Materials on the Tables of Chartres

1: Translation of instruction-text on Tables as distributed by me here.
2: How to make your own Tables
3: How to use the Tables in meditation
4: Summary of contents of the book "Die Tafeln von Chartres"

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Text 1: This is a translation of the text printed on the rear of the "Tables of Chartres Cathedral" as published by the author for purpose of meditation.
I will send you a copy by mail.

The Tables of Chartres Cathedral
by George Pennington

A Gipsy way of Meditation

1978 in France Pierre Derlon published details on a meditation technique which was passed down from generation to generation among french gipsy tribes. The technique is based on the contemplation of three coloured shapes or tables, the "Tables of Chartres Cathedral" as the gypsies call them.

For the purpose of contemplation two sets of three tables are needed, one of blue and the other of red colour. Their shapes are round, square and rectangular. They are laid out in two rows of alternating colours, the round one closest to the contemplator, then the square one followed by the rectangular table (Illustration 1). For the purpose of meditation the eyes are crossed to visually fuse the two rows of tables so that between them a third (virual as we would say today) row appears. This third row of tables is seen in both colours, red and blue, one of which enters visual consciousness through the right eye, while the other colour is seen with the left. It is on this third row of tables that the eyes rest during meditation.

Our eyes are directly connected to our brain. Since the image of the middle row of tables is seen in two colours simultaneously, a person using the tables can immediately recognize whether his eyes and brain hemispheres are in a state of balance or not. If there is a one-sided dominance he will see the tables either in the colours blue/red/blue or red/blue/red, while a balanced person will see them in a grey-violet hue, which is the result of a balanced fusion of the two different coloured tables. In case of a one-sided visual and/or hemispheric imbalance (dominance) the tables allow to reestablish the natural balance quite easily by acting as a simple biofeedback setup.

The contemplation of the Tables requires a certain ability to relax both mentally and physically, an ability which increases drastically with time spent in this meditation. The tables act as a very clear mirror, in which the meditating person can see him/herself in many ways and gains access to insights for which everyday life usually leaves little or no room. Recognition and acknowledgement of these insights during meditation deepens the ability to relax until a state of "just being” is reached, a state of crystal-clear awareness without any voluntary or involuntary action.

Among the psychological phenomena which may arise during meditation we find: fascination, tiredness, fear, joy, sadness, pain, enthusiasm, senselessness, megalomania, loneliness, desperation... (depending very much on the psychological state of the meditator). It is important to just be aware of these mental states as they arise - and of the power of their manifestation - without identifying with them (compare Patanjali's Yoga Sutras about distinguishing the "seer" from the "seen"). During this process the tables also act as an "anchor", i.e. a neutral point of orientation for the eyes and for the mind in the middle of a mental panopticum: the eyes remain focused on the central row of coloured tables all the time.


The Three Tables of the Holy Grail

The three tables used in this meditation technique are closely connected to the medieval legends surrounding the Holy Grail. According to these legends in the course of history there were three tables connected with the Holy Grail. The first one was the rectangular table around which Jesus and his disciples celebrated the last supper. The word "Grail" refers to the vessel, which was used on this occasion. Robert de Borron reports in his account of the legend that after his crucifiction Jesus appeared to Joseph of Arimathäa (who had been thrown into Jail for supposed theft of Jesus' body) and handed him the vessel. Here we encounter the first hint at the threefold nature of the Grail-secret: Jesus is reported to have said, Joseph should "look at those three powers as often as he felt the need, thereby creating a single one" ("Totes les foiz que tu voldras et tu auras besoing, A ces trois vertuz garderas, Qu'une chose ainsi creiras" , Robert de Borron: Der Prosaroman von Josef von Arimathäa, 13th. Ctry.). Three powers made into one just by looking at them?

After his release from jail Jesus visited Joseph again and told him to set up a second Table. According to the Legend (ibid.) this table was of silver colour and square. The Holy Grail was set up in the middle of the Table and all those who saw it “received immediate sweetness and complete fulfillment in their hearts ("eurent sans targier La douceur, l'accomplissement De leur cuers tout entièrement").

The third Table was round and was set up in Britany a few centuries later by king Uther Pendragon (prompted by Merlin the, Mage). The holy vessel had been lost by then, so the knights who gathered around his son Arthus restricted their activities to searching for it ("Queste"). 


The Tables in the Cathedrals

In the legends the distance to the original mysterium of the Holy Grail increases from Table to Table. Accordingly the three Tables are arranged in the plan of Chartres Cathedral. The building was begun with the rectangular Table (the apse of the cathedral): in a geomantically determined location a pillar was erected. From the shadow it threw on the morning of the spring-equinox (the inclination of the nave being 47°) a piece of 11,5 meters was measured and around it was set up the rectangular Table in such a way that its width measured exactly 20 Measures (of 0,82m), a unit derived from Salomon's temple (Ill.2).

