The love story of Eros and Psyche
A narration of the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche, which is the basis for the popular fairytale "Beauty and the Beast."
EROS--the Greek god of love; son of Aphrodite. His Roman cognate is CUPID.
APHRODITE--the Greek goddess of love. Her Roman cognate is VENUS.
PSYCHE--a mortal princess whose beauty aroused the jealous wrath of Aphrodite, but who was chosen by Eros to be his bride.
Despite evident differences in the two stories, the popular fairytale "Beauty and the Beast" is actually a late folk version of a Greek myth, the story of Eros and Psyche.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was jealous and angry because a mortal princess named Psyche had become so famous for her beauty that mere mortals were beginning to say that she was even more lovely than Aphrodite herself.
Aphrodite sent her son Eros, the god of love, to shoot Psyche with one of his arrows, to make her fall in love with the most hideous monster he could find. But the girl's exquisite beauty so enchanted him that he could not bring himself to carry out his mother's command.
Meanwhile, the oracle of Apollo at Delphi had warned Psyche's father that she would never be the bride of an ordinary man, but rather would marry a being who flies through the night like a winged serpent, one whose power was so great that even Zeus, the king of the gods, could not withstand it. The king was told to take his daughter to the mountaintop and leave her there, and the wind would transport her to the abode of her husband.
The next morning, Psyche, her father and mother, and her two sisters made their way sadly to the top of the mountain. Tearfully they bade each other farewell, and then her family returned to the palace, leaving the frightened girl alone on the mountaintop.
As soon as she was quite alone, Psyche felt herself lifted by a gentle breeze, which carried her far away to a beautiful palace built of marble and richly decorated with gold, silver, and precious gems. When she went inside, she found that an elaborate wedding feast had been prepared, but she saw no guests. Invisible servants began to wait on her, and in soft voices they assured her that she was mistress of the palace, and that everything in it was hers.
That night her new husband came to her, but the palace was so completely dark that she could not see him. Still, he was kind and gentle, and his words were loving and sweet. She soon fell in love with him. He promised that he would give her anything she wanted, but warned her that she must never try to see his face. If ever she should look upon his face, they would have to part, and she would then live in loneliness and misery.
For many months Psyche was content to live with the husband she had come to love so dearly, but she never stopped missing her sisters. She began to plead with him to bring them to visit her. He warned her that they would cause trouble, but in the end he could not refuse his bride's request.
The next day, when Psyche's sisters went to the mountaintop, as they did every day, to weep over their lost sister, the wind lifted them and carried them to Psyche's new home. When they were set down before the gorgeous palace, the sisters felt amazed at such wealth. They were even more astonished when their lost sister ran out of the palace to greet them. She explained that the palace belonged to her new husband--and now, of course, to her as well.
Psyche's sisters could not help feeling jealous of Psyche's good fortune. They began to pry and probe, and to ask questions about her husband. Although she did not want to admit that she had never seen her husband's face, Psyche became confused and flustered under their relentless interrogation. In response to one question, she described him as having golden hair, as bright as the sun, but an hour later, she mentioned that his hair was as dark as night. These and other contradictory answers aroused her sisters' suspicion. They pounced on her errors, crying out, "Why, you have never even seen him, have you?"
When she finally admitted the truth, her sisters reminded her of Apollo's prophecy. It didn't take long for them to persuade the confused girl that her husband must be a terrible monster who would kill her as soon as he tired of her. They concocted a plan. Handing her an oil lamp and a dagger, they told her to wait until he was asleep, and then to light the lamp and steal a look at him. If he was, as they assumed, a terrible monster, then she would have to take the dagger and kill him.
That night, Psyche took the dagger from beneath her pillow and approached her sleeping husband. She lit the lamp and gazed for the first time on her husband's face, the face of the god of love! Instead of obeying his mother's command and making Psyche fall in love with a hideous monster, Eros had secretly taken her for his own bride. When she beheld the glory of Eros, Psyche was so startled that she allowed a drop of hot oil to land on his shoulder.
Awakened by the drop of oil on his shoulder, the god said sadly, "Where there is no trust there can be no love." Then he arose and left the palace.
Aphrodite soon learned that Eros had disobeyed her. She sought out his abandoned bride, determined to make her suffer. As soon as she found her, Aphrodite dumped a great pile of tiny seeds on the ground in front of the unhappy girl and ordered her to separate them--and to finish the job by sundown!
Looking at the enormous pile of seeds, Psyche knew that the task was impossible. It would take a hundred years to sort and separate so many seeds. But a large colony of ants, beguiled by the girl's beauty, decided to help her. Scurrying back and forth, they soon had the seeds sorted into separate piles. When Aphrodite returned and saw that the task had been completed, she became enraged and promised Psyche that her next task would be even harder.
She commanded Psyche to collect some wool from a herd of fierce man-eating sheep who lived in a thicket of thornbushes near the river. Psyche knew it was certain death to approach the sheep, but as she drew near to the bushes where they lived, a voice told her to wait until evening, when the sheep would leave the thicket. Then she could collect the wool that had stuck to the thorns. Psyche did this, and once again Aphrodite was angry that Psyche had successfully completed a task that was meant to be impossible.
Aphrodite continued to set impossible tasks for Psyche, but somehow the girl kept managing to complete them. What neither Psyche nor Aphrodite realized was that Eros was still watching over Psyche, sending her help when she needed it.
Zeus was well aware of these events. Finally he decided that enough was enough. He decreed that Eros had proved his love for Psyche, and Psyche had proved her devotion, patience, and obedience. He said that since Eros had chosen as his bride a mortal, who could not reside with him on Mt. Olympus, there was only one course of action. Zeus would have to grant her immortality. Once Psyche had drunk the ambrosial nectar of the gods from the cup of immortality she ceased to be mortal. Aphrodite no longer felt jealous of her, for she had only resented the girl because she felt that mortals had no right to rival the gods. At last she bestowed her blessing on the union between her son and the beautiful princess who had become one of the immortals...
The story of Eros and Psyche is usually considered allegorical. The Greek name for a butterfly is "psyche" and the same word means the "soul." Thus, Psyche represents the human soul which, purified by sufferings and misfortunes, is prepared for the enjoyment of true and pure happiness. In works of art, Psyche is often depicted as a maiden with the wings of a butterfly.
Analysis of the story of Eros and Psyche
The story of Eros and Psyche has been passed down through the work of a Greek initiate in the Eleusinian (or Isis) Mysteries.
In THE GOLDEN ASS OF APULEIUS, the tale of these divine lovers is inserted into the personal story of Apuleius. It is a tale of psychosexual transformation.
Eros and Psyche is a 12-part Mytheme:
1. Psyche--Wow, She's Gorgeous!
2. The Wrath of Aphrodite
3. Eros Tumbles for Psyche
4. Eros Conceals Himself
5. Psyche Smells a Rat
6. Psyche Takes a Peek
7. Eros Abandons Psyche
8. Psyche Is Punished
9. Aphrodite Imposes the Tasks
10. The Impossible Task
11. Eros Lends a Helping Hand
12. Psyche Joins the Immortals
The tale has great psychological value since it reveals the development of the initiate's relationship with his anima as a result of the initiatory process. Eros is a phallic god -- the erotic impulse -- who pricks and stings with his arrow of love. In the tale, Eros represents the reproductive passion which is transformed through its relationship with Psyche. The union of Eros with Psyche engenders bliss. Eros bonded with Psyche represents bonding of soul and mind. In the mytheme, Eros is cured from lust and cleaves to Psyche.
Elements of this tale have come down in fairytales such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. In The Uses of Enchantment (1975), Freudian analyst Bruno Bettelheim interprets the "Cupid and Psyche" myth as a story about a the development of mature consciousness, the difficulty of joining wisdom and sexuality, and the problem of sexual anxiety. He also sees some aspects of Oedipal love involved in this story, especially Aphrodite’s possessive jealousy of her son, but overall, his interpretation is very optimistic about the psychological potential of human development as it is presented in the Eros and Psyche tale.
