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Psyche

Psyche

In psychology, an individual's consciousness.

The term psyche actually takes its meaning from ancient myth. In Roman mythology, Psyche represented the human spirit and was portrayed as a beautiful girl with butterfly wings. Psyche was a beautiful mortal desired by Cupid, to the dismay of Cupid's mother Venus. Venus demanded that her son order Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest man in the world. Cupid refused and loved Psyche himself, visiting her only by night and commanding that she not look at him. Eventually, Psyche broke Cupid's rule and lit a lamp to look upon his face. For this disloyalty, Cupid abandoned her and Psyche wandered through the world in search of her lover. Eventually she was reunited with Cupid and made immortal by Jupiter.

The modern day use of the concept of psyche still incorporates the meaning of the human soul or spirit. It can also refer to the mind. Many different branches of science may have an interest in studying matters of the psyche. An online academic journal titled Psyche illustrates the wide range of study around the concept of psyche; participants come from the fields of cognitive science, philosophy, psychology, physics, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence . The magazine refers to its mission as an "interdisciplinary exploration of the nature of consciousness and its relation to the brain." Topics discussed regarding psyche in this diverse forum have included animal consciousness, the visual brain , and the triangular circuit of attention .

Psychiatrist Carl Jung (18751961) believed that the psyche was self regulating, and that it became more defined as a person went through the process of "individuation." Jung's theories, which he called analytical psychology, also included recognition and exploration of a "collective unconsciousness."

Catherine Dybiec Holm

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Psyche

Psyche

In Greek and Roman mythology, Psyche was a princess of such stunning beauty that people came from near and far to admire her. In turning their adoration toward Psyche, however, they neglected to worship the goddess Aphrodite*. Jealous that so much praise was flowing to a mortal girl, Aphrodite decided to punish Psyche.

The goddess summoned her son Eros (also known as Cupid), the god of love, and told him to make Psyche fall in love with some ugly, mean, and unworthy creature. Eros prepared to obey his mother's wishes, but when he laid eyes on the beautiful Psyche, he fell in love with her.

Eros asked Apollo* to send an oracle to Psyche's father, telling him to prepare his daughter for marriage. He was to send her to a lonely mountain, where an ugly monster would meet her and take her for his wife. Full of sorrow for his daughter but afraid of making the gods angry, Psyche's father obeyed.

While Psyche stood on the mountain, Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, sent a breeze to pick her up and carry her to a beautiful palace in a valley. When Psyche entered the palace, a friendly voice guided her around, and invisible attendants waited upon her and fulfilled her every need.

That night and on the nights that followed, Eros came to Psyche in the darkness of her bedroom and made love to her. Psyche could not see Eros in the darkness, but he told her that he was her husband. He also warned Psyche not to ask his identity and never to look at him. Psyche grew to love her unseen husband, but she felt very lonely.

When she asked if her sisters might visit, Eros reluctantly agreed. Her sisters admired her palace and life of luxury, but when they discovered that Psyche had never seen her husband, they told her that he must be a monster and might kill her. They convinced her to take a knife and lamp to bed with her.

When Eros fell asleep that night, Psyche lit the lamp and prepared to stab her husband. But instead of a monster, she saw the handsome god of love. Startled, she let a drop of hot oil from the lamp fall on Eros. He awoke, realized that Psyche knew his identity, and flew away. Psyche fainted. When she awoke, the palace had vanished, and she found herself alone in a strange country.

oracle priest or priestess or other creature through whom a god is believed to speak; also the location (such as a shrine) where such words are spoken

underworld land of the dead

Psyche wandered the countryside searching for Eros. Finally she asked Aphrodite for help, and the goddess gave her a set of seemingly impossible tasks. With the help of other gods, however, Psyche managed to sort a roomful of grain in one night and gather golden fleeces from a flock of sheep. For the final task, Aphrodite told Psyche to go the underworld and bring back a sealed box from Persephone*. Psyche retrieved the box and on her way back, overcome by curiosity, peeked inside it. The box released a deep sleep, which overpowered her.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

immortal able to live forever

By this time Eros, could not bear to be without Psyche. He flew to where she lay sleeping, woke her, and took her to Olympus*, where Zeus* commanded that the punishment of Psyche cease and gave permission for the lovers to marry. Zeus then gave Psyche a cup of ambrosia, the food of the gods, which made her immortal.

