Psychology and Religion

You will now surely ask: but how in the world does science come to such conclusions? There are two paths to this end.

The first is the historical path. If we study, for instance, the introspective method of medieval natural philosophy,

we find that it repeatedly used the circle, and in most cases the circle divided into four parts, to symbolize

the central principle, obviously borrowing this idea from the ecclesiastical allegory of the quaternity as found in

numerous representations of the Rex gloriae with the four evangelists, the four rivers of paradise, the four winds,

and so on.

The second is the path of empirical psychology. At a certain stage in the psychological treatment patients

sometimes paint or draw such mandalas spontaneously, either because they dream them or because they suddenly

feel the need to compensate the confusion in their psyches through representations of an ordered unity.

For instance, our Swiss national saint, the Blessed Brother Nicholas of Flue, went through a process of this

kind, and the result can still be seen in the picture of the Trinity in the parish church at Sachseln. With the help of

circular drawings in a little book by a German mystic, he succeeded in assimilating the great and terrifying vision that

had shaken him to the depths.

But what has our empirical psychology to say about the Buddha sitting in the lotus? Logically one would expect

Christ to be enthroned in the centre of our Western mandalas.

This was once true, as we have already said, in the Middle Ages. But our modern mandalas, spontaneously

produced by numerous individuals without any preconceived ideas or suggestions from outside, contain no Christ-

figure, still less a Buddha in the lotus position.

On the other hand, the equal-armed Greek cross, or even an unmistakable imitation of the swastika, is to be

found fairly often. I cannot discuss this strange fact here, though in itself it is of the greatest interest.

Between the Christian and the Buddhist mandala there is a subtle but enormous difference. The Christian

during contemplation would never say “I am Christ,” but will confess with Paul: “Not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal.

2 : 20).

Our sutra, however, says: “Thou wilt know that thou art the Buddha.”

At bottom the two confessions are identical, in that the Buddhist only attains this knowledge when he is anatman,

“without self.”

But there is an immeasurable difference in the formulation.

The Christian attains his end in Christ, the Buddhist knows he is the Buddha.

The Christian gets out of the transitory and ego-bound world of consciousness, but the Buddhist still reposes

on the eternal ground of his inner nature, whose oneness with Deity, or with universal Being, is confirmed in other

Indian testimonies. Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Pages 574-575 Para 946-949.