Modern convention assigns the word “labyrinth” to a single path that winds its way to a center without any choices. A “maze”, on the other hand, denotes a jumble of branching paths designed to confuse and perhaps entertain.
Labyrinth enthusiasts find a spiritual connection while contemplating or walking labyrinths while often maligning the maze as a mere diversion for the mind, a children’s toy, the frivolous dim cousin to the noble labyrinth.
Yet the concept of the maze, in literature and legend, inspires respectable analogous insight. Example: To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue—Buddha.
There is a rich, mysterious fascination with mazes that exists in our collective imagination, but real mazes, when seen in the “real” world, shrink in our sight to frivolities; while the labyrinth of the single path, is only potent in its physical form. Only when the labyrinth enters the physical world, as a design laid out for our eyes to see, does it tower over the maze in metaphoric glory.
The greatest maze of legend, as told by Greek mythology, is the famous Cretan Labyrinth (so named before modern conventions). Built by fabled Daedalus to house the monstrous Minotaur (half-man, half-bull), this maze was conquered by the hero, Theseus, who used a golden thread to find his way out of the maze after dispatching the monster. Whenever this conflict is represented in antiquity, however, it is a labyrinth design that acts as a subordinate metaphor in an attempt to capture the majesty of the imagined maze.
The Labyrinth Maze is both labyrinth and maze depending on the path you choose. It is a visual metaphor: One cannot exist without the other.