Lucius Apuleius born around 125 A.D., in Madaura, a Roman outpost in West Africa and, perhaps, died in Carthage, after 170 A.D. He wrote several works. The most famous are “The Metamorphosis” or “The Golden Ass”. One of the stories concerns an allegory, at the beginning popular: “Eros and Psyche” (the first, god of love and desire or, in Latin, Cupid and, the second, the soul or, in Latin, Psyche, the seat of intelligence and awareness).
As the dreams the popular legends are often transformations in fables of human conscious experiences or passion or unconscious trends or impulses symbolized by the players or circumstances or objects of the stories. In this Eros is envoy by his mother Venus (the goddess of beauty and sexuality or, in Greek, Aphrodite) to Psyche, envious of her beauty, so that she fell in love with the ugliest man and poor or stingy in the world (the symbolization of the not attractive person, who the people tends to reject). To that end, she entrust to him a magic potion (the symbolization of the lies and flatteries that normally are used in courtship to induce a person to be seduced), to give to Psyche and fall she in love. Eros (the representation of the sexual passion, desire and instinct) carries out his mission, because Psyche accepts the potion (that is, in fact, the courted person participates in the game of love pleasing deceptions and lies) and, with the help of Zefiro (in Greek mythology he is the strong and uncontrollable wind, son of Aeolus, god of winds, and Eos, the dawn) carries she away (the action represents the uncontainable passions) in his inaccessible palace (the alcove, the secret “garçonnière”) to mate with her in the dark (that is, without she know, reflect, argue on him).
All this represents the tendency of the courted to be seduced by the admirer without adequately reflect on his person; that’s the domain of the passions and instincts over reason.
After several couplings (that is, having satisfied the passion and the sexual instincts), driven by her sisters (the
pressures of the family and friends to learn more about the person “blindly” beloved), Psyche decides to light a
lamp, to see who is her lover (that is, to know who is really her lover and not to be guided more by passions and
instincts alone). This represents the fact that, usually, the reason regains the upper hand on the passions and
instincts after they have been satisfied.
But a drop of oil fell on Eros, burns him and he flees (when a lover is discovered emerging the weaknesses and defects of his personality or the attempts at deception or and he attempts to escape from the sensory and metaphorical sight of the seduced). This raises the ire of Venus (the theme of the classic conflict between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) who subject Psyche to various hard vicissitudes to be overcome (the negative consequences arising from the about said conflict and from having chosen a person based on a desire, rather than on reason). She will receive aid from ants and a tower from where she meditated suicide plunging them self (the solutions found in difficult situations, in the last moments before irreparable gestures, frequently, resulting from the reinforcement that you get from them and wisdom).
Only after many vicissitudes and suffering, torn apart in body and spirit, Psyche wife Eros (often, the seduced individual who discovered the flaws or the deceptions of his attractive admirer seeks compromises with his reason to continue meeting his passions or instincts) and becomes a goddess (joined the family of her admirer, according to a Mediterranean sociocultural traditions). The gods are celebrating a feast in a party with a big banquet (the material wealth) during which some of them are playing unusual features (usually, always according to an ancient Mediterranean tradition, the love ends with a wedding and a feast at which relatives are invited and, after the marriage, in the situation of confidence and familiarity that is created, you are discovering new and unexpected aspects of the relatives personalities).
The meaning of the story could be summarized thus: usually, when your instincts are stimulated by internal or
external factors you act guided by them rather than by reason. The instincts dominate over reason. The good
advices, the knowledge and the aids are not always sufficient to impose the reason on pulses. “The heart does
not charge!” “The reasonableness do not wish you!”
Only after they are satisfied or you have found compromise between instinctual pressure and common sense
can be claimed in some way the reason. This is functional to survival of individual and species, because it’s
necessary to satisfy, before, the primary (biological) and, after, the secondary (psychological) needs.
All this has been ably represented and synthesized by the unknown author of the double statue fictile for which you can see the image above: Eros triumphant over Psyche, going left, her head and knees slightly bent. It’s the symbol of submission to the instincts of the reason and, through the representation of the physical weight bearing Psyche, gives the idea of rational charges involving the satisfaction of the instincts.
The moral of the story could be that, usually, the people are more attracted by the immediate satisfaction of the
instincts and material well-being rather than by the ideal values, why the human behaviour is driven, primarily,
by instincts and passions and, secondarily, by common sense and reason, and all this involves high costs and
long in terms of other personal and social suffering.
From the allegories of the fable you can get, perhaps, information for psychology and pedagogy. The task of the
first must be to analyze the mental activity and the behaviour (personality or phenotype), taking into account the
biological (genotype) and socio-cultural (ecotype) factors; the task of the second must be to reinforce the
rational self-control of passions and instincts.
You can get directions for psychotherapy also. It must make people aware of psychological, sociocultural and
biological factors agents on behaviour (psychological analysis). Giving advice based on common sense
(Directive Psychotherapy) or establish help-relationship (Supportive Psychotherapy) can have immediate utility,
but don’t makes you free!
The interpretations of the story, of the statue and of the possible lessons to be learned are the fruit of the personal and original analytical processing of the psychologist Dr Salvatore Cammarata.
The translation from Italian into English, unfortunately, also!