Figure 1.1 Eros and Psyche Re-united
The Path of the Lovers is unique to the other wisdom paths represented in the six subdivisions of the Temple. There are no beliefs, dogmas, creeds, organizations, or religions that can lay claim to this path. This path is devoted entirely to the spiritual awakening that can take place through romantic love and divine union. The intoxicating and life altering effects of oxytocin have long been a silent force and motivator of radical change and revolutionary actions. In Greek mythology alone, Aphrodite’s love potion caused the fall of Troy and the rise of Rome in its stead. In the 13th Century, a young boy named Temujin married a neighboring tribe girl named Borte in the High Mongolian mountains- a seemingly inconsequential ritual far, far away from the known world. However, when Borte was kidnapped by a band of Merkits, Temujin was so angered by the event that he instigated a tribal war that continued to spiral outward until he had conquered the entire world. Today he is known as Genghis Khan: the great reckoning of his age. Although the simple phenomenon of “love” may seem an insignificant affair, as its effects are common and widespread in the propagation of our species, it is not uncommon for it to be the true driving force of Empires and the catalyst of Genius.
The transformational power of love is beautifully illustrated in the myth of Psyche. The word “psyche” in the Greek context meant: deity concealed in the soul. The allegory of Psyche explains the way the soul is transformed and realized through love (Eros). Psyche was the most beautiful woman in all of Greece. She was so beautiful, that Aphrodite was stricken with jealousy and commanded her son Eros to curse Psyche, that no man would love her. But when Eros saw Psyche, he wanted her all for himself. Psyche’s parents brought her to visit the Oracle of Apollo, in order to know the fate of their daughter, who had yet to wed. However, Eros had already spoken with Apollo, who told the Oracle to prophesy that Psyche was to go to the highest mountain and marry a “beast.” Although her parents were disappointed with the Oracle’s prophecy, they arranged that Psyche should go to this mountain to meet her future husband.
When Psyche arrived at the Mountain, expecting to be devoured by the beast, she dressed in funeral garb, in order to merge her marriage with her funeral. Psyche falls asleep and is taken by the West wind Zephyr to a sacred grove. When she wakes up, she explores the grove and finds an incredibly beautiful palace made of citrus wood, with golden columns, ornate floors, and walls decorated in ivory and silver. She hears a voice telling her to make herself at home and she is treated to a feast, with music playing from an invisible lyre. After the feast, she is guided by the voice to a dark room. There she is instructed that she must remain in the dark and never look upon her husband as he takes her every night. Although she is fearful of his visits at first, she grows to enjoy them very much. But she is never allowed to see who it is that makes love to her. One night, out of curiosity, Psyche lights an oil lamp and shines it upon her lover. To her surprise, it is Eros! Eros wakes up and is so angry that she had disobeyed him, that he tells her she will never see him again.
Psyche was completely devastated. She searched the entire land for Eros and could not find him. Pregnant and alone, she breaks down into tears while searching in an ancient forest. Suddenly, Psyche hears music coming from the clearing beyond her. She peers beyond a grouping of trees, and there playing His flute, is Pan. She approaches him as though in a dream. Pan looks up at her. “Come here my child, why do you cry?” Psyche approaches the God and he comforts her, letting her know that her journey is just beginning. Pan informs her that she must face Aphrodite herself. This is her only chance to see Eros again.
Figure 1.2 Pan comforts Psyche
When Psyche arrives before Aphrodite, she pleads before the Goddess to allow her to see Eros again. She pledges her life to her. Aphrodite is pleased to have her under her service. She immediately rips Psyche’s clothes from her and has her tortured and mocked. She then tosses Psyche before a giant pile of grain, composed of wheat, lentils, barley, poppy seed, chickpeas, and beans. She tells Psyche that if she does not have them sorted into separate piles by morning, Psyche will be cast from her presence. Psyche breaks down into tears as she attempts this task alone. Watching her from below, a small ant feels bad for her and decides to help her. The ant recruits his entire colony to help Psyche complete her task. It is completed before morning.
