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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

Dr Jean Houston and the Labyrinth Movement

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By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

 It was fascinating for me to visit the birthplace of the original Labyrinth movement, the Cretan palace of Knossos.  In North America, due to the influence of new-age leader Dr Jean Houston and Lauren Artress from San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, labyrinths have been appearing everywhere, including at my old alma mater and the church where my grandmother had her funeral.[1]   Ironically, the emphasis in the actual written documentation about Labyrinth usage was not how to enter the labyrinth but how to escape the labyrinth.

The labryinth story starts with King Minos, the legendary founder of the Cretan Minoan civilization.  Minos rejected a beautiful bull offered him by a Greek deity.  Because of this rejection, the Greek deity had Minos’ wife have physical intimacy with another bull, giving birth to a troublesome son, the Minotaur, half bull/half human.  To contain this difficult ‘teenager’, Daedalus built the labryinth, which essentially functioned as a prison for King Minos’ awkward step-child.[2]

You all understand how hungry ‘teens’ can be. So King Minos demanded six young Athenian men and six young Athenian women to be sacrificed at the Labryinth where they would be eaten by his Minotaur step-son.

The book Heritage Walks in Athens comments that “in myth again, Athens’ most important King was Theseus, son of Aigeus, who defeated the Minotaur and released the city from the vassal’s tax paid to Crete.”[3]  Theseus escaped from the labyrinth after his girlfriend Princess Ariadne gave him the thread to follow out of the Labyrinth back to freedom.[4]

The term Labyrinth comes from the Lydian term Labyrs which means “double-headed ax”, an object of cult worship among the Minoan Cretans.[5]  While at the National Museum of Crete, I took a picture of an actual historic “Labyrs/Double-Edged Ax”, an object of worship used in the labyrinth to devoFile:Theseus Minotaur Mosaic.jpgur the young.[6]  The Labyrinth is the place of the sacred ax used ritually to decapitate victims while offering them to the sacred Minotaur bull.  Similarly to the Canaanite/Philistine bull god Baal, the Cretan sacred bull was worshipped for its male sexuality and power.[7]

 

 A ex-new-ager who attended our congregation participated a while ago in the Labyrinth. Upon walking to the centre of the circle, she immediately sensed a dark spiritual vortex sucking her down. [8] 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. 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 asanas are designed to open the psychic door to the Hindu deities through ritual reenactment of specific Hindu deities.  Community-Centre Yoga is in reality the ‘marijuana’ entry-level drug of the new age world.[9]

 

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, even reconstruct a plausible but misleading Christian history used to persuade well-meaning Christians.[10] The Labyrinth, as currently practiced, has very little to do with the Chartres Cathedral, and very much to do with Dr. Jean Houston’s impact on the new-age-friendly Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.[12]  The alleged Chartres connection is somewhat like a post-modern sound bite, a recently invented media-driven ‘history’. There is no written history of labyrinth walking at Chartres. All we have is the fact of an unused labyrinth on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral. It is like an empty crab shell into which anything can crawl. Nature hates a vacuum. Is the Chartres situation being used as a legitimization for introducing new age practices into unsuspecting churches? There are also astrological symbols in the stained glass window at Chartres, but no one yet is recommending taking part in ‘christian’ astrology classes because of Chartres.

 

Dr. Jean Houston, who is ground zero for the labyrinth movement, is listed on the Internet as one of the 10 top New Age speakers in North America[13]  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.’[14]  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 a past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, Jean makes use of her doctorate in ‘Philosophy of Religion’[15] to gain access to areas where most new-agers and occultists can’t go.  For example, as noted widely in media a number of years ago[16], she became a consultant to Hillary Clinton, helping her to ‘channel’ the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

The Labyrinth, also called the Dromenon[17], is the official symbol of Dr. Jean Houston’s new-age ‘Mystery School’ which one paid $3,775 to be initiated into over a series of 9 weekends.[18]    Houston describes her Mystery School students as ‘…the dancers of the Dromenon…’.[19]

 

In Houston’s 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.[20]

 

