The Mandala: An Image of the Invisible (2 of 6)
Part Two: The Occult Science of Visualization
6. The Philosophy of Symbolism
Psychologically, symbols are rooted in the interplay between one’s active awareness, which Carl Jung termed one's “ego-consciousness”, and an unconscious realm that he termed the “collective unconscious”, which is home to powerful collective psychological powers termed archetypes.
In Jung’s system, the collective unconscious is home to psychic powers and influences that are transpersonal in nature, meaning they are shared in common by all humans regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.
In the balance, the collective unconscious is deemed to exist on a more primary and fundamental level than the individual, embodied aspects of the psyche. Individual psyches come and go, but the collective unconscious always remains.
In terms of the psychology of symbolism, the symbols cognized by the mind at the individual level are rooted in archetypes or “intelligible ideas” held within the mind of the collective. These archetypes are shared collectively by all, which is why certain symbols can have demonstrable effects on large groups of people simultaneously.
Objects and information we encounter in the world, be it in the natural world or in the world of manmade artifacts, take on meaning for us in a psychological sense because they in some way stimulate and latch onto deep-rooted archetypal principles within us.
Sometimes we are conscious of why some people, objects, information, or forms of stimulation take on special meaning for us; other times the true causes behind our fixations remain a mystery.
Either way, the same truth remains: at a foundational level the presence and influence of psychological archetypes upon our psyches is an ever-present factor in how we read and interpret the symbols we encounter in our lives.
In the meditation disciplines of esoteric philosophy, this innate connection between the symbols we perceive in the outer world and the unconscious realm of archetypes that preside over our inner psychology is leveraged with purposeful intent.
Archetypes exist within the “unconscious” realm of the psyche, meaning they are invisible to our organs of sense perception.
However, the priesthood of the ancient Mysteries found a way to work around this fact: by deliberating manipulating the design of various symbolic instruments and mediums that their initiates would be exposed to during their initiation rites, the priesthood were able to deliberately cause these archetypal elements within their psyches to become activated in certain prescribed patterns. This would cause the initiates undergoing these experiences to have a mystical experience of universal mind and divine consciousness.
In essence, the ancient hierophants of the Mysteries were attempting to strategically maneuver their initiates around the idea that “truth must come to each person from within himself.”
This means that no one else can generate or produce for you what is ultimately required of you to successfully undergo an experience mystical illumination.
However, while it is true that the priesthood cannot give this experience directly to you, they can, with your participation, attempt to catalyze this experience within you. This is what the ancient initiation rites, and more specifically the meditation disciplines practiced within those rites, were all about.
For these priests, the language of symbolism provided the simplest and most direct means for stimulating the inner psychic faculties of their initiates so as to provide them with a mystical experience of religious exaltation.
Thus, it is symbolism that is the solution to the great question: “How can that which transcends in every way the familiar experience of living be communicated to intellects or emotions unaware of spiritual realities?”
In their quest to “raise” their initiates, the ancient priesthood leveraged numerous symbolic devices and techniques, some in private and personal meditational sessions, others in large public rituals.
In the “Lesser Mysteries”, which were presented to a public audience assembled in the large open square in front of important religious buildings and monuments, ritualistic devices such as plays, operas, concerts, and pageants would be used to present certain archetypal ideas and themes to the psyches of the observers. These archetypal symbols were designed to impact these observers simultaneously on both a conscious and unconscious level.
The “Greater Mysteries”, meanwhile, were private and personal in nature. These involved meditation disciplines utilizing various specialized symbolic devices such as those involving numbers, letters, musical tones, colors, and pictorial emblems (i.e. mandalas).
In certain great ancient cultures, the priesthood possessed and used a secret, sacerdotal language - one derived from a long-forgotten ancient culture whose language pre-dates Sanskrit.
This sacerdotal language was customized to describe the inner life of the soul. It was “concealed from the profane” and revealed “only to those who had celebrated the rites of the blessed gods.”
