At the heart of the labyrinth

… let’s imagine a labyrinth without a central quid (neither monster nor treasure), so one that’s a-centric, which basically means a labyrinth without a final signified to discover … like a kind of mortal game, possibly with nothing at the center; here, again, the path would be equivalent to the goal — but only if you manage to get out … (Biblioklept, in Roland Barthes on the Labyrinth Metaphor).

The quid at the heart of the labyrinth — we have discovered — is emptiness. There is neither monster nor treasure. No, wait! that’s not true: both monster and treasure are to be found here. For we are the labyrinth and the quid … not only the possibility of slaying the monster but also the means of returning alive, and bringing the treasure out, too.

Lao Tzu’s well-known explanation is pertinent here: “Clay is moulded to form a cup, but it is on its non-being [its emptiness] that the utility of the cup depends.  Doors and windows are cut out to make a room, but it is on its non-being [its emptiness] that the utility of the room depends.” 

Similarly, the old Zen story in which the master keeps pouring tea into his guest’s cup … even after it is full and overflowing.

Fullness is a condition of no possibility; emptiness is open to every possibility.

It is worth noting that “[labyrinths] have historically been used both in group ritual and for private meditation” (

PS: How could I have forgotten to mention the treasure?


2 thoughts on “At the heart of the labyrinth

  1. fascinating, and good fun reading.
    when i use the word labyrinth, I always think of my young man’s meditation of it when I read Senor Borges (madly)
    I loved your including the Taoist lesson about
    non-being & emptiness being crucial
    in the “truenesses” of our “real”

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