The Mandala Forest
One of my favorite speakers was the zen teacher Alan Watts.  In the video clip above about duality and the concept of the higher self, he alludes to the mandala form in reference to detachment and nonduality, when he says:

"And this person who doesn’t stick anywhere is like Dante's image at the end of the Paradiso where he says in the presence of the vision of God, but my volition now and my desires were moved as a wheel revolving evenly by love that moves the sun and other stars.  And the image of the wheel which is not too tight on its axle and not too loose, that is really with the axle, is the Zen principal of not being attached.  Not being sticky."

My last post about the Reconciliation Mandala fits into this discussion of the sense of duality and separateness.  Watts talks about understanding the reality of the one true self, without being caught up in illusions of fighting for the attainment of a higher self or fighting off one's sense of separation.  According to Alan, actively struggling with an illusion of a separate higher self or an ego would only strengthen a delusional inner fragmentation.   He also mentioned the mandala image from the Paradiso  in Volume 1, number 5 of the Haight Ashbury Tribune.

"People have always been fascinated by circles of glory, known in India as of mandala: the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals, Byzantine mosaic upon the inner surface of a dome, the radiant and radiating petals of certain flowers, the design of snow-crystals, precious stones set in coronas of vari-colored gems, and mandala proper as they are found in Tibetan painting--circular paradise-gardens with their jeweled plants and trees surrounding an inner circle of Dhyani Buddhas and their at  attendant Bodhisattvas.  It is in this form, too, that Dante described his vision of God, ringed by the saints and angels, at the end of the Paradiso."

Watts was something of an iconoclast, pushing aside religious dogma and illuminating the fact that symbols were not the reality itself, and should not be mistaken for reality, as they often are.  One of my favorite examples of this was when Watts talked about the symbolic nature of money, and the lunacy of something like the Great Depression, in which the money simply wasn't there anymore to do the necessary work.  To Watts, such a scenario would be like showing up at a construction site, and the foreman saying, we can't work today because we ran out of inches.  Because of Watts's suspicion of symbols I think his reference to mandalas, like his command of language, should be seen as simply an arrow pointing to a fundamental reality beyond representation. 

His article in the Haight Asbury Tribune goes on to describe his wish to see or create a sort of psychedelic mandala light projection inside a planetarium, which would engage all the senses and move one through scenes of both horror and beauty, eventually engulfing the individual to the point that they were literally absorbed into this naturalistic mandala experience, and then, it would just shut off to the "here and now."  This seems to support the notion that Watts would have been less interested in a mandala symbolizing something, and more interested in an actual experience of a manifested mandala which reveals something about reality experientially.  With the advances of technology, someone may very well realize Watt's vision, though the mandala light show he described may be a thing of virtual reality rather than planetarium projections. 

Just seconds before the clock struck midnight and 2011 officially began, Terence McKenna's voice came through my computer and spoke the following lines from his speech on psychedelic society.

"In the moment of being human we have the unique opportunity to figure things out. And I have the faith that it is possible to, some time somewhere, to have a conversation, perhaps no progress would be made until the ninth hour, but to have a conversation in which reality could be literally pulled to pieces beyond the point of reconstructing."

Just as McKenna finished this sentence, the loud crack of fireworks erupted outside, punctuating his words through the disintigrations of pyrotechnic light and mandalic sound.

What did McKenna mean by pulling apart reality beyond the point of reconstructing?  The notion sounds a bit frightening, in its apparent call for a process of fundamental destruction.  As a self proclaimed anarchist, one would have to wonder what sort of world he is envisioning as he describes the necessary process of ideological breakdown, which he compares to a friend's fourteen hour LSD  induced annihilation of a brick using nothing more than a toothpick and his fingernails. 

In another speech, which he entitles Nature is the Center of the Mandala, McKenna puts forth the following image. 

"What we’re looking toward is a moment when the artificial language structures which bind us  within the notion of ourselves are dissolved in the presence of the realization that we are a part of nature, and when that happens the childhood of our species will pass away, and we will stand tremulously on the brink of really the first moments of coherent human civilization."

In 1992, at his Camden Center talk, McKenna said

"What we have to do is swallow hard, in a similar way that the Russians had to swallow hard, and admit we did it wrong, and now the only way out is back, we must return to the archaic world of shamanism, mutual respect among men and women, a sense of seamless cohesion with the living world. If this is not done, then the experiment fails."

In his speeches, Terence McKenna said both that nature is the center of the mandala, and we as individuals are the center of the mandala.  While it might seem somewhat contradictory to interchange impersonal natural systems with particular human consciousness as the central element of reality,  McKenna was suggesting the deep reconnection between man and nature.  This state of reintegration into the the natural world was part of what McKenna saw as the eschaton, or "the last thing," a time beyond history.  He believed that we have entered a sort of cosmic bottle neck, that time and the rate of complexification are speeding up, and that massive transformation is immanent. 


