Amor & Psyche

The Golden Ass of Apuleius is one of Marie-Louise von Franz's most insightful books. And in it her chapter explaining the tale of Amor & Psyche contains some of its finest passages.
Love with its passion and pain becomes the urge toward individuation, which is why there is no real process of individuation without the experience of love, for love tortures and purifies the soul. Expressed differently, Eros presses the butterfly painfully against his chest, representing the soul being developed and tortured by the love god.
On one beautiful gem the goddess Psyche, with her hands behind her back, is being tied by the god to a column which ends in a sphere. One could say that this image expresses in a beautiful way the process of individuation. Eros tying Psyche to the column surmounted by a sphere, the symbol of totality which is realized by suffering. Sometimes one would like to run away from the person to whom one is tied, in order to run away from the dependence, but Eros forces us to become conscious through this tie. Love makes us dare everything and leads us thus to ourselves. Therefore one of Eros's main epithets, which he had in antiquity, was "purifier of the soul."
What happens to the gods if this process of [incarnation] takes place? A relationship is never only a one-way thing, so the gods get pulled into the human realm and, in the counter-movement, the ego expands its conscious awareness. That is the process of the incarnation of a god. Actually … in the impulse towards individuation and integration [within a human individual] it is the god who wants to incarnate.
[Eros] wakes up and gives her the greatest punishment this god can give: he leaves her. To be left by the god of love is really worse than anything else he could have done to her. Psyche now is completely in the dark, and now her real deeds begin with the long and agonizing search to find Eros again.
… stages of unconscious harmony, like that in the story of Paradise, result in the stagnation of life, and naturally certain disharmonious or evil impulses are excluded.
Some people by a great mental and psychological effort will sacrifice the one pole of an essential conflict in the hope of establishing peace in their souls with the remainder. For instance, in the monastic life money and sex are cut out, and with them the source of innumerable conflicts, and by retiring from these difficulties the establishment of peace in the soul is sought. The whole Christian idea of inner peace is in this direction; that is, one first cuts out a certain aspect of evil which seems impossible to integrate, and then one tries artificially to establish harmony with the remainder. All over the world mankind has a tendency to go in this direction. It is probably inevitable, for one needs from time to time to be able to set aside an insoluble problem.
It is as though there were rest places where one has a moment of peace, though one has the dim feeling that the conflict is not solved and will reappear after a time. One can observe this in people who draw mandalas and in doing so leave a part outside. They put the dark things outside the border of the mandala and imagine that they have now reached a state of relative wholeness and totality. But in this way they exclude certain aspects, and they can be sure that this state will not last. Some of these left-out elements will break in and a new process of integration must begin.
At this point we have the essence of the whole novel, for all through it (though sometimes the author seems to be gripped by feeling) a mocking, skeptical tone creeps in, a devaluating judgment which works like the knife in Psyche's hand. When things go well, a devil whispers in our ears that it is "[only …]" a rational devaluation which destroys everything. In a woman it is generally the animus [inner masculine] who is the artist in this field, and in a man it is a certain aspect of the anima [inner feminine]. The more sensitive and delicate and untouchable a man's feeling is on one side, the more he tends to mock himself. The Swiss recognize this type of man in their poet Gottfried Keller, whose feeling, on the one side, was extremely delicate, while on the other he showed the typical mockery of an old bachelor. That was his defense against his own hypersensitivity.
Venus then orders Psyche to sort out a quanity of different kinds of seeds during the night.
… this could have to do with the Eleusinian mysteries, for corn is the mystical substance which represents the mother goddess as the goddess of corn.
A chaotic host of seeds is, in a way, an image of the collective unconscious, which seems to be, at the same time, a single essence and a multiplicity of images and creative impulses. One could say that as long as the archetypes of the collective unconscious are not [activated] by a human being, they are not real. They only become a psychological reality if they are experienced by a human psyche. It is for this reason that the archetypes of the collective unconscious resemble a host of chaotically dormant 'seeds' inborn in every human being, which, if not activated throu contact with human consciousness, could … be regarded as nonexistent.
In the tale Psyche cannot cope alone with the corn. But there is still something which can rescue her, for ants turn up and sort out the grain. The chaos of the unconscious always contains a relation to order as well. In talking about the unconscious one must always talk in paradoxes, and when we emphasize its chaotic aspect we know at the same time that the unconscious is not only chaos but it is also order. In the last analysis, only unconscious order can overcome unconscious disorder. Man cannot do anything but be attentive and make the utmost and, so to speak, hopeless effort, until order is established again by itself.
This is something which Christian theologians would call faith.
So one can say that in the right way faith is a great achievement, or rather pistis; loyalty to the inner law. When this loyalty or feeling constellates, it calls forth the secret order which is the chaos of the unconscious.
Jung always said that truth does not speak with a loud voice. Its low but unsuppressible voice announces itself as a malaise, or a bad conscience, or whatever one may want to call it. Great quiet is needed in order to feel these small hints. When the unconscious begins to talk loudly and to manifest itself with car accidents and such happenings, then the situation is already very bad. But in the normal state it has been whispering softly for years, before the thunderclap comes …

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