Labyrinths, Labyrinths Everywhere…
The path I walk is littered with signs of the labyrinth. For Valentine’s day, Mariam Gorjii (a 2015 Red Madonna sister) posted a lovely image of a heart-shaped labyrinth, and she responded to my comment with a most wondrous article by shaman Lynn Andrews, A Time Before Sand (http://lynnandrews.com/in0515/; emphasis mine).
One Spring day, I was sitting on Agnes Whistling Elk’s porch in the far north of Canada with Agnes, Ruby Plenty Chiefs and Betty Fast Bear, a woman of the Sisterhood and one of the great dreamers of the shaman world.
As the sun moved toward the western skies, the ladies started talking about the ‘time before sand,’ a time when twelve different ways of wisdom from twelve different regions had been brought to a great labyrinth in Egypt that ultimately held twelve different cities within its embrace. Each of these ways of wisdom, Betty and Agnes said, was distinct in its own understanding and practice, but there was no war between the people who lived there. They settled their disagreements peacefully and honored the differences among them.
I knew that Herodotus, the ancient historian from Greece often called the ‘father of history,’ had written about a great labyrinth that existed in Egypt over 5000 years ago, near the City of Crocodiles. There is even a similar labyrinth mentioned in the Bible. Today we have nothing from that labyrinth except a few histories, but archeologists using ‘sub-surface surveys’ have found what they believe are massive ruins covered by tons of sand near Hawara in Egypt, along the Nile River.
“I believe, Lynn, that you have several pots from that Sumerian area,” Agnes said to me. I nodded my head in agreement. “They were a gift to you,” she continued, “a gift to help you remember.”
She grew silent for a time, and then she looked at me and asked, “What was the feeling that you had when you were in Egypt the first time? What was the first sense you had when you arrived in that beautiful place?”
I had been captivated by what Agnes and Betty were saying about the labyrinth in Egypt. Our knowledge and understanding of the ancient world – and of the worlds that existed on earth in the time before the ancient world – are filled with controversy and misunderstanding, even with the advances in scientific technology and new discovery.
“I had the sense that I was going back to the source,” I said quietly. “I had the sense that even though I’d thought I had been at the source when we were with Ani in the Himalayas, I hadn’t been.” There is a feeling that comes over you when you hear the truth spoken no matter how wild its premise. It is a certain sense of Knowing and contentment, and I realized I had that feeling now.
There is a place within you that is also intimately connected with the great wisdom and balance of the ‘time before sand,’ and you don’t have to go to Egypt to find it. That place is your body-mind, your primal mind which is located within your shaman center. It is through your primal mind that you are connected to the great wisdom of the universe and of all ages. It is through your primal mind that you discover the universal truths of existence and find true freedom from the differences and difficulties that have people today at one another’s throats, the inner harmony and balance to live a happy and successful life, at One with all existence.
“People today have to fight to live,” Agnes said to me. “But a true warrioress fights from the heart, and that is what is forgotten. The primal nature is not integrated into the whole of consciousness and it must become so.”
I was so stunned by this gift of information that for days I simply sitting with it and letting it sink into me. I found it difficult to write or create art in my art journal, and I went in search of more information on this Labyrinth at Harawa. Much of what’s out there is really “out there”, ranging from controversial to wildly speculative. The most interesting of what I found was at http://www.thewisemag.com/mystery/the-lost-labyrinth-of-egypt, where you can find a translation of Herodotus’ original account, and a history of modern archaeological expeditions to the site at Harawa. However, I found nothing that led me to the understanding I sought.
This is because the Labyrinth Path is the way of the Heart, and to find it, I needed to look inside.
The Labyrinth and the Way
Once I let go of my search for “answers”, I meditated on that which spoke to me most compellingly in Andrews’ account of the Time Before Sand. What was the meaning of this ancient ecumenical gathering of wisdom? How did it relate to the “one path”?
I have mentioned before that I agree with the interpretation that the Labyrinth is a symbol of triumph over the maze, the sign of one who has found one true path to follow in life. I will go a step further, and say that, since Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus) called himself “the Way”, the Labyrinth is a symbol of his very life, the path his followers strive to imitate step by step.
Though it is narrowly defined, the path is not always easy to see. As the Psalmist wrote, “NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119: 5). A lamp in the dark does not illuminate the entire landscape: at times, we may see no further than the next step on our path, a small circle of light around our feet. We must develop patience and trust in walking the Labyrinth Path. We must surrender our “need to know”.
Shiloh Sophia’s exquisite poem The Narrow Path speaks of this way of moving as “a walking prayer”:
I proceeded. One red cowgirl boot
in front of the other, my walking prayer.
With only the light of the moon to guide me
and the love of the Divine shining in my heart.
Although I think my understanding of the exact nature of the narrow path differs a bit from Shiloh’s, her vision inspires me, and certainly informs my understanding of the patient reverence with which this path is undertaken.
Also, there is the question of how we define the one path. Traditional patriarchal Christianity has certainly interpreted it that way, so much so as to produce the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. Nor is Christianity alone in trying to lay claim to the title of the One True Religion, and doing so violently: many have been persecuted for their faith over the millennia of human existence.
Emily’s post this month spoke of the Crypto-Jews: Jews who converted to Christianity to escape the inquisition, but who continued to practice their true faith in secret. Due to a dream I had the night before reading her post, this information captivated my attention, and led me to an interesting insight. What if the One Way, rather than being an exclusive set of dogmas, is simply the underlying Truth about the nature of the Universe and ourselves: the Stuff, the Love Energy perhaps, of which we are Made?
Yeshua himself was not a Christian, but a Jew, so how can it be the Religious Container that is paramount? Yeshua himself was a shattered of Religious Containers. In the online community called the Sisterhood of the Red Madonna, one sister wrote earlier this week of how Yeshua stood up against the clerics of his own faith, condemning the Pharisees and Saducees repeatedly for practicing the letter of the Law and missing its spirit. I personally always want to stand up an cheer for him when I read how he chastised them for not only enter into the Kingdom of the Spirit, but for building a wall to block others from entering as well:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” ( In Matthew 23: 13, NIV)
Taken within the context of an ecumenical view of the Labyrinth, this leads me to an interesting possibility: what if the Labyrinth of the Twelve Nomes was more than just a moment in time? What if it holds a key to a great ecumenical truth, that regardless of the religious container, we can all follow the Way? This takes nothing from the idea that Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus) is the One who showed us the Way. My proposition is this:
Dogma is not a path but a wall. A wall creates division from unity: witness the infighting and sectarianism of Christendom, even from the very beginning when the assemblers of the biblical canon discredited Mary Magdalene – she whom Yeshua chose as his Apostle to the Apostles – and almost wrote her out of the story altogether!
Ecumenism is not a wall, but a path. It creates unity from diversity, and we can step onto the path at any point in our lives, from any place in space, time and knowing. Regardless of our religious container, Yeshua’s life and teachings can show us The Way.
This is where I am at on the Labyrinth Path.