This is the third and final essay on the archetypal wisdom of mythology. Archetypal psychologist Howard Teich, Ph.D, author of Solar Light, Lunar Light, guides us through the four initiations of Psyche’s journey to a union with Eros that gives birth to the instinct of Joy in us. He uses a ground-breaking old/new lens—that of “solar-lunar consciousness.”
“The secret of life is movement. Without movement there is no life. Animation is a characteristic that distinguishes living things from non-living things. Movement is harnessed to provide the biological and physiological functions that create life.” —Bruce Lipton, Cell Biologist
The secret of life is animation. Animation is the life force of the Self. Cultures have usually forced us to suppress, fragment or dissociate the individuated animated spirit of nature because it did not fit into a box of who we were supposed to be. We live a part of the wholeness, not the completeness of who we are.
Bruce Lee, master martial artist, was asked to teach someone everything he knew about martial arts. Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.” This emptying process is about letting go of the ego mind.
How Psyche and Eros Produce Joy
In the previous two essays in Spirit Crossing, I explored the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche. I focused in part on the cost we pay for the way Western culture defines the archetypes of Soul (Psyche) as a female energy and love (Eros) male energy. This defining is largely unconscious.
I suggested we revision these archetypes by replacing the gender stamp (masculine/feminine) with that of solar and lunar energies. Even so, note that men in Western culture have been defined as solar and women as lunar. A cultures mythology defines it beliefs. If one is looking at the mythological level solar and lunar imagery is the central organizing principle of consciousness. From this belief system, it would logically follow that for men to be complete they have to develop their feminine side and women their masculine side.
What I have proposed in these three essays is a more authentic imagistic and linguistic archaeology. That is, we need to view Western culture gender labeling in the context of numerous other cultures that have had twin male solar and male lunar modes of consciousness, just as there have been solar female and lunar female modes of consciousness in most pre-Judaic/Christian and indigenous cultures still.
The deeper perspective on the importance of using solar and lunar twin imagery can be discovered by understanding the context and root history of the Eros and Psyche story. The Eros and Psyche tale is more than a story it is actually an initiation for transformation that has its roots in Egypt and was told in Roman times as part of an emergence of many mystery religions. The main characterizations of these religions were the secrecy associated with the particulars of the initiation and the cult practice.
From Egypt, the cult of Isis gradually made its way to Rome. While Rome was at first repelled by the cult, the religion finally entered the city during the reign of Caligula (A.D. 37-41). Its influence spread gradually during the next two centuries, and in some locales it became a major rival of Christianity. The cult’s success in the Roman Empire seems to have resulted from its impressive ritual and the hope of immortality offered to its followers.
The initiation rites were intended to transition the individual from one state of being and consciousness to another. To accomplish this the initiate usually went through a painful submission to a greater authority with archetypal forces to mediate the development of their new consciousness. When someone becomes an initiate, one is seeking something that they recognize as greater than their conscious knowing.
Thus, we can assume that part of what was being sought in this tale was the Joy that comes from the union of Eros and Psyche at the end of the tale.
For it is in this environment, that the Latin story of Cupid and Venus (Eros and Psyche) is encountered in Western literature embedded for the first but not last time in the Latin novel Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass. The author Apuleius lived from 180 to 125 BC and was a student of Platonist philosophy and traveled widely including to Egypt. The Eros and Psyche tale is in the fourth of eleven books of this novel. The novel revolves around the protagonist’s curiosity and insatiable desire to see and practice magic. While trying to perform a spell to transform himself into a bird, he is accidentally transformed into an ass. At the end of the story, he finally finds salvation through the intervention of the goddess Egyptian Isis . She appoints him to serve the cult of Isis and Osiris.
In Metamorphoses, the story of Eros and Psyche provides the initiate with knowledge of Isis who was a solar and lunar Goddess of Heaven and Earth and her sister Nephysis who was a lunar goddess of the underworld as well as the male Solar twin Set and his Lunar brother Osirs.
This knowledge is important because it replaces the Greco-Roman collective Christian beliefs at that time of the Virgin Mary and the single hero Christ. Christ was the emerging hero following the founding principle of the Roman male belief system built on Romolus killing Remus. The initiate of the Isis cult could find Eros and Psyche as representations of nature religions and paganism as opposed to the Christian era beliefs at that time.