Grover A. Zinn, Jr.

                                            MANDALA SYMBOLISM


( "History of Religions", 1973, v. 12 )

Studies relating Western mysticism to the wider cross-cultural context of Eastern mystical traditions have tended to concentrate on the conceptual framework and/or literary expressions of the mystic way. One result has been a drawing of parallels from selected classic texts with emphasis on language and concepts with much interest in epistemology, theology, and to a lesser degree psychology. In addition to limits in emphasis there has been a rather narrow selection within the corpus of Western mystical writings. One thinks immediately of Rudolf Otto's major study of Meister Eckhart and Shankara, and ofD. T. Suzuki's comparative studies of Zen Buddhism and the mysticism of Eckhart.1 Likewise, William Johnston's recent perceptive study, The Still Point, continues to restrict the evidence from Christian mystics, for his major sources are late-medieval and Post-Tridentine mystics.2 Eckhart is hardly a "typical" Christian mystic. Restricting the study of Christian mysticism to the later Middle Ages and times

This is a substantially revised version of a paper read at the Conference on Medieval Studies sponsored by the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 1971.
1 R. Otto, Mysticism: East and West (London, 1932); D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (London, 1957).
2 William Johnston, The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism (New York, 1971).


following neglects major mystics, especially Cistercians, Franciscans, and Victormes. To neglect men from these traditions is to pass by particularly profound uses of symbols in the exposition and communication of the contemplative quest. This paper proposes to study a drawing described and used by Hugh of St. Victor in two of his mystical writings, De arca Noe moraliand De arca Noe mystica. 3 The drawing will be examined with particular reference to the theory and use of mandalas in Tibetan Buddhism and the functions of mandalic structures as elucidated by Carl Jung. Our purpose is to show that in structure, function, and "content" the Victorine drawing has many significant parallels with Tibetan mandalas. On the basis of this cross-cultural consideration of a particular symbolic structure it is hoped that a fresh approach to the study of Western mysticism can be realized, especially with respect to the use of symbols and symbolic structures in explicating the mystic way. One of the less thoroughly examined aspects of medieval Western mysticism is the way in which novices were first introduced to the contemplative life and then led through the stages in which the love of God becomes an increasing reality, with final culmination in the unitive experience. What needs greater appreciation is the use of symbols as primary bearers of meaning and agents of transformation. Symbols are not simply intellectual constructs which augment or ornament arguments essentially rational in process and conclusion. They form a level of meaning and communication which cannot be neglected. Symbols and symbolic structures not only express insight; they often guide the initiate along the subtle path of ascetic renunciation and contemplative fruition. Symbols live within a particular environment; they are not abstract elements. Careful consideration must therefore be given to the special situation and the particular climate in which a given set of symbols has vitality. In the Western medieval period the mystic tradition was generally nurtured within the framework of a rather complex theological matrix and a disciplined ascetic life-style. Within the framework, certain symbols had an initia-

3 Texts in PL 176:617-80 and 681-704. English translation of De arca Noe morali in Hugh of St. Victor: Selected Spiritual Writings, translated by a Religious of C.S.M.V., with an introduction by Aelred Squire, O.P. (London, 1962). The division into chapters in the translation differs from Migne and has been adopted in this paper. The treatise is cited as A. mor., the translation as C.S.M.V., and De area Noe mystica as A. myst. Texts of several passages missing in Migne but included in the translation are found in C. C. Mierow, "A Description of Manuscript Garret Deposit 1450, Princeton University Library, Together with a Collation of the First Work Contained in It, the De Area Noe of Hugo de Sancto Victore," Transactions of the American Library Institute, for 1917 (Chicago, 1918), pp. 27-55.


tory value, for they possessed the potential for revealing to the novice a theological vision and guiding him through the levels of experience germane to the life of contemplative asceticism. The use of symbols is grounded in the mystic experience and the path thereto. William James, Dean Inge, and W. T. Stace, among others, have pointed out in their separate ways the ineffable nature of the mystic experience.4 It lies beyond the level of conscious thought and outside the bounds of the conceptual range of human language. Yet the mystic persists in the attempt to speak of his experience and to communicate some understanding of the experience and the pattern of discipline leading to it. He often has recourse to symbolic language in this struggle to express the unexpressible, perhaps constructing a set of interlocking symbols to convey his insight insofar as possible. While not directing his comment to the situation of the mystic, Paul Tillich has an observation which is appropriate: "The object of theology is found in the symbols of religious experience. . . . Theology, then, is the conceptual interpretation, explanation, and criticism of the symbols in which a special encounter between man and God has found expression." 5 Such an attitude is fundamental to the thought of Hugh of St. Victor. He speaks of symbolica demonstratio and stresses the necessity for symbols in theology: "It is impossible to represent [demonstrari} invisible things except by means of those which are visible. Therefore all theology of necessity has recourse to visible representations in order to make known the invisible."6

4 William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York, 1902); William Ralph Inge, Christian Mysticism, The Bampton Lectures, 1899 (London, 1899), esp. lecture 1; W. T. Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy (New York,'1960). See also Evelyn Underbill, Mysticism (New York, 1955), esp. pp. 328-57.
5 Paul Tillich, "Theology and Symbolism," in Religious Symbolism, ed. F. E. Johnson (New York, 1955), p. 108; also see Tillich, Systematic Theology (Chicago, 1951), 1:132-33, 196-97, 265 ff. The relation between religious awareness and symbolic expression, in this case the language of conceptual thought, is considered in F. J. Strong, Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning (Nashville, Term., 1967). On symbols, experience, and expression, see E. Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, trans. R. Manheim (New Haven, Conn., 1953), and Language and Myth, trans. S. K. Langer (New York, 1946).
6 Hugh of St. Victor, In hierarchiam coelestem, 1, i, PL 175:926D. On symbolica demonstratio, see ibid., II, col. 941C (referred to hereafter as IHC). Hugh's use of symbols is also tied to his apophaticism in considering God; God is beyond man's experience of either the external world of objects or the internal world of the mind. He is absolutely transcendent. He is "unknowable" or "unthinkable" (incogitabilis). Men use the word "Deus" to speak of God, says Hugh, but they err if they think that the concept accompanying this word corresponds to God as he is (see IHC, III, PL 175:976D-978C; also De sacramentis christianae fidei, I, x, 2, PL 176:328CD, trans. Deferrari, p. 166). The same holds for "Creator." Man has only symbols with which to speak of God, and as Hugh observes, "the image is far from the truth" (IHC, iii, PL 175:977A). Yet the image and the symbol have value, as the citation in the text shows.