Heard, a Vedanta Yoga devotee of Swami Prabhavananda, was an early pioneer of the New Age and even the Hippy movements with his recommendation of LSD and fire walking as spiritual initiation exercises.[21]  Jean Houston notes:

Again I owe a considerable debt to Gerald Heard, for it was under the name of H.F. Heard that he published a remarkable fictional story ‘Dromenon’, the inspiration of which provided me with the naming of my own first center. In the story, an archeologist encounters a therapy in stone, a mystical transformation of body, mind and spirit…An example of the Dromenon can be found on page 1 (of Heard’s book The Great Fog).  This is the famous dromenon found on the floor of Chartres Cathedral.  I often use this in my seminars by inscribing it on the floor and having the participants walk its pathways, always to great effect.[22]

 

Heard’s novel tells the story of an architectural student who, with the help of an Orphic/hermetic soul-guide, gains gnostic enlightenment after dancing through a labyrinth concealed beneath a British church building.[23]  The labyrinth dance, according to Heard, is meant to be a reenactment of the dancing Hindu deity Shiva, the definitive symbol of yoga.[24]  Canon Lauren Artress from Grace Cathedral brought the Labyrinth back to her Cathedral after experiencing the Labyrinth at Jean Houston’s Mystery School.[25] Artress notes that she was

hardly prepared for the force of my own reaction. As soon as I set foot into the labyrinth I was overcome with an almost violent anxiety. Some part of me seemed to know that in this ancient and mysterious archetype, I was encountering something that would change the course of my life.[26]

It is interesting that Artress, with her Cathedral connection, became far more prominent in her labyrinth promotion than her new age mentor.  Artress notes:

I worked with Jean Houston in her Mystery School in 1985. In 1986, I was asked to serve as Canon Pastor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco…These programs eventually led me to the rediscovery of the labyrinth in 1991 when I returned to the Mystery School for one weekend.[27]

 

Jean Houston wrote in her book The Possible Human about ‘…the growth of Dromenon (Labyrinth) communities.[28]  As acknowledged in labyrinth websites, the labyrinth is a mandala[29], which is actually a Hindu ‘occult’ meditation process brought to the Western world by the grandfather of the New Age, Dr. Carl Jung.[30]

 

Is it a mere coincidence that the labyrinth resembles the coiling of the yogic kundalini snake? Is the Labyrinth actually a form of walking yoga?  Might the labyrinth be a thinly disguised yogic initiation rite into new age oneness, into the gnostic reconciliation of gender opposites?[31]  It is unthinkable for many westerners to imagine that walking the labyrinth might yogically kill the mind and remove one’s sense of self.

 

The Labyrinth has since spread to thousands of towns and cities, and is making a measurable impact in Canada.  Artress claimed that “over a million people have walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral alone…”[32]  Even the infamous Starhawk, the self-declared practicing witch and colleague of Matthew Fox, is walking the labyrinth nowadays [33].  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 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.”[34]  Artress says that “You walk to the center of the labyrinth and there at the center, you meet the Divine.”[35] 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.”[36]  To Jean Houston, it seems that all of life is made up of polytheistic labyrinths.

 

In her 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.’[37]  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. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church, North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 1008- 555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7N 2J7, Canada.

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 [1] Dr Jean Houston & the Labyrinth Fad”, By Rev Ed Hird, Anglicans for Renewal Canada magazine,  May 2,000 http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm08.htm

[2] Barry Unsworth, Crete, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 2004  p. 48 In Chania, Crete,  is found “the  Ikarus Street, named for was the son of the great artificer Daedalus, who built the labyrinth.  Father and son were kept imprisoned in this same labyrinth by King Minos.  Daedalus made wings for them both out of wax and feathers (but the son flew too close to the sun and the wax melted).”

[3] Heritage Walks in Athens, Municipality of Athens Cultural Organization,  Athens, Greece, p. 8

[4] Hans  George Wunderlich, The Secret of Crete, (Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc., New York, NY, 1974), p. 44

[5] Unsworth, p. 116.

