The words “Labyrinth” and “Maze” used to be synonymous. Today they are often discerned as the maze being a complex, multi-course puzzle with choices of path and direction, while the Labyrinth is a uni-course single path to a center. I here also use these definitions of calling “unicursal” (unambigious single path, no choice) a Labyrinth and calling a “multicursal” (challenging, multi-choice) a Maze.
The purpose of this article is to show that both Maze and Labyrinth teach us a lot about the nature of Being and Reality and represent two very different modes of Consciousness.
Walking a single-path Labyrinth is associated with Spirituality, used as a tool of meditation and contemplation. This is the famous Labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral:
The maze, on the other hand, is associated more with weirdness, confusion, magic, mystery and even alternate dimensions.
A maze represents the dilemma of free choice. The more we exercise our free will, the more we branch off on our own. Exercising our own will, outside of the norm and outside of predetermined paths feels empowering and exciting. In a maze we can develop intuition. But if taken to a too great extreme, we may lose orientation or lose our way and center.
A labyrinth represents the submission to Source or submission to Destiny. It’s one clear path with no doubt or ambiguity. You let it all go and give it to a higher source or universal plan. No difficult decision and not much responsibility required from you. This path and way of life can be soothing and reassuring. Such submission or letting-go can take you back to your center. You admit that you do not have an overview over the whole field and that your own wilfullness is just guess-work. There is no downside to this path, except that, taken to the extreme, you don’t develop willpower, responsibility and creativity, because they are not required on a unicursal path.
In my experience, life is best when it gently swings between these two polarities, rather than being only one or the other. A nice mix between a Maze and a Labyrinth:
At some times, you exercise your personal power, and life again becomes a-maze-ing. At other times, when you wish to return to your center, you become meditative like the Labyrinth walker, letting go of personal will. In my book “The Reality Creation Technique” I say that you ought to take personal will as far as it takes you and then “let go”, giving the rest to divine will. Put differently: You do the best you can in working on your goal, but leave the outcome up to “The Universe”. Yet another way to put this, is that you take care of planting the seeds correctly, but don’t worry about when and how the plants will grow, they will appear in due time. If you were to micro-manage the growth, checking every day whether the plant is “finally” manifesting, you’d be digging out the seed every day, giving it no time and space to develop. Even though you cannot see the future, you know that by planting the right seed, the future brings growth and results. But only if you are more interested in sowing than reaping.
Living both these polarities is like breathing in and out. The breathing in is taking the world into you, taking control, doing it, controlling it, deciding it, being responsible for it. The breathing out is letting it happen, giving up the fight, letting go, letting be, giving it to the Universe to manage.
All that said, I recommend you walk both the Labyrinth and a Maze in real life if you ever get the chance. The maze should be big enough to really challenge you. How does it really feel when you’ve lost your way and can no longer retrace to the entrance? How do you deal with that situation? Do you succumb to a tightening of the chest (fear) or do you take a breathe and activate spatial intuition? You’ll learn a lot about yourself. Getting out of the maze has a lot to do with your awareness of the big picture. If your mind is rigidly fixated on the current situation or problem, on that in front of your eyes, you don’t stand a chance. But if awareness expands to the field as a whole, you will get a vague sense in which general direction the exit lies. This nudge to go a certain way, is called Intuition.
Walking the Labyrinth, on the other hand, will give you a sense of the aspects of life that are pre-destined rather than free-willed. At anytime you can choose the tracks already laid out for you or you can choose free-will mode. But the Labyrinth is pure destiny mode. Some people will feel more uncomfortable with the uniscursal path than with the maze. It may feel limiting or even suffocating to them. But most will feel relief and relaxation. The path is clear, and while it may take some time and circle a few times, it always leads to the center, to the heart of the matter. If you have an issue you’d like to release or a goal you’d like to reach, you can take it with you on the Labyrinth walk. You can intend that, by the time the center is arrived at, the issue is released or the goal manifest (or a path to it has become clear). The Labyrinth represents certainty. The patience you experience while walking slowly down the path, is different from Endurance. Patience and Endurance are not the same thing. Patience knows that the goal will eventually be arrived at. It is hopeful and optimistic. With endurance, on the other hand, it is not known whether there is a goal and whether it will be achieved.
If your life has become too complicated and complex, like your mind, then it has become a three-dimensional maze.
In that case, its time to become more uni-scursal and focused.
But if your life has become predictable and you have become complacent, it’s time to become more multi-cursal and make new decisions.
It is not always easy to hit the sweet spot in between these two modes. But it’s good to know that they exist and to understand how they can benefit you in different phases of life.