Double Mandala

One night in March of 2011, my four circle dream was on my mind. I began to imagine two quatrefoils. One was horizontal: the four circles come from the North, South, East, and West and the four rays extend to the “four corners of the earth.” One was vertical: the four circles come from above, below, left, and right and the four rays extend into mystery. They both had the same center point and intersected at 90 degrees. I sketched and, as you can see in this picture, assembled them.

This is a rendering of the horizontal quatrefoil:

And this of the vertical quatrefoil:

A friend of mine created this animation which shows the relationship of the two:

I associated this configuration with a guided meditation experience I had at Esalen in June of 2009. I started out with the intention of drawing a mandala. Instead an object appeared in front of me, which included the rayed quatrefoil shape—a three dimensional version of the vertical quatrefoil. I traveled to a place where lines seemed to be coming together from all directions, like the horizontal quatrefoil. I walked through these “lines” (which seemed to be swaying a bit back and forth—I could feel the motion against my sides) toward the spot where they converged. I looked into that spot and it seemed to me like a void. I took the object I brought with me and began to press it into that void. The four rays seemed to align with four of the converging lines and the quatrefoil fit into the space. Once in place, the quatrefoil filled with white light and created an opening from which stars began to fountain. I then looked up and saw stars wheeling overhead and a falling star which seemed meant for me.

Two things come to mind. The first is a phrase I use in the last poem of Running with the Sun— “pain-hollowed heart.” The second is a quote from The Grail Legend by Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz, “In the dreams and fantasy pictures of modern man this hidden, invisible something is occasionally depicted as a meaningful and numinous void...A nothingness, a void, is...the inescapable condition for the emergence of the self.”

At the time of this work, I was recovering from surgery for cancer and my wife Lesa had started a new treatment for her worsening cancer. In hindsight the double mandala seems to anticipate Lesa’s final illness and death in August of 2011. And to anticipate the attendant questions about the relationship between here and hereafter, between time and timelessness.