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Carl Jung’s Red Book: Mandala as Transformative Integration of the Psyche | Anne Cutri

עודכן: 18 בנוב׳ 2023

Carl Jung’s Red Book and the discovery of the Mandala as Transformative Integration

The recent release of C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus or simply called the Red Book (2009), has

given us glimpses into his process and self-examination that led to his other published writings.

The Red Book included over 400 pages of lovely hand written calligraphic text and 53 beautiful

paintings. When Jung began to be afflicted by an increasing amount of apocalyptic visions in

1913, he started to record them in six black books, which were later transcribed in this artistic

format, in a large red leather folio. By 1917 he had finished most of the initial composition but

would revise it and add commentary until 1930 (Spano, 2013, p. 1, qtd. Furlotti). These visions

came during a period which Jung split from Freud, and World War I was going to take place.

Jung records his active imagination fantasies and paints his own archetypes, mythology and

mandalas as part of a process that not only helped him through a time of personal crisis, it would

fuel his theories on the unconscious, collective conscious, introversion, extraversion, anima and

animus, and others.

Liber Novus and its contents are complex, but would serve as model and tool in his clinical practice, encouraging his patients to try the same techniques (Spano, p. 2) After describing a biographical history leading up to Jung’s experiences that created the Red Book, the focus of this paper, for the purpose of looking at it from an Art Therapeutic lens, will be to examine Jung’s first mandalas. His thoughts leading up to these first mandalas and how he came to understand the mandala as a key to wholeness of the self, will also be examined. As well, how this discipline is applied to practice today. For the sake of clarity Jung’s pursuits have been divided into the three influential categories of religion, psychology and art.

Religious influences -Jung garnered inspiration and wisdom from religion, art and psychology to fuse together many cultures, archetypes and symbols that would guide him in his own personal experimentation. His father was a Swiss Reformed Evangelical minister, and while he would question his father’s claim to actually understand the Jesus Christ he preached (Wehr, p. 9), his Christian roots, would manifest in his active fantasies. A vision when he was 12 would set him free from the legalism of his father’s church and experience a living God. He saw God on His throne unleashing an almighty turd on the cathedral, shattering the roof and smashing the cathedral. Jung felt a sense of bliss and relief, and the experience was the “direct living God, who stands omnipotent and free above the Bible and Church” (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 5). This gave Jung a renewed fervor to read many books about religion and philosophy, though at the same time, keenly aware of two sides of his personality that were creating a dualism inside him. The first personality which he called No. 1 was a Basel school boy, who read novels, while No. 2 pursued religious reflections in solitude and in a state of communion with nature and the cosmos (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 5). This interplay would affect him throughout his life, but when it came to choosing a career, he chose science. One influence and author that would fit nicely with the dualism in Jung was Swedenborg who was a scientist and Christian mystic. Swedenborg wrote in his Journal of Dreams, his vision of Christ, his journey to Heaven and Hell and what he learned from the angels. He also wrote about two levels of the bible, the literal and the spiritual, that a rebirth and new church was coming. Swedenborg engaged in “spirit writing” as described by St. Ignatius of Loyola to “see with the eyes of the imagination the length, breadth and depth of hell” and to experience it with “sensory immediacy” (Shamdasani, p. 22). This symbolic method of spiritual hermeneutics of Swedenborg would not only greatly influence the Black Books, to be later transcribed into the calligraphic text in Liber Novus, but Jung’s reformulation of psychoanalysis (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 27).

Jung was also influenced by the phenomena of spiritualism and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke

Zarathustra (Shamdasani, 2012, pp. 6-7). The structure and style of Liber Novus was strongly

shaped by Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. Jung divided the material into a series of books comprised of

short chapters, but Zarathustra proclaimed the death of God, while Liber Novus depicts the birth

of God in the soul. Similarly, Dante’s Comedia is structured, and there are indications that Jung

read it, but Dante’s decent into Hell utilized an established cosmology, whereas Jung’s descent to

Hell in Liber Novus, attempts to shape an individual cosmology (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 31). One

of Jung’s visions ended up being an apocalyptic prophecy:

I saw a monstrous flood covering all the northern and low-lying lands between the North

Sea and the Alps. When it came up to Switzerland I saw the mountains grew higher and

higher to protect our country. I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw

the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of

uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood. (Wehr, 1986, qtd. Jung).

