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Journey 29 - MAGICK AND MANDALAS

The 20th Century saw the death of the higher arts. The buildings put up in the last Century are
drab, utilitarian boxes. This is entirely in keeping with the reductionist worldview of the time. To
revive the higher arts, we must have a new spiritual impulse. Personal experience and participation
in the arts can provide it. Mandalas can provide it. If you made the Mandala in the previous
chapter and gave it an interpretation, then you may sense the power of this magickal technique. It
could also provide a new aesthetic, but only if we can convince starving artists to take money for
polishing up our crude home made mandalas. In classical music, we already make a distinction
between the art of the composer and the art of the performer, and musicians don't mind performing
works composed by someone else. Now we just need to introduce the same distinction to painters,
architects and elsewhere.

In this chapter, I demonstrate how to apply the Mandala technique to each of the arts in turn.

All Mandalas make themselves. Mandala making is always participatory. There are no spectators,
only participants. The square and the circle arise in every art, from music to architecture to dance,
drama, and clothing. Squares always involve powers-of-two subdivisions of some basic unit, much
like the octave in music. Each octave doubles the frequency of the previous octave.

This is all part of spiritual evolution, a prerequisite for developing those powers that allow
humanoids to jump thousands of light-years. It is valuable in itself. The aesthetic impulse defines
higher civilization and that is why 20th Century culture was not civilization, only a technologically
advanced barbarism. 20th Century culture emphasized food, sex, shelter, and transportation. All
such physical pleasures are brief and fleeting. We never become satiated with aesthetic pleasures,
which I define as whatever we do to avoid boredom.

Music: The main "square" in music is the measure. We subdivide the measure into powers-of-two
durations of sound or silence, i.e., whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth
notes and so forth, where tempo and the time signature set the basic unit of time. A circle in music
is any repeated passage or theme, from the simple tune and chorus, to theme and variation in
classical music. The rule in making all Mandalas is that we let it create itself. It is easier for many
people (including me) to create Mandalas with the compass and the square, along with some free
hand improvisation. Thus, the form of the circle and the square and the tools for creating them must
always be available, in every art.

Western music has always had the circle and the square, but before the invention of MIDI
keyboard-synthesizers and personal computers, we had no tools for the improvisational Mandala
process.

Computer memory or hard disk memory is the equivalent of the sheet of paper, allowing one to
capture and examine the Mandala, erasing some, adding more. By pre-defining the tempo and time
signature, the MIDI software will transform inexact durations into powers-of-two notes within
measures. That is the equivalent of the square. The editing software provides the equivalent of
eraser and compass, with repetition of passages you like, and deletion of those you don't.

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I created a musical Mandala program for the Commodore 64. Alas, about the time I had it
perfected, the Commodore 64 disappeared. I rewrote the keyboard handler to play chords and to
record the duration of a note recorded. One could pick about 4 octaves and about 16 instruments.
All the information about each note was bit packed into 2 bytes. There was enough buffer space to
record more than an hour of music. Playback created a visual Mandala on the screen that used the
ratio between two notes to determine the shape and size of the figure for that note. The figures for
each note piled up on top of one another, creating a lovely Mandala on the screen. I used every
trick of the computer wizard to make this program work. The program was self-copying, if one did
a sys ####, where that stands for numbers I no longer remember.

I do not play any instrument, but with practice, my "fingers" learned harmonious combinations and
phrases that pleased me. Like Mandalas in other media, the results are unusual and unlike
traditional music. Relax and let the fingers create the music. Forget about the formal rules of
composition, in case you know any. Silence the memory of generations of piano teachers that keep
saying, "Don’t pound on the piano!" Pound away. The result will not be noise; it will amaze you
with its strange beauty. Select passages for repetition (the circle). Measures are the square,
consisting of one whole note worth of time, sub-divided up into power-of-two intervals of music or
silence. This same rule applies to all the arts.

Can we interpret such musical Mandalas? Indeed we can, and this was a fact well known to the
ancient Greeks, but has been more or less forgotten since. I shall provide a brief dictionary of the
elements of symbolism in music, at least the elements in harmony. I shall create a table for the first
21 intervals. "Interval" refers to the number of steps on the black and white keys from one note to
the next. In the modern well-tempered scale, the same interval, anywhere on the keyboard, will
have the same harmony. If there is no harmony, I write "d" for dissonance.

Interval Ratio Meaning _______________________


1 d none
2 d none
3 5:6 tension, worry or competition
4 4:5 voluptuous, worldly, sensual, earthy, hot
5 3:4 a Renaissance sound, sacred, holistic
6 d none
7 2:3 the creation of oceans and galaxy. Music of the gods.
8 d none
9 3:5 extremes of creation, destruction or status quo
10 5:9 mystical path, another sacred and spiritual interval
11 7:13 sound of the wizard or occultist
12 1:2 same note in the next octave
13 7:15 disharmony like interval 1
14 4:9 disquiet, transhuman and alien
15 3:7 middle-eastern and metaphysical
16 2:5 sickness, recovery, renewal
17 3:8 wrong directions and fanaticism
18 5:14 ominous and threatening

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19 1:3 wholy trinity, very nice
20 4:13 brooding and relentless
21 3:10 cosmos and cosmology

There, that is the end of my table. A few mea culpas are in order. I determined the ratios and the
frequencies with a small program that sets A to 440 cps, and then uses the twelfth root of two as the
multiplier or divider to go up or down the scale. Thus, twelve steps will double or halve the
frequency, producing the octave, the same note in a higher or lower register. This is true only if we
use all the white and black keys, in other words, the chromatic scale. The modern well-tempered
scale is a geometric progression, mathematically speaking. Tuners may not stick to it exactly, for
reasons of their own.

