“The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or, to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate in man.” – Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections Pgs 334-335
“The “squaring of the circle” is one of the many archetypal motifs which form the basic patterns of our dreams and fantasies. But it is distinguished by the fact that it is one of the most important of them from the functional point of view. Indeed, it could even be called the archetype of wholeness.” – Carl Jung, Collected Works 9i Par. 715
The evolution of consciousness is one of the most important and intriguing aspects of life. It is perhaps the purpose of life. It tracks with biological evolution, increasing with the complexity of the brain in various species. To many, this naturally suggests that it is “nothing but” a product of the physical brain, completely reducible to “matter.” But there are deep philosophical problems with that view, and it seems more likely to me that matter is a product of mind than the reverse. If we are to believe that our ultimate understanding of the world should be a philosophical monism in which there is only one ultimate explanatory “category” or “principle” (as opposed to a mind vs. matter dualism) then the monism of Idealism or Panpsychism which states that everything is ultimately a product of Mind (or God) has a much greater explanatory power than a materialistic monism. This is because “matter” can only be known through mental processes and so must be explained in mental terms (concepts, which could all be in the mind), whereas no one has yet been able to explain mental processes (like consciousness) in terms of matter only. But the true nature of consciousness remains a mystery; no one knows the precise relationship between mind and matter and we need not immerse ourselves in these deep waters for this introduction to the cosmic significance of the Bible Wheel. For our current purposes, I will be following the definitions used by Richard Maurice Bucke in his classic Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind. He defines three kinds of consciousness:
- Simple Consciousness is basic animal consciousness by which dogs or horses are just as conscious of the things about them as humans are.
- Self Consciousness is the ability to be aware of oneself as a distinct entity apart from the rest of the universe.
- Cosmic Consciousness is as far above Self Consciousness as is that above Simple Consciousness. It is a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the universe and the interconnectedness and unity of all things.
The Wikipedia article on cosmic consciousness begins with this broad definition:
Cosmic consciousness is the idea that the universe exists as an interconnected network of consciousness, with each conscious being linked to every other. Sometimes this is conceived as forming a collective consciousness which spans the cosmos, othertimes it is conceived of as an Absolute or Godhead from which all conscious beings emanate.”
Human consciousness normally develops from the simple animal consciousness of the baby to the full self consciousness of the healthy adult. This follows the pattern of biological evolution where simple consciousness began in the lower life forms and slowly evolved through the higher vertebrates, culminating in the self consciousness of humans. Bucke was convinced that cosmic consciousness would be a third stage in our evolution, and I think he was right. But before folks can attain cosmic consciousness, they we must attain self consciousness in its most perfect form through a process which Carl Jung, the founder of Analytical Psychology, called “individuation” – the process by which a person becomes his or her “true self.”
Individuation is a process of transformation whereby the personal and collective unconscious is brought into consciousness (by means of dreams, active imagination or free association to take some examples) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche to take place. Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically. [source]
The process of individuation is never really complete in this life – it is a continuous process of discovering unconscious elements of the psyche that are then brought into conscious harmony with the rest of the personality. But there are stages in this process characterized by a profound resolution of psychological disturbances, neuroses, or psychoses when a new state of wholeness is realized. Such “turning points” are often marked by the appearance of a mandala in a dream, active imagination, spontaneous art or even a serendipitous encounter in daily life. The appearance of the mandala is a sign that a new balance has been achieved within the psyche. This is why Jung describes the mandala as the “archetype of wholeness” in the quote at the top of this page. The significance of the mandala cannot be overstated. Jung discovered it is a powerful and numinous universal symbol – an archetype – representing the concepts of wholeness, the psyche, the Self, and God. Most mandalas are based on a circle encompassing a square or cross. Here are some quotes from Jung’s book Dreams, Memory, and Reflections in which he describes the process of discovering the meaning of mandala:
Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: “Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation.” And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions. … I had the distinct feeling that they were something central, and in time I acquired through them a living conception of the self. The self, I thought, was like the monad which I am, and which is my world. The mandala represents this monad, and corresponds to the microcosmic nature of the psyche.
When I began drawing the mandalas, however, I saw that everything, all the paths I had been following, all the 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.
In the products of the unconscious we discover mandala symbols, that is, circular and quaternity figures which express wholeness, and whenever we wish to express wholeness, we employ just such figures.
Here is the first mandala that Jung drew (1916):
Jung knew that the pattern of the mandala not only appeared in the dreams and art of his patients, but also in the iconography of many religions from around the world. Indeed, that’s where he found the word “mandala” which is the Sanskrit word for “circle.” Many of the Hindu and Buddhist mandalas have a central “temple” with four gates encompassed by a circle [source]:
And here is a Tibetan mandala [source] with Sanskrit mantras written in concentric circles with the quaternity in the center.
Note the four dragons in the four corners. This is strikingly similar to the pattern of ancient Christian icons which show Christ with the cruciform halo surrounded by the four cherubim as seen in the first chapter of Ezekiel on Spoke 4 of the Bible Wheel (where also we find the greatest density of the Number 4 in Scripture):
The halo of Christ follows the pattern of the mandala. We see the same thing with this icon from the ceiling of the Baptistry of San Giovanni of Florence, ca. AD 1300:
Note the self-similarity over scale – Christ’s body forms a cross in a circle just like the halo behind his head. This hints at the “fractal” nature of mandalas as worlds within the world reflecting the world like Indra’s Net – microcosm of the macrocosm where everything reflects everything else.
And this brings us back to the Bible Wheel, which is isomorphic to the cruciform halo behind the head of Christ:
The Bible Wheel has all the characteristics of a mandala with one slight variation – the expected “fourth arm” of the cross that was obscured by the head of Christ is “missing.” Or is it? This relates directly to the problem that Jung had with the Trinity, which he called the “missing fourth.” I will discuss it in a future post. It suffices to note that the Bible – one of the most influential books on the planet – is now understood to be patterned on the “archetype of wholeness” and so it carries with it all the implications of the appearance of mandalas in Analytical Psychology. Only now, we are talking not about the psychology of individuals, but about planetary psychology and the transformation of the global mind into a new age of harmony, wholeness, health, peace, and cooperation amongst all peoples and all life. This is why I said in my last post that the Bible Wheel looks like a “divine dream mandala representing the unity of all religions manifested by our unified collective cosmic consciousness.” Does it mark a change in our consciousness that tracks the evolution of global communication through internet, just as consciousness has always tracked biological evolution? Are we about to take the next step in our evolution? Does it mark the rising of the unified planetary self-consciousness and precursor to a broad awakening unto cosmic consciousness?