Just 10 months later this vision became a striking reality –World War I started. Not all Jung’s

visions were apocalyptic, some would give him a sense of hope. During this collective and personal crisis, Jung was inundated with more apocalyptic visions, some striking him in the middle of a daily routine. It was writing these visions down and putting them into imagery, which he attempted to help himself, through what he thought was a psychosis (Spano, 2012, p. 3).

Jung developed the technique of active imagination as a way of gaining control over the

flood of images that threatened to overtake him. The technique involves allowing the self to drop into a twilight state, the state just before going to sleep. Inducing and sustaining this state one can open a dialogue with the figures that emerge, relating to them and integrating them.

Active imaginations in one of the practices Jung used to facilitate the process of individuation

(Spano, 2012, p. 4). To give you an example of this is the active fantasy between Jung, Elijah and Salome. Elijah, an Old Testament prophet, and Salome, the daughter of King Herod who asked him for John the Baptist’s head. This was a strange juxtaposition for Jung, as Salome is seen as a seductress and murderess of an apostle, and Elijah one of the great prophets. When Jung questioned why they were together, Elijah answered they had been together for all eternity. Also disturbing to him was a black snake that followed them around. He didn’t understand it until later-- it was a hero myth; including an old man, a young woman and a snake present.

“Salome is the anima figure, blind because, though connecting the conscious with the unconscious, she does not see the operation of the unconscious. Elijah is the personification of the cognitional element. Salome of the erotic. Elijah the old prophet filled with wisdom” (Jung, 2012, p. 177, notes). Reflecting on his life and career, Jung saw in himself this hero archetype - he had been ambitious, arrogant, successful, but at a price. Living the myth of the young hero, becoming Freud’s heir, no longer suited him, because he saw that he allowed himself to be devoured by the father, by sacrificing his own convictions and ideas (Spano, p. 6).

Psychology - When Jung first became aware of Freud and his research, particularly

Interpretation of Dreams in 1900 (Wehr, p. 29), he was also aware of the criticism from his

colleagues. However, he said that if “what Freud says is the truth, then I am on his side” (Wehr,

p. 32). Thus began a relationship of correspondence and friendship. In their research together

Jung makes clear distinctions between working together and holding an independent point of


Justice toward Freud does not mean, as many fear, unconditional submission to dogma.

One can at the same time quite readily maintain one’s independent point of view. For

example, if I acknowledge the complex-related mechanisms of dreaming and hysteria,

this does not at all mean that I ascribe to infantile sexual trauma the exclusive importance

that Freud seems to give it, nor that I place sexuality so predominantly in the foreground

or attribute to it the psychological universality that Freud postulates—apparently in

response to the powerful role that sexuality does undoubtedly play in the psyche. (Wehr,

qtd. Jung, p. 32)

Though this stance lasted a period of time, while working with Freud, their differences would

inevitably cause them to split company in 1913. Both men suffered greatly from their parting

(Wehr, p. 39). This personal crisis along with the impending outbreak of WWI, spurred the many

dreams and visions had that he recorded in the Black Books.

Prior to breaking away from Freud and colleagues, Jung had published, in two installments, Transformations and Symbols of the Libido, which culminated from a vast library of scholarly works in mythology, folklore and religion. In this book, Jung differentiated between two kinds of thinking. Directed thinking was formal and logical, and, fantasy thinking was passive, associative and imagistic. Transformations and Symbols of the Libido focused on fantasy thinking and the continued presence of mythological themes in dreams and fantasies of contemporary individuals (Shamdasani, 2012, pp.11-13). The time after splitting from Freud was a critical one, because Jung began looking at his own life, and sensed a lack myth when he asked himself, “what is the myth you are living” (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 15)? He then decided to perform his most difficult experiment—on himself.

