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Mandalas: Language of the Soul
The Art of Paul Heussenstamm
"We are all circles on the great mandala, and by changing the intensity of color, we clarify the fullness of each circle. Every soul is a circle with a unique combination of color and intensity. Each circle contains two individual circles with a delicate membrane between them".

This powerful dream voice came through me in 1992 while I was painting in Hawaii. It clearly symbolizes the essence of my work as a painter where soul patterns are colorfully manifested through the ancient symbol of the mandala. Mandala‰ means circle or center and it has literally been around for thousands of years, although not well known here in the West. The mandala, for me, more than any other teacher in this lifetime, has opened the doorway into the symbolic language of the soul. Once this language is known, once the doorway into the unconscious has been opened, once the dynamism of intuitive pattern reading is understood, then life as it is known changes suddenly and dramatically.

As I began to open up this ancient doorway, I received access to and understanding of a soul language that has powerfully changed my life and the lives of all those who come into contact with this level of intuitive knowing. One of the true gifts of this language is a deep understanding of the patterns, symbols, and currents in Nature and how they relate to my own soul's unfoldment and development. These insights highlight my journey into the potential of full radiance of the soul. As I look into my own soul's pattern. I have come to see the "long body" (a way of seeing the past) of my own soul's unfoldment.

My life as an artist truly began the moment the sperm hit the egg. I now understand that a pattern was struck within the core of my psyche, or soul, at the moment of conception. Of course, it took thirty-seven years and numerous life experiences before the pattern of an artist fully manifested in my conscious awareness.

I came into being as the genetic combination of a Jewish mother and a German father. My parents were both studying art and met at the easel. The dynamism of the postwar Jewish-German mixture created the possibility of both tension and the union of opposites. This was the beginning of the pattern of my life as an artist. My mother was an art teacher, my father a highly spiritual man, venturing into meditation and Eastern religion. Our home was constantly filled with unusual and deeply sensitive people, Sufi Master Pir Inayat Khan, actor Gig Young, transcendental painter Emil Bistram, health guru Gypsy Boots. Art and books were everywhere in our home. It was impossible for me to appreciate at the time the open and creative environment in which I had been born.

Next among my seminal influences was travel. Travel has filled my palette with colors, my mind with images. It has shown me the broad diversity of places and people, as well as the subtle inner unity. In South Africa, I visited the immense game preserves and the vastness of the wild African plain. I stood in the presence of lions and felt their overwhelming power and majesty. While I collected multicolored shells, flocks of pink flamingos flew overhead. Throughout Africa and the Middle East, I saw snake charmers, shamans and fakirs. Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and other tropical venues filled me with intense hues and a deep respect for the dignity of native peoples for their beauty and their strength. The works of the great masters of Europe filled me with reverence and awe. The wonder of traveling through Europe along the Mediterranean to Italy or Mallorca, and visiting the Austrian Alps in Saint Johann are beauty my soul always remembers. The South Pacific, Samoa, Tahiti, and Fiji were places I walked for miles on tropical reefs alive with fish, turtles, and dolphin. The fern forests of New Zealand taught me a thousand variations of green I have never imagined, much less seen. In Australia, caught in a storm of inconceivable fury, we were forced to stay indoors for days. In Malaysia and Indonesia there were miles of terraced hills planted with rice. The deeply spiritual people of Bali also expressed a vital creativity, the arts of wood carving and silversmithing being passed down from generation to generation. Hong Kong and Singapore were charged with excitement and intrigue. The incredible rituals and sacred history of Nepal and India where Hindus and Buddhists walk side by side chanting OM NAMA SHIVAYA or OM MANI PADME HUM in the ancient temples changed me forever. Finally, the colorful memories of nearly forty trips to Hawaii were most instrumental in my growth toward the artist I was to become. The tropical plants and birds, the ocean, and the people still beckon me. These times and adventures, were times of ritual and deep purpose. It was an epoch of exploring, experiencing, and freely living life to the fullest. I was alive, awake, sexual, in tune with Nature, and vigorously healthy. I see now that being aligned with your soul creates vitality and ecstasy. The role of this vitality, as well as the inventory of sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and ideas is as clear as it manifests in my artistic vision.

