Sunday, July 22, 2007
The archetypal image
Symbols in Icons, emerging from archetypal images.
My work on religious symbolism arose out of my interest in the ideas of the psychologist Carl Jung, and his understanding of the relation between what he called the integration process, and the structure of the Mandala as understood in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions of yogic meditation. Jung found that the form of the Mandala is universal, but that the contemplative traditions that are to be found both in Christianity and in Eastern Faith systems like Buddhism and Hinduism, had given the Mandala a meaning which related to an inner process of transformation. This process is known both to the monastic branches of Christian spirituality, going back to the Desert Fathers, but also to the yogic teachers of India. Jung, and a group of friends and collaborators like Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Heinrich Zimmer, Giuseppe Tucci, and others, also showed that this deep knowledge of the way that the unconscious functions was known to human beings from the very dawn of consciousness, as it is the process whereby unconscious images are made conscious in what we understand as the evolution of civilizations. The symbols that are associated by the iconic structure is called a “Mandala” (Sanskrit word meaning simply circle), brings together unconscious material, and conscious understanding, or interpretation. But there always remains in the true icon, elements of the unconscious, which are very ambivalent.