In 1912, Jung had a series of dreams, which he felt showed the limitation of Freud’s

conceptions of dreams. A friend and colleague Alphonse Maeder had argued that dreams were

not just wish fulfillment, but had a balancing and compensatory function (Shamdasani, 2012, p.

14). While he was engaged in his self-analytic work he continued to develop his theories. In the

Munich Psychoanalytical Congress, in 1913, he spoke of two movements of the libido and hence

two psychological types. Extraversion, in which the subject’s interest was focused toward the

outer world, and introversion in which the subject’s interest was focused inward. That one of

these two personality types would dominate, he determined that in the case of the psychology of

Freud and Adler, it was from the point of view of their dominant type. So the other type, was not

considered. A better psychology was to consider both of these types (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 18).

Soon after this conference, Jung had his waking apocalyptic visions, showing Europe being

devastated by a flood and sea of blood. He began to question his sanity and thought he might be

in a state of psychosis. Yet, in Liber Novus Jung’s account of the fantasy, said an inner voice

told him it would become real (Shamdasani, 2012, p.19). Ten months later, was the outbreak of

the First World War.

For Jung, his primary goals was to free medical psychology from the “reductive causalism” of classical psychoanalysis, and to show that the unconscious extends far beyond the individual. Jung states, “The individual consciousness is only the flower and fruit of a season that grows out of the perennial rhizome under the earth, and it finds itself better attuned to the truth when it takes the existence of the rhizome into account, for the root system is the mother of all” (Wehr, p. 41). This imagery begins to unfold a mandala imagery. If one imagines a half circle below the earth where the seed is planted just below the ground, and another half circle above the ground, where the flower will blossom. Recalling Christian symbolism, the parable of fertile soil in Luke 8:1-15, that states at the end of this section, “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.” Jung knew he must maintain a balance between inner and outer worlds by whatever means, whether it was by painstaking anamnesis, creative activity, and yoga activities or by other means. He knew his family and patients depended on him, so though in personal crisis, with an unconscious that could have “driven him out of his wits”, he maintained through his obligations of the here and now. Jung was also aware of the possibility of being whirled around by “the winds of the sprit”, because he observed his colleague, Nietzsche, who “lost ground under his feet because he possessed nothing more than his inner thoughts”. Jung describes Nietzsche as being possessed by it, rather than him possessing it, and succumbed to exaggeration and unreality. To Jung this was horrible, for he aimed for this life and this world (Wehr, p.43).

Of the things that kept his balance, namely creative activity, which would manifest in his

active fantasies and paintings, Jung became already certain that he had to delve into these

primordial experiences himself, in order to be able to help his patients. If he had gone through it,

he may be able to bring the light of understanding to the existential darkness that his patients

experience. From his unconscious and the torrent within, images from familiar mythology,

biblical images as mentioned earlier, works of the Gnostics and the ancient world came forth. All

included what has now been published as the Red Book. It would take Jung several decades to

decipher his process and convert with clarification what he experienced during this period, into

psychological knowledge concerning the archetypal nature of reality and the psyche (Wehr, p. 44).

If we go back to the aforementioned fantasy of Salome and Elijah, we can look at what

