…psyche is the life of our aesthetic responses – that sense of taste in relation with things, that thrill or pain, disgust or expansion of breast; these primordial aesthetic reactions of the heart are soul itself speaking.” (hillman, thought of the heart, p39)
Actually, I’m not all that sure that Aphrodite or Psyche can be ‘found’. Not that its impossible to know them, only that the ‘searching’ may be fruitless – because they’re experiences of the senses and the emotional body, and in as much perhaps only need to be recognised as and when they arise.
When we feel something and the thought ‘beautiful’ surfaces, where is it is any of it surfacing from, but within? Aphrodite is surely a necessary part of our inner workings, as much as is needed in the outer, physical cosmos.Thomas Moore writes about Aphrodite ‘rising from the sea’ as per her creation myth – and this is very apt. Beauty originates from the unknown depths; rises through the body, catches in the throat, takes away breath, and puts a blindfold on one’s other faculties.
Oh, I’m just musing – waxing poetic. There’s no better subject to do it on.
Yes, Aphrodite is more than Beauty, but as a starting place, we can’t do better. If there were a map of the human cosmos, Beauty might be found were land meets water, and the unconscious meets lived experience. Beyond there is Pleasure and then Desire, past mountains where warm breezes blow and earth’s fires burn with melted ores spill over into green forests.
I have to believe that until we can get in touch with our inner beauty, our inner Aphrodite, we are closed off to a whole realm of sense and taste – and life. The beach will be closed, so to speak, forget the volcanic springs, the river mouth, the forest.
I took life drawing classes at the School of Art; enrolled in the course without really thinking about it and realised with horror on the first day that life drawing involves drawing naked people. Naked people!
For an ex ballet dancer the idea of physical ‘imperfection’ (that is, anything less than the ideal ballet dancer’s body) is hard to, er, well, stomach.
After a while it became clear to me the ‘imperfect’ bodies – people – had a beauty of their own that had nothing to do with any ideals of mine. It’s as though looking without ego – and nothing is better for stripping away ego than doing something so new, in the presence of a naked person no less – gives a new perspective on form.
Hillman calls for us all to practice that which the classical texts call notitia – seeing and imagining through the heart. Its about looking – really looking – and seeing things, not our ideas of things. Its allowing without describing.
Its like seeing through childs eyes – before Old Mother Bone Maker comes along and names everything, defining and setting in stone the world around us. Before being taught that this is ‘self’ and this is ‘other’ – when, without knowing what things are, everything is amazing and interesting, and there’s no difference between ‘it’ and ‘me’.
Its an old cliche; beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but its the eyes of soul that are calling it, because like calls unto like. This is a truth that takes practice to realise.