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Psychology of Yoga and Meditation

ONE LAST POSTSCRIPT. I’d like to direct your attention once again to the invocation:

“Om, all-knowing one, fulfill (my desire), fulfill (my desire); come forward, come forward; be round, and round (the Mandala).”

One should keep this notion in mind. It is important precisely for Western and very often feminine symbolism.

It has become apparent in the West, in complete contrast to the East, that women in particular elaborate such symbols in their unconscious.

In the East this occurs only exceptionally.

These symbols of roundness, the mandalas that you find in the East, are produced in Buddhism exclusively by men.

The women have fundamentally nothing to do with it.

On the other hand, in the matriarchal South, in the area south of Hyderabad, it’s the prerogative of women.

I have seen quite new mandalas, of modern vintage, drawn on that very day. In the great temple of Madurai I observed a woman at

She could not understand why a man might take it up: in her view only women know all the many significances involved in how the mandala comes into being.

But that is the matriarchal South.

In the North you can still find these matriarchal traces, but not by a long stretch to such a degree, because the North has been strongly penetrated by Islam following the Mogul invasion.

But in the South it is practiced much more. Sadly, I was not able to research this in more depth. One cannot ask the women what they are doing.

They are astounded if a man asks them about it, and they immediately fall silent, horrified.

There is an exception in the South, where one can penetrate into this mandala symbolism, and where men in fact still practice it.

That’s more to the North, in the region of Bengal, where one finds quite a few followers of a certain yoga practice more closely linked to Tibetan yoga, namely Tantric yoga, laya yoga or kundalini yoga.

There, such mandalas are also crafted by men.

These mandalas-the circle or “rotundum,” as it was called by mediaeval philosophers-are ancient in origin also for us here.

Mostly the mediaeval texts refer to Plato’s Timaeus: the depiction of the round soul of the world, and at the same time the soul of the individual: in this respect it is a microcosm related to a macrocosm.

For the medieval philosopher, spiritual man is a microcosm.

Thus, the individual human soul is of the same roundness as the soul of all-being that surrounds the entire universe.

The Platonic notion is identical to the Eastern philosophy of the atman or purusha who surrounds the whole world two hand-widths high and yet still lives in the heart of every individual person; he is the size of a thumb, a thumbling.

A small human figure, tiny, situated in the heart of everyone but at the same time spanning the whole world, two hand-widths high, yet extending beyond it.

The idea of roundness, however, is not conceived of as being present from the beginning, but is to be created by the yogi.

In the exercise he must somehow call forth this roundness through his efforts. Hence this invocation: “be round and round.”

This is a magical process, which should cause his spiritual personality to become round and complete, as round as the entire cosmos.

Through this invocation he seeks to place himself at one with that being containing within itself the entire cosmos as a transpersonal atman.

His hope is that, through this rounding, he will become identical with the spirit of the world or the being of the world.

This idea was prevalent also in our medieval philosophy. However, it didn’t have a chance.

It always had to be careful in the face of the church, and then it went to ground after being suppressed by the scientific worldview.

And hermetic philosophy itself is not without blame in this.

They practiced chemistry in their own way and sought the soul of the world in matter, thereby becoming the fathers of modern science.

So therefore scientific instincts were privileged, and in the process philosophical ideas went underground.

You’ll find the transition point in the writings of Theophrastus Paracelsus.

The ancient world that still held full sway fell away from the new world, which was preparing itself to blossom.

Both things can be seen quite clearly in his work still yoked together.

The sixteenth-century ascent into a purely intellectual Western philosophy no longer had room for a way of salvation or doctrine of redemption unless it came via knowledge.

At that parting of the ways philosophy separated itself completely from the person as a whole. Henceforward one philosophized with the head.

Whereas the ancients philosophized with the whole person.

From then on they philosophized only about the person, not out of the person.

Nonetheless our text shows how they are philosophizing here from the  whole person, and how a transformation of the whole person is the goal of this magical procedure.