Laying out the rest of the nave was very simple: the other two Tables were laid out following the first one. The surface of all three tables was identical (800 Measures square). At the lower end of the rectangular Table a huge metal screen was erected separating it from the rest of the nave. (It was destroyed during the 18th. Century). The portal was built where the round Table ended (Ill.3).

The three Tables seem to have been of great importance to the builders of medieval cathedrals, even though the church never made any mention of them. In the layout of Notre Dame de Lausanne we find the squaring of the circle wonderfully realized geometrically - based on the design of the three Tables of course.


The Labyrinth

The round Table of the cathedral of Chartres (closest to the portal) is laid out in symbolic form on the floor of the nave: the labyrinth of Chartres (Ill.5). many medieval cathedrals have such labyrinths. Today a bronze plate is missing in the center of the one in Chartres on which was depicted according to old sources Theseus, Ariadne with her thread and the Minotaur.

Why such heathen imagery in a christian church? For those who are familiar with the secret use of the Tables in the meditation of the Gypsies the symbolism is obvious: it depicts the triumphant fight of man against his lower nature. It is indeed a fitting image for the inner process triggered by the contemplation of the Tables during meditation.

It is really remarkable how the builders of this cathedral (and others) succeeded in hiding non-christian ideas of salvation right under the eyes of the Holy Inquisition and preserved them for later and more understanding generations.


Practical hints

The procedure is quite simple: looking crosseyed at the two rows of Tables will produce a double image (4 rows of Tables). The two inner rows are brought to fusion by adjusting the angle of vision. For the rest of the meditation the eyes rest on the central row of tables where they soon learn to relax profoundly.

For practical use the size of the Tables is of no importance. Only their proportions are clearly defined in the gipsy tradition: all three are identical in surface and the rectangular Table is exactly twice as long as it is wide. Very shortsighted people can use smaller Tables and hold them up close to their eyes (the image should be as sharp as possible). For normal-sighted people a distance of 80 centimeters to1,5 meters is recommended using larger Tables (Round Table diameter about 10-15 cm.)

At the beginning it is not even important to use all three of the Tables. Experience has shown that beginners find it easiest to bring their eyes to rest on the round Table. The other Tables become more easily accessible after some practice with the round one. This is natural: the round Table lies closest to the portal and is therefore the first one to be dealt with before going deeper into the mysterium.

The colours of the Tables are traditionally blue and red. The wavelength-ratio of these colours (440° and 660°) are those of a musical fifth. I assume that at least part of the remarkable effect of the Tables is produced by intermodulation-patterns generated in the brain. And just as a fifth is very rich in overtones and intermodulations the central row of Tables is very rich in colours. The key to this world of colours lies in a hue of Grey which contains them all. It takes quite a while before this phenomenon becomes visible.


A simple Test for Stereopsis

Illustration 6 allows to test ones stereoscopic vision. Especially lefthanded people who have been forced to use their right hand seem to have 

trouble here. The procedure is the same as the one used in the contemplation of the Tables: the eyes are crossed in such a way that the image of the two squares doubles (four squares), and the inner two squares are made to fuse into one (half of which is seen by the left eye while the other half is contributed by the right one). For people with intact 3-d vision the dot pattern of the central square will - after a little relaxation - show a distinct design. Persons unable to see any pattern in the central square should practice with the Tables and try to create the grey-violet hue which accompanies visual and hemispheric balance - and then try again with Illustration 6. (With friendly permission from: Bela Julesz, Foundations of Cyclopean Vision, Univ. of Chicago Press 1971) 


Seminars

The Tables of Chartres Cathedral stand out among other meditation techniques through the fact that they are part of our own western heritage. Their use can produce very profound and complex effects both on the visual and mental plane, from lasting amelioration of eyesight troubles to deeply enlightening insights. We owe it to the builders of those magnificent cathedrals - and to the Gypsies who kept the secret over the centuries - to treat them with respect and pass on the knowledge in the most responsible and careful way. Much knowledge gained by many years of practical experience cannot be passed on in books or short texts such as this one. Therefore, for all who seriously wish to explore the use of the Tables in depth the author recommends taking an introductory training-seminar.

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Text 2: How to make your own Tables

Get some red and blue cardboard or similar flat material. The colours should be more or less pure red and pure blue and should be of similar luminosity (so none of them is too dominant). You will need to cut three geometrical shapes of each colour: a round one, a square one and a rectangular one with the proportions 1:2. 

The three shapes have the same surface area (r2_ = a2 = a x b). They can be any size that suits the purpose of visual fusion: if you want to look at them from far away make them bigger, for shortsighted people they should be smaller. For normalsighted users the round shape should have a radius of about 4 cm, which makes the square 7 x 7 cm and the rectangle 5 x 10 cm.

If you want to lay the Tables out on the floor in the traditional gipsy way they should be a little bigger (r2_ = 5cm).For easier handling I recommend glueing them onto a sheet of cardboard.

