A Psychological Study of the Mandala in Early Jewish Holy Literature
Paper given before the American Academy of Religion, March 21, 1991 and then, later for a sub-division of the American Psychological Association.
Preface to this web version (added July 29, 2011)
This web version is the original paper, with the addition of a number of new thoughts and comments. I have also added images (I did not use any in the original talks). All the additional thoughts and references are enclosed in square brackets — [....].
The reader may wonder why most of the images are from Christian sources when this is a discussion of Jewish imagery. Three answers come to mind. The first is that, due to the prohibition against visual images in Judaism, there were very few pictures, especially in the older books. Second, many of the Jewish images that do exist are copies of Christian images. In turn, many of the Christian images of Jewish topics were based on descriptions in the Jewish holy literature. It would take an art historian to be able to differentiate, in specific cases, which came first. I think the Jewish and Christian imaginations are more closely connected than we would normally think. Ideas and images and concepts flow very easily between cultures, though the visible signs of the influence may be very difficult to perceive. Finally, I do not have as sure and easy access to Jewish sources as I do to Christian sources. If a reader were to feel there is more work to be done here, I would agree.
At one point I collected a lot of material on what I am calling "Jewish mandalas." There was so much material that I intended to write a book on the subject. Now I think I can cover much of the material in this expanded version of the talk. In the original paper, I gave only the briefest outline of the material and was only able to touch on five examples. The interested reader of this version will find a sixth example in the "Addendum: A Sixth Example" (added August 5, 2011, see below).
One story of how Jung came up with the concept of the archetype is that, over a period of some time, under an inner compulsion, he drew a series of concentric circles and squares, each divided into four or eight parts. Later his friend, Helmutt Wilhelm, introduced him to pictures of old Tibetan mandalas. Jung recognized that he had been spontaneously drawing essentially the same thing, far away in space and time from old Tibet.
When an archetype appears in consciousness, it is accompanied by a great emotion and a feeling of fascination, what Jung called, following, Herbert Otto, numinosity. Jung's clinical researches showed that the mandala archetype was central and often appeared during the process of integration of numinous experiences into everyday life.
Jung wrote a great deal about the mandala, but I cannot find any significant references in his writings to mandalas in the Jewish religion. Jung, especially in later life, was quite friendly towards Jewish mysticism, and we may wonder, therefore, why he did not discuss the place of the mandala in Jewish religious literature.
The answer is easy to see when it is remembered that Jung wrote about visual images of mandalas, East and West, and therefore tended to overlook the written descriptions of mandalas found in Judaism, since Judaism prohibits making images of God.
In this paper I will give five examples of mandalas from the Jewish holy literature. I will then speak about four different features of, or trends in, these mandalas. I conclude with a description of a Jewish patient I am currently treating that may reveal the psychological function of the mandala symbol, for at least one contemporary Jew.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the mandala is a representation of a city or a palace in the form of concentric squares or circles with God in the center and with four gates, with guards at each gate. And the four gates are oriented towards the four directions.
[In Tibet, the mandala is used, among other things as a stimulus for meditative visualizations. The iconography and theory of the mandala in Tibetan Buddhism is incredibly rich and complex and way beyond the scope of my work. One thing to mention is that some mandalas are made from colored sand for specific ceremonies and dismantled immediately following the ceremonies (see Figure 4, below). Recently there was a mandala ceremony in Brattleboro, Vermont.]
Here is a methodological question: How shall we categorize such anomalies as concentric rectangles (as opposed to squares or circles), that is, asymmetrical mandalas, even with four gates and a god in the middle, or how shall we categorize a circle with god in the middle but with only one gate (instead of four)?
The five Jewish mandalas I give below are all, more or less, anomalous in relation to the typical Tibetan mandala paintings. This should not deter us, it seems to me, because a look through any book on Eastern religious architecture shows that even the famous mandala temples of the Orient are often asymmetrical.
[In George Michell's book, The Hindu Temple, he discusses the importance of the mandala design for the laying out of the ground plan of Hindu Temples.
Great importance is attached to the establishment of the temple's ground plan because it functions as a sacred geometric diagram (mandala) of the essential structure of the universe. .... By constructing this diagram [see Figure 5, below] to regulate the form of the temple, a symbolic connection is created, binding together the world of the gods -- the universe, and its miniature reconstruction through the work of man — the temple. .... / Profound significance is attached to the centre of the temple mandala, as it is here that the worshipper may experience transformation as he comes into direct contact with the cosmic order. The centre is the most sacred part of the diagram and is materialized in Hindu temple architecture by the image or symbol of the divinity placed in the sanctuary. In the cosmological interpretation of the plan the centre coincides with the sacred mountain, Meru, the support of the universe. In ritual the dynamics of the temple all proceed with reference to this central point; symbolic processes of interpreting the form of the temple all focus upon the centre of the plan. Set rules attend the laying out of the temple mandala before the commencement of building operations.[pp. 71-72.]
[The point I want to make is that though the book, Brihatsamhita, (Michell's source for Figure 5, above) is said to have "governed" the ground plan of Hindu temples, it is difficult to find any temple ground plans in Michell's Hindu temple book that match the archetypal design of Figure 5. There are a few minor examples, but most are significantly different. Figure 6 shows the eighth century Vitupaksha temple of Pattadakal, India. The innermost sanctuary has a mandala shape, but, if you include the courtyard, the other rooms, and the outer walls, it is rectangular. Further, there appear to be only two gates, not four (four gates being part of the mandala format).
[Here are two more examples of anomalous mandalas. The first is shown in a painting of the Kasuga Shrine Mandala of Japan.
[The second is of the Buddhist temple at Ankor Thom, Cambodia (Figures 8 and 9, below).]
[It can be seen that, though the main structure of the Ankor Thom temple is as nearly a perfect mandala as we can imagine, if we include the outer rooms and entry way, the mandala form is distorted and disrespected.
The conclusion is that the mandala form is an idealized form, a form fit for the imagination, for two-dimensional representations, and for three dimensional models (see Figure 10) but not for full-size physical buildings in physical space.]