When Psyche breaks the taboo by using the lamp to see Eros in the darkness, Bettelheim understands this as an attempt to expand her consciousness before she is ready for it: The story warns that trying to reach for consciousness before one is mature enough for it or through short-cuts has far reaching consequences; consciousness cannot be gained in one fell swoop. In desiring mature consciousness, one puts one’s life on the line, as Psyche does when she tries to kill herself in desperation. The incredible hardships Psyche has to endure suggest the difficulties we encounters when the highest psychic qualities (Psyche) are to be wedded to sexuality (Eros).
Bettelheim emphasizes the dangers involved in developing consciousness. Psyche’s repeated decisions to kill herself in order to end her despair at the prospect of completing her seemingly impossible tasks symbolically express the depression which frequently accompanies psychological development. For Bettelheim, a primary aspect of this development is the integration of sexuality with the highest aspirations of consciousness. He insists that nothing less than a spiritual rebirth is required to bring together these seemingly opposite aspects of the human being.
The troubled relationship between Eros and Psyche symbolizes the difficulty involved in this integrative process, and Psyche’s journey to the underworld dramatically portrays the powerful experience of rebirth which preceds and helps to bring about this hard-won integration. . . .To begin with, the prediction that Psyche will be carried off by a horrible snake gives visual expression to the inexperienced girl’s formless sexual anxieties. The funeral procession which leads Psyche to her destiny suggests the death of maidenhood, a loss not easily accepted. The readiness with which Psyche permits herself to be persuaded to kill Eros, with whom she cohabits, indicates the strong negative feelings which a young girl may harbor against him who has robbed her of her virginity.
According to Bettelheim, the value of the animal-husband tales, including the Eros and Psyche story, is that they assure children that their fear of sex as something beastly is not unique to them and that sexual anxiety, which is often implanted by others, frequently turns out to be unfounded. Stories about the animal-husband assure children that their fear of sex as something dangerous and beastly is by no means unique to them; many people have felt the same way. But as the story characters discovers that despite such anxiety their sexual partner is not an ugly creature burt a lovely person, so will the child. On a preconscious level these tales convey to the child that much of his anxiety is implanted in him by what he hs been told; and that matters may be quite different when one experiences them directly, from the way one sees them from the outside.
So when Psyche discovers that her lover is not the monster she feared but a magnificent god, this reassures people on a subconscious level that sex is not beastly but potentially beautiful. In this reasoning Bettelheim goes a step beyond [J.] Schroeder and [Jacques] Barachilon, who more or less use the Eros and Psyche myth to illustrate the dynamics of projection as a girl’s way of dealing with her sexual anxieties. Bettelheim stresses ore than these other two commentators the role of society in generating sexual anxiety in children and the positive unconscious role which the Eros and Psyche myth and other animal-husband tales have in offsetting such anxiety.
Erich Neumann sees Psyche as originally bound to Eros in a paradise of uroboric unconsciousness, and when she sees Eros in the light, this original unconscious tie is dissolved. For Neumann this change represents a shift from the principle of fascinating attraction and the fertility of the species to a genuine love principle of personal development and encounter. For Neumann the link between individuation and love as encounter is one of the central psychological insights of the myth: "With Psyche, then, there appears a new love principle, in which the encounter between feminine and masculine is revealed as the basis of individuation" (Amor and Psyche, p. 90).
Individuation is accomplished through a conscious encounter with the unconscious, which is symbolized by contrasexual symbols: the male achieves individuation by confronting his unconscious, personified as a feminine anima and the female meets her unconscious personified by male figures. This process is usually understood intrapsychically, but it is generally influenced by encounters with persons of the opposite sex in the external world. In this view, a loving encounter is often the occasion for an intensification of the individuation process.
From this traditional Jungian perspective Eros can be seen as either Psyche’s inner masculine side or as a figure who transcends (is outside of) her own mind—either as a person in the external world or as a god in a transcendent reality. In an accessible style and readable prose, Barbara Weir Huber explores the myth of Psyche, interweaving research from diverse disciplines such as current feminist and educational theories, mythology, literature, psychology, and cultural anthropology. She offers an original, critical reinterpretation of the myth, highlighting the way it overtly portrays female experience in a patriarchal context while covertly affirming all aspects of female life.
In Transforming Psyche Huber shows that the myth of Psyche and Eros can be interpreted to illuminate the experiences of twentieth-century women. In contrast to the portrayal of Psyche as indecisive and amorphous, Huber emphasizes those aspects of the tale that describe Psyche's connectedness - to her sisters, her own sexuality, her earth-bound experience and, ultimately, to the birthing of her child. Using the works of such writers as Emily Carr, Margaret Laurence, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf, Huber demonstrates that feminist theory and women's autobiography mirror the insights uncovered in her retelling of the Psyche story, a feminist response to Neumann's powerful classic, Amor and Psyche.
According to Jean Shinoda-Bolin, "In the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche, Psyche's story is about the growth of the soul that began with her decision to face the truth, and led her to being on her own, challenged to complete tasks that were initially beyond her ability to perform. In the myth, her unseen bridegroom would come to her in the dark of the night and be gone by morning. Metaphorically, she was in an unconscious relationship. Fearing that he could be a monster, Psyche followed her sister's advice, hid a lamp and a knife, and waited until he had fallen asleep. She needed the lamp to see him, and the knife to cut off his head if indeed her were a monster."
"These two symbols, the lamp and the knife, are both necessary for a psyche--for a soul--to act decisively when we know the truth. The 'lamp' is a symbol of illumination, of consciousness, the means of seeing a situation clearly. The knife, like the sword, is a symbol of decisive action, of the capacity to cut through confusion. The lamp without the knife is not adequate; it is insight into the situation with the capacity to act upon this perception."
"Myths and symbols are in the language of the soul. A myth helps us to take a situation to heart and know what we must do: if it is to see the truth and act upon it, then the image of Psyche with her sword provides a magic perspective. A symbolic object can then be a talisman that helps us to do what we need to do. Like passing a literal torch, these are rituals that empower us by infusing an act with a deeper meaning. To think and act this way is magical, metaphoric thinking that can call forth the qualities we need from within ourselves and may also tap into sources of help that lie beyond us." (Jean Shinoda-Bolin).
Psyche is a mortal incarnation of Eros' mother Aphrodite (or Venus). Since she is mortal, she represents that part of Eros' anima which is closer to consciousness. Aphrodite becomes jealous of Psyche because mortals begin worshipping her beauty, preferring her to an abstract Olympian goddess. Psyche's appearance in an account of the Eleusinian Mysteries points to the identification between Psyche and Isis, and Aphrodite and Isis. One might think that the goddess, then, fights against herself. In a sense, she does. She protests because of the narrowing of her potential into a finite mortal form.
If Psyche is Aphrodite in diminutive form, Eros actually takes part in a variation on the theme of sacred marriage with his mother/daughter/sister. This repeats the old Egyptian transformative formula of I.A.O. (Isis-Apophis-Osiris), concerning the mystery of rebirth. Psyche is a form of Kore, the eternal maiden, the mother goddess in rejuvenated, human form. Therefore, the Eros and Psyche tale is a variation of the Demeter-Kore myth. For the female initiate, this myth represents the deepest experience of the female "ms.teries" of the Self.
For the male initiate, it means a progressive integration of the anima which then leads to an experience of the Self. While he is still mother-complexed, all the forms of the goddess are compounded in the figure of the Great Mother. Without transformation he is her eternal lover who is always subject to fragmentation of his personality (i.e. death and rebirth). So, the story of Eros and Psyche on various arcs concerns such important human areas as anima (for a man) and animus (for woman); it is also a paradigm of developing relationship, and bears a strong message regarding developmental tasks in the natural process of women's (or feminine) consciousness raising.
