The Individual Level of Interpretation - 1
The Mandala Symbol in Astrology
Briefly recapitulating the preceding: The activity of any living organism operating at strictly the biological level — whether an animal, a plant, or a human being — is controlled by a power that resides in the species, not in any one of its particular specimens. This power is able adequately to meet the conditions of life in the environment, to protect, maintain, and, if possible, expand the role the species plays in the biosphere, each life-species having a particular function to perform within the extremely complex pattern of biospheric inter-dependence.
When a human being operates at the strictly biological level, he or she, like any animal, is controlled by this generic power operating in the form of instincts, and his or her consciousness has a compulsive and organismic character. It is probably also diffuse and subjective, for it is neither objective nor "reflective" or self-conscious. It may be compared to the rather unformulatable feeling of health experienced by a young person who has never experienced illness, directly or vicariously.
At the sociocultural level, a human being participates as a "person" in the limited and structured field of activity of the society in which he or she was born and educated. The mind of this person is given a characteristic form by a particular language and by collective patterns of beliefs and assumptions impressed since birth upon his or her developing psychism. The validity of these patterns is unquestioned. In primitive societies or archaic kingdoms, a person is almost totally identified by the clan, class, or religious group to which he or she belongs. The person
has a role to play and a name which represents that role. If the person conforms to the role and to what society expects or demands, he or she is secure within the limits of the birth-status. Thus, a sociocultural and ethical level is added to the biological level; and the demands of the two levels at times clash, causing more or less serious disturbances.
If a normal, well-adjusted person, operating at the sociocultural level and relating to other persons according to definite social and ethical patterns of relationships, experiences conflicts between biological urges or attachments and the social patterns which condition and often rigidly rule his or her life, religion is there to help re-establish some kind of relatively harmonious adjustment. In such a person, the feeling-experience of "being I" exists and may play a very important role; but it is based on all that refers to the place
(position or status) the person occupies in a family and in the larger field of society. This feeling-realization of being I myself is almost ineradicably associated with a name. The person asked who he is will say: I am Peter Smith, and usually adds what his family status, occupation, or profession is. These names and labels characterize the ego-sense of identity.
Looking from an astrological point of view at the situation of a person identified with a sociocultural situation, such a person's ego is (as already stated) symbolized by Saturn and the Moon: Saturn refers to the social status or position which guarantees social security as well as biological livelihood, and the Moon to the capacity to adjust one's feelings and reactions to what this status or position requires. At that sociocultural level, a person's birth-chart is like a map showing the special character and intensity of the basic natural factors operating within this person and the particular manner in which they are interrelated (astrological aspects). Yet such a chart has, however, no actually individualized and autonomous center
. The ego does not constitute such a center. It oscillates and is swayed by forces over which it has no steady control. It is only the center of gravity
of an ever-changing situation.
It is only
when the process of individualization has begun, and an individualized consciousness based on a deep, often poignant feeling of separateness and estrangement or even alienation from the level of strictly social activities and relationships has asserted itself (at least partially and sporadically), that one can speak of the existence of a truly individual center. In a birth-chart that center is found where the horizon and meridian intersect. It is there that the individual center — the real "I" disengaged from family, social, and eventually, cultural patterns — is to be found. It is there as a potential and gradually actualizable center. Such an individualized birth-chart can then, but only then
be interpreted as a mandala
A mandala, in the usual two-dimensional sense of the term, is a configuration revealing a more or less symmetrical arrangement of various kinds of forms, scenes, and symbolic images around a center. Usually the mandala has an overall circular form and, in the majority of cases, a basic quadrangular structure is apparent. Tibetan mandalas are particularly well-known, and they are used in meditation to focus the mind and to reveal
through symbolic senses, pictures, or diagrams the nature of a process of integration leading to a vivid experience of a central Being or quality of being. In European Gothic cathedrals, rose windows are also considered to be mandalas. In them we may see Christ as a central figure surrounded by his twelve disciples. In classical astrology, the zodiac is also often represented as a mandala, with the Sun at its center. A human body may also be pictured surrounded by the twelve symbols of the zodiacal signs or constellations.
At the individual stage of human existence, the birth-chart represents the mandala of personality
. Its center symbolizes the mysterious power and experienced feeling to which the little word "I" refers. At the level of an individualized human consciousness, this "I" should no longer be considered an ego in the sociocultural and Saturn-Moon sense of the term, though it will try to use
the types of functional activity symbolized by Saturn and the Moon for its own purpose. How then can we speak of this profound realization emerging in a human being who feels himself or herself "separate" from the family and culture that produced the material body, emotional temperament, and mental structure that altogether constitute his or her personality?
Most people would refer to this realization of being an autonomous and essentially (if not actually) "free" individual as the manifestation of a self
that has at last succeeded in becoming aware of its own existence as an independent entity. This word "self" has, unfortunately, been used in many ways and in reference to many levels of consciousness and activity; its use, whether or not one capitalizes the first letter of the word, can be extremely confusing.
