THE LABYRINTH WAS PART OF THE CIRCLE MEDITATION IN EARLY CATHOLICISM. GOD WAS AT THE CENTER OF COURSE. THE SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL WORLDS EMANATED OUTWARDS FROM GODHEAD, AND THE ROUND-WALKERS MEDITATED AND PRAYED – SANG OR DANCED INWARD TOWARD THEIR ORIGIN IN GOD. REVERSES HAD SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE, AS DID THE BLOCKS . IN SOME LABYRINTHS THEY REPRESENTED ENCOUNTERING DOUBT OR PRIDE, ETC. ON THE PATH BACK TO GODHEAD. THE LABYRINTHS WERE MANDALAS FOR INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE MEDITATION WITH ONE’S ENTIRE SOUL, MIND, VOICE AND BODY. SOMETIMES THEY REPLACED PILGRIMAGES.
SUFI CIRCLE DANCING (ACTUALLY ORIGINALLY A FORM OF RAQS…SEE THE HEBREW WORDS FOR ‘DANCE’ IN THE OLD TESTAMENT) SIMILARLY WAS USED LIKE THE LABYRINTH AND CHORUS, TO CELEBRATE THE ‘BRIDAL’ MYSTERIES OF GODHEAD’S DIVINE LOVE, AND TO DRAW THE FINITE SOUL (FEMININE PSYCHE) BACK INTO THE UNION OF ‘CONJUGAL’ LOVE WITH THE INFINITE LORD, OR DIVINE BRIDEGROOM, AT THE CENTER OF ONE’S HEART OR CREATION. EITHER WITHIN OR WITHOUT, GOD IMMANENT OR TRANSCENDENT WAS THE SAME LORD-WHO-IS-LOVE.
SOME SCHOLARS OF SUFISM ACKNOWLEDGE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN SUFISM AND PLATONISM. JEWISH BRIDAL MYSTICISM, AS IN THE KABBALAH, IS ALSO ADMITTEDLY RELATED TO PLATONISM. THUS IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE WHO PLATO AND THE PLATONISTS WORSHIPED. IT WAS HELIOS, THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN ELI-YAHU, AND EGYPTIAN HERU-ASU (HORUS THE ELDER). SO CHRISTIAN CAROLING, JEWISH HORA DANCING, AND SUFI DANCE MEDITATION ARE ALL CONNECTED TO THE EASTERN RASA LILA OF RADHA AND KRISHNA AND BALARAMA AND THE GOPIS, THROUGH THE VERY ANCIENT WORSHIP OF DIONYSOS AND HELIOS KOUROS AND RHODA ON THE ISLAND OF RHODES. IN FACT, AT THE CENTER OF OLD CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL LABYRINTHS, WAS USUALLY A RHODON (ROSE MEDALLION) ! THE RHODON WAS THE ANCIENT SYMBOL OF HELIOS AND HIS BELOVED RHODA ON THEIR SACRED TRANSCENDENTAL ISLE OF RHODES ! THE JEWISH REFORMER KING JOSIAH ACTUALLY USED THE RHODON OF RHODES AS THE SYMBOL OF HIS REIGN. THIS IS A TRULY STUNNING FACT, AS CONFIRMATION OF THE IDENTITY OF HELIOS AS ELI-YAHU. ELI IS HARI AND YAHU IS BALARAMA AS VASU DEVA OR VISHNU. THUS IN EGYPT, HERU (or HOR) IS HARI AND ASU THEOS IN THE NORTH (WASU IN THE SOUTH) IS VASU DEVA. THE CIRCLE IS THE HIEROGLYPH FOR HERU / HELI / ELI / HARI THROUGHOUT THE ANCIENT WORLD. THE CIRCLE DANCE WAS SACRED TO HELIOS AND HIS ‘SECOND PERSON’ DIONYSOS, WHO WAS HIS HIEROPHANT, HIS HIGH PRIEST, AND THE INITIATOR INTO, AND MASTER OF THE MYSTERIES OF RHODA AND KOUROS HELIOS ON THE GIANT LOTUS OR ROSE ISLAND OF RHODA-NYMPHIA.
