Experience and Meaning in the Cathedral Labyrinth Pilgrimage

Cathedral LabyrinthExperience and Meaning in the Cathedral Labyrinth Pilgrimage

Vanessa Jane Compton

University of Toronto: Master of Arts Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Ontario Institute for Studies in Education(2001)


A medieval design based in Sacred Geometry principles, this unicursal path through concentric circles is a metaphorical container for spiritualjourneying. Contemporary pritctice, as reflexive walking meditation, encourages personal transformation notably physiological, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive events including release of tension, increased sense of well-being and communion, triggered early memories with related insights and conflict resolution, often revealed through symbolic imagery. Reasons for site-specificity of such events are examined through phenomenological and arts-informed inquiry into the engagement with sacred spatial “technology,” referencing elements of Classical mythology, Christian mystical practice, and analytical psychology. Walking the labyrinth activates pre-Modern, “whole brain” patterns of consciousness, Ieading to an alternative, authentic, hoiistic perceptual standpoint. Using the labyrinth myth as a conceptual model of the individuation process, and the walk as ernbodied experiential learning, creates the opportunity to restore the balance in the relation behveen self, soul, society, and world, thereby “re-enchanting” contemporary life.


As 1sifted through the Iayers, debating where to airn the battering ram of continuity at the fortification of books and articles al1 around me, wondering which gate of the many available to charge through first, and where in this crowded neighbourhood of historians, theorists, theologians, rnathematicians and critics to begin mapping co-ordinates,what sequence to impose on all the forays, direct or tangential, into this material, and what thread might be the easiest, the most likely, the most logical, or the most inclusive to follow between disciplines, perspectives, and centuries, the question of where to begin threatened to become overwhelming. Tt dawned on me that this odd combination of clarity and opacity, crystalline order and sludgy sediment, raptor focus and shufflinp arnbiguity, surging flow and retreating ebb, these swings in polarity and the constant doubling back that goes on in my thinking whenever I undertake an exegesis of the tabyrinth, are achially the familiar signal that, once again, 1 have fallen into its rhythms, taken one too many turns, and lost my place in its coils.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Toronto


Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!