is a creative process that combines the symbolic art of the mandala with the practice of art journaling.
For creative folk who find themselves seeking greater meaning + deeper connections in a shifting landscape.
You don’t need to be an experienced creative to practice Mandala Magic. You don’t even need to be ‘good’ at making art or have any previous training. Mandala Magic teaches you how to begin and even what to make.
What’s on your mind, in your heart and singing from your soul? Use the Mandala Magic process to help reveal, express and discover more about your life and the world around you, whatever you’re facing.
Discover how to develop your personal symbolic vocabulary and find meaning in unique pages that reflect your individual creative voice, everyday lived experience and the collective issues facing our times.
Read on for these topics:
What is Mandala Magic?
What Is a Mandala?
What is Art Journaling?
Jung + Mandala Symbolism
Mandala as Self
What is the Imaginal Realm?
Creative Practice Revolution
Patterns + Sacred Geometry
The Great Round of Mandala
What is Mandala Magic?
Mandala Magic is a transformational creative process where you work with the symbolism of the mandala combined with different methods of art journaling to ignite your creative imagination, develop a regular creative practice and connect more deeply to your life and the world around you.
What is a Mandala?
Mandala is a Sanskrit word, often given the basic definition in the English language as circle but which is more comprehensively understood as a symbol linked with spiritual practice.
As a geometric form, the mandala can be found in each of the major religions of the contemporary world to represent an aspect of their corresponding cosmologies.
This sacred circle can also be identified as a focus for ritual-based practice in many ancient and indigenous traditions across the world.
Most commonly, a mandala is a circular (sometimes squared) form, with a radial design from a fixed central point.
In the twentieth century, the Swiss psychiatrist, Dr Carl Jung, was instrumental in introducing the understanding of the mandala as a transformational psychological symbol.
In Mandala Magic, the mandala is a symbol that serves as a container of essence – a portal to the imaginal realm, a gateway to your personal creative vocabulary and a focus for your personal creative practice.
It is both a philosophical matter and a design principle: a meaningful symbol and a structural container.
What is Art Journaling?
The practice of art journaling is a tool you use when you wish to create with intention.
Most art journal pages combine words and images and as part of the Mandala Magic process, are triggered by a specific prompt or follow a chosen line of inquiry.
Combining visual imagery with text, you are able to communicate complex subject matter and develop a unique symbolic language.
You might use the Mandala Magic art and journaling process for a variety of purposes, including (but not limited to):
- documenting significant personal/familial events
- responding to political and cultural matters
- igniting emotional, behavioural and environmental shifts
- creating culture through storytelling
- as a nature diary/engaging with your local area
- becoming more self-aware
- improving your self-acceptance
- providing inspiration and motivation for yourself and others
- observing natural cycles inside and outside of yourself
- for personal – and ancestral – healing
- as a spiritual and devotional practice
- to invite shifts in consciousness (e.g. as a meditative practice)
- for the unrivalled joy of pure, unfettered creative expression!
Getting Started is Easy
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Visit the Student Gallery to check out mandala art submitted by Mandala Magic students of varying experience.
C.G. Jung and Mandala Symbolism
Mandala Magic has its roots in the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) and his theories of psychology and the collective unconscious.
According to Jung, there is an aspect of the human psyche that spontaneously draws upon universal symbols shared across time and cultures and these symbols reside in what he called the collective unconscious.
The contents are separate from an individual’s personal unconscious because they have never been experienced, forgotten, or repressed by the individual. Rather, they have always existed, been present and shared across the whole of human existence.
Jung identified the mandala as one such phenomenon, identifying similarities between the circular paintings created over many years by himself and his patients and the mystical diagrams of Tibetan Buddhism and Tantric Hinduism (which explains his debatable choice of the Sanskrit word mandala to describe them.)
He also recognised that this type of symbol is not restricted to any particular culture or era and is distributed across sacred practices, ages and continents, probably since prehistoric times.
Across all of these images, Jung concurred that mandala symbolism represented a particular type of image generated to illustrate the coming to consciousness of the self.
In Jungian psychology, the self represents the totality of the psyche, and recognition of it is brought about by the integration of the conscious and unconscious contents. It contains both ego (personal conscious); shadow (personal unconscious) and the collective unconscious.