    Hugh's brilliance as a subtle allegorist in expounding Scripture has been appreciated; the intimate connection of his symbolist frame of mind with his understanding of initiation into the mystic way has not been so readily grasped.7 The major contribution of the Victorine mystics, Hugh and Richard, has often been found in their critical analysis and systematic exposition of the accumulated tradition of contemplative teaching gathered in the writings of the fathers through the centuries.8 The Victorines made contemplation a discipline, in the sense that they made it something to be taught and handed on. They also made it more systematic in a theological sense and added to the understanding of the psychological dimensions of the contemplative life. Their systematic and rational approach reflects a concern found also in concurrent twelfth-century developments in theology, canon law, exegesis, and the liberal arts. Yet ultimately, for all of their systematic intent and rational reflection, the Victorines turned to the vehicle of symbolic structures to convey their completed teaching on the mystic life. Richard chose the tabernacle of Moses.9 Hugh selected the ark of Noah.10

    Hugh associates two major iconographic elements with the ark of Noah in the drawing which we shall study. These two elements are a symbolic cosmos which surrounds the ark and a figure of Christ embracing the cosmos. Thus we have a drawing in which Christ embraces a circular symbolic cosmos which surrounds a highly schematized ark of Noah. The drawing no longer exists. It is described in detail in the second ark treatise, De arca Noe

7 On Hugh as an allegorist, see M.-D. Chenu, La theologie au douzieme siede, Etudes de philosophic medievale, vol. 45 (Paris, 1957), pp. 191-209; also pp. 159-90 on "La mentalite symbolique."
8 See Patrick J. Healy, "The Mysticism of the School of St. Victor," Church History 1 (1932): 211-21. The "speculative" dimension of Victorine mysticism, as well as the "speculative" mysticism of Bernard, has been stressed by E. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1954), pp. 164-71.
9 See Richard of St. Victor, Benjamin Major, in PL 196; English translation, Clare Kirchberger, Richard of St.-Victor: Selected Writings on Contemplation (London, 1957), pp. 131-212 (selections), with substantial introduction and bibliography.
10 In addition to the use of the ark theme in the two treatises considered here, the theme reappears in De vanitate mundi, II, PL 176:711-20, trans. C.S.M.V., pp. 171-82. The most recent and complete study of Hugh's thought is by the late Abbe R. Baron, Science et sagesse chez Hugues de Saint-Victor (Paris, 1957), with an extensive bibliography. A very useful work is H. R.. Schlette, Die Nichtigkeit der Welt (Miinchen, 1961). See also the brief but penetrating introduction by A. Squire, in C.S.M.V. For a review of Vicfcorine scholarship, see J. Chatillon, "De Guillaume de Champeaux a Thomas Gallus: Chronique d'histoire litteraire et doctrinale de 1'Ecole de Saint-Victor," Revue du moyen age latin 8 (1952): 139-62, 247-73.


mystica, written about 1129-30.11 From the account in this work the complex structure and symbolism of the drawing can be reconstructed in detail. The account gives a step-by-step description of the process of constructing the iconograph, beginning with fixing the center of the drawing and sketching the central square and concluding with the description of the surrounding Christ-figure. De arca Noe morali, the earlier of the treatises (ca. 1125), is Hugh's most thorough exposition of his theology of the mystic way.12 It combines an analysis of the doctrinal setting of the mystic life, Hugh's theology of creation and restoration, his understanding of the significance of history for the Christian faith, and his teaching on the contemplative life. All of these various threads of thought receive visual presentation in the drawing, which is repeatedly assumed in the exposition of the mystic way
in De arca Noe morali. In vivid images the iconograph conveys Hugh's theology and his conception of the theory and practice of the contemplative life.

    Hugh assumes that the ark of Noah is a truncated pyramid with  an area one cubit square at the peak and a central column reaching from base to summit. The form of the Ark is thus homologizable with the shape of a mountain, an association which Hugh makes in terms of two significant mountains: Mount Sinai and Moses' ascent of the same as a paradigm of the mystic's ascent into the cloud of darkness; Mount Zion and the return of all nations to the cosmic center where mankind is reunified and united in the eschatological celebration of the celestial liturgy.13 Since the shape of the ark is of primary importance in Hugh's explication of its symbolic significance, he draws it to display the three-dimensional

11 On the date, see Damien van den Eynde, Essai sur la succession et la date dea writs de Hugues de Saint-Victor, Spicilegium pontificii athenaei antoniana, vol. 13 (Rome, 1960), p. 80. On all matters of date, van den Eynde is to be preferred to R. Baron.
12 The only treatise which approaches A. mor. is De arrha animae, written near the end of Hugh's career. It fails to have the sweep of the earlier treatise, although the later work is much more effective in presenting the theme of love and the dialectic of amor mundi and amor Dei.
13 For the use of Mount Sinai, see A. myst., VII, PL 176:694D-695B. The theme goes back to Philo and is found in Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite (see L. Bouyer, La spirituality de Nouveau Testament et des Peres, Histoire de la spiritualite chretienne, vol. 1 [Paris, I960], pp. 48-56, 355 ff.). For the use of Mount Zion, see A. mor., II, 9, PL 640D ff., C.S.M.V., pp. 83 ff., where Hugh begins by referring to the spiritual ark in the following manner: "This is the mountain of the house of the Lord established in the top of the mountain, unto which all nations flow, and go up from the ark's four corners, as from the four quarters of the earth." The biblical allusion is to Isaiah 14:13. On the idea that the Fall dispersed men over the earth and fragmented humanity, see A. myst., IV, PL 176:686AB.


form.14 Therefore the ark is shown as if viewed from above. The result is a series of nesting rectangles, three in number, one for each of the three stories of the ark, with a square in the center representing both the central column upon which the upper edges of the inward-sloping sides of the vessel rest, and the cubit at the apex of the ark. In Hugh's spiritual interpretation of the ark this square with its twofold significance is a key element. The cubit at the summit of the ark represents the "simple oneness, that true simplicity, and everlasting changelessness, that is in God."15 The column in the center of the ark, reaching from the base to the summit, is symbolic of Christ the Incarnate Word.16 The corners of the rectangles are connected by lines which extend from the base of the vessel to the summit. Along these lines twelve ladders are drawn, linking the three stories of the ark at each of the four corners. Again we have a structural detail of significance for the spiritual interpretation of the ark. Each of the twelve ladders represents a degree of advancement in the mystic life; each series of three ladders represents one of the four stages into which Hugh divides the contemplative quest.17 Alongside each ladder Hugh


                                                  The Mystic Quest

        Stage                     Christ                           Degrees

Awakening. . . .       Book chides                Fear, sorrow, love

Purgation ....             Tree shades                  Patience, mercy, compunction

Illumination . . . ..      Book illumines             Thinking, meditation, contemplation

Union.................      Tree feeds                    Temperance, prudence, fortitude


draws the personification of the virtue associated with that ladder; hence each of the triangles created by the diagonal lines of ladders contains three figures personifying levels of spiritual perfection.


14 "We have depicted this form [truncated pyramid] in preference to the other, because wewere unable to show the height of the walls in a flat drawing. For in this plan the ascending beams are gradually brought together until they meet in the measure of a single cubit" (A. mor., I, 13, PL 176:629D, C.S.M.V., p. 63). In connection with this passage the English translation has a note which is absolutely inaccurate concerning the relationship of this ark with the drawing mentioned in ibid., 7, col. 622BC, p. 52; the note claims the two ark drawings are not the same. In fact, they are the same.
15 See A. mor., IV, 4, PL 176:666BC, C.S.M.V., pp. 126-27; also -De vanitate mundi, II, PL 714AB, C.S.M.V., pp. 175-76.
16 A. mor., II, 8, PL 176:640CD, C.S.M.V., p. 82; see our discussion of this below.
17 For a description of these ladders and personified virtues, see A. myst., VII-X, PL 176:692B-698D; the four stages, or "steps of the ascents," are discussed in A. mor., II, 9-10, PL 176:640D-642C, C.S.M.V., pp. 83-86 (see table 1).