[6] During the Nazi takeover of Greece (1936-1941), the Greek Fascist Youth EON (Ethniki Organosi Neolaias) adopted the labyrs as their main symbol. Black Metal fans in Greece still use the labrys as a symbol of Greek Neopaganism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labrys (Accessed Nov 26th 2013)

[7]Nicholas Platon, Crete, Frederick Muller Limited, London, Nagel Publishers, 1966, p. 183 “…the important part played by the worship of the bull, suggests that the bull symbolized the male creative force and that the bull was worshipped in this form.” Some scholars say that the bull was a symbol of Zeus.

[8] 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…” 597 Peter Corbett, “Pathfinders: Walking medieval labyrinths in a modern world,” p. 2, http://www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/features/fea_19981120_txt.shtml,  (Accessed April 1st 2,000) ;  Jean Houston, Life Force: The Psycho-Historical Recovery of the Self (Delacorte Press, a division of the Theosophical Publishing House, New York, 1980), p. 263-64 “Now looking at the labyrinth on the floor of Chartres, we remember the searching language of physicists who…describe the structure of our universe as a vortex ring.”

[9] My ‘Yoga: More than Meets the Eyes’ article has already been read by more than 75,000 people since April 2013. http://tiny.cc/wg856w

[10]Lee Penn, Fall 1999 issue of the Journal of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project www.scp-inc.org  http://fatima.freehosting.net/Articles/Art7.htm

[11] 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 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.

[13] 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://talkcity.com/transcripts/970313.Houston.html (Accessed April 1st 2,000)

[14]  Jean Houston, GodSeed: the Journey of Christ, Quest Books, The Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, USA, 1992, p. 50, p. 51.

[15] http://skepdic.com/houston.html  1998 Robert Todd Carroll (Accessed May 1998)

[16] Bob Woodward in ‘The Choice’; The Providence Journal Bulletin, Tuesday, 6/25/96, P. A3

[17] http://www.jeanhouston.org/labyrinth/dromenon.html

“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;…” (accessed April 1st 2,000)

[18] http://www.jeanhouston.org/ms.physical1999/ms1999f.html  (Accessed April 1st 2,000); Houston, Life Force,“In 1975, I founded the Dromenon Center, which was named after ancient Greek rites of growth and transformation, in Pomona New York.” http://tiny.cc/2tr3fx (accessed May 18th 2014)

[19]  Jean Houston, The Possible Human (Torcher: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1982), p. ix; Jean Houston, The Mythic Life (Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 186.; “Mystery School 1997”, http://www.motley-focus.com/mysteryschool97.html (accessed May 18th 2014)

[20] http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/nca/spiritual-

perspectives/sacred.html (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.” (accessed April 1st 2000)

 [21] Houston, Life Force, pp. xxv, xviii, xix. http://tiny.cc/2tr3fx (accessed May 18th 2014), “The psycho-technology that Heard advised as providing an initiation of movement from one stage of life to the next was sometimes outrageous and often surreal (LSD, electrical stimulation, walking on fire.)”; http://www.geraldheard.com ; Note: Houston herself was a pioneering LSD researcher ‘working with hundreds of research subjects since 1965’.

[22] Houston, Life Force, p. xxv. http://tiny.cc/2tr3fx (accessed May 18th 2014)

[23] H.F. Heard, The Great Fog:Weird Tales of Terror and Detection (Vanguard Press, New York, NY, 1944); Houston,  Life Force, p. 279.http://tiny.cc/2tr3fx (accessed May 18th 2014)

[24] Houston, Life Force, quoting Heard “Waiting for the Third Act”, London Times Literary Supplement, June 6th 1960, p. 355ff. “Beyond tragedy lies metacomedy.  The central figure of that comedy is known in Asiatic drama… The central figure who dances out of the cosmos, Shiva, consummates laughter and tears in an ecstasis that goes beyond pleasure and pain.”; Note: The definitive symbol of yoga is the Nataraj asana, known as the dancing Shiva who ‘dances’ destruction upon any distinctions (avidya) between the Creator and creation, good and evil, male and female. http://www.theyogatutor.com/natarajasana The Yoga Teacher Tirusula Yoga, “Nata= Dancer. Raja = King / Lord” http://bit.ly/TNFTRV  (Accessed Dec 23rd 2012).