For Jung, the mandala was central to the development of his psychological theories. He explains that he was “compelled” to undergo his self-titled confrontation with the unconscious,
“… without a notion of where it would lead… When I began drawing the mandalas, however, I saw that everything, all the paths I had been following, all the steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point – namely, to the midpoint. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths.”
According to Jung, the mandala – like the self – was both the centre and container of all.
Mandala as Self
In Mandala Magic, the mandala is essentially a relationship between a centre point and its circumference. See this principle in action when you join the Mandala Magic School and get started with our signature course for beginners, Circle Magic.
Jung was able to relate the progress of our psychological development to this principle and much of his work focused on what he termed individuation – the realisation of self.
By undertaking this process the individual was responding to an innate longing within the psyche to reach a point of actualisation – of becoming more and more oneself.
For Jung, this notion of self was deeply rooted in his own religiosity and the similarities he found in the practices of medieval alchemists and the religious traditions of the East which point towards an interior God-image within each of us.
The mandala as a sacred symbol was seen by Jung to perfectly represent this concept – a coming to consciousness of the inherently mystical aspect of being human, its various images reflecting the relationship between conscious and unconscious, ego and self.
This idea has attracted many types of folk to the works of Jung in the last hundred years, including of course the Jungian school of psychotherapists as well as the New Age community and self-help enthusiasts, alongside modern-day alchemists, theologians and mystics.
At the Mandala Magic School, we wish to develop the idea of self beyond Jung’s twentieth-century version – where the focus was on the individual and their interior psychic and spiritual life – towards a wider ecology, in keeping with the demands of the early twenty-first century.
This wider field of self is, as James Hillman, author of Revisioning Psychology, puts it, an interiorisation of community: the community forming not only relationships between humans but also their environment – trees, rivers, forests, buildings – and the imaginal realm.
In this way, the centre and container of the mandala describe a deeper, more connected and inclusive set of relationships – a true ecosystem.
What is the Imaginal Realm?
Where does the image live before it arrives in your mind or on the page? That’s the imaginal realm, a term first coined by French philosopher and theologian, Henry Corbin (1903-1978.)
The imaginal realm or mundus imaginalis is a subtle plane of reality once familiar to many humans, whether through their spiritual belief systems, philosophical studies or simply their engagement with everyday life.
In the contemporary cultures of today, aside from those studying or practicing archetypal psychology, it is a realm more often relegated to fiction and fantasy. (For Tolkein, this was the realm of Faerie.)
It is a world that exists alongside the physical world, but by its very nature is hard to describe using our everyday language.
It is the realm between the physical and the conceptual, the empirical and the abstract.
Carl Jung called this place the collective unconscious, the Celtic belief system refers to it as the Otherworld and other cultures as the Dreamtime.
This imaginal realm is home to the archetypes – it is where the gods reside and the place our myths exist and emerge from. It is also home to our ancestors.
It’s the ineffable layer of reality that speaks directly to your soul and delivers insight by way of the symbolic language of images, dreams, visions and creative inspiration.
Disconnected from the imaginal – your creative source – your life can become devoid of meaning.
Your Mandala Magic practice invites you to forge deeper connections with the imaginal realm and establish a stronger relationship with your innate creativity.
This relationship takes you beyond knowing only your inner being and offers you a sense of purpose.
When you are connected to this layer of reality, you are in the flow, drinking from the well of source, feeling the force and privy to synchronicity: you are living your full, curious, creative life.
From this place, you can engage in right relationship with the anima mundi, the world soul.
“The soul of our civilization depends upon the civilization of our soul. The imagination of our culture calls for a culture of the imagination.” James Hillman, author of Revisioning Psychology
Universal Patterns, Sacred Geometry and Symbolism
You may find yourself inexplicably attracted to the mandala images, circular forms and radial patterns you experience in art, nature and your everyday surroundings.
These patterns exist across all aspects of our existence and for many, it remains an unexplained attraction.
Across the span of human existence, each age develops labels and explanations for such patterns, in keeping with the prevailing religious, philosophic and scientific beliefs of the time.
The mandala images we are familiar with have appeared in all of the major religions across written history and spiritual meaning is both expressed through and sought in these patterns in this way to this day.
For some practitioners, the teachings of sacred geometry continue to provide a fascinating subject matter for their mandala practice.
The art of sacred geometry is firmly rooted in the school of thought developed by the Pythagoreans, who developed their understanding of the world through a lens that unified mathematics, philosophy and the experiential.
