Notre Dame

The classic cathedral begun in 1194, was mostly completed by 1220. 422' (130 m.) long, with a nave width of 16 m., 116' high under the vaults, it has a labyrinth whose length totals 294 m. The Royal Portals of the west front were carved in the 1140s. The west rose was finished in 1216, the south rose in 1227, the north rose in 1233 A.C.E.

If it were black, so much the better. It might seem puzzling or strange, the darkness in Chartres, but if you look up into the peaks from which are suspended the three roses, you will see why it is so. And why it is necessarily so. These "windows" are not wheels or even roses; they are stars and stars shine most visibly in the midnight sky. The use of the word "star" is not a euphemistic description. They are as real a star as the stars we view in the heavens.

Within the human-form-of-consciousness, are prototypes that participate in structuring the picture of both the inner and outer world. As the basic elements of the components-of- consciousness*, these prototypes are projected in order to compose all the various worlds. The components and their functions are the activity of Mind/Consciousness. Unfolding through all the levels of degrees in consciousness - innermost to outermost projection - a prototype forms a continuous stream. The stream is composed of a series of qualities which at a certain point become objectified, externalized as a "body". (This point is sometimes known as the birth into one of the worlds.) The stream in which the star symbol appears at a certain inner level is called the illumined/illuminating Being, and at a corresponding external level there is an object called a star; they are the same prototype at different levels of "development".

An archetype is an overview bridging a broad spectrum within the stream generated by a prototype; for instance, if the prototype is a circle the archetype is an arc-segment of the circle's total area. Symbols express the essential characteristics of an archetype, characteristics that refer and guide one back to the prototype and its ground, Voidness. Symbols are capable of activating recognition and understanding; first, because they arise from an intention to communicate the truth, and also because they are formulated from some degree of direct contact with unbroken consciousness. They are carefully constructed vehicles to carry the observer/experiencer through the unbroken stream of the prototypes. How far one flows in the stream depends on how conscious and voluntary the recognition of the symbol is.

Symbols/archetypes can be recognized by the effect they produce. Not defined by the psychology in any way, they are able to pass cleanly through it, to re-introduce the viewer to a state that is free of the interpretations of the psychology.

It is in this context that the rose windows of Chartres are known to be stars, stars of the inner qualitative world, corresponding to the stars of the external quantitative world. The collective being that created these star symbols thoroughly understood starness. (As examples: The north rose shows multiplicity that is conscious as a unified, single movement in which all relationships are uniformly connected to center and experienced as the expansion of one principle. The west rose illustrates that scales are analogies to the degrees-in- orderliness (the path of the prototype). The south rose is a specific state of ecstatic rapture achieved through a dynamic balancing of opposites, such as motion and fixed stability.) So many of the qualities of the prototype are incorporated into these symbols that the whole stream unfolds. The three windows are three interweaving layers of a single symbol. 

If the formulation of such a symbol seems "superhuman", so might be the whole of Chartres. It is not necessary that one individual was responsible for the symbol. Possibilities like this occur when a profound concentration is manifesting as a work force.

* Components of consciousness: motion, dimension, form, concept, feeling/ sensation, perception, form-of-consciousness. The last of these, form-of- consciousness, represents the specific ratio by which the components are balanced. It is the form of how being is conscious of formlessness.

Chartres Blue
Before getting into Chartres, the cathedral, a note on the famous Chartres blue. It's true, it is a unique color. Compared to the "denseness" of the blues seen elsewhere, it looks ethereal, as in not having so much substance in it. Often it doesn't look like glass at all but like melted star-sapphires, the interior of the glass is so luminous. Chartres-blue acts like a lightning-bolt, without the bolt. If you look straight at it, you won't see it. But turn your eye for an instant, and it will zap you. This mind's eye has a very funny image of a person reeling through Chartres in a sort of St. Vidas dance, zapped from every direction by the lovely light-ening of Chartres-blue.

Alone Among Its Peers

Every major gothic cathedral offers an important uniqueness, or development, or artifact of knowledge. Chartres has so many that it cannot help but stand out.

To begin with its beginning, the present cathedral was constructed during a time-span of 26 years. Without pertinent references, it is impossible to comprehend the significance of such a work effort. The periods of cathedral building run anywhere from 50-80 years, to 400 years. Cologne is still building; they say the world will end the day it is completed. Without going into historical details regarding how the labor was done and the tools that were available, we can appreciate these facts:

1. At the head of the project were people who had knowledge and knew how to get things done on every level, and they knew what they wished to do.