[The minute there is an attempt to place the mandala in a three dimensional space, the contingencies of physical (terrain and materials), economic, social (the need to keep "lower" people from too close a contact with the deity of the innermost sanctuary), and even military realities force distortions from the visionary form given by the unfettered imagination. Michell, using Shrirangam, a rectangular Vishnu temple (Figure 11), as an example, says,
Even though the sanctuary remained the most sacred part of the temple, great attention was paid to the outlying elements of the complex. Temple building was characterized by a desire to enlarge earlier sacred structures by the addition of successive enclosure walls, entered by a number of gateways. ... In fact, it became the custom to add to already existing temples. ... In order to enlarge a temple a series of enclosure walls was added until the until the original sanctuary was surrounded by a number of expanding circuits, lending the temple the appearance of a walled fortress. These walls were mostly utilitarian structures sometimes provided with inner platforms and battlements as a means of defense in times of emergency. .... The impulse to develop gigantic temple complexes with prominent gateways reflects the changing role of the temple which ... became more closely involved with the life of the town; in fact, its expanding enclosures frequently extended into the town itself as, for example, at Shirirangam.Mitchell [pp. 149-151]
[Michell (p. 155) adds that the temples came to be used for civic meetings and for dances and theater all of which required modifications to the temple's structure and plan. If this is true for mandalas in the Orient where there was often a conscious attempt to adhere to a mandala design plan, it should not surprise us that mandala images in the ancient Near East, where the mandala was not conceptualized as an independent idea, would also vary from the mandala form.
Of course we do not want to get into the absurd position that every square or circular figure we examine will be considered a mandala. Common sense and intuition must combine here in distinguishing between an anomalous mandala and a figure that is not a mandala at all.]
It is interesting that ancient Jewish thinkers themselves found these defects troublesome, especially in one very interesting case which I will come to later. [That is, it seems they were troubled by forms we are calling anomalous mandalas and seemed to feel a need to, as I call it, mandala-ize, them.]
Early Jewish Mandalas: Examples 1 and 2
Five Examples of Early Jewish Mandalas.
Example 1. Eden
The first example of a mandala I will give, though I am not sure about the correct time sequence, is the Garden of Eden. Though the Garden is not described explicitly as a circle or square (let alone as concentric circles or squares), the tree is said to be in the middle of the garden, which is suggestive of the mandala form. The number four is associated with the Garden in the form of the four rivers; God, at least in later traditions, lived in the Garden or at least visited it quite often. There is a path (Heb:DEREK) to and from the center (though not four paths). Adam is placed in Eden as the guard, but after the expulsion, the Cherubim guard with fiery, ever-turning swords, to keep people out. The story of Eden exhibits a central theme of Jewish mandalas: The violation of the center of the mandala by humans.
[In the map of the place of Eden from the Honorati Bible (Figure 12), Eden (at the bottom right) is not pictured as a mandala at all. There is a tree with a snake wrapped about it, and Adam and Eve are next to it, one on one side and one on the other. There is the river issuing from Eden, and it does divide into four but only to the North and South of Eden. Eden is pictured on a mountain (or hill) (the mountain-temple-mandala is part of the Oriental mandala iconography).
[In Figure 14, the mandalazation is continued. East, South, West, and North are specified. There is a division of Eden into four, roughly equivalent quadrants (forming a rectangle) with the tree (also called the Fountain of Life) at the center. From the Fountain of Life issues three rivers that unite to form a larger river that flows around, each end dividing into two at the exit of the Garden. Two angels guard the entrance (and, ipso facto, the exit).
The handling of the river is especially interesting. The text says a river issued from Eden that divided into four. Our theory is that the imagination, in accordance with its desire to see a mandala, wants to make this into four rivers issuing, symmetrically from the center of Eden. The artist seems tempted in this direction. However, as an apparently devout Christian, he must adhere to the text. His picture is a tense compromise. There is a single source that divides into three (though not four), but then they join together into one which then divides into the four. This is an awkward, but understandable, harmonization.
I conclude the examples of Eden images with two concepts of the Angel with the Flaming Sword that guards the Entrance to Eden.]
Example 2. The Tabernacle of Moses
The second example, is the Tabernacle of Moses. The tablets that God gave Moses are at the center and are covered by a series of concentric coverings made of various materials. The tablets are contained in an ark which is covered by gold. Then there are curtains and then the tabernacle, which, in turn, is in a tent, and the tent is in a rectangular enclosure.
The whole structure is oriented to the four directions. There is an entrance on the East. There is no guard, but God himself, deals harshly and swiftly with any intruders, as he did with Aaron's sons (Leviticus 10:1-2). The structure is not circular or square, but rectangular, yet it is more or less concentric, and God appears in the middle, gives instruction from there, and even may have a temporary residence there.
[The most common renditions of the Tabernacle in both Jewish and Christian images stick more or less closely with the biblical text. Here is the oldest Jewish image I can find (Figure 17).]
[A similar structure is conceptualized by Jan Luyken in Figure 18, below. The Tent of the Tabernacle is show in an enclosure that creates a courtyard. No entrance is show, however the Tabernacle itself is shown with more detail, which is to say that it shows two of its coverings. I conceptualize these coverings as protective casings which are, in my mind, essentially, the Tabernacle version of concentric "walls". Here is a closer view of the Tabernacle itself with its coverings (according to Luyken). It will be remembered that what the coverings are covering is, among other things, the tablets of the Ten Commandments which are in the Ark of the Covenant.]
[No entrance is shown, however the Tabernacle itself is shown with more detail, which is to say that it shows two of its coverings. I conceptualize these coverings as protective casings which are, in my mind, essentially, the Tabernacle version of concentric "walls". Here is a closer view of the Tabernacle itself with its layered coverings (also according to Luyken). It will be remembered that what the coverings are covering is, among other things, the tablets of the books given to Moses by the Lord on Sinai which are being housed and protected in the Ark of the Covenant.]
