I am afraid my conservative church elders will oppose getting a labyrinth. What can I do?
Labyrinths were adopted for use by the Christian church in the fourth century -- almost as long as Christianity has been in existence. The major Gothic Cathedrals built during the 13th century, which were the pinnacle of achievement, contained labyrinths in the nave (although most were removed in subsequent centuries). The labyrinth is a generic spiritual tool that is used by many denominations. We have sold to Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Baptist churches and more. Labyrinths unite Christianity in a common practice.
On a metaphysical level, labyrinths keep us in the present
moment, and they lead us inward, beyond our intellect and surface personality.
These are important developments in gaining the skills to have a meaningful
spiritual life. Labyrinths represent a way of praying, using the entire
body. Many people don't sit still comfortably. The labyrinth offers an
Do you have any details on the use of labyrinths in schools?
At the annual Labyrinth Society conference in Baltimore, November of 2003, a number of people shared some wonderful examples of using labyrinths in schools. Perhaps the forum on the Labyrinth Society website would be of help. (See: http://www.labyrinthsociety.org). The most active group I know of with regards to schools is in Santa Fe. They have labyrinths in a number of grade schools. (See: http://www.labyrinths-sf.org Labyrinth Resource Group). I believe they offer a manual for teachers. Lani Rossetta has written some simple books for using labyrinths with kids. You should be able to find them on Amazon.com by searching under her name.
Is there such a thing as a "Celtic Labyrinth" or a "Druid Labyrinth"?
In libraries and bookstores I have scanned through many books on Celtic art and have never seen a labyrinth. There are beautiful examples of complicated knots, but they are not labyrinths. In a few recent books that give instructions on drawing Celtic designs, I notice that they have included some labyrinths. But there is no historical description. I suspect they are a modern addition. In her mystery school, Jean Houston makes a connectioin between the Celtic tradition and labyrinths. However, the labyrinth that she makes is a Chartres labyrinth (although with a smaller than normal center). True, Druids probably once inhabited the area around Chartres, but the origins of the Chartres labyrinth are fairly well established, and they weren't from the Druids. To date, I find no historical Celtic or Druidic labyrinths.
What role did the Templars have in building Chartres Cathedral, if any?
Having studied Chartres for a number of years, I have come to have little confidence in the "false mysteries" that are the subject of many books and articles. Louis Charpentier, for example, takes a few facts and distorts them into rather unbelievable theories. All of the writers who suggest that Gothic just suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and that it must have been the result of the Templars or some other single event, are failing to look at a whole centruy of architectural experimentation and discovery which slowly evolved the architectural features that eventually became Gothic.
The analogy that I use is a musical one. For a century, in northern France, they were inventing individual instruments, such as a flying buttress here and an ogival arch there. Then, at Chartres, for the first time, the whole orchestra played. Other Gothic cathedrals developed variations on the theme, but never was it so pure and sweet as in Chartres. So when a book is published on sacred sites around the world, I look to see what they say about Chartres. If they only say that Druids were once there, and that there is a well, and energies, and maybe a mention of the labyrinth, I know that they have omitted something very important: The actual reason why that astounding edifice was built, how it was accomplished, and what symbolism and art was incorporated. So it is the latter aspects that I have found to be far more astounding and interesting than the myths. Myths have their value, but not as history. In my unfinished manuscript on Chartres, I call the chapter on hoky theories "Mything the Point."
Each year we take a group to Chartres for a whole week,
appreciating it in great depth. If you are interested, see Tours.
Should the labyrinth be flat, or can we built it on a slope?
The important consideration is drainage. Building on a slope is fine. If building on flat land, you might want to crown the labyrinth, making it higher in the middle so that it drains outward. In some cases, underground pipes or other devices are needed to assure good drainage.
Is it appropriate to put a peace pole in the center of the labyrinth?
Sure. The labyrinth has no separate meaning which would prevent doing something such as putting a peace pole in the center. The labyrinth is like a blank slate, taking on whatever meaning we give it. I think a peace pole is very fitting, considering that walking the labyrinth makes most people feel peaceful.
My hospital is considering a labyrinth, but they want to see scientific studies that show that there is a benefit. Are there any such studies available?
There have been a number of doctoral and masters theses pertaining to the labyrinth, but none that I know of that was done scientifically. The scientific records are, however, filled with studies on meditation (i.e. Herbert benson at Harvard, and the relaxation response). Also as pertains to positive attitude affecting the immune system. In general, however, Idon't support the principle of using scientific language to verify the effectiveness of the labyrinth. Please see my article regarding this subject (healing). The labyrinth and science work in different realms, one inner the other outer. One is literal and physical, the other psychological and emotional. I know psychology likes to pretend to be scientific, but it really is an art and not a science. Religion and spirituality don't attempt to gain scientific verification. Science speaks a different language and has a different goal. The main proof for labyrinths is the number of people using them. Also on our website is a list of more than 80 hospitals that currently have labyrinths. (See hospitals). I am currently in the early stages of conducting a survey of these labyrinths, which will produce some "data" on how they are used, but even that is more sociology than medical science. On the forum on the Labyrinth Society website (www.labyrinthsociety.org) there is also a place for research. If you find any studies, please let me know, as I often receive this request.