When Aphrodite reappears she is furious. She thought the task impossible. She decides to assign Psyche a new task. This time, Psyche is to gather golden wool from some violent sheep that live on the other side of the river and retrieve some of the black water from the high bank of the river. While crossing the river, Psyche is overtaken by a strong suicidal inclination. She feels as though she wants to drown herself in this river. Just before she does, a magickal reed (sacred to Pan) speaks out to her. She makes a Pan flute from out of the reeds, calms the sheep and she is able to retrieve some of their wool. But she still needs the black water, which is out of reach and would be dangerous for her attempt to retrieve. However, an eagle watching overhead, decides to help her. The eagle takes the vial from her and fills it for Psyche. She had accomplished the second task.
Aphrodite can’t believe it. “You must have had help, which is forbidden.” Psyche swears that she accomplished the tasks herself. Aphrodite decides to test her again. “For your third task,” she says with a sly smile, “you are to take this box and retrieve a dose of beauty from Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. My beauty has been drained through caring for my son, and this will restore it that I may attend the theater of the gods.” Psyche despairs at her task once again. She decides to throw herself from a tower and be done with it all. At the top of the tower, just before she’s about to jump, the tower speaks: “Psyche, do not jump! There is an entrance to the Underworld in Lacedaemon, in a place called Taenarus. But once you cross the threshold, you must stay the course. Do not enter Dis empty-handed. Carry honeyed barley in both hands, and two coins for the ferryman on your return.”
Psyche follows the Tower’s instructions and arrives before Persephone. Psyche relates to Persephone the journey that she’s been on, and Persephone happily obliges her, draining some of her beauty into the box. When Psyche ascends once again from the Underworld, she takes a look at the box in her hands. Curiosity gets the better of her, and she decides to open the box and use some of Persephone’s beauty for herself. When she does this, Psyche suddenly feels faint. She lies beneath a tree and a deep sleep comes over her.
Watching from above, Zeus is moved by Psyche’s efforts. He sends Hermes to Eros to inform him of everything that Psyche has been through in order to find him. This heals the wound of Psyche’s betrayal, and Eros flies out to meet her. He finds Psyche asleep beneath the tree. He pokes her with one of his arrows, and removes the sleep from Psyche and puts it back into the box. Psyche opens her eyes to see her true love and is embraced within his arms. They are both escorted by Hermes to Olympus, where to Aphrodite’s dismay, Zeus gives Psyche ambrosia, the drink of immortality. Psyche and Eros are to be wed as equals, gods of Olympus. And from their union, their child Voluptas (pleasure) is born.
Figure 1.3 The Marriage of Eros and Psyche
Now the story of Eros and Psyche has not only been the source material of some of our greatest love stories and fairytales (i.e. Beauty and the Beast, etc.) but it was also utilized as an esoteric doorway for the Greek Mystery traditions. Let’s analyze the story as an allegory. Psyche’s beauty is so great that it instills the jealousy of the Goddess of Beauty herself. The jealousy of the Gods towards humans is a common motif throughout all mythology, whether Sumerian, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu or indigenous. In this alone is a deep indicator as to the secret value and gift of human incarnation. This life is an opportunity. The Buddhists believe that to gain a human incarnation, one is already extremely blessed with luck. According to the Emerald Tablets, for energy to take human form, it requires a tremendous momentum of aggregate experiences gained from the state of single celled organism, through the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms and eventually acquiring the correct frequency for the soul-force to attract a human body. Science, on the other hand, sees the chance miracle of human intelligence and existence as an incredible feat of the most dire odds, which calculated mathematically pushes us beyond the sublime wall of our conception. Whatever you believe, or however you conceive it, your life here on this planet is a unique gift.
It is important to remember the meaning of the word “psyche” as we decipher this allegory, meaning: the deity concealed in the soul. Greek Mythology utilizes personification in all of its myths in order to explain the human experience. The oracle prophesies that Psyche is to be wed to a beast, who will devour her on her wedding night. When Psyche arrives at the mountain, dressed in wedding/funeral attire, she is ready to experience death. The death they are referring to is specifically the loss of innocence or “death” and transformation that takes place through sex. Psyche is about to lose her virginity to the beast. For those raised in the modern Christian world, immediately the associations of “the beast” with sex will unnerve your moral senses, as you psychologically are indoctrinated to equate sex with evil (etymologically derived from the French l’eve or “Of Eve”). But this is not the Greek perception of sexual love, nor what they are communicating through this allegory. For them, the beast is the first veil, the animal nature of sexual love, which when it is uncovered, reveals God (Eros). In fact, throughout the Greek Mystery cults, the use of the magickal lamp to see God was utilized over and again as ritual for this very point. Concealed within the sexual nature, also known as the coiled serpent (Kundalini), is where the latent powers of the divine is hidden or concealed in our soul (psyche).