In my soul's journey, travel initiated a rite of passage, all part of the path that led me inexorably to my life as an artist. As we all must pass through the stages of development, I see my own period of travel as one that broadened my vision and prepared me for the life to come. In the next stage of my life came marriage, children, and a successful business career. After failing in love and being married, I opened a surf shop. With my dedication, the small shop grew to a corporation grossing over a million dollars per year. Eventually, the store was nominated for a Marty Award, a prestigious award for retailers. I was deeply honored even to be nominated, which meant that the store was one of the most influential retailers in the Western United States. When we won, I was genuinely shocked. I realize now that this honor was the pinnacle of my life as a surfing businessman. It truly was the beginning of the end and signaled the conclusion of that phase of my life. I was about to enter the mystery of transformation. Soon thereafter, I was picking up one of my sons at his painting class, and I asked the teacher if she gave lessons to adults. She said, "Yes". and I immediately began to paint. Years earlier, I had taken lessons from Gloria Joy, a transformational painter, although I really never made a full commitment. I was just thirty-seven. I began painting three hours a week with a hilarious bunch of wonderful, elderly ladies. It soon extended to two classes and six hours per week. Within a year, I was painting three days a week, and I began to genuinely be involved in learning to paint. By the second year, I was semiretired from my business and was actively studying with several very famous artists. I was dreaming of being one of those plein-air painters, such as Gaugin, Van Gogh or O'Keeffe. I was falling in love again with Nature, color, the outdoors, and deep inside there was a growing fire of creative expression that was crying out to be expressed through painting. As this process deepened, my paintings began to transform into the
expression of this creative passion that was welling up from my unconscious. I was now painting my visions and dreams, and right before my eyes, the whole nature of my work and life was transforming. My art was pulling me into the exploration of deeper dimensions and the beginnings of the experience and expression of the soul. A new voice had come into being, and I merely began listening and responding to this growing call of the unconscious. Little did I understand, and never would I have guessed, that this voice that had come into my awareness would change, expand, and transform my entire life. As I now understand this process, this was the turning point, where I was called into service by my soul, to contribute to life and meet my destiny. This voice would also carry me into a deep exploration of the unconscious, connect me with my ancestors, and radically shift my life. The creative spirit began teaching me the language of the soul. As I continued to study my visions and dreams, my artwork began to transform. One form of expression that came into being was very large and voluptuous flower paintings. Through the long body, I now see that these paintings forecast the end of my marriage. My increasing sexuality erupted into the paintings and I found myself moving away from my relationship. I was painting life-size. My growing, almost exploding, feelings were bursting into existence in these large and wildly sexual paintings. What I have come to know is that my art, all art, is a litmus test of the soul. From the ego-mind level, paintings and art are beautiful and moving. From the perspective of the soul, or the mind's eye, paintings reveal the energy currents and symbols of the painter's unconscious, and in many cases, the collective unconscious. I
use the word unconscious to mean that which we carry intrinsically as human beings, but do not know consciously. Therefore, the unconscious is limitless, vast and a life long journey of exploration. The amazing thing about the unconscious is that it is known by few here in the West. Once you have discovered your unconscious, it is the beginning of the great journey of soul alignment and development. Through this work of exploring the soul, I have realized the essence of measuring the soul: the range of feelings and the sense of presence you carry. Paintings contain the intrinsic soul quality of the artist and intrinsic patterns of our collective intelligence. This is why art has such great value. It reveals that which cannot be said and it makes visible the invisible. From the soul's perspective, all paintings are alive, breathing, pulsating, dancing, glowing, carrying the forces of the unconscious.

In addition to the sexual flower paintings, the inner voice was directing me to explore the painting of my dreams. This move me into the exploration of the deeper mysteries of the unconscious. As I look back into this evolution, I can now see the soul was speaking through all the paintings. I had no idea of its voice at the time in my development. Yet, the mysteries of the unconscious, as Carl Jung correctly named it, were being revealed in my paintings. My work began to take on a new level of energy. As my life rapidly changed, I became conscious and aware of my own soul expressing a major influence on my life as a painter. I have studied with various spiritual teachers. One of significance has been a 24 year relationship with Brugh Joy, the renowned teacher and metaphysician. I remember arriving a day early for one of his workshops. He explained that he anticipated this was to be a most creative group. Among the participants were Barbara Streisand and Carrie Fischer. It was an inspiration for me to be surrounded with such charismatic and powerful women. During this workshop, I brought my paints and canvases. Through some mysterious circumstances, I painted my first mandala.

