Jun 03, 1998 00:35 AM
by Thoa Thi-Kim Tran
Now that I've read Mondrian's writing, I find that his theories are classic
theosophy in combination with art theories of the time. My posts before my
last post were done before his complete work was available to me, and was
inspired by secondary writings. Mondrian's writing is a whole lot simpler
than all the analysis of his writings! I would consider my last post to be
most to the point in relation to Mondrian's writing. However, in some of
the conclusions of my other posts, I was delving into the mechanics of
Mondrian's equilibrium. The mechanics is not covered in Mondrians'
writing, but can be inferred from it. I'm resposting some of the thoughts.
Perhaps with the last post, in combination with this one, you can get a
better idea of theosophy and some of the mechanics. I'm going to add notes
here and there to better connect the thoughts with my last post. These
will have asterisks in front of them.
You can find what Mondrian is referring to (no-time, non-repetition) in
ideas older than the Secret Doctrine, in Hinduism and Buddhism. In fact,
it's pretty basic Yoga. As far as I can see, there are no direct references
to rhythm indexed in the major works by Blavatsky that we have.
*Mondrian's rhythm is in the Secret Doctrine I and II, in passages of the
Stanzas of Dzyan and discussions of various forces of duality. The core of
his theory is in the idea of the rhythm of duality, of extreme opposites
canceling each other out to equilibrium. I highly recommend reading the
Secret Doctrines (Doctrine I especially) with an eye toward discussions on
However, the idea of rhythm expressed by Mondrian in your quote is not
rhythm as we generally know it, but rhythm in terms of finding the
stillness of equilibrium to liberate ourselves from Maya.
*Goes with my past post on using the duality of pure opposites to come into
equilibrium. It is a way to come back into the Oneness. Not a bad
deduction, considering that I did not read his complete work. You can call
me Ms. Holmes.
When the Secret Doctrine discusses about Pralaya, Laya centers, cycles, and
illusion, there are plenty of ideas from which to build such a theory. In
the Stanzas of the Secret Doctrine, you can see references to time and
space being illusion, and how we evolve to free ourselves from Maya. From
that, you can see where Alice Bailey got her ideas about rhythm. For
example, in Yogic and Buddhic meditation, the purpose is to still the
vibrations of the senses, the emotions, and the lower mind. By doing that,
you can find the Laya center, and slip through to experience the higher
*This is the mechanics of equilibrium. Think of Mondrian's visual process
of equilibrium as a visual version of stilling the vibrations of the
Mondrian was trying to express that in terms of art. I think that is what
he meant by "point of perfect balance and of equilibrium." Having rhythm in
a "no-time and non-repetition basis" is holding the stillness. Thus, he was
creating symbols of Laya centers in his art and was quite Yogic in his
approach to art, whether he knew it or not.
*Rhythm that is non-symmetrical and non-time!
I won't state Mondrian's work too much in detail because you probably
studied it in more detail than I did.
*I'm catching up. Now I can quote Mondrian!
Mondrian stated that "(p)lastic art affirms that equilibrium can only be
established through the balance of unequal but equivalent oppositions" and
compared that with human life, that although we are in "disequilibrium", we
are "based on equilibrium."
*He was basically saying that we have the spiritual in us, which is "based
on equilibrium." Our "disequilibrium" resulted from our being out of sync
with our spiritual nature. His "balance of unequal but equivalent
oppositions" means that the "unequal" is the pure opposites of each other,
and the "equivalent oppositions" is the interrelatedness of the pure
opposites. Being pure opposites, they change into the other, thereby
creating equilibrium. Let me give an example of the theosophical idea of
duality. Think of several dualities, life-death, chaos-order, male-female,
good-evil. These are pure opposites. They are defined by the other. They
cannot exist without the other. They have to interrelate. When these
opposites cancel each other out, you have the pure state of Oneness, the
place of no separation. This Oneness, which is the truth as opposed to the
maya of separateness and opposition, is what is actually the state of all
existence, you and me and the trees. This is Mondrian's equilibrium.
Mondrian's later works is reminiscent of an asymmetrical mandala. The
composition is off-balance and yet it is very static, a "dynamic
equilibrium". He used his limited expressions of colors, tones and lines to
express universality. He believed that art, like the process of exercises
such as meditation, should be a path of speedier evolution for the artist.