These days we are blinded by the fear of superstition. Magic is objectionable to us.

If someone uses the word “magic,” it is construed as being opposite to science. But “magical” simply means “psychological.”

This concept was unknown in earlier centuries, so that what was psychological in nature was magic. This can still be seen in the East.

The mandala figures are also taken as magic signs and are handled with awe because one does not know what these things might do.

I have also known Europeans who have immersed themselves in all this for a long time, for whom the unconscious has been constellated through these images, and who have developed a remarkable fear of them:

“One must not display this sort of thing; some of the drawings are quite evil.” And these are only simple geometric drawings.

If a European bothers with it long enough, he is convinced that these things  have an unpleasant or dangerous effect.

Then he can go a bit crazy or even a bit too crazy. There are some well-known cases of this.

And it’s caused by one thing only: that people have no psychological capacity to grasp such things and process them.

They cannot find a formula for understanding it with the Western mind-set, being somehow unable to connect it to their framework of knowledge.

Initially it’s rejected as pure madness, crazy superstition.

Then finally the moment comes when madness takes hold and they are in its grip.

Just as many people have turned “black” beneath the skin in the tropics-the well-known phenomenon of “going black.”

If European man has lived long enough in those regions, the primitive man wakens in him.

This has a colossal power of suggestion, because this primitive man is whole.

So these days, we in the West are rather at a disadvantage, because we have completely separated the head from the whole person.

We are not doing things any differently here today.

But from the text you may be able to feel for yourself that it is speaking not only of the intellect but of the whole person.

We are as good as done with phase II.

I had just mentioned that this response of the devatas, who to some degree give the dogmatically correct reply, does not apply under all circumstances.

For there remains the chance that the person who remains in this visual world might hear such devatas saying something to him that just might not be in line with dogma.

Hence the safety measures: the pupil of yoga is urged to memorize the response of the devatas so that when they start to talk he can immediately say:

“Aha, this is what you want to say, then!”

With the formula he has learned by heart, he can drown out what the devatas would preach.

Quite similar things occur in church history, for instance, there is a work by Saint Athanasius, the teacher of Saint Anthony, where he writes about the inner life of man in the desert.

There he describes the sort of phenomena that can manifest for these hermits.

These are vivifications, similarly animate figures, who unlike those in the East do not arise from meditations but out of solitude, hallucinations in solitude.

If one is alone for a long period, the possibility arises that one animates solitude.

Likewise if one is very tired or in danger. In more primitive countries such active animations can arise for normal Europeans who are otherwise completely normal spiritually.

These reveal themselves as voices or visions or both. They arise naturally, not having been stimulated by any sort of exercise.

So, for these hermits who dwell in the desert, such solitary manifestations in the form of various figures are not always desirable. Athanasius describes the phenomena that arise, e.g., the devil; one hears them reading the Bible or singing pious hymns.

They sit around and say all sorts of things, the worst being that they tell one the truth. He then gives examples of the truths revealed by the devils to the hermit; astonishingly true things emerge from them that equal our contemporary knowledge.

He says that this is the most dangerous thing because by this means the hermit is compelled to believe that it’s not the devil speaking to him but an angel of God.

Then Athanasius advises how one should behave towards these figures, according to church doctrine.

You must imagine that such exercises are not undertaken in just any old city, but by lamas situated

in a monastery, or who more likely have sought out another meditation place linked to a monastery, near some high lake in the mountains of Tibet, 4000 or so meters above sea level.

There on the shore, between lake and mountain, the lama builds his hut and spends years meditating in absolute, deathly silent solitude.

You may easily imagine what sort of things can happen in such stark isolation.

Probably  seeing no human being for months at a time, or maybe some shepherd or a woman who brings him food. Perhaps he doesn’t even see them, enclosed as he is in the hut during such meditations.

Such figures operate on a completely different level than what we are talking about here, where the instructions become uncommonly easy to understand. ~Carl Jung, Psychology Yoga and Meditation, Page 114-118