[Many of the representations of the Tabernacle include the twelve camps of the twelve tribes around it. The biblical text has the twelve tribes divided into three groups of four. One group is to encamp to the North of the Tabernacle, another to the South, another to the East, and the last group to the West. This is consistent with our reading of the Tabernacle complex as a mandala. When the camps are included, the Tabernacle complex is closer to a square with the camps creating another outer, protective enclosure. Here are three versions. In the first (Figure 20), the rectangular configuration of the whole complex is preserved.]
[In the second version, Figure 21, the complex is squared. The same is true for the third (Figure 22), where the Tabernacle complex is shown as a perfect square. There are some versions that show the a River flowing from the center and watering all the tribes. I think these images prove the tendency towards mandalazation.]
Figure 23 is from a Jewish source.
Early Jewish Mandalas: Example 3
Example 3. The Temple of Solomon
The third example is the Temple of Solomon whose form is similar to that of the Tabernacle (1Kings 6, 2Chronicles 3). It is a series of concentric rectangles and squares, and we are told that the innermost room, the Holy of Holies, is a perfect cube. We are specifically told that the Temple is a house of God, God living in the center, and God is separated from humans by various more or less concentric enclosures. The Temple is oriented to the four directions, and there are gates at each direction.
[In some images of Solomon's Temple the rectangular configuration is preserved. See, for example, Figures 24-27 below.]
[In many renditions (both Jewish and Christian), the Temple is shown as square, even though the biblical text is clear about the Temple having been rectangular. Here are two examples (Figures 28-29).]
[Figure 29, from a Christian bible history, is a nearly exact copy of a famous Jewish rendition by the Rabbi, Jacob Judah Leon.
Figures 30-32 show three fantasies of the ground plan of the Temple. It should be remembered the biblical text is not exact, and so all ground plans put forward are theoretical, and, in so far as they are square, they distort the text that is given and so add a piece from the imagination. In short, square pictures of Solomon's Temple are mandalazations.]
[A psychologically important additional point has to do with what is at the center of mandalas. As mentioned, the mandala in the Orient, is, by definition, the home of a divinity, and the divinity is thought to reside in the center of the mandala. Figure 3, above, shows just such a divinity, but it is only one of many. It is shocking to many here in the West that, occasionally, there are two divinities shown at the center, a male and female god, and that they are shown in the act of intercourse.
As mentioned earlier, at the center of the Israelite Tabernacle and Temple, according to tradition, "reside" the two tablets given to Moses on Sinai by the Lord. These tablets are in a box, the Ark. On top of the box is a seat (a "mercy seat") made of gold on which the Lord sits when He is "home." And on the sides of the seat are two cherubim. I think of them as the attendants or guards of the Lord. Here is the description from Exodus 25:18-22:
And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold ... in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end .... And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims ....
Needless to say, the ark with the cherubim have been the subject of many works of art, and, as you might imagine, each artist pictures them differently. In Figure 33, we see how one, presumably Christian artist imagined them: as two devout, prayerful figures with long hair and long flowing robes.]
[In Figure 34, the cherubim are imagined as innocent, angelic infants.]
[A plate in Goeree (1700), probably by the Dutch Mennonite mystic, Jan Luyken, shows nine different versions of the cherubim. In Figure 35 we see one that is consistent with the feeling tone of the two just given.]
[The imagination being what it is, not all versions are so subdued and innocent. From the same plate we find the following image:]
[What may escape the eye for a moment are the feet of these cherubim. Instead of human feet, there are hooves. When we think of what other creatures in the Western religious tradition have cloven hooves, Figure 35 can seem quite shocking. In other words, there is a hint that, right at the center of the Tabernacle (and Temple), right where the Lord sits, at his right and left hand, are figures that not only have an animal aspect but actually suggests Satan's goat-like aspect itself. From a pragmatic, military point of view, this might make sense: If you were king it might make sense to hire as your gods the strongest and worst of all creatures, assuming you could tame them and make them work for the good. (There is an analogous tradition where Solomon employed demons to build the Temple.)
[Figure 36 shows bird-like cherubim.]
[Even more extreme is the image in Figure 38 (close-up in Figure 39).]
[These grotesque figures did not spring completely from the imagination of the artist. They are attempts to represent the figures seen by the prophet Ezekiel in his first vision. In this vision, Ezekiel sees a four wheeled chariot (each wheel has many eyes) on which is seated the "Glory of the Lord." Pulling the chariot are four creatures. Each creature has four faces, the face of an ox, the face of an eagle, the face of a lion, and the face of a man. Figures 37-38 are an attempt to integrate the wheels with the creatures and, more importantly, an attempt to integrate Ezekiel's vision (at the Cheder River in Babylon) of the creatures serving the Glory of the Lord with the cherubim serving the Lord in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and in the Temple in Jerusalem. We will return in a moment to Ezekiel's chariot vision, as it is our fourth example of a Jewish mandala.
[Continuing with the cherubim motif, it is a well-known tradition in Judaism that one of the cherubim is male and the other is female. It is part of this tradition that they have intercourse in the center-most part of the Temple, in the Holy of Holies. Apparently this idea developed independently in the imagination of some Tibetans and in the imagination of some Jews. The above development of the cherubim imagery should make the Tibetan iconography less strange and unfamiliar.
[It was, it seems to me, only a matter of time until all of Jerusalem became visualized as a mandala. Here are two examples, one from the famous Christian history, the Nuremberg Chronicle, and the second from a Seventeenth Century Yiddish book.]
Early Jewish Mandalas: Examples 4 and 5
Example 4a. Ezekiel's Chariot Vision
The fourth example comes from Ezekiel's visions and consists of two parts: first (Ezekiel 1), as Ezekiel is sitting by the river Kvar in Babylon, far from the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem, he sees a likeness of the Glory of God riding on a chariot, supported by four creatures (and the number four is multiplied here, that is, four faces, four wheels, etc.). This scene is in a huge cloud surrounded by a radiance, that is, there are concentric circles.
[The following five images are artists attempts to capture this vision.]