2. There must have been complete organization and co- operation in every department.

3. They could command whatever resources were necessary; whether it was material, brain-power, craft or labor. Actually it was the shrine itself (The Palace of the Virgin) that commanded it, and the whole of France responded. (For a translation of this moving story see Henry Adam's Mont St. Michel and Chartres, and John James's CHARTRES - The Masons who built a Legend.)

In the early 1100s, the activity, teachings and thought of both Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux had profoundly directed the current toward understanding the ultimate reality. Every major institute of learning had to face and assimilate what it could of their theological works. Abbot Suger's unique presence and aspirations influenced all gothic cathedral works for the first 90 years. At the time Chartres commenced the present cathedral (after the catastrophic fire of 1194 which left only the Royal Portals and the towers of the west facade intact) it had long been famous for the esoteric school in residence. At least a major part of the impulse and inspiration that formulated the work force at the head of Chartres came from what had been assimilated and established there. For example, Thierry of Chartres' work (neo-platonic) was well-known and valued. It was undoubtedly his influence that put the seven Greek philosophers on the portals, among the angels. Through Thierry's writings and that of his successors, we know that the knowledge which supplied them with the means to plan and erect a cathedral also supplied them with the reason to do so.

Pythagorean-Platonic-Euclidean geometry was a practical demonstration of the philosophy that the universe's plan is to bring all of itself to perfect completion. In building out a physical model of this plan, they knew what they were aiming for: that the space, to which all peoples of all levels of knowledge and understanding came, with their hopes and efforts toward salvation, would actively help in this direction; that the space would loosen the bonds of constriction and ignorance; that the space in its anagogical function would assist whatever transformation was possible for each individual and the group as a whole. 

This knowledge and its practical application provided the form for the cathedral and the reasoning behind it, as well as the foundation for the arts of glass, sculpture, the harmonic scales, and architecture. This is not to imply that the knowledge was responsible for the specific techniques (i.e., glass formulas and selection of stone), but that the finished forms appear as they do because of the principles they are trying to communicate.

Because this universal plan recognizes the vital contribution of every piece, it is understandable why cathedral schools that placed great importance on this schema developed their arts to high degrees of excellence. 



Darkness And Light

There has been so much written on and about Chartres cathedral that it almost seems as if that is one of the basic responses it evokes from human beings. The wish to know and comprehend its "mystery" has been the plague of many who have entered its unforgettable portals. And no matter how many pictures and descriptions one has seen and familiarized oneself with before actually entering the space, there really is no way to foresee what happens when one walks into Chartres for the first time. 

So let's begin with our "first time". It was a dark and overcast day in June when we arrived. The time was nearly 3:30 P.M. and we knew we couldn't take good photographs under such hanging skies. Passing by the statues on the west portal, we entered the dark lobby. From this darkness the door opened into an even vaster darkness. Now we'd seen dark cathedrals before. Rheims, with its murky gloom, was by far the darkest we'd been in. But this, this wasn't even darkness. It was the blue-black of space! How does one find the way of describing a forever-never-before experience? Chartres wasn't dark! It was Blue-black! What else can be said?!

There was nothing to compare it with. Not in terms of cathedrals. And from some recess came the recognition that this is the summit, the peak of all such work. No thinking, just some spontaneous impulse bubbling forth. Why this response? Simply because of what it does. And what does Chartres do?

For this observer/operator it did something that can't be truly appreciated until one does it... After having made a small circulation around the floor, and upon vision's first contact with the west rose, something very funny and extraordinary happened. "I woke up!" as the saying goes. As this account is being written, this non-temporal event is still fresh within the moment. 

We had seen hundreds of roses by now. And we knew how light ought to act in an enclosed space. But this wasn't "real" in the ordinary sense. How could the light be so bright and yet all the surrounding space be so dark? However this occurred, the immediate recognition of a depth beyond all deeps yet encountered in a cathedral, suddenly imaged into synchronous simulation of the coldness of interstellar space. This simulation accessed into the supercooled circuitry beyond the hot-to-trot bingo-brain mode of survival, penetrating directly into the "Realness" of the NOW of pre-birth module, "What Am I Doing Here?" The NOW being this, as the pre-birth module. How does a certain combination of geometry and light provide access into a transtemporal dimension?

In such a space, all phenomenal values become irrelevant. Ideas related to "payment" no longer apply. It is a gift without giver or receiver. So perhaps the only appropriate response is to wake up.





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