The action of the archetype of anima/animus means that we project our unconscious idea of the All-Woman or All-Man onto an individual in whom we see this ideal essence. No single person can be the carrier of all the divine attributes or qualities we project onto them. When they fail to live up to our unconscious expectations, the process of consciousness raising begins. The Aphrodite function is a lens which can magnify or distort. The story of Eros and Psyche reveals a process of deep metamorphosis and renewal where all the values of the feeling function, emotional life, and moral standards gradually gain new significance and purpose.
There is a "change of heart." Eros moves from sexual objectification toward soulful love; Psyche from projection of her masculine qualities toward empowerment. Emotionally, they act out the dynamic of the puer/puella immature relationship in the meantime. This naturally leads toward active introspection on the mental level, which results in spiritual consciousness raising--a renewed sense of empathy and compassion.
This myth resonates with the Tarot trump, THE LOVERS. The Crowley deck shows an exalted version of the sacred marriage. But more mundane decks generally show a man flanked on either side by two women competing for his attention. He is in an unconscious relationship with both the more maternal, motherly type and the young sensual counterpart who probably represents an immature anima or soul image.
These female figures are sometimes polarized as light and dark anima figures. If we view the young man as the immature ego, this card can also represent a woman with a split between the physical and spiritual aspects of love. Sometimes this dynamic becomes concretized, "acted out," in life through a love triangle.
The ego must bear responsibility for any action it takes in response to the conflicting figures. In the psychology of both men and women, male figures usually represent consciousness, intellectual attainment, and spirit; female figures symbolize aspects of the body, emotions, and soul. The polarity is between sexual passions, secret feelings, and spiritual strivings which exert a definite hold on the ego.
Each is compelling in a magical, magnetic way. The ego cannot detach itself from either of them in outer reality since each belongs to its inner reality. If the ego stands its ground, and endures the tension of conflicting desires, it can becomes free of the spell of unconscious projection in either direction. We must come to terms with both instinctual draws to gain full stature. This is a step toward individuation. Otherwise we remain in thrall to our feminine, instinctual side which conditions our emotions. We live out a frozen, trance-like state of mystified love, rather than mature, soulful love.
The challenge is to connect our spiritual and emotional life, through passionate involvement in all of life. Then we find ourselves in a new relationship with others and in harmony with ourselves, facing each individual conflict and suffering through it to its resolution or transcendence. By facing our fears and pains -- becoming conscious of our conflicts -- we can find peace. New realizations appear in their embryonic stage as conflicts which offer us choices in life. These decision points become either our life's path or roads-not-taken.
Eros, like Fate, is symbolic of the fatal power of attraction which brings opposites together. He is the incarnating life principle, which ushers in the irrational, passionate intensity which makes transformation possible. He "turns up the heat" on the psychic process; he is that spiritual or divine fire which can unite with instinct.
In the creation myths of many cultures, Primordial Wholeness divided into two polarizing aspects. Together these are known as the "syzygy" and indicate an archetypal coupling where one aspect is never separated from the other. In the "impersonal" aspect of lunar (or Venusian) experience, the Great Goddess is never separated from her masculine Son-Lover. They are locked in an eternal fascination for one another. One implies the other for wholeness. They exemplify the soul-spirit relationship on a naive level of psychological development.
On the "personal" level this tandem is expressed as anima/animus. They are the contrasexual component within us all. In other words, these soul figures embody our latent capacities for expression and realization of the traits normally associated with the opposite sex. Thus, the animus leads a woman to the outer world and promotes her ability in focused, rational thinking; conversely, the anima guides a man (or our ego) through the inner worlds of relationship. Since anima and animus build a bridge between the conscious and unconscious perspectives, they function as mediators between the known and the "unknown."
This is the level of psychological "complex" where there is a blending of archetypal realities with our individual experiences. Complexes function like psychological "strange attractors," magnetically centering portions of our energy within their particular patterns of expression. This magnetic draw is the attractive force of Eros coupled with the psychic urge toward manifestation.
The imagery of anima/animus is based in archetypal symbolism and in childhood memories of significant others of the opposite sex. This includes parental attitudes and behavior, grandparents' influence, siblings, first-love, caregivers, mentors, and cultural expectations and norms.
Anima/animus determines our conceptualization of the ideal mate, and is responsible for such phenomena as "love at first sight," and "star-crossed lovers." It takes the elements of fate and destiny and combines them in an impersonal formula, which paradoxically feels totally unique. Anima/animus represents the balancing of masculine and feminine traits in us as individuals. This balancing is a form of sacred marriage, a union which produces a magickal child which is the higher Self, much like Eros and Psyche give birth to Voluptas, deep and abiding pleasure or satisfaction.
The animus is the masculine personification of the soul. He carries both a transcendent spiritual aspect and a personal aspect. He is shown in the tale as a beautiful creature, whom Psyche is at first convinced is a terrible monster-- sort of an "all men are beasts" programming. Later, she learns his true nature. Anima/animus are potential guides to the depths of the unconscious, forming a bridge to daily life. They are factors which transcend consciousness, both light and dark. So in a relationship which seems to have everything going for it, there can be friction or "animosity" produced by the unconscious forces (complexes) operating below the surface.
Most of these troubles stem from projecting the anima/animus image onto our loved ones, then maneuvering them into fulfilling our expectations. Internal conflicts come from the split nature of anima/animus which we experience in modern life. This again revolves mainly around the gulf between the "spiritual" and "sensual" aspects of the inner figure.
For example, a Madonna/whore complex, which is a split between the holy mother and the erotic love goddess. Or, the spiritual animus might be projected onto the figure of a wise man, a ghostly lover to whom a woman faithfully goes in her fantasy-life, or onto an idealized brother/sister relationship devoid of sexual options.
Reality must be found between idealized (virtually non-existant) relationships and degraded relationships. The sensual animus may be presented as darker gods of impersonal sexuality, phallic or obscene in nature. In any event, the animus represents a woman's need for creative expression. The more fully she can manifest this trait, the better her inner relationship to the animus becomes. He provides her with inner light, not inspiration which is a function of her anima nature, the core of her Self.
Anima/animus excite those feelings of longing, awe, fear of the unknown, and incomprehensibility. They imply that when we love deeply, we open ourselves to the possibility of betrayal and the pain of separation. We open ourselves to wounding, and this very woundedness is our openness. The transpersonal power of love can appear as an obsession or possession by another, against which rational thought is no protection.
Eros and Psyche represent the experience of this emotional-sexual level and its projections, coupled with the exercise of discrimination between what is archetypal and what is personal in life.
Occupations and preoccupations associated with this eternal love story include:
feminine consciousness-raising group
"It is wrong to think that Love comes from long companionship or persevering courtship. Love is the offspring of a spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a MOMENT it will not be created in years or even generations." -- Kahlil Gibran, from The Broken Wings
In the tale, Psyche, the human soul is still in the cave of illusion. Her sisters: complete cave dwellers who behave like envious sisters in fairy tales every where. Eros is the principle of desire for the good. Aphrodite is placer of difficulties in Psyche's way. Psyche finally marries Cupid and becomes a goddess--the philosopher's soul by pursing divine desires can become immortal. The myth of Psyche and Eros is a wake-up call to the Soul. On archetypal levels, this awakening can only occur through the call of the Beloved, represented in this story by Eros.
The myth begins with the birth of a young girl, Psyche, whose beauty surpasses that of Aphrodite, representative of the collective consensus stuck in old ways and refusing to grow. She resents Psyche's beauty and to seek vengeance enlists the help of her son/lover, Eros, to shoot one of his arrows at her so that she will be "consumed with passion for a man who bring her endless agony."