He wants "(t)he subjectivization of the universal in art (to) bring the
universal downward on the one hand, while on the other it helps raise the
individual toward the universal." (His writings quoted by Lipsey.)
*I would suggest rereading his article The New Plastic in Painting. In it,
he gave detailed accounts of how he would place lines, colors, etc., to
create equilibrium. His work is like an asymmetrical mandala. His
"subjectivization" is bringing the spiritual down to the individual, who
can never truly comprehend the mystery of the elusive One. This
"subjectivization" takes place through the concrete, practical, and
material nature of painting. Although this is a material vehicle, through
the process of equilibrium, he hopes to help raise the individual, clouded
with the maya of separateness, to go toward the Universal, to the
realization of the interconnectedness of all.
Before we go on, let's define Laya-Center. 1. According to G. de Purucker's
Occult Glossary: A laya-center is the mystical point where a thing
disappears from one plane and passes onward to reappear on another plane.
There is more definition, but that is the gist of it. To visualize it,
think in terms of a sine wave that extends from highest spirit (where it
vibrates very quickly) to densest matter (where it vibrates imperceptibly
slow), and the laya centers between planes are located on a straight line
that passes through the center. The center of the sine wave is the point of
equilibrium. By quieting the vibrations of the body, the emotions, and the
lower mind, the Yogi is able to go to the laya center to experience the
The laya center contains the potential of all frequencies. Think of that
metaphorical image of the sine wave again. Suppose you were to look at the
sine wave from one of its ends, like looking into a cone, you would see a
line with a point in the center of it (the laya center, center of
equilibrium). That's the center to all frequencies, a common point for all
the planes of existence (physical, astral, mental, etc.). Since this is a
point of stasis, it is a common doorway to all the planes. Which plane you
try to reach depends on your ability to attune to its frequency. By
creating ways to find a point of equilibrium, Mondrian was making doorways
through which the transcendant universal can come through. This is a
glimpse at the theory of the occult art and science of mandala making. It
is ritual art making at it's best and has been practiced by aspirants for
centuries. We say asymmetrical mandalas because traditionally mandalas have
taken on forms of bilateral symmetry (i.e. Tibetan Buddhist, tantric or
Native American religious paintings). While functionally the same, Mondrian
chose to express the theme of a laya center through asymmetric means. As
you well know, he did that through his arrangements of colors, tones, and
*Mechanics of equilibrium, laya centers and planes. The bulk of the Secret
Doctrine is on evolution, and evolution through different planes of
existence. We can get into detailed discussion of the evolution of the
Monad (the immortal part of us which reincarnates), but that would be doing
a book report on the Secret Doctrine. I don't think you want to do that.
Basically, by helping individuals contact their spiritual, Mondrian will
also be helping them to evolve to higher planes of existence in the long
run, and ultimately to Nirvana.
You may also want to look up books on mandalas. There is one, Mystery of
Mandalas by Heita Copony, The Theosophical Publishing House, ISBN
0-8356-0649-X. Let me quote what is written on p.3 and you can see the
relation to Mondrian's work:
"The mandala in its entire expression refers to dimensions beyond outer
appearances. Here human experience of being and intuition come together and
something unspeakable is expressed in an image that can be perceived by the
senses. We may also understand the mandala as a model of principles of
reality, of which humanity is a part, of an order of the cosmos projected
into three-dimensional space. Just as unimaginable worlds of other
dimensions unfold beyond the world of space and time in which we mortals
live, so the mandala's statement and levels of meaning are multidimensional
and often full of paradox. On one hand, for example, the mandala is an
image of humans in the limitations of space and time. On the other hand, it
leads from the human realm to the cosmic and spiritual and joins the two
levels. So it is personal and suprapersonal at the same time-microcosm and
macrocosm, spirit and matter, the finite and the infinite pervading each
Now, to me, that seems a whole lot like what Mondrian was trying to do. In
studying mandalas, you can see that Mondrian's work is basically an
asymmetrical modernist mandala.
*I hope this helps clarify our discussion on Mondrian. I think this is a
much better take than our digressing to Hegel. Hegel may have influenced
theosophical thought, but Mondrian is more a theosophist than a Hegelian.
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