The Universal Mind - Exploring the concept and historical references

  • 4 min read

Church and the Universal Mind

We are often asked about the name “Church” - its origins, meaning, and symbology - and while it’s a multi-faceted answer, one reason relates to this concept of the “universal mind”. 

What is the Universal Mind?

The Universal mind, or the collective unconscious, illustrates the idea that we’re all interconnected beyond our physical boundaries; we share a pool of wisdom that unifies us and offers wisdom beyond our conscious knowing.

Ancient civilizations and spiritual traditions throughout history have explored and tapped into this universal mind; they’ve developed symbols, practices, and language to help illustrate this state of unity that connects us all.

Historical References of the Universal Mind

The term “universal mind” can’t be traced to a single origin point but the concept of collective consciousness or shared wisdom appears in numerous ancient traditions. Greek philosophers like Plato and Heraclitus wrote about the idea of a universal intelligence that governs the cosmos and ancient texts from Eastern traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism talk about concepts of Brahman and Nirvana - godlike states that are available to all through tapping into an elevated collective consciousness through practices like meditation and breathwork.

Philosopher Carl Jung coined the term “collective consciousness” to express that the human experience isn’t just shaped by personal experiences, but is influenced by a deeper, inherited layer of the unconscious mind called the collective unconscious - expressed through archetypes, symbols, and primordial images shared by all humans across cultures and history.

carl jung books
Books by Carl Jung

Transcendentalists and naturalists like Emerson and Thoreau focused on the idea of the universal mind through nature and a cosmic intelligence that underlies our reality.

A similar concept, known as multiple discovery or simulataneous invention, has shown us examples of collective consciousness that are hard to ignore. Examples include the simultaneous discovery of calculous in the late 1600s by Isaac Newton and two others, the theory of evolution by both Darwin and Wallace in the 1800s, and the independent discovery of magnetism by China, Greece, and India.

Simultaneous Discovery Example, who discovered calculous
Who discovered calculous, Isaac Newton or Gottfried Leibniz?

More recently, scientific theories like quantum entanglement, which explores the idea that particles can be instantaneously connected regardless of distance and theories like morphic resonance, proposed by biologist Rupert Sheldrake, suggest that collective memory can be inherited to form a kind of collective intelligence. The concept of universal mind can even be linked to the current idea of mass movements and social trends or “going viral,” where shared ideas and emotions quickly spread to influence collective thinking and behavior.

Culture shows us how the concept of collective consciousness takes form in real life; art, storytelling and myths, and music from different cultures and times tend to revolve around and recycle stories, symbols, and themes that transcend time, space, and place to show us how we are and continue to be connected. Meditation, spirituality, shamanism, and altered states of mind all seek to break through or tap into the realm of the universal mind or collective consciousness; transcending the ego to access a deeper place of wisdom, unity, and oneness with the universe.

Symbology and other forms of the Universal Mind

The concept of the universal mind can be found in various symbols representing this interconnectedness, unity and shared wisdom. There are many examples of this throughout history in every culture, including:

The Mandala - a geometric symbol representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist tradition that reminds us we’re all interconnected and interdependent. Variations of the Mandala, sometimes called a stepped cross, are featured frequently in art and in architecture from many varied civilizations, faiths, and regions around the world. Carl Jung talked of an urge to create mandalas during periods of personal growth, saying, "I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. Only gradually did I discover what the Mandala really is: the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious."

Mandala variations
Borobudur Temple (Indonesia), Mandala drawing (Tibet), Church of Tigran Honets (Armenia). 

Other examples include: 

  • Yin and Yang - an ancient Chinese symbol shows the dualistic nature of existence and balance between opposites, dark and light.
  • Ouroboros - an ancient symbol of a circular serpent eating its tail to symbolize the cyclic nature of life, death and rebirth.
  • Tree of Life - found in various cultures and belief systems, representing the interdependence of all living beings.
  • Om - in Eastern philosophies, the sacred sound (or “chant”)  is believed to connect us to a primal cosmic vibration.
  • World Egg - a symbol found in creation myths in different cultures shows a primordial state of unity and potential from which all life is born.
  • Sacred Geometry - geometric symbols like the Flower and Seed of Life are found in many cultures and traditions.

The Chakana, also known as the Andean cross, has a history spanning over 4,000 years, appearing on textiles, ceramics, and ancient ruins, from multiple cultures. The Church California “cross” is our interpretation of the Chakana, carrying on that tradition of sacred geometry with multiple interpretations, and to us it represents the idea of the universal mind - that we’re all connected to each other, to the natural world, and to a deeper state of universal mystery. 

Chakana examples at Church Barber
Church Barber, San Francisco CA

Universal Mind Playlist

One of our favorite new playlists, "The Universal Mind" explores different genres and eras of music that somehow sound great together, even if they were created without the other in mind. Enjoy!