would later develop into Jung’s theory of anima and animus. By using the method of amplification Jung later arrived at the soul image. In a man, it usually manifests as a feminine figure. This is the anima. A woman also produces or imagines a figure of the opposite sex, the animus. These two terms refer to two archetypal, primally symbolic formations of the unconscious, which we don’t perceive consciously. For Jung, Salome was his anima figure. This fantasy, as well as others, and Jung’s experiment to have empirical data, found that it was helpful and therapeutic to give dreams and fantasies an external form (Wehr, p. 46). Thus, we get to the next part of Jung’s journey, the actual creation of Red Book, a prototype for the individuation process. Jung rediscovers his soul and he embarks on a sequence of fantasy adventures in a consecutive narrative. He realized he served the spirit of time characterized by use and value. But there existed the spirit of depths which characterized the soul. “The task of individuation lay in establishing a dialogue with the fantasy figures—or contents of the collective unconscious— and integrating them into the consciousness, hence recovering the value of the mythopoeic imagination which had been lost to the modern age, and thereby reconciling the spirit of time with the spirit of depth” (Shamdasani, 2012. p. 49). Jung presented a lecture in 1916 which further clarified the unconscious into specific subgroups. The first is the personal unconscious which consisted in elements that were acquired in one’s lifetime combined with conscious elements. The second was the impersonal unconscious or collective psyche. Jung also noted that it was sometimes difficult to differentiate the two, because of a factor he called the persona. A persona is one’s mask or role, which represented a segment of the collective psyche that one mistakenly identified as individual. When one analyzed this, the personality dissolved into the collective psyche, which resulted in a stream of fantasies (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 50). Some of these fantasies he visually recorded, in symbolic paintings and mandalas.

Art - To understand the genesis of mandala creation, study and symbolism, we must look

at Jung’s relationship to visual art forms. From a young age Jung often visited Basel’s art museum and was drawn to Holbein, Bocklin and the Dutch painters. Toward the end of his studies he painted mostly representational art for about a year and achieved technical proficiency. In 1902/03, he went to Paris to study under French Psychologist Pierre Janet, and while there, he painted and visited the Louvre and other museums. He paid particular attention to ancient art, Egyptian antiquities, works of the Renaissance, Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens and Frans Halls (Shamdasani, 2012, pp. 9-10). Later years and travels, he would encounter Odilon Redon, Picasso, Duchamp and other Dada artists, and the modernists (p. 34).

In the years directly preceding the outbreak of war, apocalyptic imagery was widespread

in European arts and literature. Wassily Kandinsky, who published Concerning the Spiritual in

Art in 1911, wrote in 1912 a coming universal catastrophe. Ludwig Meidner painted a series of

works known as the apocalyptic landscapes during the years 1912 to 1914 (Shamdasani, 2012, p.

18). Many in Jung’s circle took an interest in painting and art. His colleague Maeder, wrote a monograph on the Swiss artist, Ferdinand Holder and had a friendly correspondence with him.

Later, around 1916 Maeder wrote to Jung about having a series of waking fantasies and visions.

Jung responded, “What, you too” (Shamdasani, 2012, p. 35)? Meanwhile the war was underway

and amid this carnage of death and destruction, the theme of the return of the dead was widespread. As the death toll rose, so did an interest in spiritualism. At the beginning of 1916,

Jung began to experience a series of parapsychological events. Shortly afterward, he wrote

“Sermon to the Dead”. “It is a psychological cosmology in the form of a gnostic creation myth”

(Shamdasani, 2012, p.41). In it he saw the Christian God uniting with Satan. One could also see

this as a merging of opposites, of dark and light. Similar to his earlier fantasy of Simone and

Elijah, but on a more cosmic level. He later began creating the System Munditortius which is the

pictorial cosmology to the Sermons. These pictorial creations took form of his first mandala,

though he was “wholly unconscious of what it meant” (Shamdasani ,2012, p. 42). The term mandala is from Sanskrit meaning circle. However it takes on more complex forms in the sphere of religious practices and psychology which can be drawn, painted or danced. Very often they contain a multiple of four, a quaternity, such as in a cross, a star, a square, and octagon, etc (Jung, 1972, p. 3). It wasn’t until 1918-19, when Jung was commandant of a British war prisoners’ camp that he began to understand his mandala drawing.

I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which

seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. With the help of these drawings I

could observe my psychic transformations from day to day….Only gradually did I

discover what the mandala really is: ‘Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal

recreation’ (Faust II). And that it is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all

goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions. (Jung, 1972, p. v).

