The labyrinth is an example of what Gurdjieff called objective magick, a coherent symbol construct capable of working directly on the unconscious mind. Its origins are mysterious, although the maze family of symbols have been traced back over 3500 years in places as diverse as Peru, Arizona, Iceland, Crete, India, Egypt and Sumatra. This symbolic continuity is perhaps our strongest proof of its spiritual coherence and magickal effectiveness.
When the Zodiacal Earth Temple project began, I was told by the landscape angel that the people working on the project, especially at the beginning, absolutely must build and walk a labyrinth before any work began on the temple itself. At the time, I was not too familiar with the idea of labyrinths, other than as a historical artifact, and so I asked the landscape angel to explain it to me. Why did we need to do this?
The angel replied that the labyrinth harmonized the DNA of the individual with the earth’s elemental patterns. Sort of like a translator interface which would allow two different operating systems to talk with each other. What follows is not the angel’s exact words, but my understanding based on the angel’s suggestions.
Numbers are very important, so we start with the basic number of the human unconscious, revolutionary number nine as the Beatles reminded us. The Ennead is common to both Gurdjieff and the ancient Egyptians, and symbolizes the unfoldment of the cosmos and the projection of the DNA’s programming. Evolution can be seen as a series of inter-dependent imprint triggers leading to a galactic level of “human” consciousness. Four of these triggers are automatically fired, in most sentient beings, by experiences in the course of life; four related triggers are consciously fired; and the spirit trigger is randomly fired, just to keep things interesting.
We think of DNA as some kind of internal intelligence that knows how to build all the different types of cells needed to grow and run your body. The human genome project is mapping out this sort of process, but here we are looking at the activity of DNA in a completely different way. Dr. Timothy Leary, in his masterpiece, Neuro-Politics, outlines a scheme of DNA imprint projection, (similar in process to that which causes a duck to consider the first living and moving thing it sees after birth as its mother) which interprets behavior as an interactive evolutionary imperative. Developmental stages are triggered, first by environmental necessity, then by conscious intent, leading to a free will based integration of body, mind and consciousness on a truly cosmic scale.
Using a simplified version of this concept, we can think of the primary imprint triggers as: 1) Security, 2) Territory, 3) Intellect, and 4) Social. Security imprinting in humans, as in ducks, is concerned with mother and mothering. To feel secure, this deep and strong process of being fed and loved must take place. It constellates into an imprint pattern, for good or ill, around 18 months.
The next imprint trigger is that of a sense of ego territory, a definition of self versus other. This primary boundary imprint is in place by the time the child is about three to five years old. Like the security imprint, ego territory is a long process of definition that eventually constellates or solidifies into a belief system about self.
Trigger number three is a little different. It begins the imprint process when the individual begins to categorize the other on the outside of the ego boundary. That is, when the child begins to analyze and draw conclusions from his environment. In our current society, this imprint is severely skewed in a large percentage of the population, firing either not at all, or in place of the lower two, so that only Intellect is triggered. In a more regular developmental pattern, this trigger constellates around 9 to 10 years old.
The Social imprint is the one that most of us can most readily identify. That’s because the DNA is less concerned, overall, with quality than quantity. Therefore everyone goes through puberty and few humans avoid its onslaught. We are driven by our glands to seek out the sexual other. This imprint trigger conditions us for life as firmly as does the lower three. It constellates between 13 and 15 years old.
And with that, the hardwired developmental imprints cease. The DNA has done its job, the mind has been provided with a host and the means to replicate itself. From now on, its up to the individual consciousness to interact with its own evolution.
That interaction begins with the onset of self-determined pleasure, seen in a chaotic form in teenagers hanging out and just having fun. This hedonic urge is often so powerful that it overcomes the hardwired lower imprint circuits. Addictions to various sorts of pleasure stimulation, including everything from sex, consumerism and cocaine to ecstatic religious practices, results from a misuse of this self-determined imprint trigger.
Each of these higher imprint triggers is directly related to a lower one. The fifth trigger, Pleasure, is connected to trigger number one, Security, and so on. That means that the next trigger, number six or Psychic, is connected to number two, Territory. The concept of a psychic imprint trigger is a little strange until you think about it. Some people do just seem to have the gift, as if something just fired up inside them. And, most important, we can learn to fire this psychic trigger ourselves, or even have it triggered by exposure to someone else who has it going. The connection also suggests that psychic skills are related to our ability to define inner and outer boundaries, a useful insight indeed.
Intellect, number three, is directly related to number seven, Mythic. As our intellect allows to analyze our external and internal reality, our mythic imprint allows to analyze and describe Reality. This is a subtle concept, and a very subtle trigger. People who have fired this trigger, such Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and so on, usually start their own religions to share their mythological insights.
Just as our Social trigger, number four, forces us into human relationships, firing the eighth trigger, Cosmic Consciousness, forces us into a relationship with sentience on a galactic scale. Attaining a general human imprinting on this level would seem to be the goal of the Boddhisatva vow.