The Chartres Labyrinth
The Middle Ages showed a renewed interest in labyrinths and a design more complex than the classical seven-circuit labyrinth became popular.
This was an eleven-circuit design divided into four quadrants. It was often found in Gothic Cathedrals but over time many of these eleven-circuit designs were destroyed or intentionally removed.
The most famous of these remaining labyrinths is at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. The labyrinth at Chartres was built around 1200 and is laid into the floor in a style sometimes referred to as a pavement maze. The original center piece has been removed and other areas of the labyrinth have been restored.
This labyrinth was meant to be walked but is reported to be infrequently used today. In the past it could be walked as a pilgrimage and/or for repentance. As a pilgrimage it was a questing, searching journey with the hope of becoming closer to God. When used for repentance the pilgrims would walk on their knees. Sometimes this eleven-circuit labyrinth would serve as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem and as a result came to be called the “Chemin de Jerusalem” or Road of Jerusalem.
In walking the Chartres style labyrinth the walker meanders through each of the four quadrants several times before reaching the goal. An expectancy is created as to when the center will be reached. At the center is a rosette design which has a rich symbolic value including that of enlightenment. The four arms of the cross are readily visible and provide significant Christian symbolism.
“As Louis Charpentier, the French investigator of Chartres’ mysteries, states:
‘…physiologically, telluric and other currents can only enter human beings via a vertebral column that is straight and vertical. A person can only move to a higher state of consciousness by standing upright.’
“The pilgrim would progress shoeless up the nave to the labyrinth, a maze 13m (42.5 ft.) across and set out in the flagstones of the floor. Dancing around and around until reaching the center, a ritual commonly seen at each of the four annual Virgin fairs, the pilgrim became more and more sensitive to the power accumulated in the vast cathedral chamber.
“Moving to the middle point where the transepts cross the nave, the pilgrim was supposed to receive the full alchemical force from the luminous light emanating from the three stained glass rose windows. If the pilgrim experienced the entire sensuousness of the cathedral, it would be because the body’s senses had apprehended all the musical and geometrical proportions, and all the numbers and lines expressed in the building’s interior. For the pilgrim came not to worship Our Lady the Virgin, nor to kneel in obedience, but rather to find awareness through her, to replenish spiritual energy and refresh the soul.”
quote from The Atlas of Mysterious Places
edited by Jennifer Westwood
Weiderfeld & Nicolson, New York; 1987.
The Millennium Labyrinth
The Millennium Labyrinth is situated in the gardens of Holy Trinity church at the end of Roper St. It was built to commemorate the year 2000 and can be used just for fun or for meditation and spiritual reflection.
It is based on the Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral in France which was built at the beginning of the 13th Century by the Templars. These became popular in medieval Cathedrals and could be used for repentance or as a replacement for pilgrimage, which led to it also being known as the Road of Jerusalem. Having such spiritual connections it is a fitting centerpiece to the gardens and as such replaces Holy Trinity church, which was built on this site in 1715 but demolished in 1949. One end of the gardens still contains many old gravestones from that period. The spiritual aspect is reflected in an inscription on a large stone by the entrance:
“Walk this path with an open heart & mind seeking awareness as you journey”
The word labyrinth is usually used to refer to a unicursal maze – that means one like this that has a single path, without junctions. It appears to lead you towards the center several times before veering outwards again. The design of the Chartres Labyrinth of eleven circuits in four quadrants is different from the Classical labyrinth design of seven circuits, which is 4000 years old, found on ancient Greek coins and connected with tale of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The gardens are quite small but well maintained and provide a good place for a midday break in sunny weather.
THE JAPANESE TANABATA FESTIVAL…YOUNG GIRLS AND BOYS DANCE THE SACRED ROUND COMMEMORATING THE COSMIC LOVE AFFAIR OF THE HERDSMAN OF THE MILKY WAY AND HIS DARLING, THE BELOVED OF THE EMPEROR OF HEAVEN.
