The Mandala Forest
In today's fast paced advanced societies, we are constantly faced with a myriad of stressors that in moderation can help us gain a sense of strength and accomplishment, and in large quantities can make us constantly anxious, overwhelm us, and cause us to feel that our lives are spinning out of control.  Playing out in real time in the background of this high speed modern stage of ups and downs are the harsh realities of war, widespread poverty, and environmental devastation.  For the minority of the world's population that live within the neat confines of the suburbanized and walled off wealthy Western nations, the chaos and destruction of the world at large exists in a sort of cultural subconscious.  It is through this lens that I touch on the mandala and address one of the technological approaches to the challenges we face. 

Searching the internet for interesting articles about mandalas, I came across a video that demonstrates the integration of technology and human brainwaves.  I had first encountered a similar biofeedback program when a friend of mine lent me a copy of the  new age themed video game Wild Divine.  Using a pulse and skin conductivity sensor that clips to the fingers and plugs into the computer, the game teaches the player to modulate mental states and achieve relaxed focus.  Today, personalized and integrated brainwave sensors, pioneered by NeuroSky (SkyNet anyone?) and Emotiv, are on the cutting edge of high tech self monitoring, which groups like Quantified Self take very seriously.

A man by the name Beer van Geer recently developed the Dagaz app for use with NeuroSky's hardware.  The program, as demonstrated in the video, teaches viewers to enter into a meditative state through the interactive biofeedback based process of creating mandalas with one's mind.  A fascinating goal put forth by van Geer is to eventually refine the Dagaz application so that "players" across the world can co‐create mandalas in cyberspace, and perhaps even develop a sort of technologically mediated "telepathy."

Certainly we can see the potential benefits of biofeedback in general, whether they be overcoming addictions and phobias ,to improving focus in the classroom, to deepening our meditative practice.  Yet as programs like Wild Divine and Dagaz and the Dalai Lama's virtual tour of a three dimensional virtual mandala illustrate, technology and spirituality are openly fusing.  This is not entirely problematic, in the sense that through technology we are able to transmit significant or spiritual matters to wider audiences.  Yet through technology, the very landscape of human experience and what it means to be human, is changing.

And this is where we should be asking difficult questions, because things are getting a bit strange.  At some point we may very well come to regret the actualization of technological forces which, through a convergence of advanced self monitoring and biofeedback, genetic manipulation, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, computer mediated communication interfaces, high tech security monitoring, augmented reality, facial recognition tech, 3D geometry video scanning, state of the art rendering, digitized monetary transactions, RFID chips, cybernetic implantation and transhumanism, and virtual lives created through online worlds like Second Life, we become fully integrated into a global technology net, a complex quasi living electrical grid.  At a time of great turmoil and environmental degradation, we are fast approaching the merging of man and machine. Even today, this sentiment may sound a bit sci‐fi, but the rapid pace of innovation has set the stage for such a convergence, barely noticeable to those of us in the advanced cultures who take these high speed transitions as the norm with little consideration of long term systemic effects.  

As we ponder these seemingly inevitable crossroads, it would be good to ask ourselves a question that echoes the words of Terence McKenna: is it humanity, nature, or technology (0r some combination of the three) which we put in the center of our mandala? To what ends?  It is interesting to note the interconnections between the advent of the world wide web, open source code, wikis (and wikiLeaks), social networking, and the like, alongside the notions of technological singularity,  environmental systems awareness, and the "oneness" spiritual movements we see emerging in the West.  Perhaps we can see some trends coming to the fore, but it remains to be seen what the ramifications in human consciousness will be if increasing numbers of the historically unprecedented human populace are further separated from the natural life sustaining processes of planet earth.  Perhaps there is a way to balance our newly developed, technologically mediated lives with the necessary natural processes that sustain us.  And perhaps our increased interconnection through the internet will function to create a more integrated collective human conciousness.   It is up to us to decide what is valuable, what content we will emphasize, and how we apply it to our 3d lives. 


Beer van Geer

Tue, 22 Mar 2011 13:05:27

Thanks for the coverage Luke!
Nice article, putting everything in a nice context.

Greetings from the Netherlands.



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