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Dreams, Symbols and Mandalas

Joann S. Bakula
October, 2012

To those of us who meditate monthly on humanity itself and its direction, relating to the larger cosmic whole in which we live is part of our focus. The circle of the sun's path through the zodiac is a natural symbol of the whole, helping us to find location in the vast heavens, and form myths to navigate our journey and visualize our part in the greater story of the cosmos. The zodiac of 12 constellations (or 13 if you count Ophiuchus) is easily made into pairs and quaternaries, the symbol for which is the even-armed cross. This month's meditation is under the constellation of Scorpio which is, of course, part of the fixed cross, the four constellations of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius, known since ancient times as the cross of solstices and equinoxes, marking the seasons of our year. This year Dec. 22, the day after the solstice, is even being called Birthday 2012 by Barbara Marx Hubbard and others to honor the Mayan calendar in a positive way and offer alternative to what NASA calls the 'great doomsday scare,' replete with Hollywood movies.

In the esoteric tradition the fixed cross represents the cross of discipleship and is of greatest interest in the transition of humanity's growth from the age of Pisces to greater maturation in the group-conscious age of Aquarius. The other quaternaries are, as we know, the mundane cross, used by esotericists as the symbol of the early stages of human growth, and the cardinal cross, symbol of completion. Reflecting on the fixed cross and its various meanings is a natural part of this meditation in November/Scorpio, when the darkness is growing in the Northern hemisphere and the point of transformation — light — is already visualized on the mountaintop of Capricorn, especially this year during the festival week dedicated to World Servers, Dec. 21-28, 2012.

In the circle of the year and the circle of our lives, meditation on these universal symbols helps us to reflect on the whole mystery of who we are, the seen and the unseen center of our lives. Listening for and opening up to impressions that come from deeper levels of mind than the sensory mind reveals a language that speaks in symbols. Meditating and studying symbols, such as the fixed cross, which is found in all the major traditions, gives both a history and an intuitive glimpse of the path. It is helpful to use your mundane birth chart, fixed star chart, or some other chart of the heavens at your birth as a mandala or symbol of your own unique pattern. Carl Jung found that symbols of the circle squared appeared in his patient's dreams and art work as important indicators of the significant changes that marked the movement through crises and subsequent transformations that naturally occur in life. This is true of groups and nations as well. Bringing harmony out of conflict and opposition is humanity's primary method of growth, and often results in a fresh approach.

Dreams and Symbols
Many people have dreams of being in a strange city, often lost and unable to find their way home. Such dreams beg for reconciliation but often end without it. Sometimes they resolve into a sense of the implicit but hidden order of things through dream work later. Great dreams sometimes come in geometric forms and include an archetypal figure of deep meaning to the person in waking state. Carl Jung called such dreams "spontaneous statements of the unconscious about itself" (Alchemical Studies, p. 194). He had a life-changing dream at a crucial point in his life which unveiled to him the pattern of this inner self as a circle squared, or mandala, described in his autobiography.

Jung dreamt that he was in a strange rather dirty city in the dark at night in the rain. The city had its quarters, like most cities, and it had a center up on a plateau that he and the others had to climb up to. In this center he found a broad lighted square like an island, "the little island blazed with sunlight," and a tree stood in the center that he discovered was the source of the light. The quarters of the city each had their own replica of the island lit by a streetlamp. He saw that in the symbol of this dream the goal had been reached, "the center is the goal, and everything is directed toward that center. The self is the principle and archetype of orientation and meaning. Therein lies its healing function.....The dream depicted the climax of the whole process of development of consciousness" (Memories, Dreams and Reflections pp. 196-199). He entitled this dream his 'Window into Eternity." Some years later when he was painting a picture of this symbol he synchronistically received in the mail an ancient Chinese Taoistic-alchemical treatise, The Secret of the Golden Flower, which his friend Richard Wilhelm had just translated. It was a treatise on meditation on the circulation of the inner light. This topography will be familiar to meditators: 'let light stream forth into the minds of all' through the walls of darkness and obscuration. "Formation, transformation, Eternal Mind's eternal recreation" as Goethe put it. This graphic dream of the center of self led Jung to find his own work and found his own school of psychology. Jung's dream was life-changing in completing the journey from darkness to light, from being 'lost' in a strange place to finding the center of self and source of light. For many who have had this frightening dream, reading Jung's account of how it led to finding the center of light within offers an example of how persistence through darkness leads to its opposite, light.

