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Mandalas

Near the end of his life, Jung describes his emergence from his confrontation with the unconscious as being marked by two events. One was that he “broke with the woman who was determined to convince me that my fantasies had artistic value; the second was that I began to understand mandala drawings” (1965: 195). His love for Spielrein had been sublimated into mandalas and given expression through a form of art - the very idea he sought to conquer and have power over. Jung was very willing to take the time for such foolish things as the study of fairytales, the creation of mandalas, and collecting colored stones in order to animate his unconscious. Art, which has no earthly purpose and is left out of the world of science, provides Jung with his most precious commodity, a sense of true freedom for “recreation,” to create from the “streams of lava” that came from the depths of his insides for the remainder of his life. For Jung, however, “reality meant scientific comprehension” from which he “had to draw concrete conclusions.” His revelations became what we know as Analytical Psychology, a system that contains the imagination Jung rescued from the trash heap of Western science, the intermediate realm where the unintelligible is rendered into the sensible, the “stuff of psychosis” that is also “the matrix of a mythopoeic imagination that has vanished from our rational age” (p. 188). What Jung does not mention is that the mythopoeic is the language of the matriarchal age. Robert Graves contends that originally the poet gave myth its connection to religious impulse, and its poetic language is bound up with ceremonies in honor of the Great Mother, the Muse-poet who dies for the Goddess, some of them dating back to the Old Stone Age (this language, he states, remains the language of true poetry). This language is essentially an “invocation of the goddess, the Muse, the Mother of all living things, the ancient power of fright and lust - the female spider or queen bee whose embrace is death” (1966: 24). This has been kept secret because in late Minoan times, when invaders from Central Asia began to substitute patrilinear for matrilinear institutions, Greek myths were remodeled or falsified to justify the social changes.

Similarly, and even more important to point out about mandalas, is their little known connection to the round, circular womb of the Paleolithic Great Mother, and so, by extension, container for life and the mother of his infancy. The circle mandala as a psychic integrator arose with the spread of mother goddess figurines. With the increased division of labor that came with agricultural advances - hence the increased psychic demand for a more complex organizing image for the maintenance of cohesion as well as social and self differentiation - the mandala became more complex. It then became a masculine symbol of the hieratically organized city-state yet retained its essential nature as an image of the Great Mother within the celestial order, the “generative and nourishing, ‘female’ powers of the tilled earth” (Campbell, 1969: 146). The emergence of the mandala, in other words, points to the idea that civilization was conceived of as a sociological imitation of the celestial order; in its center is an artifact of matriarchal culture. In Campbell’s words:

We have, therefore, to recognize what now appears to be the demonstrated and documented fact that all of the high civilizations of the world are, finally, but so many variants and developments of a single marvelous monad of mythological inspiration - and that, where as the history and prehistory of the human race covers some one million seven hundred and fifty thousand years, this monad was constellated and brought into a living form in the mud flats and among the reeds of Mesopotamia hardly more than five thousand years ago.

(p. 154)

Jung painted his first mandala in 1916 after writing Seven Sermons to the Dead. But it was not until 1918-19, when Jung woke every morning as commandant in a British prisoner of war camp and drew a mandala, that he really began to understand the nature of these images.

I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. With the help of these drawings I could observe my psychic transformations from day to day . . . Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: “Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation” (Faust, II). And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions. My mandalas were cryptograms . . . in which I saw the self - that is, my whole being - actively at work . . . 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.

(Jung, 1965: 195)

Jung’s discovery of the mandala provides a key to understanding his entire system of analytical psychology.

I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego . . . I had to let myself be carried along by the current, without a notion of where it would lead me. When I began drawing 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 centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation . . . I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circum- ambulation of the self . . . This insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner peace returned. I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what for me was the ultimate.

(pp. 195-196)

Jung sublimates Spielrein, or Salome, or the anima, or the succubus into art. The original tension between Jung’s ego and the unconscious is annulled and replaced by a creative act of spirit. Yet Jung attempts to transcend the incest barrier without looking at its roots in the earliest stages of development and the infant’s real, personal experience of a life and blood mother. For Jung mother is still an archetype, this time at the center of a mandala. This theme belongs to a much earlier phase of development - an area in which Jung (and Freud) failed to produce any theory. The problem is that Jung stays purely transpersonal, no doubt a result of his creative predisposition with its natural preponderance of the archetypal and an autistic, dissociative tendency to detach from the ordinary human environment. It is probably for this reason that Winnicott, the man who opened our eyes to mothers and babies, pointed to Jung’s blindness in this area. He diagnosed childhood schizophrenia and concluded after reviewing Jung’s autobiography that “at the end of a long life Jung reached the centre of his self, which turned out to be a blind alley” (1964: 483).

The absence of the pre-oedipal mother may account for Jung’s strange split around art and science, claiming as he emerges with his realization to “be carried along by the current of mandalas,” while having to maintain power over his anima:

now the prisoner, or the well-protected dweller in the mandala, does not seem to be a god . . . but rather an apparently most important part of the human personality. One might also say that man himself, or at least his innermost soul, was the prisoner of the protected inhabitant of the mandala . . . It is evident that in the modern mandala, man - the complete man - has replaced the deity . . . A mandala is an involuntary confession of a particular mental condition. There is no deity in the mandala, and there is also no submission or reconciliation to a deity. The place of the deity seems to be taken by the wholeness of man.

(Jung, 1953: 171)

Man has taken over the role of deity, the soul of an individual, and the soul is a part of a “complete” human personality with its goal of psychic development being a whole self. Jung had attained his “ultimate,” a condition in which there is “no submission or reconciliation to a deity.” He conquers the mother of infancy and roots of the mandala in the Great Mother, the “generative and nourishing, ‘female’ powers of the tilled earth” (Campbell, 1969: 146). Developmentally and psychologically, the real flesh and blood mother is our first object of love and therefore our first object in search for wholeness - how can wholeness be achieved without her? Joseph Campbell had this to say of such attitudes: “One cannot but think of the words of Paracelsus: ‘I under God in his office, God under me in mine’ ” (1969: 156). Jung claims totality in the self, and such arrogance implies a shame beyond the power of his explanation - the same reason he could never visit Rome.

As to whether Jung ever addressed his earliest attachment issues we cannot conclusively know from his writings. Jung knew that the resolution to the Oedipus Complex entailed a return to the mother. Yet he seems to remain stuck in his main fascination with the anima as an image for the Oedipal mother alone. He succeeds in a successful canalization of his omnipotence at the level of Salome, yet the mother figure of infancy and the hetaira anima figure, two inseparable sides of the same problem for Jung, remained split.

 
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