Not all the ratios are exact. If they are within one percent of a ratio and there are no other ratios
closer, I considered it a match. There really are "lost chords," that is, chords that cannot be played
in Western music. Dissonance is not necessarily meaningless. Not all dissonance is the same. There
were times when medieval music used dissonance, and 20th Century "serious" music also used it.
Not all harmonies are "sweet." If it is a rational number, and has a definite feel to it, I wrote it
down, sweet or sour. A "sour" harmony is still very different from a dissonance. Feel free to
interpret the "meaning" for yourself.

Architecture: Renaissance and Gothic Masons and architect created their designs using nothing but
the compass and square, so I've heard. I don't know if that is true, but however they did it, Gothic
and Renaissance cathedrals and churches are Mandalas, at least in their use of the compass and the
square. We create the pointed arch with a compass, just as with a round arch. If any architect wishes
to try Mandala architecture, they are pretty much on their own, and will have to rediscover or
invent the tools and techniques.

The computer has at least made it easier for building engineers to make curved shapes and get away
from the box. There are finite element programs which will do the engineering for you, and that is
how Frank Gehry succeeded in making curved shapes in his Guggenheim museums. The one at
Bilbao is a tourist attraction, and it may be the first 21st Century piece of architecture. The Walt
Disney concert hall in Los Angeles is another superb creation by Frank Gehry, and it is very much
of the 21st Century.

Since I have never made a Mandala building, all I have are a few suggestions. Do the ground plan
and the side views of the building as drawn Mandalas. Then use the finite element software to see
how to build it. Each element added or subtracted would be a 3-d piece of the building, using the
drawing tools. The elements and sub-elements would allow curved shapes that are rotated curves,
or double curved objects. It would allow rectangular pieces as details or as 3-d chunks, limited to
powers of two of some basic unit. One idea would be to create the rotated curves in clay on a
potter's wheel.

For myself, I would really like to get away from the drab boxes of the 20th Century with their
endless rectangular window treatments. The greatest buildings are not just free form. They have
restraint and symmetries. Mosques and the Taj Mahal, both Moslem creations, are the most
beautiful buildings in existence. I especially like the brightly colored glazed tiles used for the

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surface of some Mosques. Why can't we do that? Why can't we have color and graceful curved
arches? The utilitarian architecture of the 20th Century has a brutalizing effect on its inhabitants.

Dance: In Western culture, we do not find Mandala characteristics in the "high-culture" classical
traditions of dance, designer clothing or drama. We find them in the folk traditions. I refer to square
dancing, quilt making and popular festivals such as Carnival.

It is quite easy to find the "square" and the "circle" in square dancing. In traditional western square
dancing, the entire room is organized into many squares, each of which has four couples, who start
by facing inward towards a center point for that square. Sometimes they dance as four couples,
spatially arranged as a square, as in "swing-your-partner." Each square periodically forms a circle,
as in "all join hands" or a moving circle, as in "allemande left, right and left hands." Sometimes
there are "formation" calls such as "Texas Star, ladies to the middle," in which the ladies join all
four left hands in the middle of the square.

The improvisational element comes from the caller, who can put the various moves known to the
group together in any order. The equivalent of the "sheet of paper" is a list of the calls. In other
words, it is easy to reproduce a dance, or modify it.

Please don't think that square dancing is just for older folks, where the women wear countless
petticoats and everyone dresses alike. When I was in high school (admittedly a small country high
school in the Oklahoma prairie), square dance parties were one of our favorite forms of
entertainment, and we just wore blue jeans and our normal school clothing.

We can square dance to any music that has a rhythm. Try it with rock and roll. Try it with the sound
track of the movie "Trainspotting." Try it with New Age music. Folk arts have advantages and
disadvantages. One disadvantage is that tradition can become rather fixed and inflexible.

A square dance club can improvise further by inventing new steps or "formations." Clog dancing is
one form of square dancing that differs from other square dancing only in the kind of "step" used.
Don't let existing forms of square dancing inhibit your imagination. All that is essential is the circle
and the square, dancers maintaining physical contact with one another, with a caller to introduce an
improvisational element, and all dancers making the same moves at the same time, so no one feels
self-conscious.

Mandala making is never self-conscious, and requires reaching a level of pure feeling, beyond
thought. No thought is required on the part of the dancers. Mandala dancing becomes an expression
of the collective self.

