No 1: Spring Equinox

by Steve Feite

Labyrinth

(Steve Feite is a practitioner of both the Western and Eastern Mystery traditions. As a geomancer he is interested in new hybrids of Geomantic practice facilitated by an East-West exchange of ideas, and a global perspective.Trained as a geologist, he believes science can play a role in this emergence, breaking through the boundaries of scientific materialism and thus creating a firm foundation for a new geomancy. He currently resides in the beautiful mountains of Maine, near it's rocky coast.)

Think.

Think-think Think again Think past Think future.

And on and on and on.

And so it goes: the mind, on and on endlessly, thinking, thinking, thinking. It becomes such an ingrained habit, that we never really even 'think' about it. Have you ever taken up the process of meditation? Meditation is the method by which we begin to overthrow this unruly ruler, and seek that calm center that lies at the very source of thought. You see, most of us never really even think about it. If we did, we would just continue doing what is the problem in the first place: chasing those thought-patterns-endlessly. Most never realize how much we define (and thus limit) ourselves by this self-imposed cage of 'think.' 'Good' thoughts we like build such a nice place to be that we never even notice the cage and its limiting bars. 'Bad' thoughts-painful thoughts are more limiting; we see the cage and usually flee the cage-in search of greener 'thought pastures.'

This cage, this prison of thought is what the ancient seers called manas, the thinking mind. It is the constant dialogue going on inside that never seems to end. A story driven by the very force of karma itself. Each time we attach to a thought (usually one we like) we re-inforce the chance that it will occur again (and again). After all we do like it, it is our friend,right?

Wrong. This force of attachment to thought-patterns, or samskaras, is the very source of samsara or misery it self. The meditator sees this and seeks something greater beyond this self imposed prison of thought: the source of thought itself. The meditator enters the labyrinth of thought seeking a calm center, a beginning. Thus the meditator enters the manas- chakra.

Manas, as we have already indicated, represents the 'thinking' mind. If we trace thought back to where it came from we can then arrive at the source,emptiness1. 'Chakra' is a much abused term in new-age literature that can best be translated, 'channel-wheel'. It represent the vortex where opposites meet, the playground where the dance of opposing forces occurs. In the center they meet. Here is where stillness is achieved. This 'still point' is the center of the manas-chakra illustrated below.2



Manas

This chakra represents the course of meditation itself: from distractedness to calm center/unity. This journey has often been characterized as a struggle with the thinking mind, one of terse concentration, where the mind is forcibly fixed by the wills firm grasp in the direction of inner peace. Nothing could be more misleading than this image of eyebrow knitting fixation. The mind can be calmed by the mere intention of center-seeking. And of course 'monkey- mind' will wander, wandering only to be discovered in this wandering. The intention to center is repeated again and the mind finds a subtler circle to run upon. This process repeats itself, subtler and subtler, till 'think' is even surpassed,and the calm center is reached. This is the true inner labyrinth. Circle becoming inward seeking spiral; a spiral turning and reversing on itself in the ever present struggle between outward-going-mind and inward-going-mind.To the successful meditator, inward-seeking-mind wins out and real meditation is the prize. The successful yogin learns that there are many ways to attain this reconciliation of opposites: the inward verses outward going breath (until suspension of breathing and stillness is accomplished), or even by stilling the ever moving body.

In the yogic world view, the equilibration of opposites is shown in their representation of the subtle, pranic, body. In this view the energy body is shown as a central unified column or sushumna flanked by two opposing solar and lunar channels. Rising on this central channel are the various chakras or channel-wheels where the opposing forces meet. The mind can pierce at any of these points and find a calm center, an eye at the center of the storm.

The famous yogic maxim: "yatapinday yatapindah," : "as the macrocosm, so the microcosm, as the cosmic mind, so the individual mind, as the atom, so the universe," is elegantly demonstrated in the other levels of expression of the manas-chakra. It can be seen to represent the inter-dimensional junction point between opposing earth-energy lines on the earth's surface, the meeting of downward spiraling cosmic energy and upward spiraling earth energy (water domes), the rising serpentine 'Naga' intelligences (semi-divine serpent-beings) and the descending Devic or celestial intelligences or the superimposition of black-hole on white-hole. In yet another sense it is the entrapment of mind energy, mental patterns, in the very spirals of our own DNA: the genetic code.3 The levels of meaning are unending since the outer mirrors the inner and vice-versa, ad infinitum.