Meanwhile, no one will marry Psyche, as her beauty is so great that it is perceived as "too much" and loneliness ensues. In desperation, her father seeks the advice of an oracle and is informed that she is to wed "Death." She is attired in funeral garb and led to a high mountain crag where she awaits her fate. Eros, having been commanded by his mother, is awaiting nearby and seeing her for the first time is so struck with her beauty that he accidentally pricks his own hand with one of his arrows and falls deeply in love with Psyche. Instead of falling off of the cliff, the winds carry her to an idyllic paradise and she becomes the bride of Love/Eros.
This myth has many layers of depth and meaning. The beauty of Psyche speaks of the beauty of our Soul, which if unexpressed and in an unawakened state, there is no metamorphosis, growth or transformation. This equates to Death in an archetypal sense. The call of the Beloved, Love/Eros, lures us into becoming more, reaching for more, unfolding and blossoming. The "too much" beauty of our Soul is often times shunned in our world when fully expressed, and we often want to retreat back into the quietness of slumber.
It is a wake-up call to the Soul individually, but in grander terms a wake-up call to all Souls of the collective conscious, as we sleepwalk through our global devastation and destruction caused by wars and other travesties. It is also a wake-up call to perceive all the beauties that surround us in our world daily that go unnoticed by the sleeping Soul. This is not meant to be a sounding of an alarm, but a gentle reminder of awakening through the gift of Love. Listen to the call of your Beloved to gently awaken your Soul and walk in awe of your own beauty.
How does this myth of the divine lovers play out in modern emotional life? It is a metaphor of psychological growth -- "bringing up Psyche." It identifies certain developmental tasks fundamental to mature identity and the ability to love fully, such as sorting out feelings, setting appropriate boundaries, owning projections, developing a dispassionate Observer Self, and empowerment with compassion.
When relationships get stalled this process is stuck in the immature stage. John Bradshaw calls these "mystified relationships," still enmeshed in the dynamics of the very early family life of the partners. The issues of safety and trust are unresolved. These are relationships which stick together for the sake of the children, and the "children" are the regressive personalities of the lovers.
The healthy Eros/Psyche relationship is one of empathy and intimacy, safety and passion. It is joyful and totally relaxed. When conflicts come up, as they inevitably will, there are means of negotiation. This is "soulful" love which includes many results of self-consciousness. It is generative in nature. There is bonding, commitment, vulnerability, self-disclosure, sensuality, ecstasy, as well as respect, caring, belonging,togetherness, toleration, and constancy.
Jeffrey Satinover, (M.D., physicist and Jungian analyst), examines the role of the Self in relationship in a tape called, "BEING SEPARATE, BEING TOGETHER." This talk is from a Jungian conference on wounding and healing in relationships. Every analyst knows that healthy, loving relationships are more healing than all the therapy in the world. The tale of Eros and Psyche is with us today in the psychological complex known as "puer/puella," (boy/girl). They are stuck at the adolescent stage of development. This same complex is imaged in the Tarot Trump, VI, THE LOVERS.
Much of psychic life remains hidden as in the initial stages of the myth. This includes secret thoughts, feelings, fears, criticisms, anticipations, etc. A psychological initiation occurs when we are suddenly forced to "go within" ourselves and discover or "own" the subconscious processes operating there. Gradually, we begin to recognize that relationship involves chronic "wounding and healing." In the myth, for example, Psyche spills hot oil on Eros while trying to see what he looks like during his sleep.
In love, the root experience is of the archetype of the Self. The broad, deep emotional experience coupled with detachment vacillates from impulse to action. This Self is the root of emotions when the ego is identified with it. The Self remains ineffable, or unknown, and is too sacred to be expressed in words. We experience the Self as our inner childlike nature when we act out a pattern of cyclic instability in our lovelife. We don't relate "adult to adult," but "wounded child to wounded child." Neediness on both parts keeps the legitimate needs of both from being met. There are periods of despair and exaltation, wounding and healing.
This is a variation of the archetype of the dying and resurrecting god. In its self-reflecting narcissism, this complex provides no stable sense of identity. We ask ourselves, "Who am I, and why can't I behave as I'd like to?" Some people seek therapy for this very absence of a stable sense of identity, after trying to form a false identity as a couple.
Love brings alterations and fluctuations between feelings of fear, of "being nobody," or worthless when we are wounded, or feeling special and precious when things are going well. These feelings may change rapidly depending on the emotional climate, and this is an unsettling feeling. The chronic emotion is a feeling of overwhelming longing for support of the loved one, coupled with feelings of extreme emptiness when the beloved is gone. Possessive jealousy comes from projecting our own negative self-image onto the rival who seems to succeed in an area where we have failed the loved one.
When the Self begins operating in an individual, the ego automatically begins acting defensively to protect itself against the intolerable sense of fragmentation which it anticipates will follow. The feeling of being unique and whole alternates with self-defense against feeling wounded and worthless. The defense consists of cutting off the roots of all intense emotional experience with the beloved, and may even extend into other friendships. Some people seek solace in the predictable gratification of alcohol or drugs as substitutes for the unpredictable pleasures of love.
The Self's proper role in relationship is concerned with self-analysis or getting to knowone's inner workings better. Each marriage or relationship consists of a union among four aspects -- the normal consciousness of the partners and their subconscious or inner Self. Thus, a woman loves not only a man as he behaves in outer life, but his inner "feminine" soul; a man embraces his wife and her inner "masculine" soul. This relationship was depicted in alchemy as the marriage of the alchemist and his mystic sister who is his inner nature.
Instead of depending on one another for a sense of self-value (co-dependence), self-esteem emerges from within through reflective introversion. We can mirror, validate, and support ourselves when we listen to our inner nurturing voice. When we explore our own personal depths, we come into our daily relationships as whole people. Then we can form truly interdependent, reciprocal relationships.
"Falling in love" is a vehicle for the experience of the self. This experience, or even yearning for it, influences our daily life and human experience tremendously. As they say, "Love makes the world go around." Yet it automatically means there will be a fragmentation of personality following sooner or later, since an unconscious dynamic process has been unleashed. The old personality must be dissolved before the new structure co-created by the partners can be established.
Difficulties and disappointments follow when the other doesn't reflect back the expected sense of specialness or idealness. We often hold ideals of relationship which we have never seen and could not exist in real life. In an attempt to actualize our fantasy life, we unconsciously compel or manipulate the other person to fulfill it. There is a simultaneous attachment or identification of the ego with the vast potential of the Self, which no partner can maintain.
When one partner doesn't fulfill expectations, the addictive yearning to experience the specialness of the Self changes into an indifference to the other which is not genuine. This is a reactionary defense against the Self in that both the unique and fragmentary periods produce pain for the ego. It is difficult for the ego to "live up" to the idealized image, also.
There is a pressure on the ego to live the demands of the Self, or cut them off entirely in a negative defensive move. Longing and disappointment change to seeming indifference and then the person begins to seek outward. This is a compulsive drive to recreate the appearance of the Self through yet another lover. The feeling of jealousy in the deserted party comes from feeling possessive of the lover as something of one's own, and experiencing the loss of Self, or even fear of the loss of Self. The type of attachment that believes the other is responsible for the experience of the specialness of the self leads inevitably to painful separations.
There is a "way of being together" in which both partners maintain separate identities. They are distinct, yet conjoined. In this liberated experience there is emotional intensity combined with detachment from compulsion. When each person experiences the Self with some degree of autonomy from identification with the ego, there is reduction of the strain in maintaining the Self of the other. We cease to make such exaggerated demands on one another. We let go of the reactionary stage of power struggles, and become emotionally independent.
The power-struggles (counterdependence) in relationship aren't for power, per se. They are manipulations and desperate maneuverings of the partners to maintain their individual sense of Self. These struggles are a natural stage which comes prior to true independence, individuation, or self-actualization. True lovers are partners as well as friends and lovers -- head and heart, feeling and intellect combine.
