Sacred Geometry

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Charles Gilchrist Mandalas:Gallery #9:
Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

About Spiritual Labyrinths and Open-Eyed Meditation
by Charles Gilchrist © 1998

A Short History

This is the graphic plan of the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth (Fig. 1). It was built into the Chartres Cathedral floor sometime between the Great Fire of 1194 AD and 1220 AD when the Fulbert section of the cathedral was completed. It is located in the west end of the nave and is approximately 42 feet in diameter.

Fig. 1

The Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

During that period (the waning of the Dark Ages) numerous labyrinths were in use as meditational tools. In the Christian tradition, they were set in the floors of cathedrals and symbolized a journey to the holy land. The walking, open-eyed meditation lead the pilgrim in a winding spiral into the spiritual center; and by reversing direction, the walker came back into the mundane world with a centered mind. In the Chartres version, the total distance (in and out) is 1723 feet, about one third of a mile. In succeeding years, these open-eyed meditational tools somehow fell into disfavor but this particular labyrinth has survived the centuries.

I became aware of the Chartres Labyrinth through Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress’ ground breaking book entitled “Walking A Sacred Path — Rediscovering The Labyrinth As A Sacred Tool,” published in 1995 by Riverhead Books, New York.

By reintroducing this walking meditational concept, Rev. Dr. Artress has almost single-handedly revitalized the power of this specific labyrinth and has boosted labyrinths in general. In these few short years she has managed to write an outstanding book, create numerous full sized duplicates of the Chartres Labyrinth, and most importantly, has traveled extensively across the planet to introduce multiple thousands of people to the experience of walking this meditative path. A large number of those people (including myself) will testify to the spiritual and healing power of the experience.

Labyrinths, Mandalas and Sacred Geometry

Discovering the book and the labyrinth was a huge thrill. I instantly recognized Dr. Artress’ work as having a direct relationship to my own vocation. I am a serious artist; an iconographer specializing in the esoteric field of “Sacred Geometry.” I have been practicing open-eyed transcendental meditation through the creation of geometric Mandalas for over twenty years and practice this discipline as a spiritual path.

“Mandala,” is a Sanskrit word and literally means “Circle,” but the deeper meaning is much more esoteric. Circular patterns involving geometric icons have been used as meditational tools, i.e. Mandalas, in every corner of the world. The Christian, “Rose Windows,” Native American “Sand Paintings,” East Indian, “Yantras,” and Tibetan “Mandalas” are obvious examples. A more subtle version can be found in the Catholic ritual of communion. Christ's body comes in the form of a small circular wafer. The bread of Christ is a tiny white Mandala.

Because of my experience in the creation of hundreds of Mandalas, I could easily see the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth was related to the very important archetype of “Sacred Geometry” called “Natures First Pattern”
(Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

Nature's First Pattern

“Nature's First Pattern” is tremendously important. In fact, it is the root architecture of the entire universe. At first this idea may seem rather farfetched but I can assure you that it is absolutely true. There are an infinite number of sub patterns to be discovered within “Nature's First Pattern,” and ALL forms and phenomena spring from this universal icon. It is intrinsically transcendental and naturally facilitates deeper and deeper levels of meditation.

The Mandala

Rev. Dr. Artress’ work with the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth combined with my intimate experiences with “Sacred Geometry,” and "Nature's First Pattern," inspired me to create a Mandala illustrating the relationship. My Mandala is a subtle variation of the original Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth and is superimposed on “Nature's First Pattern” (fig. 3). It is highly probable that the creators of the Chartres labyrinth used “Nature's First Pattern” for its basic design.

This Mandala is mixed media (water color, acrylic and colored ink) on water color paper. The original image measures 22 inches square and was created to eventually become a finger labyrinth.

Fig. 3

The Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth In Nature's First Pattern
Mixed Media On Paper by Gilchrist © 1996

Compare Centers Below

Fig. 1 Center Detail
Fig. 3b Center Detail

Original CCL Center Detail

The Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth
In Nature's First Pattern


The principal difference between the two labyrinths is found in their outer rings. The cog like forms of the outer rings are called lunations and are found in each pattern (Fig. 1 & Fig. 3). The lunations are composed of two shapes, i.e. concave and pyramid like shapes called cusps and foils respectively (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4

Fig. 4: Lunations

The lunations of the Chartres Labyrinth are unique compared to other eleven circuit labyrinths of that period. The Labyrinth has a total of 113 cusps and 112 foils. 1 cusp and 2 foils are missing in the design — at the entrance. Some believe the lunations on the outer ring of the Chartres Labyrinth served as a light calendar which kept track of the lunar cycles but as of now, this theory has not been authenticated.

