part in the
plan or purpose of the all which is the motivating factor in the
form's activity. Thus through the part, the Whole is contacted
and an expansion of consciousness takes place, involving bliss
or joy. Beatitude always follows upon realization of the unity
of the part with the Whole...
- Meditation upon the soul, upon the One who uses the form,
who energizes it into activity and who is working in line with
the plan. this soul, being one with all souls and with the
Oversoul subserves the one plan and is group conscious.
Three Rays of Aspect:
- Father, Ray of Power, Will and Purpose, point
- Child, Ray of Love-Wisdom, ex. Christos-Buddha, cross
- Mother, Ray of Active Creative Intelligence, subsumes the 4, circle with square
Four Rays of Attribute
| 4 || 5 || 6 || 7 |
| Art || Science || Devotion || Ritual |
| Harmony through Conflict || Knowledge || Idealism || Order |
| Physical || Etheric || Astral || Mental |
| Form || Colour || Number || Sound |
| Earth || Water || Air || Fire |
| Mineral || Plant || Animal || Human |
| Green || Blue || Yellow || Red |
| Body || Light || Life || Word |
Five Rays of human: Soul, personality, mental, astral, physical
There is much in sacred geometry, numerology and (gasp) astrology that lends itself to symbol interpretation. The art of symbolic sight, a form of atonement, is one we will relearn and refine in the coming period. Greater subtlety lends itself to a keener examination and approximation.
As a symbolic tool, the mandala is a form for concentrating the mind that facilitates introspection and meditation. To meditate upon seed may literally be to contemplate a mandala (as idea or form). Through the mandala we attune ourselves to the vibration of creation, a note we hear and echo back. The achieved reciprocity of vibration reinforces alignment through image and sound, yantra and mantra--from above to below in evocation and invocation. A cycle or conduit of energy is built as the immanent becomes manifest. The wheel spins as a mandala
"...may be looked upon as the 'static' form of the cosmic wheel with four spokes, or divided into its four phases. It will be observed that this type of Mandala has no central spare, the 'center' of time being the eternal present.
The back and forth exchange of energies creates a feedback loop - a system of influence and a mechanism of evolution. As the vibration increases it reaches a point of stillness, the eye at the center of the storm. Around it swirls the movement of creative manifestation:
Therefore they called the closing of the gates the Receptive
And the opening of the gates the Creative. The alternation between
Opening and closing they called change. The going forward
And backward without ceasing they called penetration.
What manifests visibly they called an image. What has bodily
form they called a tool. What is established in usage they called
a pattern. That which furthers on going out and coming in,
that which all men live by they called the Divine.
"Great Treatise" The Book of Changes
The Divine is an important ending (and beginning), for it is the purpose and point from which all creation evolves (for creation and evolution are one and the same.). Art is not art for arts sake. That is the meaningless cycle from which we are emerging - spinning our wheels but getting nowhere.
Art serves beauty...Just as soon as art begins to take delight in that beauty which is already found, instead of the search for new beauty, an arrestment occurs and art becomes a superfluous estheticism, encompassing man's vision like a wall. The aim of art is the search for beauty, just as the aim of religion is the search for God and Truth. And exactly as art stops, so religion stops also as soon as it ceases to search for God and truth, thinking it has found them. This idea is expressed in the precept "Seek the kingdom and God and His Righteousness..."
As Jesus said of his followers: "Ye shall know them as they seek the truth."
Truth is eternal, living and unfolding as the lotus. We may touch but not hold the ocean as we follow and become the path.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity is called the thread running through the way.
The golden thread or chain of being unites us. It is the Cordelier that connects us, protects us. Beyond all a mandala is a whole in which we are a part not apart. It is the circle that holds creation, a ring pass not that protects and nurtures us as a cosmic egg. Mandalas heal because inside them we are at-oned. As we evolve in concentric rings from self-centered through family, tribe, nation and world we become one with a greater and greater whole. As the Hermetic adage states:
God is an intelligent sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
Perfect symmetry is our manifest destiny; as above reflects below. As God is omni-present; we are omnipresent centered in God. The key to unlocking the universe is to be one-pointed in focus.
The eye is the light of the body; if, therefore, thine eye be single, they whole body shall be full of light.
As a mandalic lens that reflects (upside down) the object of our observation, our pupil is a microcosm of the macrocosm it reflects. With right vision comes right relationship. We are seers when we ignite our body through the spark of light that enables all vision, as light allows all sight and insight, enlivening form. We can only see something when it is present within and our light shines upon it.
