The illustrations and some of the ideas about the symbols have been published
in a guide to  La Basilique de St. Quentin (1983) by M. Bernard Delaire. The 
present authors are indebted to M. Delaire for his guidance.

Le Basilique de St. Quentin was begun in 1195; its completion took 300 years. The church has high rayonnant elevation with double transepts.

Unlike Noyon and Soissons that maintained the same type of gothic line throughout their periods of construction, St. Quentin's construction changes with the times. It contains primitive, classic, rayonnant, flamboyant styles. Nevertheless, it is not only one of the early gothic structures, it is also an archetypal gothic in that it incorporates the symbols which point to its function and aim.

Not very much of this is left in France, because as portions of those structures which displayed the symbols were reconstructed or replaced, the symbol was torn out or re- installed incorrectly. Unfortunately, the clergy had developed a suspicious mind toward the symbols and the practical use of them. The increasing fanaticism and autocracy in the church is not hard to trace.

St. Quentin escaped this willful destruction. Such value was placed on the original that, for instance, when the new flooring was laid in the sanctuary sometime in the 1300s, the original floor was transferred up to St. Michael's Chapel.

All gothic cathedrals actively use the function of orientation. One of the four major spaces is termed the nave, the Latin root of which means to navigate. (The other three are the transepts, choir/chancel, and apse.) Orientation's root is orient, east, symbolic position of the goal of the work of the cathedral. The east is the symbolic place of the source and emanation-point of all light, and thus life itself... as perceived via the senses. Sensory orientation, identifying one's locality through the nervous system, mind, body and emotions, requires four reference points as demonstrated by the magnetic compass. To operate self-referentially the senses need space-time, and the four-pointed axis of space-time. (This attribution of 4- pointedness may be a direct indication of the qualities in the senses themselves.) The senses of smell, taste, hearing and sight all verify one another in that they reinforce personal survival impulses. Through sensing in a non-personal way it is possible to bypass these programs and connect into real feeling which is the expansive consciousness of being universal (using this faculty). Real feeling flows into real concentration and the co-emergent activity of compassion, which is void.

A cultural-mind's representation of the four directions indicates the orientation of the culture. How any "mind" (Christian, Moslem, Indian, Buddhist, Aboriginal, Scientific, etc.) may formulate a view of reality could simply be based on how these "minds" have oriented to east/west-north/south in terms of up/down-left/right or whatever the correspondence may be. This cultural orientation is statistically applicable to probabilities within the context of large sets, but not necessarily applicable to individual possibilities. 

In our modern world where orientation is only a passing reference flung about by high-tech psychology in the interest of re-inforcing success-oriented programming, it is difficult to grok the profound significance that this necessary life-function had for medieval man. In a time when maps were a precious rarity, a well developed sense of direction was the only guide through the wild forests of Europe. When the theologian- philosophers saw the analogy between this practical life- maintaining function and the orientation that can save a soul, they converted orientation into a teaching aid which was readily understandable to everyday people. St. Quentin's uniqueness is that it is an archetype for orientation. "Orientation" should be understood as the real reason or ground for one's being, whether or not it complies with any established views of orientation. It is not only one's individual destiny, but also the fulfillment of all possibilities in the most all- encompassing way.

Beginning at the entrance, which was originally the great western portal: The specific carvings that appear on any of the porches serve as a focus for instruction, concentrating attention on the non-phenomenal. The message of the portal is that one leaves the material concerns outside in the material world. Over this portal is a masque which is exhaling forms of linked semi-circles. The masque is symbolic of the artificial, the world of illusory appearances; and the phenomena it perpetuates are the endless chains of half-truths, partially conscious views of reality posing as a totality.

Beyond the portal, between the floor and the organ loft (which is not part of the original structure) is the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel. This space is dedicated to his aspect as guardian of sacred spaces. (There are very few such chapels remaining in France.) Here one can drop all one's mistrust about being disrupted during one's inner work. Another way of stating the experience is that one should come to such a "space" within one where the influences and reverberations of the psyche/masque cannot cause any disruption. Having passed through this state one proceeds to the seven-pointed Star of Entry. 

The cathedral plan is in fact a progression, both linearly (from west to east) and vertically (ascending the levels).

According to the Christian cosmology of those times, TWO is the number of generic man through the polarizing filters of male and female genders; but SEVEN is the number of perfected man. By placing the star within a square, symbol for the finite (the illusory fixation on the flow of form in time), this composite form refers to humanity's work of infinitizing and transcending all available orders of limitation. Seven is the SEED for the rest of the cathedral, which unfolds and blooms as the progression takes place.

