A Labyrinth Danger Alert: Some Labyrinths That Have Crossed Our PathLabyrinths are everywhere; perhaps closer than you think! In our research we've encountered them
over and over. And every time we come across one they raise a red flag that contemplative/pagan activities are taking place at that college, church, retreat center, monastery, or organization. Here are three stories that have brought "labyrinths" up close and personal to us.
Ponder This: Labyrinths Are Dangerous Paths for Your Feet!
Before relating our stories here are two outstanding resources that give a thorough analysis of exactly what a labyrinth is, and why they are dangerous. First, is the Lighthouse Trails tract booklet: The Labyrinth Journey: Walking the Path to Fulfillment? by Carl Teichrib; second is Christian Answers for the New Age article: "The Labyrinth: A Walk by Faith?" by Marcia Montenegro.
To describe the labyrinth, Carl records a quote from Breemie Labyrinth in the UK (p.8) which says, "This is an archetypal spiritual tool, found across many times and cultures. While a maze is a left-brain, rational puzzle, the labyrinth involves the right side of the brain, and helps access our intuition, providing a portal to the Divine."
And Marcia writes, "A labyrinth is a flat circle or square consisting of a path that winds to the center. She also says, "... the labyrinth has come to be used as a spiritual and psychological tool, and has been promoted as a way to approach God, to feel close to God, and to journey into the self. It is used by both Christians and non-Christians alike, especially those into New Age beliefs."
Three Labyrinth Stories:
Labyrinth at Maryville, 2011:
We arrived back to our Tennessee home in the spring of 2011 to a flashing message from the Advancement Office at Houghton College. The message said, "Would you consider representing Houghton College on April 16th at nearby Maryville College for the inauguration of its new president?" Would we consider this? We could not! For, by that time, we were well into our understanding that our beloved alma mater was deep into contemplative and emergent teachings; and we had been at the forefront of exposing it. We had never been contacted in this way by the college before, so why then? The only thing that seemed so apparent was the Lord had a hand in it all!
Even though I knew we wouldn't represent Houghton I wondered what kind of a college this Maryville was? So, as we were learning to do at that time, I researched Maryville. Come to find out Maryville was a Presbyterian College--Presbyterian USA to be precise. And looking into its spiritual life programs an immediate "red flag" surfaced--Maryville had a labyrinth. Yes, it had a labyrinth constructed by nationally known Knoxville labyrinth designers Stuart and Mary Bartholomaus.
Scroll down to Maryville College.
Captivated I read Maryville's 2005 announcement page: "Prayer Labyrinth Dedicated." Here are some excerpts from it. "With encouragement to slow down, to listen and to trust and follow God, the Maryville College community dedicated its prayer labyrinth ceremony held April 11 on the grounds of the House in the Woods. More than 50 people sat or stood on the lawn ... to listen to the ... speakers and later, to walk the labyrinth."
Here's what one speaker shared, "The ten years I've served on the national staff coincide roughly with the period of great upsurge of interest in the labyrinth as a spiritual tool. And I have found myself asking, 'Why the labyrinth? Why now? Why not some other arcane practice like fasting or the Gregorian chant? Why this strange walking around getting nowhere?' said the Rev. Kristine Haig, associate director of the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s office of Spiritual Formation, ... '"One of the reasons labyrinth walking has caught on, ... is because we live in a culture in which we have lost our way, have lost our souls, and by the grace and mercy of God we are trying to find our way home again."
Upon discovering Maryville's contemplative bent our response to Houghton was to be in the form of a letter with enclosures explaining what a labyrinth was, alluding to nearby Houghton area labyrinths,
and once more reiterating how Houghton itself was practicing contemplative spirituality. But, as you can read in our next story Houghton paid little attention to our warnings.
Labyrinth at Houghton College, 2012:
It was January 2012, and our alma mater Houghton College was having "Praxis Week." That year's theme was "Listening." And among the many activities listed was the "Ears to Hear: Walking in Prayer" labyrinth located in the Marjorie Paine Prayer Chapel.