    The keel of the ark is prominently indicated by a line running from the bow to the stern. Along this line Hugh inscribes the human genealogy of Christ, beginning with Adam, and the spiritual filiation of the Bishops of Rome, beginning with Peter and ending with Honorius II. Christ is represented by the small square which rests in the center of the drawing and consequently at the mid-point of the timeline. Thus the passage of time from the Creation to the present (and into the future to the eschaton) is marked on the keel of the ark.18 The twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles are singled out for special recognition; each group of twelve men is portrayed by a line of twelve small "icons," as Hugh calls them, extended across the width of the ark. Here the focus is clearly eschatological; Hugh describes their appearance as being "like the senate (senatus) of the city of God."19

    The cosmos which surrounds the ark is divided into three concentric circular bands, or regions. The innermost is the earth, the middle the aer, and the outermost the aether.20 The earth is shown as a map, a feature which stresses the significance of history as opposed to the simple presentation of the elemental nature of the earth as such in other symbolic cosmi. Hugh holds that divine providence has so ordered events in sacred history that time and place are coordinated, with the locus of significant events moving westward as time progresses onward. The correlation of events on the time-line keel of the ark with places on the map of the world gives visual expression to this fundamental Victorine concept.21

      The bow of the ark is placed in the eastern region of the map. The aer contains personifications of the four seasons, with one season in each of the quadrants of the aer, spring being uppermost and oriented so that it corresponds to East on the map of the world. A geometric device of eight lines displays the interplay of the four

18 "If the Ark signifies the Church, it remains true that the length of the Ark symbolizes the length of the Church. However, the length of the Church is to be found in the duration of the times .... The length of it consists in the increase of times, which extend from the past, through the present, into the future" (A. myst.. Ill, MPL 176:685AB). On the importance of Hugh's consciousness of history, see Chenu, pp. 62 ff.
19 A. myst., IV, PL 176:868D. Similar devices are found in the Hortus deliciarum of Herrade of Landesberg; see E. Male, The Gothic Image, trans. Dora Nussey (New York, 1958), p. 380, fig. 184 (the genealogy of Christ).
20 A. myst., XIV-XV, PL 176:700C-701D. On the nature of symbolic cosmi in the twelfth century, see the important work by M.-Th. d'Alvemy,' 'Le cosmos symbolique de XII siecle," Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 20 (1953): 31-81.
21 See A. mor., IV, 18, PL 176:677D, C.S.M.V., p. 174. On Hugh's attitude toward history, see the older but useful work by W. A. Schneider, Oeschichte und Geschichtsphilosophie bei Hugo von St. Victor: Ein Beitrag zur Geistesgeschichte des 12. Jahrhunderts, Miinstersche Beitrage zur Geschichtsforschung, Folge 3, Heft ii (Miinster, 1933).


humors (cold, hot, wet, dry) in the sequence of the seasons and indicates the harmonious relationship of difference and sameness between successive seasons (spring: wet-hot; summer: hot-dry; autumn: dry-cold; winter: cold-wet). This was a traditional medieval "harmony"; Hugh likens it to the musical harmony of the "octochordium."22 The aether continues the presentation of cosmic relationships and cycles, for it contains representations of the twelve winds and the twelve signs of the zodiac, along with personifications of the twelve months. In so depicting the cosmos, Hugh gives a visual representation of the fabric of the seasons, continually revolving in their yearly cycle of decay and renewal.

    The Christ-figure who embraces the cosmos is described as "Christ seated in majesty" and is accompanied by two six-winged seraphim, in accord with Isaiah's temple vision. That Christ is seated in majesty must be inferred in the drawing, for the cosmic disk covers Christ's body; only his head, hands, and feet are visible.23 A series of vivid iconographical devices serves to relate this figure of Christ to the cosmos and the ark. He is shown as Creative Word, Providential Orderer, Final Judge, and Object of Contemplation for the angelic hosts. From the mouth of Christ six linked disks extend downward into the eastern area of the map of the world and terminate at the bow of the ark. These six disks represent the six days of creation, culminating in a scene of paradise. With this set of symbols, Christ is represented as the Creative Word, for the created cosmic order is a "word" expressed by the

22 On the medieval concept of the harmonious or musical universe, see E. Male, Uart religieux du XII" siecle en France, 3d ed. rev. and corrected (Paris, 1928), pp. 316 ff., citing Boethius, -De musica, PL 63:1171, where the latter speaks of mundana musica, i.e., the harmony of the celestial spheres, the seasons, and the elements. A decisive influence on medieval ideas of the harmonious universe was registered by Augustine in De musica; see Otto von Simson, The Gothic Cathedral, Bollingsn Series, no. 48 (New York, 1955), pp. 21-58. See also Hugh's Didascalicon, II, 12, ed. Buttimer, pp. 32 f., trans. Taylor, p. 69, where music is discussed.
23 This is clear from A. myst., XV, PL 176:701D-702A, and A. mor., I, 10, PL 176:625CD, C.S.M.V., p. 58. The figure of Christ embracing the universe is similar in form (but not precisely in contentthe point needs explication elsewhere) to Hildegard of Bingen's conception of Nbus embracing the cosmos and pervaded by the Godhead. See C. Singer, "The Scientific Views and Visions of Saint Hildegard (1098-1180)," in Studies in the History and Method of Science, ed. C. Singer (Oxford, 1917), for a reproduction of the miniature and comment on the iconography. On Hildegard, see H. Liebeschutz, dos allegorische Weltbild der Heiligen Hildegard von Bingen, Studien der Bibliothek Warburg, vol. 16 (Leipzig-Berlin, 1930). The similarity of form should not obscure a significant divergence in concern and content; Hildegard is oriented toward cosmology and the macrocosm/microcosm correlation; Hugh is oriented toward history and spirituality. For a study of the literary and iconographic theme of Christ embracing the universe, see A. C. Esmeijer, "La macchina deU'universo," in Album discimdorum J. 0. van Odder (Utrecht. 1963), pp. 5-15.


divine Wisdom.24 As Providential Orderer Christ is shown embracing the cosmos, for, as Hugh explains in De arca Noe morali, "the fact that the arms of the Lord embrace all things on every side means that all things are under his control and that no man can escape either the reward of His right hand or the punishment of his left."25 In his right hand he holds a throne; in his left, a scepter. These extend to his feet where, at the western extremity of the map and the stern of the vessel, a scene of the Last Judgment is depicted.26 There the elect are welcomed to heaven, the damned are dragged to hell, to the accompaniment of the appropriate phrases from Matthew 28, very much in the manner of the contemporary tympanum of Abbot Suger's church at the Abbey of Saint Denis. Here we see Christ the Last Judge. Finally, Christ is shown as the Object of Angelic Contemplation. On either side of the Christ-figure choirs of angels, arranged in the hierarchical order typical of medieval angelology, gaze in rapt wonder at the unveiled face of the Lord of the Cosmos.27

    The mandalic forms with which we intend to compare Hugh's drawing are those of Tibetan tantric Buddhism. Because of the great variety of mandalas, any generalized description is difficult. The word "mandala" means literally "circle"; it may also be rendered as "center" or "that which surrounds."28 Gusieppe Tucci has proposed a rather straightforward geometric/symbolic description of a general structure for mandalas. I have chosen to follow him here. The Tibetan mandala has "an outer enclosure and one or more concentric circles which in their turn, enclose figures of squares cut by transversal lines. These start from the centre and

24 Iconography described in A. myst., XV, PL 176:702BC. On Christ as the Wisdom of God who "expresses" the world as a "word," see Hugh's comments on the three words (the word of man; the Creation as word; the divine Word Himself) in A. mor., II, 13, PL 176:645BC, C.S.M.V., p. 91. There the world is called "a work of God," and "since it is visible, is called an outward word of His, as being that which issues from His mouth."
25 A. mor., I, 10, col. 626A, p. 58.
26 See A. myst., XIV, PL 176:700D for the judgment scene; the scepter and throne are described, with the citations from Matthew 28, in ibid., XV, col. 702A. For the very interesting allegory which explains the significance of the throne in relation to the saints, elect, and angels, see A. mor., I, 8, PL 176:622D-623C, C.S.M.V., pp. 52-54. The relation of Christ to the cosmos is incorrectly described by Squire in his introduction to C.S.M.V. (p. 32), where Christ is said to hold the cosmos in his hand.
27 See A. myst., XV, PL 176:702CD. For the significance of the face of Christ unveiled by the seraphim (in contrast to the biblical description), see A mor I, 10, PL 176:624D-625B, C.S.M.V., pp. 56-57. Hugh's interpretation of the significance of the unveiling seems to be a new departure on his part. He is conscious that his drawing is a departure from the usual consideration of the vision of Isaiah.
28 See M. Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. W. B. Trask, Bollingen Series, no. 56 (New York, 1958), p. 219.


