The Psyche of Eros
There is a fact we all soon come to acknowledge: that there can be no love if not felt deep inside the soul. There is a lovely Ancient Greek myth that centers on this – the fable of Eros (Love) and Psyche (Soul):
Once upon a time, there was a king who had three wonderful daughters. The youngest, Psyche, was much more beautiful than her two sisters and looked like a goddess among mere mortals. People throughout the land worship her beauty so deeply that they forget about the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite becomes angry that her temples are falling to ruin, so she plots to ruin Psyche. She instructs her son, Eros, to pierce the girl with an arrow and make her fall in love with the most vile, hideous man alive. But when Eros sees Psyche in her radiant glory, he shoots himself with the arrow instead.
Meanwhile, Psyche and her family become worried that she will never find a husband, for although men admire her beauty, they always seem content to marry someone else. Psyche’s father prays to Apollo for help, and Apollo instructs her to go to the top of a hill, where she will marry not a man but a serpent. Psyche bravely follows the instructions and falls asleep on the hill. When she wakes up, she discovers a stunning mansion. Going inside, she relaxes and enjoys fine food and luxurious treatment. At night, in the dark, she meets and falls in love with her husband.
She lives happily with him, never seeing him, until one day he tells her that her sisters have been crying for her. She begs to see them, but her husband replies that it would not be wise to do so. Psyche insists that they visit, and when they do, they become extremely jealous of Psyche’s beautiful mansion and lush quarters. They deduce that Psyche has never seen her husband, and they convince her that she must sneak a look. Confused and conflicted, Psyche turns on a lamp one night as her husband lies next to her.
When she sees the beautiful Eros asleep on her bed, she weeps for her lack of faith. Eros awakens and deserts her because Love cannot live where there is no trust. Cupid returns to his mother, Aphrodite, who again decides to enact revenge on the beautiful girl.
Psyche, meanwhile, journeys all over the land to find Eros. She decides to go to Aphrodite herself in a plea for love and forgiveness, and when she finally sees Aphrodite, the great goddess laughs aloud. Aphrodite shows her a heap of seeds and tells her that she must sort them all in one night’s time if she wants to see Eros again. This task is impossible for one person alone, but ants pity Psyche and sort the seeds for her. Shocked, Aphrodite then orders Psyche to sleep on the cold ground and eat only a piece of bread for dinner. But Psyche survives the night easily. Finally, Aphrodite commands her to retrieve a golden fleece from the river. She almost drowns herself in the river because of her sorrow, but a reed speaks to her and suggests that she collect the golden pieces of fleece from the thorny briar that catches it. Psyche follows these instructions and returns a sizable quantity to Aphrodite. The amazed goddess, still at it, now orders Psyche to fill a flask from the mouth of the River Styx. When Psyche reaches the head of the river, she realizes that this task seems impossible because the rocks are so dangerous. This time, an eagle helps her and fills the flask. Aphrodite still does not give in. She challenges Psyche to go into the underworld and have Persephone put some of her beauty in a box. Miraculously, Psyche succeeds.
When she gave Aphrodite the box, the goddess got extremely angry. She yelled the poor girl that she would never let her go and she would always be her servant. At this crucial moment, the Gods, who were watching this wrongdoing all this time, decided to take up action. They sent Hermes, the messenger God, to narrate Eros all the misfortunes that his wife was going through. Eros was touched and this healed the wound of betrayal. He left his room and found Psyche exhausted in his mother’s garden. From that moment on, Eros and Psyche lived happily together in their lovely palace, which was always full of roses and other flowers. Psyche persuaded Eros to forgive his mother for what she had made her suffer. As a wedding gift, Zeus made Psyche immortal and allowed her to taste ambrosia, the drink of the Gods. Even Aphrodite was happy because, now that Psyche was living in the sky with her husband, men on earth had forgotten all about her and were again worshiping the true goddess of beauty. Eros and Psyche then had a daughter named Hedone (Pleasure).
The story centres on the power of true love and the strength it finds in overcoming all the obstacles thrown before it. But most importantly it reveals that in the union between love and soul, trust is essential. For love is an act of faith for the other and it must remain surrounded by a small veil of mystery. It is what keeps the feeling alive. Living each moment with deep emotion, without trying to understand the magic that lies behind it. If we cling too much, we will end up strangling love itself.
Love is something we often don’t fully understand. It comes abruptly and touches our heart and soul. If it persists, if it prevails despite the challenges it may face, that is when you know it is true and worth having.