Friday, July 27, 2012

Mandala Meditations 3


Back when I was in college, I often doodled as I listened to lectures. (Incidentally, studies have shown that doodling while listening makes the mind more retentive.) One of my recurring doodles was the image seen above, a very basic mandala. I was intrigued that a design so simple could be such a successful 3-dimensional illusion. Can you see the areas that are concave and convex? If not, just back away from your screen several feet.

time.com
Later, as I was reading the work of the psychologist Carl Yung, I discovered that he interpreted my doodle-mandala as representing separation from parents. That got my attention because I was, in fact, producing the mandala while I was away from home for the first extended period. I started to read more about Jung and his own interest in mandalas.

jungcurrents.com

Jung himself saw the mandala as a healing tool (or an expression of healing), and he created mandalas — circular meditations — on a regular basis. His mandalas were often dream interpretations. Above is Carl Jung's first mandala.


Here are some wonderful 19th-century type ornaments. Jung believed that circles and squares, and certainly circles within squares, were symbolic of wholeness. I'm always collecting images that could be mandalas or elements within mandalas, which is why I put these handsome ornaments aside in a file.


Or how about this 1827 utopian town plan by J. B. Papworth? The town center is a classic mandala, what's called "the circle squared." Perhaps Mr. Papworth was a student of Tibetan mandalas . . .

click to enlarge 
The Mandala of Yamantaka, above, comes from the fascinating book,
Mandala, by José and Miriam Argüelles, 1972.


Here's one of my own mandalas — I call it The Blue Light Special. If you focus on it long enough, those blue dots will become quite hypnotic!

You can read more about my mandalas and how I create them here and here. In my next posting, I'll talk about a couple of mandala exercises. Stay tuned!
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16 comments:

  1. I find it interesting how your interest in mandalas with their symbolism of wholeness and self-limiting (in space) designs relate to your interest in Greek key designs with their meandering and directional qualities. Although keys can be made into chain-like circles and incorporated in mandalas, basically they cause they eye to travel and move from the initial focus point, although perhaps eventually encompassing a larger whole.

    Now I'll have to start thinking of the deeper meanings of design motifs that I especially respond to, such as bricks. This post is as informative and intriguing as always.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Hello, Parnassus, and thanks!

      In a sense, creating a mandala is ordering the universe through symbols of one's own subconscious, or perhaps interpreting a personal universe. No wonder it appealed so much to Carl Jung! Makers of Eastern mandalas would say that the process is a meditation towards one's innermost being. In either case, it is a centering, and for that reason I prefer symmetrical mandalas.

      I am sometimes surprised by the symbols that I put into my own mandalas, and at some point the mandalas often take on a life of their own. Certainly I respond to the Greek key at a very deep level.

      The circle is universally seen as a symbol of wholeness, and the square can be interpreted as wholeness or completion. It's interesting that the same is said for the number 4, and such interpretations (and perhaps your response to bricks) are also associated with numerology, another interesting subject.

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  2. Dear Mark, why not take your drawings and designs a step further. Paint them onto once-fired bisque. I will walk you through the process. Materials are inexpensive. No need to have your own kiln. Any ceramic shop or a University ceramic department will fire them for you. I see so many possibilities.

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    1. Dear Gina, you have suggested something I hadn't considered, and I love the idea! I had thought of recreating a Renaissance plate (I have some great reference for that), but I like the idea of a Renaissance or perhaps Gothic mandala plate, too!

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  3. Hello Mark:
    We can totally understand your fascination with Mandalas and the way in which the same space can be ordered and re-ordered in so many different ways. We have little knowledge of the work of Carl Jung but find it most intriguing that the Mandala was a source of scientific investigation for him.

    As always, you never fail to intrigue us with your posts. The hypnotic effect of the blue dots was quite out of this world!

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    1. Hello, Jane and Lance:

      I never thought of the mandala in quite the way you've put it, as though one were ordering and reordering the same space, which is of course true. Maybe that's why I like repainting walls so often!!

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  4. Wow Mark,

    This stuff is so way over my head. I must be from another planet. I looked at the illustration examples and all I could think of was a Hostess doily stretcher I inherited from my great grandmother Edna. Thank you, I'm going to go hang it up in my sewing studio right now.

    Simply Mrs. D

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    1. Mrs. D., your comment made me laugh out loud. But funny as it is, whenever I've given a workshop on mandalas, I've talked about the wonderful mandalas that crop up in everyday items — dishes, clock faces, hubcaps, manhole covers, pie graphs, steering wheels — and the list goes on and on, including doilies. And then of course, the mandala is everywhere in nature, from the micro to the macro. I'm betting that you've already incorporated some mandalas into your great projects.

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  5. Fascinating. Your piece caused me a flood a associations. I have so many mandala references in my life.

    The last image reminds me of some tail light stain glass I saw somewhere.

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    1. Perhaps a rose window. The mandala, while it is associated with the East, nonetheless is very cross-cultural. Stained glass rose windows, Pennsylvania-Dutch hex signs, circular mazes in cathedral floors, dream catchers, even ritual markings by cave men are mandalas.

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    2. Yes, I suppose you could call it a rose window and it really is made of tail lights from when cars had glass tail lights. I found the image I had in mind which is in the book, Native Funk and Flash.

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    3. Wow, when I read your comment, I didn't make the connection to something actually made from car tail lights — I 'll bet the piece is spectacular! Thanks for the book title . . .

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  6. Hi, Mark -
    I never know what you will post about.....from crocheted coral reef to trade cards to mandalas.....always a surprise! And, always informative, educational and interesting, my friend. The mandalas kinda give me vertigo :-) Definitely 3-D-ish!
    Cheers,
    Loi

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    1. Hi, Loi -

      Thanks for the nice comment. That last mandala is a bit of Op Art, isn't it? I think the success of those blue dots is due in part by their juxtaposition to the spirals of alternating color.

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  7. Sorry I am late to the mandala party -
    I am now wondering whether our parterres in the garden are mandala designs? I have always thought of them in terms of geometry. We have a box hedge in an octagon shape, within the octagon is a cross formed by a path with box hedging running either side of the path and where it meets at the centre is a round shaped bird bath. We also have a circle of box hedge in another area with four cuts in it which lead to a square pedestal with a round sundial on the top, this is surrounded by four equal sized lavender balls in between them are four more balls of Hebe plant!!!
    Hope I have not confused you, it takes a leap of faith to be able to visualise what I have just said.

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    1. Hello, Rosemary - I would indeed say that you are designing mandalas into your garden. And I seem to recall that I've even commented that your garden appears serene and meditative — these shapes are really appealing on many levels of our consciousness.

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