In some cases, “esoteric” (or sacred) symbolism was embedded within the “exoteric” (or public) language and artifacts of the culture. For example, while the Egyptian priesthood possessed within their inner body a sacerdotal language used for the transmission of sacred knowledge, elements of this sacred knowledge was also encoded in pictographic symbols and hieroglyphs shown to the public.
While the keys to unlocking the full meaning of the cryptic symbolism used in these images was kept secret by the priesthood, the archetypal principles embedded within these public objects would nonetheless have a subtle and implicit effect on the psyches of the unknowing public observers of these symbolic instruments.
In this way, as Manly Hall tells us, “the priests, using the same signs and symbols employed by the profane in the transaction of the mundane affairs, were able to transmit an entirely different and more profound kind of information.”
7. Archetypal Symbols and Mandalas
As explored above, the priesthood of the ancient Mysteries deliberately manipulated the language of symbolism in order to catalyze a mystical state of psychological experience within their initiates.
Of the various symbolic devices utilized by these priesthood, one method in particular gained special favor among many initiatic orders: the use of mandalas, a visual and artistic medium of symbolic communication.
Many if not all esoteric orders oriented their esoteric teachings around the use of certain deliberately designed mandalas whose various patterns and design elements came together to reveal, in cryptic symbolic fashion, the most vital teachings of their philosophic doctrine.
If the design of the mandala has been made according to certain archetypal laws and parameters, ones which imitate those existing in the real world of nature and in the human form in particular, then contemplation and meditation upon the mandala by the meditating student will serve not only to reinforce the teachings of the esoteric school that they are being educated in, but will also stimulate and resonate with the archetypal elements present within their own psyche.
The idea is that psychological archetypes within us will “recognize” their reflections in the symbolic imagery being presented to them and will “resonate” with the archetypal elements in the symbols, creating a profound psychological experience as a consequence.
Through this mechanism of “resonance”, archetypal forces normally dormant within one’s own psyche become awakened and activated. When this happens, one encounters “divine”, “numinous”, and “transcendent” states of awareness- i.e. one undergoes the “mystical experience”.
In this way (quoting Manly Hall again), “the real purpose of the Mandala is to inspire the transmutation of sight into insight. Once the idea of a completely integrated existence is experienced, both the heart and mind are strengthened, and even common incidents take on deeper and more important meanings.”
He continues, telling us that in this experience “there is a new dimension of seeing and a kind of ‘hearing’ through the eyes. Flowers tell us something, although they cannot actually speak.” In short, the existence of a divine sublimity behind this mortal world of life and death is revealed.
Upon experience of this divine sublimity, the initiate becomes forever changed; they are “twice born”.
Offering a more detailed definition of the term, Manly Hall defines a mandala as “a graphic representation of universal existence depicted through a complicated structure of symbols arranged according to a definite archetypal pattern.”
There is a numerical exactitude to the way a mandala is designed. This is a necessity: if it is to capture archetypal principles, it must depict them with geometric and mathematical precision.
In this way, the mandala attempts to “delineate mathematically or artistically the pattern of cosmic principles within which the physical world exists and unfolds,” with the various elements of its design being “direct statements of the creative process of the Primordial Power.”
In many ways one might look upon a mandala as a special artistic map of the invisible domain of the psyche, one that “attempts to depict one’s inner life as one might chart a solar system, with its parts and members clearly indicated and its functions graphically pictured.”
In this way, “mandalas are dramatic projections of things unseen.” They are invitations “to view both the Universe and man as visible symbols of invisible principles.”
The deities and tutelaries that mandalas depict "are intended to reveal dramatically and systematically the exact processes involved in” both universal creation and the meditation process itself.
In sum, “a mandala is a depiction of a philosophical or metaphysical compound of ideas, considered within a concept of a larger and enclosing unity of doctrine”.
More specifically, the mandala is “a device or instrument for the vitalizing of the apperceptive powers of the human mind. … They present ideas in wholeness or completeness, appealing to the mind through order, color, number, and form.”