The associations of a complex can be detached from an image which should be archetypal. We can consciously separate out what is personal and human from what is archetypal and divine. We don't need to confuse our lovers with divine archetypal powers, though we each carry a divine component.
When we reown our projections, the other doesn't carry the burden of our spirituality for us. The spiritual problem is no longer disguised as a relationship problem. Our relationship with the higher power becomes direct. When each individual has an internal relationship with the Self, the other partner is not forced to carry and reinforce the projection of the Self. They are no longer exposed to the intense disappointment of the lover when they inevitably fail to live up to god-like qualities which only a higher power can carry.
Keywords for the cycle of Eros and Psyche include,
feminine spiritual quest
Though many versions of this tarot trump depict the classic love triangle, this card has much deeper meanings. Depth experience of the higher Self comes from being actively introspective, as shown by THE LOVERS in the Rider Tarot Deck. The male (consciousness) looks to the female (subconscious) who in turn looks to the Angel (Self) for guidance and direction. We should look within ourselves for validation and certain fulfillment. We need to examine our own feelings and thoughts, not pass the buck for our unhappiness onto our partners. Psyche abandoned by Eros becomes lovesick or depressed. In "Depression: Soul's Quest for Depth, Meaning & Wholeness" Maureen Roberts, PhD explores the prospective meaning of depression.
Sufferers of depression are often forced to endure, in addition to their pain and energy loss, the stigma of being told that they're 'ill', hence that their depression is a problem to be eliminated, or that it has no value, meaning, or purpose. From a soul-centred perspective, however, depression is not primarily another word for unhappiness; nor is it 'mental illness.' It is, rather, in many instances a response to soullessness (or what shamans call 'soul loss'), including, ironically enough, the soullessness of the materialist medical model which continues to 'treat' depression as a biologic illness that can be
To achieve genuine individual and cultural healing, we need, instead, more wholeness , that is, more soulful and well-rounded individuals who embody life's dance of opposites and in so doing live fully human, fully divine lives. We need more people who are not ashamed of, or embarrassed by their pain, but who can instead respond to their own and others' suffering - as an unavoidable facet of the human condition - with love, patience, sympathy, nurturing and respect.
True happiness, after all, does not exclude sadness, but rather embraces it within the living paradox which personal wholeness demands. As the quiet contentedness of joy, such happiness is not attained by seeking happiness, nor by eliminating sadness through addressing purely personal wants, needs, fears, anxieties and insecurities. Indeed, a reactionary cult of 'happiness', based on the indiscriminate elimination of all psychospiritual suffering, is in the longrun as lopsided, narrow, false, repressive and self-defeating as the current 'epidemic' of depression. Endorsing happiness above sadness, in other words, simply amounts to replacing one extreme (which is falsely viewed in a totally negative light) with its opposite, which is seen as positive. In reality, though, not all happiness is positive - and not all depression is 'bad'.
From soul's angle, far from being an 'insidious illness', depression is often a valuable phase of a person's life journey, a critical juncture at which a soul-searching re-assessment of priorites, directions, relationships, work, gifts, self-image, home life, spirituality and/or values is being called for. For this reason, dreams and myths often contain the theme of the 'buried treasure', symbolically the soul hidden, or trapped in the unconscious depths, which the hero or heroine must retrieve in order to become healed, mature, content and whole.
Mythically, the gods reside not only in celestial realms, but also down below in Underworld, the mythic equivalent of the unconscious. Soul, which unlike light, airy 'spirit', gravitates to the body, the Earth and the watery realms of night and ocean depth, does not lift us to mountainous heights, but pulls us - when it's neglected, stifled, or shunned - down into neurosis, depression, suicide, psychosis and psychospiritual chaos.
As an example, in the Greek myth of the human girl Psyche, whose name means 'soul', Psyche abandoned by Eros (the divine Love which soul needs) is left alone, directionless, depressed - literally, 'pulled down' - hence she is finally driven to Underworld depths. For Eros, mysterious god of entanglements in relationship, involvement with life, immersion in suffering, depth and joy, is the god behind human vulnerability, the one who exposes us, through love, betrayal, cruelty and kindness, to life's inseparable blend of woundedness and pleasure.
Psyche, in other words, is a myth that provides a 'psych-ological' context for understanding depression as soul's need to descend in order to retrieve its Underworld treasure. By exploring depression from this soul-centred perspective, we have thus re-mythologized a universal (archetypal) human experience: soul's hunger for depth and for the elusive riches harboured by Hades, Lord of the dark Underworld of the unconscious. Just as Psyche had to journey 'down under' to find her way back to lost Eros, so we shall be driven to the depths of our wounds, depressions, madness and fears in order to be reunited with lost soul.
In the shamanic vision that this re-mythologizing of our lives is the medicine we need if we are to help one another reconnect to a life wrestled with, shared and celebrated in all its fullness, vibrancy, imaginal richness, pain and joy. With this guiding vision at heart, the following soul-centred delineation of depression offers itself as a yeast, vessel and catalyst to help reactivate the sense of soul within the individual, in the floundering field of mental health, and throughout global culture as a whole.
Depression, which literally means 'a lowering', occurs when energy (libido) which is normally available for day-to-day conscious living, becomes depleted, blocked, pulled down, or trapped in the depths of the unconscious. Depression can arise through endless combinations of psychospiritual and physical causes, but in many cases, its primary source is an unresolved, repressed, or forgotten grief, trauma, crisis, conflict or loss. In addition, depression is often an emotional, relational and spiritual response to a sense of meaninglessness, lack of harmony with Nature, or lack of truthfulness with oneself and others. Poor diet, seasonal changes, lack of sunshine and lack of exercise can contribute to depression, as can soulless environments, materialism, lack of imagination, damaging relationships, dull routine, empty forms of work, and apparent lack of life purpose.
Depression is a natural human response to an endless variety of circumstances and states of unresolved suffering, or tension within the psyche. While it can be debilitating (for example, in cases of repressed conflict, extreme crisis, or forgotten childhood trauma), it can also have a creative outcome. For example, some depressions are caused by a lowering of consciousness in order to retrieve needed wisdom, or creative and healing gifts from the unconscious.
This kind of depression is best dramatized as myth, when the hero or heroine must go through a symbolic death and rebirth. Examples of such myths are Dionysus, Osiris, Christ, Demeter and Persephone, Orpheus and Eurydice. Reading and reflecting on such myths can help provide an imaginal context for soul's journey through depression. Bear in mind that the depression is never the end of the story. There's always a rebirth at the end of the journey!
The Self is a powerful internal dynamism of positive and negative manifestations which range from despair to exaltation. Since it symbolizes this entire range of emotion, you can't depend on it like a benevolent parent. When each partner isn't held responsible for what they are, they have the option of acting with charity or benevolence, instead of out of a compulsion to control one another.
The nature of any relationship cannot be predicted from the qualities of the separate people involved. For example, oxygen and hydrogen chemistries do not predict the emergent properties of their combination in water. Both are completely altered in the process of uniting.
When people enter a relationship, there is a trans-FORM-ation of personality. The old form of the ego must die to be reborn in service to the relationship. Even the word 'transformation' contains images which intimate a knowledge of the fear of death. Morphe- (also in metamorphosis) means to gleam or sparkle with an appearance seen as beauty. "Trans-" contains images of piercing, mutilation, or maiming. These images of needs and distress produce relationship, but not idealism.
Eros embodies both compulsion and inhibition. We are both anxious and wary or leery of love. Love and fear seem to go together. The natural inhibitions of Eros need not be overcome. They are his way of eventually getting in touch with Psyche on a more profound level. Eros embodies both creative and destructive instincts, therefore love can be a long process of being wounded and regenerated. Psyche would still be a virgin if she and Eros didn't go through this cycle. She is the reflective instinct, who would still be fascinated with her own dreams and visions if Eros didn't change her.
