A ex-new-ager who attends our congregation participated a year ago in
the Labyrinth. Upon walking to the centre of the circle (1), she
immediately sensed a dark spiritual vortex sucking her down.
Fortunately, being a Spirit-filled Christian, she later renounced her
involvement in the Labyrinth and through prayer was cut free from the
bondage that she was sensing.
Being westerners, we often fail to realize that seemingly harmless
'physical' techniques can have significant questionable spiritual impact
on our lives.(2) One of the patterns with the dozens of new-age fads
sweeping North America and the West Coast in particular is that they all
pop up out of the blue but claim to have rediscovered an ancient secret
technique that we all need. Many of them, including the fast-growing
Labyrinth fad (3), even reconstruct a plausible but misleading Christian
history used to persuade well-meaning Christians. The Labyrinth, as
currently practiced, has very little to do with the Chartres Cathedral
(4), and very much to do with Dr. Jean Houston's impact on the
new-age-friendly Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Dr. Jean Houston is
listed on the Internet as one of the 10 top New Age speakers in North
America (5) The inside cover of Jean Houston's 1997 book A Passion for
the Possible describes herself as 'considered by many to be one of the
world's greatest teachers…' Of concern to renewal-oriented Christians
is that Houston teaches her students on the 'Mystery School' how to
speak in occult glossolalia. She encourages her participants to 'begin
describing your impressions in glossolalia' and even to '…write a poem
in glossolalia.' (6) This counterfeit phenomenon, of course, does not
discredit the genuine Christian gift of tongues/glossolalia that is
available after renouncing the occult, receiving Jesus as Lord, and
asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
As past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, Jean
makes use of her doctorate in 'Philosophy of Religion'(7) to gain access
to areas where most new-agers and occultists can't go. For example, as
noted widely in media a few years ago (8), she became a consultant to
Hillary Clinton, helping her to 'channel' the spirit of Eleanor
The Labyrinth, also called the Dromenon (9), is the official symbol
Dr. Jean Houston's new-age 'Mystery School' which one pays $3,775 to be
initiated into over a series of 9 weekends.(10) Over 5,000 people so far
have attended the Mystery School over the past 15 years. Houston
describes her Mystery School students as '…the dancers of the
Dromenon…'.(11) In Houston's 1996 book The Mythic Life, she credits
H.F. Heard's novel Dromenon with its 'psychophysical state of ecstasy
and spiritual awakening' as the inspiration to adopting the image of the
Dromenon/Labyrinth as the symbol of her work. (12) Canon Lauren Artress
from Grace Cathedral (13) brought the Labyrinth back to her Cathedral
after experiencing the Labyrinth at Jean Houston's Mystery School.(14)
Jean Houston wrote in her 1982 book The Possible Human about '…the
growth of Dromenon (Labyrinth) communities. (15)
As acknowledged in Labyrinth WEBsites, the Labyrinth is a mandala (16),
which is actually a Hindu occult (17) meditation process (18)brought to
the Western world by the grandfather of the New Age, Dr. Carl Jung. (19)
The Labyrinth has since spread to over 200 cities, and is making a
measurable impact in Canada. Artress claims that "over a million people
have walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral alone…" (20) Even the
infamous Starhawk, the self-declared practicing witch and colleague of
Matthew Fox, is walking the labyrinth nowadays (21). One of the stated
purposes of the Labyrinth is to connect us to the mother goddess, of
which the labyrinth is a symbol. In her 1995 book 'Walking A Sacred
Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool', Canon Artress
states that "The labyrinth is a large, complex spiral circle which is an
ancient symbol for the divine mother, the God within, the goddess, the
holy in all creation." (22) Artress says that "You walk to the center
of the labyrinth and there at the center, you meet the Divine." (23)
Jean Houston claims that "As we encounter the archetypal world within
us, a partnership is formed whereby we grow as do the gods and goddesses
within us." (24) To Jean Houston, it seems that all of life is made up
of polytheistic labyrinths. In her 1992 book The Hero & the Goddess,
she recommended: 'Now, taking a favorite god or goddess by the hand, a
Greek one this time, explore the labyrinthian winding of your left
hemisphere…Take the deity by the hand and begin to explore the labyrinth
winding of your right hemisphere, the place of intuition.' (25) My
prayer, as Jean Houston's new-age Labyrinth fad impacts the Church, is
that we may be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
The Rev. Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon's Anglican Church, North Vancouver, BC
Missioner, Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada
(1) One Grace Cathedral Labyrinth advocate said that "Labyrinths predate
Christianity by over a millennium. The most famous labyrinth from
ancient times was the Cretan one, the supposed lair of the mythological
Minotaur, which Theseus slew with the aid of Ariadne and her spool of
thread. rituals…" Peter Corbett, "Pathfinders: Walking medieval
labyrinths in a modern world,"
www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/features/fea_19981120_txt.shtml, p. 2
It was at the centre of the Labyrinth that the Minotaur did his
devouring of unsuspecting humans.
