The Other Labyrinth (New Harmony II)

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New Harmony has an interesting history. If was founded by a religious group, the Harmonists, in 1814, and sold in its entirety to Robert Owen and William Maclure in 1825, who created an experimental community, offering a public school and library. While this community project failed, many people stayed on, and new and old traces of the traditions are still visible in this town.

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The Harmonists were fond of labyrinths for spiritual enrichment. The original version is gone, but there is a replica from 1939 that one can walk.

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There also is a marble floor plan of a more complex labyrinth. In its reflection, a third labyrinth becomes visible: The Athenaeum, designed by the architect Richard Meier. It is a labyrinth both in its interior and exterior.

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The term labyrinth is sometimes used specifically for the unicursal mazes used for meditation. The mythical purpose of the labyrinth was, however, to contain the Minotaur, and I don’t think a unicursal labyrinth would have helped.

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In the third volume of Julia Golding’s remarkable Companion Quartet, the author adds a twist to the labyrinth metaphor: Connie, the hero, has special abilities, she can bond with mythical animals. When evil forces (required ingredient in most children’s books) threaten to invade the maze of her mind, she makes a Minotaur to its sentinel. 

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In the fourth book, she faces the ultimate evil against which she cannot win, by definition. Her solution is mind bending: She lets it inside her labyrinth and makes it part of herself, becoming a new person.

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On top of  Richard Meier’s amazing building is a narrow bridge like passage, connecting the stairs that lead to the outside labyrinth with the winding stairs that lead inside.

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