Eros makes Psyche's potential fertility into a regeneration of the power of love. At last, Eros and Psyche are united in vitality and passion through the imaginal aspects of interested love. The archetypal patterns are not only perceived in life, there is an active participation in the cycle. There is a suffering of impossible love until Psyche's soul work, symbolized by her tasks, is completed. Then a psychologically creative union produces experiences of pleasure, the "Pleasure born of the soul." There is perception of the dimension of immortality intimated by love.
How does the heart open to the other? This riddle has long obsessed human-kind. In the blink of an eye, Eros's dart pierces the shield of isolation, and fragmentation is no more. A new question appears: who am I who is so easily smitten? The first lesson of the lover is vulnerability. Acceptance is indeed a work. To allow love to show its beauty, the soul must submit to onerous trials, as Harriet Eisman describes in her study of the tale of Eros and Psyche. If we harden our position, and our hearts, into thinking that love is our due and not an earning, then the end of this story is all too familiar. Love turns into its opposite, attachment. The ego may immediately inflate to an even larger size, forsaking the call of integration. The addiction of a Cassanova or Don Juan is the self-centered solution to love's enigma.
Yet if we accept the "wound" of love, a bridge to what Jacob Needlemancalls another level of being springs into existence. Wholeness, advaita, nirvana: different traditions express the same mystery of crossing over. In each, the embrace of a non-dual consciousness frees us from the desire of conquest. In this way, we are touched by the mystery in which love blends two into one that yet remain different.
If we accept, what must be accepted is the essential incompleteness of our humanity. In Plato's image, we once were eight-limbed and double-sexed, but were bisected by gods who feared for their power. Moved by erotic desire, we now perpetually and unsuccessfully seek our "other half." However the relentless pull is explained, poetry of all ages, as Sam Hamill shows, celebrates longing for union with the beloved. Eros, erotic love, finds us unexpectedly, without warning, and instantly we are all attention. Called back from dreams, we are again ready to meet joys and sorrows of the hero's journey. But what if we find total fulfillment in our beloved and forget the unending role of the hero? Francesca, the most sympathetic figure in Dante's spiritual journey, speaks of such inner death:
Love, which permits no loved one not to love, took me so strongly with delight in him that we are one in Hell, as we were above. (V.105)
Most remarkable of all in Eros is his mighty force. It is a force with two edges. Turn it one way, and it cuts through walls of separation. Turn it another, and discernment is sacrificed. With what knowledge must we travel to face the hero's challenge with skillful choice? (David Appelbaum).
The tale of Eros and Psyche relates the trials and tribulations of a maturing love affair. It means moving from separation and control toward praise, honor, and love. It occurs within the psyche through the process of metamorphosis. In fact, the Greek word 'Psyche' means butterfly and this process of essential restructuring involves cocooning and re-emergence in the new, potentiated form. The failure or stalling of this natural growth process is a spiritual issue, and may become a spiritual problem, which most frequently is perceived as a relationship problem.
Eros and Psyche are the primordial lovers. In this context Eros is more of a transpersonal daimon than a god. The Gods relate among themselves, but a daimon mediates between gods and men. Psyche is a diminutive incarnation of Eros' mother, Aphrodite. She personifies the anima and positive mother-complex. By her attributes, we can see that Eros has a good feeling relationship with women and the unconscious, but one which is still too naive. His attitudes toward love are idealized.
Eros himself has been acting like the archetypal Don Juan before his encounter with Psyche, expressing the pattern of behavior his mother favors. This shows he is still identified with her, still in the grips of the puer complex. He is a son-lover, still compelled to serve his mama.
Aphrodite is jealous of her own incarnation in matter. This deep level of the unconscious does not wish her son to develop out of his naive, unquestioning attitude toward her role and desires for him. She is angry and tries to destroy Psyche or Eros' reflective ability. She realizes that Psyche embodies the mother-complex of Eros, but as his anima image is closer to consciousness than she is.
Things proceed well, though blindly, in the newlywed's paradisical realm until Aphrodite stirs up trouble by sending in Psyche's jealous sisters. These sisters instill grave doubts in Psyche regarding her lover. They are too skeptical, too cynical, and too aware of the mundane side of relationship.
Secretly, they wish they could recapture some of Psyche's naive romantic attitudes in their own relationships. The closeness of their friendship opens the doorway for envy to enter. What is needed, though is a mature attitude which recognizes the paradox of love. There is always a divine and banal aspect to relationships. Both together represent a realistic, well-rounded experience, that is neither debased nor idealized.
Psyche begins her marriage as mortals do by being "in love." She is contained in a very unconscious state in the palace of Eros. She is possessed by love -- in love with love. She longs for that superhuman quality of perfection in her lover. However, her humanness makes it necessary for her to make a transition to being consciously loving, accepting imperfection. All of the forces which surround her conspire to make this absolutely necessary. The agents of this process include Psyche's inner desire toward consciousness, the sisters, Aphrodite, and Eros himself. She needs to divest herself of her myths about relationship and personal growth.
Eros compels her by remaining in the dark. His soul is still in the grips of primitive passion -- sexual objectification. So, of course, after a time, Psyche resolves that she wants a real relationship and wants to see her lover "as he really is." She has wearied of "nothing but sexuality." Her real motivation is her fear, but the unconscious has its own, as-yet-unknown goal. She also has the burning passion which wants to know real love.
When she surrenders to the mysteries of the soul, she embodies the genuine, personal love. Paradoxically, at this point, Eros flees her (incapable of emotional intimacy). Aphrodite (in an attempt to destroy her) sets the tasks which further her inner development. These are experienced as insurmountable problems, and she has suicidal impulses at each difficult point. These symbolize her readiness for self-sacrifice, but also allow her to transform from one level of consciousness to another.
Psyche's first task, sorting a huge pile of seeds, is set by Aphrodite. Psyche's biological instincts come to her aid in the form of ants. This "ant-quality" is a primitive, quiet quality which is part of her inner masculinity. It is a discriminating function of Eros. In fact, she has instinctually discriminated and sorted seed in a literal sense. She becomes pregnant by Eros while still in the paradisical state of unconsciousness. Even though she has seen the divine quality of her lover, she is no longer only animus possessed, but begins to live woman's inner biological mystery. In a way, Eros is with her through all the trials in her inner world as her incubating child.
She regains enough faith to tackle the second task which is gathering some fleece from the "golden rams of the sun." This time, she earns a bit of the Logos, or the power of the spiritual impulse, which is a trait of masculine consciousness. But she does it, thanks to wise counsel, by avoiding direct contact with it in its destructive form.
She can wield some masculine power, but need not gain it in an aggressive way. She is coming to know Eros' nature better, even though he is not there. Psyche is coming to know and understand him from the inside out, by contacting her inner animus, acknowledging the potential of her inner masculinity, while remaining absolutely feminine to the core. Through this process, she is coming to know herself.
Psyche is mustering her inner strengths as well as courage and valor; but true to form, she collapses at the prospect of the third test. Aphrodite makes the trials progressively harder. This time she must fill a crystal goblet with water from the river Styx, the powerful current of psychic energy.
Psyche succeeds in capturing a bit of this river of life with the help of Ganymede, an eagle sacred to Zeus. This eagle represents high-flying spiritual intuition. She is, once again, saved from destruction by an act of grace. By dipping only a small amount from the river of libido, her fragile ego (the container) is not shattered. By listening to her quiet, inner guiding voice, Psyche was able to complete her nearly impossible task, through methodical concentration. Psyche's ability to touch her unconscious depths gave her access to the creative solution. She understood this through an intuitive vision.
The final test involves a terrible journey to the underworld. One needs proper guidance for such a journey. Modern examples of this task of making Psyche more conscious include the therapeutic process of individuation and spiritual disciplines like yoga and mysticism. This process of understanding one's depths repeats the shaman's initiation in the underworld and leads to self-realization of inner potentials. We become progressively more enlightened by shedding our illusions about self and world. It requires all of the energy and resources we can muster. Once begun it must be followed through to the end.
