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Psyche and Eros, Part 2

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It is recommended that you listen to the story first. To listen to the story, go here

Part 2: Psyche meets her fate, and so does Eros

“You will see a young woman atop Mount Aetna. Kill her,” Aphrodite tells her son, Eros. He flies off, obeying his mother without thought. 

Is this a case of blind obedience?

For the younger child, the parent is as a god, protecting and providing for the helpless little one until the little one grows up.  The process of growing up is difficult but made easier if the god slips into human mode, as he is supposed to do over time. The healthy parent learns to let go. For Eros, mama is a god. She has no human role to slip into. It will be Eros who will have to make the break from her. It will be Eros who will have to learn to say no to her demands. 

At this point in the story, Eros can be looked at as a young man with a job who still lives at home. Meaning, he’s immature, not yet a man. He will have to develop a firm resolve if he’s ever to “leave home.” To do so, he will need to broaden his experiences in life, to get out of Olympus to see how the humans live. He will need to suffer if he’s to experience the depth of humanity.

Aphrodite is a stand in for an extreme type of parent. There are those human parents that will ask their child to kill in their name. Think Mafia dons or political tyrants and you get the picture. Besides the material killings, inner or spiritual killings can do great harm. Psyche does represent the soul, therefore, Aphrodite is at war with the soul. She is asking Eros, the male god of love, to kill the soul. 

What does it mean when he refuses? When Eros releases his bow and then returns the poisoned arrow to the quiver, he commits an act of independence. After he sees Psyche for the first time, it takes only a few moments for him to decide what he wants and how he will get it. He makes a plan. It’s his first human act. Due to circumstances, he must implement his plan immediately. He’s growing up fast, going from obedient child to a young man in love in a matter of minutes. Before the day is out, Eros will provide for his wife, make love to her and set in motion a plan to keep his mother from knowing about his marriage. It may seem that he’s not entirely grown up since he doesn’t want to tell his mother about his wife. Not so. Aphrodite wanted Psyche dead. If Eros refuses to kill her, there are other gods and humans who will do the job. 

Psyche, expecting to be devoured by a monster, instead hears a very human like voice speak to her. This voice asks her to trust him. He doesn’t sound ominous, so Psyche continues to follow her destiny. This part of the story illustrates how the soul can become an active guide. We refer to it as intuition when we listen and follow our deepest selves. Psyche is rewarded for her trust. Eros provides everything: house, food and sexual pleasure. What more does a girl want?

Companionship. Psyche’s marriage is lopsided. The pair are like many young couples who have not matured into full relationships. Eros is gone all day working. Psyche doesn’t have enough to do. She doesn’t even know what her husband looks like. He’s a voice in the darkness. Their pleasure is purely tactile for her because she has not seen him. For the sake of Psyche’s protection, or so he thinks, Eros doesn’t allow her to fully participate in their marriage. Like many a wealthy husband, he doesn’t think beyond taking very good care of his wife. That fills his needs, not hers. 

Naturally, Psyche gets bored. She wants to go home to see her family, to let them know that she has not been eaten by some horrible monster. Eros agrees. When she arrives home, her family is overjoyed. Her parents do the wise thing; they don’t ask her too many questions. Her sisters, however, are curiosity unleashed. They ask every question and make every comment they can about this unseen husband. They get it, that while Psyche may be well cared for, until she knows and understands who her husband is, it’s not a real marriage. Like the snake in the Garden of Eden, Psyche’s sisters encourage her to discover the truth, to break out of her state of ignorance.

Psyche, by maintaining her ignorance, hangs on to her childhood. If she is to flourish, however, she must gain knowledge. She must bite into the apple. 

Her apple is a lamp. Once she returns home, she hides a lamp in her bedroom. Instead of falling asleep after her pleasure with Eros, Psyche opts to learn the truth. She wants to know exactly who she is married to, who she is sleeping with. 

Shouldn’t we always know who we are sleeping with? 

When Psyche looks at Eros, he awakes. He is disappointed that Psyche would no longer agree to stay in the dark. Here he betrays his own immaturity by leaving her immediately after she has seen him. He wants to keep things hidden, to not reveal himself. Eros is not quite ready for prime time. 

What is Eros afraid of? Of giving himself totally to Psyche. Eros was stuck in the “give” mode, he didn’t know how to receive graciously. Like the Godfather, who gave favors so that he could get what he needed later, Eros didn’t want to owe Psyche anything. He wanted her to be grateful. He didn’t want gratitude applied to him. But the soul needs fullness. It needs to give as well as take in. It needs trust. Eros did not trust Psyche with his secret. His love was for love, not for Psyche. What Eros didn’t understand is that he needed soul in his relationship. He needed to look this woman in her eyes in the midst of his passion so that she could return his adoration. 

Eros may be able to fly away, but he cannot leave the effects of a lopsided marriage behind him. He will suffer for his timidity. Psyche’s boldness turns to distress. Nothing here is unusual, for everyone stumbles on their way to providence. No one is exempt. Not even the gods. 