My variation on the lunations theme uses 60 cusps and 60 foils set at 6 degree intervals. In this variation, the lunations have a direct relationship to “Nature's First Pattern” which can be easily seen.

About Meditation

Meditation is the simple process of quieting the restless mind. Quieting and quieting again until the intensities of time/space slip away into peace of waking stillness. For uncounted thousands of years, spiritual teachers in all corners of the world have been introducing their students to the wonderful process of meditation, and these teachings inevitably begin with the operation of our breath. In the beginning, the student is taught to carefully observe his or her breathing by simply witnessing the natural inhaling and exhaling. Our very breath (this involuntary repetitive action of the life body) acts as a kind of “Mantra,” and teaches us to focus. It puts us in touch with one of the root physical aspects of life: Our breath and our heart beat are natural meditations.

Focus and concentration are the principal skills of meditation. Therefore, anything that can enhance our concentration can be seen as a meditational tool. Print this Gilchrist Mandala (The Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth In Nature's First Pattern) in a large enough size and you have a meditational tool called a finger Labyrinth. This finger labyrinth is a tremendously powerful aid to the process of quieting the restless buzzing of our waking minds. This finger labyrinth works.

How To Use A Finger labyrinth

The Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth is an extremely beautiful geometric form based on circles and concentric circles. In addition the graphic architecture strongly relates to the cardinal points. It is a classic Mandala; intrinsically transcendental and calming. The first and most obvious technique is simply to observe this labyrinth as a work of art and as a Mandala.

Start by getting comfortable. Hold the finger labyrinth in your lap or lean it against something so that its mid point is at eye level. Focus and concentrate on the center of the image but let your eyes take in the entire square. Allow your mind to quietly feast on the rhythms of color and form. The closer you are the more powerful it is.

When distracting thoughts arise, simply recognize the thought, release it, and refocus on the Mandala. Having your concentration broken is perfectly natural and is a major aspect of the meditational process. You are learning to let go of the unwanted intrusions of the “Monkey Mind.” As you practice, you will become more and more centered and calm.

Hands-on techniques are even more effective and they begin with counting. The finger sized lunations of this Labyrinth are designed to facilitate repetitive counting exercises. Counting in rhythms (1-2-3—1-2-3—1-2-3—etc.) or (1-2-3-4-5-6-7—1-2-3-4-5-6-7—etc.) will work well when used in conjunction with your breathing: one, two, three, etc., on the in-breath and one, two, three, etc., on the out-breath. There are a number of working possibilities. Whatever counting pattern you choose (forward or backward) will help your mind to focus and center. Tracing your finger and counting on the lunations of the outer ring will prepare your mind to enter the internal world of the labyrinth.

Using your finger to trace into the center of this Mandala and then out again, will give you the possibility of experiencing some of the same healing, centering, and guiding energies you can find by walking the full sized version.

In order to find your way to the center, you must concentrate on your finger and the pattern. This seems relatively easy, but more than likely you will become distracted by the perpetually busy “Monkey Mind.” At first, you will probably lose your place and/or direction. Don't be upset with yourself, this is perfectly natural. Take some deep breaths and start again at the entrance.

As your finger traces the pattern you will notice the path turns left, right, and roundabout. You will find that you quickly come close to the heart of the Mandala only to move away again. You trace back and forth and around and around. Just as you feel you are again being steered away from the center.... you arrive. Suddenly, you are at the heart of the Mandala, the place of singlepointedness, oneness and unity.

You have arrived at the point of unity and here you may experience various levels of oneness. If you have leaned all of your worldly lessons and sown all your seeds, you might just be able to dissolve your earthly consciousness and take your light body with you into a new level of God Mind. Chances are, you still have quite a bit of work to do on this earth plane and so, you probably wont disappear. I define my feeling at the center as, “a relaxed and unconditionally attentive alertness.”

You are at the quiet heart of the labyrinth and now you have numerous options. You might look closely at the central geometric pattern which is called “The Flower Of Life” or simply close your eyes and relax for a time. These are two of the receptive or listening possibilities. You could also take advantage of the free battery charge. Use your imagination, this labyrinth's potent is endless.