Now when Psyche dares to look upon the face of Eros, she is cursed in a similar manner to when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, after eating the forbidden fruit. She is cut off from the divine and left to toil alone in the world. But unlike Adam and Eve, Psyche continues her search- after receiving the Knowledge of the Gods through the serpent. This brings her to Pan (the ALL), who comforts her and guides her to continue her journey. But to truly gain what she desires, Psyche must face her enemy, Aphrodite, and win her over through the completion of her tasks. The mirroring of Aphrodite in Psyche is important to note. In some versions of the myth, Aphrodite’s anger is first kindled because it is rumored that Psyche is the second coming of Aphrodite. The entire adversarial relationship that exists between them is due to beauty. And it is through beauty, that Psyche can reclaim her marriage to Eros. Beauty, in its most simple definition, is things or matter in their proper place. The words “dirty,” “unclean,” or “ugly” mean matter out of its proper place. The entire task given to Psyche, is to restore Beauty to Aphrodite, following Psyche’s trespass or disobedience against her son. What this truly means, is that Psyche (the deity concealed) must move into her proper place (Olympus) once beholding the face of God (witnessing her hidden divinity). To do so, she must receive of the Beauty of Persephone.
Persephone, through the stories of her own mythology, personifies “the ability to choose for yourself.” Her beauty comes through being free from the influence of familial and societal perceptions. To truly receive Persephone’s gift, Psyche must choose her place in the world herself. And she does so by taking the dose of Persephone’s beauty to restore her own beauty, as opposed to yielding it to Aphrodite. Through this action, she claims her right to immortality. Zeus immediately takes notice of this and fixes her place among the gods. Now reunited with Eros as an equal, she gives birth to pleasure.
Through the interpretation of this myth through Greek personification, Psyche (the deity concealed) through Eros (love) becomes pregnant with Voluptas (pleasure), which leads to her “death” and transformation, represented by the descent of Psyche to the Underworld, to eventually gain its boon (i.e. Persephone’s beauty, the Philosopher’s Stone) and rise from within to take her throne upon Olympus (the immortal dwelling of the divine SELF). This is the true journey of romantic love. For through the total embracement of love and free sexual expression alone, the greatest of all transformations can take place.
In the Book of the Law, Nuith states:
“Take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will! But always unto me!… This shall regenerate the world” (AL I. 51-53).
The Law of the New Aeon, is that we love and allow love in all of its forms. “Love is the law, love under the will.” Aleister Crowley expounds this beautifully in The Magical and Philosophical Commentary on the Book of the Law:
“We are to enjoy life thoroughly in an absolutely normal way, exactly as all the free and great have always done. The only point to remember is that one is a ‘Member of the Body of God,’ a Star in the Body of Nuith. This being sure, we are urged to the fullest expansion of our several Natures, with special attention to those pleasures which not only express the soul, but aid it to reach the higher developments of that expression.
The act of Love is to the bourgeois (as the ‘Christian’ is called now-a-days) is a gross animal gesture which shames his boasted humanity. The appetite drags him at its hoofs; it tires him, disgusts him, diseases him, makes him ridiculous even in his own eyes. It is the source of nearly all his neuroses.
Against this monster he has devised two protections. Firstly, he pretends that it is a Fairy Prince disguised, and hangs it with the rags and tinsel of romance, sentiment, and religion. He calls it Love, denies its strength and truth, and worships this wax figure of him with all sorts of amiable lyrics and leers.
Secondly, he is so certain, despite all his theatrical-wardrobe-work, that it is a devouring monster, that he resents with insane ferocity the existence of people who laugh at his fears, and tell him that the monster he fears is in reality not a fire-breathing worm, but a spirited horse, well trained to the task of the bridle. They tell him not to be a glibbering coward, but to learn to ride. Knowing well how abject he is, the kindly manhood of the advice is, to him, the bitterest insult he can imagine, and he calls on the mob to stone the blasphemer. He is therefore particularly anxious to keep intact the bogey he so dreads; the demonstration that Love is a general passion, pure in itself, and the redeemer of all them that put their trust in Him, is to tear open the raw ulcer of his soul.