Looking at Jung’s first sketch, there can be observed certain similarities with the painted

mandalas in the Red Book. This series is not the most beautiful of all the paintings by Jung in

Liber Novus, but is a clear example of his process and journey to wholeness of the personality.

Fig. 1 First Sketch of Mandala by Jung, 1918-19

Jung’s discovery of the mandala, gave him the key to his entire system. Mandalas were cryptograms, monads to the entire self, a picture of the whole being, in other words, the microcosmic nature of the psyche. Jung said, “I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. I had to let myself be carried along by the current, without a notion of where it would lead me. 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 the mid- point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation” (Jung, 1972, p. v). Keeping that in mind, we will look at Jung’s process of individuation with the series of mandala paintings found in the Red Book, numbers 83 through 97. (See Figures 2-13 on

the following pages) You can see the similarity in design with the first sketch and these mandalas, following a quaternity format. The hooked “U” shape in a cross design or on a diagonal in four corners, with the curve toward the center or away from the center. Similarities to the first sketch are close as in

Figure 4. In Jung’s book, Mandala Symbolism, published much later, in 1959, he suggests that the mandala occurs in psychic dissociation or disorientation, such as in children between the ages of 8-11 whose parents are divorced, in adults with neurosis with problems of opposites in nature [could this later be considered bi-polar?], or in schizophrenics whose view of the world has become confused. Jung suggests that the emergence of the mandala is an attempt for self-healing on the part of nature that doesn’t spring from conscious reflection but by instinctive impulse (Jung, 1959, p.4). In Jung’s mandalas in this series, there is a birthing scenario, a mountainous shape (Freudians would see it a phallic), pushing up the self as seen in the mandala, separating from the earth-laden shape. Jung would later interpret an image painted by a patient he called Miss X, that showed a female figure trapped in an earth colored pointed pyramid shape, in which lightning struck a nearby rock. Jung saw the action of lightning triggered a “pushing up” of the unconscious into the light of consciousness (Jung, 1959, p.21).

Fig. 2, Mandala Painting, 83, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 3, Mandala Painting, 84, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 4, Mandala Painting, 86, Jung’s Red Book, 2009,

Fig. 5, Mandala Painting, 87, Jung’s Red Book, 2009.

Fig. 6, Mandala Painting, 88, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 7, Mandala Painting, 89, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 8, Mandala Painting, 90, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 9, Mandala Painting, 92, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 10, Mandala Painting, 93, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 11, Mandala Painting, 94, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 12, Mandala Painting, 95, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Fig. 13, Mandala Painting, 96, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

In the text previous to these mandalas in the Red Book Jung writes: “The primordial force is the radiance of the sun, which the sons of the sun have carried in themselves for aeons and pass on to their children. But if the soul dips into radiance, she becomes as remorseless as the God himself, since the life of the divine child which you have eaten, will feel like glowing coals in you. It will burn inside you like a terrible, inextinguishable fire. But despite all the torment, you cannot let it be, since it will not let you be” (Jung, 2012, p. 124). If we look at the colors in the first several mandalas, Figures 2- 5, the colors are mostly cool muddy colors, with the red fire emerging only slightly. Then increasingly the red and warm colors are seen in mandala and in the mountain. Red sulphur, as it relates to alchemy in physical and symbolic transformation to gold, often described as burning rock, was thought to add emotional intensity in association with instinctive parts of the psyche relating to sex, power and ambition (Hale, 2010, qtd. von Franz, p. 485).

Fig. 14, Mandala Painting, 97, Jung’s Red Book, 2009

Rubedo or redness, is the final stage in alchemy which is associated with unification, and in

Jung, joining unconscious and conscious worlds. Cynthia Hale (2010) suggests, that the

movement of the contents of the black books to the Red Book can be seen as death, birth and

new life. Black, being the dark phase in Jung’s journey and then once transferred with

calligraphy and paintings, and the fact that it is a red folio, shows this alchemical synthesis

(Hale, p. 486).

