Some psychotherapists, most notably Carl Jung, imagined the psychotherapeutic process to be like a mandala. It may be true that the natural process of the psyche attempting to become whole again is also very much like a mandala i.e. that one works their way from where they are on the edge of their psyche toward the center where the Self, the source of their being lay. It’s a healing process really. Spiritually we are said to be complete and whole until we are born and become separated from the whole both psychologically and physically. It’s the Adam and Eve story symbolically imbedded in the birth of every child. But the symbolism doesn’t stop there.
Most religions have some sort of mandala that symbolizes the Way, the path toward the source of our being, the way back to the Eden prior to our birth if you will. Essentially it is the center that represents the goal whether that goal be the Christ, God, or Source or the healing of a fractured soul. Jung in his book, Psychology and Alchemy (1944), wrote, “The way is not straight but appears to go round in circles. More accurate knowledge has proved it to go in spirals…” (pg. 28 in the English version of the 1993 edition). Dreams can be like this as well in that the symbols of a theme can spiral around a central point of the dream.
It seems as though certain image patterns, very specific symbolic patterns show up across all cultures and even between species e.g. the auspicious symbols of the Tibetan mandala, the Rose mandala of many Christian churches, the mandala of the Azteca, the Navajo and the Hindu, the circular pattern in a rose or the DNA double helix when observed from the top down. All show this spiral pattern circling toward some center.
These repetitive themes remind me of a favorite quote from my mother, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” a mouthful that is defined in Wiktionary as “the physical, cultural, moral, or intellectual development of each individual [that] passes through stages similar to the developmental stages of that individual’s species, society, or civilization.” We see our development process, what Carl Jung called the Individuation process or Abraham Maslow called the Hierarchy of Needs show up everywhere we go, in our dreams, the spiral of a nautilus, or the face of a sunflower.
Symbolically all manmade mandala represent the movement toward wholeness. These patterns are archetypal in nature and indicate strikingly similar symbolic meanings.
In many ways the patterns represent life itself and the manner in which it works.
When these archetypal symbols such as the mandala show up in my dreams I try to pay special attention because I know there’s important information to be had that’s pertinent to my psychological and spiritual growth.
For me it’s heartening to know that the universe is out there always showing me the way if I can just learn to read its often enigmatic signs.