Nataraj Express

Journey to the Self

Labyrinth

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labyrinth

Labyrinth – Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 291, detail of f. 170v. Rabanus Maurus, De rerum naturis. 1425

Labyrinths are one of many ancient symbols that has evolved in its meaning. You will certainly be able to search and find a lot of different explanations related to many fields of knowledge.

In essence, the labyrinth represents a journey. It is a winding path to the centre of our beings, and a path back out into the world.

For me, it represents life itself; no matter which path we choose, we always have to come to ourselves, know ourselves, before we can integrate all lessons and adapt them into the exterior reality.

The labyrinth can also be a symbol of the unconscious. The path we take and the monsters we fight in our minds. The fears we have to confront. And learn from. In some mythologies, labyrinths were built with the purpose of luring devils or monsters into them so that they might never escape, or as guardians and protectors of the centre and truth. The Minotaur, the symbol of our deepest fears, of our hidden demons, guarding the labyrinth. The only way out is through the centre. The only way out is by lifting the veil and killing the Minotaur. The only way out is to see clearly.

Labyrinths are also cosmogonic references to the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Real labyrinths are used as a tool or initiation into a spiritual practice. In other words, it is another tool we can use to go deeper into the depths of our own psyches. Walking a labyrinth can be a wonderful experience. Slowly, step after step the mind might find a way for distraction, but we bring it back to the present by fully embodying the movement through it. Step by step, moving inwards into the centre, physically and mentally. Breathing. Giving an intention and a purpose to our walking action. That is how meaning is found in every moment; by giving it through our thoughts and actions.

A labyrinth has no dead-ends as a maze does. It is one path continuously changing perspective. To get out we must always continue forward, ever present to the twists and turns of our journeys to ourselves. Once we have reached the centre, we integrate all lessons and take them out into the world.

Some studies associate labyrinths to the stars and planets. They portray them as diagrams of the macrocosmos, diagrams of heaven, of the apparent motions of the astral bodies. The terrestrial labyrinth is capable of mirroring the celestial labyrinth. Again we come back to the Hermetic teaching of “as above, so below; as within, so without”, only this time there is an action inherent to the statement as we are the ones who must walk in and through the spiraling path of the labyrinth.

In the Middle Ages, tracing through the labyrinthic path of a mosaic patterned on the ground was considered a symbolic substitute for a spiritual and holy pilgrimage. That’s why we find them many times in cathedrals.

For Mircea Eliade and others, the labyrinth’s true purpose is the protection of the centre, which was an initiation into sanctity, immortality and absolute reality, and as such, equivalent to other trials, or mythical symbolisms like the fight with the dragon.

Labyrinths allude to the neoplatonic idea of “the fall”, the loss of spirit in the process of creation, and the consequent need to seek out the Way through the centre, back to the spirit. In the end, the ultimate goal is union, within oneself, and between oneself and all existence.

Author: Danah Blanco (Nataraj Express)

Yoga Teacher~Dive Master~Art Historian

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