A "listening labyrinth" in the college prayer chapel? We were horrified! We could envision our once dignified godly present-President Stephen Paine turning over in his grave. For this particular prayer chapel, redecorated in Vatican colors and hung with "Stations of the Cross" artwork, was dedicated to his daughter Marjorie who died as a student at Houghton.
And besides the activities described under the Houghton College "Praxis Week 2012: Listening" we encountered more of the same on the college Facebook Page. Below the labyrinth announcement was a comment which read, "Sounds wonderful! I like the labyrinth activity." There were several additional comments to which we added our warnings with pointers to sites where one could learn exactly what labyrinths really were. Sadly, at that time there wasn't any shiny Lighthouse Trails booklet to refer to.
Wondering what else to do I noted the name of the parent who wrote the "Sounds wonderful!" note. Later, I wrote a detailed letter to that person about labyrinths and their pitfalls. I wish I could say we received a letter of thanks in return, but that was not the case.
Labyrinth at Leesburg, 2014 or Scrub-Jay Trail Labyrinth:
Glancing at the Orlando Sentinel's Lake County News March 24, 2014 I read this caption, "Scrub-Jay Trail to Host Labyrinth Workshop." Being a birder myself, I had heard of the couple who owned the land on which the labyrinth had been built. Of the newly completely labyrinth, the owner who had previously walked a monastery labyrinth, Bruce Brown said, "It is a comforting place to come, and labyrinth definitely enhances the experience people have of the surrounding beauty." According to the article as one walks the Scrub-Jay Trail Labyrinth you can grab a "Prayer Tie"* from a bag at the center eye. This labyrinth, says its creator Miller, will help all of us to stay in touch with ourselves and the Earth.
* What is a prayer tie? Prayer ties are made from a small piece of cloth in which is placed a pinch or two of loose tobacco (sacred herb) used as a gift to the spirit world. Prayer ties can then be tied together on a string to enhance the energy flow. Used in a labyrinth setting folks pick one up, and carry it while walking the rest of the pathway. This is an earth-centered ritual used as an intentional tool for prayer or healing.
Knowing a friend who was into scrub-jays, a jay found only in mid-Florida, I telephoned her to ask if she was familiar with author Melinda Joy Miller, founder of Shambhalla Institute, who would hold the labyrinth workshop. Explaining about the newspaper article, as well as the use of a labyrinth I soon found that not only did my friend know Miller; but that Ms. Miller had given her an autographed copy of her book Shamanic Gardening. After chatting a bit I told her we'd drop over to talk, and to bring a copy of Carl Teichrib's booklet The Labyrinth Journey as well as the newspaper article.
Later, at our friend's home not only were we able to place the booklet, and the article into her hands; but we were also able to share a little of the contemplative agenda as well. And we were told, that this Ms. Miller had asked our friend to help with the illustrations in her Shamanic Gardening book. Understanding now more what this might have involved, this friend realized how grateful she was that she had not helped with the book.
After, I found another neighbor also had spotted the labyrinth article. Once more I had the perfect opportunity to share the Teichrib booklet with her too. I also asked if she'd clip the newspaper article for me opening up even more conversation!
Castles in the Sand Labyrinth:
Besides Teichrib's fact-filled tract, Lighthouse Trails Ministries also published a novel Castles in the Sand by Carolyn A. Greene. This informative story, half fiction and half nonfiction, centers found two Teresas --a college age gal, and the Catholic St. Teresa of Avila. The story takes place on a Christian campus that has gotten heavily into spiritual formation experiences including walking the labyrinth.
Greene weaves the labyrinth into the story exposing what a labyrinth truly is; and even defines it in the handy glossary at the back of the book. This unique book is a great read revealing the true agenda of spiritual formation.
An Attractive Labyrinth Tract Booklet: The Just-Right Informative Tool!
The Lighthouse Trails glossy tract booklet alluded to above, just like its other tract pamphlets, is the perfect tool to share with anyone. It will enable you to share labyrinth truth in a concise, well-written, and informative manner that is totally documented. I heartedly recommend it, and all of the booklets as well! I only wish we'd had them before when we had to work so hard to dig out information for enquiring friends. Thumbs up to the Lighthouse for all of its amazing resources!
Learn to Discern Granny Verses: Proverbs 4:26-27
"Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil."