|The Rape of Persephone, by Rupert Bunny|
Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and
Demeter, was gathering flowers one day on the plain of Enna with the children of Okeanos. The day was
full of sunshine, the hills green with life. Suddenly, while reaching down to pick a narcissus, the ground began to tremble with tremendous force. To her astonishment, she saw a
large fissure open beneath her feet. Out of the gaping earth arose
Hades, mighty lord of the Underworld, riding a golden chariot. He
cracked his whip upon the horses with resounding force. Persephone,
stunned, realized she was to be taken down into the depths of the Underworld, realm of the dead. Her shrieks and wails echoed from deep below, as Hades carried her under, into the darkness. Hades was deeply in love with the maiden. He desired her to be his wife and live and rule the Underworld forever.
times, all of us have our souls seized by force and taken into the
depths below. St. John Of The Cross called this the Dark Night Of The
Soul. It is a harrowing experience, full of terror and confusion. It is also described as the Nigredo in alchemy, that blacker than black experience wherein we are pulverized and crushed to a black, stinking pulp. James
Hillman claims the rape of Persephone
threatens the intact
psychological system that takes its strength from life, holding to human
relationships and the natural ways of Demeter’s daughter. Rape moves
the Persephone soul from the being of Demeter’s daughter to the being of
Hades’ wife, from the natural being of generation, what is given to a
daughter by mothering life, to the psychic being of marriage with what
is alien, different, and is not given. The experience of the underworld
is overwhelming and must be made. This style of the underworld
experience is overwhelming, it comes as violation, dragging one out of
life and into the Kingdom that the Orphic Hymn to Pluto describes as
“void of day” (The Dream And The Underworld, pages 48-49).
What most people do not understand today, especially in America and
specifically among the radical right-wing, evangelically-minded
Christians, is that this dragging down of the soul is necessary for
psychological well-being. They desire light at all cost, to the total
exclusion of darkness. But that’s not the way things really are.
of what people believe is happening to them, we all still have our
downward experiences; it is natural. It is the perspective we take and the choices that follow that
matter. The demon-hunters believe there is an evil spirit behind every hedge, ready
to possess them at the drop of a hat. Little do they know, that
demon is really their friend.
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