Mondala Monday – Monastic Mandalas: Hildegard of Bingen by Lillian Sizemore

As a lover of Early Music, I have been familiar with Hildegard of Bingen’s chants for many years, but I had no idea she (or anyone else in the western world) created mandalas in the Middle Ages. Not being a historian of art I assumed the form came from the east (Tibet, India) and was delighted to see this article about Monastic Mandalas. I’m also delighted that Lillain Sizemore was gracious enough to allow me to reprint her blog post here. Thank you Lillian, for allowing me to share this with my readers.


As a child, I often saw or felt ‘entities’ from other worlds. Many children report supersensory experiences and one such child was Hildegard von Bingen.

Hildegard of Bingen, (1098-1179) was born a tenth child to a German noble family. She was an influential and spiritual woman whose fierce devotion paved the way for future generations of women to succeed in fields from theology, to medicine, to music and art. At a very early age she claimed to experience supernatural visions of  a powerful, transformative light, but she hid her prophetic abilities until much later in life. She was admitted into a convent at the age of eight, and was prepared for a life of hermetic devotion and meditation.

Although Hildegard was not formally educated, her desire to record her visions and messages into book form was undeterred. She relied on secretaries to help transcribe her ideas onto paper and was a prolific writer on topics of philosophy, herbal medicine, the natural world, and a noted composer of hauntingly beautiful chants.

Hildegard became a well-regarded authority and the Mother Superior of her convent. Around 1135, at age 42, she undertook a series of  visionary symbolic paintings in unmistakable mandala-forms. While she did not make the illustrations herself, it is thought that she oversaw their production. These cosmic memories occur in myth and archtypes we readily recognize. The pictures were thought to be as strong or stronger than the words themselves. There is a gesltalt immediacy, what Hindu’s refer to as darshan, meaning the simultaneous act of seeing and being seen by a deity.

Universal Man. Manuscript illumination from
Liber divinorum operum or De operatione dei
(Book of Divine Works) by Hildegard of Bingen,
1163–74. Biblioteca Statale, Lucca

She created a drawing, or illumination, in her manuscript Scivias (Know the Ways), circa 1140–50, of her defining vision, in which the great span of the universe revealed itself to her in a trance as “round and shadowy…pointed at the top, like an egg…its outermost layer of a bright fire.”

Das Weltall. Manuscript illumination from Scivias
(Know the Ways) by Hildegard of Bingen (Disibodenberg: 1151)

Die wahre Dreiheit in der wahren Einheit.
Manuscript illumination from Scivias (Know the Ways)
by Hildegard of Bingen (Disibodenberg: 1151)

Hildegard’s visions led her to channel cosmic laws into illuminations and illustrate invisible concepts such as ethers, air, and wind.  She assigns meaning to these elements to represent such virtues as atonement, righteousness, and moderation.

Cultivating the Cosmic Tree

Central to her mandala paintings is the understanding of a ‘cosmic equilibrium’ and a reverence for all life. In her  use of ‘quartering of the circle’ we recognize the four elements (fire, air, water and earth), an archetypal depiction also used by Native American sand painters for the four sacred directions. Her concept of Viriditas, the Greening, was a precursor to our ecology movement. She described this power as the agent of the God, a divine vitality, that was the animating life-force within all creation. This ‘Greenness’ was the very expression of Divine Power on Earth.

All Beings Celebrate Creation

As Stephanie Roth explains in her article The Cosmic Visions of Hildegard of Bingen:

Since this extraordinary phenomenon called life could only be created by God,
Hildegard believed, all that lives equally carried his Divine energy,
or ‘viritas’ [sic]. In her own words:

Oh fire of the Holy Spirit,

life of the life of every creature,

holy are you in giving life to forms…

Oh boldest path,

penetrating into all places,

in the heights, on earth,

and in every abyss,

you bring and bind all together

From you clouds flow, air flies,

Rocks have their humours,

Rivers spring forth from the waters

And earth wears her green vigour

O ignis Spiritus Paracliti

This is the foundation upon which all her texts rest, whether songs, visions or natural observations.