My own interest in the labyrinth came years ago, after an initiation that involved the descent into the underworld/labyrinth. After the ritual initiation, I had an unusual dream: I stood at the entrance to a vast cavern, which I knew to be the entrance to the labyrinth. Since I had previously experienced the possibility of entering the underworld, but was usually paralyzed with fear at doing so, I recalled those moments as I once again faced the opportunity to enter. Instantly, as I collected my thoughts, a ray from a star struck the entrance way, piercing through the very rock, through the intricate maze of the labyrinth (which seemed to extend for miles) and to the center, the heart of the earth. It was as if someone had shattered the intensely claustrophobic metallic rocks of the maze, opening up a path to enter. My fear had passed,so I descended the steep path till I reached the end. What I saw at the end was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. As I stood on the edge of a steep cliff, I looked out at the milky expanse of the stars, the brightest I ever remember seeing. Dancing amongst them were the colored orbs of the planets themselves. As I fixed my eyes on this wondrous sight, I could see the rays of light actually penetrating the very earth. I could feel a murmur, a vibration, as this took place through my feet. As I gazed at the walls of the cavern I could see the rays of cosmic light striking the cave walls. Then, eventually the murmur would come again. As it did,it was as if the rock somehow moved or pulsated. It reminded me of the moment in the life cycle of a cell, where it gives its last throb before undergoing division. The rock would briefly liquefy at this moment, and take in the vibrations of the stars and planets only to resolidify as the pulse faded. The rocks actually looked as if they were cellular, containing 'genetic'material. It was then that I finally understood the formula V.I.T.R.I.O.L.4

In India, temple architects will utilize this same principle to "establish"the foundation of a temple. A special yantra in the form of a labyrinth is used to stabilize the planetary beings (actually demons) associated with the maze and thus allow for the unimpeded invocation of the Gods/Goddesses.This would also explain the inclusion of labyrinths in the design of many cathedrals. The labyrinths act as a sophisticated kind of spirit trap, thus debilitating any malefic forces (see also The Gate of Algol). The labyrinth form is also connected with the underworld deity Yama, the Moon-bull5 - the judge of the dead (his Western counterpart later became known as Minos,the Cretan form of Apis). In Tibet Yama is worshipped in the form of the yidam (Tib.: "mind-protector") Yamantaka as a way to enter the Kalachakra, the Great Wheel of Time, which is the entranceway to the 'hidden land' of Shambhala. The Kalachakra Tantra is an extensive system complete with its own methods of cosmology, astrology and, by extension, geomancy.

As we tread this in ward path, the path of the manas-chakra, the mind-vortex, other levels constantly arise to show us the inter-relatedness of all parts of nature. This labyrinth can be seen as a place of inner initiation, a place where the junction point between spirit and matter can be understood.It is the place where the heart of the earth and the heart of man intermingle. Implicit in that relationship is the relationship with the whole, the greater universe, of which, humankind is part. As the astronomers and cosmologists of today point out: we come from a star, the Sun. Indeed, our entire 'solar' system comes from that same star. As inhabitants of this planet we built our bodies of the food derived from this 'star- stuff.' Thus, we truly are of the stars. Those who passed before, without benefit of telescope or satellite, knew this. The labyrinth is but one reminder of this spiral way of return, this great cosmic mystery.



Footnotes

  1. Or as modern physicists would prefer: the 'unified field' or source of all diverse phenomenon such as light, gravity, and the forces of molecular attraction, the basis of all manifest creation.

  2. The reader will notice the exacting similarity of the Manas-Chakra to the labyrinth of ancient Greece, along with that of medieval Europe. The question of origin may be a mute point as the discovery of such symbols is often known to occur simultaneously in very different places (vide, the discovery of Calculus by Newton & Leibniz). However, since before history Greece was connected via trade routes to the Indo-Himalayan region; this is a plausible route for such cultural diffusion. Also note: the labyrinth of Knossos in Crete was called "Absolum" by its discoverer (Dr.Evans of Oxford). Absolum=Absolute, the ancient alchemists name for the philosophers stone.

  3. Or as some may hasten to point out, the true significance of Astrology: the imbedding of cosmic rhythms on DNA.

  4. A notariqon being the initials of the phrase: "Visitae InterioraTerrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem,": Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone. See my Gate of Algol for the details of this discovery and its relationship to the heptagram, the planets, and time.

(5) Deities with the form of the bull are particularly ancient, dating to the ├ćon of Taurus, the time when the vernal Equinox coincided with the constellation Taurus.

