A-maze-ing Prayer - The labyrinth offers ancient meditation for today's hurried souls.Coming in from the brilliant San Diego sunshine, my wife and I entered a darkened hall lit only by candles and a dimmed chandelier. The room was silent. As our eyes adjusted, we saw several people kneeled in prayer. The setting, spirit, and solemn stillness of the hall told us that we had found something meditative there, something spiritual.
Today's evangelicals are accustomed to well-choreographed worship services with every minute carefully filled with music, video, and preaching. Postmodern generations are hungering for something more-an unhurried, mystery-filled, meditative experience that doesn't have to fit into a preplanned time schedule.
The prayer labyrinth offers a feast to fill that hunger. Meeting God in the middle The labyrinth is a maze-like path similar to those designed into the floors of European cathedrals during the Middle Ages. Christians of that time would walk the labyrinth to aid their contemplative prayer and reflection. The labyrinths fell into disuse, and most were eventually forgotten or destroyed.
At the National Pastors Conference in San Diego, however, we found the labyrinth was back and given an update. The path was formed by black lines on a 35-foot square piece of canvas laid on the floor. We each were given a CD player with headphones to guide our journey through the 11 stations on the path. As we began the inward journey-toward the center of the canvas-a gentle female voice with a British accent read a portion of John 1. She told us not to rush through the labyrinth, but to slow down, breathe deeply, and fully focus on God.
At the first stop, we looked at a television screen covered with complex, moving electronic wave forms. We were instructed to pray about and eliminate the noise within that interferes with God's voice. At another station we dropped small stones into water, each stone representing a worry we were giving over to God. Later we drew on paper symbols of our hurts, prayed about each of them, and put them in a trash can.
After thirty minutes we found ourselves at the labyrinth's center, where, seated on cushions, we were offered the elements of Communion. The narrator read more Scripture and reminded us how near Jesus Christ is to us. There was a Bible if we desired to linger, reading and praying.
The journey outward focused on how we can be used by God in other people's lives. At one station we made impressions of our hands and feet in a box of sand, reminding us that we leave impressions on the people we touch.
My wife and I spent an hour in the labyrinth and found ourselves calmed and refreshed, our perspective uniquely restored. We made our own prayer path After the convention we knew we couldn't keep this experience to ourselves.
A few months later we featured a labyrinth as part of Graceland's annual art event at Santa Cruz Bible Church. Graceland artists recreated the labyrinth with a kit we purchased (The Prayer Path, Group Publishing), transforming one of the church's multipurpose rooms into a medieval prayer sanctuary. The team hung art on the walls, draped fabric, and lit candles all around the room to create a visual sense of sacred space. Over two nights we saw more than 100 people go through the labyrinth. It was a joy to see so many people on their knees communing with God through the experiential prayer elements.
Meditative prayer like that we experienced in the labyrinth resonates with hearts of emerging generations. If we had the room, we would set up a permanent labyrinth to promote deeper prayer. Until then, however, Graceland will continue to incorporate experiential prayer and encourage our people to stop, quiet themselves, and pray.
Fall 2001, Vol. 23, No. 4, Page 38 Labyrinths
Labyrinth meditation is a fairly recent phenomena. The foremost proponents of it are Jean Houston and Grace Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles. In Chartres Cathedral in France there is an elaborate 40 foot diameter labyrinth of tile imbedded in the floor of the nave. The theory is that by walking the labyrinth one partakes of a spritual journey of self examination and enlightenment. As with all rituals, this only has the meaning to which the participant ascribes to it. Send a New Age Postcard with a Labyrinth on it! Dr Jean Houston & the Labyrinth Fad
-an article for the May 2,000 AFR Canada magazine http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm08.htm A ex-new-ager who attends our congregation participated a year ago in the Labyrinth. Upon walking to the centre of the circle (1), she immediately sensed a dark spiritual vortex sucking her down. Fortunately, being a Spirit-filled Christian, she later renounced her involvement in the Labyrinth and through prayer was cut free from the bondage that she was sensing. Being westerners, we often fail to realize that seemingly harmless 'physical' techniques can have significant questionable spiritual impact on our lives.(2) One of the patterns with the dozens of new-age fads sweeping North America and the West Coast in particular is that they all pop up out of the blue but claim to have rediscovered an ancient secret technique that we all need. Many of them, including the fast-growing Labyrinth fad (3), even reconstruct a plausible but misleading Christian history used to persuade well-meaning Christians.
The Labyrinth, as currently practiced, has very little to do with the Chartres Cathedral (4), and very much to do with Dr. Jean Houston's impact on the new-age-friendly Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Dr. Jean Houston is listed on the Internet as one of the 10 top New Age speakers in North America (5) The inside cover of Jean Houston's 1997 book A Passion for the Possible describes herself as 'considered by many to be one of the world's greatest teachers' Of concern to renewal-oriented Christians is that Houston teaches her students on the 'Mystery School' how to speak in occult glossolalia. She encourages her participants to 'begin describing your impressions in glossolalia' and even to 'write a poem in glossolalia.' (6) This counterfeit phenomenon, of course, does not discredit the genuine Christian gift of tongues/glossolalia that is available after renouncing the occult, receiving Jesus as Lord, and asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
As past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, Jean makes use of her doctorate in 'Philosophy of Religion'(7) to gain access to areas where most new-agers and occultists can't go. For example, as noted widely in media a few years ago (8), she became a consultant to Hillary Clinton, helping her to 'channel' the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt. The Labyrinth, also called the Dromenon (9), is the official symbol of Dr. Jean Houston's new-age 'Mystery School' which one pays $3,775 to be initiated into over a series of 9 weekends.(10) Over 5,000 people so far have attended the Mystery School over the past 15 years. Houston describes her Mystery School students as 'the dancers of the Dromenon'.(11) In Houston's 1996 book
The Mythic Life, she credits H.F. Heard's novel Dromenon with its 'psychophysical state of ecstasy and spiritual awakening' as the inspiration to adopting the image of the Dromenon/Labyrinth as the symbol of her work. (12) Canon Lauren Artress from Grace Cathedral (13) brought the Labyrinth back to her Cathedral after experiencing the Labyrinth at Jean Houston's Mystery School.(14) Jean Houston wrote in her 1982 book The Possible Human about 'the growth of Dromenon (Labyrinth) communities. (15) As acknowledged in Labyrinth WEBsites, the Labyrinth is a mandala (16), which is actually a Hindu occult (17) meditation process (18)brought to the Western world by the grandfather of the New Age, Dr. Carl Jung. (19) The Labyrinth has since spread to over 200 cities, and is making a measurable impact in Canada. Artress claims that "over a million people have walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral alone" (20) Even the infamous Starhawk, the self-declared practicing witch and colleague of Matthew Fox, is walking the labyrinth nowadays (21). One of the stated purposes of the Labyrinth is to connect us to the mother goddess, of which the labyrinth is a symbol.
In her 1995 book 'Walking A Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool', Canon Artress states that "The labyrinth is a large, complex spiral circle which is an ancient symbol for the divine mother, the God within, the goddess, the holy in all creation." (22) Artress says that "You walk to the center of the labyrinth and there at the center, you meet the Divine." (23) Jean Houston claims that "As we encounter the archetypal world within us, a partnership is formed whereby we grow as do the gods and goddesses within us." (24) To Jean Houston, it seems that all of life is made up of polytheistic labyrinths. In her 1992 book The Hero & the Goddess, she recommended: 'Now, taking a favorite god or goddess by the hand, a Greek one this time, explore the labyrinthian winding of your left hemisphere. Take the deity by the hand and begin to explore the labyrinth winding of your right hemisphere, the place of intuition.' (25)
My prayer, as Jean Houston's new-age Labyrinth fad impacts the Church, is that we may be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. The Rev. Ed Hird+ Rector, St. Simon's Anglican Church, North Vancouver, BC Missioner, Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/ (1)
One Grace Cathedral Labyrinth advocate said that "Labyrinths predate Christianity by over a millennium. The most famous labyrinth from ancient times was the Cretan one, the supposed lair of the mythological Minotaur, which Theseus slew with the aid of Ariadne and her spool of thread. rituals" Peter Corbett, "Pathfinders: Walking medieval labyrinths in a modern world," www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/features/fea_19981120_txt.shtml, p. 2 It was at the centre of the Labyrinth that the Minotaur did his devouring of unsuspecting humans. (2) An example of this might be how many people innocently get hooked into hatha yoga through the guise of a community centre yoga course.
Because hatha yoga appears to westerners to be merely physical in nature, we fail to see the religious syncretism that we are involving ourselves in. Nothing from a Hindu perspective is merely physical, because for Hinduism, the physical is merely an illusion. So-called physical yoga exercises are designed to open the psychic door to the Hindu deities. Community-Centre Yoga is in reality the 'marijuana' entry-level drug of the occult/new age world. (3) Lee Penn, Fall 1999 issue of the Journal of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project www.scp-inc.org http://fatima.freehosting.net/Articles/Art7.htm (4) The Chartres labyrinth dates from sometime between 1194 and 1220. These dates are determined by the great fire of 1194, which destroyed most of the cathedral and the city of Chartres. By 1220 the section of the nave housing the labyrinth had been rebuilt by Bishop Fulbert.
