The remarkable glass of Chartres owes its reputation to the way in which it was used, as much as to the uniqueness and quality of the colors. The purity of the ingredients were acclaimed throughout Europe, but the formula that balanced the proportions, manifested and then vanished. This refers especially to the three Romanesque windows of the west, which only have a match in depth of brilliance to the eastern apsidal windows of St. Denis. The same master after having finished the windows for St. Denis probably immediately began work at Chartres. The vibrational signature is so clear that there can be no mistake about who created them. Along with St. Denis, the cathedrals of Paris, Bourges, Soissons, Rouen, Auxerre, Lyon, Laon and Canterbury have greater or lesser quantities of this purity and quality of glass remaining. Chartres alone has managed to preserve its glass nearly intact.
The results of what the glaziers did with their mysterious glass remains with us today. The windows tell us that excellence travels a path made of loving care and infinite patience toward the work. Using very small pieces, the glaziers built up a delicate web of patterns that supported an idea appearing in the sphere of a medallion. (The pieces of glass in windows from the 1400s onward compare to these like rocks to sand.)
The short time-span in which the work was finished speaks of a continuously sustained enthusiasm. The effect of the glass on the viewer points to the knowledge used by the artisans to order and balance colors and designs.
This is also the case with the sculptors. Instead of using color and pattern to "tune up" the emotional center, they used facial expressions and physical postures to evoke higher feelings in the viewer.
Chartres is a valuable teaching aid for pointing out how the conscious-doing-intention behind a piece of art contributes to the effect it produces. (Even though all artists have some kind of intention behind their art-forms, it is not always perceivable by the viewer; and neither does the artist know in advance how it will influence the viewer.) If we look around the gothic porches of France, we will see that they are usually filled with stiff statues wearing stern or blank faces. The figures at Chartres are relaxed and open, transmitting a majestic serenity. They beckon one with friendliness and hospitality; they move and they contemplate other dimensions. They demonstrate alternatives and knowledge. If the intention is to help a person cast off the burden of ill-feelings, thereby helping him/her to open into the joy of communion, everything about the statue and its grouping must encourage that.
Sculpting devoted to such an aim can be seen at cathedrals other than Chartres. St. Denis set the precedent for the organization of the porch. It is very likely that the same sculptors worked at both sites. Works of similar focus appear at Senlis and Laon. Another order of it developed at Amiens where the emphasis shifted from individual pieces to the impact of the collected works. It is known that the freemasons and companions travelled all over Europe. There were obvious consultations between one cathedral school and another. Their open attitude toward each other and the work at hand made possible the development in conceptual designs which extended the techniques of the high gothic styles....
Thus, there can be no queston about the intensity and the quality of the work done at Chartres, but what is Chartres itself? Even if one had not been there, had only read the accounts, one might still unravel its mystery. There are many factors to work with. The dominating color is the blue of space. Chartres has a labyrinth. If the west rose could be hinged down, it would fit right over this labyrinth. Both the labyrinth and stars pertain to space, specifically orientation in space. The three roses are symbols of starness.
But the most significant indicator is an auditory response to the space of Chartres. The auditory response is a question: "What am I doing here?" It was the only question that was heard from the people passing through; and it was heard many times. What is being suggested here is that Chartres is an archetype for evoking that question at a profound level.
If you suddenly found yourself deep in space, surrounded by stars, standing in a labyrinth, what would you ask?
Our guide gave us an opportunity to visit another place out-of-time: the "city" on top of Chartres. As a model of the world-picture, the cathedral can be called "the world". Outside, above the eastern portion, there is a real city with streets and "houses" and functional architectural art. The city has been visited before, many times. The meditation chambers that rest on the peaks of the eastern chapels still hold the soot of thousands of burned candles. This city corresponds to the ideal world of the Greek archetypes, wherein dwell the perfect solids, numbers and geometry. Any person is welcome to visit (if one can get hold of a key), but there are no residents. The geometrical forms, singularly and collectively, are breath- taking and completely impersonal. They embody functions that precipitate into the world below as the means of structure.
It appears that the builders of Chartres spared no effort in order that every detail of the cathedral be a most worthy sanctuary of Sourceless Initiation. From the top of the towers, to the elegant attic, to the usable chambers that run between the roof and vaults, to the cathedral proper, to the ancient and largest crypt in France, every aspect of this singularly monumental work has had the same consistently conscious effort put into it. It's as if everyone involved was prepared to have the great transformation occur at any point within the cathedral; every place was looked upon as the sanctuary. Which in fact is as it truly is and should be.
There is now clear and consistent evidence that a school of knowledge was instrumental in building the major early cathedrals. This school was not the temporal Catholic church. However, members of the school were connected to the various branches of the church, as well as to the freemasons and the glaziers. Through whatever work they did, their aim was singular: to bring about a transformation in man in order that humanity might fulfill its cosmic obligations. Of course this would refer to a theory, a belief, knowledge, etc., of how and why this should be done, adapted to the specific time and mind-set of the culture.
This aim of transformation has surfaced throughout known history. Sometimes in fragments, sometimes almost intact, the branches of what appears to be ONE very ancient source are traceable at least to Sumer via the Babylonian, Egyptian, Mohenjo-Daro, Hebrew, Persian, Minoan, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Druidic, Christian, Islamic and Sufi traditions of the Old World, while the thread surfaces in the New World teachings of the Olmec, Mayan, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Tajin, Nahua, Nazca, Inca, Archaic, Anasazi, Pueblo lineages, as well as with certain Shamanic free-agents such as Nezahualcoyotl. Probably every culture that eventually found itself in earnest quest to realize humanity's essential nature has come to face this aim. It is not so much the knowledge that is contained within a school that is significant, but the way in which the knowledge is applied. Conscience, in the most cosmic and transcendental sense, will always be indelibly stamped upon the work of any real school. A real school is always at a point of essential necessity.