Saturday, August 16, 2014

Matrices of Sand; Art Which Heals

"It is possible to undergo a profound crisis involving non-ordinary experiences and to perceive it as pathological or psychiatric when, in fact, it may be more accurately and beneficially defined as a spiritual emergency."
- Stanislav Grof; quote found here.

"Navajo Sandpaintings, also called dry paintings, are called "places where the gods come and go" in the Navajo language. They are used in curing ceremonies in which the gods' help is requested for harvests and healing."
- from Navaho Sand Paintings

(left) Navajo Sandpainting found here.

"The performative power of sandpainting creation and ritual use reestablish the proper, orderly placement of the forces of life, thus restoring correct relations between the patient and those forces upon which the patient's spiritual and physical health depend. The sandpainting works its healing power by reestablishing the patient's sense of connectedness to all of life ( Griffin-Pierce 1991:66)."

- from Chapter 78; Navajo Indians sand painting, The History of Graphic Design, Guity Novin

"After its sanctification, the patient sits on the painting while the chanter performs a ritual to enhance the absorption of its healing power. Immediately afterward, the remains of the painting are taken outside to an area north of the hogan, where they are returned to the earth."

- from Navaho Sand Paintings

"The mandala is a formal geometric pattern showing the floor plan of a sacred mansion. Once the diagram is drawn, in the following
days you see millions of grains of colored sand painstakingly laid into place. The sand, colored with vegetable dyes or opaque tempera, is poured onto the mandala platform with a narrow metal funnel called a "chakpur" which is scraped by another metal rod to cause sufficient vibration for the grains of sand to trickle out of its end.  The mandalas are created whenever a need for healing of the environment and living beings is felt.  The monks consider our present age to be one of great need in this respect, and therefore are creating these mandalas where requested throughout their world tours. When finished, to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists, the colored sands are swept up and poured into a nearby river or stream where the waters carry healing energies throughout the world."

- from The Sacred Art of Sand Mandalas, The Tibetan Monks of Drepung Gomang Monastery (.pdf) 

"The Oglala Sioux Holy Man Black Elk said "You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round" (quoted in Moodley & West, 2005, p. 298)."

- from: Chapter 78; Navajo Indians sand painting, The History of Graphic Design, Guity Novin

"The Mandala is a creation consisting of circles, which start at the center and extend outward. The circle, a primeval natural form – consider the stars, snowflakes, tree trunks – has served as an inspiration to humankind since the dawn of history. People from various cultures discovered that the creation of circular forms facilitated the expression of inner cosmic entities. Native American shamans draw dance mandalas during healing ceremonies; the Shield of David symbol is based on the form of a circle divided into six equal parts; and the Tibetan mandala symbolizes the cyclical nature of life and death."

- Eitan Kedmy, from his website.

"Native American Indians regard art as an element of life, not as a separate aesthetic ideal. In indigenous societies, the arts are aspects of public life that bring dancing, poetry, and the plastic and graphic arts together as a single function or ritual as the all-embracing expression. Art is indispensable to ritual and ritual is the Native American Indian concept of the whole life process. Native people see sand painting as indistinct from dancing, dancing as indistinct from worship, and worship as indistinct from living."

- from Native American Art; Sand Paintings


I am just about to hang up my "Gone Fishing" sign, meaning I'm going to be off the radar for the next month or two, but I wanted to finish the Matrices thread before I signed off... (unlike a number of other "threads" I've introduced on this blog, only to ultimately leave them dangling).

Happily, the images and quotes I chose for this post adequately describe sand painting, rendering any additional verbiage of my own fairly redundant (and, for this, we should all be grateful). ;-)

However, just a bit about mandalas, sand paintings and the Matrices...

Essentially, sand paintings fall under the heading of Art as Magic, with the additional concept of impermanence added to mix. Whether the art is created by a Native American shaman or a Tibetan monk, ritualistically, the mandala is meant to be dismantled and dissolved; to fall back into the implicate fold.