Looking at the mandalas in Figures 6 and 7, red and gold are emerging. In Figure 7, the

red, squared off cone shape, is at the bottom with gold erupting like a fountain at the top. The

hieroglyphic writing inside the cone are runes, described to Jung in an active imagination,

written in Black Book 7. Jung’s soul wants to know the secret of the runes, and Ha, the narrator

in this vision, describes in great detail of two suns, and making a bridge, because the two suns

want to be together (Shamdasani, 2012, notes, p. 325). Jung had a dream with similar runes on a

red clay tablet imbedded in his wall. He claimed it had an important message but he didn’t

understand it (Shamdasani, 2012, notes, p. 326). That he didn’t fully, consciously understand the

runes, isn’t important, what is important is that he thought they had significance and thought they

were important. Often we just “know” something in our spirit, whether we can articulate it

verbally, is not important, because inside, we can feel a shift. This is what could be called a

numinous experience. Indeed, Jung said himself:

Things that reach as far back in human history as the mandala does of course touch upon

the deepest layer of the unconscious and are capable of grasping it where conscious

language proves entirely impotent. Such things are not to be thought of conceptually, but

must once again grow forth from the obscure depths of oblivion in order to express the

uttermost idea of consciousness and the highest intuition of the spirit, and thus fuse the

uniqueness of the consciousness of the present with the primordial past of life. (Wehr,

1989, qtd. Jung, p. 55)

Jung stresses the importance of this unique process in many writings and in fact stresses the

importance of the individuality of the process of the mandala emerging, in visual imagery, in the

case study with Miss X. He states that the images in these circumstances have considerable

therapeutic effect on the creators of the images and is empirically proved. Nothing can be

expected from an artificial repetition or imitation of such images (Jung, 1959, p. 5). What comes

to mind in this respect today, is the formulation and mass production of pre-made decorative

mandalas as coloring books, which are misleading as a therapeutic tool of a Jungian caliber.

There are a few other aspects of the Red Book mandalas worth looking at. The colors

become increasing pure, not as muddy. In Figures 11 and 12 with a purer blue and white mandorla (meaning “almond” in India) shape with a red cross or “x”. A visica picis (Christian symbol of Christ as the “fish”) is what happens when two circles intersect. It is the womb from which geometric forms are born. It is the yoni (Sanskrit for female generative organs) through which all geometric shapes and patterns of our universe our born. Because of this it has been called the womb of chaos and the mouth that speaks the word of creation (Schiender, 1995, pp. 32-33). A very powerful shape and in line with the birth scenario continuing with this sequence of mandalas. The red cross or red “x” in the middle just sanctifies its power even more. There are lines as waves of energy or of water in Figures 4-7 and 10-14. In Figure 13 the womb is electrified and life it brought in. Roots or veins branch out at the ends of the two vertical streams from the center, giving it a charged anticipatory feel. And finally the egg in Figure 14. This can be seen as the “germ of life”. The colors are balanced the scale motif design surrounding the basic structure of the mandala in the center. The circular flower design around the red x part of the mandala give it a balancing force. The egg can symbolize a cosmogonic egg as the world’s beginning, or a philosophical egg as the spiritual, inner and complete man (Jung, 1959, p. 8).

Jung sought wisdom from many areas including alchemy. From alchemy and Jakob Boheme’s

writing including “Innermost Birth of the Soul", he describes the process of individuation. Jung describes man as a microcosm, a complete equivalent of God’s creation in miniature. We see what is in man that corresponds to the cosmos, what evolutionary process is compared to the creation of the world and the heavenly bodies; it is the birth of the self, the latter appearing as a microcosm” (Jung, 1959, p. 24). In Jung’s own words his own microcosm had been ignited and his individuation process was well under way.

