Self-knowledge is not only a journey, but a journey with delays and setbacks, detours and diversions. When Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist, worked on enhancing his own self-knowledge, he literally found something new every day.
One of the most powerful tools that Jung used as part of his visualization techniques was the mandala.
A mandala is a circle, a concentric diagram with four gates, with its origins in the Hindu and the Buddhist faiths. Jung used the mandala as a way to express his feelings. He drew his own mandalas, because he felt that creating mandalas was an effective technique to create a wholeness of personality and greater balance.
Jung called his mandalas “cryptograms concerning the state of the self which were presented anew to me each day.” Because the mandala Jung visualized was full of secret codes and mythical symbols, he had a hard time figuring them out at first.
But he believed these mandalas were “highly significant.” He used these mandalas that he first visualized, and then drew, to acquire what he called “a living conception of the self.”
In his 1961 book Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung wrote:
I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only circumambulation of the self. Uniform development exists, at most, only at the beginning; later, everything points toward the center. That insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner peace returned.
What Jung eventually learned how to do, and later used in his work, was to actually visualize an expression of the self by using the mandala as a tool for a visualization exercise. This process was highly revealing, and perhaps Jung’s most remarkable method for achieving greater self-knowledge.
The challenges were numerous, starting with patience to let the unconscious do its work to actually create the mandala, then,to allow the blanks to filled in, and finally, to try and make some sense of all the strange symbols and out of context words.
This is not a visualization exercise for beginners, but an advanced technique that often raises more questions than it answers.
It also a reminder that self-knowledge is precious, and comes only through hard work.
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