The mansion turned retreat house was originally the estate of Nicholas Frederic Brady and Genevieve Brady. Mr. Brady was incredibly wealthy. Raised a Protestant, he converted to Catholicism. He was Chairman of the board of directors of New York Edison Co. and a director of Anaconda Copper Mining Co., Westinghouse Electric, National City Bank, Union Carbide, and numerous other companies in the United States and Japan whose activities were primarily in utilities. Brady married Genevieve Garvan, a Catholic as devout as he was, who held many Church honors, including being a Dame of the Order of Malta, Dame of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, holder of the papal Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, and a Vice-President of the Welfare Council of New York.
Nicholas Brady was ennobled by Pope Pius XI and created a Papal Duke (ad personam, or non-hereditary) while Genevieve was created a papal duchess in her own right. The couple was unable to have children, and chose not to adopt. While living in a posh luxury apartment on New York City's Fifth Avenue, they purchased 33 square acres of land in Manhasset and had their mansion built in the middle. It was completed in 1920 for $2 million dollars (adjusted for inflation that's approximately $31 million in 2023). The couple hosted many notable clerics. In 1930, Nicholas Brady died, and Mrs. Brady continued hosting clerics, most notably Eugene Cardinal Paccelli in 1936. Three years later, the good Cardinal would become Pope Pius XII. When she died in 1938, she gave her home to the Jesuits who first used it as a seminary, and in 1963 (as the Robber Council was underway) made it into a retreat center for those wanting to practice the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. (See, e.g., web.archive.org/web/20110714034237/http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,930896,00.html)
The place is so large, when I entered, one of the office workers gave me a map. You could probably fit about seven NYC homes inside; I couldn't fathom only two people living there. I smiled as I came upon a glass case inside of which was a zucchetto worn and gifted to Mrs. Brady by Cardinal Pacelli. It was the one and only Catholic item I would find there. Even with the map, I couldn't seem to find my client's room, so I asked a man whom I thought, by dress and appearance to be the janitor, for help. He introduced himself to me as one of the Jesuit "priests." I told him who I was and why I was there. He told me to wait there and he would bring my client down. "Right here is the prayer and meditation room," he said while pointing to the room next to us. "You can wait there if you like."
When I opened the door, I saw about 10 members of the Vatican II sect sitting in the lotus position on a mat, and staring reverently at a large statue of the Buddha (so much for the Spiritual Exercises). I got out at once, and met my client in the hallway. When we were done, he asked me what I thought of the place. "The architecture is beautiful, but it's now a place for literal pagans to stare at the Buddha." He responded, "Vatican II opened up the windows to let old ideas like a 'One True Church' out! Go out in the garden out back and walk in the Labyrinth. It teaches you all paths lead to God! I have to run now; 'mass' is going to begin in the Chapel." I said goodbye and decided to look at this "labyrinth."
I saw a large, convoluted path etched out on the ground and lined by stones. There were several men walking around in circles, saying nothing and looking like lobotomized mental patients with far-off stares. It creeped me out and I left to go back to my office. That was my first encounter with the pagan and occult "labyrinth" that continues to be used today, and is seeing a resurgence in popularity. (St. Ignatius Retreat House was sold by the Jesuits in 2013 for $36.5 million dollars. The mansion was demolished and the land used by developers. Despite Jesuit claims that they had a "new vision to share the [non-existent] Exercises," they needed the money to pay court costs and settlements for 50 members of their order accused of sexual abuse in the NY area---Introibo).
In this post, I will explain the meaning and dangers of the labyrinth.
(I have consulted numerous sources in my research regarding labyrinths; both online and books. In addition to those specifically cited herein, I wish to give attribution to Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice , by Lauren Artress, Exploring the Labyrinth: A Guide for Healing and Spiritual Growth , by Melissa Gayle West, and Walking the Labyrinth: A Place to Pray and Seek God , by Travis Scholl. I take no credit except for putting the information into a concise and readable post---Introibo).
What are Labyrinths?
