I’ve just found a great site called the Book of Thoth thanks to a link from Astrococktail. (Thoth is the Egyptian god of wisdom, and many believe that Thoth was actually an Atlantean priest who brought the secrets of magic to the Egyptian kingdom.) On this site I found this fascinating article by C. Clogston about Jung and his mandalas which came out of his own exploration of the drawings that erupted from his subconscious. “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. “
Clogston’s article discusses Jung’s use of the mandala in the alchemical/psychological process of individuation, and this is the process that transformational astrology examines as well.
Adding a fourth to an already established thee has a transformational effect. In geometry, a fourth point transforms the two-dimensional triad or triangle into a figure with depth, the cube and the tetrahedron…. Often it is a matter of completing a triadic figure with a fourth term, thus making it into a quaternity” [citations omitted]. Jung searches for the quaternity when a trinity is encountered, “Jung over and over again in his writings returns to the alchemical question: “Three are here but where is the fourth?” The completion of the quaternity is seen frequently in alchemical works, even whimsically, “All things do live in the three/ But in the four they merry be.”
Astrological symbolism also deals with triplicities and quaternities. There are four elements (air, earth, fire and water) and three qualities (cardinal, fixed, mutable). The concept of “squaring the circle” becomes even more complex here because planets that fall in the same element, of which there are four, “trine” each other (forming a 120 degree angle to each other), and planets that fall in the same quality, of which there are three, “square” or “oppose” each other (forming a 90 degree or 180 degree angle). In the triangle aspect, or trine, energy flows easily and is unobstructed; in the square or opposition the energies are blocked but ultimately through crisis are transformed. Another expression of the “three” and the “four” is the spatial division of the horoscope into twelve houses: four quadrants, each with three houses.
When the points of a triangle are connected they form a circle, and circles have long been associated with the heavens, the infinite and the creative spark of divine consciousness. The square is associated with the manifest earth – finite and able to be grasped with the human mind. The alchemical process seeks to transmute that which is finite and earthbound (lead) into something divine (gold), and in alchemical psychology and transformation astrology we seek to transmute the challenges and burdens that keep us locked into an existence of habit and compulsion into divine gifts that open the doors to greater self-awareness and higher levels of understanding.
The circumnambulation Jung describes, the process of “squaring the circle” or “circling the square” has an uncertainty built into the journey: do we ever achieve individuation or is it a goal that is ever just out of reach? It is important to take the path that the mandala represents, to revolve around the center, to rotate near and around the center, and hopefully, move towards the self.. As Jung remarks “… the self is our life’s goal, for it is the completest expression of that fateful combination we call individuality…”