The Genesis and Geometry of the Labyrinth: Architecture, Hidden Language, Myths, and Rituals

The Genesis and Geometry of the Labyrinth: Architecture, Hidden Language, Myths, and Rituals

by Patrick Conty

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780892819225
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 12/01/2002
Edition description: Original
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Patrick Conty is a painter who has been researching labyrinths for more than thirty years. He lives in France.

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The Genesis and Geometry of the Labyrinth
Architecture, Hidden Language, Myths, and Rituals

The Labyrinth Is Not a Maze
If I were untied, it would be easy. How to undo this knot, how not to want any more,
or to want to be, or else to want to be the water that can be placed in all vases . . .
. . . Me, I am nothing but knotted knots, I am made of nothing but knots that
resist, that want to be knots. I cannot, I do not want, I cannot, I do not want . . .
—EUGENE IONESCO, JOURNAL EN MIETTES

If the key to understanding the problem of the meaning of the labyrinth is the link between metaphysics and geometry, we should pay particular attention to the geometrical drawings of the labyrinth. Just as there exist many myths and interpretations of the labyrinth, there are a great variety of labyrinths as well as numerous more ambiguous diagrams such as interlacings related to the labyrinth. To avoid getting lost in a field that remains undefined because its contours are indistinct, we must first delimit a smaller territory. If there is no original maze that can be identified in Crete, there is nonetheless a diagram specifically representing the Cretan labyrinth (fig. 3.1). We shall try to establish that this labyrinth is a classic and universal pattern that can be considered a prototype.
The Cretan labyrinth in figure 3.2A, C, and E was engraved on coins and Cretan seals and incorporated into Greek paintings whose inscriptions identify it as precisely the maze described by the myth. It can be found in Roman mosaics and was later integrated into medieval architecture. Although many of these mosaics were destroyed, it is likely that most Western basilicas and cathedrals had this type of labyrinth, or one similar to it, built into their ornamental tiling or pavement. The most famous is the one at Chartres (fig. 3.3).
But the labyrinth is also a Celtic and Scandinavian motif. We find it intact as well among Native Americans, primarily in their basketwork, representing the point of emergence (see fig. 3.4). Among the Hopi, it represents the house of the sun, and among the Pima it is the house of Siuhii, a mythic hero who lived far away in the mountains and whose tracks were so confusing that no one could follow them. Finally, all the important myths that explicitly describe a labyrinth associate it with this same diagram. In India, it is this model that is used as the tantric yantra representing citta, the mind considered as the source of images that we project and by which we perceive the world. This same diagram of the labyrinth is sculpted on a wall of the Halebib temple in Mysore. It illustrates the lethal strategic formation used by the magician Drona in the Kurukshetra battle described in the Mahabharata (see fig. 3.5).
Abhimanyu, the youngest of the Pandava warriors and the most virtuous, is chosen to break this formation at the head of his warriors. He is confident, as he has learned the secret of how to penetrate the formation from his father, Arjuna: "I will penetrate this array like an insect filled with rage entering a blazing fire. . . . Before I was born while in my mother's womb I heard my father describe how to penetrate this array." But he had learned only how to enter the war machine, not how to find his way back out. The formation works like a slipknot, and once trapped in the middle, isolated from his men, he is killed by the surrounding Kauravas. In this story, a principle of exclusion and selection is clearly developed. It seems that Abhimanyu's perfection leads to his downfall because he is but a sum, an accumulation of qualities that have not been integrated into a synthesis. Compared to Abhimanyu, Theseus seems closer to the hero described by Robert Musil in The Man Without Qualities.

Table of Contents

Preface

Part 1: The Enigma
1. The Götland Labyrinth
2. The Enigma
3. The Labyrinth Is Not a Maze
4. The Trace of the Ritual
5. The Equation and Its Solution
6. The Bound Universe and the Eternal Return
7. The Woven Myth

Part 2: The Solution
8. The Malekula Ritual and the Story of Aneas
9. The Living and the Dead
10. A Puzzle of Myths
11. The Malekula Nahals
12. The Temple as a Knot
13. About Knots
14. The Origin of Language in Dogon Myth
15. The Hidden Language of Nature

Part 3: The Geometry of the Labyrinth
16. The Ball of Thread and Ariadne's Technique
17. The Geometric Crossing
18. Time
19. Axis and Center
20. The Hopi Labyrinths

Part 4: The Maze
21. The Concept of the Maze
22. Why a Four-Dimensional Knot?
23. The Equivalence of Samsara and Nirvana
24. Different Aspects of Reality
25. The Cord
26. Labyrinths within Labyrinths

Part 5: Images of the Labyrinth
27. The Image, the Whole, and the Changing Aspect
28. Gestalt
29. The Tennis Ball and the Path of the Grandmother
30. The Book of Durrow: the Reversal
31. The Labyrinth in Painting
32. A Labyrinth Practice
33. Structuralism and Contemplation
34. Now What?

Part 6: Myth and Meaning
35. Meaning and the Mythic Path
36. The Crossing of Codes Evokes Space
37. Physics, Anthropology and the Continuous Whole
38. Circumambulation and Revelation
39. Cretan Seals and the Art of the Whole.

Notes

Bibliography

Index

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Patrick Conty's fascinating study brings us face to face with the enigma of unity and reminds us that its most archaic expression—the labyrinth—begins and ends in ourselves."

"Not only the most recent book to discuss this intriguing subject, but among its most clear and penetrating examinations."

"This book invites readers to explore the ultimate patterns of the universe."

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