The mandala is an ancient pattern that has a specific center, and concentric rings that emanate from that center. Brugh Joy has stated that the mandala is another eye of God or Goddess. It is the mystery of the totality that moves outside of time and space. It can be experienced in all dimensions and through it we catch a glimpse of the deity itself, whether the mandala is personal or collective. Carl Jung, the eminent psychologist and remarkable mandala painter, rediscovered and introduced the mandala to the West. He felt that the most powerful religious form within the mandala was the circle. He found that the circle was one of the great primordial images of mankind, and in consideration of the circle we are analyzing the self. Also, Jung felt the personal mandala symbolizes various levels of awareness within an individual as well as the energies that can unify and heal. So great was his faith in the healing power of mandalas that he employed them frequently as a therapy technique. On mandala symbolism, Jung writes, "There is no linear evolution; there is only circumambulation of self. Uniform development exists, at most, only at the beginning; later, everything points toward the center. This insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner peace returned. I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self was for me the ultimate. Perhaps someone else know more, but not I". I understand now through the long body that during this life-changing workshop, the mandala came through me rather than being painted by me. At the conclusion of the workshop, I revealed the mandala painting to the group, and I remember after a long period of silence, Brugh asked to purchase the painting. This conference forever changed my life and initiated me into a quickening awareness of my destiny path. For a time I voraciously read everything I could find on the mandala.

Reading Dr. Beverly Sheiffer's master's thesis, entitled "Mandalas and Icons" proved to be a significant event on my path. At the end of the book was her phone number, which I called. I was granted a meeting with her. Her home was beautiful, a feminine temple. There were art treasures on every wall. After our talk, she accepted me as a student.
Here, I came to know the mandala as a psychic map and a symbol of wholeness that can center us through difficult times. Indeed, Dr. Sheiffer at that time was dealing with the loss of her husband and her son. The mandala was essential in her process of healing. After about three months, I knew our work together was finished, and I asked her if it would be permissible to create mandalas using these techniques. She though about it for a moment, then stated, "You're the only one that has taken this kind of an interest in my work. I'm gifting you with this process". After thanking her, I soon began to fully enter and explore the mandala. My second, third, and fourth paintings all sold immediately. I realized that I enjoyed and was energized by painting mandalas. Little did I know that four years later the mandala and the great mysteries it contains would become my life's work. This whole form of soul destiny was validated when I discovered one of my drawings from childhood. I found a powerful mandala that I had created when I was about seven. Within this drawing were all of the mysteries that I was now exploring nearly thirty years later. One begins to know his or her own soul and opens to the capacity of intuitive knowing through the long body, the mystery of one's own unfolding. It is an awesome journey and truly the essence of all of our paths into the spiritual dimensions. Art is the visual entrance into the mystery of creation. Once the inner eyes of the soul are opened, then you have access to experience of this mystery. You can walk into a museum and see the living presence of immortality as presented by the great artists. To our souls, all of their paintings are fully alive, charged with energy. They are visual expressions of the painter's soul, our soul, and the mystery and essence of life. This is why art is so valuable. It is the mystery revealed. This is the reason we build museums housing the works of great artists. When you stand in front of a great painting, you have an opportunity to feel the radiance of the soul of the artist and his or her connection to the eternal currents of creativity. To the soul, there is no comprehension of time and space. Paintings are in the eternal now; they are alive. The discovery of this mystery was the end of my twenty-seven year career in the surfing and clothing industry, and the beginning of seeing life through the eyes of the soul.

Not long into this process, people began to feel and respond to my paintings in a much deeper way. They began to ask for specific commissions; for instance, mandalas for meditation rooms, altars, or for astrology or therapy practices. I returned to Brugh Joy and showed him several of these commissioned paintings. He suggested that at a very deep level I was tapping into the client's personal mandala. My response was, „What's a personal mandala?" He laughed and said, "One day you'll know". His teaching and my own realizations of this mystery in mid 1991 have carried me into my present path of creative development. The mandala, whether it be personal or collective, is a magnificent teacher. It is truly the doorway, or portal, into the well of the soul. It is an "eye". into one's unconscious, revealing the language of the soul. Once you intuitively understand this visual dynamism, then you enter the eternal mystery of the divine, and you have the divine gift of feeling and seeing the mystery. This has long been understood by various cultures around the world, but it is only reappearing here in the West dues to the great changes in our culture today. As I have studied the wisdom of the mandala, it has taken me into many aspects of the mystery of my own soul. One of these is teaching around the country and the world these past years sharing the wisdom of the mandala. I call my teaching "Art as a Spiritual Path". For me this is the sharing of the deep colors of love. In lectures or workshops, we begin to work with mandala symbolism. When you stare at the center of the mandala, which is called tresspasso in the Eastern traditions, you begin to see with your peripheral vision. Immediately you see, maybe for the very first time, the patterns and movements in Nature. As you are staring at the center, the painting comes to life. You see breathing, movement, spirals, colors expanding, wheels turning, and a glimpse of the cosmic mysteries. The beauty of this technique is that after a while you can move your eyes and see the dance of the cosmic patterns throughout Nature, which can also be seen in holographic posters. Taken a step further, this visual dynamism can be applied to all seeing in manifest reality. This is a great entry or path of induction into the language of the soul. From the very thrilling moment you first see the mystery, much of what you thought was real begins to collapse or fade away and a whole new level of reality opens up, the drawing of the veil of "Maya". You walk through space and see a profound dance of patterns, color, movement, and the connectedness of the universe. At this point there is no more boredom in life; any walk can be a journey into the mystery of the universe. When the eyes of the souls have opened, you can see what the great artists, poets, and composers have been moved by. This reality is the very essence of their souls.