Within the star is a large circle, the sun symbol. All cathedrals are sun temples dedicated to the "east". The sun symbolizes the sustenance of life, etc., and functions as the center for this world's solar system. However, it is not the cosmic center; this center is indicated by a disk in the center of the sun. Here is seen a series of centers for centers, the final state being summed up in the word Universe, which translates into "turning to one."

In abstract ideas there issues the following simplified extrapolation: Around a singularity revolves the entire universe of which we are humanly conscious. The farthest- reaching representation that we can symbolize relates to its function as the omni-present cosmic center which serves as a focus for all symbols that would be analogous to our sun's role as the sustainer-of-organic life. In turn, these symbols serve as the focus for the purpose of man's life on earth which is represented as having seven simultaneous aspects which illuminate the finite. The seventh point refers to the "irrationality" of turning the finite into the infinite, and vice- versa, through being/doing zero.

As one progresses on into the nave, one meets the labyrinth of the New Jerusalem. The term, the New Jerusalem, is a grand and specific title for the cathedral. Even in physical appearance the cathedral was required to be so resplendent as to remind one of the New Jerusalem. Of course the term was also symbolic. In general one's work within the cathedral was the building of the New Jerusalem, the body of direct consciousness of the "divine", and this applied specifically to the labyrinth.

First, the background on the labyrinth as it could be used by anyone. In medieval times, when pilgrimage was still part of Christian life, it was the Christian's desire to go to Jerusalem, in the same way it is for Moslems to go to Mecca. But if a person could not afford either the time or money to go, this labyrinth would accomplish the same purpose. People wishing to use the labyrinth as a pilgrimage, did so on their knees, moving along its path, praying fervently. The time it takes to complete the diagram is two hours; the reputed time it took for Christ to carry the cross to Calvary. It is known as the Way of Patience, and unlike most other symbols in the cathedral was actually used and practised by the parishioners.

Only two other cathedrals in France have these diagrams correctly, Chartres and Amiens. Unfortunately when the floor in Amiens was re-installed with new stone, the labyrinth was incorrectly moved farther up the nave. This is critical because in actual practise, if a person did not feel that she/he could penetrate the interior of the space any further than the labyrinth, she/he did not proceed past it. This indicated that the cathedral was no longer an inanimate "thing" but was now a living, breathing being, a guide and reflector of one's actual being conscious in reality. To make use of the cathedral as one's work-partner meant that it truly became a sacred space in the most exacting and intimate sense. In this way it actually became the blue-print for the divine body that one was consciously constructing out of one's being communion with the entirety of the work which the cathedral and one's efforts symbolized. When "both partners" co-emerge unoriginatedness the work is complete. The real sense of the word implied by "Tantra".

The labyrinth is in the form of an octagon, and many of the symbols are based on the number EIGHT. To the medieval church, eight was the number of progression, the basic situation in the cathedral: the progression from darkness (ignorance) into light (illumination). This was restated by the form of the baptismal font, typically eight-sided.

The diagram ITSELF is a simulation of the typical human situation.The lines of the graph show that sometimes life looks twisted; there are many complex turns one after the other, difficulty in seeing where one has been and where one is going. Sometimes the road is straight and broad with a long-range viewpoint. Sometimes close to the center, sometimes on the edge.

The maze is a surprise. (Perhaps what is meant by the word a- maze-ment!) Just looking at it and considering the importance of the center, the Point of Illumination/Enlightenment/Awakening, one might think that one works first around the edges and slowly approaches center. That's logical. Walk the labyrinth and find what happens.

The church's excommunication of gnostic knowledge, including the processes of incarnation, did not squelch either its transmission nor the activation of the processes by initiates. (Until the Nicene Council, the doctrine and inner practices of reincarnation were in active use in certain communities.)

To the "divines" as they were called (a person able to meditate on the divine mysteries) the labyrinth was the Thread-of- being taken as the event between one birth and death, and also a series of these events comprehended as one lifetime. The initiate looks at the first step into the maze as incarnation. During the passage of the labyrinth, one applies intense self-remembering or self-re-collecting meditations. In this process one's negative blocks, attitudes, and emotional states are triggered. The idea is to dissolve these, to transform them, even if that requires many trips through the maze. If one cannot go past a certain point in the maze, this means that one is at an actual block in one's life that has to be recognized and transformed before any further progress can be made. Upon reaching the center there is a symbolic dying to the world (which is more real than dying "in" the world), the ending of all obscuration and occlusion towards illumination. In this illumination one sees one's karma, re-collects one's life work, becomes synonymous with one's dharma, Truth.