[In the above five images we see the attempt of the imagination to put together the images of the vision. The storm cloud and the radiance are analogous with the walls that protect the deity inside. There is no house, as the Lord who had been living in Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem has left and is roaming in His chariot. The seat of the Chariot is the new Holy of Holies and the four figures are function as the cherubim. ]
Example 4b: Ezekiel's Vision of the Future Temple
And the second part (Ezekiel 8-11): This God Ezekiel sees in Babylon is the same God who lived in the center of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem before it was destroyed. He complains to Ezekiel that men built their thresholds and doorposts too close to His, and that this is why His House, His Temple was destroyed. He shows Ezekiel the future Temple (Ezekiel 44ff) with its courts and walls and gates (squares are mentioned quite often) and gives strict rules to prevent intrusion.
[Please note that the ground plan of Figure 47 is about as close to an oriental mandala as we can imagine. The figure is square, no longer rectangular. It is nearly perfectly symmetrical with the Holy of Holies at the center. There are four gates. And so on. Another conception, also from a Jewish source, is given in Figure 48.]
Summing up, at the river in Babylon, Ezekiel sees the innermost God of the Jerusalem Temple, arrived by chariot, naked, unprotected by walls, homeless. He (God) is upset and wants a new home, with better walls and gates. While He was in Eden and while He was in the Tabernacle, He had also been tormented by disrespectful humans.
Ezekiel 47:8-12ff is the most beautiful description of a properly working mandala within Jewish scripture, with a river coming out from under the Temple and watering the world, with each of the twelve (4x3) tribes in its proper place, etc.
Ezekiel implies that Eden was on Zion. Since the Bible also states that the ark was brought into Solomon's Temple on Zion, we see that all the mandalas we have discussed so far were located, some place in scripture, at the exact same place, on Zion. Eden, the ark, Solomon's Temple, and Ezekiel's future Temple are all placed in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a powerful symbol.
This tradition is amplified and intensified by such medieval kabbalists as Joseph Gikatila. In his book Sefer Ginnath Egoz, the Book of the Nut Garden, we are told that there is a garden on a hill with a nut which contains a "stairway to God's world" (1614:2, my translation). The garden would be Eden and the hill, Zion. The nut is the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve (not the apple as in later Christian tradition).
I would like to make a relevant digression. In an earlier draft of this paper I added a personal observation that the Nut, with its various concentric shells and membranes around an inner kernel could be considered another example of a mandala. However, since I had no textual evidence to support this thought, I deleted it from the paper. Last night, however, I decided to look up Nut in the Zohar, and was surprised to find significant sections on it (1989:part 2, section 1:8-13).
I will sum up what the Zohar says about the Nut: The whole world, with everything in it, was formed on this principle. With respect to the whole universe, God is at its center, and the world is outside in successive layers or shells. Also for the human being there is a shell (the body) and a kernel (the soul). There is also talk of the four Husks and the four Kingdoms.
But most importantly, the Zohar explicitly states that, when Ezekiel was at the river, he could not see all of God, because his vision was blocked by a "wall." This wall was the various "shells" surrounding the vision of God at the center. The four shells were the Stormy Wind, the Cloud, the Flashing Fire, and the Brightness (identified with the Tohu and Vohu of Genesis 1:2. Inside of all this is the innermost, the kernel, that is, the God who created the light. The shells are the other side, that is, evil.
In a second image important for our current study, the Zohar describes Jerusalem as a shell that had two openings before the Temple was destroyed, etc.
From what I understand from reading Scholem (1961:seventh lecture), Lurianic kabbalah used the image of the shell (Kelipah) as a central image: God is in the center, but the shell around him cracked, and this has led to all the suffering of the world. The goal of the individual Jew is to restore the shells, by his or her daily actions and intentions, and thereby help, not only him or her self, but also God.
The innumerable Lurianic drawings of concentric circles representing the emanations of the sefirot from God, fall within the category of the mandala and seem to be related to this concept of the shells and the kernel of the Nut.
It may even be fair to say that, at some point in the Middle Ages, the image of the Nut replaced the earlier images of Temple, Tabernacle, and Eden as the compelling Jewish mandala. Even so, it will be remembered that the Nut is from the tree in Eden which is on the Temple mountain, and so the connection remains implied.
Example 5. The Vision from 3Enoch
I now turn to 3Enoch (Alexander's translation) for our fifth example. Here R. Ishmael is pictured as ascending to the heavens where he sees the chariot from Ezekiel's vision. (In related Merkabah traditions R. Ishmael has his vision while meditating on the Temple mount). Up in the heights, he goes through six palaces, concentrically arranged, until he gets to the innermost, the seventh, in which is the Holy One. Each chamber has a door with a fierce and awesome guardian — including Soperiel and Shoperiel, authors of life and death. Four is the dominant number — four camps of angels, four rivers of fire, four seraphim, four watchers who live opposite the Throne and help God judge, etc. The structure is remarkably elaborate (chapters 1, 5, 18-19, 25-26, 28, and 37 are particularly relevant).
Contemporary Case Material
Contemporary Case Material.
Finally I will present a contemporary case that may throw light on the psychological or inner meaning of the Jewish mandala. I have been treating a schizophrenic Jewish man in his 30's. His father is an engineer, and neither parent is religious. During his post-doctoral scientific studies he suffered a psychotic break. Since then he has become like a whimpering child, remarkably passive, clinging to anyone for support. The persistence of his simple trust pushes people away. When on his own, he shakes from anxiety that even medication does not control.
He had always refused to discuss religious questions with me, because he felt that he would slip into a psychosis. The prohibition he placed on himself thinking about God paralleled the biblical prohibitions placed against humans entering God's residence. I was shocked, therefore, when he told me he was reading Nehemiah. Here are his words:
"I am reading Nehemiah, about rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, and I'd like to use it as an analogy for rebuilding the personality....Even in Nehemiah ... it says that it took him twelve years to rebuild the walls, the gates."
Psychologically, this man entered the numinosity at the center of the mandala; The "walls" dividing his scientific mind from the numinous experience came tumbling down; He could no longer maneuver in the four directions surrounding him or in his four functions within. Psychiatric medication had to function as his walls. Now he wants to rebuild the walls without medication.
