Labyrinth and Liber Al

"Don't tell me the truth hurts little girl, because it hurts like hell." 

The 1986 Movie Labyrinth still commands respect as a mythical classic to this day, as people continue to watch it and rediscover it.  I remember watching it when I was six years old (yeah, I'm that old) and being completely absorbed by the story, the characters and some of the ideas presented that I was able to grasp. With that being said, it was only after rewatching it with my daughter that I realized that the story itself is a treasure trove of magickal wisdom waiting to be garnered by initiates.  

From my perspective, the plot outlines the path of initiation perfectly for those who work with The Book of The Law and the initiatory system of the A.'. A.'.  and the story seems to be almost a commentary on Crowley's play the 'Wake World,' a play that he wrote as a theatrical outline of initiation.  

Of course Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland, another classic that is actually on the A.'. A.'. syllabus is said to have been a major influence on Labyrinth.  To add further credence to the idea that Labyrinth is really outlining initiation and the path to magical power, it is well known that the the Producer George Lucas, was deeply influenced by Joseph Campel's 'Power of Myth Series,' not to mention the fact that George Lucas was well read in both Eastern and Western mystery traditions.  

So in this short essay I will summarize the insights that continue to stand out for me every time I contemplate this story.  First, there is the title itself: Labyrinth.  Again keeping in mind George Lucas's interest in mythology, the title alone is striking.  The labyrinth is a well known meditation device in antiquity, going back as far as 3000 years and used all over the world, often as a type of walking meditation with the aim of producing creative inspiration, and spiritual transformation.  

CF: See 'A Brief History of Labyrinths' on the Monroe College Website for further information:$FILE/A%20Brief%20History%20of%20Labyrinths.pdf

While records show this being used for multiple purposes related to contemplation around the world, ranging from medieval France to the Hopi Native Americans, the Western imagination may recall also the labyrinth built by Daedalus for King Minos to contain the deadly Minator.  Here the Minator can be the unconscious self , unactualized and manifesting as the unintegrated and deadly shadow.  In this way of viewing it, the golden thread that guides Theseus through the maze is his aspiration, the inner call of the Neschemah to step outside one's current self orientation. 

The current self oreintation here, would be the persona that characterizes unintegrated and unoriented ego, an ego that is not aware of, nor integreted with it's center, but only the external mask it has developed as a participant in one's community, detached and oblivious to most of the more subtler impressions that emanate from the center of one's being.  

According to Psychology Today, the Minotaur is a Symbol of the Primal Fear of the Unconscious

This of course leads to a conflict between the center of one's being, the self and this persona, thus the emergence of the unconscious shadow, which acts as either an antagonist to the ego for transformation or consumes the ego.  Keep in mind, that in our tradition we do not seek to get rid of the ego, this is seen as an impossibility and probably the biggest 'ego trip' that self proclaimed gurus engage in. 

Alas, I digress, so lets look at how this applies to the movie itself. 

In the movie the unintegrated shadow of the protagonist, Sarah manifests in her impulsive wish to have her baby brother and her responsibility taken away by the Prince of the Goblins who resides in a palace at the center of the Labyrinth.  Much to Sarah's amazement and horror, her wish comes true.  Now it's also of value to note that the Goblin Prince played by David Bowie also manifests as an Owl which is present right from the beginning of the movie.  

The Owl as a classic symbol of wisdom, corresponds to Thoth the God of Magick, Wisdom and Writing

Of course the owl, an animal commonly associated with wisdom and as a psychopomp is really Thoth, the overseer of initiation and the one who records the weighing of the heart when the initiate and or the 'dead' undergo judgement.  Also Thoth the god of wisdom and writing, is also the god of macick. 


Thoth the Egyption God of Writing and Magic Symbolizes the Power of the Written and Spoken Word

The ability to use the work as both creative force as well as a representational medium.

So Gereth, the Goblin Prince, much  like the minator has animal and human elements. In fact portrays an array of opposite elements united in one character.  He is the lord initiating Sarah and likewise plays the dual role of savior and the devil, or as some Egyption religious texts say Horus the savior and Set the destroyer are really one.  He threatens, Sarah, but simultaneiously proclaims her love for her, which is verified by the fact that he turns the whole world upsidedown to fulfill her commands, i.e. her command that the Goblins take her brother away.  He is the lord of initiation, in that his challenge to Sarah by refusing to return her baby brother which facilitates Sarah's transformation into a liberated and responsible being by the end of the movie.

A.'. A.'. Initiates are instructed to explore the astra plane/ the unconscious through 'skrying' which often involves crytal gazing. So here Jareth is taking Sarah into her unconscious.