The last imprint trigger, Spirit or as Chapel Perilous, is related to all eight other triggers. It can be fired randomly, as a moment of gnostic grace, or as the result of serious dysfunction in other imprint activity. Its action is mysterious, but it is something that we all face along the way. It holds the pattern together and acts as a thermostat to the process of evolution itself.
To symbolize this, we take nine stones and from them we make a labyrinth that inter-weaves our DNA imprint triggers with the elements of time and space down here on the surface of the planet.
First of all, we locate our spot. A labyrinth works best on a dome cap, or as the dowsers call it, a blind spring. This is a spot where the underground water rises up to near the surface and divides into an odd number of water/energy lines. I like to dowse for the center point, or the point of maximum energy flow, to place my Spirit stone.
Then depending on the size of the dome cap or blind spring, I form a large square from the next four stones, corners toward the quarter compass directions, NE, SE, SW, NW. Midway between these outer stones and the center point, place the other four stones.
I then have a large X made from nine stones. The center is Spirit, the outer four, from the SE corner clockwise, are Security, Territory, Intellect, and Social. Then jumping to the inner ring of stones for Pleasure, Psychic, Mythic and Cosmic, lined up opposite their matching outer number: 1-5, 2-6, 3-7, 4-8. From this pattern, a number of associations can be drawn.
The square-within-a-square design contains a spiral flow. Winding out from Spirit, we follow the numbers in a counter-clockwise spiral to the east. Starting with Security in the SE, we follow the numbers clockwise to arrive at Spirit in the center. We can think of this inside-out flow pattern as a template for a toroidal, or vortex-like, energy structure similar to a stable smoke-ring.
To continue locating our pattern in space/time, we add lines out from the center spirit stones to the cardinal points of the compass, N, S, E, W. Like a pyramid, we are quartering space by marking the passage of time. In that sense, we assign the symbols of the solstices and equinoxes to these points.
We can now create the wheel of the year by adding the old cross-quarter days, February 1st, May 1st, August 1st and November 1st. This allows us to align our human life cycle development with the unfolding of time through the cycle of the seasons. We are born at the spring equinox, imprint security at Beltane, territory at Lammas, intellect at Samhain and social at Imbolc. We then turn inward at a new equinox and imprint Pleasure at Beltane, Psychic at Lammas, Mythic at Samhain and Cosmic at Imbolc. Then we pass beyond to Spirit as we approach a new equinox. In fact, life on the planet seems to match this pattern. More births, of all kinds, occur at the spring equinox, and deaths, of all kinds, are more prevalent in the late winter, after Imbolc. Life responds to the pattern of the flow.
Now that we have aligned our life cycle with the planetary seasonal cycle we must allow for the reflection of a spiritual reality, the elemental forces. Our time/space co-ordinates give us the eight points on the wheel of the earth. To describe spiritual co-ordinate realities, or higher dimensions, you need eight more points.
The higher imprint triggers supply this elemental force. We symbolize this by drawing the L symbol with the higher imprint stone at the shift point. This gives us sixteen points on the surface of our wheel, which form the eight dimensional reality tunnels of the labyrinth.
To see this, we must mentally, or on paper, complete the circuit board-like 2D template we have created. On the ground, all we need are nine stones, four lines out from center and eight lines formed by the elemental Ls. But it helps to also be familiar with the geometric basis for the symbolic construct’s operation.
First then, draw a circle around the outer four points, and then the inner four. Then draw in the two squares within these circles. Next, connect the solstice and equinox points in a square touching the outer circle. Then draw a circle connecting the intersection points, all 12 of them, between the inner and outer circles. Finally, connect the intersection points on the solstice/equinox lines inside the inner circle into a square.
This gives us three circles, four squares, 20 lines, 36 points and the center. This computer-chip-like geometric mandala is a model of the universe that mathematically graphs the transformations between dual 3D structures, the octa-hex of the planetary crystal, and dual 4D structures such as the hyper-cube and the 16-cell, or hyper-octahedron. It also unites mystical models such as the Mayan Calendar, the kabbalistic Tree of Life and the I Ching with the DNA codons, phi-based pentagonal geometries and the precessional motion of the equinoxes.
The center is the divine world, as the spirit point, in the kabbalistic model. the other three circles represent the enfolded lower worlds of archetypes, foundations and actions. The points contained in these three circles are 32, the number of the sephiroths on the Tree of Life. Thirty-two pairs of both trigrams and the three part DNA code forms the I Ching and the human codons.
Human activity is circumscribed by the actions of the higher DNA imprints, which means that we cannot will ourselves into spirit. But the divine can act upon and through us. Therefore, the inner circle has four points, connected with the solar stations and the fixed signs of the zodiac, which represents the four Arc-Angels, or parabolas of divine Intent.
