Part I

Part II

Part III

Part I V


  Emergence Symbolism         Profiles & Links




New Light on Life's Cycles & Initiations


Part One



The Emergence of Consciousness


To the Hopi the labyrinth speaks of successive rebirths or emergings from one world to the next. Similar to the Hopi myth, the Genesis garden is a place of mandalic containment. Labyrinth and garden both tell the story of how consciousness emerges from an original undifferentiated or unconscious state of awareness. Eden is a place (or state of mind) in which those who dwell there are comfortably but unconsciously contained. Expulsion from the garden results in the psychological state of alienation. In alienation, the inner landscape changes from garden to wilderness--from mandala to meander--from protection to exposure, from belonging to estrangement.

As with God’s first children, so each new stage in the development of consciousness begins with some sort of a rude awakening. The wakeup call is from wherever we have been living in a state of minimal challenge. Emergence from a primal state that is largely unconscious takes place as a person develops the kind of ego strength that invests life with purpose and meaning. The human psyche is so structured that each stage of life has a diminishing reserve of the energy and enthusiasm by which it has been empowered. Just as when the nine months of human gestation are up, so when it is time to make an inner move, there are signs that announce the impending necessity for an enlarged field of movement.

At critical stages of life, when the sands of meaning and purpose are running out, images of restrictive containment often impinge upon the mind. Then it may happen that the wisdom of the psyche, albeit unconsciously, takes over to self-create alienation situations. Disruptive to life as this may be, it is necessary if a life is to be re-energized and an enthusiasm for life re-kindled. At life’s major turning points, the need is to connect with other facets of who we are. Our limited self-identity needs to be enlarged. Towards this end the symbolism of the labyrinth engenders understanding concerning the structure of the human psyche and how its dynamics work for wholeness. It is interesting that Frank Waters, in his Book of Hopi, points out that the Hopi myth of the Emergence is expressed in their labyrinth pattern which is their symbol for Mother Earth. She is the ground from which life emerges and from which successive births into succeeding worlds take place.

In the original, undifferentiated, unconscious Edenic state, human beings were so identified with the whole as to not know apartness from their primal maternal womb. Similar to the innocence of the instinctual, lower animal kingdom, a newborn infant knows neither separateness nor nakedness. Cast out of Eden, the sense of I-ness and separateness is forced to develop. Separation and differentiation are the way human beings become conscious.

But the process of separation is a two-edged sword which causes the human child, as its ego develops, to alternate between inflated feelings of self-importance and deflated feelings of insignificance. Both extremes lead to a sense of alienation. Alienation, it turns out, is the price paid for coming to know that one knows. But God must pay a price, too, as do loving parents who sometimes are called upon to bail out their children, or sacrificially help shoulder some burden of responsibility. In this way God (or a loving parent) stands in the gap and sets the stage for the return--the metanoia--that is the turning back towards the light. This is the U-turn of a life, and must wait until the return can begin as a knowing rather than unknowing part of the whole, and when the one making the return has experienced what it is to have been lost but now found; and what it is to have been redeemed by a love and forgiveness that are infinite and unconditional. It is, of course, the story of the Prodigal Son, and which each of us is.

The More Perilous Path

When garden and labyrinth are understood as the fertile grounds out of which consciousness emerges, expulsion or emergence from there, and what can be an ensuing sense of alienation, can drive a person into new territories, new experiences, and new responsibilities. An alienation experience is a wake up call to reassess one’s life: Where have I come from? Where am I now? Where am I headed? A life crisis brings choices into focus and becomes an opportunity for re-visioning life. But if the opportunity is ignored or refused, then fate takes over, and, as Morton Kelsey has pointed out, it become “the way of unknowingly choosing the more perilous path—that of the unexamined life.”

Fearing the pain and responsibility of consciousness, we bring upon ourselves the very thing we fear in that the unconscious takes matters into its own hands. This subjective experience of being enacted upon by the contents of our own unconscious is referred to in the Judaic-Christians scriptures as “the wrath of God” and is an example of how we tend to create God in our own image rather than allowing it to be the other way around. About the consequences of not dealing with the unconscious consciously Kelsey writes:

Many people today simple try to shut off any contact with the world of the deeper psyche or soul, with the result that they are plagued by numerous anxieties and compulsions, phobias and irrationalities, which the modern church does not even try to understand much less treat. When these tensions become great enough—although the person may not even be aware of them—they break through and are expressed in the body in some form of physical illness. The results of not dealing with the unconscious are numerous and damaging, if not disastrous.

Kelsey concludes that perhaps the only thing more dangerous than dealing with this other dimension of our reality is not to deal with it. (Encounter with God Bethany Fellowship, Inc, Minneapolis, 1972, p 157)