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.


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


19 20 21

1:3 4:13 3:10

wholy trinity, very nice brooding and relentless 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


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.


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


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. ExPuritans 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.