Whats the difference between a labyrinth and a maze?
Besides the fact that one has a single path and the other has multiple paths? The main difference is how or why we use them….
Mazes are puzzles outside us, we struggle to solve them and rely on our own ingenity and perceptiveness to triumph. Labyrinths are the path of the puzzle inside us, they talk to us about ourselves and invite us to succeed in stepping from physical confusion to spiritual awareness.
Ancient mazes were protection – incredibly complex designs that kept invaders out of cities, or complex prisons that kept the monsters in. Labyrinths were celebrations of the conquered maze. They were Theseus’s path to kill the Minotaur or coming of age ceremonies, paths that celebrated life and rebirth, the path of success and symbols often of the triumph of good over evil.
Mazes are meant to puzzle us, to test the limits of our capacity and the steel of our determination. Will you succeed? They entice us to think about the path ahead. You make the choices, you determine the results. You are always the master of your destiny. They are natural metaphors for choice and consequences. . Labyrinths convey the sense of inevitable, there is no need to worry about the future, that is determined, you can enjoy the present. You may twist through a maze on the outside but on the inside the truth is that you only walk one path. From the moment we are born to the moment we die, we choose how we walk but not whether we walk the path of life. In inevitability, there is a sense of freedom. Instead of choosing the life we lead, we live the life and are able to look at where we are instead of regretting the paths we did not take.
Mazes pit our intelligence against the creator, we struggle to figure out the designs in competition with the mazebuilder. Labyrinths partner us with our Creator, we struggle to figure out ourselves and what is hiding inside us.
Mazes are touchable, traceable pathways that model our choices in life and the confusion we feel facing difficult decisions. While they anchor us in the present difficult choices, they also leave us uncertain of our future. Labyrinths are symbols of success and act as gateways to the spiritual realms – in walking them we see that our difficult choices are simply meanderings on the path to the destined goal. We may face choices but we only walk one path, our future may look ambiguous but our destination is God.
Mazes exist in the physical realm. They are pencil paths, city design, monster cages. Labyrinths are the path through the maze, symbols of the answer to the puzzle. Being dedicated as sacred ground to meet with God means that they are grounded in a physical reality but charged with spiritual presence. Like Jacobs ladder, where he saw the angel’s ascending and descending, or Moses’s experience with the burning bush, the spiritual is a veil drawn aside from the eyes of the believer allowing them to see and know the presence of God.
Labyrinths are an invitation to the spiritual. Full of symbolism and intended to illuminate the unseen, they offer ground that is made Holy by our dedication of it to the pursuit of God. Within the labyrinth, we invite the Holy Spirit to speak and we discipline our body to listen by adhering to the path.
|Safety/Protection – Mazes were about protection – incredibly complex designs that kept invaders out or complex prisons that kept monsters in||Conquest/Triumph – Labyrinths were the successful path that revealed what is locked away, whether inside us or a path to a goal.|
|Self -Determination – Mazes are puzzles; you twist through the pathways you choose that may or may not lead to the goal. They are metaphors of choice and consequences.||Inevitability/Submission – We don’t always have choices, sometimes life does what we don’t want it to and takes us where we don’t want to go. Here the path leads us and the journey is everything.|
|Uncertainty – Can you complete it? You don’t know where you are going and you hardly know where you have been. Little choices have unforeseen consequences.||Certainty – each step brings you closer to triumph, you will succeed. You have complete freedom to choose how you will journey. Will you walk? Will you run? Will you dance?|
|Future – A maze is a quest for the goal. One moment, hope rules the next despair. The future is uncertain. Our thoughts are on what’s next, analyzing, predicting, experimenting.||Present – with the goal in our grasp, the journey becomes a path to inhabit. We can enjoy the little things and stop to observe within and without. There is opportunity to focus on the experience.|