reach to the four corners so that the surface is divided into four triangles." 29 The center of the mandala has a medallion containing one of several figures: the supreme god; the god and his shakti; or the abstract form of the dorje, the thunderbolt which symbolizes the totality of divine forces, both creative and-destructive, and also reintegration. Each triangular quarter of the central square contains the image of a god or an abstract symbol or emblem of the divinity. The gods are meant to exemplify various aspects of samsara, or karmic reality, as perceived by the individual. They mirror the pattern of cosmic evolution and involution, providing the initiate with visualization of the multiplicity of present existence and of the way back to primal unity.. A superb example of this type of mandala is that of rDorjec'an.30

      The function of mandalas is never primarily that of conveying knowledge, although it ought to be realized that this is one aspect of their purpose. Above all the mandala exists as the presentation of a way to achieve unity of consciousness and ultimate detachment from the world. The aim is practical and experimental, not theoretical or metaphysical.31 Nevertheless, despite the Buddhist intention to get beyond the consideration of metaphysical assumptions, there does seem to be a value in accepting as an analytical tool Tucci's presentation of a cosmogrammic as well as a psycho-cosmogrammic function for mandalas.

    As a cosmogram the mandala represents "a geometric projection of the world reduced to an essential pattern."32 It is "the whole universe in its essential plan, in its process of emanation and of reabsorption. The universe not only in its inert spatial expanse, but as temporal revolution and both as vital process which develops from an essential Principle and rotates round a central axis." 33 This cosmology intends to show the fragmentation of experience and the cosmos, while providing insight into the ultimate ground of this very process of multiplicity in the Absoluteor, as one of the Tibetan sources cited by Guenther puts it, "samsara is nirvana." 34 This oosmographic aspect of mandalic symbolism is expressed by the deities of the inner square, who show "in images, pictorially,

29 Gusieppe Tucci, The Theory and Practice of the Mandala, trans. A. H. Broderick (New York, 1970), p. 39.
30 See ibid., plate 1.
31 See A. Bharati, The Tantric Tradition (London, 1966), chap. 1; and M. Eliade, Patanjali and Yoga, trans. C. L. Markmarm (New York, 1969), pp. 157-81.
32 Tucci, p. 25.
33 Ibid., p. 23.
34 See Herbert V. Guenther, Tibetan Buddhism without Mystification (Leiden, 1966), pp. 122-24.


the successive phases by which the One . . . splits into the multiplicity of things, or is darkened and clouded in the subconscious.35 The mandala is also, and primarily, a psychocosmogram, which presents in symbolic fashion not only the disintegration from the One to the many, but also the reintegration from the many to the One. It makes possible the way by which the initiate attains "that Absolute Consciousness, entire and luminous, which Yoga causes to shine once more in the depths of our being."36 The gods of the mandala are visualizations of levels of existence which the meditator realizes to be but psychic manifestations which he must apprehend as such and overcome. By internalizing states of the cosmos as present in the gods, the meditator gradually detaches himself from the cosmos, material and psychic, and realizes experientially that nirvana and samsara are one and the same.37 In so doing he penetrates to the inner center of the mandala. In Tucci's words, "Transfiguration from the plane of samsara to that of nirvana occurs in successive phases, by degrees; just as on the cosmic mountain and around the axis mundi are disposed, rank after rank, one above the other, the Gods ever purer. Little by little one rises towards the peak and beyond the peak right up to that summit of all that becomes and has form, where takes place the passage to the other plane."38

    By reducing the Victorine drawing to simplified geometric elements, we can see the striking parallels with Tibetan tantric mandalas. The Victorine drawing has a series of concentric circlesa set of nesting quadrilaterals divided into four triangles by diagonal linesand a central square which represents both the peace, unity, and stability of the divine and the Christ who, as Incarnate Word, is mediator between God and man as well as the way and the goal of the mystic quest. The triangles contain personifications of the levels of the mystic's quest in the figures of the virtues; they correspond to the images of the gods in the Tibetan mandalas. At the center of the drawing the square symbolizes the absolute divine, the center of the cosmos, the center of history, and the true center of the personal psyche.39 This square, representing both the column and the cubit, is the point of breakthrough between the material/mental world of space-time and the level of

36 Tucci, p. 21.
36 Ibid., p. 25.
37 A point made forcefully by Bharati, chap. 1, esp. p. 18 (see Guenther, pp.67-73).
38 Tucci, p. 29.
39 See our discussion of these themes below.


absolute reality with its calm, peace, and stability. It forms, according to the typology of Eliade, an axis mundi for macrocosm and microcosm.40

    Two divergences of the drawing from mandalas deserve mention. The first involves Hugh's use of rectangles, not squares, in the drawing. This is due to two factors. First, Hugh remains faithful to the biblical text, wherein the ark is described as six times longer than wide.41 A second and more important factor is Hugh's insistence upon the significance of history and its linearness. The length of the rectangles expresses the directionality of history and its fundamental place in the Christian religion, especially in the manner of man's redemption and the fruition of the mystic quest.42 Distortion from a true square is necessary for expression of the essence of Hugh's vision, insofar as it is shaped by a consciousness of history.

      The second divergence involves the relation of cosmic evolution/involution to the mystic path. For the Tibetan meditator, the process of cosmic evolution and involution provides the archetypical pattern for reintegration of the psyche and transition from the many to the One. The mandala provides in the same symbols and in the same structure a cosmogram and a psychocosmogram. In the Victorine drawing the themes and patterns of cosmic order and mystic quest are both present but receive separate iconographic expression. The Victorine analogs of evolution and involution are Creation and Restoration, two aspects of divine purpose and human experience intimately related yet carefully distinguished. God has "two works" which comprise aril his activity: the work of creation (opus creationis) is the creation ex nihilio of the cosmos and all being in it; the work of restoration [opus restaurationis) is the "Incarnation of the Word with all its sacraments, both those which have gone before from the beginning of time, and those which come after, even to the end of the world."43 The contem-

40 See M. Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (Cleveland, 1963), chap. 10; and Images and Symbols, trans. P. Mairet (New York, 1961), chap. 1.
41 See Gen. 6:15 and A. myst., 1, PL 176:682BC.
42 A. myst., Ill, col. 685AB; also, A. mor., I, 14, PL 629D-630A, C.S.M.V., p. 64. The significance of history and a sense of time for Hugh's theology has been admirably elucidated by Chenu, "Conscience de 1'histoire et theologie," in La theologie, pp. 62-84.
43 De sacramentis christianae fidei, I, prol, ii, PL 176:183-84, trans. Deferrari, p. 3. The Hugonian sense of sacrament includes not only the seven liturgical sacraments (baptism, eucharist, etc.); it also comprehends the great typological loci of sacred history; see De sacramentis, II, vi, 8, PL 176:454 ff., trans. Defarrari, pp. 295 ff., where the "sacraments of the neophytes" refers to instruction in the deeper significance of the "sacraments of salvation which preceded for the preparation and for the sign of the redemption which was completed in the death of Christ." Included are Noah and the ark, Abraham and Isaac, the Exodus, Jerusalem, David, the Exile, etc. In A. mor. the later and more sophisticated use of "sacraments" found in De sacramentis is missing; Hugh says that the works of Restoration are "the Incarnation of the Word and all those things which since the beginning, preceded the Incarnation either to foreshadow or foretell it, together with those that came after it until the end of the world, with a view to preaching or believing in it" (IV, 6, PL 176:667B, C.S.M.V., p. 128). Most important for understanding Hugh's sacramental thought are the works by H. Weisweiler, Die Wirksamkeit der Sakramente nach Hugo von St. Viktor (Freiburg, 1932), and "Sakrament als Symbol und Teilhabe," Scholastik 27 (1952): 321-43; see also the recent article by H. R. Schlette, "Die Eucharistielehre Hugos von St. Viktor," Zeitschrift fur katholische Theologie 81 (1959): 67-100, 163-210.