In our next analysis we will look at Psyche’s quest and Eros’ suffering. 

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Written by lcrockett

July 25, 2013 at 10:51 pm

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Psyche and Eros, What I’ve learned, so far

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Part 1, the hero loses her innocenceImage

Note: to hear the story of Psyche and Eros, go here. This essay covers Part 1 of the story.

Psyche is a dream that is born on the material plain. She is what we desire, yet fear keeps us from her. Psyche, the Soul, is our most deepest, most beautiful self. It is that part of us that remains guilty of innocence if we don’t test it or allow it to suffer. If Psyche doesn’t fall from her grace, we never experience the fullness of life.

Aphrodite is the goddess of love and procreation, making her a material god. When this goddess is dreamed up in the minds of man way back when, she is a necessary ingredient to keep humanity alive and growing in numbers. She is, I suggest, a part of the nature worship of the time since she is all about sex and procreation.

That’s the important point here. We 21st century moderns think of her as the goddess of love only. She is not. Before the Greeks became civilized, small, crude statues of fertility goddesses graced the hearths of several primitive societies. As humanity developed itself, they improved their gods. Aphrodite morphed, from that chunky hearth goddess into the elegant lady of the Classical world. She becomes the love goddess. This aspect of her is important if civilization is to be refined.

Aphrodite gives birth to a son, Eros, which is a Greek word for sexual or erotic love. Thus sex too evolves; the caveman with his club gives way to the urbane lover seeking passion and pleasure; procreation is hidden away in the heat of a moment of love.

With Eros, human beings now have an excuse for sex divorced from procreation. Civilized human beings fall in love. This adds a dimension to their married life. While children are still the bedrock of marriages, they take a backseat to the pleasure principle. An example of this is the story of Jacob and his two wives, Leah and Rachael. Jacob was tricked into Leah so that he could get Rachael.  It doesn’t matter if Rachael is barren for many years. Her lack of fecundity doesn’t stop Jacob from loving her. When she does give birth, her children are very favored by their father because they are the product of loving sex.

Psyche first appears in a story that  takes place in ancient Sicily. We are introduced to her as a child of extraordinary beauty. She is so gorgeous that she stops people in the streets.  The gossip of just how beautiful the young Psyche is spreads throughout the region until others come to stare at her.  There is an unpleasant side to this and it’s twofold: Psyche is so beautiful no one will marry her, and people begin to worship her as they would a goddess, thus neglecting the real deity.

What does it mean to be so beautiful yet so untouchable? In my telling of the story, I have the Oracle or Sage say that no one will marry Psyche because they think she is perfection. No one wants to disturb perfection. Perfection is downright scary. Who can live up to it? What human being can attain perfection? What human can marry it?

No one. Thus no one will unite with it for it is impossible. Psyche cannot be married to any human being.

While her parents attempt to find Psyche a husband, the people continue their neglect of Aphrodite. When the goddess discovers she is being ignored, she returns to her primitive and natural roots. She withholds procreation on Sicily. All erotica ceases among humans, and all mating ceases among animals, insects and plants. The island begins to die. Humanity may now have beauty, but it is useless without life. The world is out of balance.

Psyche, aware that she, without trying, has unbalanced nature, seeks to remedy the situation. The Sage has already predicted that a husband awaits Psyche on top of Mount Aetna, but the mountain has a reputation for monsters roaming its peak. Nonetheless, Psyche decides to please the goddess who has said she must go meet her fate up on the mountain.

Unlike other heroes of mythology, Psyche has been too protected, too adored without commitment. While it may seem silly to say so, she has been neglected by those who think they are in love with her.  Psyche lived the life of a woman who is forever dated yet never purposed to. Her sisters marry. They will live ordinary lives. Not Psyche. Is it risky to suggest she might be a little hurt or bored with her circumstances? Add into that mix that through no fault of her own, yet because of her, Sicily is dying. For the blameless girl, this could be a crisis worth exploiting. What others see as a condemnation by the goddess she sees as a release. Regular life is not for her. Why not embrace that?

Here is where Psyche’s life becomes the typical mythological hero story. She takes up the challenge, she will go up that mountain. A modern analogy is the young person leaving home to go into the army during a war. She hasn’t been drafted. She volunteers. Her parents are beside themselves with worry and sorrow but they don’t stop her. Her country needs her. So does she. Psyche leaves her life and everyone and everything behind her. It is the first step of fulfillment

In part 1, the process of stripping away Psyche’s innocence begins. The first layer was removed when no one would marry her, thus allowing her to see how little and petty people could be. She lost another layer of innocence when she learned of the vindictiveness of the goddess, who reverted to type when threatened. A third layer came away when no one would take up her cause, no one would lead the people to reestablish the worship of Aphrodite thereby relieving Psyche.

It was left to Psyche to become the leader, to become her own hero. Her trek up Mount Aetna, then, is the beginning of her hero’s journey.

Written by lcrockett

July 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm