THE UNKNOWN, REMEMBERED GATE © |
by Tira Brandon-Evans
""I should see the garden far better," said Alice to herself, "if I could get to the top of that hill; and here"s a path that leads straight to it - at least, no, it doesn"t do that" - after going a few yards along the path, and turning several sharp corners - "but I suppose it will at last. But how curiously it twists! It"s more like a corkscrew than a path! Well, this turn goes to the hill, I suppose - no, it doesn"t! This goes straight back to the house! Well, then, I"ll try the other way."
And so she did, wandering up and down, and trying turn after turn, but always coming back to the house…."
""I think I"ll go and meet her," said Alice, for though the flowers were interesting enough she felt that it would be far grander to have a talk with a real Queen.
"You can"t possibly do that," said the Rose. "I should advise you to walk the other way."
This sounded nonsense to Alice, so she said nothing, but set off toward the Red Queen. To her surprise, she lost sight of her in a moment … and after looking everywhere for the Queen … she thought she would try the plan, this time of walking in the opposite direction.
It succeeded beautifully. She had not been walking a minute before she found herself face to face with the Red Queen, and in full sight of the hill she had been so long aiming at." (1)
Both the labyrinth and spiral are geometric and mythopœic metaphors, metaphors of journey and return into and from the deepest wellsprings of being. The circle is static, perfect in beginning and ending nowhere and everywhere at once. The beginning and ending of the labyrinth and the spiral are separate, individual. When we enter the labyrinth, we begin a journey to the centre. From the centre of the labyrinth, we journey to the outer edge. What is this journey and why do we take it? Are we hounded into the labyrinth or are we called? What do we discover at the centre and what awaits us at the margin?
Why do we enter the labyrinth and what guides us in our journey? Theseus seeks heroic initiation and is guided by the silken clew of love. At the centre of the Cretan labyrinth lurks a monster, halfman-halfbeast. The initiation begins with the courage to enter the labyrinth and is accomplished in a ritual of combat.
A desire to view the garden in the perfection of entirety lures Alice into the labyrinth. Once she sets foot on the spiralled path she finds she cannot reach her goal until she abandons worldly logic and surrenders herself to looking glass reality. Only by going against reason, by walking away from the centre does she achieve her goal. Attaining the summit is, however, only the beginning of Alice"s initiation into Looking Glass Land. The Red Queen instructs Alice in steps she must take to continue her journey. The goal of Alice"s journey of initiation is mastery, the prize a queenly crown.
In Through the Looking Glass, the chessboard becomes the labyrinthine way, for chess is played by sending the pawns and pieces into the centre of the board in order to gain control of the central squares. Pawns that against all opposition achieve the final row become queens. Thus, by moving through adversity the pawn, the weakest and most limited in action, shapeshifts into the strongest piece and is able to move in all directions at once.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes, I sped;
And shot, precipitated
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed
The Hound of Heaven (2)
Sometimes the initiatory journey is not one willingly adventured. There are times when only the hound of heaven can get us up and running down "the labyrinthine ways". Few of us desire change. Even when we are fainting and failing in the wastelands we would rather go down familiar and well-trodden tracks than set our feet upon new paths that lead we know not where. When we find ourselves engaged in destructive behaviours, addictions, and harmful relationships it is time to navigate the labyrinthine path that leads either into the centre or out to the margin. There is no stasis within the labyrinth. Either you are moving into the centre or you are journeying toward the edge. If you are standing still you are lost. The labyrinth is a not a maze. There is only one path into the centre and out to the margin.
When we enter the labyrinth, we enter a world that is beyond the material world but continuous with it:
"The universal mystical meaning of the labyrinthine form is as a symbol for the journey into the other world, and the return, a death to one state and a rebirth into another. The classical Labyrinth is not a maze in which to get lost. Rather there is only one pathway, in and out. The Hopi Indians call the labyrinth the symbol of Mother earth and liken it to the kiva, their underground sanctuary out of which the Hopi people emerged into the world." (3)
The Hopi call the labyrinth Tapu"at, Mother and Child. In the labyrinth, the child is hidden within the mother and the mother is bringing forth the child. In the heart of the mystic rose that rests at the centre, we discover self, the eternal, infinite child within each of us. When we ignore this child, we neglect and starve the best that is in us. The child cries out and we mistake his/her screams of pain for the roars of the terrible Minotaur. In fear of the monster, we frantically build walls between the centre and doorway that leads into the dangerous labyrinth. The louder the child cries out the more walls we build. Finally, we force ourselves to dwell along the margins of the labyrinth. We begin to feel safe, but we are deceived in thinking that we have escaped from the child.
Margins are perilous places. Labyrinths are magical spaces. Just when we think we have escaped the labyrinthine way, we are dismayed by "how curiously it twists". The farther we run from the monster at the centre the closer to the centre we move. And, finally, when we are hounded into the very heart of the labyrinth we discover that we are the monsters. This is the initiatory moment, the perfect shining moment of the instant here and now, in which we achieve self-mastery through transformation or we fail the test and once again seek to escape.
At the centre we become heroes and heroines, kings and queens. We become fully realized human beings and cease to be nothing more than humans doing. From the centre, we carry the child with us to the margin, back along the path. Who is the child?
The child is the seed of the mother. The child is love realized. At the centre of the labyrinth, we discover that it is none other than the voice of Love that has called us into that centre. There, at the sacred centre of all that is, we transform into Love. We discover that the labyrinth itself is Love and its ways are Love. We know, for the first time, that we are the labyrinth, the rose ground path, the centre and spiral of life -- the adventurer, the adventure and the adventured. At the centre, we discover that we are only beginning the adventure. For the centre is the margin of the return, the gate into the next labyrinthine journey and we find that…
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning.
Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot (4)
1. Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, Kingsport, TN, Grosset & Dunlap, 1946, pp. 168-174. Complete text of Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, on-line at http://www.cs.indiana.edu/metastuff/looking/lookingdir.html.
2. Thomson, Francis, The Hound of Heaven. Complete text of The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson, on-line at http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/2204.html.
3. Gadon, Elinor W., The Once and Future Goddess, New York, Harper & Row, 1989, p. 106.
4. Eliot, T.S., Four Quartets, Little Gidding, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Complete text of Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot, on-line at http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartets/gidding.html.
The Unknown, Rememered Gate copyright © 2002 by Tira Brandon-Evans,all rights reserved.
Author Bio :
Tira Brandon-Evans is the Founder and Moderator of the Society of Celtic Shamans, editor of Earthsongs, and a Faery Shaman. Her booksare all published by Elder Grove Press. She conducts on-line classes related to Celtic traditions and shamanism. Contact Tira at email@example.com.
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