plative, as Hugh points out, "mounts up from the works of creation [the cosmos and beings], by means of those of restoration [the Incarnate Word and His sacraments], to the Author of creation and of restoration."44 The structure of the drawing reflects this| distinction. The concentric circles of the symbolic cosmos, with regions of aether, aer, and earth, present the work of creation. This cosmos is embraced by the "cosmic" Christ who is depicted, as indicated earlier, as Creative Word, Providential Orderer, Final Judge, and Object of Contemplation. The work of restoration is found in the symbolic structure of the ark of Noah, where the redemptive process of history and the stages of the contemplative  quest are depicted. These are also related to Christ, this time Christ the Mediator and Incarnate Word. In Hugh's theology, the world and the present time provide the setting for man's restoration.45 Likewise, in the drawing, the cosmos and Christ embracing the cosmos provide the setting for the drama of redemption present in the ark of Noah. Redemption is effected in the space-time matrix of human existence as the pattern of salvation history unfolds along the keel of the ark and as the inner quest of the individual for contemplative union is realized according to the stages sketched by the ladders of virtues leading up the sides of the ark.46

    For Hugh as for the Tibetan meditator the mystic quest is a return to a state of original integrity, a recovery of a primal sense of unified being. Yet the differences of conception and expression between the two traditions reflect fundamental differences in understanding the locus and nature of the basic disorientation and fragmentation of human life and the relation of that situation to the world and Absolute Reality. Questions of ultimate reference have been bracketed in this analysis ; yet it seems appropriate to note that both traditions are exceedingly conscious of the fragmentation of existence and the alienation of man from the true

44 A. mor., IV, 12, PL 176:672CD, C.S.M.V., p. 138.
46 See De sacramentis, 1, viii, 1, PL 176:305CD, trans. Deferrari, pp. 414-15.
46 See below for consideration of the relationship of history and contemplation.


source of meaning. The differential arises in conceiving the nature of fragmentation and alienation and the way to overcome them. For the Tibetan, the root problem is epistemological, and the need is for insight and wisdom.47 For the Victorine mystic, the situation involves ontologyand a volitional dimension as well as epistemology. The restoration of man is a retracing and overcoming of the stages of the "fall": pride, concupiscence, and ignorance.48 The mystic path becomes one of acquiring virtues; the contemplative advances on a journey which neither mirrors nor "overcomes" the cosmos; he advances "by means of steps within the heart, which go from strength to strength [de virtute in virtutem]." 49 The world has a different value and status in each tradition as well. The Tibetan detaches himself to annihilate the world; Hugh would be detached yet remain in a very real world, a world which again manifests the Creator through his creation which is a "book" whose symbols man can read if he be renewed.50

      The deeper significance of the symbolism of the ark brings us to a second set of comparisons to be made between Hugh's drawing and Tibetan mandalas. Not only are there certain structural and iconographic similarities and distinctions. If we examine the function of Hugh's drawing within the Victorine climate and the function of the mandalas in the tantric tradition, we find certain crucial correlations. I have chosen to consider the function of the Victorine iconograph from two perspectives: instruction and initiation. It is clear that Hugh conceived of these two levels of use for his drawing, although in good conscience he could sanction only the second use, initiation.

    As an instructive device the Victorine drawing presents to the initiate a particular conception of the cosmos, making clear man's place in the great rhythm of creation and restoration. This use of the Victorine construct has more than passing similarity to Tucci's cosmogrammic function of the mandala, for in the mandala there is a presentation of the world and the place of the individual "in" it. One must not read too much metaphysic or theology into the Buddhist cosmogram, however. The Tibetan mandala has, as we have noted, a practical and experimental aim. In the West, however, the articulation of a clear metaphysic and theology has been one of the chief concerns of the religious tradition, mystic or not.

47 See Bharati, chaps. 1 and 10.
48 See A. mor., H, 10, PL 176:642AC, C.S.M.V., pp. 86-86; also, A. myst., X, PL 176:697CD.
49 A. myst., IV, 12, col. 672D, p. 138.
50 See below, n. 77.


      For Hugh's novice and the Tibetan initiate this instructional level may be called "revelatory." The neophyteor the accomplished contemplative for that matteris confronted in the mandala by a sacred world. The mandala reveals a vision of the cosmos as sacred. It has a center, order, and a mode of access to that which is absolutely real. As Eliade points out in numerous connections, this process of establishing a center and a point of access to the transcendent or "other" world of spiritual realities is a major concern of "religious man."51 Yet this initial manifestation of a sacred world is still instruction. A question remains: What will be done with that which has been perceived ? Will the initiate enter the sacred world of the mandala, making it his own, and conversely, will he construct that world within himself? When the movement of quest begins, when the novice begins his approach to the center of the mandala, then the initiatory dimension has been entered. The meditator begins to pass through ever-increasing stages of interiorization, "theophanic presence," and detachment.

    Here in the initiatory dimension of Hugh's drawing we find the correlate of Tucci's psychocosmogrammic mandalic function. As an instructive device Hugh's drawing presents the essential elements of the Victorine world view and a schematic of the stages of the contemplative life in a compact, though complex, visual image. At a time when a great premium was still placed upon memory because writing materials were neither plentiful nor
inexpensive, a visual device might well serve to "sum up" a system of thought.52 Beyond this rather pragmatic concern, however, we may see another force at work. Symbols are capable of conveying insight and levels of meaning in a way scarcely approached by the way of linear prose. On the level of instruction the drawing functions as a summary theological statement, presenting concepts to be grasped by the intellect. It leads to what Hugh calls, in De arca Noe morali, right {recta) thought. Right thought is knowledge of the good and the true. But it is to some degree "external" to the individual who remains existentially unengaged:
    If, therefore, I have begun to love to meditate upon the Scriptures, and have always been ready to ponder the virtues of the saints, and the works of God, and whatever else there is that serves to improve my conduct and stimulate my spirit, then I have already begun to be in the first storey of the ark [interpreted as "right thought" in this passage]. But if I neglect to

51 See particularly Images and Symbols, chap. 1.
52 On medieval "arts of memory" and the use of visual images and figures, see Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago, 1966), esp. chaps. 3 and 4. I have in preparation a short study, "The Art of Memory in Hugh of St. Victor."


imitate the good I know, then I can say that my thought is right but unprofitable [recta et unutilis]. For it is good that I should think what I do think and know what I know about others, but it profits me nothing if I do not take it to myself as a pattern of living.53

    Hugh knows of men who seek knowledge merely for the sake of possessing it. They take great pride in their knowledge, but they give no thought to its implications and imperatives for virtuous living. Men of that stripe are to be pitied.54 Our Victorine canon presses beyond merely acquiring knowledge of the true and the good; knowledge which is truly worthy of the name must effectively transform life.