If we take this idea seriously we will see that it fits well with Campel's description of tribal initiations into adulthood where a drama is enacted in which the initiator, the father plays the role of a 'destroyer' who declares that he will kill the child.  In the movie Labyrinth, this is definitely the net result of Sarah's ordeal of passing through the labyrinth and confronting the Goblin Prince Gareth.  However unlike the common ordeal marking adulthood, Sarah is given much more as I will discuss near the end of this essay, the fact that the Owel corresponds to Thoth is a clue to what Sarah really gets from this ordeal.

On one Level Sarah Having to Win the Child Shows Her Struggle for Maturity

An Immature Youn Woman Cannot Properly Care for a Child.

 The name of the antagonist, the Goblin King is Jareth, also a curious choice of name.  This is a Biblical name of the father of Enoch in the part of the Bible preceding the flood.  He was of the sixth pre-flood generation between Adam and Noah.  Being the 6th is important here Qabalistically, since that is the number of Tiphareth, actualized human consciousness where the union with the holy guardian angel takes place in the A.'. A.'.  However, this all does seem fanciful and we may be content to note simply that the name Gareth is a British name based on the Welsh word for gentleness.  So this devilish figure, Gareth, is no devil at all, but the Sarah's saviour in disguise.

In the Wake World by written by A.C. the initiate is the princess in Malkuth who marries her Prince, the Holy Guardian Angel in order to become the Queen in Binah understanding, who then revivifies the creative Father All, the wisdom of the creative mind and thus transforming and renewing the universe. So he is really Sarah's inner self, the holy guardian angel manifesting in her unconscous as a projection of her own shadow.  He has all the power to grant her wishes, but she is not integrated so he manifests as a threatening power, who reflects all of the defects of her ego, since it is who ego that determined Gareths actions, that is until Gareth wants to teacher her a lesson, or rather the self moves in the process of unification. 

The name of the protagonist, Sarah is also important here.  The name means 'princess' or 'noblewoman' in Hebrew and was the name of Abraham's wife in the Bible, so a direct reference to Bina and Malkuth.  If we cross reference this with 'The Wake World', we have have Lola which also means in Greek, 'Lady of Sorrows, or Strong Woman'.  Again a reference to the Sorrow of Binah as the Great Mother, the Scarlet Woman, and also Babalon in the Thelemic Mythos outlined on Crowley's Liber Al and Liber 418. 

Sarah is a reference to Binah in the Qabalah, and Babalon in the Thelemic Mythos presented in Liber 418, Yet, the protagonist has yet to realize this part of her identity hence the ordeal of the Labyrinth.

Furthermore the age of 16, the transition into adulthood is a reference to the menstruation, the blood in the cup of Babalon, and the transition into womanhood. This is the number of the Tower Atu in The Book of Thoth, thus the violent destruction of obsolete structures, and this coresponds with the Hebrew letter Peh, the utterance of the word as prophecy, which Biblically is the precursor the the destruction of the corrupt in order for a spiritual renewal.  So the nature of the conflict of the central character Sarah is fortold here, life as she knows it gets broken down in order that she can see clearly, hence Siva Dharshana which is commonly associated with this Tarot Trump.

The awakening happens only at the climax of the movie when she remembers her lines when confronts Gereth to reclaim the child. She says: 'You have no power over me'.  Very similar to the climax in Alice and Wonderland where Alice declares: 'Your all just a pack of cards'.  Finally, it must be noted that the name Toby is itself  from Tobyias, of an amalgamation of the Greek word  Tob, meaning good, and Hebrew word for God, Yahweh.  So Toby means 'God is Good'.  So the whole plot and climax can be said to revolve around her recovering her own innocence and divinity, the goodness of God, and once her own goodness is recovered she becomes like a god herself in that she acquires the power that Jareth had held over her all along, as the two become as one.  

Thus like in the picture above, Babalon rides astride the creative force of the Beast, the male and female are conjoined and self realization takes place.

The famous Penrose Staircase painting 'Relativity'.  This is at the scene of the climax and cements the union of opposites as Sarah confronts Jareth and unites with herself.

The majority of the plot however takes place in the realm of dreams, or rather the astral plane as evinced by the fact that many of Sarah's dolls and props in her bedroom as well as the play she is studying comprise much of the material of the main setting: the Labryrinth itself and her quest to recover Tobey, her baby brother.  This corresponds also with Yesod referred to in Crowley's 'The Wake World' as: "the place where the work is done...".  

In this realm Lola sleepy head is accompanied by 'the wake up person' also referred to as the dark 'fairie prince'.  Sarah and Gareth reflect this archetypal love story in a similar manner: Gareth is dark, in that Sarah fears him, and he is the antagonist, but he is also in love with her, and through the conflict facilitates her self actualization as she wakes up to her true self, the sole creator of her own world.  