Many passages in Nehemiah are suggestive of the process he will have to go through. For example, we are told that "The work is great and large" (4:13, the following quotes are from Tanakh, 1988). The reason for the work is stated: "Come and let us build up the wall..., so that we no longer suffer insult." (2:17). During the construction, "Everyone brought his weapon with him even to the water." (4:17) Even the division between gatekeepers, priests, and singers has an inner parallel in how he will have to divide his attention in order to succeed. The idea that the gates should be locked one day a week (13:22), is also suggestive.
The reason that Nehemiah's rebuilding the walls of ancient Jerusalem is symbolic of my patient's rebuilding his personality is important to examine: The mandala archetype in Judaism — that is, the Temple-Eden-Tabernacle complex — is for many American Jews, no longer projected out onto Jerusalem, but is experienced within the psyche. The ancient problem of maintaining the proper relationship between the Inner Sanctuary and the Outer Walls has now become the problem of maintaining the proper relationship between the Numinous and the Ordinary within oneself.
I will give one more brief contemporary example to show that this is an objective phenomena within the clinical experience of the practicing psychologist.
A patient was in the California Sierras and had what he described as a "vision of God." It seemed to him that the world was a place of the most exquisite beauty and perfection which he likened to the Garden of Eden. As he came down from the mountains back into the cities and freeways and especially into L.A., this feeling of beauty slipped more and more away, and he was left with his ordinary consciousness.
This man was an atheistic, secular Jew with very little knowledge of or interest in the Bible, yet the image of the Temple with its twelve gates kept forcing itself into his mind. It seemed to him to perfectly capture the nature of his experience. It was to him as if, on the mountain, he had entered the center of the Temple where God lived. As he came down into the cities, he went from courtyard to courtyard, out the gates, until, back in L.A., he was out of the Temple altogether. He set a goal for himself of never forgetting the Temple, etc.
Here we have Temple-Eden-mountain conjoined. As in the last case, the Temple is a symbol for the relation between various kinds of inner human experiences.
This shift towards Interiorization or Spiritualization of the mandala experience has political implications, since the city, Jerusalem — as the holder of the numinous — becomes less important as the numinous within the individual becomes the focus of our interest.
[Addendum: A Sixth Example (added August 5, 2011)]
In the original paper I gave five examples of Jewish mandalas, but there were others that I did not have the time or space to discuss. In this Addendum, I give a rough sketch of a sixth.
At one point I collected a lot of material on Jewish mandalas. There was so much material that I intended to gather it together into a book. There were a number of motifs that seemed to me relevant to our topic. One was the biblical description of Mt. Sinai. Another, interestingly enough, was the description of the Sabbath as presented in different Kabbalistic writings. The idea that time can be visualized as divided between sacred time (the Sabbath) and profane or ordinary time (the other six days of the week). The six profane days can be conceptualized as concentric walls surrounding the Sabbath. The Lord is to be found in and on the Sabbath. As the days of the week approach closer and closer to the Sabbath, the practicing Jew comes closer and closer into proximity with the Lord. Part of the iconography, simply put, is that the Lord has female counterpart, a wife, as it were. On the evening of the Sabbath, the Lord and His wife embrace and become intimate. The practicing Jew is to embrace and become intimate with his wife at this moment. Children so conceived are especially holy.
And there are many other, what might be called, "lesser" mandalas or "partial" mandalas. Each of these, it seems to me, deserves attention and elaboration. As mentioned in the original paper (link above), I see a development over time of the Jewish mandala imagery. As said, I see a movement from the mandala being taken literally (as a physical, architectural structure) to the experiencing of the mandala as something in the far off heavens and, finally, to the hint that the mandala image is something in the Imagination. This gradual "Internalization" of the image needs to be demonstrated. The examples I have assembled only hint at this progression.
In my mind, the culmination (at this point in time) is the mandala I will now present that I am calling the "sixth" mandala.
A Sixth Example: A Rough Sketch
At some time in the history of Europe, the scientific method and the scientific spirit caught hold and captured the minds of a certain group of individuals. This happened both within Judaism and within Christianity. A split became evident between the new group of "enlightened," rationalists and the old group committed to the old traditions and the old ways of thinking. This split occurred within Judaism and led to a large group of Jews who began to look at the Bible as just another book written by fallible men for "human, all too human" purposes. At best it represented a primitive attempt at history. At worst it was a compendium of irrational beliefs and customs that could not stand up to scientific scrutiny.
Some among the group of intellectuals were perfectly content with this new stance and even took it one step further by rejecting the idea of "God" as irrational and un-scientific. Some even felt that they saw that the religion was the source of all the problems of humanity, the factor that held humanity back and accounted for the persistence of wars, devastating disease, and natural calamities. Science could solve these problems, but, at every step of the way, religion resisted reason and science. Many in this group of rationalists felt (and feel) perfectly content in this "revelation," and it inspired them and drove them.
However there were some amongst the intellectuals who were not content with what some would call this "superficial atheism." They too were atheists and "modern men," but they felt that something was missing with the superficial view. They felt there was something deeper. They felt some burning passionate intensity that was hard to describe and that did not fit neatly with their own rational, realistic belief system.
I would put Sigmund Freud in this category. Unlike his father who was a traditional Jew, Freud was an university educated nineteenth century rationalist. He was a well-known and open atheist who argued that religious beliefs were illusions, figments of the Imagination. He was a man of science and was interested in a university career in neurology, but he thought that, as a Jews, there was no room for real advancement within the university. He became a physician and, for various reasons, came to specialize in treating hysteria, a disease whose mental component was just becoming apparent. Though the hysteric complained and even demonstrated physical symptoms, it was easy for researchers to show that these symptoms could not have a physical basis. Freud (and his friend and colleague Breuer) set the goal of figuring out the cause of hysteria. They arrived at the conclusion that there were feelings and thoughts and memories and fantasies deep inside the mind of the hysterical patient that caused the symptoms. These deep phenomena fully accounted for the symptoms, and, when brought to the surface, into the conscious mind of the patient, the symptoms disappeared.
Based on their clinical experience, Freud and Breuer began to realize that their patients were completely unconscious of the material deep within them. Not only this, but they seemed to resist the exposure of the material. When evidence was given them as to their existence and their nature, the patients often became very agitated and defensive.