    The rectangles of the ark and the circles of the cosmos abound with iconographic devices. Vivid colors attract the eye; gold glitters in the central square with its golden cross and angus Dei, personified virtues and vices are disposed along the ladders; on the keel the genealogy of Christ and the succession of popes mark the passing of time; personified seasons keep their proper place in the aer of the cosmos. Inscriptions frequently indicate the deeper meaning of the symbols. Upon prolonged study and reflection one is struck by the unity of vision which animates the complex structure and brings cohesion to the proliferation of symbolic forms and didactic elements in the drawing. Each iconographic element is there for a purpose. That purpose is the initiation of novices into the contemplative-ascetic life of a Canon Regular of St. Victor.

    The drawing and its explication are Hugh's response to a request that he teach his fellow canons a "skill or practice of some discipline" with which they might overcome the unstable movements of the human heart as it seeks fulfillment in the partial and fleeting goods of this life.55 Hugh begins his task with a thoroughly Augustinian analysis of the cause of and cure for man's unstable condition. The cause of instability and division in man's desires is love of the world (amor mundi); the cure for this is love of God {amor Dei}56 As Hugh points out immediately, however, it is of little or no use merely to know the cause and the cure. Such knowledge must be put to the work of remedying the human condition. The brethren are to seek the way in which "we may attain to the love of God. For without this it would be of little or no profit to

53 A. mor., H, 8, PL 176:639D, C.S.M.V., p. 81.
54 Didascalicon, I, 10, trans. Taylor, pp. 133-34.
55 A. mor., 1, 1, PL 176:617/618, C.S.M.V., p. 45.
56 Ibid., cols. 617/618-619/620, C.S.M.V., pp. 25-47; see Schlette, Die Nichtigkeit, pp. 105 ff. On Augustine's teaching, see John Bumaby, Amor Dei. A Study of the Religion of St. Augustine (London, 1938). Augustine presents a summary of the antithesis in De doctrina Christiana, lib. 1.


know all of the rest [i.e., the cause and the cure]."57 Theory is useless, even misguiding, unless it is placed immediately in the service of practice and virtue. Blending theological analysis, practical comment, and spiritual guidance, Hugh proceeds to set forth his understanding of the way to attain the love of God. For Hugh this means becoming a contemplative.

    In the treatises and the drawing Hugh clearly teaches a system of thought. With equal emphasis he is teaching a way of life and a systematic method for advancement in the life of contemplative asceticism. What can be grasped only with difficulty through the medium of a written text is placed before the eyes of the novices and brothers in a single symbolic structure juxtaposing and coordinating diverse elements of meaning and perspective. The ark, cosmos, and Christ effect a synthesis difficult if not impossible to achieve in linear prose. Even when reading the description of the Victorine drawing in De arca Noe mystica the thrust of the symbolism is not fully apparent until the complete image has been built up in the mind of the reader. What Lama Angarika Govinda says of inner visualization in Tibetan mandalic practice applies here equally: "To impart this knowledge on the various places of experience is the aim of all Tantric methods of inner visualization. The actual coexistence and interpenetration of these places and the simultaneousness of their functions is converted by the intellect into something that exists in different dimensions or as a sequence in time, which therefore can only be experienced and expressed piecemeal and in separate phases."58

      As noted earlier, mandalas are primarily psychocosmograms; that is, they are basically devices for initiation into a tradition of meditation and for realizing stages of contemplative experience. The external mandala becomes internalized; the sacred reality which the structure creates becomes a reality within the initiate. As a Tibetan Lamistic rimpoche, Lingdam Gomchen, pointed out to C. Jung, the mandalas in monasteries and temples are only external representations of limited significance. The true mandala is "a mental image which can be built up only by a fully instructed lama through the power of imagination. . . . The true mandala is always an inner image."59 However, before he is capable of building up a personal "inner mandala" the novice must be initiated. At this point in the Tibetan tradition we find the use of mandalas to

57 A. mor., I, 2, PL 176:619/20 (fin), C.S.M.V., p. 47.
58 Angarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (London, 1960), p. 107.
59 "The Symbolism of the Mandala," in Psychology and Alchemy, vol. 12, The Collected Works of C. 0. Jung, Bollingen Series, no. 20 (New York, 1968), p. 92.


transform.The mandala is drawn on a smooth area of ground with the aid of strings and colored chalk, following a carefully prescribed ritual. The master then takes the initiate through a complex series of ritual actions which effect a penetration of the mandalic structure and a movement toward the center, both physically and mentally. 60Although we have no set of liturgical acts of precisely the same nature associated with the Victorine drawing, the following portion of our study will show the importance of the transfer of the external figure to an interior image and vision which shape the individual's person and perception. We shall also see the close connection between the Victorine drawing and the liturgy of the Abbey. Furthermore, it is interesting and significant to note that in the treatise De arca Noe mystica Hugh does not simply describe the ark drawing; he goes through the process of constructing the image, beginning with the central square of the structure and concluding with the Christ embracing the cosmos.61 Even in the literary text the image is progressively built up as an interior vision. And finally, the important fact remains that Hugh placed the drawing of the ark before his brethren as an object for meditation, leading to interiorization, reformation, and contemplative realization. In the initiatory use of the drawing the full range of symbolic meanings for the various iconographic devices becomes apparent. After introducing the idea that the contemplative quest is like building a house, a dwelling place for God, in the human heart, Hugh indicates that the visible figure of that spiritual dwelling is the ark of Noah: "Now the figure of this spiritual building which I am going to present to you is Noah's ark. This your eye shall see outwardly, so that your soul may be fashioned to its likeness inwardly. You will see there certain colours, shapes, and figures which will be pleasant to behold. But you must understand that these are put there, that from them you may learn wisdom, instruction, and virtue, to adorn your soul."62 The theme of transformation introduced by Hugh is expressed more strongly in the lines which conclude the moral treatise on the ark. There Hugh speaks of transferring the pattern of the ark so that it shapes the heart: "And now, then, as we promised, we must put before you

60 On the ritual use ofmandalas, see Tucci, pp. 37 ff., 85 ff.; and Eliade, Yoga, 219-27.
61 The treatise begins: "First I find the centre of the flat surface where I mean to draw the ark. There, having fixed the point, I draw round it a small square to the measure of that cubit, in which the ark was completed" (A. my St., I, PL 176:681A; trans. in B. SmaUey, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 2d ed. rev. [Oxford, 1952], p. 96).
62 A. mor., I, 7, PL 176:622BC, C.S.M.V., p. 52.


the pattern of our ark. Thus you may learn from an external form, which we have visibly depicted, what you ought to do interiorly, and when you have impressed the form of this pattern on your heart, you may rejoice that the house of God has been built in you."63 Through meditation on the drawing and the realities present there, the initiate is reformed and transformed. He enters into the ark, and, conversely, the ark is built in his heart. He becomes a house of God; his heart, the chamber for the mystic wedding with the Bridegroom, Christ.64 The iconography of the drawing and the spiritual counsel of the treatises gradually initiate the novice into a world of spiritual realities and realized states of contemplative experience.He can say that the ark has been built in his heart; then he has entered into a new mode of existence which represents calm in the midst of chaos, unity in the presence of diversity, and love in the face of division and alienation.