In the mandala, the various symbolic elements and themes that comprise it are intended to synthesize together at the level of the whole, with the mind or psyche of the meditating disciple forming the vessel or “retort” in which this synthesis is intended to take place.
To work successfully, the design of the mandala must be exact: their effect depends “largely upon the impact of patterned ideas in which certain principles are represented, their relationships to other principles and dependent extensions are shown, and the qualitative intervals set up by the interaction of forces are made apparent.”
When made according to a sacred canon of design specification, the mandala works to stimulate archetypal elements within the unconscious of the student meditating upon them.
As Manly Hall explains, “the purpose of the painting is to inspire the meditating priest or layman toward a comprehension of the universal mystery of “psychophysics”. Through the contemplation of the design itself and a proper interpretation of its symbols and their arrangement, the intellect is elevated to the realization of the spiritual pattern at the foundation of the universe.”
8. The Necessity of Self-Discipline
The ultimate purpose of meditation is for the higher principles within the Soul (the Triad) to “take over the bodily processes (the Quaternary) in order that it may turn the body into an instrument for the purposes of the Self.”
Visualization disciplines involving the use of mandalas are an important aspect of the meditational exercises that were anciently devised as a means to separate the “Rose” from the “Cross”.
The idea is that, by stimulating the archetypal elements of the psyche through the mechanism of mandala design, a mystical experience of consciousness can be catalyzed within the psyche of the initiate, one that ultimately serves to tip the balance of the psyche from an ego-centered orientation to a Self-centered one.
Because an exact marriage of faith and visualization is required for these archetypes to be awakened, “any ulterior motive of any kind will cause the discipline to end in illusion”.
This means that if the psychological laws pertaining to the stimulation and activation of archetypes are not adhered to exactly, the alchemical formula of self-transmutation won’t work.
This is why the lower grades require one to extinguish all ulterior motives first: the body, emotions and intellect must first be quieted, disciplined, and directed toward their proper functions and roles before the higher occult sciences of meditation and visualization can be successfully practiced.
Manly Hall warns us that, to experience the greater realities promised by occult meditation disciplines, “esoteric exercises must be free of all worldly objectives. The true mystic asks nothing and gives all. Any worldly objective frustrates the attainment of illumination.”
Simply put, before visualization exercises can be successful accomplished, physical, emotional, and mental impurities and entanglements must be tempered and brought under control of the person’s higher mental, emotional, and intuitional faculties.
In the lower grades of the Esoteric Schools, where disciplines of self-purification were taught and instilled upon neophyte students, the need to cultivate and maintain a state of calmness, mental peace, and emotional tranquility at all times was emphasized. And this is especially true of those times when one is attempting meditational exercises.
Emotional peace, calmness, and tranquility are necessary during meditation because they "result in a great degree of corporeal harmony, which provides the proper environment for the directionalization of the abstract faculties.”
Hall points out that the requirements for meditation are actually the reverse of what many in the West might imagine them to be: “many people believe that peace will result from the cultivation of a spiritual state, when in reality (it is the reverse:) the spiritual state results from the development of peace.”
In meditation, the individual’s entire personality, including the fullness of its mind, emotions, and body, is to be surrendered to the dominion of the higher Self. For this “surrendering” to successfully occur, the mind, emotions, and body must first be first prepared and trained to accomplish this release.
Once one’s inner psychic faculties are free from outside influences and distractions can they successfully be applied to the practice of esoteric meditational disciplines, which “cause the person to lose awareness of bodily and sensory activity and therefore lead to inner experiences.”
It is only once “the physical senses become passive that the psychic content of the personality will become active and present itself to our awareness by phenomena - mental, visual, or audible.”
But, again, before this can take place, all ulterior motives must be severed, any unaddressed imbalances must be corrected, and every destructive attachment or obsessive thought pattern must be extinguished.
From the standpoint of ethics, God’s mandate that self-purification take place before spiritual illumination is a reflection of cosmic justice: only those who follow the way of the Law will receive the rewards of that adherence.
The spiritual experience, which is the culmination of man’s religious faith, is something that must be earned; it cannot be granted freely.