A model began to occur to the researchers (a model developed by Freud) that there are two parts of the mind of the hysterical patient (and, at least to some degree, of all people): A deep part that contains the problem elements, and a more superficial part that is consciousness as we all know it. The first part or Id, is unconscious, the Unconscious. The second part or Ego is conscious, it is Consciousness. In one place, Freud compared these two realms to two countries with a border between them. There is a spot, a border crossing, where things are allowed to pass between the two countries, but other things are kept from entering the country. And there is a border guard that decides what to let through and what not to let through. The Unconscious is one country (as it were). Consciousness is another. There is a dividing border between them and a guard that monitors what can and what can not go from the Unconscious into Consciousness. Freud called this guard, the Super-Ego, of consciousness. In his voluminous writings, there are two places I can find where he drew a little figure to illustrate this idea.
In this picture Freud distinguishes between the repressed part of the Id and the full Unconscious. "And the ego is that part of the Id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world through the medium of Pcpt.-Cs; in a sense it is an extension of the surface-differentiation" (Freud, 1960, pp. 18-19). From the diagram and this quote we see that Freud saw the mind as having levels — a surface that interfaces with the world and a series of deeper levels more and more distant from it. There is the world, then there is Perception and Consciousness, then the Ego, then the repressed Id, and, finally, the deeper levels of the Id.
The point for us here is not to get the exact details correct but to understand the general, overall concept. Freud himself did not put these diagrams forward as having any special authority and wrote that "the form chosen has no pretensions to any special applicability, but is merely intended to serve for purposes of exposition" (p. 18). Further, Freud is known to have modified his theory again and again over his life, and I do not think he ever came up with a model that he felt was completely satisfactory.
In this second picture, the super-ego is shown and also another part of the mind, the Preconscious (the Preconscious consists of experiences that are not now conscious but could easily be made so by a shift of attention). In addition, the shape of the figure is elongated compared with the Figure 52. Again, the figure itself should be taken with a grain of salt. To quote from the accompanying text:
... It is certainly hard to say to-day how far the drawing is correct. In one respect it is undoubtedly not. The space occupied by the unconscious id ought to have been incomparably greater than that of the ego or the preconsicous. I must ask you to correct it in your thoughts. And here is another warning, to conclude these remarks. ... In thinking of this division of the personality into an ego, a super-ego and an id, you will not, of course, have pictured sharp frontiers like the artificial ones drawn in political geography. We cannot do justice to the characteristics of the mind by linear outlines like those in a drawing or in primitive painting, but rather by areas of colour melting into one another as they are presented by modern artists. After making the separation we must allow what we have separated to merge together once more. You must not judge too harshly a first attempt at giving a pictorial representation of something so intangible as psychical processes. ... It is easy to imagine, too, that certain mystical practices may succeed in upsetting the normal relations between the different regions of the mind, so that, for instance, perception may be able to grasp happenings in the depths of the ego and in the id which were otherwise inaccessible to it. (1965, pp. 98-99)
Freud was very concerned about being perceived as a mystic. He thought of himself as a scientist and went to great lengths to present evidence for his view and his model. He viewed himself as having made a great scientific discovery and always hoped to receive a Nobel prize in biology for it. Towards the end of his life, when he received notice that he had won the prestigious Goethe prize for literature, he was upset. He never received the Nobel prize.
In spite of Freud's caveats to the above drawings, he did think they gave a general indication of the structure of the minds of his patients (and of all of us). He was not just coming out with fantastic images from his Imagination. He was drawing a model of what he had discovered. How did he know that there was in the Unconscious of his patients? This is a complex subject but, suffice it to say, that first he used hypnosis and then he developed his own method he called Free Association. The patient would start with, say, an image from a dream and then say whatever came into his or her mind.
Why a dream? Because Freud thought that, at night, the guard watching the door between the two realms is weakened even if he does not sleep altogether. To quote Freud,
Thus the censorship between the Ucs. and the Pcs .... deserves to be recognized and respected as the watchman of our mental health. Must we not regard it, however, as an act of carelessness on the part of that watchman that it relaxes its activities during the night, allows the suppressed impulses in the Ucs. to find expression, and makes it possible for hallucinatory regression to occur once more? I think not. For even though this critical watchman goes to rest — and we have proof that its slumbers are not deep — it also shuts the door upon the power of movement. — No matter what impulses from the normally inhibited Ucs. may prance upon the stage, we need feel no concern; they remain harmless, since they are unable to set in motion the motor apparatus by which alone they might modify the external world. The state of sleep guarantees the security of the citadel that must be guarded .... gateway to the power of movement stands open. When this is so the Watchman is overpowered, ... (pp. 606-7)
Freud found, or thought he found, that these associations always led back to sexual themes from childhood. Even though it was seen as shocking in his day (and probably it still is), Freud stuck to his guns that childhood sexual and aggressive fantasies, and especially those in relation to ones parents, are at the heart of what is repressed. Freud saw clearly, or thought he saw clearly, that his patients could not not tolerate these feelings and impulses and images in their conscious minds, and so they were repressed into the Unconscious.
When Freud looked at and listened to his patients, he pictured their minds as having various level. He was speaking with the part that was conscious, but there was a part behind this Consciousness, a part deeper than it, and this was the repressed part of the Unconscious. And deeper than that was a level of the Unconscious that was a place that was "incomparably greater" than the Ego. In another place he said that the dream images only take us so deep into the Unconscious and the extent of the Unconscious is vast and mysterious. This deep and mysterious area is separated from Consciousness by a barrier or border that, even though it is not a "sharp frontier," is still thought of as a border or frontier. And the Super-ego watches over this border and guards Consciousness from eruptions from the depths of the Unconscious.
I would like to give my rough attempt to draw what Freud was trying to get at.
In Figure 55, the outer circle has four parts — Primitive Imagery (like dreams, illusions fantasies, and hallucinations); Childish Thoughts (delusions, irrational believes based on wishes, etc.); Childish Emotions ("me, me, me"!); and Childish Valuations (of Good and Bad, Right and Wrong). As Freud comments, these come out of the unconscious, out of the instincts, but their roots are beyond our understanding. We see the effects — for example, the dreams of a male and female angel — where it comes from in the deeper regions of the unconscious, we can only guess. The black lines represent borders between the regions, and there is a little "gate" through which material may pass.