Lee Penn mailto:LeePenn@aol.com has done careful research showing that the Labyrinth-based relationship between Chartres Cathedral to Grace Cathedral, San Francisco is a clear example of 'the tail wagging the dog', of 'life imitating art'. Grace Cathedral have been giving strong leadership in Chartres' 'reintroduction' of the Labyrinth, even to the point of making Chartres' Dean Legaux an honorary Grace Cathedral Canon. (5) Voices of a New Age Video (1999), Penny Price Productions, E! Online Fact Sheet, "Ten different New Age luminaries voice their view about the possibilities of the human spirit for healing the body, the mind, and the earth."; http://www.eonline.com/Facts/Movies/0,60,53125,00.html (6)
Jean Houston, GodSeed: the Journey of Christ, Quest Books, The Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, USA, 1992, p. 50, p. 51. " http://www.jeanhouston.org/store/books/godseed.html (7) www.skepdic.com/houston.html 1998 Robert Todd Carroll (8) Bob Woodward in 'The Choice'; The Providence Journal Bulletin, Tuesday, 6/25/96, P. A3 (9) www.jeanhouston.org "drom-e-non. - n. Ancient Gk: a ritual pattern of dynamic expression, a therapeutic dance rhythm in which participants experience second birth into a higher order of consciousness and community" (10) www.jeanhouston.org/programs/ms.physical2000/6mstime.html (11) Jean Houston, The Possible Human, Torcher: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1982, p. ix (12) Jean Houston, The Mythic Life, Harper San Francisco, 1996, p. 186. (13) www.cathedral.org/cathedral/nca/spiritualperspectives/sacred.html (National Episcopal Cathedral Website) "Keynote speaker, the Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, Canon for Special Ministries at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, first encountered a labyrinth in a workshop at psychologist Jean Houston's Mystery School." (14) Kristen Fairchild, "A Passion for the Possible: An Interview with Jean Houston," The Spire, Textures 11/04/97 www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment, p. 4,
"Jean Houston, Ph.D. is the best-selling author of many books. She has been mentor and teacher of Dr. Lauren Artress, Founder of Veriditas, at Grace Cathedral." (15) Jean Houston, The Possible Human, 1982, p. 51 (16) "True meditation occurs when the physical brain has been pacified, kept busy with a mantra or a mandala, so the spiritual mind is then free to wander on its own, and discover new truths. "The walking back and forth seems very pendulous," states Squires. "It's a very slow frequency, a very long wavelength from one turn to the next. You slowly walk along and slowly walk back, then slowly walk on again. It's hard to have your mind in a fretful kind of pace when you're doing such a slow, pendulous, rhythmic walking like that." Peter Corbett, "Pathfinders: Walking medieval labyrinths in a modern world," http://www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/features/fea_19981120_txt.shtml (17) Occult, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, means 'kept secret, esotericâ from the Latin culere: hide' It is not a synonym for Satanism. (18) "the labyrinth, a sacred tool that has been used as a mandala in many spiritual traditions for thousands of years" Spiritual Perspectives Program 1996 Sacred Circles Conference http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/nca/spiritual- perspectives/sacred.html (19) www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm03.htm , "Jung was also a strong promoter of the occultic mandala, a circular picture with a sun or star usually at the centre. Sun worship, as personified in the mandala, is perhaps the key to fully understanding Jung.(ft.103) Jung taught that the mandala [Sanskrit for 'circle'] was 'the simplest model of a concept of wholeness, and one which spontaneously arises in the mind as a representation of the struggle and reconciliation of opposites.'(ft. 104)" (20) www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment (21) www.sfgate.com Starhawk, as a Wiccan/Witch leader of two covens, celebrated New Year 2,000 by walking the Labyrinth on her San Francisco area Ranch. (22) Lauren Artress, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Sacred Tool, Riverhead Books/G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1995; sentence quoted by Pamela Sullivan, "Book Review," Pacific Church News, June/July 1995, p. 8 (23) Lauren Artress, "Q and A with Lauren," Veriditas, Vol. 1, no. 2, Summer 1996, p. 18 (24) www.skepdic.com/houston.html (25) Jean Houston, The Hero & the Goddess, Aquarian/Thorsons (Harper Collins Publisher), 1992, p. 134
The Labyrinth Building made up of intricate, mazelike chambers or passages so designed that a person entering one would find it difficult to find a way out. Among the many labyrinths in the ancient world, perhaps the most celebrated was a funeral temple built by Amenemhet III in Egypt, near Lake Moeris, which contained 3000 chambers. Equally famous was the labyrinth on Crete, which may have existed only in myth. Its conception was possibly derived from the elaborate floor plan of the palace at Knossos. In Greek mythology, the Cretan labyrinth was constructed by the Athenian craftsman Daedalus as a prison for the Minotaur, a part-bull, part-man monster. Other ancient labyrinths were on the island of Lemnos (Lemnian) and at Clusium (now Chiusi), Italy. The term labyrinth is also applied to mazelike patterns on the floors of some medieval churches, intended perhaps to symbolize the tortuous journey of Christian pilgrims toward salvation. Garden mazes walled by clipped hedges are also called labyrinths, as, for example, that at Hampton Court, London, planted in the 17th century and still existent. Another British turf maze deserving note is the one at Alkborough in Lincolnshire.