The only way one can earn this experience is by first confronting and facing one’s own problems and shortcomings. In energetic terms, one must “clear blockages” so as to allow for the normal flow of energy to return. Once this normal flow of energy has been released, it can then be cultivated, harnessed, and directed toward the advanced meditational goals of the esoteric schools.
This simple requirement - follow the Law in order to experience its rewards - ensures us that life works as a spiritual meritocracy .
As Manly Hall explains, “enlightenment is not reserved for the learned, wealthy, or privileged. According to the Divine Plan, each living being must find the road for himself and walk it. … The road to the Higher Self has always been open and it can never be closed. Each, on his own level of maturity, can find it.”
He continues: “the journey inward requires no affiliation with some organization, nor any eccentric behavior by which a person becomes conspicuous.” Furthermore, “to attain spirituality one is not required toggle up their professions, leave their trade or craft, renounce their families, or give up their possessions.”
Hall also emphasizes that the mystical experience prioritizes no single religion above others: “A human being can become a highly developed mystic regardless of the religion to which he belongs. The mysticism is his own experience. … The mystic always interprets religious or philosophical teachings in terms of that personal experience. He lives his own religion under the symbolism of the faith with which he is most familiar.”
In philosophy it is firmly understood that man must participate actively in his own salvation; it will not be bestowed upon him without him having first earned it. Therefore, before meditation comes self-discipline; only once mental, emotional, and physical poise has been cultivated is it appropriate for the student to pursue advanced meditational disciplines.
These requirements align closely with Carl Jung’s psychological concept of “individuation”, which describes the ultimate mission of his psychotherapy method: to make the unconscious, conscious - meaning, to bring the shadow elements within oneself out into the light of one’s own conscious awareness, so that one can work with them, deconstruct them, and bring them back into balance with the rest of one’s personality.
It is only once the disciple has accomplished this type of “individuation” process within themselves that they are then prepared to take on the advanced meditation techniques described below.
9. Visualization and the Mental Body
Meditation, when practiced as an occult science, is designed to accomplish a very specific end goal: to catalyze the awakening of the consciousness of the Universal Self within the psyche or soul of the individual.
It is to this end and no other that the meditation exercise must be dedicated; any other alternative motive will inevitably lead to a failure in the exercise.
This requirement holds true for meditational exercises using mandalas: in order for the technique to work, the person doing the meditation must be prepared, self-disciplined, and pure of heart and mind.
Calmness, discipline, and purity are required in the meditational process in large part because of the inherent delicacy of the psychic mechanism involved.
The visualization exercises practiced in esoteric philosophy work through the nervous system, or more specifically through the magnetic field that interfaces with the nervous system.
This magnetic field is the gateway to one's “mental body”, which has a form and structure that is invisible to the sensory perceptions but is nevertheless real; its reality being grounded in a metaphysical rather than physical dimension of life.
Our thoughts actually exist as thought forms, which reside within the subtle energy-substance of one’s mental body. Here they have a tangible life, one that remains invisible to our physical sense perceptions but which can be comprehended to some degree using the scientific techniques of psychology.
In esoteric anatomy, the septenary constitution of the soul is organized around a threefold spiritual principle (the Self), itself composed of a subtle body of etheric energy. This energy body rules over a fourfold lower material nature.
This fourfold lower material nature is a compound of four elements: air, fire, water, and earth. Applied to the human organism, these result in four separate elemental bodies which unite together as a compound. One of these bodies is visible, which is the physical or material body, while the other three bodies are invisible.
These three invisible bodies are typically called the Mental Body, the Emotional Body, and Vital Body. Together, they form a triad of causative factors that synthesize together to vitalize and vivify the structures and processes of the visible physical body.
The physical body therefore exists as a material effect extended from a triad of invisible “causal bodies”. As Manly Hall explains, “nothing originates in the physical body but inertia. All its activity is communicated to it from one of the zones of metaphysical energy.”