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by Nicholas R. Mann

(Nicholas R. Mann is an author and geomancer who contrives to live in Glastonbury and Albuquerque. His latest work the ISLE OF AVALON is due out in April, 96. January 97 will see his rounding out of the image of the divine masculine with the publication of THE DARK GOD. Both books will be published by Llewellyn.See the MAG Bibliography for his other books.)


Proposal

A challenge I would like to see geomancy taking up is the greater understanding of the dynamics of space. This is especially relevant for me when I am conducting a survey of a human-made, and usually ancient, sacred site. I find myself putting a great deal of energy into gaining a plan of the site that is two-dimensional. This gives me an overall view that is extremely suitable for say, geometrical analysis, but I have come to find this misleading. The two-dimensional plan freezes a moment in time for asite that is undergoing constant change in, for example, seasonal and daily patterns of light, and is quite likely to have itself undergone many periods of building. If a recognizable geometrical pattern emerges (and it usually does on paper) it implies that the builders of the site had this in mind and preceded to accomplish it. This presupposes an architect, perhaps an astronomer, a priestly elite, or a leader of some sort with the resources to plan, organize and carry out the construction. Yet this cannot be supposed of many sacred places such as the megalithic sites of Europe.

I propose that the two-dimensional plan creates a false frame of reference. It does not relate to the experience of the visitor to the site today or of the builder at the time of construction. This experience is of three-dimensional space to which is added human presence over time the fourth-dimension and if, as we may argue, the visit to a sacred site induces an otherworldly experience, it moves into dimensions of even greater subtlety.

Example

The encounter with the site begins with the movement of the body through space and time to a specific place or locale. This encounter is likely to be very different for the visitor today than for the visitor say, to the final phase of STONEHENGE, 3500 years ago, and very different for the visitor who arrives at dawn rather than at noon. The locale, framed by time of day, horizon features, specific vegetation, the ground underfoot, the climate,season and other regional geographic facts, begins to define the experience.

In the case of 3500 years ago, the visitor is likely to have begun to walk from beside a river up onto grass-covered chalkland, mingled with pockets of trees and herds of grazing animals. The walk is defined by a wide avenue formed by two grassy banks and ditches. It curves upward around the hill.

At some point along the avenue the destination comes into sight of a mass of dark stone silhouetted against the skyline. To the right is another linear avenue. On the distant horizon are round mounds that mark the resting place of mythologized ancestors. These add to the symbolic and monumental nature of the setting. On the final approach to the structure it is impossible to see an overall pattern out of the surface of the mass of stone, but the avenue directs you.

As you pass between a pair of standing stones at the end of the avenue there is a sense of liminality, of passing between boundaries. Those people or that which is behind you are outside, those or that which lies ahead are inside.

Moving between a further pair of enormous stones (one is the Heel Stone) serves to reinforce this experience. At this point you become aware of being inside a periphery defined by a circle. Your eye deduces this by the circular nature of the bank and ditch stretching away on either side, but you cannot know for certain if this is a regular circle. Further information might tell you that certain people and objects are excluded from the interior, while others are included. This experience of outer and inner continues as you move toward the massive wall of stone ahead. It is impossible to see what is behind this facade, although tantalizing glimpses between the upright sarsen stones with their horizontal lintels are offered.

A powerful visual experience is created by the play of light and shadow over the surface of the stones. Their great bulk and their density of matter deepen the contrasts. At the stone facade you are presented with an entrance, or a choice of entrances. This will define your participation with what lies within. It may be that your entry is barred and you can only see the few who are allowed to enter the center. The stones at once attract and impede you. In any case the space in the center of the stones permits far fewer to actively participate than those who can passively observe. You, as an observer, notice that all within face toward the figure or figures before the tallest setting (trilithon) of stones. These figures in the center are also distinguished by their costumes and by the formal manner in which they act and by the way those around treat them. Behind you the atmosphere is far more casual. If you do enter you may become aware of a contrast of silence and sound.

In this example the spatial dynamics structure the possible experience of the people at the site. The experience is somatic and direct. It does not depend upon a mental understanding of the plan of the site. The fundamental frame of reference is between the movement, orientation and position of your body and the place. This changing relationship creates different kinds and moments of experience. The spatial dynamics of the place create different types of contextualization that you, the human participant, recognize: interior and exterior, entrance and exit, center and periphery, surface and mass, light and matter, silence and sound. The spatial dynamics raise issues of participation or access: inclusion and exclusion, formal and informal, active and passive. These issues are not defined solely by the architecture.

