On the Nature of Four

Last Updated on June 2, 2020 by


Jung’s Quarternity, Mandalas, the Stone and the Self

During a difficult period in his life in which he withdrew from his teaching position and devoted much of his time investigating the nature of the unconscious, Jung frequently painted or drew mandalas, but only learned to understand the mandala symbology many years after he had begun creating the images. He understood only that he felt compelled to make the figures and that they comforted him, “Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: “Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation”. And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions” (MDR 195-196).

Mandalas are defined by Jung as magic circles, containing certain design motifs that he found to have a universal nature, across cultures and across time, whether they are the transiently created mandalas from Tibet, sand paintings from the American southwest, or illustrations from ancient, medieval, and Renaissance alchemical works.