Applied Psychoanalysis > Mythology

The Meaning of the Symbol of Labyrinth

By J Jones

One of the symbols which we often find in our dreams but also in activities which are not strictly related to oneiric type phenomena is the labyrinth. The labyrinth has an old story because it is already present in the classical Greek mythology. The story of the labyrinth brings into focus three key characters: the Minotaur, Ariadne and Theseus.

The labyrinth has many meanings, generally related to the initiation, to a very complicated, hard to follow spiritual Path, which takes one to the Center - that is either the hard to reach treasure or the sacred place where the neophyte is consecrated.

Theseus is undoubtedly an impressive character from the series of the mythical heroes who kill fabulous creature endowed with amazing (supernatural) powers. He kills the Minotaur and with Ariadne's help finds the way out of the labyrinth, that is, the way to the light.

But the labyrinth symbol comes up in the dreams of the modern man in situations such as for example: we find ourselves in an unknown city and we feel lost. Or we lost ourselves in some institution on the corridors that do not seem to have any end. In dreams in which amnesia shows up; in which we don't know where we are or we lost any contact with everything that is familiar to us etc. All this suggests other sources than the Greek mythology.

It is not hard to see in the confusing mixture of the labyrinth the projection of the digestive system with the intestines which envision the image of the labyrinth (and the snake). And the exit of the labyrinth can only be the natural birth. The child is in the act of birth completely dependent of the mother who is giving birth (Ariadne?). Moreover, the regression memories at the amniotic stage - because this is what is all about in the labyrinth symbol - bring to the surface specific states which can be confused with forgetfulness, somnolence, the inability to communicate and so on. States which are characteristic for the latent stage of the fetus.

We must believe that these archaic impressions stay at the origin of old myths and that the stories with heroes and fairies (goddesses), monsters and heroic attempts were based on the amniotic and the birth impressions.  The universality of the birth experience explains the broad dissemination (regardless of time and space) of the labyrinth myths. So nothing new under the sun!

Religion and mythology researchers as well as psychologists neglect completely the importance of the birth impressions and of the subsequent complication with the natural mother. This explains the multitude of writings and references which sink in the meanders of archaic stories and their variation, without finding a way out.

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