    In its deeper meaning, the ark forms a stable ground of existence, an antithesis to the flux of temporality. The arkor the Victorine mandala, if we may be permitted use of the term now creates and makes present to the initiate another world:
     There [in the Ark] another world is found, over against this passing, transitory one; because the things that go through different times in this world exist in that one simultaneously, as in a condition of eternity. . . . For there is another world, whose "fashion" does not pass, nor does its form change, nor its appearance wither, nor its beauty fail. . . . Eyes of the flesh see this world, the eyes of the heart behold that world after an inward manner. ... In that world men are occupied with inner silence, and the pure in heart rejoice in the sight of the truth. 65

63 Ibid., IV, 21, C.S.M.V., p. 153. The Latin text of this is not in the Migne edition. It is found in C. C. Mierow (n. 3 above).
64 In the ark treatises Hugh distinguishes three "houses" and God's relation to them: the house of the world, and God as the ruler of his kingdom; the house of the Church, and God as the head of the family in his own home; the house of the soul, and God as the bridegroom in the wedding chamber. See A. mor., I, 4, PL 176:621A, C.S.M.V., p. 49; for more use of the bride-bridegroom imagery from the Song of Songs, see ibid., IV, 9, cols. 669B-670C, pp. 132-34, and Hugh's late mystical treatise De arrha animae, PL 176:951-970. The themes of "house" and "house building" have their own resonances in the study of comparative religious phenomena, including mandalas, and these deserve further explication elsewhere in connection with the ark. F. L. Battles has pointed out that Hugh's use of the house-building motif in relation to contemplation draws on patristic sources and also sets the stage for later uses of the idea ("Hugo of Saint-Victor as a Moral Allegorist," Church History 18 [1949]: 220-40).
65 A. mor., IV, 21, PL 176:680BD, C.S.M.V., p. 152. See ibid., 12, col. 672D, p. 138: "So let us understand that there are two worlds, the seen and the unseen, the former being this whole scheme of things which we see with our bodily eyes, and the latter the heart of man, which we cannot see."


      This ark is built in man's heart with "pure thoughts" or "ordered, steady, and peaceful thoughts."66 This process involves both an interiorization of consciousness and the fixation of attention. "If then, we have begun to live persistently in our own heart through the practice of meditation, we have already in a manner ceased to belong to time; and, having become dead as it were to the world, we are living inwardly with God. . . . Our heart is there fixed where we are not subject to change, where we neither seek to have again things past, nor look for those to come, where we neither desire the pleasant things of this life, nor fear things contrary."67

    Hugh identifies three possible lines of action for fixing attention and cultivating peaceful thoughts.68 A person may divide his attention between a number of things, he may concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of all else, or he may change within certain limits. The first of these alternatives Hugh rejects immediately, for it is merely the present state of mankind with desires divided and thoughts distracted. The second possibility, that of giving undivided attention to one thing only, recalls the yogic techniques of Indian meditation and the concentration taught by Zen masters.69 An echo of this approach sounds in the spiritual advice of Orthodox hesychasts and in some later medieval manuals in the West.70 Hugh rejects this idea of strict concentration with the argument that it is presently impossible for man. One path remains. The true contemplative adopts a life of change within limits. This is the practice which Hugh intends to establish as the life-style at Saint Victor. Through disciplined limitation, "a soul. . . may gradually form the habit of withdrawing itself from the distraction of this world, to the intent that it may rise up strengthened to that supreme stability, the contemplation of God."71

66 See ibid., 1, col. 665A, p. 124: "It is clear, therefore, that wisdom builds herself a house in the heart of man out of reasonable thoughts." For ordered, etc., thoughts, see ibid., 4, col. 666A, p. 126.
67 Ibid., II, 1, col. 635B, p. 73. 68 Ibid., IV, 4, col. 666A, p. 126.
69 See Eliade, Yoga, chap. 2, esp. p. 47: "The point of departure of Yoga meditation is concentration on a single object." The Zen approach is presented well by Johnston (see n. 2), chaps. 1 and 3.
70 On Hesychasm, see John Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas (London, 1964), pp. 134-49; and Louis Bouyer, "Byzantine Spirituality," in Jean Leclercq et al., The Spirituality of the Middle Ages, A History of Christian Spirituality, vol. 2 (New York, 1968), esp. pp. 576-88. For an example of concentration in late medieval manuals, see C. Wolters, trans. The Cloud of Unknowing (Baltimore, 1961), chap. 7, p. 61.
71 A. mor., IV, 6, PL 176:667A, C.S.M.V., p. 128.


    The shape of the ark mirrors this unification. The broad base of the vessel rests upon the swirling floodwaters while the walls draw ever more into a unity as they rise. Our Victorine canon finds in this a symbol of gathering together and a narrowing down.72 Experience becomes a penetration within as the initiate seeks a single point of unity where, as we have seen, he experiences the "inner silence" of another world and joins with those who "rejoice in the sight of the truth."

      The drawing provides a variety of foci for meditation, yielding a field of vision which has limitation yet change. The same may be said for the liturgical celebrations which formed an important aspect of Victorine life.73 Change and limitation occur in the rhythm of the daily, seasonal, and yearly cycles of the liturgy. The iconograph draws strength from its association with liturgical regularity while the canons' celebrations receive focus and coherence from the historical, cosmic, and contemplative vision of the drawing mandala.

    The four stages of Hugh's mystic way represent a Victorine transformation of the stages defined by Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite.74 To Dionysius's three stages of purgation, illumination, and union, Hugh adds an initial stage of awakening. He also divides each stage into three degrees, giving each specific Victorine nuances. We should note again that the personified virtues representing the twelve degrees are homologizable in structural position and function with the gods of the Tibetan mandalas. Both figures are within the triangles formed by lines cutting the inner quadrilaterals of the drawings, and they represent interior states of consciousness to be attained in the course of one's contemplative ascent.75

      The inner square is most important in Hugh's mandala. On the one hand, as the cubit at the peak of the ark it symbolizes the peace, unity, and simplicity of divine life, forming an absolute

72 See ibid., 4, col. 666BC, pp. 126-27: "Let us picture to ourselves a human soul rising out of this world towards God and, as it rises, gathering itself ever more and more into a unity. Then we shall be able to see in a spiritual manner the form of our ark, which was broad at the bottom, and narrowed gradually as it rose, till at the peak it came to measure a single cubit only. . . . We are gradually drawn toward a unity, until we attain even to that simple oneness, that true simplicity and everlasting changelessness, that is in God."
73 See comments by G. Dumeige, Richard de Saint- Victor et Video chretienne de r amour (Paris, 1952), p. 19; and Jean Chatillon, "La culture de 1'ecole de Saint-Victor," in Entretiens sur la renaissance du 12e siecle, sous la direction de M. de Gandillac et E. Jeauneau (Paris, 1968), pp. 150-54 and the discussion on pp. 165-68.
74 On the four stages and their relation to Dionysius, see my article "-De gradibus ascensionum: The Stages of Contemplative Ascent in Two Treatises on Noah's Ark by Hugh of St. Victor," to appear in Studies in Medieval Culture, vol. 5 (Kalamazoo, Mich.).
75 See above.


pole of a basic dichotomy in the Victorine world view and representing the goal of the mystic's quest. On the other hand, as the column in the center of the ark, the square symbolizes Christ the Incarnate Word.

    The personification of contemplation portrays graphically the idea of the center as the goal of the mystic quest and the transforming intent of the Victorine mandala. Contemplation is an artisan who melts fragments of a vase so that the liquid can flow through a tube into the central square. The broken vase is the fragmented state of human desires and thoughts; the fire which melts is the fire of divine love; pouring the liquid into the square signifies the reformation and restoration of the imago Dei within man.76 In Hugh's mystical theology the imago is the means where-by man in the perfection of Creation sensed God as inwardly present. The Fall has destroyed this inward sense. Renewal of this sense is the goal of discipline in contemplation.77 Considered from the aspect of this renewal, movement toward the center of the mandala is also a return to the beginning, a return to the time of perfection when man's person was whole and he possessed an immediate awareness of Absolute Being.