We of Thelema are not the slaves of Love. “love under will” is the Law. We refuse to regard love as shameful and degrading, as a peril to body and soul. We refuse to accept it as the surrender of the divine to the animal; to us it is the means by which the animal may be made the Winged Sphinx which shall bear man aloft to the House of the Gods.
We are then particularly careful to deny that the object of love is the gross physiological object which happens to be Nature’s excuse for it. Generation is a sacrament of the physical Rite, by which we create ourselves anew in our own image, weave in a new flesh-tapestry the Romance of our own Soul’s History. But also Love is a sacrament of trans-substantiation whereby we initiate our own souls; it is the Wine of Intoxication as well as the Bread of Nourishment. “nor is he for priest designed Who partakes only in one kind.”
We therefore heartily cherish those forms of Love in which no question of generation arises; we use the stimulating effects of physical enthusiasm to inspire us morally and spiritually. Experience teaches that passions thus employed serve to refine and to exalt the whole being of man or woman. Nuith indicates the sole condition: “But always unto me.”
The epicure is not a monster of gluttony, nor the amateur of Beethoven a ‘degenerate’ from the ‘normal’ man whose only music is the tom-tom. So also the poisons which shook the bourgeois are not indulgences, but purifications; the brute whose furtive lust demands that he be drunk and in darkness that he may surrender to his shame, and that he lie about it with idiot mumblings ever after, is hardly the best judge even of Phryne.* How much less should he venture to criticize such men and women whose imaginations are so free from grossness that the element of attraction which serves to electrify their magnetic coil is independent of physical form? To us the essence of Love is that it is a sacrament unto Nuith, a gate of grace and a road of righteousness to Her High Palace, the abode of peerless purity whose lamps are the Stars.
*A Greek courtesan of the 4th century B.C., said to have been the model for the Aphrodite of Praxiteles.
“As ye will”. It should be abundantly clear from the foregoing remarks that each individual has an absolute and indefeasible right to use his sexual vehicle in accordance with its own proper character, and that he is responsible only to himself. But he should not injure himself and his right aforesaid; acts invasive of another individual’s equal rights are implicitly self-aggressions. A thief can hardly complain on theoretical grounds if he is himself robbed. Such acts as rape, and the assault or seduction of infants, may therefore be justly regarded as offences against the Law of Liberty, and repressed in the interests of that Law.
It is also excluded from “as ye will” to compromise the liberty of another person indirectly, as by taking advantage of the ignorance or good faith of another person to expose that person to the constraint of sickness, poverty, social detriment, or childbearing, unless with the well-informed and uninfluenced free will of that person.
One must moreover avoid doing another injury by deforming his nature; for instance, to flog children at or near puberty may distort the sensitive nascent sexual character, and impress it with the stamp of masochism. Again, homosexual practices between boys may in certain cases actually rob them of their virility, psychically or even physically.
Trying to frighten adolescents about sex by the bogeys of Hell, Disease, and Insanity, may warp the moral nature permanently, and produce hypochondria or other mental maladies, with perversions of the enervated and thwarted instinct.
Repression of the natural satisfaction may result in addition to secret and dangerous vices which destroy their victim because they are artificial and unnatural aberrations. Such more cripples resemble those manufactured by beggars by compressing one part of the body so that it is compensated by a monstrous exaggeration in another part.
But on the other hand we have no right to interfere with any type of manifestation of the sexual impulse on a priori grounds. We must recognize that the Lesbian leanings of idle and voluptuous women whose refinement finds the grossness of the average male repugnant, are as inexpugnably entrenched in Righteousness as the parallel pleasures of the English Aristocracy and Clergy whose aesthetics find women disgusting, and whose self-respect demands that love should transcend animal impulse, excite intellectual intimacy, and inspire spirituality by directing it towards an object whose attainment cannot inflict the degradation of domesticity, and the bestiality of gestation.
Every one should discover, by experience of every kind, the extent and intention of his own sexual Universe. He must be taught that all roads are equally royal, and that the only question for him is “Which road is mine?””
More details to come.
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