See also Aphrodite; Eros; Greek Mythology.

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Psyche

Psyche

Anglicization of the Greek term for soul which has been adopted in a number of ways by various parapsychological and occult authors and organizations. Among them are:

  1. A German spiritualist monthly founded in 1894 and later, following the union in 1900 of the three largest Spiritual-ist societies of Berlin, superseded by a joint organ, the Spiritistiche Rundschau, of which Karl Obertimpfler became the editor.
  2. An English monthly magazine devoted to the philosophy and phenomena of life, beginning in 1899.
  3. An English quarterly journal which succeeded W. Whateley Carington 's Psychic Research Quarterly in 1921 as a journal of general and applied psychology. It was edited by C. K. Ogden out of London.

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psyche

psyche soul, spirit, mind. XVII. — L. psȳchē — Gr. psūkhḗ breath, soul, life, rel. to psūkhein breathe, blow.
So psychic XIX, psychical XVII (rare before XIX); first in senses pert. to soul or mind, later pert. to conditions supposed to be outside the physical domain. — Gr. psūkhikós. psycho-, before a vowel psych-, repr. comb. form of Gr. psūkhḗ used in techn. terms since XVII, but prolifically only since mid-XIX. psychiatry healing of mental disease (Gr. iātrós healer). psychology science of the human soul or mind. XVII (rare before XIX). — modL. psȳchologia. So psychological XVIII.

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Psyche

Psyche (sī´kē), in Greek mythology, personification of the human soul. She was so lovely that Eros (Cupid), the god of love, fell in love with her. He swept her off to a beautiful, isolated castle but forbade her to look at him since he was a god. When she disobeyed, he abandoned her, but she ceaselessly searched for him, performing difficult and dangerous tasks, until at last she was reunited with him forever and made immortal.

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psyche

psy·che1 / ˈsīkē/ • n. the human soul, mind, or spirit: I will never really fathom the female psyche. psy·che2 / sīk/ • v. , n. , & adj. variant spelling of psych.

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Psyche

Psy·che / ˈsīkē/ Greek Mythol. a Hellenistic personification of the soul as female, or sometimes as a butterfly. The allegory of Psyche's love for Cupid is told in The Golden Ass by Apuleius.

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psyche

psyche the human soul, mind, or spirit. The word comes (in the mid 17th century) via Latin from Greek psukhē ‘breath, life, soul’.

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Psyche

Psyche In Greek mythology, a beautiful mortal woman loved by Eros. She was also the personification of the soul.

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psyche

psyche (sy-ki) n. the mind or the soul; the mental (as opposed to the physical) functioning of the individual.

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psyche

psyche See PSYCHOANALYSIS.

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psyche

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Psyche

Psyche

Nationality/Culture

Greek/Roman

Pronunciation

SYE-kee

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

Lucius Apuleius's The Golden Ass

Lineage

Unknown

Character Overview

In Greek and Roman mythology , Psyche was a princess of such stunning beauty that people came from near and far to admire her. In turning their adoration toward Psyche, however, they neglected to worship the goddess Aphrodite (pronounced af-ro-DYE-tee). Jealous that so much praise was flowing to a mortal girl, Aphrodite decided to punish Psyche.

In Psyche's myth, the goddess Aphrodite summoned her son Eros (pronounced AIR-ohs and also known as Cupid), the god of love, and told him to make Psyche fall in love with some ugly, mean, and unworthy creature. Eros prepared to obey his mother's wishes, but when he laid eyes on the beautiful Psyche, he fell in love with her.

Eros asked the god Apollo (pronounced uh-POL-oh) to send an oracle—or messenger of the gods—to Psyche's father, telling him to prepare his daughter for marriage. He was to send her to a lonely mountain, where an ugly monster would meet her and take her for his wife. Full of sorrow for his daughter but afraid of making the gods angry, Psyche's father obeyed.

