See other self-portraits

Reverend Lauren Artress
President and Founder
Veriditas, The Voice of the Labyrinth Movement
San Francisco, California, USA


What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?

To open the Divine Imagination in the individual and in groups

What is your personal experience of collective wisdom in groups?

My work is focused on evolving human consciousness through large group spiritual activity. The centerpiece is the eleven-circuit medieval labyrinth that was inlaid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France in 1201 and neglected for the last 250 years. The backbone is the integration of psyche and spirit through walking “the path” in one’s own natural rhythm. The winding labyrinth path then becomes a metaphor for the individual journey and the collective’s process.

We replicated the labyrinth form and placed it in Grace Cathedral San Francisco, to be used as walking meditation for individuals and groups. During our weekend conferences and workshops --- at home and one the road --- about fifty people walk, dance, crawl etc., the labyrinth as many times as they want. Through the use of ritual, music, candlelight, lecture, small group discussions, clay, mandala drawing, etc. I attempt to “wake up the old mind” (Margo Adler). From this work, the inner world and the outer world become “wedded” (Hildegard). The outer world begins to speak in metaphor and a spiritual perspective is gained. The symbolic world is ignited and the Divine Imagination opens.

What is it about the work in this field that excites you and connects you to your own deepest self?

I cannot name all that is happening with the labyrinth. However, I know that it is having a profound, yet invisible effect on the transformation of human consciousness both in the individual and the groups of people walking it together. The labyrinth--and Rupert Sheldrake agrees with me on this--is a stabilized morphic field. Some one may enter in grief, and find solace. Another may walk in with a question and find guidance. There is something sacred about the eleven-circuit labyrinth that heals and helps people realize their deepest longing and clearest intentions.

Please provide a brief storyline or written snapshot of what brought you to this work.

I have always been interested in the integration of psyche and spirit. I am fascinated as to how people, myself included, change their behavior, attitudes and values. After studying religious education at Princeton Theological Seminary, I eventually found my way to the Blanton-Peale Graduate Institute in New York to train as a Pastoral Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist. I maintained a private psychotherapeutic practice, supervised young therapists and was adjunct faculty in the Spiritual Direction Center at General Theological Seminary. Sensing my work needed to evolve, I worked with Jean Houston in her Mystey School in 1985. In 1986, I was asked to serve a Canon Pastor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Through a generous grant from Laurance S. Rockefeller, I set up a center called Quest, Grace Cathedral Center for Spiritual Wholeness. This programming was shaped around the four tenets to encourag psycho-spiritual growth: Creativity as A Spiritual Path, Balancing the Masculine and Feminine Principles, The Marriage of East and West, and the Rediscovery of the Mystical Tradition. These programs eventaully led me to the rediscovery of the labyrinth in 1991 when I returned to the Mystery School for one weekend.

The labyrinth is a magnet for spiritual seekers from all walks of life. We reproduced it on canvas, introduced it at Grace Catheddral twice a month and began traveling with it to introduce it to others. I have been working with Chartres Cathedral in France since 1995 through designing a program called Let Us Walk with Mary, which helps 300 participants to open to the Sacred Feminine.

In 1995 I set up Veriditas, the World-Wode Labyrinth Project, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit to support to encourage labyrinths to be placed in hospitals, churches, schools, spiritual centers, prisons, parks, play grounds, retirement centers, hotels and memorial parks. A second part of the mission is to teach its use as a spiritual tool.

My work has developed intuitively over the years. Walking the labyrinth is a spiritual exercise. My approach is to offer the labyrinth as a free and save space for personal exploration. There is no right way to walk a labyrinth. Using this guideline, the walker’s inner world becomes transparent to them. Dynamics not ordinarily recognized ---one’s relatioinship to rules, projections of judgment, impatience --- become crystallized into metaphor. The labyrinth is a place where the mind empties and one discovers interior silence. The path of the labyrinth becomes a metaphor for our spiritual lives. It is a safe container with clear boundaries.

I work quite a bit in the archetypal space of Cathedrals, so I use that setting, with candle light, rose petals and music to enhance mystery and beauty, for which many of us hunger. Walking the labyrinth is a profound meditation that differs each time one walks it.

Through walking the labyrinth, I teach a process that opens the Divine Imagination. This is based on family systems theory; psychdynamic group work based on the English school of object-relation theory. The work of symbolic fields has a Jungian base, since I am working with archetypes, symbol, shadow and encounters with collective unconscious. Transpersonal theory and methods of change is also woven into my lectures and the designing of each event.

Links to this site or others:

Veriditas - The voice of the labyrinth movement.

Interview with Lauren Artress

Audio about the Labyrinth

[ Back to Top ]