DESIGN MEANING: Life Death Mandala

erin cadigan mandala death skulls drawing

Spiral of Life and Death

Our beginning and our end operate with in the structure of strict universal laws. There is no common occurrence between the two that can be said, as much, to prove us all one people.

In the middle of the mandala is  an abridged version of of the stages of human development. The design works outward in a spiral, starting with the one cell zygote through to the fetus at 23 weeks. Continuing to spiral to the outer ring is the first stage of physical death as the soul leaves the body. Working from an ancient Japanese art form, kusozu, a graphic depiction of the nine stages of death and decay and information from videos about the Body Farm, a government compound where they study the decomposition of bodies left out on the grounds, I came up with five stages of physical death: soul departure, bloating, wasting, consumption by saprotrophs and finally bones.

After physical death comes the journey of the soul. Studying the the belief systems of world wide religions and cultures as well as recorded accounts of near death experiences I tried to the common themes into five stages.

In the first the soul is greeted with feelings of overwhelming peace and love. Symbolically there is often a tunnel or cave as well as a bright light. Next comes the experience of human emotion often categorized as “seeing your life flash before your eyes”. This stage can also involve outside entities that exert these feelings including family members, friends, angels or “guides”. The third stage is the concept of redemption or punishment also known as heaven and hell. For this I used loosely the imagery of Tibetan Buddhist THIRD bardo as it tied into many other belief systems. The spiritual vortexes are hell (fire and ice), the hungry ghost (need and desire), asura ( a place where those needing to exert power over others in life go to learn), animal world (for those souls who have through gluttony have devolved into an unreflective state of animal existence), and heaven (symbolized by a city of light and knowledge). The fourth stage moves us beyond human experience into a place of pure knowledge. This is symbolized by the ancient universal symbol of spiritual intelligence, the serpent. Lastly is the Cosmic, absorption into the presence of God or divine enlightenment, symbolized by the 1000 petal lotus, the all seeing eye of god and the celestial flame.

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