While Psyche stood on the mountain, Zephyrus (pronounced ZEF-er-uhs), the god of the west wind, sent a breeze to pick her up and carry her to a beautiful palace in a valley. When Psyche entered the palace, a friendly voice guided her around, and invisible attendants waited upon her and fulfilled her every need.

That night and on the nights that followed, Eros came to Psyche in the darkness of her bedroom. Psyche could not see Eros in the darkness, but he told her that he was her husband. He also warned Psyche not to ask his identity and never to look at him. Psyche grew to love her unseen husband, but she felt very lonely.

When she asked if her sisters might visit, Eros reluctantly agreed. Her sisters admired her palace and life of luxury, but when they discovered that Psyche had never seen her husband, they told her that he must be a monster and might kill her. They convinced her to take a knife and lamp to bed with her.

When Eros fell asleep that night, Psyche lit the lamp and prepared to stab her husband. But instead of a monster, she saw the handsome god of love. Startled, she let a drop of hot oil from the lamp fall on Eros. He awoke, realized that Psyche knew his identity, and flew away. Psyche fainted. When she awoke, the palace had vanished, and she found herself alone in a strange country.

Psyche wandered the countryside searching for Eros. Finally she asked Aphrodite for help, and the goddess gave her a set of seemingly impossible tasks. With the help of other gods, however, Psyche managed to sort a roomful of grain in one night and gather golden fleeces from a flock of sheep. For the final task, Aphrodite told Psyche to go to the underworld , or land of the dead, and bring back a sealed box from the goddess Persephone (pronounced per-SEF-uh-nee). Psyche retrieved the box and on her way back, overcome by curiosity, peeked inside it. The box released a deep sleep that overpowered her.

By this time Eros could no longer bear to be without Psyche. He flew to where she lay sleeping, woke her, and took her to the home of the gods on Mount Olympus (pronounced oh-LIM-puhs). Zeus commanded that the punishment of Psyche cease and gave permission for the lovers to marry. Zeus then gave Psyche a cup of ambrosia (pronounced am-BROH-zhuh), the food of the gods, which made her immortal—or able to live forever.

Psyche in Context

The myth of Psyche can be seen as a reinforcement of male authority in marriages in ancient Greece and Rome. First, Psyche is offered up in marriage by her father without her consent and without ever meeting her husband. This was not out of the ordinary for weddings in ancient times, though in this case Psyche's father gives up control over his daughter to the gods. Psyche is treated to a beautiful palace and an army of servants to care for her, and she enjoys the company of her husband each night in darkness. However, her husband never lets her see him. It is only when Psyche, driven to fear by her jealous sisters, questions his authority that the otherwise perfect marriage is ruined. Psyche then spends the rest of the story trying to win back her husband.

Key Themes and Symbols

One of the main themes found in the myth of Psyche is disobeying the will of the gods. Psyche does this twice: first, by looking at her husband while he sleeps (though she does not know that he is a god); and second, by opening the box she retrieves from Persephone. In both cases, disobeying the will of the gods leads to tragic circumstances. Another theme is the association of beauty and love. Eros falls in love with Psyche when he gazes upon her beauty; Psyche does not truly feel love for Eros until she is finally able to see him as he sleeps.

Psyche in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Although the tale of Psyche and Eros is only marginally accepted as a genuine myth, its impact throughout the centuries has been profound. Poets such as Mary Tighe, Robert Bridges, and John Keats have all written their own versions of the tale, and artists such as William Adophe Bouguereau, Jacques-Louis David, and Edward Burne-Jones have captured the characters on canvas. The tale of Psyche and Eros is similar in many ways to the eighteenth-century French fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” and may have served as inspiration for it.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The 1956 fantasy novel Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C. S. Lewis is a new version of the myth of Eros and Psyche told from the point of view of Orual, Psyche's sister. The book is considered a parallel novel, meaning it covers the same events as the original myth, but from a different perspective.

SEE ALSO Aphrodite; Eros; Greek Mythology

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