[25] Kristen Fairchild, “A Passion for the Possible: An Interview with Jean Houston,” The Spire, Textures 11/04/97 www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment (accessed April 1st 2,000) , 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.”; Jean Houston, The Possible Human, 1982, p. 51

[26]  Lauren Artress, Walking a Sacred Path (Penguin Group, New York, NY, 1995) p. 2.

[27] “Collective Wisdom Initiative: Self-Portrait”, Reverend Lauren Artress “The work of symbolic fields has a Jungian base, since I am working with archetypes, symbol, shadow and encounters with collective unconscious.”  http://www.collectivewisdominitiative.org/files_people/Artress_Lauren.htm  (accessed May 18th 2014) Note: Is Artress’ Jungian connection merely coincidental or foundational to the Labyrinth fad?

[28]  Jean Houston, The Possible Human, 1982, p. 51

[29] Peter Corbett, “Pathfinders: Walking medieval labyrinths in a modern world,” http://www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/features/fea_19981120_txt.shtml  “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.”  (accessed April 1st 2,000)

[30]  Occult, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, means ‘kept secret, esoteric…from the Latin culere: hide’  It is not a synonym for Satanism.; “…the labyrinth, a sacred tool that has been used as a mandala in many spiritual traditions for thousands of years…” http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/nca/spiritual- perspectives/sacred.html;  “The labyrinth is a mandala that meets our longing…”  Labyrinth Project, “What Is A Labyrinth,” http://www.gracecom.org/veriditas/press/whatlab.shtml, 1996 (Accessed April 1st 2,000);  http://www3.bc.sympatico.ca/st_simons/arm03.htm  , “Jung was also a strong promoter of the 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)

[31]  Houston, Life Force, p. 244 “The knower, the knowledge, and the known become part of an undifferentiated unity that is the unus mundus, the eternal dance between the One and the Many, the Dromenon.”; p. 264 “But in the Dromenon the boundaries between body and soul, other and earth, are effaced.”  http://tiny.cc/2tr3fx (accessed May 18th 2014); For more on this, you can read my online article “Carl Jung and the Gnostic Reconciliation of Gender Opposites” http://tiny.cc/5uy3fx .

[32] http://www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment (Accessed April 1st 2,000)

[33] http://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. (Accessed April 1st 2,000)

[34] 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

[35]  Lauren Artress, “Q and A with Lauren,” Veriditas, Vol. 1, no. 2, Summer 1996, p. 18

[36] http://skepdic.com/houston.html  (Accessed Nov. 27th 2013)

[37] Jean Houston, The Hero & the Goddess, Aquarian/Thorsons (Harper Collins Publisher), 1992, p. 134

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Author: edhird

I am the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C., having served there since 1987. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I was the Past President and Chaplain for Alpha Canada. While serving as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm05.htm For the past 26 years, I have been privileged to write over 400 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to lead conferences and retreats in Honduras, Rwanda, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Toronto. My new sequel Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit, with a foreword by Dr JI Packer, is online with Amazon.com in both paperback http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/097820221X/ref=redir_mdp_mobile and ebook form http://tiny.cc/tanhmx . In Canada, Amazon.ca has it available in paperback http://tiny.cc/dknhmx and ebook http://tiny.cc/wmhmmx . It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook). Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form. Nook gives a sample of the book to read online: http://tiny.cc/vj3bmx . Indigo also offers the Kobo ebook version: http://tiny.cc/kreonx . You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook: http://tiny.cc/1ukiox The book 'Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit' focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus' healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how North Americans can embrace a holistically healthy life. In order to obtain a copy of the prequel book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', please send a $18.50 cheque to 'Ed Hird', #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. For more info, please click on www3.telus.net/st_simons/nsnews030.html

One thought on “Dr Jean Houston and the Labyrinth Movement

  1. Pingback: Labyrinth Prayer: One of Spiritual Formation’s most dangerous practices « Confessing Fundamentalist Evangelicals

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