It is also important that Mandala making in any medium be something anyone can do. It takes a lot
of skill and practice to do some of the more showy moves of either ballroom or rock and roll
dancing. It also requires a total lack of inhibition. In ballroom or rock and roll, the dancer must
learn the dance moves ahead of time and practice them. Many people do not have that opportunity.
Most shy and awkward people do not dance ballroom or rock and roll; however, they have no
difficulty with square dancing.

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The basic moves and steps are easy, and since everyone in the room is doing exactly the same thing
at the same time, there is none of that fear that everyone is watching the dancer that inflict many of
us on the dance floor. The square dancer doesn't have to be inventive. He or she only has to listen to
the caller.

Cloth: The second folk art is quilting. It has all the elements of the Mandala, including the circle,
the square and improvisation. Quilting has to do with clothing only in the sense that the medium is
cloth. The traditional quilt is something put on the bed, or, if a rare and expensive antique, on the
wall. We can just as easily sew a square onto jackets, skirts, pants, bags, flags or robes, and quilters
often do this.

The quilter can make banners or flags by sewing the pieces together with a layer of black paper to
provide reinforcement. In this case, there is no "quilting," a term that refers to the stuffing in the
middle layer of a quilt, adding bulk and warmth.

Traditional quilts were a frugal way of making use of worn-out, castoff or outgrown clothing. The
improvisational part mostly comes in the selection of colors and designs of cloth. Quilting was also
a communal activity. I am not a quilter myself, but my grandmother was. Today we recognize quilts
as works of art.

The formal elements of quilting make use of both the "circle" (repeated elements, many small
pieces cut to the same pattern) and the "square," i.e. power-of-two relationships between lengths. I
know a few of the many primary patterns in quilting, used to make each block. Sew many blocks
together to make a quilt, or sew one onto a robe or jacket or purse. Many blocks sewn together
form the top level of a quilt. The stitching that holds all three layers of a quilt has its own separate
beauty and pattern.

One primary pattern is the "monkey wrench." Start with four small squares of two contrasting
fabrics. Sew these together to make a larger square. Then begin adding right triangles, alternating
the same two contrasting fabrics. Sew the hypotenuse of the triangle to the edge of the previous
square. In this way, we make a sequence of circumscribing and rotated squares, as the square grows
larger.

Repeated folding of freezer paper is used to create some designs. A single pattern is cut out of the
folded paper that when unfolded provides a block pattern with 4-fold or 8-fold central symmetry.
We then iron it onto the cloth to provide a pattern for cutting.

Drama: The third folk art is drama. Mandala drama has nothing to do with performance on a stage
for an audience. All Mandala-making is participatory. Mandala dramas are the traditional folk
processionals and rituals of Carnival or other religious days still practiced in the Latin nations, and
in Japan and India. The Western and non-Western "Carnivals" are surprisingly similar, tapping the
universal patterns of the collective unconscious.

Mandala drama involves creating masks, costumes, floats, or objects carried, either individually or
by a group of participants, putting on makeup or costumes to lose one's ordinary self, and dancing,
drumming, raving wildly through the streets all night long. Usually these events have a religious or

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mythological basis. Sometimes the final act is to burn the large figures, accompanied by fireworks.
One is acutely aware of the fact that Puritans founded this country, since the only Carnival here is
in the predominately French and Catholic portions of the country, e.g. Louisiana.

Our Carnivals are nothing compared to the extravagance in other countries. We must lose our
inhibitions, get in touch with metaphysical and mythological themes, and learn to express. Ex-
Puritans will have to consciously re-invent Carnival, or similar processionals celebrating New
Year's or the Fourth of July. Like square dancing, processional is a Mandala of the collective
unconscious of the group. Processionals or dramas are also part of Mandala magick.

When it comes to both dancing and drama, our Puritan roots show. American culture has many
roots and that is our strength, even if at times it threatens to split us into many warring tribes. Rock
and roll springs from African-American and Irish roots in our culture. The New Age movement of
the 1960s is unimaginable without rock and roll. Despite the excesses (especially with drugs) and
the absurdities of the New Age, some real change began in the sixties.

A true New Age will be a tapestry with threads from every culture, including that of the First
Nations. The Navaho still have elaborate festivals that last for days that involve making the
elaborate paintings of colored sand that are certainly Mandalas. Why can't we claim some of those
rites and make them our own? Would the Navaho object? I do not know. I can only say the Mandala
philosophy combined with our varied ancestry offers us a richness of cultural possibilities.

We can even mine our European roots for folk rituals, mostly surviving in small towns of Spain,
Portugal, Italy and Mexico. We now have many immigrants from the Far East, so why not mine our
East Indian, Japanese and Chinese roots as well? Lose your self in the greater Self. Tap the deeper
roots of consciousness, and express ONE in motion.

There is really nothing more important than the arts. That seems a strange statement in a
mechanical-technological age that has deliberately repudiated decorative arts. But it is true in a
civilization, where all the physical needs are met, and life consists in doing whatever we do to keep
from being bored. That is the life of the Aesthete, but it is also the life of spirituality, since true art
and spirituality can never be separated.