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Text 3: How to use the Tables in meditation

The sheet with the two rows of red and blue geometrical shapes should be placed on a music-stand (round shapes at the bottom) slightly lower than eyelevel, so you can look at them without effort during meditation. Meditators with glasses should check if there is a distance at which they can get a sharp image of the tables without glasses and place them there. Or use their glasses, at least at the beginning. For normalsighted people a distance of 50 - 60 centimeters is perfect.

The method consists of crossing your eyes (which doubles up the two rows of shapes into four) and fusing the two central rows into one by visually overlapping them. Do this slowly and learn to control every movement of your eyes on the way to visual fusion. (No jumping!) If you find it difficult you can use a finger (held up somewhere between your nose and the paper) to detach your gaze from the paper plane.

Once you have the (virtual) middle row of Tables fused: rest your eyes on the image and RELAX. Remember: the shapes in the central row are seen in different colours by each eye. Observe the play of the colours, (which informs you about your visual and hemispheric dominance). You can learn to produce the colour changes at will. Apart from being fun this can be quite amazing.

After a while the colours will settle into a greyish violet hue (which signals visual and hemispheric balance). Again: RELAX. Leave your eyes open throughout, letting them settle on the Tables wherever they want to. And simply observe: 1. the sharpness of the image (try to get it sharper), 2. your involuntary eye-movements (try to reduce involuntary eye-movement) - and of course 3. all your thoughts and feelings. Aim at a state of NOT-DOING - and just observe all the involuntary doing that may go on. Relaxation does it.

Beginners may experience some pains and aches (behind or above the eyes, in the neck or elsewhere), or nausea. These are latent tensions entering consciousness. Do not let them deter you. These sensations are quite normal and will cease soon.
There may be times, when it seems extremely difficult to keep your eyes open or to go on with the session. These times are important passages (tests!). They occur each time the mind is about to enter a new depth of meditation. Stay put and just watch what happens!

Should any images or emotional material emerge from the subconscious - let it happen, but remember to keep your eyes on the Tables at all times. Physical reactions such as weeping, trembling etc. should be allowed freely if they want to manifest. Just keep looking at the Tables while this is going on!

A good duration fo a session is: Beginners 30 minutes, later longer (up to a few hours). Use an acoustic signal (alarm) to tell you when your time is up - so you can leave your eyes on the Tables all the time.

At the end of your session (important!) split up the fused image so you get four rows again and slowly reduce them back to the (normal) two by moving the focus back to the paper plane. Practice the transitions. Do them slowly. 

Keep a diary and make notes after each session.

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Text 4
Summary of the contents of the book
Die Tafeln von Chartres

George Pennington: Die Tafeln von Chartres, Walter Verlag, Düsseldorf 1994

Until now westerners interested in Meditation had to turn to the East to find appropriate techniques. Now, for the very first time, George Pennington's book unveils a truly european technique kept secret over many centuries by french gypsies. Meditation with the Tables of Chartres Cathedral is an extremely powerful tool for fine-tuning both the inner and outer awareness. Used over prolonged periods of time the tables will lead the practitioner along the same path and to the same goals as would Zen, Vipassana or Mantra-meditation.

This meditation technique makes use of the eyes and optical nerves to energize the brain. Two sets of "Tables" (geometrical shapes related traditionally to the grail legends) are contemplated with crossed eyes - very much like the visual technique used in connection with computer-stereograms. The colors red and blue, visually fused, create an ambiguous image, causing wave-phenomena in the brain that are experienced almost instantly as a radically heightened state of awareness

After discovering the "Tables" in the late seventies the author spent many years exploring this technique in daily practice and finally began teaching it in seminars. His book is a comprehensive manual of this secret tradition: it gives a good overview of the cultural and historical background and is an excellent step by step guide for practitioners.

The text is structured in three main chapters and an appendix. It is illustrated with four color plates and sixteen B/W pictures. The book has a volume of 150 pages.

Chapter 1: Cultural and historical background

The legends of the Holy Grail and certain architectural details of the great gotic cathedrals of France (notably the one at Chartres) are the cultural and historical basis on which the meditation technique evolved. During the middle ages it was probably banned by Inquisition along with other heresies. French gypsy tribes were the only ones to keep the tradition alive.

Chapter 2Step by step tutorial

This chapter covers the practical aspects of the meditation: How to make a set of Tables and how to use them, the visual aspects of contemplating them with crossed eyes and the fine art of bringing ones awareness into a balanced state of relaxed attention.

Chapter 3The inner eye

This chapter explores the psychological phenomena through different stages of meditation, altered states of consciousness and the gradual - and sometimes painful - evolution of an extremely clear inner vision. This inner journey is brought into onnection with reports of mystic experiences, Greek mythology, the tales of "flying carpets" and alchemist writings: They all shed light on the timeless laws governing the opening of the "doors of perception".

AppendixTwo reports by practitioners

The first is a recording of a 2 hour session giving insights into visual and mental phenomena typical of advanced sessions. The other is a diary-excerpt: The writer was cross eyed from early childhood. Not only did the use of the Tables straighten out his eyes, it also brought back his 3-dimensional vision.

The text is followed by annotations and a comprehensive bibliography.

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