Psyche fortunately acquires the treasure of the subconscious as the box of divine beauty which Aphrodite has demanded of her. The beauty of Persephone is the resplendence of the most profound depths of the feminine Self. Betty Meador calls it "the awesome and overpowering essence of death and resurrection, the passage of the female goddess through the dark regions of Hell into rebirth and transformation." This process was the subject of both the Isis and Eleusinian Mysteries.
On her return from the underworld (subconscious), for love of Eros, Psyche opens the box of beauty ointment. Seeking to make herself more desirable to Eros, (and inadvertently cheating Aphrodite), she does not have the courage to face Eros as herself. She want to remain disguised in Eros' anima projections, which hark back his mother-complex. Her fantasy is that then they could continue to share the paradisical state.
True, she does this for love of Eros, but this keeps him in his adolescent phase, devoid of the maturity a real relationship would bring. She regresses into an unconscious state of deep sleep. She becomes a "sleeping beauty." In this apparent failure, she shows herself to be most human! How unbearably egotistical Psyche might have been if she had completed the tasks perfectly. Through her regression into humanness, Eros is redeemed from his boyish hangups and allowed to mature. He can show some true love, rather than instinctual reproductive passion.
Through his love Eros redeems Psyche and awakens her to an understanding of the archetypal functioning of the animus as a bridge to the divine. She is transformed from her mortal condition to an awareness of her own immortality of soul.
Together they experience the birth of their child as joy, mutual ecstasy, and the pleasure of life and love. There is a blending of the human and divine qualities in love. The opposites merge in mutual love, and experience unification on a profound level which has both depth and conscious awareness. Eros is contained within Psyche. The reproductive instinct transforms into a highly differentiated feeling function, and Psyche goes through rebirth which frees her "butterfly" nature. Feeling is a reflective function which requires time more than perception. When Psyche evokes true feelings from Eros, her task is complete. Daily life is connected with archetypal reality.
Eros embodies the Mystery of the Inner Process in matter and spirit. Love is the fundamental universal principle that even holds atoms and molecules together as matter. Eros is a mysterious energy inherent in the whole of creation, fascinating seekers all over the world. Across the cultures, Eros takes different names but still remains the same agent that has to be awakened from within, since it is the only element that can transform the human psyche.
Psyche has to be pacified and Eros’ "fire" has to be transformed into "light" so that he can become the mediator and guide that gently pushes and pulls the seeker towards the source of divine love—Eros the Beloved—that awakens from within, guides and accompanies the seeker from within the inner planes. He is the inner witness, the agent within the seeker that unfolds gnosis, or divine knowledge. This divine knowledge awakens higher levels of consciousness within him and, in turn, these levels of consciousness aroused by Eros lead the seeker back to the source of light.
The Greek mysteries relate that at the very beginning of creation, only chaos existed, and from chaos was born the cosmogonic Eros. Elsewhere, according to mythology, we are told that amongst the gods, Eros was the most handsome. This is how theogonia (the birth of the gods) begins and we are assured that the poet Isiodos heard it from the mouth of the Muse herself. According to Isiodos, Eros represents the driving force behind the entire theogonia. The Orphics agree that Eros appears at the beginning of theogonia and cosmogonia in general, and they tell us that his mother was Night, the dark goddess, and his father the Wind. From their first cosmic and elemental embrace, Eros was born from a silver egg.
For the Greeks, the essence of Eros is the unfoldment of human thought, and in Greek philosophy, he is described as a liberating agent who releases and activates the creative process of the mind. Eros inspires and opens the channel of intuition to the higher and abstract understanding and communion with beauty and truth. The myth of Eros and Psyche describes in detail the inner process of transformation. In fact, Eros cannot be separated from his beloved Psyche, since they are united by a secret and sacred bond, invisible and unconscious in man. In fact, man’s psyche remains filled with erotic, sensual, carnal desires that keep him and his mind trapped on the physical plane along with his emotions and consciousness. But a seeker must transmute the attraction of Eros and awaken the bond with his psyche so that he can rise towards the "beloved," the invisible golden thread that links his consciousness to the universal qualities of beauty and love.
The gifts of Eros affect the emotional and thought processes of humanity, especially those of a seeker who has to learn how to open up and integrate these gifts in his psyche. From the lowest and most physical levels of consciousness to the most spiritual ones, Eros remains forever present,gradually transforming the inner fire into pure light. Eros operates in every living creature, and Greek poetry and philosophy describe how nature partakes of the gift of Eros. Hence we could say that Eros’ contribution to humanity is not only inherent in man’s psyche, but that it is also involved in the process that awakens the ego to its true nature, the beauty and unconditional love of the soul.
This awakening activated by Eros and Aphrodite reveals the qualities of pure love and gnosis in the consciousness of the seeker. This level of consciousness cannot be described, however, because it is itself a higher aspect of intelligence in which abstract knowledge and impersonal love are combined. We could simply call this level of awakening, wisdom. So, on one hand, Eros can simply mean carnal love and desire for material possessions, but on the other, it can also express the spiritual energy that attracts and leads the psyche towards the Center of Pure Being, where the beauty and love of the soul are revealed.
Many Greek philosophers, Plato and Pythagoras included, said the same thing—that beauty and gnosis are inseparable and inherent in the essence of Eros. Thus, we understand that in the psyche of man, Eros rules over his carnal desires but also over his higher aspirations and longing for wisdom. This is not the playful cupid, the winged son of Aphrodite and Mars, but an elderly primordial deity, worshiped by the ancient Greeks as the first element of the primordial creative cause, the element that binds and attracts spirit and matter together.
Greek philosophers saw the spirit of Dionysus penetrating the whole of nature and binding together the two aspects of Eros, the penetration and blending energy of matter with its counterpart and complement, spirit. Esoterically, Eros is the leading force within a seeker that takes him away from a level of duality to a level of unity and wholeness. Furthermore, Eros is the key to transforming psychic vibratory rates. He does that by placing a seeker on his axial center, the neutral and timeless zone within his conscious self. This level of being brings about the integration of ego with soul. Hence, Eros is the god or essence that gives us the possibility of letting go of the past and living in the present moment, embracing spontaneously everything within and without our reach.
Eros allows us to see everything as part of our own nature. He also shows us how to transmute carnal and unconscious attractions and desires of all kinds, and how to re-direct and reintegrate their energies back into the center of pure love and wisdom. This inner process must be conscious, because the ego and psyche must harmonize and unite before being invited to enter into the higher realms, where the qualities and gifts of Eros are awakened. On that level of achievement and realization, the seeker receives more gifts from Eros who directs him towards his own invisible and sacred Center of Pure Being, not really a "place" at all, but more a level of being and attunement. This is a level of consciousness where the essence of pure love and beauty manifest themselves through ordinary consciousness and can be said to be a part of the undivided unique consciousness of the whole of creation.
In Symposium, Plato expounded that Eros had two aspects, one physical the other intellectual, i.e., wisdom. He knew that they had to harmonize and blend so as to transform ordinary men into heroes. According to Empedocles, "Aphrodite is Eros himself," the immortal force that unites and harmoniously blends together all the elements in nature, the "bringer" and "giver" of life. He also said, "the path to knowledge can be achieved only through Eros himself. The energy represented by Eros brings about a balance between pleasure, delight and gnosis, and this harmonious and enthusiastic search for gnosis comes not so much from the answers one receives but more from the search itself."
