Introduction to the IPMM
What is the IPMM?
How did it originate?
|The word mandala is Sanskrit for circle and has come to mean any
design symbolic of the universe. Throughout history and cross-culturally, the
power and function of making mandalas has been to express in a symbolic way how
the parts of the cosmos relate to the whole, and, correspondingly, how the
individual is an integral part of the whole of humanity.
Without knowing the particular word for what they were doing persons of all ages and cultures have drawn, painted, carved, molded, woven, built and even danced mandalas. In so doing the human predicament of separation and alienation has been overcome, at least for that period of time persons have been involved in the mandala-making process.
Matisse referred to the "joy of pure colors" and to their "tonality." He called the collages that were his last great works of art "simplified painting" and explained that he was simply using color to express his feelings. "Color evokes feelings," he said, "and feelings evoke color." Largely from viewing Matisse's colossal collages when they were on exhibit in San Francisco in 1962 I began to experiment with scissors, paste and pure color, allowing my scissors to be an extension of my feelings. "When you paint a tree, you must feel how it grows," he explained, and he held the same true in paper cutting. Undoubtedly it was my emulation of Matisse's collage method and my own deep affinity for the symbolism of seven from which inspiration for the Infinite Possibilities Mandala Maker came.
But there was an even earlier influence and involvement with mandalas as an art form. Only then I called them "hootenannies." This fascination goes back to the summer of 1933 when I was four years old and went to Chicago with my mother to visit my great aunts and attend the World's Fair. Most days, while the grown-ups visited exhibits, I was left at the Children's Play Pavilion. There I discovered a device called the "Hootenanny." Its adjustable, moveable arms held colored pencils and could be guided around and across pieces of paper to create what seemed to me an unending possibilities of designs. Never before had I encountered anything so wonderful. My solitary memory of that entire summer and World's Fair is of sitting contentedly at a child-size table overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, my hands guiding the Hootenanny as it made--magically--one design after another. It was, of course, a mandala maker, and around its memory is a sense of luminosity--a feeling of being creatively connected with All That Is.
Mandala making has been revitalized in the west in recent years largely through the influence of Jungian psychology. In this connection the geometric divisions of a design are understood as corresponding to the multiple levels of consciousness, and with the design as a whole representing the Self.
Whatever the medium or the style followed, the creation of a mandala is a cosmic activity by which a person realigns with a harmony-producing flow of re-creative energies. With this in mind it becomes clear how, or perhaps why, the process of creating mandalas helps heal and restore one's sense of connectedness. A friend once shared an important personal discovery she had made. It was this:
A mandala a day keeps depression away!
It was in the spring of 1987 when I had need to come up with a creative art experience suitable for all ages that the Infinite Possibilities Mandala Maker was born. The setting was to be a Renaissance Faire which I welcomed as an opportunity to test my long-held conviction that there is within everyone an artist who, with no special training or talent, is the maker of symbolically meaningful designs. Moreover, I was convinced, we all already know this inner artist as the maker of the images of our dreams. In preparation for the Faire I simply asked in meditation one morning for an idea: something anyone could do and with no possible chance of failure; that, in fact, would be experienced by each as a creatively satisfying achievement.
What came into my mind was the full-blown idea of constructing mandalas based on familiar septenary symbolism--seven levels of alternating square and circle shapes with a choice of seven colors for each level. It was so simple: four squares, three circles, seven rainbow colors for each shape--forty-nine components in all from which to choose in building a mandala--the four squares symbolic of earth, matter and the finite, the three circles symbolic of heaven, spirit and the infinite, and with the inherent implication of the design and the process the union and interpenetration of heaven and earth, of spirit and matter, intellect and instinct.
Assembled in diminishing-sized, nested levels, the symbolism was also of ascent and transformation, and for that matter of the creative process itself: as in the seven days of creation, the seven notes of the musical octave, the seven colors of the rainbow, and from the east the seven "chakras" which are there understood as referring to vibrationally ascending levels of consciousness.
It soon became apparent that what I had received was a great deal more than I had asked for. For one thing, seven choices on seven levels yield--and this is staggering when you think about it--823,543 color-combination possibilities. In addition, there are eight design-arrangement possibilities, determined when each of the three inner squares is placed either squarely or diagonally. These eight correspond to the eight trigrams of the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, the I Ching. The eight trigrams and the eight mandala arrangements form similar archetypally significant patterns of movement between complementary opposites.
| Emerging from inner space, a mandala outpictures the psychological
forces and energies that are determining our lives. In making a mandala we are
consciously interacting with unconscious levels of being. The result is to
restore balance to the psyche. Even as a child I sensed the process as one
through which I felt
When it came to putting together a mandala color pallet I was fortunate to be working with Michael Schley, an expert in the field of color and the influence of color on the human energy system. At the Faire children and adults were invited to choose from among the forty-nine color/shape components to create their own mandalas. For adults Michael offered assistance in interpreting the symbolic relevance of a mandala's color combinations and design dynamics. For children it was strictly "art for art's sake." Time and again, when I would ask a child, "Would you like to make a mandala?" eyes would light up and the child bounce a bit as excited children do, and with pleading eyes ask, "Please may I?" I particularly remember the twins, a boy and a girl who were about four years old. Sitting side by side these two made mandalas from opposite ends of the spectrum, one starting with red and choosing mostly warm hues, the other beginning with violet and moving within the more retreating colors. Moreover, the one arranged all the squares squarely and the other placed the three inner squares diagonally, proving that mandala making, even for twins, can be a very individual experience.
Whether for young or old or for creative or psychological reasons, I think it safe to say that a mandala is very much like a dream ". . . coming with much business . . . .," which is to say with a message from one's innermost Self.
As noted above, with seven colors to choose from on seven levels there are 823,543 color-combination possibilities. Beyond this, the eight possible design dynamics, as determined by the horizontal or diagonal arrangement of the three inner squares, increase the overall possibilities by eight-fold, or to 6,588,344. And for all practical purposes this at least approaches an infinite number.
There are, however, further variations that raise the possibilities unlimitedly and serves as well to bridge conscious and unconscious levels of awareness. This can occur when the basic seven-level mandala becomes the background onto which symbolic embellishments are added. In this case the process is undertaken as an exercise in inner work or art therapy, with the added symbolic process becoming the means by which feelings are evoked, expressed, and often released. In other words, a symbolically embellished mandala is imbued with the potential to reveal and transform psychic energy.
What the levels and colors choices suggest as to the distribution and weight of the energies of consciousness is easily determined according to the symbolism of scale. In a system based on the number seven, four is pivotal. In the chakra system it is the heart level and its capacity to perceive with a compassion that enables the hurts of life to be transformed. In the spectrum red, orange and yellow are associated with the need to survive which means to adapt physically, socially, and mentally to the norms set by one's tribe or cultural. The vibratory rate of these colors are at the low end of the spectrum, with green's frequency in mid-range and blue-green, indigo and violet reaching the upper frequency levels where violet's crest-to-crest frequency measures 1/67,000 per inch, while red's crest-to-crest rays measure roughly half that at 1/33,000 per inch. Qualitatively red is outwardly and physically energizing and "hot" whereas violet is inwardly inductive. Blue is known to be quieting and cooling. Yellow has been found to quicken mental alertness, and green to create an atmosphere of balance, being neither overly active or overly passive. Moreover, when colors are placed next to each other our perception of them changes as their vibrational qualities are altered by their juxtaposition to other colors. For this reason, if you make a sufficient number of these seven level/seven color designs you will experientially come to know the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual effects of color.