The dynamic possibility of the center section can also be used. In this case you might say a prayer or repeat a Mantra. You might even sing. Be creative and trust your intuition. Project something good. The universe will hear your message and anything that feels right is fine.

When your time at the center is complete, simply reverse the process and use your finger to trace out again. Remember to bring some of the calmness and stillness with you as you reenter the ordinary world.

Approaching The Finger Labyrinth As An Oracle

Because of its direct connection to “Sacred Geometry,” this labyrinth has powerful potential as an oracle. Some of the other oracle systems directly related to “Sacred Geometry” are, Astrology, Numerology, I Ching, Rune Stones, and the Tarot.

When approaching any oracle system, including this finger labyrinth, it is helpful to have a very specific question. Before you move into the labyrinth, follow the lunations and trace the outer ring with your clear question in mind. Ask for guidance and an answer to your question. The more emotional energy in the prayer the better. Go around the outer ring several times if necessary. This will help the higher aspects of your being to come into play. If you are in touch with your guides and or guardian angels, ask for their help. Call on your natural intuitive powers and trust you will receive the answer.

Now you are ready for the next step, which is to release the question from your conscious mind. Do this before you enter the interior of the labyrinth. This is very important because you will not receive an accurate answer unless your mind is very still and quiet. Release the question, knowing the answer is forthcoming. Empty your mind as your finger traces in and listen carefully. Don't become anxious or discouraged if the answer doesn't come immediately. The oracle might remain silent for the entire meditation, but don't be discouraged. The answer might come later while you're in your bath or the next day on the way to work.... but it will come.

When the answer arrives it may be a thrilling revelation or conformation. On the other hand, the answer you receive may be very uncomfortable. It may require you to make a change in your life that is difficult. This is very often the nature of higher guidance but If you are unclear about the answer you receive or you don't trust it intuitively, ask the universe for a verification and repeat the process. Your heart mind will know when you have it right.

The Finger Labyrinth As A Releasing Tool

You can also use this finger labyrinth to help release the unwanted energies in your life such as tension, anger, fear, guilt, pain, disease, etc. In this case, the technique is different. First, focus on and define the unwanted energy. What is it? Is it fear? Imagine yourself gathering up the fear and putting it in a small mental container. Carry it with you as your finger enters the interior of the labyrinth. Mentally place the enclosed negative energy in the center of the Mandala asking that it be recycled into something more constructive. Push it around with your finger until its right in the middle. Come back to a better world and leave the little box behind. If you find you missed some of the unwanted energy in the fist try, make a new container and sweep it up again. Continue to repeat the process until its gone.

As you continue your day-to-day life you might suddenly realize you are experiencing a little piece of the unwanted energy you were convinced you released it the labyrinth. When this happens, simply stop what you are doing for a few moments and take a few deep breaths. Visualize the finger labyrinth in your mind's eye. As you inhale, imagine yourself breathing in the perfection of Heaven which are coming through the Mandala. As you release your breath, imagine that you are blowing the bad stuff out of your body and through the center of the labyrinth.

For some people, the releasing power of labyrinths leads them into a cathartic episode. The emotional body is charged with disruptive energy and the stuff just pours out. This wrenching experience can be seen as a very healing and liberating moment of growth. Sometimes its truly wonderful to cry. Holding on to and collecting negative energies is the only thing that keeps us from experiencing heaven on this earth. Let these dysfunctional energies go.

The Last Word

The classic eleven circuit labyrinth of the Chartres Cathedral, is directly connected to “Sacred Geometry” and “Nature's First Pattern” which are pure tangible manifestations of universal God Mind. The process of moving into and meditating on pure geometric forms holds unlimited spiritual potential. It automatically moves us closer to the wiser aspects of our consciousness. Relax, there are no rules to break. Open to your own creative possibilities and enjoy the stillness.

The Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth In Nature's First Pattern

A beautiful print on fine watercolor paper is now available of this popular Gilchrist Mandala. Charles personally creates these prints. The paper size is 13 inches by apox. 15 inches. The price is #39.95, plus $14.00 insurance, shipping, and handling anywhere in the continental USA..

The low wholesale price:
One print - only $39.95 - plus $14.00 I/S/H
This print is shipped flat
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