(2) An example of this might be how many people innocently get hooked
into hatha yoga through the guise of a community centre yoga course.
Because hatha yoga appears to westerners to be merely physical in
nature, we fail to see the religious syncretism that we are involving
ourselves in. Nothing from a Hindu perspective is merely physical,
because for Hinduism, the physical is merely an illusion. So-called
physical yoga exercises are designed to open the psychic door to the
Hindu deities. Community-Centre Yoga is in reality the 'marijuana'
entry-level drug of the occult/new age world.
(3) Lee Penn, Fall 1999 issue of the Journal of the Spiritual
Counterfeits Project www.scp-inc.org
(4) The Chartres labyrinth dates from sometime between 1194 and 1220.
These dates are determined by the great fire of 1194, which destroyed
most of the cathedral and the city of Chartres. By 1220 the section of
the nave housing the labyrinth had been rebuilt by Bishop Fulbert.
Lee Penn mailto:LeePenn@aol.com
has done careful research showing that
the Labyrinth-based relationship between Chartres Cathedral to Grace
Cathedral, San Francisco is a clear example of 'the tail wagging the
dog', of 'life imitating art'. Grace Cathedral have been giving strong
leadership in Chartres' 'reintroduction' of the Labyrinth, even to the
point of making Chartres' Dean Legaux an honorary Grace Cathedral Canon.
(5) Voices of a New Age Video (1999), Penny Price Productions, E! Online
Fact Sheet, "Ten different New Age luminaries voice their view about the
possibilities of the human spirit for healing the body, the mind, and
the earth."; http://www.eonline.com/Facts/Movies/0,60,53125,00.html
(6) Jean Houston, GodSeed: the Journey of Christ, Quest Books, The
Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, USA, 1992, p. 50, p. 51. "
(7) www.skepdic.com/houston.html 1998 Robert
(8) Bob Woodward in 'The Choice'; The Providence Journal Bulletin,
Tuesday, 6/25/96, P. A3
"drom-e-non. - n. Ancient Gk: a ritual pattern of dynamic expression, a
therapeutic dance rhythm in which participants experience second birth
into a higher order of consciousness and community;…"
(11) Jean Houston, The Possible Human, Torcher: Houghton, Mifflin
Company, 1982, p. ix
(12) Jean Houston, The Mythic Life, Harper San Francisco, 1996, p. 186.
(National Episcopal Cathedral Website) "Keynote speaker, the Reverend
Dr. Lauren Artress, Canon for Special Ministries at San Francisco's
Grace Cathedral, first encountered a labyrinth in a workshop at
psychologist Jean Houston's Mystery School."
(14) Kristen Fairchild, "A Passion for the Possible: An Interview with
Jean Houston," The Spire, Textures 11/04/97
www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment, p. 4, "Jean Houston, Ph.D. is the
best-selling author of many books…She has been mentor and teacher of Dr.
Lauren Artress, Founder of Veriditas, at Grace Cathedral."
(15) Jean Houston, The Possible Human, 1982, p. 51
(16) "True meditation occurs when the physical brain has been
pacified, kept busy with a mantra or a mandala, so the spiritual mind
is then free to wander on its own, and discover new truths. "The
walking back and forth seems very pendulous," states Squires. "It's a
very slow frequency, a very long wavelength from one turn to the next.
You slowly walk along and slowly walk back, then slowly walk on again.
It's hard to have your mind in a fretful kind of pace when you're doing
such a slow, pendulous, rhythmic walking like that." Peter Corbett,
"Pathfinders: Walking medieval labyrinths in a modern world,"
(17) Occult, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, means 'kept
secret, esoteric…from the Latin culere: hide' It is not a synonym for
(18) "…the labyrinth, a sacred tool that has been used as a mandala in
many spiritual traditions for thousands of years…" Spiritual
Perspectives Program 1996 Sacred Circles Conference
(19) www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm03.htm , "Jung was also a
strong promoter of the occultic mandala, a circular picture with a sun
or star usually at the centre. Sun worship, as personified in the
mandala, is perhaps the key to fully understanding Jung.(ft.103) Jung
taught that the mandala [Sanskrit for 'circle'] was 'the simplest model
of a concept of wholeness, and one which spontaneously arises in the
mind as a representation of the struggle and reconciliation of
(21) www.sfgate.com Starhawk, as a Wiccan/Witch leader of two
covens, celebrated New Year 2,000 by walking the Labyrinth on her San
Francisco area Ranch.
(22) Lauren Artress, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth
as a Sacred Tool, Riverhead Books/G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1995; sentence
quoted by Pamela Sullivan, "Book Review," Pacific Church News, June/July
1995, p. 8
(23) Lauren Artress, "Q and A with Lauren," Veriditas, Vol. 1, no. 2,
Summer 1996, p. 18
(25) Jean Houston, The Hero & the Goddess, Aquarian/Thorsons (Harper
Collins Publisher), 1992, p. 134
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