When it comes to thought, “Man thinks not with his brain, but through his brain. The brain is but a sensitized area of physical matter which reacts to the subtle impulses of the mental body.”
The mental body, which is metaphysical, is the true cause of our thought and mentation processes, including those involved with inspiration, reflection, imagination, analysis, comparison, and memory. The physical brain is merely the “condenser and distributor of (these) mental impulses which cannot become tangible except through a sensitive magnetized field,” which the brain provides.
The mental body exists as a magnetic field or aura surrounding the body, not physically but metaphysically. From this metaphysical abode, thought-energy is drawn down toward the brain, its chosen receptive instrument, in a process that moves inward from the circumference toward the center.
Remember, the body is the negative pole of creation; it is designed to be a receptacle for a complex of subtle energies that are streaming down into it from a triad of metaphysical bodies.
This trio of “subtle bodies” are themselves the receptive agents for the threefold etheric energies of the soul’s spiritual hierarch - the Sattva principle.
It is ultimately toward the Sattva principle in our psyches that the meditation disciplines of philosophy are targeted, including those involving mandalas and visualization exercises.
As Manly Hall explains, in meditation “what the disciple is actually attempting to do is place himself in a state in which the Sattva or the ‘real self’ can function with as little interference and false value as possible.” It is with this liberated Internal Self that one contemplates upon and with the ultimate mysteries of Truth.
In truth, the physical organism - and the entire physical creation itself - is, to use the words of Manly Hall, the “body of a Blessed God,” which “bears splendid witness to its indwelling divinity.”
10. The Role of Faith in Meditation
Mandalas are crafted out of the interconnection of a hierarchy of archetypal symbolic elements, which are presented in a pattern whose design mimics, in an intangible way, the internal dynamics of our own psyche.
As Manly Hall explains, “meditation upon a mandala comprised of symbolic figures of sacred principles causes their soulful and meaningful design to be impressed upon the psyche, which is, in this way, provided with appropriate images through which to reveal its own symbolic content.”
The goal of the meditation exercise is for these highly symbolic images to stimulate an internal psychological “rapport” between themselves and the mystic in meditation. Through this “rapport” an inner psychic faculty becomes “unlocked” and a particular type of inner experience is triggered.
Mandalas are, in a way, like magical talismans specially designed to release the powers inherent in symbols. Through special esoteric design, mandalas can be designed as microcosms of universal patterns. In this way, they become embodiments of the various archetypal qualities they are designed to personify.
By use of a mandala, the individual, in meditation, “accepts a series of discoveries, and knowledge itself opens from theoretical speculation to practical realization.”
By following along the unfolding design of mandala’s hierarchy of symbolic forms, patterns, and themes, vital energies in the psyche are stimulated. Through this process, the soul is “fed” by the senses, with certain patterns of stimulation unlocking inner dynamics and potentials within the soul and body.
These activated psychic potentials stimulate “an esoteric form of knowing different from reading, thinking, listening, or other activities having to do with the intellect.”
The core psychic property that mandalas are drawing upon to do their work is that of “archetypes”. According to the doctrine of archetypes, all forms within Creation are patterned after one common template of design (i.e. after one archetype).
This commonly shared design is the basis of Law: that is lawful which adheres to the specifications and parameters of the archetype.
By adhering to a “lawful” pattern of design, mandalas resonate with the inner psyche of the human, which is designed according to the same template. A bond of sympathy is established between the two, which then creates a resonance between them and a third body: the World Soul as a whole, which is also designed according to the specifications of the same archetype and the human soul and the mandala being meditated upon.
Through the pattern of resonance that is created from the use of mandalas, archetypal ideas are given an instrument or vehicle through which they may move down from their abode in the collective unconscious in order that they may come “alive” to the psychic perception of the meditating initiate.
As Manly Hall explains, these transcendent principles or, as Plato called them “intelligible ideas”, “can function through bodies created outwardly by the skillful use of form, number, color, and sound.”