The Ego level of the psyche is further from the core. It is separated from the repressed level which, itself, is separated from the deeper levels of the unconscious. However material can pass back and forth between the levels. There are little guards stationed at the gates to determine what material can and can not go through the frontiers. The Ego has four levels also. They are Creative Imagination and Planning which includes Memory (as opposed to childish fantasy); Rational, Problem Oriented, and Realistic Trial and Error Thinking (as opposed to irrational and unexamined thoughts); Adult Emotions and Feelings (where there is an element of self-control); and Adult Valuations (as opposed to "I want it, so it's good! I want it now! I have to have it now! Anything that stands in my way is bad!")
This outer layer is the layer in closest contact with the world. What it receives from the senses can flow into the ego and is also influenced by what lies within. The ego stands between the unconscious and outer reality and mediates between them, assuming it is strong and functioning properly. The different regions of our perceptual world — represented by the different colors — are vision, hearing (see Figure 52), touch, and whatever else is left over (taste, smell, balance, or however we divide).
I think the reader will see what I am getting at. I have mandalaized Freud's drawings. I see my rendition, not as my own creation, but as a better image of what Freud was getting at. I leave it to the reader to decide, not only how much I have changed, but how much or how little I have distorted Freud's intention to a point where he might have rejected the drawings as mine and not his.
Now where did Freud "see" this mandala? He did not say he had a vision of what Eden was like or of some place in the distant past. He did not say he saw it in Jerusalem and that a building based on his visionary ground plan should be built. He did not say he had it a vision of how some future building or city would or should appear one day. And he did not say that he saw it up in the heavens or in some spiritual space. Rather he said that he had a vision of what was inside his patients (and by extension, inside himself and all of us).
The mandala that had moved from the distant past (Eden) to the desert wilderness, to Jerusalem, to the banks of the River Kvar in Babylon, to the future, and then to the furthest reaches of the heavens, visited by a few meditative souls on a heavenly journey, now came back to earth and planted itself firmly inside the Austrian patients of an Austrian doctor.
He saw the same unknown and unknowable center that produced our religious images and our dreams and deepest wishes and fantasies and thoughts. He saw the same circles and levels and contacts between the levels. He saw the same fears of the innermost parts and the dangers of going too deep, too quickly. And he saw the same ordinary reality and how it was separated from the deepest part, the part that felt most sacred and most frightening to his patients. And he felt that their cure lay in reaching deep into this part that felt divine and infinite to the patients and to understand it.
Psychotherapy, under this portrayal, is essentially a religious (or a meditative) process (and at times a religion) in which the therapist functions as a priest who brings the patient into a relation with the unconscious and unfathomable deity within in a structured, almost ritualistic way, that allows the patient to come to good terms with the deity and thereby be healed.
Why do I say that the unconscious, instinctual impulses can be taken as a deity? It is because Freud, himself, saw it this way. What is God for Freud? It is simply a distorted image of the father projected out. An image of an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present being resides deep in the Unconscious, and this is the childlike memory of the father. Not only that, deep within the patient is a memory of what Freud called the Primal Scene, that is, a memory or fantasy of the parents having sexual intercourse. This image is repressed deep within the Unconscious, but it, essentially the source of the images of the mating gods as discussed in my main paper on the Jewish mandalas (link above).
To put this another way, when Freud and Freudians turn their analytic gaze at such people as the prophet Ezekiel and imagine them as patients, they take what the prophets experience as visions as just so much material for analysis. These visions are taken as waking dreams or hallucinations which are understood as compromises. Impulses and childhood memories and childhood images stemming from the deepest levels of the Unconscious are trying to come out, but the Super-ego does not want to admit them to consciousness, as they contradict the sensibilities of the Ego. However the impulses are so strong that they threaten to crash through into consciousness, and so the Super-ego allows them to go through, but only a in a distorted form. The unconscious material has to do with Father and Mother in their most powerful and dramatic and emotional forms, as they would have appeared to an infant or to a six year old. These feelings and impulses and impressions burst through into consciousness but in the form of a powerful, god-like figure on a chariot in the sky, or in the center of the center of square (the square being interpreted, from a Freudian point of view, as something like the womb or the vagina of the mother.
Seeing the mandala imagery as internal to the minds of humans is not altogether an invention (or discovery) of Freud. Consider the following (quoted in Luzzato, un-numbered introductory page):
Ezekiel said to the Holy One blessed-be-He: "Master of the World: We are now in exile, and You tell me to go and inform the Jewish People about the plan of the Temple? 'Write it before their eyes, and they will guard all its forms and all its laws and do them.' How can they 'do them'? Leave them until they go out of exile, and then I will tell them." The Holy One blessed-be-He said to Ezekiel: "Just because My children are in exile, does that mean the building of My House should be halted? Studying the plan of the Temple in the Torah is as great as actually building it. Go and tell them to make it their business to study the form of the Temple as explained in the Torah. As their reward for this study, I will give them credit as if they are actually building the Temple."(Midrash Tanchuma, Tzav #14)
So I venture the following developmental steps. The gods of the mandala are experienced outside, in nature, and a building is made to house them and to protect them from us and us from them. As happens, the physical building is destroyed, and the deity and its building is now experienced up in heaven or some such far away place. Alternatively it may be experienced as way in the past (as in the Eden story) or as something that will become real in the distant future (as in Ezekiel's vision of the future temple). But, at some point, possibly due to a skepticism flowing from an infatuation with the scientific method, the whole idea is seen as corrupt and infantile and is discarded. However, since these images lie deep within us and can not be uprooted completely, they pop up again. But how can they pop up for a person who believes in the pure materiality of nature (including the heavens)? It is seen as within us. Not within our bodies which are also material and subject to the laws described by science, but within our minds. The images are seen as having originally been within ourselves, powerful and disturbing memories from our youths, that were not acceptable to our own conscious minds and so are projected out into nature and dealt with out there. Now the projections are taken back.