During "close approaches" to this central chamber one may experience partial illuminations whereafter there may be ejections back into various sections of the labyrinth. These passages through states of fluctuation and uncertainty are due to the identifications and attachments to limitation that the being is still carrying. When all attraction/repulsion is brought into neutral equivalence, being is irrevocably drawn to the center. If one is able to endure the scale of eternity represented by the ratio of the totality-of-one's-knowledge-of- the-world to the totality-of-one's-being-in-the-world, and if this is realized to be Void, there is a simultaneous expansion/contraction from center to circumference/circumference to center, in which both aspects absorb one another. 

In this chamber one lives a new form of consciousness which is formless. The central chamber represents the Void of the Unborn, the Pre-birth Module in which it is possible to be conscious without becoming entangled in the apparencies of birth/sex/death/transit. This is the "seed-bed" in which the Tree of Co-emergence is nurtured.

Now begins a new life. One appears to pass beyond the labyrinth into an area of a rectangle of specific proportions; the Greeks called it the golden mean, the golden door. It is symbolized by a uniform pattern of black and white diamonds. The golden section, the unmoving flow of equilibrium, is the conscious effect perceived during the expansion/contraction in the central chamber. It is the nature of the labyrinth to spontaneously dissolve itself. Like a magic spell it vanishes without ever having existed. Since this could not be shown as a spacial superimposition, the golden door had to constructed as a sequential aspect to the labyrinth. Once this recognition of moving stillness is completed, one "finds" oneself spontaneously transferred to the center of the next symbol. Convenient, eh?

At the grand transept is the Octave of the Omnidirectional Emptiness, as symbolized by the gigantic and complex sixteen-pointed star set within an octagon, at the cross-roads. For the first time the journey is intercepted by a great crossing. Having passed through the labyrinth of phenomenal "otherness", the essence encounters the deep essential habits toward unconsciousness, habits that eventually lead into involuntary rebirth. The phenomenal is the identification with change or transitoriness. The non-phenomenal is the identification with sameness, non-change, eternalness. If one can stabilize consciousness within the heart center represented by this symbol of radiance, it is possible to translate directly to the great void of voids. This translation possibility is indicated by the great keystone of the central vault which is suspended above the center of the transept star, and through which a line can be passed from the floor to the keystone to the intersected tip of the spire, symbolizing the zenith, the passing beyond all infinities.

The four immense arches of the central vault that join all the parts of the cathedral, are like four ventricles or transforming chambers which merge into a unified fifth central opening. Through this area circulate the winds or "breaths" of the four quarters corresponding to the four "humors" or "types" of humanity as a physical-emotional-thinking-essence. If these are rhythmically harmonized with one another, they can reach a state of equilibrium which allows them to blend with the all-pervasive breath of inspiration which flows into the innate light of that which is beyond all presence or absence. This merging takes place at the central heart of hearts symbolized by the star/keystone/spire.

The force enabling one to bring about this harmonization of higher breathing is represented by the fusing illumination coming from the north, south, west and east rose windows (of which only Laon cathedral has a complete set). If the architecture, light and dimensions of the cathedral are exactly tuned, this fusion of light and geometry acts as a superamplifier which spontaneously brings consciousness to a state of stabilized wakeful, ecstatic equilibrium, which is the natural state of the human. 

However... if there are any residual habits persisting toward existing in any non-phenomenal sameness, one works in the corresponding domain of sameness until one is clear of that habit. The choir is analogous to these domains. 

As at all other stations along the way, guides appear when the work at hand requires. Should one need to pass into the choir for purification work related to the "unveiling of the higher bodies", there is a final reminder from the transept windows. The southern rose/star is a mandala, once again illuminating the principle of "four", recalling one to the center of directionality, one's true orientation. This state in consciousness clears the obscurations that impress one with notions of being unguided. As one is on one's true course it is recognized as such. There are no accidents, no deviation, no mistrust and no projections. The five-pointed star/rose in the north transmits the reminder that this stability is to be opened into a universal mode, the pentagram. Humanity, in its aspect as a five- centered form, brings those centers (sex, instinctive, moving, emotional, thinking) into a harmony that is capable of functioning within the eternals, or degrees of sameness, of the choir domain.