It is important for an analyst, therapist or counselor to understand what they are asking

their clients/patients to do. It is also important for the therapist to undergo their own therapy to

stay as balanced as they can. Rollo May (1986) writes that we can best serve the client by

“evoking our resistances” (p.629). By facing our own darkness so we can better facilitate and

guide the patient’s own purgatory and hell. He agrees that myth is a good place to start. We must

go through the darkness to transcend onward to the light (May, 1986, p. 641). Just like Jung did

as evidenced by his writing and painting. Through his model we can do the same and pass it on

to our clients.

Fig. 15 Bronfenbrenner and Jung combined model

Personal Reflection

How do we put this into practice? Not everyone understands myth, or is willing to face the inner depths or can begin to know how to start.

Starting from Jung’s concept as man as a microcosm and his consideration of the external events of family and work balancing the internal subconscious work he was doing during crisis, a model began

formulating in my mind. I started to connect some of Jung’s theories of individuation and the mandala, with Brofenbrenner’s ecological systems model. Looking at Jung’s microcosm and Brofenbrenner’s microsystem I came up with a 3D model. The scope of this concept would be too lengthy to discuss here. But it may be worth investigating further. As you can see in the model I created in Figure 15, I have combined the ecological system of Brofenbrenner at the conscious level, with Jung’s theories of

the unconscious. The concept of time is included. The model is a mandala/circle in three

dimensions as a sphere. If we are to begin to understand all the influences and nuances effecting

our personality, a cohesive framework would be helpful. It can begin to be a checklist or anchor

for which one can spring in to self-exploration. Though Bronfrenbrenner originally designed this

model for understanding child development and all that effects the child, it can be applied to the

lifespan. Briefly, Uri Brofenbrenner developed the model with five environmental systems

including, microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem (Yingst, 2011,

qtd., Bronfenbrenner, 1986, 2004; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998, 2006). The microsystem

includes the individual’s family, peers, church, work, and other groups that are immediate

influences. The mesosystem is the interactions between the individual and the others in in the

chronosystem microsystem. The exosystem include institutions such as government and community policies, mass media, social media, friends of family, neighbors, etc. The macrosystem has to do with the attitudes and ideology of the culture surrounding the individual. This could include the culture

within their ethnicity as well as the culture in the country they are in. The chronosystem includes

environmental events, transitions across the life span and sociohistorical circumstances.

In the combined model, I have placed the self/persona in the center or equator part of the

whole person world. In the conscious area of the sphere is Bronfenbrenner’s system. In the

unconscious area I have placed Jung’s theory of individuation. I have combined their time

perceptions to include a whole time continuum. Being able to visualize this is key to Art Therapy

which of course relies strongly on the imagery. It also solidifies and makes tangible a very

complex and dense theory. By doing this we can begin to utilize these very important principles,

to unlock the deep rooted issues that may stem from unbalance in the individual.

Jung’s patient, Miss X was 55 year old woman who had studied and searched for self healing

on her own. She never had a relationship with her mother, so traveled to her mother’s

home country to seek answers. She then sought Jung for advice. Jung uses her case 24 paintings

to show the progress, and his interpretation and analysis. He concludes that psychic evolutions

do not keep pace with intellectual developments. One goal of mandalas is to bring a

consciousness that has hurried too far ahead in contact with the unconscious background with

which it should be connected. Miss X had to go back to her homeland to start the process (Jung,

1959, p. 65). That is why past, present and future models need to be connected a better

development of mandala intervention in the future. Current studies that I could find, lack first a

real Jungian model, which then is substantiated with empirical evidence. Jungian play therapy

seems promising though I couldn’t find any research that wasn’t more a small group to one

subject, and vague conclusions.


Green, E. J., Drewes, A. A., & Kominski, J. M. (2013). Use of Mandalas in Jungian Play

Therapy with adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. International Journal of Play

Therapy, 22(3), 159-172.

Hale, C. A. (2010). What about Being Red? Encounters with the Color of Jung's Red Book.

Psychological Perspectives, 53(4), 479-494.

Jung, C. G. (1972). Mandala symbolism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G., & Shamdasani, S. (2009). The Red book = Liber Novus. New York: W.W. Norton

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