This is Post 5 in the ‘Mandala of Love’ book blog series.
The Sanskrit word mandala is comprised of two words: manda, which means ‘essence’; and la, which means ‘container’. Hence we have the wider association of the word mandala with the idea of a ‘sacred space’, but also the deeper idea of mandalas as visual presentations of the archetypal essences that govern of our lives; of a collection of visual images depicting the essential qualities of the Divine – the essential qualities of Consciousness.
The Mandala as Sacred Container
Importantly, the mandala that I am presenting in this book blog series – the universal mandala that I like to call the Mandala of Love – does not exclude anything from the container. It contains not just the essence of the Divine, but also, since the Divine interpenetrates all things, it contains imagery of the ways in which the same archetypal principles can also manifest their mirror opposite – as egoic patterns, as psychological shadow, and even as the appearance of evil. The psychological possibilities, which might, in religious language, be called ‘Grace’ and the ‘fall from Grace’, are both ever-present – and if we better understand the nature of the choice between these two, a choice that we are making in every moment, the greater is our power to chose between them.
The Mandala as Sacred Landscape
In my exploration of the mandala archetype, I have felt that I have been being invited to journey into, and explore, an imaginal landscape which is not limited to any particular religion or culture. Rather, it is a timeless and universal imaginal space. I have experienced it as rich with wisdom, like a magnificent cathedral or mosque, set in a vast dream-like landscape in which the best and the worst of the drama of human experience is presented for our reflection. My wish is that this book blog series will inspire you to take the same journey.
Although I shall be drawing heavily on the mandala imagery of the Bardo Thodol, my aim with this book is not merely to present a survey of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and cosmology, but rather to present you, the reader, with glimpses of the universal mandala, the Mandala of Love – of which the mandalas of Tibetan Buddhism are a reflection.
A Map of Reality – both Psychological and Social
I am hoping that this knowledge of the universal mandala will serve the reader as a map of the psyche; a map of the inner world, and a guide for use in meditation and self enquiry. No less importantly, it is also my wish that knowledge of the imagery of the Mandala landscape will, at the same time, support an understanding of human society, and our ethical challenges as acting, relating, and communicating members of that global community.
This archetypal approach to psychology, by definition, addresses both the individual and collective aspects simultaneously. Since both individual and collective psychology arise from the same archetypal pattern; and since human identity is so profoundly shaped by human culture, and vice versa, it is logical and necessary not to separate them. Archetypal psychology’s area of concern is both the intrapersonal and the interpersonal. Even as it is powerfully relevant to those engaged in the details of personal psychotherapy, it is also a powerful way of approaching social psychology, sociology, and even geopolitics. The archetypes of the collective unconscious are a reality without which human experience and behaviour simply cannot be understood. Without an understanding of the collective psychological forces we cannot evolve, and we fail to be vigilant in regard to that which is destructive.
An Inner Journey – toward Consciousness and Wholeness
It is tempting to characterise the landscape of the universal mandala as one of spiritual heights and egoic depths, but that metaphor would be incorrect. Ultimately, the mandala journey is toward wholeness – never towards spiritual escape. It is not about rising above and becoming detached. It is about engagement and intimacy. It is a soul journey – a journey towards psychological integrity and real practical wisdom. The journey downwards, following the watercourses into deep valleys and underground depths, is just as important and necessary, as the journey which follows the ridges and the peaks. The mandala embraces human life in its totality.
© William Roy Parker 2017