The same imagery that disappeared, now has popped up in the mind of Freud. Psychology is the latest example of the Jewish mandala. It has the same mystery and the same power and the same fascination for psychologists who see it this way (and not all do), as the Tabernacle and Temple and Eden had for traditional Jews. It is not surprising that Freud compared himself with Moses and thought of Jung as Aaron. He felt he had a message to spread to humanity and that Jung would be his mouthpiece.
I have only given a bare outline of this view, that psychology is the latest heir to the mandala phenomenology. One problem is that the mandala given by Freud is rudimentary. In another paper I hope to present much more material from Freud and from the Freudians to show how the "vision" of Freud became changed and mandalaized more and more. For example, Freudians have written books on the concept of border. Every aspect of Freud's image was doctored with: modified, discarded, elaborated, and so on. For example, Jung rejected the idea that the God image was a cover image for the memory of the biological father. He thought that, deep in the deepest layers of the Unconscious, lay something that is out of our control and essentially not us. This is what we call God. It is not a mere memory or residue from childhood. It is an independent force, separate from the Ego. And so on.
In psychology, the mandala is to be viewed as a picture of the personality or, at least, of part of the personality. Seeing it this way is to see it more as I imagine the Tibetans see it. The psychological process, as a process of coming to terms with the unconscious and its deeper levels, is conceived more as a meditative process of particular individuals and not so much as a collective process of the society. It is an inner process whose path is often lonely and confusing and the end unclear and frightening as opposed to the pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the days of the Temple when the road was clear and the end was known and contained.
There is something more that needs to be added, even in this short presentation of the material. There is a very important feature of Freud's view that needs to be mentioned and that, I think, has significant implications. For those familiar with psychoanalysis, Freud's view of the Id (the Unconscious) is well-known. He feels it is a problem, something to be overcome. He feels he discovered it, but, like an uncharted and dangerous continent, he hopes that one day it will be completely civilized. The famous quote is, "Where id was, there ego shall be. It is a work of culture — not unlike the draining of the Zuider Zee" (Freud, 1965, p. 100).
How should we understand this position? To explain my view, I need to back up a moment. Imagine the time of Ezekiel. The Temple has been plundered and destroyed. Jerusalem itself has been sacked. The Hebrew people (including the priest Ezekiel) are in captivity in Babylon, slaves. They had not dreamed this could happen. They had done nothing wrong. They had entered into an agreement with the Lord, the King of Heaven and Earth, and had lived up to their side. They always assumed they would be cared for and protected. Now, in Babylon, they have time to think about the situation. How did this happen? The answer would have been clear. The evil Nebuchadnezer, King of Babylon was to blame. Surely no other explanation is needed. Nebuchadnezer was an evil and powerful man. He and his people are the problem. But more reflective souls would think to themselves, "Sure Nebuchadnezer is evil and powerful, but how could he have succeeded against us unless the Lord who is mightier than all earthly kings, allowed him to win or even sent him to us and had him destroy us. Maybe Nebuchadnezer was a tool of the Lord. But why? What did we do wrong?"
This would not have been an easy thought to express out loud. For many people it is easier to blame others for their problems then to examine themselves. But, I imagine, men like Ezekiel reflecting about the errors of themselves and their people. Ezekiel's vision is very very clear about the responsibility for the woes of the children of Israel. It is because the center of the Temple had been violated. There were very strict rules for protecting the Lord who lived in the center of the Temple. When Aaron's own sons violated these rules, even from the highest motives, they were instantly destroyed by the Lord with fire. Now too, Ezekiel is told, the Lord has visited this harshness on the whole people because His home had been disrespected. Though a harsh verdict, Ezekiel is able to give the people hope, because he can tell them where they went wrong and what they can do to correct the situation. There will be a future Temple, and, in it, the sanctity of the innermost home of the Lord must be scrupulously respected.
How is this relevant to Freud? I think it translates directly. If we think of the deeper realms of the Unconscious as parallel to the innermost part of the Temple and as the home of the deity, then we can understand Freud's desire to drain the id and his attempt to do so as a violation of the home of the deity. From this angle, Freud is seen as showing a fundamental disrespect towards the contents of the Unconscious, of what we are not conscious of, of what we do not know and can not control. In feeling he could drain the Unconscious and replace it with the Ego, he, in essence but himself and humans, in general, in the place of the deity. He put himself at the center of the universe. This is not just the violation of a religious prohibition, but it is an expression of arrogance and fear and ignorance. It is an error about our place in the universe. Jung criticized Freud's attitude towards the Unconscious in just this way. It is not my idea.
Now we may imagine a modern Ezekiel reflecting, not on the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezer and the Babylonians, but on the destruction of the Jewish people and religious centers by Hitler and the Germans. Many survivors would not want to hear anything about the cause of this modern Holocaust except to blame the evilness of the dictator and of the German people. A few might think to wonder if the Jewish people did anything to bring this on themselves. True, this is similar to blaming the rape victim for the rape, but psychologists, especially, tend to think along these lines. And we might imagine a modern Ezekiel who looked at the latest version of the Jewish mandala, the one proposed by Freud, and wonder if Freud's violation of the center was symptomatic of the attitude of the European Jew. Perhaps there was a certain arrogance, an egocentricity, that forgot the depths and felt it could master everything and that the forces deep within somehow engineered a collapse of the Ego structure much as it did in ancient Jerusalem, Hitler being an instrument of the divine hand much as Nebuchadnezer was in ancient times. Though this would be a painful theory, it would have the virtue of giving Jews (and all people) a blueprint for preventing this type of disaster in the future. This would not be a fake humility or a humility based on the hatred of arrogance in general. It would be deep and genuine awareness of the limitation of our abilities and knowledge and an awareness of how there is another house within ours that we must tend. Freud saw this house inside us, but, inside or out, it does not allow disrespect for long. Psychology, as a guardian of the inner sanctum, has a rough job in a day of iPhones and Hollywood and the curing of diseases and GPS guided missles and flights of our spaceships to outer the furthest regions of outer space.
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