Revelation on Labyrinthine Lane

I am trying to imagine what it would be like to drive from here to Edmonton, Alberta, and back by a labyrinthine route, here being my home on Bruce Peninsula, in extreme northwestern southwestern Ontario. I believe that the answer is: difficult. The Labyrinthine Travelling Experience,—if, that is, you follow the Cretan model,—requires you to lay out your route in a series of seven linked rings with your destination in the middle. You sojourn along one ring, then reverse direction onto the next one. Furthermore, you begin with the third ring, and proceed in a rigorously predetermined order: third, second, first, fourth, seventh, sixth, fifth, and into the centre. Then you sojourn back home in reverse order. The rings which you travelled in one direction going in, you follow in the opposite direction going out. Highway planners do not often think this way. Linearity is their watchword or, in many parts of this country, a severe kind of rectangularity dictated by the survey grid. You could, in fact, use the survey grid in farming country to lay out any number of labyrinthine drives, and it might be quite fun to do that.

My choice of Edmonton as a destination is not arbitrary. There live two of my offspring, their spouses, and their offspring, their mother, and many friends, the happy legacy of a previous life. It’s a bit of a hike,—some 3,500 kilometres,—and I don’t go there as often as I would like. I don’t go there at all by a labyrinthine route, assuming I could work one out. The idea is so silly I am not even sure why I am talking about it.

When it comes to the Bible, however, the idea is not silly at all, at least if we take up the scheme laid out by Professor Northrop Frye in his mind-expanding book, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature. There, in his chapter called Typology II, he lays out the the seven Phases of Revelation. I invite you to think of them as the seven rings of your labyrinth, as follows:

First Phase: Creation
Second Phase: Revolution
Third Phase: Law
Fourth Phase: Wisdom
Fifth Phase: Prophecy
Sixth Phase: Gospel
Seventh Phase: Apocalypse

These phases correspond naturally to specific books of the Bible, and can therefore be re-arranged in labyrinthine order without difficulty:

First Ring: Law
Second Ring: Revolution
Third Ring: Creation
Fourth Ring: Wisdom
Fifth Ring: Apocalypse
Sixth Ring: Gospel
Seventh Ring: Prophecy

Quite frankly, I think that arrangement makes a whole lot of sense, perhaps even more than the original. We begin with the laws and customs we inherit at birth. We revolt against them. We create something new, during which onerous process,—this is the longest ring,—we become susceptible to wisdom, leading in a brief, intuitive leap to a apocalypse,—this is the shortest ring,—revealing a gospel (‘good news’), which calls us to prophesy to the dry bones in order to wake them up. That sounds to me like a noble course for a life.

Two issues remain. First, what is the centre, the point at which we turn around and return whence we came, reversing the order of the rings? Is it perhaps the course that we must follow in order to realize the potentials unleashed by the awakening of the bones, beginning with a further round of prophesy and ending with a new environment of laws? Indeed that is possible, although note that, regardless of the wisdom gained along the way, we will require another revolution after the second creation before our laws become rightly formed.

Second, the way of the labyrinth requires us to change direction, or perspective, or line of thought, in some meaningful way from one ring to the next. Can we achieve that by switching between the right and left halves of our brains, assuming that brains do in fact work that way? Or could it mean alternating our ways of thinking, as in Professor Frye’s distinction between ‘rational thinking’ and ‘mythical-typological’ thinking, in order to cultivate our Both-And minds? Better that, certainly, than Either-Or.

PWC::January 15, 2020

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