duminică, 24 aprilie 2016

The Zodiac and The Labyrinth

The most famous European labyrinth is the great one set into the floor of Chartres cathedral, France, about 80 kilometers southwest of Paris measuring over 40' across.

It is an extremely ancient device, as the story of the Cretan labyrinth shows. There was an Egyptian one at Hawara from about 1800 B.C., and if the idea hales from the Middle East it must be much older, for there is one at New Grange in Ireland dated seven centuries earlier.


The labyrinth represents the world we live in, broad at the entrance, but narrow at the exit, so he who is ensnared by the joys of the world and weighed down by its vices, can regain the doctrines of life only with difficulty.

It is not a maze, but a single way. It is not a mindless trick but an ordered track. 

The design used at Chartres was repeated in many other places including Lucca, and the Mappa Mundi in Hereford; and with embellishments at Amiens and St. Quentin. 

This is why the Chartres labyrinth is so important—it is a canonic arrangement approved by the clergy, repeatedly used from one end of Europe to the other, and placed in conspicuous places in their churches. 

The most important ingredients are: eleven concentric rings split into four parts, a path which leads from the outside to the inside and passes once over every track, and a picture or an inscription.

Equally basic is the arrangement of the pathway. It always enters on the left of the center-line, and passes straight into the seventh ring counting from the inside; and it exits into the center from the fifth. This order is standard, as is the arrangement of tracks in between.

The clergy at Chartres were famous for their Platonic scholarship, and ranked, in the century before the cathedral was rebuilt, as the foremost center in Europe for teaching these views. 

Their Way was the Gnostic one through knowledge rather than through faith. Their kindred order in the Moslem world, the Sufis, wrote 

Beware, for love alone without knowledge, remains unfocused, unaimed, undirected. The consequences of such a love is pointless, leading to a confused state of perpetual 'Hallelujah' comparable to the village idiot's perpetual good humour. Through the medicine of knowledge joy is anchored so that love is directed to the Subject of all love.

In Piacenza the labyrinth is set into a mosaic floor, and most of the space is taken up with the signs of the Zodiac. In Chartres the Zodiac is represented more often than any other subject 

Eleven circles of Labyrinth represent the classic pattern of Evolution-Involution with the five steps in which God created the Universe followed by seven in which man finds his way back to Him. 

Aries to Leo covers the Creation of life and matter, Virgo is the creation of Man, and Libra is man in essence, his potential and his powers, including ego.

Scorpio is man's notion of himself, his attachment to matter and self. It is the point of choice where the wrong decision will bring spiritual death.

 The last four signs depict the way back to God through understanding and spiritual consciousness, ending in Pisces whose sign is not unlike the dorjé/labrus itself.

Aries is set a little apart from the others as the unformed flux of primal energy, preceding even the first breath of God, the Hu. Aries represents the ultimate whole. 

Only by placing Aries in the center of the labyrinth does the order of the paths have meaning. The innermost ring is therefore Taurus and the outermost is Pisces. 

The Way culminates in the First Strength of Aries seen as the Creative Principle surrounded by a six-petalled rose, and containing the repeat message of Ariadne/Mary giving the pilgrim/Theseus the thread/knowledge to conquor his desires and attachments, the Minotaur.

Twelve has been the number of completeness at least since Sumerian times, for twelve months is the full cycle of the year whose twelve signs encompass the whole of human experience. It is closed and perfect in itself.

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