Another way to look at it is that her friend Hogel is a manifestation of the 'The Fairy Prince / Holy Guardian Angel' being an emissary of Jareth, where Jareth is in fact the Beast, or the Elder King spoken of the in Qabalistic tradition. 

Now I could do a micro analysis of all the names and go into depth regarding the supporting characters and scenes; however I will not, since that would be too large a task for my main goal here, which is simply to explore what I believe to be the central Theme that can be drawn from Labyrinth based on a Thelemic and Occult perspective.  

A few recurring and important ideas present themselves throughout the movie which are relevant for people interested in initiation.  These ideas are as follows: the power of the word, the spiritual sovereignty of the individual, and implicit responsibility as a condition for self realization (living as a fully conscious being).  Another theme entailed by all of these ideas is the danger and perpetual lure of bad faith, basically self deception to aviod the painful necessities that are entailed by our own freedom and power.  This last idea is a notion put forward by Jean Paul Sartre his book Being and Nothingness, but I see it as a more apt description of what is entailed by the demonic world and the Qliphot, the shells spoken of in Qabalah and Thelema.  Also the work by R.D. Laing 'The Escape From Freedom' comes to mind here and is a recommended book for initiates in the A.'. A.'.

I will now explore these central ideas in reference to the film and other relevant works that I am familiar with. 

First, we have the power of the word, which is both how Sarah triggerred her ordeal of having to return her brother Toby from the labyrinth.  In a fit of anger and ignorance, she foolishly wishes, actually commands the Goblin King to take her brother away.  She does this with intent, yet acts as if she is not serious, this last bit would imply the idea of 'bad faith' that I just spoke about.  In Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics, he points out how the word as Logos has been denegrated from it's use as a creative force of reality to that of a flawed representation of reality, and through this misuse of language, it has in some respects lost it's potency and power, much like a currency that is debased from inflation loses it's purchasing power.  In this framework, we can say that Sarah is misusing the word and abusing the power of her own Logos.  She is mistakenly using the word to express emotional whims, and lacks the true understanding of the word as a creative force, but a creative force with the limitations of rational necessity as Logos is also the Greek word for 'reason'.  

In Geneses we are told that the world is created 'Ex Nihilo' from from the word.
Sarah utters the word with creative intent, but her utterance was a perversion of the word of her whole being, hence the ordeal.

Language is not merely a copy representing reality, it is not merely passive, but simultaneously an active creative force, but it's meaning and creative power implies an inherent limitation and necessity, so responsibility and intelligence is entailed by this force of freedom and magickal power.  This is further alluded to in the reference to Thoth, when Garth manifests as the owel.   

This is a well known occult teaching in Thelema and in the Qabalah.  The sepheroth of Chokmah, wisdom, is also the word, and the realm of archetypes and emanation spoken of in the teachings of Qabalah.  Of course the Bible also speaks directly of the universe being created ex nihilo by the word.  In Liber Al vel Legis, the holy book of Thelema, every man and woman is a star, so the word and the universe are not the emmanations of some remote being separate from ourselves, but emmanations from the centere of our own being, which is the unknown secret self. 

We are unconsciously emanating our own universe in each moment as the universe is nothing more than our stream of consciousness forming a complex web of thought, feeling, infinite subtle impressions and sensory experiences.  The word, both conscious and unconscious plays an integral role in shaping, orienting and directing the nature of our experience.  

In psychology, it is the word, our internal dialogue of thoughts which determines what we think is important and what we focus on, and ultimately our experiences.  There is nothing fantastic about this.  The experience that we call the world is an infinite flow of impressions and we can only process and engage a limited number of them in our conscious attention.  Our language and our values implicit in both the structure and use of that language determine which impressions will be ignored and which ones will be focused on.  Thus, the impressions that we do focus on at the expense of others determines the nature of the experiences that we have.  

So if I'm driving, I might only pay attention to the things relevant to driving, the car, the rules, the cars on the road, the map or the gps etc.  This increases the chance of me actually having experiences that fit my value judgements, i.e. getting to point b without dying or being in a hospital.    So I have to think in my language of the car and the road, all words in a mental dialogue interwoven with impressions and giving realization to those impressions.  

It is also important to consider that these value judgements inherent in the use and formation of language and reason as logos also emanates from my intention as will.  So the will as intention which is the ultimate determining source of the logos and the arrangement of impressions... i.e. 'the world that I live in'.  And this is all traced back to the self. 

A possibly fruitful digression may be to reconsider Arisotles four causes, the material, mechanical, fromal, and final cause.  Easily dismissed by conventional material science, but may show their relevance in light of the psychophysical nature of reality and our experience of reality in its realationship to the psyche and the self.