Add these four points to the spiritual structure of our 32/64 pattern and we have a 36/72 pattern. This of course is the root of pentagonal geometry. A circle divides into five parts with angles of 72 degrees each. It also points to the precession of the equinox, which moves back through the zodiac at the rate of one degree every 72 years. Just as 32 + 1, the center/spirit, = 33, or the number of completion and perfection, so to does 36 +1 = 37 equal a cosmic completion. 37.5 eclipse cycles of 690 years each equals 25,920 years or one complete precessional cycle.
So our little circuit board diagram contains a very complete symbolic model of an interactive universe. However, all of this simply a neat and tidy bit of mental calisthenics unless we can make it work on the ground. Which is just what developing this pattern into a labyrinth does.
Let’s go back to our pattern on the ground; nine stones, four lines radiating outward from the center point, and eight lines from the inner four stones to make a total of sixteen points on the perimeter. Starting at the top point and counting counter-clockwise, mentally label each point with a number, 1 through 16.
Then, with corn meal or some other visible and earth friendly substance, connect the points in a clockwise direction, 1 with 16 and so on around to 8 – 9. You have just created a labyrinth.
Now, before we walk our labyrinth, let’s examine the process in terms of all we have learned about the inherent patterning.
First of all, the difference between a right-handed, clockwise spinning labyrinth and a left handed, counter-clockwise spinning one depends on the point of entry. (For a right spin labyrinth label number counter-clockwise and draw clockwise. For a left spin, label clockwise and draw counter-clockwise.) A right spin labyrinth enters from the second imprint, territory, while a left spin enters from the first, security. In a right spin, you start path number three between Psychic Intelligence and Spirit, while a left spin starts between Pleasure Intelligence and Spirit.
In use, this represents the difference between deep organic dysfunction and personality or ego dysfunction. There is also a basic matter of polarity, which might change depending whether this done in the northern or southern hemispheres.
The order of walking the paths in the labyrinth is 3, 2, 1, 4, 7, 6, 5, 8. If we think of this pattern as beginning and ending with 9, Spirit, then we have described a braided spiral from the center of the pattern and back again. The developmental pattern, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, spirals inward and then outward in a single, time-like direct-current flow. Walking the labyrinth creates an inside-out, Moebius strip-like alternating-current flow that transforms the dysfunction of Chapel Perilous into the gnostic grace of Spirit.
Since all of us have gone through imprint trigger four, puberty, the labyrinth starts at that level to recapitulate imprints one through three. Then imprint four is reformed by walking the path. From there, we jump to the mythic, to give us meaning as we open our higher imprint triggers, then the psychic to make it effective, then pleasure to make it fun. Only then do we go on to the Cosmic, which is incomprehensible without a sense of humor. We return by unwinding the way we came, transformed by the experience.
We can get a sense of how this transformation occurs by noting the entry stones at the start of each path.
Path three – Starts between (Right Spin) Psychic and Spirit, showing the psychic effectiveness necessary to reform path three, the Intellect.
Path two – Starts between Security and Pleasure to reform Territory.
Path one – Starts between Territory and Psychic to reform Security.
Path four – Starts between Pleasure and Spirit to reform Social.
Path seven – Starts between Mythic and Spirit to activate the Mythic imprint trigger.
Path six – Starts between Cosmic and Social to activate the Psychic imprint.
Path five – Starts between Mythic and Intellect to activate the Pleasure imprint.
Path eight – Starts between Cosmic and Spirit to activate the Cosmic.
Now as we walk the labyrinth we have laid out from our circuit board design, we are interweaving levels of consciousness and reality. The objective magick of this powerful symbolic construct works directly on our unconscious mind, whether we understand the depth of geometry embedded within it or not.
And so we gathered to build and walk our labyrinth. As we worked, I gave the teaching as the angel had described it. Our first problem arose with the nine stones themselves.
We were instructed to ask each stone we found if it wanted to be one of the nine. Some people within the group failed to take this seriously and selected a rock that didn’t want to be there. Even though it was a very dull rock, it bit the young man who tried to force it into the array. He left with a nasty cut on his palm.
Even dull rock seemed to come alive as we worked with the labyrinth. The group began to form a sense of clarity and focus that it hadn’t been able to achieve before. People began to actually feel the power and reverence of the Earth beneath their feet. Spirit began to move, and by the time we had walked the pattern itself, things had shifted.
One lady, well intentioned but not really connected, was asked by the angel to leave. She listened and left. The group focus tightened and we, as a group, felt the need for certain processes and ceremonies needed to start the Zodiacal Earth Temple. What had been a fun community project began a spiritual adventure.
Walking the labyrinth, with a fully conscious intent, may just be the best technique human’s have ever developed for interacting directly with the mind of the planet. As the need for this kind of communication grows greater, learning the secrets of the labyrinth could become one of humanity’s most important endeavors.