A few weeks after I purchased a copy of  Healing with Form, Energy, and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche I noticed the similarity between the mandala on the cover of the book and the Windows Vista logo.  I had a chance to ask the cover artist, Mary Ellen McCourt Huehner, about this similarity and she said that the five elements and their traditional colors from the Bon religion were around long before modern technology, let alone the development of the Vista logo. These five elements are earth (yellow), water (blue), fire (red), air(green), and space(white or colorless).  She mentioned that the particular mandala that appears on the cover of the book was a combination of her own experiential vision and a collaborative effort between herself  and Tenzin Rinpoche, who in reference to the elements, states on page nine of his book that "These  are the five aspects of pure luminosity, the rainbow-like energies of the single sphere of existence."  These elements make up the rainbow body, which, according to the Bon tradition, is attained through spiritual mastery.  Native Americans also speak of a prophescy of the Rainbow Warrior.

It's uncanny that not only the shapes and colors of these two images are so close, but also the arrangement of the colors are nearly identical.  While Mary Ellen's elemental mandala makes a stronger use of the color white in it's central depiction of space, the curved squares of color in the Windows logo subtly fade to white as they approach the colorless center of the figure.  Whether or not the Windows Vista logo designers were tapped into some sort of Jungian collective unconscious or the underlying interconnected reality, accidentally approximating a Bon mandala, is a question that will not likely be answered.  Maybe the Windows logo is serving as a sort of hidden vehicle for widespread expression of elemental consciousness or the rainbow body.   Perhaps it is an urgent reminder of the underlying nature of reality to those of us in the technologically dominated Western world who are attempting to "tune in."  Or perhaps it is a signal of the immanent arrival of some form of Rainbow Consciousness.Interestingly enough, the primary expression of the Vista logo is through a computer screen, which is an emanation (rather than a reflection) of "luminosity."  

UPDATE: A little over a month after creating this post, I stumbled upon a blog in which the author also raises questions about the archypal form of the Simon game.  You can read his post here.

The traditional colors of the Bon elements show up in other places, occasionally in forms approximating mandalas. The popular game Simon, also made use of sound and light. Lost Season 3, Episode 1 (Tale of Two Cities) features a closeup of the Talking Heads album art from Speaking in Tongues. Lost Season 1, Episode 14 features a hospital scene, with a poster bearing the red green yellow blue colors.
I find it fascinating when seemingly unrelated thoughts and activities connect and overlap, or when a series of related events come together apparently by chance, and in the process create unexpected richness through relationship and synchronicity.  For the last few days, UFO's have been on my mind, and yesterday  I watched the CNN coverage of the National Press Club disclosure of  US Air Force officers recounting their UFO experiences.   Whether or not you believe in ET encounters on Earth, the video was pretty interesting.  For the most part they seemed quite genuine in their accounts of strange flying light phenomena during their military service.

That night I dreamed that I came to stay at a place of study that bordered on a carved out geologic feature like a small canyon with a large perfectly circular cutout on the rocky ground.  In the dream, I thought of this circle as something carved out by alien intelligence.  Also of note in the dream were the walls of this canyon, which  contained distinct striations and dramatic mineral veins.

Today was I struck by a few portions of text from The Theory and Practice of the Mandala by Giuseppe Tucci, which I came across for the first time.  On page 22, he says

"It must not be imagined that the pictorial representation of the mandala is peculiar to the Buddhists, who have, indeed, only given greater precision to the elaboration of a most ancient intuition which, with the passage of time, has become clarified and has also adopted some alien conceptions, at least as far as the exterior pattern is concerned." 

Alien in this case refers to foreign or outside, but I could not help but feel a synchronicity here.  On the following page he goes on to say: 

"A mandala is much more than just a consecrated area that must be kept pure for ritual and liturgical ends.  It is, above all, a map of the cosmos.  It is the whole universe in its essential plan, in its process of emanation and of reabsorption.  The universe not only in its inert spatial expanse, but as temporal revolution and both as a vital process which develops from an essential principle and rotates around a central axis, Mount Sumeru, the axis of the world on which the sky rests and which sinks its roots into the mysterious substratum."

"Mysterious substratum" were the words that immediately jumped out at me, which I would say described very nicely the canyon like feature of my dream.  But what was also interesting was the way Tucci linked the entire cosmos with this conception of a very tangible yet enigmatic ground, in the same way that the circular trace left by the alien spacecraft of my dream also tied together the earth and the whole of the universe.  As the mandala itself is a tool for spiritual transformation, perhaps in this light, the mandala could be viewed not only as a map, but a sort of  "space vehicle" in its own right.  The mandala, like the dream, is a point of integration between earth and cosmos, or the physical and the spiritual.  It is a symbolic and perhaps actual bridge, convergence, or nexus  constructed through human consciousness.