Discourses on an Alien Sky #43 | The Labyrinth — Window to the Ancient Archetypes


You’ve just entered the
theater of an alien sky. If the words and images seem strange
to you, there’s a reason for this. Our world was once a
vastly different place. To experience this won’t hurt you,
and there is nothing to fear. The Labyrinth
Window to the Ancient Archetypes In previous Discourses, we followed
multiple paths of evidence to describe the mythic labyrinth, the dancing ground of the legendary mother
goddess and warrior hero. Our claim has been that
this enigmatic theme has its archetypal origins in extraordinary celestial phenomena. Events did not occur down here
on any local landscape but in the sky, in the original theater of the gods. And so, as we gain insight into the most
fundamental archetypes, we unavoidably encounter the phenomenon of
localization, a universal aspect of storytelling in ancient times but only
rarely discussed in modern day treatments of mythic traditions. Localization refers to the ancient habit
of projecting the original mythic archetypes on the familiar and
accessible local landscapes, to the extent that a thousand local symbols
came to be confused with the celestial forms and events of the original
myth-making epoch. Every sacred mountain
on Earth, named after a cosmic prototype, came to be remembered as a place where the Creator God himself
stood in primeval times. Every sacred city came to
be celebrated as the city of heaven, the original dwelling of the gods. This pattern of confusion was repeated
thousands of times around the world, the later symbol came to be seen as the
thing originally symbolized, and that’s the pervasive mistake we’re required to
recognize and to unravel in any investigation of mythic origins. As for later symbolic elaborations, a good
example is the appearance of commemorative knotwork, the connection
fitting perfectly with our earlier identification of the labyrinth
as the original Gordian knot. In seeking out the later
echoes of the mythic theme, many useful clues will be found in the
symbolic knotwork of Ireland and Scandinavia, with striking
parallels in the labyrinth. I’m now fully satisfied that
at root, the two mythic threads arose from precisely the same human experience. And so, it’s no coincidence that familiar
themes we’ve covered in these Discourses, show up in the complex
knotwork of Northern Europe. From entwining twin serpents to
the symbolism of the ram’s horns. The labyrinth and sacred knotwork also
overlap in the Chinese image of the Pan Chang called the endless knot or
knot of happiness and here too we discover that the knotwork theme can’t be separated from the mythic
intestines of the labyrinth. Chinese legends
described the entwined Pan Chang as a knot formed from the intestines
of a slain enemy. All of which remind us again
of the so called Fortress of Intestines to which Humbaba, the enemy slain by
Gilgamesh, gave his name. As we’ve discovered so consistently, it’s
when seeming absurdities fall into line with an inherently logical expectation, that
we know we’re on the right track. I should hasten to add that the most
common association of the labyrinth revealed by cross-cultural comparison
was with the famous cave or cavern entered by the hero, as we should also expect. Dorothy Norman in her book “The
Hero” writes, “In those cases where the ritual has been preserved, the labyrinth
itself, or a drawing of it, is invariably situated at the entrance
of the cave or dwelling.” Of course, that pattern is
entirely logical if the labyrinth entered by the hero meant precisely the
same thing as the famous cavern of the hero’s initiation. And so our conclusion; the predicted
symbolic equations noted here can be fully verified by any independent researcher
who will follow the available keys. The hero bound within a knot, as
observed by the comparative symbolists Chevalier and Gheerbrant, is equivalent to
the hero being swallowed by the monster, another universal motif, and so the
disgorging of the hero by the monster is simply a variant on untying the knot,
signifying at the same time the god’s release and the defeat of the Chaos
monster. So the labyrinth is a challenge to the
hero and conceptually it’s only a short distance to the mythic riddle or paradox,
a common folklore variant of the critical juncture in the biography of the hero for his victory is
synonymous with meeting a test. In other words, the
test turns out to be the critical turn in the biography of the hero, meaning
that it gives the hero his defining role. When Oedipus answered the riddle of the
Sphinx correctly, what happened next? He was not only saved, but the devouring
goddess plunged over the precipice. Among those comparative symbolists who
discovered the essential connections, though certainly not accounted for them,
I would list J.C. Cooper who writes in “An Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Traditional
Symbols”, “The labyrinth is related to the symbolism of the cave and with
initiation rites, it also shares the symbolism of the knot in binding and
loosing, restricting but uniting… The labyrinth in a square depicts the four
cardinal points and the cosmos and may be connected with the swastika.” Yes indeed, the very symbolic relationships
we’ve already noted, but while Cooper’s summary of associated symbols is
generally accurate, it offers no clue at all on the origins of the pervasive
labyrinth archetype. For us that is a giant shortcoming, since
uncovering the integral origins of world mythology is our overriding purpose. But now we can confidently say that the
labyrinth theme did not arise from anything in today’s familiar
natural experience. The cavernous form was
entirely celestial, towering over humanity. Of course, that’s been our
message all along; it’s only by seeing the named mythic powers as planets close
to Earth, that we’re able to bring the global patterns to light. And as we’re now prepared to
demonstrate, that means a concrete explanation for all of the
acknowledged archetypal personalities of world mythology, a coherent ancient story
unfolding in an extraordinary phase of solar system history.