If properly designed, and if supported by a doctrine of teachings that will unlock and reveal the internal psychological content and meaning of the symbols portrayed in the mandala, then, during meditation, a latent power within the image can be released, one that will serve to activate archetypal principles within the mystic’s own psyche.
For this to take place, however, the meditating mystic must put the entirety of themselves, their beliefs, and their faith into the process. Further, an exact program of discipline must be followed; one will not “stumble upon” illumination.
Hall teaches that the processes of meditation are “dominated by subconscious expectancies. … The mystical experience draws heavily upon the content of our own subconscious and builds upon the psychic materials which have accumulated within ourselves.”
For this reason, the subconscious must be prepared. Herein lies the rationale for philosophy’s strict requirement that self-discipline come before illumination.
Successful completion of meditation requires a high degree of integrity in one’s mind-body-emotion system. The establishment of this integrity involves mastery of the following disciplines: relaxation of the body so it does not interject a false force during the exercise; relaxation of the emotions so that they will not trigger desires or fears; and suspension of the intellectual faculties so that the individual “will not permit extraneous or irrelevant thoughts to break the pattern of experience.”
Preparation is required for the mind to not only let go of false attachments, beliefs, and impulses, but also to replace them with ideals and convictions which are lawful in nature and which will therefore resonate with the archetypal images one will later visualize in meditation.
For the archetypal elements within a mandala to “come alive”, they must be properly ensouled with religious qualities arising from within the internal belief structure of the mystic doing the meditation.
Inner ideals and convictions become the basis of one’s religion, and the promise of meditation is for these deep-rooted beliefs to become actualized in the form of a mystical experience. But the only way this can happen is if those ideals and beliefs are lawful and commensurate with the cosmic archetype.
The universal archetype, being transcendent, is not confined to one particular set of religious symbols; rather, various cultural traditions can arrange their own symbols in mandala form as long as the meaning behind those symbols and their geometric placement on the mandala follows along the pre-specified parameters of the universal archetype they are attempting to channel.
As Manly Hall writes, “the enlightenment a person receives takes the form and symbolism of the religious system to which they belong. … If the mystic Christian sees Christ in a vision and the mystic Buddhist sees Buddha in his meditation, it is because each human being must clothe his inward conviction in the symbolic forms most meaningful to himself.”
He further notes that “consciousness always unfolds from convictions already established in the subconscious, … (For this reason,) the disciple in meditation experiences unfoldment along the channels of his own dominant convictions.”
In this way, meditation processes flower along the lines of one’s own faith. They involve “a continual enlarging justification of those convictions already accepted as basic realties.”
11. The Occult Method of Visualization
The occult method of visualization, as practiced in the ancient esoteric rites of the Mystery Schools, is one that builds on the idea that thought patterns have an existence in a metaphysical “mental body” that is not in the physical brain itself but rather which works through the physical brain in order manifest its energies into the body.
By implication, thoughts do not originate in the brain but rather flow through the brain, where they are converted into action.
It is in the auric field of the mental body that our thought patterns assume geometric form. In this metaphysical dimension, the form of a thought also encodes a color, number, and sound.
The goal of occult visualization exercises is to stimulate archetypal powers residing in this mental body. Once stimulated, these elements will react upon their lower psychological and physical polarities in the body, causing an experience of illumination.
The disciplines of philosophy are designed to prepare the disciple to allow these inner archetypes to be stimulated. Part of this process involves annihilating false or incongruent thought patterns that have built up in one’s psychic atmosphere and instead replace them with ones that are reasonable, beautiful, and lawful.
This strategy builds on the idea that the repetition of any special series of thoughts intensifies and energizes their corresponding thought forms within the mental body. In this way, through repetition, highly reinforced patterns produce subtle but permanent changes in the overall psychic field.
In this way, thought forms are given life by us: they are born as geometric structures in our mental body, where they perpetuate as long as we enliven them with our psychic energy.
In esoteric philosophy, thought patterns are seen as alive; they can be caused to arise and generate “as plants grow in the physical Earth. … Each thought is appropriately embodied in a structure which can unfold, mature, and bear fruit.”