A labyrinth is a flat circle or square consisting of a path that winds round to the center (not to be confused with a maze, which is enclosed). In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was the name for the maze-like enclosure for the half-man, half-bull Minotaur. According to one source:
A labyrinth is a meandering path, often unicursal, with a singular path leading to a center. Labyrinths are an ancient archetype dating back 4,000 years or more, used symbolically, as a walking meditation, choreographed dance, or site of rituals and ceremony, among other things. Labyrinths are tools for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation, also thought to enhance right-brain activity. Labyrinths evoke metaphor, sacred geometry, spiritual pilgrimage, religious practice, mindfulness, environmental art, and community building.
Labyrinths are named by type and can be further identified by their number of circuits. Counting from the center, the drawing at right illustrates a seven circuit design. You begin a labyrinth walk at the entrance and proceed along the path. Lines define the path and often maintain a consistent width, even around the turns. Generally at the center you have travelled half the distance, where it is common to pause, turn around, and walk back out again. (See https://labyrinthsociety.org/about-labyrinths/).
The same source relates:
How are they used? People walk the labyrinth for many reasons. Some do it to relax, some as a walking meditation, some just for fun. There are benefits to walking a labyrinth...
Aren't they strictly some sort of New Age phenomenon? No. Labyrinths are ancient. The labyrinth was a central feature in many of the European Roman Catholic churches in the middle ages and many of these still exist today. The most famous of these remaining labyrinths is at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. The labyrinth at Chartres was built around 1200. It was walked as a pilgrimage and/or for repentance. As a pilgrimage, it was a journey to become closer to God. When used for repentance, the pilgrims would walk on their knees. Sometimes this eleven-circuit labyrinth would serve as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The cross is at the center of the pattern of the labyrinth and is used in the construction as a guide. Even today, churches with labyrinths encourage people to walk the labyrinth during Lent and Advent. (Ibid).
The Vatican II sect Jesuits employ this connection to Catholic use, in justifying bringing labyrinths into retreats, and "new" (occult) "spirituality." After the Crusades, the labyrinth remained unused by Catholics and was never meant to be a permanent feature of Catholic devotion such as the Rosary, and much less a replacement for these devotions. Those who push labyrinths will say things like:
Labyrinths have been found all over the world dating from the earliest antiquity. Their origins are lost in the mists of time.(Ibid). They have been found in many places dating back centuries. However, they have occult origins that have been brought back in the wake of Vatican II.
The "Labyrinth Effect"
There is research (ongoing) which has disturbing findings about the effects of mindless walking about a labyrinth. According to K.J. Danielson, in his research paper The Transformative Power of the Labyrinth he reports:
I found through my research that the labyrinth does indeed have unique transformative power. Its transforming energy is thought to come from its design based on the ancient science of sacred geometry. Walking the winding path creates a calming meditative state that opens one up to one’s intuitive, non-rational, creative nature, and allows for a shift in consciousness. My relationship with the labyrinth deepened throughout my journey over the past year. Over the time of my work with the labyrinth, I have experienced greater awareness, more focus, and a deeper connection with my spirituality. (Emphasis mine).
The nonsense about occult "sacred geometry" aside, "a shift in consciousness" can be induced by pagan meditation while walking in a winding path, causing a hypnotic state, which in turn can open a person up to demonic influences. Kathy Doore, an author on "sacred spaces," freely describes the spiritual implications of the labyrinth:
Labyrinths are temples that enhance and balance and bring a sense of the sacred—a place where we can confirm our unity with the cosmos, awaken our vital force and elevate our consciousness. These structures are space/time temples where we can behold realities that oddly enough transcend space and time. The orientation, form and geometry of a labyrinth has symbolic as well as spacial [sic] importance. It is a mirror for the divine, a place to behold the beauty in nature.
Spiraling inward and out, this serpentine flow is the most generative form of subtle energy. The process of moving through the pathway unwinds this stored energy, releasing, magnifying, and ultimately harnessing the flow. Working directly in conjunction with the human energy fields this spiraling flow interacts with the kundalini energy coiled at the base of our spine converting the subtle energy into life force itself. This uncoiling of the kundalini vitalizes us through a process of unfolding both upwards and inwards, an exhalation and ingathering of energies known as the dance of creation.