In the case of the Navajo mandalas, the sand creation is returned to the sand of the primal Earth, where it - and the "patient" - are thereby cleansed. In the case of the Buddhist mandalas, the souls of the Earth and all its denizens are cleansed when the sand art is finally dispersed and deposited in a body of water. In each case, we have the idea of the relationship between Something and Nothing, the Implicate and Explicate, matter and dark matter, the chalk-board drawing and the proverbial clean slate. Most importantly, in regards to the Matrices, forms come and go; the singular, inescapable truth of the phenomenal world, and linear time.

In non-linear time, however, nothing is ever truly "gone," and exists in one eternal moment... a "point" which is of no dimension and all dimensions simultaneously. Hence, the idea of the circle, and circles intercepting circles... an understanding which, apparently, Sacred Geometers, the Buddhists and the Navajo share. And, it is this idea of the circular which more fully describes the Matrices.

"Eitan continued to run his fingers through the sand, inside the reality. As he advanced he “destroyed” the small details, the textures, the carpet. I suddenly realized how much this dissolution is part of the whole. With no hierarchy or preference. For a moment I experienced the destruction as beauty, as life, just like creation. I experienced this moment without the familiar duality of good and bad, beautiful and ugly, creation and destruction. That moment of being, in which everything existed, was a moment of grace. Within it, the whole exists constantly and everything is all right just the way it is. There, one can rest.”

That was a quote from Michal Dayan, found on the website of Eitan Kedmy, a man who has devoted his life to the mandala form, and who demonstrates the making of Sand Painting in the video below. Apart from the obvious reasons, I include it here because it describes a great deal about the process of creating art in general.

"[mandalas] ... are all based on the squaring of a circle. Their basic motif is the premonition of a centre of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy.

The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances. 

This centre is not felt or thought of as the ego but, if one may so express it, as the self. Although the centre is represented by an innermost point, it is surrounded by a periphery containing everything that belongs to the self -- the paired opposites that make up the total personality."

- Carl Jung, from "Concerning Mandala Symbolism" Zurich, 1950 (quote found here)


The second video I'm offering is a kind of trippy animation involving the fractal mandala form, reminding me of this line (from a previous post):

 "...For, Creatura, along with the hydrogen atom, was here from the beginning... not necessarily as some explosive affair, but as a slow-boiling inflorescence. In other words, Creatura didn't blow up, it bloomed."

Below, then, is a glowing example of what is referred to as a Fractal Kaleidoscope Video.


Fractal Sand Painting - Joe Magrum

"Mangrum characterizes his work as “visual rebellion” against “the urban grid;” and there is certainly a recurring theme of nature vs. urban, living vs. manmade in his work, and ultimately reconnection, as the artist says in his bio:

'It’s my philosophy that we are all unknowingly and psychologically programed by this system, a dominating force that efficiently partitions the globe into quantifiable sections of space and time, divided by minutes and seconds. It is ultimately out of sync with the natural world, seasonal cycles and lunar tides. The result is a society divided from nature and compartmentalized into definable groups, disconnected physically, and spiritually from the whole. I work to reclaim these divisions by creating sand paintings, in organic shapes, interconnecting the fragments and acting as a catalyst for a synthesis, again. For me this is a vital process of affirming life."

- quoting Joe Mangrum from the article: Spiritual practice meets street art in artist's extraordinary sand paintings

Joe Mangrum's sand paintings - as modern fractal interpretations - are generally dissolved by capricious winds, but, their overall intent seems to be the same as those of tradition. In Mangrum's case, he feels the need to "heal" the effects of the rectilinear grids he sees permeating society... something I can whole-heartedly relate to... and something I feel motivated to address myself... (like maybe planting large versions of these across the globe!) ;-)

Here's Joe Mangrum's website... and Joe Mangrums Vimeo page.

You go, Joe!


  1. Quoted at HOTTC! Incredible post, as always, and you hit the nail on the head, you really, really did.

    1. Thanks, TB! Love that penguin...