The means of contextualization may be enhanced by people in costume, with weapons and ritual paraphernalia and by singers, drummers, dancers and soon.

In my experience, all sacred space can be analyzed along these or similar lines. It is especially applicable to the architecture of a temple or cathedral. Maintaining the focus on megalithic sites, the U-shaped enclosure of (the once three, now two) huge stones at AVEBURY, known as the Cove, frames a context in which only a few can enter but toward which the attention of many can be turned. The Irish chambered-mound at NEWGRANGE, c. 3300 BCE, appears almost exclusively as an issue of access in terms of time and space.

With most kept outside the surface/facade/periphery of elaborately carved kerbstones and the mass/matter of the mound, only a few can enter the passage and central inner chambers to observe the Winter Solstice Sunrise light. These few may have been a handful of ancestral dead rather than the living.

The same is true for West Kennet long barrow, c. 3300 BCE, near Avebury. The experience of place is created by the relationship of the body to the enclosed nature of the site. There is one entrance in the surface of a massive stone facade. In the dark passage there are side chambers and one chamber at the head. The basic frame of reference: movement, orientation and position of the body relative to spatial features: approach, surface, mass, light, facade, portal, dark, passage, center, side, etc., provides a technique by which geomancers can understand the possible meanings of a sacred site to its past (and present) users without creating an abstracted and artificial methodology. The key to this meaning is the fact that although our mental, emotional and spiritual outlooks have changed from 5000 years ago as well as the material technology, language and cultural symbols our bodies have remained the same.


Conclusion

When I look at the geometrical figures, the ley lines and astronomical lines I have superimposed upon plans of megalithic sites, I wonder what they have to do with the experience of their builders and users and the meaning it had for them. These are my terms of reference not theirs. All I can know about STONEHENGE is that the several phases of building were made to fulfill the changing ritual needs and symbolic expectations of the people of Wessex (central Southern Britain) from about 3500 to 1500 BCE. These people moved in procession and they marked the processional route with an avenue. They gathered in circle and they built a great circle to accommodate themselves.

They needed to emphasize a certain time so they focused on the Summer Solstice Sunrise. They needed to emphasize a particular ritual and they built inner circles, constructed the ring of lintel stones, erected the inner trilithons and placed other features such as the Altar Stone. These features were constructed to fulfill these needs and, apart from some roughing out on a general scale,were accomplished piecemeal. There was no plan, so there was no moment in time when the monument was completed. Stonehenge is a succession of fragments and abandoned arrangements; and, when the builders almost 2,000 years after the original founders finally settled on the lintelled outer ring and inner trilithons, some of the massive sarsen stones were put up very carefully and others were just shoved into place.

The same observations apply to the construction of AVEBURY. All I can know about Avebury is that it was built to enhance the experience of the people who inhabited the Wessex landscape from about 3000 to 2500 BCE, who had certain ritual needs and symbolic expectations. Like the Stonehenge builders they also moved in procession, they marked the processional route with an avenue of standing stones. They gathered in circle where they built a great circle of earth and stone. They needed to emphasize certain rites so they built inner circles and other central features such as the Cove. These features were constructed to fulfill these needs and were accomplished piecemeal. The ditch and bank at Avebury are a succession of segments: some straight, some arcs, some deeper, some higher than others, that altogether describe a circle. If that circle on plan yields up to geometrical analysis, (for example A. Thom, 1967,) I argue against this being intentional on the part of the builders. It is a fortuitous outcome of human actions in natural landscape whose geometry is accountably chaotic.

We cannot possibly know what meaning the geometry we see at Stonehenge and Avebury had to the builders, but we can recreate with our bodies the experience of encountering the circles and avenues that they built. I think that the synthesis of intention and effort that went into these places brought out abilities in people they did not know they had. When finished and used, these places created sets of possibilities that the people did not possess previously. The very act of creating such places, and, by creating them, arriving at new experiences of periphery and center, inclusion and exclusion, light and matter, and so on, generated a new set of symbolic possibilities, ritual requirements and social meanings. If the Neolithic people, for example, did not have an social elite prior to the construction of many of their monuments, the nature of the places they built ensured that they did there after. All this is to propose that a fixed plan of a sacred site showing one moment in time, and some methods of geomantic analysis following on from this, stand between us and the meaning of a site for those who built it and the meaning is surely what we are after.


Reference - Thom, Alexander, 1967. "Megalithic Sites in Britain."Oxford.

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