Aristotle's four causes: material, efficient, formal, and final cause, correspond with the emanation of the word as a formulation of the will through the four Qabalistic worlds: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah.  And these make up the forbidden name of God symbolized as YHWH.

So Sarah was mispronouncing the name of God as the correct pronunciation is that wihich emmanates from the centre of the self as Pure will.  

'For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is in every way perfect." -Liber Al ch.I l.44

So going back to the driving analogy, if while driving I foolishly stop valuing the relevant words and impressions and focus on something else unrelated, I no longer experience the road and my driving. Instead I experience something else, say a cherished memory, and if I continue to indulge in that memory, the chances in an undesirable change of experiences now goes up, ie I could end up dead, in a hospital, or being sued for damages.  These are all implicit ideas contained in intending to drive and then breaking my own word for a momentary whim.  The later is what is happening to Sarah in her ordeal as she explores herself in the astral realm. 

Various chapters from Liber Al ch.II present these facts in a start manner:


If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.


If Power asks why, then is Power weakness.

Power asking 'why' is weakness in the context of being a distraction, there is no why for the totality of things, we are just here, there is being manifest as will.  End of story.  These are distractions and abuse of the creative function of the word, say in the context of driving because they don't serve the will.  i.e. We get killed if we don't focus on the road.  

The same can be said for Sarah's 'old sweetnesses,' i.e. her childhood toys, and her Teddy bear which was a partial catalyst for wishing the baby to be taken away.  Libal ch. 3 says:


Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart...'

Sarah, has at an earlier point taken an oath, that is, she has made a commitment in her consciousness via language to be who she is, in the family she has to deal with all the responsibility that implies based on the time and place that she exists.  She is oblivious to the active role she is playing in all of this throughout the flow of her thoughts and impressions mediated by this internal language.  

In this ignorance, she allows her emotions to make a whimsical intention of not having her brother.  And to her horror, her consciousness and the whole sphere of her experience (sphere of sensation), as the universe conspires to make this happen.  The astral plane as the imaginative and emotional realm of consciousness responds almost immediately to our declarations and the logos as word, luckily for her the sphere of sensation called the 'world', or by others as the material world or plane responds often much more slower.  So this astral vision in her dream is giving her the opportunity to see the implications of her secret intentions and use of language, and to wake up into someone who can use her thoughts and feelings in a consciousway that is inline with her true self and her true will. 

In this sense the goblins are the different drives and fragmentary selves in the stream of consciusness that is her mind.  Jareth, the Goblin King, is the centre of her mind, the holy guardian angel and the creative beast uttering the word of her will, operating in the unconscious, who wanting to unite with Sarah as a self realized consciousness, he appears as the devil.  Since her ego as persona is split against herself in the beginning of the movie, the centre of ther mind, the angel must appear as an antagonist.  As Sartre says, 'hell is the Other'.  Yet, the angel is truely her innermost self and loves her due to the desire for self unification and self actualization. 

Another recurring idea in the movie this the idea of being fair.  Sarah repeatedly claims that her situation in the Labyrinth is not fair, and there are many situations where the Jareth, the Goblins, and the Labyrinth itself 'cheat'.  They either change the rules such as when Jareth speeds up the time, use deception such as the optical illusion of the wall in the beginning, and even drugs as when Hogel passes Sarah the enchanted peach.  Yet, it is hinted that this entire situation was conjured up for Sarah as indicated by Jareth when he says '...I have reordered time, I have turned the world upside down and I have done it all for you...'.  (Sarah's final confrontation with Jareth)

Sarah confront's Jareth, the creator of her world, and realizes he has no power over her.

In another sense we might consider that Sarah is the one that is attempting to be unfair by reneging on her agreement with Jareth about the child, and that this whole Labyrinth is a direct result of that, a web of lies and conflicting inclinations mobbing her mind, distracting her from her true self.  Jarteh hints at her immaturity and naivity when he answers: 'You say that a lot [it's not fair]... I wonder what your basis of comparison is.'  And we can consider Crowley's statement on the Adjustment Atu when he writes: 'The problem isn't that the universe is unfair, but the fact that it is fair...'  The human heart and the untrained mind wants what it wants and these conflicting desires surpass the limits of balance, fairness, and justice, and Sarah's predicament is an illustration of this point.    

From this I have concluded that Sarah experiences an initiation into adulthood and into the occult power of the word and imagination as a creative force while simultaneously meetinig her true self.   It is here that she aligns her conscious ego and persona with this new found center, which is not a power outside, but her own power within her.  This transformation comes at the cost of an ordeal, but having said that it is only fair to quote David Bowie in his song: 'Don't tell me truth hurts little girld, becasse it hurts like hell.'