These thought patterns reside in our psychic field, where they influence not only our thoughts but also our emotions, perceptions, and behaviors. Depending on the nature of the thought, this influence can be either constructive or destructive.
The thought forms that the mind gives birth to arise in a form or shape whose geometric properties bear an intimate connection with archetypal qualities inherent to the nature of the idea that the thought is expressing.
Constructive thoughts take form as symmetrical ideas. By contrast, destructive thoughts take form in asymmetrical patterns.
In this way, “the ideas themselves radiate the energies from which their forms are built.” These forms come into birth within the mental body, building themselves out of the subtle energies it is comprised of.
When the thought patterns held within this mental body are discordant and asymmetrical, they distort the flow of energy between the mental body and the lower physical nature.
Manly Hall teaches us that, when allowed to fall into a discordant and undeveloped state, the body and lower mental and emotional faculties “suck in and distort what should be understood as the normal flow dynamics of energy contained within man’s psychic system”.
As he further explains, “the brain stores up in its own auric field the experiences of the senses and its reactions thereto. This material is absorbed mentally by the mental body and transmuted into experience.”
The creation of shadow elements within the thought structure of the mental body impair the flow of energy between the auric field of the brain and the metaphysical structure of the mental body.
In effect, the perpetuation of asymmetric ideas within the psyche results in a type of psychic “shadow” emerging to block out the normal distribution of light within one’s psychic field.
This “shadow” complex serves as a distorting factor in the psyche, coloring how one perceives and cognizes the world in an unnatural way, one that prevents the afflicted individual from perceiving the true nature of the spiritual power and archetypal design that pervades all things.
To clear distortions in this mental field, Manly Hall prescribes the following solutions:
a) Maintain a healthy body able to supply magnetic energy to sustain the brain’s magnetic field.
b) Keep emotions and thoughts clear and free from abnormal complexes, imbalances, and distortions.
c) As an act of self-discipline, direct one’s own self-will toward the task of breaking up shadow complexes, discordant thought patterns, and destructive emotional fixations.
d) Learn to bring the imagination faculties under the control and discipline of reason. This will help prevent shadow complexes from forming in the first place.
e) Through study, reflection, and meditation, replace the discordant thought patterns one is shedding with symmetrical ones that will stimulate the mind’s innate faculties of reason and rationality.
In the ancient Mysteries, Mandalas were used precisely for this latter purpose: they embody constructive thought patterns, ones that, as the student contemplates them, bring the thought forms generated in their own mental body into proper symmetrical alignment with archetype.
In the Mysteries, the point of the initial purification disciplines that initiates undergo is to rid the mental body of asymmetric thought patterns. Only once this has been accomplished will the student then move onto the practice of visualization disciplines, which are designed to replace the asymmetrical ideas one has shed with symmetrical ones that align with the design of the archetype.
That which aligns with archetype is lawful. And that which is lawful adheres to the contours of the Divine Plan. Thus, to meditate successfully is to learn to think with the Mind of God, where the “intelligible ideas” of the Creator and the ideas generated within the space of one’s own mental body become one and the same.
In the visualization exercises of esoteric meditation, symmetrical ideas are first studied and contemplated upon through the figures of expertly crafted mandalas. Then, one attempts to recreate the contours, themes, and qualities of the sacred image within the space of their own “mind’s eye” (i.e. their mental body).
If done correctly, “through contemplation, the mandala is caused to ‘open’. The picture becomes luminous, and through the middle of it appears an aperture leading into space. … If (the disciple’s) faith and courage are perfect, he will be able to step through the door into the world of the Void.”
Note that the gateway into the “Void” (meaning, into an experience of Universality) is the “luminosity” that the meditation symbol one is visualizing and contemplating takes on. As Manly Hall explains, “the magic of the mandala originates in the extrasensory dimensions of the disciple’s spiritual-mental organism. The symbolic design sets in motion currents of mystical energy, producing internal activity which appear to be external.”