Finding symbols which are both universal and uniquely your own helps in the process of discovering self-knowledge and intuitive or direct knowledge, the center where the truth that matters is found. When you first have the experience that love, light and truth all come from within, not from outside sources, but from your inner center, then transformation occurs. Jung writes of this center: "the goal of psychic development is the self... There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self." In this view, the innermost self is already the Eternal Mind omniscient and omnipresent. This is the truly undiscovered country within that is not born and therefore never dies. This is the truth of what is in the center of each of us, obscured by thick layers of conditioning that we learn and unlearn stage after stage, age after age. "That is the self, the wholeness," Jung writes, "which cannot tolerate self-deceptions."

Mandalas and Books of Symbols
The symbol of a circle squared in various ways, a mandala, is a universal symbol that is found recurring in traditional art from Tibetan Buddhists to Navajo healing rituals. Indeed, in the Dalai Lama's most famous initiation ritual of Shambhala, the Kalachakra tantra empowerment, a mandala is built in which union of the individual with the cosmic 'Eternal Mind' is part of the process. This is done as a group endeavor motivated by a desire to serve humanity. A large brightly colored sand painting of a circle with inner squares is created to symbolize the center within, the world and celestial realms without, and the mandala in which deity emanates and union occurs. What is visualized, however, is multidimensional. In the center high on a mountain a visualized structure is created of the base mandala, the "celestial mansion and its inner mandalas that house or support the resident deities" (The Ornament of Stainless Light, p. 674) and eventually the completed mandala of the kalachakra deity. When successful, this invocation/evocation ceremony helps to create both bodhisattvas and world peace.

Through the systematic study of symbols in the world's great traditions, the intuition may be evoked, leading to the only direct perception and true self-knowledge we have. All other knowledge is second-hand, coming from the senses, or third hand, coming from other people. When the sense of synthesis becomes a ground reality and intuitive intelligence is able to unveil the quality of universality, then intuition has a field to use. Of course, dangers for the neophyte exist using this method before intuition has been reached. In Murray Stein's humorous description: "Some shop around and find New Age syncretism satisfying: a little Zen, some Sufisim, a bit of the I Ching, astrology and Tarot symbols, and other disparate traditions are pulled together into an individually tailored recipe" (p. 171). As a bookstore owner in the 1970s, I would call this a perfect description of some of my customers! Many others persisted, chose a practice and used it to advantage in a life of exploration and discovery. Then the world's great traditions are seen from the perspective of a sense of synthesis and the remarkable contributions of each shared with deepening appreciation.

The symbol of the quaternary, of wholeness, is often portrayed in Western art. One famous example is the stone work in the cathedral of Chartres portraying the four Evangelists with Christ in the center as the divine anthropos. The ox is Luke, the lion Mark, the eagle John and the man is Matthew (Jung et al, Man and His Symbols, p. 21). This same quaternary with the eagle instead of the scorpion is found in Ezekiel 1:10 and also in that book of iconic symbols, the Tarot, composed of 22 archetypal images, the major arcanum, and the four suits of cards, the minor arcanum, representing the totality of mundane influences composing the ordinary deck of cards. The fixed cross appears on two of the major arcanum of the traditional Rider-Waite deck, the archetypes of The World or the Universe (21 or Tau) and The Wheel of Fortune (10 or Kaph). In both of these portrayals the four figures of the fixed cross are shown in the corners emerging from clouds, signifying the heavens, and are adapted from Ezekiel 1:10. But on the Wheel of Fortune, the ox, the eagle, the lion and the human are also shown with wings and each is reading a book! In psychological terms this means that the changing ever-turning wheel of events is contained within the Eternal mode of the fixed and permanent heavens. The changing cycles of the law of periodicity take place within the unchanging Reality of the larger cosmos.

The eagle, in these and many other renditions of the fixed cross, represents the constellation Scorpio. Although the common symbol of Scorpio is the scorpion after whom it is named, this was due to its shape, the easily recognized swirl of a tail dominating the southern summer sky in the Northern hemisphere. It was known as the creature — earlier the snake — that killed the giant. Later it was associated with the vulnerable heal of Achilles. The difference in kind between an eagle that can look directly on the sun, and a scorpion or snake is, of course, immense, and has caused many negative projections onto those born in the month of November! This illustrates a major and common psychological and sociological problem that even disciples can sometimes fall prey to: projection. This is an example of confusing a sign, such as the curving 'j' with an image symbolizing qualities, such as being able to look directly at the sun as the eagle can, or being known for the sting of the scorpion. By association we project positive or negative qualities onto others.

