I woke up the other morning with a single image emblazoned in my mind. It was a kind of contemporary mandala. Mandala means ‘circle’ in Sanskrit. It is:
My dream mandala is a white circle, it looks like a plate, with purple interconnected animals on it, in even symmetrical lines running across the plate. Purple on white. I think they are horses, possibly lions. It is such a clear image in my mind, I can still see it. This lovely artwork by Mark Hearld gives some sense of the style of the animals, though there is way too much going on in it and the colour is wrong.
I never dream of mandalas, and I can’t remember ever waking up with such a clear lone image in my mind, apparently unrelated to any dream that came before. It felt important, it came up on the screen of my blank-slate mind like a flash photograph, commanding me to wake and attend.
Jung saw the mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self”, and he believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to work towards wholeness.
“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day…I guarded them like precious pearls….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. ” – Memories, Dreams and Reflections
Dreaming of a mandala or seeing a mandala in your dreams, is often seen as a spiritual yearning.
What could a plate with lots of interconnected purple horses mean, I wondered? I was surprised, intrigued and a little unsettled to receive this feedback from a friend:
‘Purple is generally seen as the color of change, because blue is the colour of light going away from you and red is the color of light coming toward you… Horses are generally seen as representing connections in life. Perhaps you are having some choice in this area, and you have a longing for something more.’
The mandala is a symbol from within, it is unsolicited feedback to myself from deep inside myself. Maybe it is an echo of memories or experiences sometime in my life or beyond the boundaries of my personal life, maybe it is connected with the past that stretches beyond myself, whether personal, generational or that of humanity. It is an enigmatic message which I can attribute rational meaning to, but I will never know.
Another friend felt that the mandala holds ‘the idea of the “return” – always coming back to the same place (to know it for the first time?)’ This takes me back to TS Eliot and my past and my deeper Self.
The mandala is an image I can meditate on, if I can stop myself from getting caught up in trying to decipher it. It feels like a mysterious message that has the power to unsettle a comfortable life. It’s something I can’t ignore and yet something I can never resolve.
‘Most mandalas have an intuitive, irrational character and, through their symbolical content, exert a retroactive influence on the unconscious. They therefore possess a “magical” significance, like icons, whose possible efficacy was never consciously felt…’ – Carl Jung, Concerning Mandala Symbolism
I feel hopeful and uplifted by this image. Then I note it is in space, it is one-dimensional and it has no depth to it, no shadow.
Even mandalas have shadows. And mine does too. It augurs some promise that I can’t quite fathom, and in that promise is also a fear. All change holds promise and fear. Against my will I hear words read aloud, words that I did not exactly solicit but neither did I refuse them.
This is the shadow side of my mandala. It is far more literal, definite and directive, yet I can’t read it with confidence either.
How to reconcile both sides of a mandala?
It is not possible to believe something and disbelieve it in the same moment. Thoughts oscillate and trying to hold belief and disbelief at once is a mind-bending experience. It creates a bodily sensation that can only be likened to feeling that one’s brain and heart are being wrenched apart – rather like a nut you are trying to prise open with a nutcracker.
We are all more than one self, and finding what Jung called our Authentic Self and liberating that Self from memories, tendencies, habits, is a lifelong goal. It is never easy and it can be helped but also hindered by someone else’s messages from outside. So I turn to the inside image as a compass.
I feel that my mandala has appeared to speak to me from a deeper place. Its message may become clearer over time if I can strip my mind of its resistances and barriers, to receive it.