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History of Mandalas

"Plato said God geometrizes continually." ~Plutarch

In religious traditions in the east such as Tantric Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism, it is believed that creating and meditating on mandalas helps individuals invoke desirable states of consciousness and anchors spiritual seekers on the desired path toward enlightenment. Mandalas can be seen as an external visual representation of the universe, or as an internal guide for a psychosomatic practice including meditation.

Mandalas have a rich history in in European traditions as well. Medieval European churches are filled with mandalas, including labyrinth floor mosaics, domed ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows.

We owe the reintroduction of mandalas into Western thought to Carl Jung, the well-known Swiss psychoanalyst, who used mandalas in therapy with his patients. According to Jung, “It is easy to see how the severe pattern imposed by a circular image of this kind compensates the disorder of the psychic state – namely through the construction of a central point to which everything is related, or by a concentric arrangement of the disordered multiplicity and of contradictory and irreconcilable elements. This is evidently an attempt at self-healing on the part of Nature, which does not spring from conscious reflection but from an instinctive impulse.”

The mandala triggers something within us, a sacred geometry in which we recognize our self and our place in the cosmos. It is ancient and fundamental relationships from which we have strayed and the mandala is the key that can help us return to it. Especially when the inner self is challenged by the ego, harmony has to be restored. During such times, mandalas can guide you to listen to the inner voice and find yourself. Like Jung stated, “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.”

Many yoga teachers touch upon this subject as well. As Richard Freeman states in his book “The Mirror of Yoga”, “The mandala represents our entire experience, both internally and externally, of the world and the mind. The gross external elements, their mental representations, the thoughts and ideas we have about them, our body and the gross or subtle bodies of even the highest and most subtle beings, are all part of this interconnected mandala of creative energy.”

There are many shapes that appear in mandalas, many of which have names and have been identified as ‘sacred geometry’. The basic six-petal shape commonly seen is known as the Flower of Life. As repeated, the interplay of lines brings one circle, and then another, into view. Many of the patterns behave this way when they are repeated. Interestingly Plutarch attributed the belief to Plato, writing, “Plato said God geometrizes continually.”