Whether it's the sign of the scorpion, the queen of spades, or the current witch hunt, we sometimes project negative qualities onto others making them into scapegoats. Psychologically, this is an attempt to externalize our own weaknesses and fears by projecting them outwards — to other birth months, other individuals, other nations, cultures or religions. And we often do so collectively and aggressively through propaganda and slander. This is a distortion or glamour that constellates fear and hate and projects it outward to the 'other,' and causes pre-judgment or prejudice. Healing comes when we refuse to go with the flow — which should be easy enough for those on the reversed wheel of discipleship! Wisdom comes only when we stop collectively projecting onto others and reiterate a truth we all know. All nations, religions, political parties, and groups have both strengths and weaknesses. None is complete nor perfect. All are works in progress. By thinking otherwise we feed the glamour of distortion. With projections come judgment, blame and often punishment. What disappears is fairness, along with wisdom, justice, and goodwill. For those who sincerely work for the brotherhood of humanity projection is clearly one of the greatest obstacles.

The Eye of Infinity, the Ajna Center
The organ we have for clarity, intuition, and inner perception of truth is the ajna center, the "single eye" of Biblical scripture and it, too, is a universal symbol found in both East and West. In yoga philosophy the human energy center or lotus (chakra) in the forehead is often depicted as having two horizontal petals, like the infinity sign. In the Rider Tarot the sign of infinity appears with two archetypal figures, the Magician (1), and Strength (8), a figure shown opening the jaw of a lion. Through the magical transformative power of the inner self and the strength of its persistence, finite existence can come to know its opposite in infinite unbounded awareness. Through this wisdom eye we glimpse the past-present-future as one whole, one steam of life and consciousness not visible with the sensory eyes. We can grasp the beginning-middle-end as a spiral of time leading to an infinity outside of time, an infinity to which we belong and from which we originated.

The single eye of the ajna center understands and stands under or supersedes the sensory and conceptual minds, giving us freedom of perception, freedom of thought, and freedom from fear. It brings in direct knowledge from a central heart of mind that is unerring in its direction, usually despite heavy resistance from the status quo. That we are all atoms in a larger body of a 'heavenly figure' whose life can only be perceived through intuition is a central truth that all esoteric traditions share. The new universality born of this recognition is a new stage of human growth psychologically. How long it will take to work out as social evolution, the lower correspondent to the antahkarana (Bailey, p. 470), is another matter. What language we can find to give shape to this luminosity seen with the third eye is for each of us to find, to wonder at, be inspired by, and create from ourselves.

Let us maintain the group state of creative tension from the equinox to the coming solstice, and Birthday2012 on Dec 22, and throughout the new group of world servers' week of celebration from Dec. 21-28. Recognizing that earthrise, the first photo of the earth from space, is also counted as the birthday of the new perception and identification doesn't preclude another birthday. Birth is a process like death and each, it seems reasonable to assume, takes at least nine months for a human, let alone humanity, whether the process is visible or not. The range of the new perception is likely to result in fresh views of time and the timeless, of integration and synthesis, of commonality and uniqueness, and of the relation of the small part to the whole over quite some time.

Whether you may feel snake-bitten or battle-weary; or whether you feel like an emerging victor or like the eagle able to gaze directly at the spiritual sun, none of these is mutually exclusive. Indeed, all of these experiences are important, valuable, and amenable to wider application for humanity as a whole. The work is single and goes on no matter what the circumstance. It is one work. The road goes ever onward.
Joann S. Bakula

Bailey, Alice A. The Rays and the Initiations. NY: Lucis Publishing Company.
Gyatso, Khedrup Norsang. (2004). Ornament of Stainless Light. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
Jung, C.G. Alchemical Studies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Memories, Dreams and Reflections. NY: Vintage.
Jung, Carl et al. Man and His Symbols. NY: Doubleday.
Stein, Murray. (2006) The Principle of Individuation. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications
Waite, Edward Arthur. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. Stamford, CT: U.S. Games Systems.

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