In my main philosophical work, The Planetarization of Consciousness
) I stated that one has to postulate in every structured and organized system of activity and consciousness — every living whole of existence — the active presence of a Principle of Wholeness. While we may speak of it in an abstract sense as a "Principle", it has also to be considered a power of integration, a binding force. I spoke of it either as ONE or SELF. It is not, however, a
one or the
One. It has no particular form or attribute in itself. It simply is
wherever an existential whole (an entity) operates. It inheres in any
entity, be it an atom, a cell, a human being or galaxy. Without it there could only be an undifferentiated, diffuse, and infinite expanse of "substance-energy", or — in a purely abstract and transcendent sense — Space.
The seers-philosophers of old India have given various names to this Principle. When considered as a "Presence" (an unsubstantial "breath") within a human being, they spoke of it as atman
. In relation to the whole universe, they usually gave it the name brahman
. The great revelation that took form in the ancient Upanishads was that atman and brahman were essentially identical. The same power of integration, the same mysterious, actually unreachable and ineffable Presence, was inherent in all living beings; and as life itself was but one of its particular modes of operation, the Whole universe and all it contains were alive.
As a Principle and power of integration SELF is present everywhere, but its mode of operation differs at each level of existence. Since a human being functions and is conscious at several levels, SELF has to be understood in a human being in several ways — biologically, socioculturally, individually, and eventually, transindividually. It is best, however, not to speak of a biological self or an individual self, but instead of a biological, sociocultural, and individual state of selfhood
. Biological selfhood has a generic and, in the usual sense of the term, unconscious character; sociocultural selfhood has a collective character; and individual selfhood is achieved by undergoing a long and arduous process of individualization. The process of human evolution has so far consisted in bringing the sense of self
from the unconscious darkness of the biological nature to a condition of ever clearer and inclusive consciousness through the development of ever finer, more complex cultures and of ever more responsive and conscious individuals. A still more inclusive and universal realization of SELF should be achieved when the state beyond individual consciousness is reached — what I have called the Pleroma state of consciousness.
Because the process of individualization of human beings began many centuries ago and was given a definite and objective form through the development of an abstract and intellectual kind of mind, the great religions and philosophies of the last millennia have in various ways stressed the importance of the individual stage of selfhood. Because of the crucial importance of the Hebraic tradition and its basic concepts in our Western
civilization, I might mention here the rather ambiguous, yet in a sense revelatory manner in which the ideal of individual selfhood was apparently presented to the consciousness of the founders of that tradition.
In the Bible (Exodus 3:14) what is usually translated as "I Am That I Am" (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh
in the Hebrew) is revealed to Moses as the new Name of God, superseding, as it were, earlier ones which may have referred more specifically to the power of life (biological level). In the following verse God moreover refers to himself for the first time as JHVH (Yod-He-Vau-He), the sacred word often spoken of as the Tetragrammaton. I believe that this Name was revealed to Moses because he was the leader of a most likely quite heterogeneous group of tribes, and his task was to integrate them into one "People" under a definite kind of structural Law which later became the Torah.
The foundation of the Tetragrammaton comes from the same Hebrew root (hayah
) as Ehyeh, "to be". Although Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh has almost universally been translated as I Am That I Am, etymologically and more precisely, it gives expression to something more like I will be what I will be — or even "I will be what I am becoming" — for the fact is that the modern Hebrew language has no word for simply "I am." The exact meaning of the Biblical statement is indeed a matter of great controversy among the Rabbis, ancient or modern. The original Hebrew meaning at any rate seems to indicate a fourfold process
of integration rather than an established fact
. It should be considered a mantram: and it may have been meant to apply to not only the integration of tribal groups that had separated themselves from the biological realm which Egypt came to symbolize in the Hebrew tradition, but at least eventually to the individualization of human consciousness and will in any person ready to pass through a long period of spiritual gestation — the long, difficult, and often tragic process symbolized by the forty years of wandering in the desert.
In the Kabbalah — the esoteric Hebrew tradition — it is said that "Man is still in the making." Man, as an individual, is
even today in the making. The process of individualization began in earnest and in a public sense around 600 B.C. — a period marking a definite turning point in the evolution of the consciousness of Man as an archetypal being. It was the time in which lived Gautama the Buddha in India and Pythagoras in the Greek world; and their respective teachings opened the way to the slow and gradual actualization of a new mode of consciousness and mental development necessary for the process of individualization. From this time on, it became possible
for all human beings to steadily experience the feeling of "being I" in a truly individualized, stable, and centralized manner; but though this possibility began to impress itself upon social ideals and (with Christianity) religious institutions, only a relatively few human beings have been able fully to actualize the new potentiality. This, I must add, apparently always happens when a new opening in consciousness is made, so great is man's resistance to change at both the biological and the sociocultural levels.
Now in its fourth edition (Aurora Press, Santa Fe: 1977). Return