In Tibetan Buddhism, the mandala (sanskrit for ‘circle’) is a ritual instrument to aid meditation and concentration. In 1916, Jung painted his first mandala, the Systema Munditotius (System of all the Worlds), which represented the cosmology of the Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (Seven Sermons to the Dead), unmindful of its significance. In late Summer and early Autumn 1917, he drew a series of mandalas in pencil in his army notebook, which he later painted in the calligraphic volume of Liber Novus. He gradually realised that the mandala represented “‘Formation, transformation, the eternal mind’s eternal recreation.’ (Goethe, Faust)…
My mandala images were cryptograms on the state of my self, which were delivered to me each day.” He conceived the mandala to be a representation of the ‘self’, which he later defined as the totality of the personality and the central archetype, whose symbols are indistinguishable from those of the Godhead. He considered the realisation of the self to be the goal of the process of development, individuation, which he had been engaged in. For Jung, mandalas occured throughout the world in various religious traditions. They also occured spontaneously in dreams and in certain states of psychological conflict.
In 1930, Jung anonymously reproduced this image in “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower.’ He described it as follows, “in the centre, the white light, shining in the firmament; in the first circle, protoplasmic life-seeds; in the second, rotating cosmic principles which contain the four primary colors; in the third and fourth, creative forces working inward and outward. At the cardinal points, the masculine and feminine souls, both again divided into light and dark.”