"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

Mar 3, 2010


Labyrinths are a cross-cultural phenomenon, found in millennia old caves and medieval Gothic cathedrals. What do they represent?

Philip Coppens

The most direct path from A to B is a straight line. The most indirect path from A to B is likely to be a labyrinth. Not to be confused with a maze, which has several dead ends, a labyrinth is a unicursal voyage that leads from a point outside the design towards the centre of the labyrinth.
Though the labyrinth of the Cathedral of Chartres is likely to be the most famous, labyrinths are of all times and civilisations; they might be as old as civilisation itself and have been found on rock art dating back thousands of years. A labyrinth carved on a piece of mammoth ivory has been found in a Paleolithic tomb in Siberia. The site is more than 7000 years old.

But what message do they convey? Though their interpretation has changed and been adapted over time and by individual civilisations – whether intentionally or not – in origin, the labyrinth might be explained by its very shape. In the 1990s, Paul Devereux established a relationship between straight lines and the flight of the soul in its disembodied state. In folklore, across the world, it is said that the soul travels in a straight line. A labyrinth, however, is anything but straight and it was therefore said that a labyrinth could both catch the soul and keep it in one location, or instead create a void, in which the person visiting the centre, will be “clean” of any outside spiritual influences, as these energies cannot penetrate. No wonder therefore that some see the centre of a labyrinth as a point outside of time, an observation which was recognised by the Hopi of North America, who use the labyrinth shape as the symbol of a place of emergence, where access to this – and other – realms becomes possible: a sacred space that creates a gateway through time, to communicate with the Creator God.


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