The choir represents the pure components of consciousness which dissolve all remaining tendencies toward unconsciousness whatsoever. They find their equivalence in the various orders of "angels, archangels, etc.", each with their appropriate color, as described in Christian mythologies. Form-of-consciousness, perception, feeling/sensation, concept, form, dimension, motion - all of which constitute the totality of the cathedral and the work which it embodies are progressed through as the choir is consciously imbibed and transcended. This imbibing and transcendence are merely realizations of the deeper potentialities of being and are in no way "independent" from or "objective" to the true nature of being as such. In this situation "humanness" is no longer a constraint to being.

Whereupon one arrives at the petit transept. The symbol here is also a sixteen-pointed star within an octagon, but it is as simple as possible. It embodies the first symbol of unity, the cosmic center, which appeared within the seven-pointed star. The state to be realized is this: that within all transition, within all apparent steps, is the eternal, the permanent unity. Under all conditions one sees the light within the darkness.

In the far north corner of the petit transept is once again a seven-pointed star; one of the branches is aligned to due north, taking St. Quentin's declination into the formula. But its real significance is that it contains a circle without a point. This is the symbol of a human who has realized within hirself the centerless center; this is true alignment/orientation. Another symbol close by is a square containing an eight-pointed "explosion". Within the explosion resides the cosmic center. This "shock" is the recognition that the cosmic center is not a far-off twice removed focus, but is also present as the finite. What is there to transform when the finite is already infinite? 

It is also a symbol for the conscious enneagram. An unconscious enneagram consists of nine parts: the triangle of the three permanent forces (affirming, denying, reconciling) and six "stations" within which the transitory creates a bounce pattern. The enneagram pattern allows for the introduction of two shocks from "other" enneagrams which infuse new energy into it, thereby helping to consciously evolve the octave to the next scale in being. When the enneagram becomes conscious, all parts (the octagon) are seen as the emanations of a single focus in being (the cosmic center). As emanations, even the permanent and the impermanent become equal in the play of consciousness. (The three and the six co-equally fuse eternally into the Seven Mirrors Of Perfection, which spontaneously translates into the Octave.)

Out of necessity these symbols appear in the northern arm of the transept because an observation on the north pole star (sky-symbol for the cosmic center) cannot be taken from the southern arm.

It would be well to note that these transepts, grand and small, also correspond to the shocks in the theory of evolution as portrayed by the enneagram. 

The first shock comes early and is an assistant from an apparently external force, here symbolized by the message in the grand roses: that no matter how chaotic or fragmented the journey may appear, one's friends and guides are everywhere. Not a single situation is unguided, if one but cares to be conscious of this. Voidness cannot be lost nor found.

The second shock seems small but is the most difficult. It comes at a stage just before completion. The assistance comes from within, as indicated by the presence of the cosmic center inside each symbol. Eight as an "even" number is an inexactitude. The "shock" of this law conformable inexactitude comes through recognition that all symmetrically mirrored rest is unstable because it tends toward decay. All compounds (aspects, images) decay. There are no images of God. To be able to go "through the looking glass", the one who is "looking" must give up one's most holy "image of god" in order to be able to truly see. The mirror is empty; nothing is full.

The last symbol lies beyond the sanctuary. A hexagon encases a six-pointed star which contains a hexagonal crystal... the form of the primitive cut of the diamond. For the realization of the diamond body, the body of perfection, one has made this journey. Standing before the chapel of the East, one can see that within, it is dedicated to the Virgin, symbol of the Ultimate Wisdom. The Virgin is holding the Christ Child, who is the one standing before the chapel. And this is the "mystery" of the Virgin and the "mystery" of the Cathedral, the Cathedral Notre Dame: a virgin is a virgin is a virgin. She never has brought anything forth and never will, and therefore will never complete or return anything that was never brought forth. "Although I have led many countless beings into Parinirvana, I have not led a single being." Perfection is, for Perfection's sake. This has only been a journey through Consciousness, but it is just as well and just the same anyway, as voidness only perfects voidness. All aspects - "heaven, hell, purgatory" - are equally real and unreal to the ultimateless.

Most cathedrals have a west rose with a final message, the last judgment, the ending of time; the time for the "world" has run out; there was no past and there will be no future and no one is ever present. And as for the existence of eternities, of what use are they with no time to compare them to? 

The illusory rainbow body of the cathedral retracts and all that continues (as ever) in unbroken uniformity is the ineffable laughter of Voidness.