The labyrinth is an archetype. It is a tangible metaphor for one’s own spiritual journey through the winding pathway of one’s life. The point of building a labyrinth, as emphasized in myths and dances, was always about a process of initiation. When you walk a labyrinth, you follow a single circuitous path winding inwards and out again in one direction. The way to the centre of the labyrinth leads to the experience of the turning point. Without this turning point it is impossible to leave the labyrinth.
In Ancient Greek Asklepieions - sanatoria founded on the healing principles of Hippocrates - the labyrinth had an essential function as part of the healing process. Then as now the philosophy was that the true essence of initiation into the hidden knowledge is knowledge of the Self. In order to achieve this knowledge, one first has to meet one's lesser self, one's personality. And so, after the patient had gone through the first three phases of treatment in the Asklepieion, he was brought into trance by way of a dance of progression through the labyrinth. The parts of his being - his physical, etheric and astral bodies - had already been 'loosened up' during the first three phases. Now his spiritual core - his 'I' or self - became the crux of the therapeutic process.
When we walk the labyrinth, we are engaging not just our senses, but our whole bodies, our physical selves. And so walking the labyrinth becomes a form of prayer which is prayed, not just with the mind, but with the whole being. It is this physical involvement which the labyrinth demands of us that becomes a form of ‘body prayer’, allowing the process of the turning point to become a real and vivid experience.
But even a physical labyrinth need not be necessary to achieve the experience which a labyrinth has to offer. For life itself is a labyrinth, a winding path which all of us tread, and ultimately it is up to us all individually to what extend we choose to make that experience a conscious one.
Desire change. Be enthusiastic for that flame
in which a thing escapes your grasp
while it makes a glorious display of transformation.
That designing Spirit, the master mind of all things on earth
loves nothing so much in the sweeping movement of the dance
as the turning point.
Rainer Maria Rilke