Hence the quest goes on forever, since pleasure and gnosis go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated. Eros questions everything because he loves wisdom and is, therefore, the living source at the center of Greek philosophy. So Eros teaches the Greeks how to become free and fearless in the face of the unknown. He invites them to follow the path of knowledge and apply the sacred principles of freedom and equality, qualities that belong to Eros’ mother, Aphrodite, whom Empedocles identifies with Eros for, without the freedom and courage to explore our inner nature with imagination and intuition, we remain unconscious prisoners of conventional ideas, routines and vicious circles.
Hence, Eros is himself the "mixer of the seeds and sperms" in creation, the primal cause, the bringer of life in the womb of nature. Eros’s gift to the seeker, therefore, is the transmuting energy of pure love, which is synonymous with the Logos. The oldest mythology of Homer does not mention Eros. Apparently Eros was not born out of a popular tradition but he is the creation of an abstract philosophical conception.
In Greek esoteric philosophy, the Eros of theogonia took part in the creation of life itself. Eros pulls the sexes together and rules over all living creatures through the need for procreation and, for that reason, we see Plato, Sophocles, Eurepides, etc., praise his irresistible influence along with his mother, Aphrodite, as they both give life and rebirth.
The orphic firstborn god Phanes Protogonus, known also as Eros, Pan and Phanes-Jupiter who sprang from the primeval egg. In the picture, he seems to be emerging in flames from the sundered halves of Phanes’ egg, above his head and below his feet. The symbolism also includes solar rays and a lunar crescent behind his head and shoulders; masks of ram, lion and goat on his torso; thunderbolt and staff in his hands (the attributes of Serapis), whilearound him are the familiar circle of the zodiac and the square of the winds. The inscription "Felix Pater"and an erased female name suggests a Mithraic environment, thereby identifying this picture also as Aion.
Tarot card VI is the Lovers, representing an inner process. It portrays Eros, the universal power of union and love, the agent that brings a new level of consciousness to the seeker, and of "being alive" in the world. Eros is shown pointing his arrow towards the seeker’s crown chakra, meaning that the seeker is in a higher initiation that will unite the two opposites and paradoxical sides within himself, and blend them on his axial level. In that axial inner space within his being, the soul reveals itself to the seeker in many subtle ways. The gifts of Eros are many and they manifest in the ever-fleeting present as sudden bursts of enlightenment and intuition that are part of a transcendent primordial knowledge that gradually unfolds in his life.
Interpret this card as representing a high level of initiation that corresponds to a baptism of fire, or the awakening in a seeker of a higher level of the abstract mind that remains a grace and a sacred mystery. Receiving the "wound" of the arrow of Eros illuminates the ego, or the limited mind of a seeker, and opens it up to receive higher truth, from where it unites itself with the source of the primordial tradition. The conscious choice of the seeker to enter a new dimension of being comes after his spiritual transformation and rebirth when the arrow of Eros opens his crown chakra, and from that opening, spiritual love pours down and inundates the psyche of the seeker who, from that moment on, transforms from being a lover of self to a lover of God.
Eros brings about conscious spiritual transformation in a seeker, unfolding in him higher levels of consciousness. Later on, Eros appears as a cruel, playful child who torments gods and mortals alike, giving them more sorrow and misery than harmony and joy. Cupid aims his arrow directly at the human heart, piercing it, but we should look at this as purifying, as awakening and introducing the spiritual element into the nature of psyche itself. It also teaches us how to escape the entrapment of the lower energies
In Kabbalah, the imagery of love, or eros, is crucial for a discussion of Shekinah. Eros implies a yearning for unity, harmony, and completion. Shekinah is the aspect which receives an impulse from its masculine counterpart, Yesod, and engages in the creative activity of harmonization. It is a mystical marriage bringing balance to the world. This marriage is God’s call to Himself in a transfiguration of His harmony in love. One important principle in Zoharic thought is man’s role in maintaining the sefirotic balance. What is found in heaven is found in transfigured parallel in the world. The actions of man affect sefirotic harmony, balance, and wholeness. In following Torah, one influences one’s sefirotic counterparts, thereby helping to keep the divine realms in harmony.
Cupid and Psyche (Roman)
Kama, lord of love (Hindu)
Sir Lancelot and Guinevere (Celtic legend)
It looked as if a modern counterpart to Eros and Psyche would be the fairytale romance of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It came complete with a meddling mother and jealous siblings, but no fairy tale ending. The jealousy was there when Diana's good looks and sparkling personality captured the affections of the world.
But the relationship quickly went from the "in love" stage to that of counterdependent behavior and power struggles. Charles triangulated the relationship from the beginning, leaving room only for pseudointimacy based on false-self roles.
When the relationship degraded further, they began living totally independent lives based on their respective interests. The conflicts cooled down because they simply left one another alone, relying on their "false couple" image. The marriage de-railed prior to the stage of co-creative interdependence.
Intimacy, empathy, safety, passion, joyful, bonding, commitment, soulful, vulnerability,ecstasy, desire, sensuality, self-disclosure, heartache, togetherness, longing, toleration, constancy, respect, caring, self-consciousness, belonging, compromise, generativity.
DIALOGUE WITH EROS & PSYCHE
You may use a little self-reminder, when caught in old emotional patterns in your relationships. Just "Ask your Anima!" or animus, discussing it with the contrasexual aspect of yourself. Even if the discussion is not fluid, the response of the inner figure will be quite revealing. Is there envy, competition, immaturity, narcissism, or an opening for safely revealing yourself to the "other"?
Notice how your beloved is similar to or different from your parent and idealized anima or animus image. What is realistic. Remember, no one will ever love you truly unconditionally simply because they are human. Also remember, the archetypal dynamic operates in, through, and behind all human relationship, conditioning it with its own divine agenda irrespective of our personal needs.
Some of the issues and areas of intimacy include sexuality, emotional intimacy, intellectual sharing, and other forms of communication. Aesthetics, creativity, recreation, crisis management, conflict management, commitment and spiritual sharing are fertile areas to dialogue about with these inner daimones. Also, try communing with their daughter, Voluptas, whose name originally meant "plunging into life."
Jean Houston concludes her contemplation this mytheme with an image of fulfillment: "Thus Psyche's search for the Beloved of her soul has plunged her into discovering the psychic source of instinct, wisdom, discrimination, and culture. She now rises on strong but gossamer wings as the vision of transformation and the call to the soul."
EROS AND PSYCHE IN YOUR LIFE
Do you believe, or ever act like you believe that love means giving up yourself for another. Do you allow their needs to supercede your own?
Married or not, do you carry the fantasy that the "right" person will come along and heal your wounds if you simply wait long enough?
Do you "fall in love" with potential lovers quickly, or stay stuck in relationships where no growth takes place?
Can you relate to Psyche's tasks from any period of your life? Is this dynamic still in process? If the developmental process derailed in any of your relationships have you noticed a pattern or similarity with your early childhood situation?
How committed are you to your personal growth and how supportive of your partner's personal growth?
Do you have a means of negotiating conflicts and differences? What is it?
During the "in love" stage, we are essentially still "living at home" in a state of blissful fusion, trying to recreate and maintain the unconscious unity of parent and child. The yearning for this original condition may be the source of divine longing. What is your relationship to this developmental stage right now?
Plato called love the "child of fullness and emptiness." We can be filled with it, or feel it as loneliness, heartache, and anguish. In your dialogue, you may also include the child of the union, Voluptas. How do you experience the fullness and emptiness of love? Describe your emotional hunger.
What does "soulful love" mean to you personally?
The dark side of love includes disillusionment, betrayal, anger, and grief. What was your biggest disappointment? What unrealistic expectations did you hold?
Have you used the imagination process (psyche) in a therapeutic way to further the bonding and intimacy in your relationships? How? We need to be able to imagine being different to change. Just imagine what different behaviors could produce different outcomes.
What significant relationship are you involved in? How does this relationship mirror your own sense of self-worth? What choice or decision do you need to make? What responsibility will you have to take for your decision? What needs to be combined, synthesized or brought together?
Nikos Deja Vu