    As a symbol of Christ the central square represents the Mediator between the divine and the human. It becomes a point of transition from one mode of existence to another. The Incarnate Christ is also the point of cosmic and temporal order, for he is symbolically the center about which the seasons rotate and the central ordering point in history.

      In the life of the mystic, Christ is the central axis of the mystic ascent. In his person and work he links the world of space and time with the transcendent yet inner world of spiritual reality. However, Christ is more than a passive link. He is an active agent in the transformation of the initiate, as Hugh conceives the mystic quest. Christ it is who awakens, chides, illumines, and feeds the contemplative in the stages of awakening, purgation, illumination,

76 See A. myst., IX, PL 696D-697B, esp. Hugh's interpretation of the iconography. "Contemplation, having liquefied it [the vase] transforms it by the fire of divine love, reforming it in the image [in monetam] of the divine likeness [divinae similittidinis]."
77 This is treated in "De gradibw ascensionum." The most important passages concerning the imago Dei and the contemplative experience are A. mor.. Ill, 6, PL 176:651D-652D, C.S.M.V., pp. 102 ft.; De sacramentis christianae fidei, I, vi, 12-15, PL 176:270C-272C, trans. Deferrari, pp. 102-4; and Adnotationes elucidatoriae in pentateuchon, VII, PL 175:37BD. The use of imago Dei in Hugh's theology needs further consideration from the vantage point of the perspective suggested here. Like the Cistercians, Hugh is creative in appropriating the ideas of imago Dei and amor Dei.


and union.78 In the drawing these relationships are worked out in a complex allegory of Christ as Book and Tree of Life.79 Some of Hugh's perspective is caught in this passage which comes from his interpretation of the column as symbolic of Christ: "He it is who rose from earth and pierced the heavens, who came down to thedepths, yet did not leave the heights, who is Himself both above and below, below in His compassion, above that He may draw our longings thither, below that He may offer us His help. Below He is among us, above He is above us. Below is what He took from us, above is what He sets before us."80

    A last point of comparison stems from observations made by Carl Jung. Jung comments that almost without exception mandalas generated spontaneously by patients in dreams and drawings represent order brought out of chaos in the patient's life.81 Furthermore, mandalas "signify nothing less than a psychic center of the personality not identified with the ego."82

    In light of these two points, we may note that Hugh's drawing is presented as the creation of order in the face of chaos. This theme occurs frequently in the opposition of the stable ark to the swirling, tumbling waters of the Flood.83 Furthermore, Hugh's theological anthropology finds chaos and disorder to be concommitants of fallen human existence.84 The mystic path is then a way ofreintegration which provides for a new or renewed centering of the personality on Christ through recovery of the imago Dei. Centerlessness marks the condition of fallen man; like Cain he is a wanderer, always seeking, never finding fulfillment.85 In contrast, man restored is marked by a return to the stability and order of the contemplative center, Christ.

78 See A. mor., II, 9, PL 176:6410, C.S.M.V., p. 84.
79 For the iconography, see A. myst., VII, PL 176:692-695B. On Christ as Tree and Book, see A. mor., II, 9-14, PL 176:640D-646B. See table 1 for relation of stages, degrees, and Christ.
80 A. mor., S, col. 640D, p. 82.
81 See "The Symbolism of the Mandala" (n. 59 above), pp. 91-213; also, "Concerning Mandala Symbolism,'1 in The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, vol. 9, pt. 1, The Collected Works o/C. 0. Jung, Bollingen Series, no. 20 (New York, 1952), pp. 355-84; "Mandalas," in ibid., pp. 385-90.
82 "The Symbolism of the Mandala," p. 101.
83 Hugh's interpretation of the Flood as signifying only chaos and destruction broke with centuries of traditional exegesis which viewed the Flood as foreshadowing the baptismal waters, i.e., as being creative and destructive. On the Flood, see e.g., A. mor., IV, 12 and 16, PL 176:673A and 675B, C.S.M.V., pp. 138-39 and 143. The symbolism of the Flood is developed with heightened sensitivity to the destructive dimension in De vanitate mundi, II, PL 176:711 ff., C.S.M.V., pp. 171 £F.
84 A. mor., I, 2, and IV, 10, PL 176:617/618-619/620 and 670D-671B, C.S.M.V., pp. 45 ff. and 134 ff.
85 Ibid., I, 2, col. 619/620, p. 46.


By approaching Hugh's drawing from the perspective of mandalic structures we are able to appreciate the various levels at which the Victorine iconograph must have functioned. As a cosmogram it possesses the potential to reveal to the initiate the subtleties of the Victorine world view and the complex matrix of the theology of the contemplative life which Hugh, and later Richard of St. Victor, presented to the brethren of St. Victor. As an instrument of initiation, the Victorine drawing has the capability to transform the individual and effect an experiential creation of a new world and a new point of stability which are internal and also transcendental. In Hugh's use of the iconograph we find quite clearly the presentation of a symbolic structure meant to be used as a focus for meditation.

    Full appreciation of the Victorine drawing comes when the significance of the Christocentricity of the drawing mandala is grasped. Here is a major part of the importance of the drawing for the development of Western mysticism. The Victorines brought structure and systematization into the life of contemplative asceticism. This has been seen up until now as the injection of a speculative dimension and as the introduction of elements of the pseudo-Dionysian scheme of mystical ascent. Without doubt these were developments of decisive importance in the program of Victorine spirituality, for they had an influence through the later Middle Ages. However, the Victorine mandala which we have found in the ark treatises expresses vividly another aspect of Victorine mysticism which must receive more consideration: Christocentricity and the key place of the imago Dei in Victorine spirituality. Meditation centering upon Christ has been counted as one of the distinctive marks of Franciscan spirituality, with due allowance for Saint Bernard's earlier devotion to Jesus. However, this present study of Hugh's mysticism would suggest that much of the Christocentricity of Franciscan mysticism and the christocentric nature of Bonaventure's theological vision have their antecedent formulation in the work of the Victorines.86 The relationship between Franciscan spirituality and the Victorines remains to be worked out. Both schools were indebted to Augustine. Bonaventure recognized Hugh as the greatest master and contemplative of the twelfth century. One needs now to follow out these hints.

86 For a consideration of Bonaventure's symbolism, especially some mandalic aspects, see Ewert Cousins, "Mandala Symbolism in the Theology of Bonaventure," University of Toronto Quarterly 40 (1971): 185-200.


    Finally, we must take note of the relationship of symbolic forms and initiation in the mystic life. In the traditions of Eastern spirituality, patterns of initiation are formulated in a fairly explicit manner. They are explicit, that is, in the way that the ineffable is made explicit: through symbolic structures, and the symbolic role of words, sounds, and objects. Mandalas are part of that web of symbols which also includes mantras, yantras, and other forms of communication and initiation. In the West, however, the question of initiation in the mystic life was not treated with such specificity in the medieval period. We must look to a varied set of sources for the ways in which young novices were inducted into the traditional forms of meditation, asceticism, and progress through the stages of mystic life. Sermons of course must have played their role, as did collations, biblical lectio, meditative reading of the fathers, treatises for novices, and monastic customaries. Yet this is not all. Hugh's drawing was intended as an initiatory device, as well as an instructional presentation and/or an iconographic tour de force. Here we find another suggestion for continuing work in medieval spiritual writings. It may well be that in their explication of certain symbols and structures, medieval contemplatives used the structures as symbolic devices for initiating neophytes not only into a tradition of ascetic practice but also into the experience of contemplative asceticism and union. With Hugh of St. Victor we know that such was the case.

Oberlin College



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