It is first of all necessary to make the organ of vision analogous and similar to the object to be contemplated. Never would the eye have perceived the sun if it had not first taken the form of the sun: likewise, the soul cannot see beauty unless it first becomes beautiful itself, and every man must make himself beautiful and divine in order to attain the sight of beauty and divinity.
This system of analogy connects the notes of a scale as it connects the stars of the heavens. Through the vibration of a resonant note (whether high or low) we may touch the heavens and reflect the stars. Analogous to the eye of vision, humans bridge the microcosm of our consummate cells and the macrocosm of the radiant stars, so the invisible becomes visible. We are light made manifest through conscious observation. Astrophysics and quantum physics mediated through sight.
All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it receives its true consecration and clarity and takes firm root in the cosmic order.
The Cauldron. I Ching
As a yantra is dependent upon vision as its medium:
(The) mechanism of the mandala can also be understood in terms of the neurophysiology of the eye... (as) the mandala is a depiction of the structure of the eye, the center of the mandala corresponds to the foeval "blind spot." Since the "blind spot" is the exit from the brain, by going "out" through the center, you are going in to the brain. The Yogin finds the mandala in his own body. The mandala is an instrument for transcending the world of visually perceived phenomena by first centering them and turning them inward.
Ralph Metzner and Timothy Leary
If our eye is one and full of light, we see through the sun.
Life is a pure flame and we live as if by an invisible sun burning within us.
Sir Thomas Brown
As the candle flame at the center of the altar, the quintessence of the four elements that surround, we aspire upward. Through this aspiration we breathe in the life breath and participate in the great work of art, the transmutation of form.
We transcend appearances
The common way of appearance that is to be abandoned is not the world as it appears before our senses, but our feelings and ideas about it...The conquest consists in the eradication of the common way of appearance and of the appetite for it by changing one's feelings and ideas about it when that which one has clearly imagined stands before one's mind in all its transparency. This happens when, in imaging the world and its inhabitants as a mandala and in feeling oneself as transfigured, both the capacity for feeling transfigured and the mandala are clearly present before one's mind. It is not enough to bring about a little change for awhile, it must be a stable experience.
Orientation for Sustainability and Stability
To the seasons, to the directions, to the above, the below and within
Our Father, the Sky, hear us and make us strong
Our Mother, the Earth, hear us and give us support
O Spirit of the East, send us your Wisdom
O Spirit of the South, may we tread your Path of Life
O Spirit of the West, may we be always ready for the Long Journey
O Spirit of the North, purify us with your cleansing Winds.
Sacred Pipe Ceremony
While different mandalic traditions vary in their orientation, their purpose to reorient the individual to the collective and the geometry of their approach is the same. Paradoxically the individual realizes detachment from the wheel when they take their place upon it; they are paradoxically most uniquely themselves (and cells) when they are one with the group (and groups of groups).
The great symbol of individuation is the mandala: that is, a magic circle containing a cross or some other basically fourfold formulation. Dan Rudhyar
To the aspirant, the world is a tapestry of symbols, and the task is to perceive the correspondences so that he may achieve the Great Work: the transmutation of the soul.
Jose and Mirriam, Arquilles
...the man who understands a symbol not only "opens himself" to the objective world, but at the same time succeeds in emerging from his personal situation and reaching a comprehension of the universal...Thanks to the symbol, the individual experience is "awoken", and transmuted into a spiritual act."
Symbols not only represent truth, they are truth, to the extent it can be embodied - as they are the truth that transcends form. Through symbolic use man studies man, as a reflection in a mirror seeks to see or know thyself.
Man is a symbol. So is an object or a drawing. Penetrate beneath the outward message of the symbol or you will put yourself to sleep...Within the symbol there is a design which moves. Get to know this design. In order to do this you need a guide. But before he can help you, you must be prepared by exercising honesty towards the object of your search. If you seek truth and knowledge, you will gain it. If you seek something for yourself alone, you may gain it and lose all higher possibilities for yourself.
Kwaja Pulad of Erivan
The first thing to see, of course, is the color of our motivation.
Upon this we can all reflect.
As a mandala is a circle and the title of this work is full circle, let us close with the circle.
Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. the life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.
Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks
As our ancestors oriented themselves within the circle, so the shapes within evolved over time. Meaning became both symbolic and literal, as the philosopher's stone held more than its own weight in gold.
Make a circle out of a man and a woman, out of this a square,
out of this a triangle, make a circle and you will have the Philosopher's Stone.
Make a circle out of a man and a woman,
From which a quadrangular body arises with equal sides.
Derive from it a triangle, which is in contact on all sides
with a round sphere:
Then the Stone will have come into existence.
If such a great thing is not immediately clear in your mind
Then know, that you will understand everything, if you understand t he theory of Geometry.
Every being entering into the ineffable sanctuary of its own nature finds there a symbol of the Father of All.
As the wheel turns we come back to the beginning, a revolution and return. There are cycles and seasons, rounds reflected in the turning of the wheel: the mandala. Periods of unity follow diversity, expansion gives way to contraction. To everything a season--this science, philosophy and history attest.
As with all things in contrast, the complexity of modern life calls for a simplifying order.
It is only under ideal conditions, when life is still simple and unconscious enough to follow the serpentine path of instinct without hesitation of misgiving, that the compensating function of the unconscious works with entire success. The more civilize...and complicated a man is, the less he is able to follow his instincts. This complicated living conditions and the influence of his environment are so strong that they drown the quiet voice of nature (not to mention the soul or intuition). Opinions, beliefs, theories, and collective tendencies appear in its stead and back up all the aberrations of the conscious mind.
While we turned below unconsciously (like a waterwheel, underwater on the lower half) we now must turn above in the air of the intuition. The healing integration and vision of the mandala will help us to reorient within. When we realize we are the wheel we will not feel as swayed by its motion. We will remain centered, our head above water.
I saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point - namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. IT is the path to the center, to individuation...I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate.
A closing Caution about the use of sacred systems
Mandalas and icons were historically used only by the elite few, as only the few were ready to hold themselves steady in the light. It is with humility and honesty that we must look into the mirror of the self and see what it holds. It is likewise with humility and honesty that we approach the sacred art of the mandala and icon. To hold the sacred is no small task.
The only way I justify the effort is to beg forgiveness for that which is not in accordance with the divine will and hope to meet the need of the time. In this I ask your discretion and cooperation.
In their book Mandala Jose and Miriam Arguelles make the case for a more universal application of the mandala based on historical precedent. Accordingly, the Shift of 1519 and the landing of Cortes in Mexico marked:
"...the point at which the powers of light - Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent - were to be superseded by the powers of darkness - Tezcatlipoca, which significantly enough means "smoking mirror."
So the unitive traditions that mirror sacred order gave way, the last of which broke when Tibet fell to China in 1959. As the Tibetan mandala found its highest expression, it was alpha and omega, giving way for a new and emergent reincarnation of the ancient form. As history is mandalic (an expression of space and time), life in reborn, cycling through the ages toward greater subtlety. Crayons give way to pastels and now computer animation as the great work of art unfolds.
Let us be careful what colors we use and focus on ourselves as the axis of our own life and transformation. We are a part of a bigger whole but just a part. We are the x that marks the hidden treasure of the self, our self, as the mandala is our map. As the Gnostic cross let this denote transmutation of the self. Let us be receptive to the transformation of our Being.
"Consciousness is the power of an organism to order, integrate and transform itself. An organism is an integrated, ongoing, self-contained set of relationships, whether a cell, an individual, a community, or a solar system." Jose and Mirriam Arguelles
Mandalas not only provide structure and nourishment, they protect, as a cosmic egg.
...a mandala delineates a consecrated place and protects it from invasion by disintegrating forces...But a mandala is much more than just a consecrated area that must be kept pure for ritual and liturgical ends. It is, above all, a map of the cosmos. It is the whole universe in its essential plan, it its process of emanation and of re-absorption. The universe not only in its inert spatial expanse, but as temporal revolution and both as a vital process which develops from an essential principle and rotates round a central axis....the axis of the world on which the sky rests and which sinks its roots into the mysterious substratum.
*May we be grounded as the tree whose branches reach to the heavens to intake the solar light and whose roots reach deep within the earth to circulate life. As depicted in the Chinese ideogram of "Heaven-Man-Earth" humanity is integral to the life cycle of the earth. As the artist/seer/healer of the Mexican tradition we are Yolteotl meaning one whose heart is rooted in God.
May it be so.
In Mindful Creativity