This viewpoint is not unique to the Pythagoreans – with evidence that many ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, may have chosen to examine existential laws through an understanding of similar patterns.
Whether motivated by spiritual, psychological or purely aesthetic enquiry, the nature of the mandala is infused with a symbolic language that continues to speak directly to the soul of creatives across the world.
Working with the mandala as part of your creative practice, whatever your belief system, means that you are directly engaging with symbology.
“A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication (and data processing) is achieved through the use of symbols. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures ideas, or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs.” Wikipedia
In other words, using symbols allows us to make meaning. What that meaning is will vary from person to person, over time, geographies and cultures.
Creative Practice Revolution
We only need look to at the degradation of arts funding in our schools to see that any act of personal creativity is contrary to the dominant material culture of the so-called West or Global North.
Yet creativity is the very life force of being human and so, the Mandala Magic School invites you to take part in a creative revolution.
Revolution, you say? How can making mandalas and writing in an art journal be revolutionary?
A clue can be found if you look at the roots of the word, revolution, meaning to turn around.
Originally applied to the movement of celestial (spherical) bodies in the 14th century, it would take another couple of hundred years before the term revolution would be applied to the ‘overthrow of an established political or social system’.
The action of turning and moving in a circular course that our ancestors identified in the celestial world might indeed be a perfect description of what you do when you work with a mandala.
Using the mandala combined with an art journal, you can establish a regular and adaptable creative practice where you turn over and around all that requires attention, both in your personal life and the wider world.
The engagement of our imagination is vital to our ability to meet the demands of the various crises we find ourselves facing in the early twenty-first century.
“All together, we are changing from a society whose organizing principle is the pyramid or hierarchy to one whose image is a circle. Humans are linked, not ranked. Humans and the environment are linked, not ranked.” – Gloria Steinem
The key to this revolution is in the creative practice itself, for creativity by its nature is action-oriented.
Mandala Magic is an ideal practice for those of us who find ourselves with the urge to make meaning from our creativity, to imagine a way of being in the world that is less dependent on systems of materialism and create what might stand in its stead.
The Great Round of Mandala
The Archetypal Stages of the Great Round of Mandala is a concept developed by art therapist and founder of the MARI® (Mandala Assessment Research Institute), Joan Kellogg.
She developed her studies of Jung’s theories in parallel with her own work as an art therapist to form the basis of significant psychiatric therapy research.
That research resulted in the Great Round of Mandala – an identification of twelve (later, thirteen) different types of mandala that correspond to a particular stage of life cycle development.
Kellogg believed that as we fulfil our potential towards wholeness, we revolve around the stages of the Great Round, meeting our so-called ‘true self’ stage-by-stage.
For five years from 2013 – 2017, the Mandala Magic program followed Kellogg’s cycle of twelve archetypal stages.
Mandala Magic explored well beyond those original sources to bring the concept out of theory and into embodied awareness, incorporating years of independent research, training and experience.
It still informs the process today, especially regarding the construction techniques and forms of the mandala.
I am an Art Therapist and recently became accredited in MARI. I must say that the learning here in your program is on a deeper level and gives a much clearing understanding of the Great Round’s true purpose. – Susan
Process not Product
Mandala Magic is an artful process that combines creative expression and self-inquiry, archetypal symbolism and personal psychology.
It is a practice that sees us use proven long-standing tools to help us connect more fully to our living life by better understanding ourselves and the world we live in.
The emphasis is on the transformational and evolutionary experience, rather than the creation of ‘good’ art. In this way, we set out to develop our art-making skills as a means of serving the process rather than creating art for art’s sake.
The Mandala Magic process is based on a unique blend of creative inquiry, personal intention and artful practice, influenced by archetypal psychology, world mythology, philosophy, and natural science. Feedback from thousands of participants over many years ensures a deeply grounded experience.
In 1990, Julie Gibbons graduated in Communication Studies, specialising in the symbolic art of the Picts of Scotland. Additional subjects covered were visual and audio-visual communication, psychology, social studies, history, aesthetics, linguistics, literature and mass media. She has been teaching Mandala Magic since 2013.
I have been on an inner work journey for years and have organized women’s groups for years. This course is outstanding in combining mind, body and soul inner work. The Mandala Magic course is like being taken on a magical journey if you go within and trust the process. – Linda