Seeing another human being as a soul with these eyes fills you with profound compassion. You will witness in front of your very eyes the deity itself. It is an awesome experience, and one that has powerfully affected my work as a painter, my relationships, my workshops, and my life. This soul seeing, and sharing the soul's language is the dedication of my life and my painting. The soul sees, feels, and hears only the present. It knows no past or future. It looks into and through Nature, and reveals its range of sensitivities through deep feeling. Its center is the heart and the heart chakra. When viewing life through the eyes of the heart, you look into a wilderness of experiences that are hidden from everyday awareness. There comes an intuitive knowing that you are no longer reading about life or the spiritual journey; you are the mystery. As you move, the whole universe moves with you. This is the place of oneness with life, with Nature, and with the eternal dance of the divine. The soul and its vitality, is the entrance into the mystery of existence. Art is a direct form of truth and it visually reveals this mystery. While much of the world is into television, inside our very home is the greatest mystery of life in living, vibrant, dancing and cosmic color.

Another aspect about the mandala is that it looks into the wholeness of life. This means what you see and know, and what you can't see or know with the outer awareness. When this is applied to people, you begin to see the patterns of the unconscious. In the unconscious, we enter the mystery of the dark side, or parts about ourselves that we haven't either known about or integrated. I mention this because it is of great value to uncover the mysteries of the shadow side of the unconscious. I hasten to add here that much of my own journey has been one of falling into the dark side and having to survive very difficult circumstances in order to have an understanding of the powerful focus contained in this part of our psyche. Personally, I have had three great descents, of which two have been painted in mandala form. Once is called "Descent into Fire", the other "The breath of Fire the Feminine Crucifixion". These experiences were incredibly painful at that time, but I have come to fully trust and respect the workings of our own unconscious or soul. My experience of life is that it is such a profound mystery, and that life itself as an expression of our soul is fully in charge of who we are at the core level. When you begin to recognized this, you can't help but pray, for through prayer and grace we are given this gift of life. Life i the greatest gift you can have in this universe. Life has called us all into existence, and it is life we shall serve. When you know this, you listen to the call of service and you transform to a place where you can make your soul's contribution. You also realize that in the second half of life there is no greater joy than making a form of contribution of whatever you are called to contribute. Your responsibility is simply to be fully present in who you are, the rest will happen by grace. The more you are radiant in yourself, the more other around you will radiate in themselves. This is the mystery of induction and why we all seek out teachers and gurus to further facilitate our journeys. The mandala symbolically integrates the dark side in a safe, balanced, and deep way.

You do have to balance the deeper forces, but the mandala give the psyche a valuable symbol of wholeness. According to Jung, the mandala is the ultimate symbol of well-being and wholeness. In my teaching, I have come to know that we are all right! In other words, the soul has organized our unfolding in such a way that when you realize who you are and what you are, that you immediately drop and kiss the Earth. You look back through the long body of your life and you would not change one second. You would pick the same parents in an instant, and you become eternally grateful for all your teachers, both of the light and of the dark. I know how painful this may be, but the teachers of the dark are quintessential to the process of the soul's journey.

The universe is a "cosmos" in the original Greek sense, an ordered, purposeful whole. To see beyond the manifest is to grasp the pattern. All of reality has a pattern, and the patterns are ours to understand if we have the courage and insight to open up and look. All we seek - peace, love, health, and happiness, and in sum all that is real - can be ours through this understanding. The chief blessing of my life is that these patterns have become to be expressed through me in the form of the mandala. My life's journey has come clear to me through this ancient symbol, and through it I have been able to show others their paths. This too is a great blessing. In my exploration, the mandala is the doorway into the language of the soul. As you learn this language, you gain access to the eternal wisdom and mystery of the soul. Your life will be altered, expanded, graced, and deepened forever! Blessings and namaste.

6 -2002

TANTRA: The Magazine