Thus, “meditation upon the mandala brings with it a phenomenal experience by which the emblems themselves appear to become living organizations. The painted dragon suddenly begins to writhe and turn upon its silken background.”
The occult truth that mandalas are leveraging in order to reveal their “magical properties” is that pure or archetypal “ideas can function through bodies created outwardly by the skillful use of form, number, color, and sound.”
This is how all magical talismans work: they draw upon a subtle psychic resonance that has been established between a) the inherent properties of their form or design, b) the psyche of the individual perceiving them, and c) an archetypal power or force residing within the World Soul as a whole.
The talisman or mandala serves as a vehicle or medium through which the bond between the World Soul and the individual soul is established. The symbolism of the mandala or other occult symbolic device merely provides a machinery through which this internal connection between the Greater and Lesser can take place.
The basic logic behind esoteric philosophy’s method for activating the archetypal elements within a mandala is relatively straightforward:
The symbolic anchor of the mandala is established at the center. This means that mandalas should be read starting from the center before moving out toward the circumference.
The circumference of one symbol, mandala, or mudra becomes the center of the next. In that next layer of symbolism, reference to the previous level of symbolism is given through a representation either by a Deity, hieroglyph, or other form of symbol. In this way, a chain of symbols builds as one moves out toward the circumference of the design.
As one’s meditation upon the figure of the mandala moves in an orderly procedure through the various levels of symbolism contained within it, each animation of consciousness one experiences reveals “the next turn of the wheel”. As Manly Hall puts it, “each symbol, mudra, or mantram establishes an overture necessary to the revelation of the next.”
Following this procedure,” the mind itself, moving along the radii of the central motive for the meditation, is carried through a series of unfolding qualities” and experiences.
This movement of the intellect is under the severe discipline of balanced mathematical form, however. In order to “intensify the factor of continuity”, one must first develop “the natural instinct to converge these thought patterns” without penetrating or breaking them.
To fully unravel the chain of symbolism requires instruction and guidance: one must spend years in preparation, study, and contemplation before one is likely to be able to successfully complete one of these visualization exercises.
However, if this preparation has been successfully undertaken, and if the symbol is correctly understood in all of its various aspects, then the mandala will “come alive” via a “sixth sense”, which cognizes a “Fourth Dimension” or “Depth Dimension”, one that exists behind and beyond the limitations of physical reality.
In this experience, the contours of the mandala one is visualizing become animated and ensouled by a numinous quality. They take on an etheric atmosphere and offer the mind a new and dynamic cognitive perspective, one whose vision pierces through the world of effect in order to perceive directly the existence of a normally-invisible dimension of cause.
When followed through to its completion, this exercise builds a living thought pattern within the psyche, one that resonates in tune with an archetypal pattern of divine thought held with the mind of the Creator.
This living thought pattern becomes the “Great Vehicle” through which a bond of resonance is established between the Greater and Lesser aspects of the Soul.
In essence, mandala sequences “recreate a series of experiences in consciousness that re-enact, on man’s own microcosmic plane of life, the experience the macrocosm or universe had in conceiving him.”
In other words, through meditation, one replicates, in inverse proportion, the psychological processes that the Creator originally undertook in fashioning them as a human life form.
With visualization, one sends a signal, in the form of one’s own thought pattern, back toward the Creator via the mental body, offering it as a vehicle of connection between the Self as the greater life and the ego as the lesser.
Through the meditation process, we as individual humans are enabled to share in an experience of universal consciousness and cosmic creation. By sympathy of similitude and through bonds of resonance, the larger Universe is enabled to come alive within us - and we likewise come alive to it - because something within us naturally resonates in alignment with it.
Through meditation we discover we are like cells in the body of a Divine Being. In the mystical experience, we directly encounter this truth as an objective reality. Then, ennobled by this experience, we gain an inner conviction to live by a code or way of life that this new reality demands of us.
In this way, the Divine Life within us becomes the source of a living religion, one forever growing and unfolding like a spiritual seed planted in the center of own psyches. We are not intended to worship this Life, but instead to connect with it and serve it, like a pupil to its master.
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