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A revised edition of a landmark work of psychology; the author uses the ancient myth of Amor and Psyche as the springboard for a brilliant, perceptive exploration of how one becomes a mature and complete woman.
Author Biography: Robert A. Johnson is the best-selling author of He, She, We, Inner Work, and Femininity Lost and Regained.
About the Author
Robert A. Johnson, a noted lecturer and Jungian analyst, is also the author of He, She, We, Inner Work, Ecstasy, Transformation, and Owning Your Own Shadow.
Read an Excerpt
Understanding Feminine Psychology
The Birth of Psyche
Our tale begins with the line-Once there was a Kingdom. From this we know that we will be given vision and insight into that kingdom, which is our own inner world. If you listen to the old language of the tale you will see into that inner realm, seldom explored by the modern rational mind. A gold mine of information and insight is promised by a few words Once there was a Kingdom.
The Story Begins
There is a king, a queen, and their three daughters. The two eldest are ordinary princesses, not very remarkable.
The third daughter is the very embodiment of the inner world and even bears the name Psyche, which means soul. She will take us on a journey to the inner world. She is as much of the mythic king dom as she is of the earthly kingdom.
Do you know these three in yourself? Who can be unaware of the ordinary part of ones self and that special unearthly inner self who does so badly in the ordinariness of everyday life?
So great was the power of this extraordinary princess that people began saying, "'Here is the new Aphrodite, here is the new goddess who will take the place of the old one, drive her from her temple, and entirely supercede her."' Aphrodite had to bear the insult of seeing the ashes of the sacramental fires in her temples grow cold and the cult of this new slip of a girl take her place.
Now, Aphrodite was the goddess of femininity who had reigned since the beginning-no one knew how long. For her to see the rise of a new goddess of femininity was more than she could bear! Her rage and jealousy were apocalyptic and the whole course of ourstory is determined at this moment. To stir the rage or demand change of a god or goddess is to shake the very foundations of one's inner world!
The Mythic Elements
The origins of the two goddesses, Aphrodite and Psyche, are interesting. Wielding a sickle, Cronus, the youngest and craftiest son of Uranus, the god of the sky, severed his father's genitals, and flung them into the sea thus fertilizing the water and Aphrodite was born. Aphrodite's birth was immortalized by Botticelli in his magnificent painting, the Birth of Venus: she, in all her feminine majesty, is being born upon a wave, standing on a shell. This is the divine origin of the feminine principle in its archetypal form, which may be vividly contrasted with the human birth of Psyche who was said to have been conceived by dewdrops that fell from the sky. What curious language! But this language is rich in psychological insight if you can hear its archaic, timeless message.
The difference between these two births, if properly understood, reveals the different natures of the two feminine principles. Aphrodite is a goddess born of the sea: she is primeval, oceanic in her feminine power. She is from the beginning of time and holds court at the bottom of the sea. In psychological terms, she reigns in the unconscious, symbolized by the waters of the sea. She is scarcely approachable on ordinary conscious terms; one might as well confront a tidal wave. One can admire, worship, or be crushed by such archetypal femininity but it is extremely difficult to relate to it. It is Psyche's task, from her human vantage point, to do just that-to relate and soften the great oceanic, archetypal feminine. This is our myth.
Every woman has an Aphrodite in her. She is recognized by her overwhelming femininity and vast, impersonal, unrelatable majesty.
There are marvelous stories about Aphrodite and her court. She has a servant who carries a mirror before her so that she may constantly see herself. Someone continually makes perfume for her. She is jealous and will stand no competition whatsoever. She is constantly arranging marriages and is never satisfied until everyone is busily serving her fertility.
Aphrodite is the principle of mirroring every experience back into our own consciousness. As man is occupied with expansion and exploration and finding that which is new, Aphrodite is reflecting and mirroring and assimilating. Aphrodite's mirror is symbolic of a most profound quality of the goddess of love. She frequently offers one a mirror by which one can see one's self, a self hopelessly stuck in projection without the help of the mirror. Asking what is being mirrored back can begin the process of understanding, which may prevent getting stuck in an insoluble emotional tangle. This is not to say there are not outer events. But it is important to realize and understand that many things of our own interior nature masquerade as outer events when they should be mirrored back into our subjective world from which they sprang. Aphrodite provides this mirror more often than we would like to admit. When ever one falls in love, sees the god or goddess-like qualities in another, it is Aphrodite mirroring our immortality and divine-like qualities. We are as reluctant to see our virtues as our faults and a long period of suffering generally lies between the mirroring and the accomplishment. Psyche takes just such a long journey between her falling in love with Eros and the discovery of her own immortality.
This Aphrodite is the great mother goddess as seen through the eyes of her future daughter-in-law. When a woman mediates beauty and grace to the world, often it is the Aphrodite or Venus energy at work. But when Aphrodite is confronting her daughter-in-law she is jealous, competitive and determined to set out hurdles for Psyche at every turn. This drama of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is acted out in every culture and is one of the psychic irritants which can contribute so much to a young woman's growth. For a young woman to cope with her mother-in-law's power system is to attain feminine maturity. She is no longer that dewdrop which came so naively into the world and into her marriage.She
Understanding Feminine Psychology. Copyright (c) by Robert A. Johnson . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.