Labyrinths are known as sacred gateways and have been found at the entrance of ancient sites around the world. Often located at the center of subtle ‘earth energies’ these temples enhance, balance, regenerate and confirm our unity with the cosmos. A type of Labyrinth known as a Yantra was used as a meditation by Hindu midwives to assist in childbirth and served as a means of relaxation for the birth canal, another labyrinthine form. (See labyrinthina.net/labyrinths-myth-history.html; Emphasis mine). This is pure pagan pantheism being practiced. Hindus used labyrinths for centuries; hence the first labyrinths were of pagan/occult origin.
Even a secular health website admits walking the labyrinth induces "active meditation" of the same type used in pagan yoga:
Walking a labyrinth is a form of active meditation which is unique from meditation while standing still, sitting, or lying down. Active meditation provides many benefits, and labyrinth walking is a unique spiritual experience. Learn more about labyrinth walking meditation and its potential benefits.
(See verywellfit.com/walking-the-labyrinth-3435825; Emphasis mine). The link on active meditation states:
To lasso our ever-wandering minds to the present, mindfulness incorporates behaviors like focusing on breathing, paying attention to our thoughts, withholding judgment, and having compassion for ourselves and others. Activities like yoga and meditation often help place us in this state of mindful awareness. (See verywellfit.com/how-mindfulness-can-help-you-achieve-nutrition-and-fitness-goals-6825952; Emphasis mine).
The message of the labyrinth is clear. It is pagan and pantheistic. There is no One True Church because "you are god," part of the Divine. The person who revived this practice (quickly picked up by the Vatican II sect) was an Episcopalian "priestess," who will be the subject of the next section.
Lauren Artress: Occult Priestess
It is actually Dr. Jean Houston, who is ground zero for the labyrinth movement, who was listed on the Internet as one of the 10 top New Age speakers in North America. The inside cover of Jean Houston’s 1997 book A Passion for the Possible describes herself as ‘considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest teachers…’ Houston teaches her students in her "Mystery School" how to speak in occult glossolalia [speaking in tongues]. She encourages her participants to "begin describing your impressions in glossolalia" and even to "…write a poem in glossolalia." (See Huston, GodSeed: the Journey of Christ, , pgs. 50-51). Blasphemously, Houston talks of Christ as being an occult Savior, not the Incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
As a past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, Houston makes use of her doctorate in Philosophy of Religion to gain access to areas where most occultists can’t go. For example, as noted widely in media a number of years ago, she became a consultant to Hillary Clinton, helping her to "channel" the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt. (See Bob Woodward in ‘The Choice’; The Providence Journal Bulletin, Tuesday, 6/25/96, A3). Houston also calls the labyrinth "The Dromenon"--a word from Greek paganism meaning "the thing enacted." In Houston's own words, “The Dromenon is a soul-driven geometry; it brings a new meaning to sacred geometry. It carries us into realms of awakening that we did not know existed and restores the imagination.”
At Houston's "Mystery School," people would pay almost $4,000 each to attend for nine weekends and learn Houston's occult teachings; the labyrinth being foremost among them. "Rev." Lauren Artress (sometimes referred to as "Canon Artress") from Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church brought the Labyrinth back to her Cathedral after experiencing the Labyrinth at Jean Houston’s Mystery School. Artress notes that she was hardly prepared for the force of my own reaction. As soon as I set foot into the labyrinth I was overcome with an almost violent anxiety. Some part of me seemed to know that in this ancient and mysterious archetype, I was encountering something that would change the course of my life. (See Artress, Walking A Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice , pg. 8).
One of the stated purposes of the Labyrinth is to connect us to the "mother goddess," of which the labyrinth is a symbol. Also in her book Walking A Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, Canon Artress states that “The labyrinth is a large, complex spiral circle which is an ancient symbol for the divine mother, the God within, the goddess, the holy in all creation.” Artress says that “You walk to the center of the labyrinth and there at the center, you meet the Divine.” You meet yourself--the "divine within" and commune with "Mother Goddess."
On the website of Grace Cathedral, Artress states the three "Stages of the Walk:"
Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has just one path, so there are no tricks to it and no dead ends. It is a two-way path, so you may meet others coming or going on the path. The are three main stages of the walk:
A releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions. A time to open the heart and quiet the mind.