THE TANABATA FESTIVAL IN JAPAN HAS BEEN LINKED BY SOME SCHOLARS TO THE RASA LILA OF RADHA AND KRISHNA. THE DESCRIPTION BELOW SAYS IT COMES FROM CHINA. ITS APPEARANCE IN THE NARA PERIOD OF PURE LAND BUDDHISM CLEARLY CONNECTS IT TO VAISHNAVISM. NOTE THE FAMILIAR ELEMENTS IN THE SEVERAL LOVE STORIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FESTIVAL. I PRAY THAT I WILL BE ABLE TO WRITE IN-DEPTH ABOUT THIS AND THE MANY OTHER PURE LAND BUDDHIST CONNECTIONS TO RADHA-KRISHNA CENTRIC VAISHNAVISM. I HAVE ALREADY LISTED SOME OF THESE IN AN INTRODUCTION ON MY PURE LAND BUDDHIST STUDIES, WHICH CAN BE FOUND ON THE “HARE KRISHNA WORLD” ONLINE NEWSPAPER PRITI LAKSANAM FORUMS MODERATED BY MYSELF.
“And when we think of colors in Japan, three things come to mind, Kabuki, Girls day, and TANABATA. Most of us know Tanabata, from what we see on supermarket shelves, in shopping alleys, and at stations, with sprays of Sasaki with pieces of white paper with kanji in combination with some other “things” dangling. But what exactly is this, Tanabata. Tanabata is in fact a happy celebration – the only time of the year, two mythological lovers can meet there in a far spot, in a place hard to beat for romancing – in the Milky Way.
“Some say that the name Tanabata is a compound word of Tana and Hata. Tana means shelf or trellis, and hata means weaving. In ancient times, a maiden serving the god of weaving had to weave a cloth for the god of weaving to drape on a shelf or trellis near a river or lake.
“Others say that the word Tanabata has its origin from a mythological goddess.
“What we do know for sure is that Tanabata has its origin in China. However, Tanabata was first introduced to the Japanese during the Nara Period (710-784 AD). And in the Heien era (794-1192 AD.) it became a celebration for children and young girls wishing for progress in sewing, weaving, calligraphy and other handicrafts.
“However, there are more than one explanation of the real origin of Tanabata. Some say that it is the love story of a Herdsman, Aquila, and the weaver in the star Vega, Shokujo (sometimes known as Orihime). Shokujo, or Orihime as she is also called, was the weaver of the Emperor of Heaven. She was so occupied with her occupation, making garments for the offspring of the Emperor of Heaven, that she had no leisure time to take care of herself, or to weave garments for herself. However, God, the Emperor of Heaven took care of her loneliness and married her off to the Aquila, a herdsman who dwelt on the opposite side of the Celestial River, or the Milky Way.
“But, as things happen when you fall in love, you tend to neglect what you are supposed to do, and that is just what happened to Shokujo. She neglected the weaving of the garments for the Emperor of Heaven to the extend that the emperor got so angry that he forbid her to see her husband, Aquila. Shokujo lost all hope and cried all day, and so the Emperor, in order to comfort Shokujo, promised the young couple that they could meet once a year on the 7th of the 7th month. And this became Tanabata.
“Another version of the story portrays them as ordinary people, mortals who got married at the ages of 12 and 15 and who died at the ages of hundred and three and ninety-nine respectively. After death, their spirits went up into the sky, to the place where the Emperor of Heaven took his daily bath in the Milky Way. But no mortals are allowed to pollute the Milky Way by human touch, except for the 7th day of the 7th month, when the Emperor of Heaven is away to listen to the chanting of Buddhist Scriptures.
“The Manyoshu is an anthology of ancient poems of the Japanese language, published in 760 AD and one verse goes as follows:
The evening we meet
Tanabata is endless
Tomorrow starts another year
“Sprays of sasaki (the sacred tree of Japan which symbolizes purification) with various different decorations, hanging from the top, each with its own meaning accompanies the celebration of this meeting.”