The Mandala Process

Creating Your Spiritual Path
12 Families of Archetypal Styles, Questions & Traditions


The Spiritual Paths Mandala helps us to create our personal paths based on our archetypal spiritual learning styles and spiritual questions.  The Mandala identifies twelve families of spiritual styles (the outer ring), perennial questions (the middle ring), and spiritual traditions (the inner ring).

The Mandala Process is nonsectarian tool to serve both those who are rooted in a tradition and the Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) or Spiritually Independent.  This tool can provide chaplains, ministers and spiritual directors with religion-free methods and resources to help the Spiritually Independent to create their own spiritual path and contemplative practice based on a variety of wisdom traditions.
Our dominant styles will change as we grow and change through life. For example, there might be times when we are more devotional or mystical, more intellectual or artistic, more physical or nature-based. As we go through life’s changes and our primary styles change, we need specific kinds of teachers, resources and practices to help us along our path.
 Here is a list of twelve families of spiritual styles and questions. As teachers and students, it is very helpful to recognize and honor these in our process of learning and transformation.
Twelve Styles
(Outer Ring)
Twelve Questions
(Middle Ring)
Twelve Families of Traditions
(Inner Ring)
The ArtsConsciousnessBuddhism
The BodyEternalityChristianity
Contemplation & MeditationDeathHinduism
MysticGood & EvilThe 12 Steps of AA
NatureHappinessIndigenous, Shamanic
ReasonSpirit BeingsPsychology, Philosophy, Mythology
WisdomTransformation & Ultimate PotentialSpiritual But Not Religious (SBNR)


To begin, we ask ourselves: how do I learn and what is my question? Then we seek answers and chart our paths by honoring our dominant spiritual styles or lenses. We harness these styles to find and incorporate the appropriate wisdom and practices from one or more spiritual traditions.  In so doing, we create the spiritual path that is the right fit for us.

Therefore, it is important that we recognize and utilize our dominant styles as beginning points, then include and harmonize our other styles to fully actualize our spiritual potential.

Each of us embodies all twelve ways as either major or minor factors in our approach to our religious and spiritual experience. Each of these twelve is a kind of personality trait, or tendency. Most of us have several ways which are dominant with the others descending in importance. The ways are like funnels through which information is channeled for processing and analysis, like sieves that only let certain types of information through to the mind. They are like colored lenses that determine the hue of the world before our eyes. While each way focuses our attention and enables us to begin our quest via devotion, mysticism, intellection, etc., an exclusive emphasis on that way also limits our ability to totally perceive and experience the wholeness of religion and spirituality.

Why twelve? In truth, there could be a greater or a fewer number depending on ones method for defining and categorizing them. Twelve, for many reasons, turns out to be a good number for organizing our method for the study and the integration of spiritual concepts and practices from throughout the world.

The Archetypal Styles

For brevity, each of these twelve families of archetypal styles is listed by a single word.  But they should be read as “The Way of the Arts,” “The Way of the Body,” and so on.  Further, each of these twelve connotes a broader family of spiritual archetypes.  For example, “The Path of Devotion” connotes a family of related styles like faith, belief and ritual.  The purpose of this list of twelve is not to be comprehensive, but to be inclusive.  They are meant to prompt you to ask yourself such questions as: “how do I learn,” “what is my spiritual archetype,” and “what is my spiritual style?”  During the course of your life, your primary and contributing archetypes will change.  Each is like a tributary flowing into the river of our life, or branches of trails that eventually will join into a single life-path.

The Questions

The single word for each of the twelve spiritual questions connotes a family of related questions.  These are the grand questions we begin asking as children.  They are the perennial, universal questions that have been asked by scientists, philosophers and theologians throughout the ages.  For example, the question of consciousness connotes questions like: “what is mind?” “How do I know?” “Is consciousness produced by the brain?” “What is the ultimate potential of consciousness?” “Does my consciousness survive bodily death?”  These questions are meant to inspire you to ask your own questions and embrace the mysteries that await your discovery as you define your own spiritual path.

The Traditions

This process for discerning your own archetypal style, honoring your own questions and finding your own answers can be utilized within a single spiritual tradition or among a variety of traditions.  Among those that are listed, there are the five major traditions, six that are named for their geographical place of origin, and the seventh including the secular traditions of philosophy, science, psychology, mythology and philosophy. Whether your path is formed within a single or multiple traditions, this Mandala process is designed to help you engage in a life-long adventure of exploration and discovery leading to the development of your own personal path.

The Spiritual Paths “InterSpiritual Mandala” was created by Dr. Ed Bastian to help people develop their own spiritual paths and to integrate their deepest spiritual values and practices into all aspects of their lives.  “The Mandala”  addresses a critical need for inner direction at a time of decline of institutional religious affiliation when cultural diversity, religious pluralism, the Internet, the proliferation of books, and global mobility and have created new opportunities to explore the worlds spiritual traditions as never before.

If we choose to take advantage of these new opportunities, however, we must also accept greater personal responsibilities. We can no longer be comforted by the idea that our spiritual destinies can be guided totally by others and anesthetized by the idea that our spiritual destinies are beyond our ability to know and to control.

Taking personal responsibility also requires us to draw deeply from our own unique experiences and our innate spiritual abilities as well as to draw on the great insights, methods and examples handed down to us from the spiritual leaders who have gone before. Our method might recognize the need for good, reliable teachers who authentically represent and transmit spiritual knowledge and practices.

Consciously or unconsciously, we approach religion and spirituality through the lenses of our own personal spiritual styles and questions. Like personal learning styles, our spiritual styles influence the development of our beliefs, values, and practices. Within each religion there are a variety of approaches and practices that have emerged to serve individuals with varying spiritual styles. Therefore, in developing a spiritual practice, it is helpful for us to recognize and honor our own personal spiritual styles and questions as we embark on study and practice that is compatible with these predominate styles.

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