In a time when women were not allowed self-expression, Hildegard used art for very specific communicative purposes.Though she did not use traditional reasoning to arrive at her realizations, she presents us with subjective experience of the heart, through art, poetry, and music.  Her work allows us to interpret and mold the ideas to our own personal experience and situation. This is not unlike the direct experience one can have with the illuminations in the recently published tome of C. G. Jung, the Red Book: Liber Novus.

There is a wealth of academic research available, and a growing curiosity and acceptance of her works. Perhaps now is the time for Hildegard’s fifteen minutes of fame? Just released, is a gorgeous, new German-language film “Vision” by Margarethe von Trotta. 

Article © Lillian Sizemore,


Lillian Sizemore is a professional artist, educator, and independent scholar. She creates mandalas and observes pattern and geometry to connect to a deeper vibration of harmony and universal wholeness. Her mosaic work is featured in Mosaic Techniques and Traditions and Mosaic Art and Style. Lillian has traveled widely, documenting mosaic sites around the world. She authored A Guide to Mosaic Sites: San Francisco (, a walker’s guide to publicly accessible mosaic sites, as well as many articles and book reviews. She is an invited artist-lecturer at the Getty Vila and on the faculty at the Institute of Mosaic Art.


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Mandala Monday – Jungian Symbols – Guest Post by Epouna

While you may be familiar with Freud who believed the force behind psychological things was sexual, Carl G. Jung shared this generation but had beliefs of his own. Jung (1875-1961), was a psychologist and psychiatrist who found that personalities of both the conscious and unconscious mind were formed by symbolic archetypes living within. It was these archetypes that ultimately gave birth to mankind.

If you are familiar with Jung’s philosophies, you know that he is deemed responsible for extrovert and introvert personality classifications including think, feel, sensation and intuition. Jung suggested the balance between conscious and unconscious minds was essential for the well-being of one’s soul. All humans hold collective or global consciousness which are inherited through the generations from the beginning. In the Jungian world, archetypes are essentially personality templates.

When in your dream state, primordial images are offered through thought may vary depending on your culture. Just as a bird creates a nest, instinctive ways, based on senses, are portrayed in choices made in everyday life. Symbolic images which have been represented in ancient art in every culture reflect universal myths of creation, god-man relationships and endless other legends. These are all considered Jungian archetypes as well.

It is common that those you draw into your life have similar idealist tendencies as you. Regardless of culture, throughout mythology, three constants have been animals, circles and stones as these are elements of the collective consciousness. Animals are spiritual guides and power figures to Native Americans, Romans and even Americans as the eagle is the country’s symbol. Buddhist and Hindu traditions hold circles sacred such as the mandala and stones have symbolized a variety of occurrences. Stonehenge is an example, very symbolic to ancient Baltic people or you can evaluate Jacob’s actions in the Jewish Tradition. When God spoke to Jacob, he laid a circle of stones in his dream. Human instincts are depicted in all of these cases.



Mandalas were viewed as basic patterns for the fantasy life and dream state to Carl Jung. They represent eternal creation, eternal mind, formation and transformation. Jung discovered that while you walk among the mandala’s outer circle, it is the center that holds you captive to reach a harmonious balance with the universe. The deity lives in the mandala’s center. As you mentally create your own mandala, various images are generated causing a biochemical reactor in your consciousness to end suffering while achieving enlightenment.

The renowned Mandala of Two Realms is created through the combination of Five Buddhas and the Five Kings. Native American mandalas offer good health, joy and prosperity while a Jungian Mandala draws you into your center by following the symbols within its consciousness.

The Jungian Mandala offers lost knowledge of:

1. As your soul grows form one initial form to another from infancy to manhood, hero myths play key roles in your journey.

2. Quaternity (four-part) is essentially one’s symbol of wholeness.

3. You are able to grow to a higher level of understanding as you hear your unconscious from self-realization that has fed individualization.

4. Your persona is your mask that allows you to show the world what you are good at.


Mandala made by a Jung’s unknown patient before 1929

Carl Jung is known for this depth and understanding of mankind’s conscious and unconscious minds. He realized that there is a bond within that can never be broken. Religions, rituals and ceremonies parallel your birth, existence and death. Just as your life creates one big symbol, it is this symbol that you pass onto the next to live again.

Article by Epouna

Images from Wikimedia Commons


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