When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.
As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in, you enter the third stage, which is joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work for which you feel your soul is reaching.(See gracecathedral.org/our-labyrinths).
People are told that the labyrinth is a tool useful to people of all religions or no religion. Each person's walk can be interpreted differently each time to the same individual. From some of the quotes I have read one can assume life is one big labyrinth. This experiential walk is spiritualized to have meaning. “We are not human beings on a spiritual path, but spiritual beings on a human path” (Artress).
Labyrinths are being used for reflection, meditation, prayer with various interpretations of what these mean. Some see it as a metaphor of the path of life, a journeying to God. Some ask forgiveness on the way in and empowerment on the way out. The participant can ascribe their own spiritual meaning to this ritual walk, the theory is that by walking the labyrinth one partakes of a spiritual journey of self -examination and enlightenment. What happens to everyone may not all be the same, but many claim to receive a spiritual transformation. Artress tells us: “The space and the experience of walking it become powerful and help one feel a greater sense of Oneness. It is a tool for people of all beliefs to come together for a common spiritual experience.” From the occult outlook, people are told these are "sacred places." There is allegedly power incorporated in the design. The Labyrinth “Is truly a tool for transformation, a crucible for change, a blueprint for the sacred meeting of the psyche and the soul, a field of light, a cosmic dance, it is a center for empowering ritual.” (Artress).
The Labyrinth: The Wrong Path
As you can see, the labyrinth is being used by occultists to spread their false doctrines in Churches. Here is a summary of the major problems:
1. It promotes pagan meditation and can induce a hypnotic trance-like state to become "One" with the universe or "Mother Goddess." It is therefore occult and opens a person to demonic possession.
On June 23, 1840 under Pope Gregory XVI, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office decreed the following regarding hypnotic states:
Excluding all error, and excluding fortune-telling and the invocation of demons, whether explicit or implicit, the use of magnetism [as hypnosis was the called], namely the mere act of using physical means otherwise permissible, is not prohibited on moral grounds, provided it does not lead to an end that is illicit or improper in any manner.
Even those who do not get to such altered states, have unwittingly opened themselves up to a decidedly pagan worldview and possible demon possession. The idea of being "divine" is the opposite of Christianity which tells us we are sinners in need of Redemption by the God-Man Jesus Christ.
2. Indifferentism (the idea that "one religion is as good as another") is promoted.
The labyrinth is publicized as a spiritual tool, not just for Christians, but also for anyone who is seeking a spiritual experience, or even just as a tool for self-reflection. The labyrinth gives many the misleading impression that one can be close to God without Christ and His One True Church.
3. The idea of religion as "experience" and "feelings" is imbued. This is pure Modernism.
- Seeking to evoke an experience often can bring one on. This may create an appetite for more experiences because people can feel good doing it. Then it induces not only a desire for more experiences, but also a sense that one must experience or feel something in order to believe one is genuinely in relationship with God.
- Seeking an experience is self-oriented, not God-oriented. Walking a labyrinth automatically sets up an expectation that something special should happen. Disappointment results if there is no feeling or experience.
- Experiences and feelings can be deceptive. Even if walking a labyrinth gives a powerful experience, it does not mean it is from God or that the person actually is closer to God. Experiences and feelings are not the measure of truth. It can lead a non-Christian into believing they have encountered God when they haven’t. In fact, there is nothing about walking a labyrinth that prevents one from having a counterfeit spiritual experience, even for a Traditionalist. Feeling “close” to God is not the way to gauge our relationship with Him.
- Labyrinths have been used at Vatican II sect youth group rallies and retreats, thus possibly leading teens to believe that feelings indicate contact with God.
The Labyrinth Walk is an occult practice that has used the pretense of "use in the Middle Ages by Christians" to deceive people into thinking it is a legitimate form of Christian prayer. The Modernists have been successful introducing it into the Vatican II sect by means of retreats, and even outside some Churches. Walking meditation and stopping to quiet oneself is not promoting prayer. Not all that is claimed to be spiritual, is good or from God. Do we now need experiential prayer elements? Traditionalist Catholics have a different path to follow: "How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!" (St. Matthew 7:14).