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An Angel Kissed by a Demon

Dean Cornwell - The Other Side, 1918

Have you ever been in love?

I was. I fell in love with an angel kissed by a demon.

That’s how I experienced the hormonal havoc of adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and huge quantities of endorphins. It was as if I had eaten a ton of chocolate all at once and began falling yet never fell. However, there is nothing mystical about the familiar butterflies in the stomach. It’s just our endocrine system, controlled by our biological rhythms, that has gone awry. All the mythology of love comes down to a couple of glitches in the hormonal system, an error in the arc of the arrow of Eros.

Eros is the son of Aphrodite and Ares. How can you be normal if your parents are goddess of love and god of war? Free-spirited, capricious, mischievous, licentious—this handsome young man shoots arrows from his bow impetuously, on a whim, often by mistake, sometimes calculated, sometimes accidental. But there is no cure for the mystical spell cast by these arrows. He could use a good course in marksmanship. His arrows of love can make heaven out of hell and a hell in heaven. Zeus wanted to get rid of him because of the trouble he would bring to the world, but Aphrodite hid him in the woods until he grew up. The gods were later mesmerized by his gaiety, joyfulness, charisma, social skills and beauty. Zeus was certainly not bored, and Olympian mythology would not exist without his sexual field trips. Eros is an emanation of the spiritual and the physical, oppositions that can be harmonious as well as chaotic. Love can be the bearer of life, but also of death. Eros in Greek or Cupid in Roman mythology is archetypally associated with spirit and soul, consciousness and emotion, body and intellect. Getting lost and falling in love is a kind of death brought about by his arrows of love. It creates confusion because it aims directly at our ego:

And since all life is sorrowful, and necessarily so, the answer cannot lie in turning—or “progressing”—from one form of life to another, but only in dissolving the organ of suffering itself, which—as we have seen—is the idea of an ego to be preserved, committed to its own compelling concepts of what is good and what is evil, true and false, right and wrong; which dichotomies—as we have likewise seen—are dissolved in the metaphysical impulse of compassion. Love as passion; love as compassion … And in both it’s the work of Eros … (Myths to Live By, p. 142)

In absolute love all the negative traits of our ego are lost, which means ego as an “I” is dead. So, someone must die. In his love poem, Sadghuru explains this type of death: “Who but the lovers have been the most willing to sacrifice all that matters and themselves at the altar of love. Love, the tenderest and the most resilient of all human traits.” 


On the Lovers tarot card, an arrow from above is pointed at one of the figures on the ground and foreshadows the death of rational choice. The roles cast in this triangle are played by these characters: male, female, and a figure of the supernatural force that connects them from above. This is a card of attraction, choice, compassion, a card that has the same visual composition as the Devil. Instead of an angelic Eros, there is a demon at the top of the card. This card represents passion, illusion, and repression. Both cards are interpreted as the direction of a higher force. The appearance of the card may vary with the interpretation of the archetype. On some cards, there are three figures in the foreground. Sometimes there are two women and a man, in which case it is a matter of choosing between motherly, protective love and passionate, sensual love. On some cards, there are two men at the bottom, and they can be interpreted as a priest marrying a couple or choosing a path between the paternal or youthful spiritual and moral aspects of life. Or it may even be understood as a choice between homosexual or heterosexual relationship. It can be interpreted as a path between wife and a lover, or vice and virtue. That’s how things are on earth, but from above the magic potion is delivered in the form of an arrow to the one who chooses the path between. Does that mean we have no choice in love? “If you drink a love potion there is no full consent of the will!” (The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, p. 123)


“The anima is the ideal that you carry within yourself that you put onto the different entities out there and you unite with that.” (The Hero’s Journey, p. 102) This projection is regulated by the arrow of Eros, the trigger of our hormonal hell.  Such unions can be fatal or blissful. The union of anima and ego can be transcendental in two directions. This is the crossroads between hell and heaven, but on this path, demons and angels do not play the roles of good guys and bad guys. Eros and the Devil are only symbolic interpretations of the metaphor of the transcendent. Love in itself is a heroic act. And heroes must sacrifice something. 


The aim of such love can be only that of the moth in the image of al-Hallaj: to be annihilated in love’s fire … Do we not recognize here an echo of that same metaphysically grounded sense of a coincidence and transcendence of opposites that we have already found symbolized in the figure of Satan in Hell, Christ on the cross, and the moth consumed in the flame? (Myths to Live By, p. 152–156) 


One of the most beautiful love stories is the Sufi story of the Devil as God’s most devoted lover. When God created man, he called the angels and asked them to bow to the human form. Lucifer, the best and most loyal of all the angels, refused to bow down to anyone but God. He did not want to be disobedient, as it is usually interpreted in a religious context. Let's take a closer look at his decision. Would someone who is so captivated by love refuse to fulfill the wish of their loved one? It’s not about being rude or arrogant or disobedient here. This is about love. The Devil could not have anyone else in his heart but his loved one—God. But God became angry at his disobedience and said: “Go to hell, get out of my sight!” This great love was bound by the shackles of the ego. Even today, the Devil suffers because he cannot see the one and only whom he loves, and he’s comforted by the memory of his beloved’s voice condemning him. Such enormous pain is often the result of loving. Love is sometimes hell! 


Now it has been said that of all the pains of Hell, the worst is neither fire nor stench but the deprivation forever of the beatific sight of God … What an image of that exquisite spiritual agony which is at once the rapture and the anguish of love! (Myths to Live By, p. 149)


Orson Welles says that if you want a happy ending, it depends on where you end your story. The tarot card of Love doesn’t tell us how the story ends: “And in their kingdom, everyone lived happily ever after. And drank tea.” There is no such end. When this end occurs, you are no longer among the living. And since it is The End, there is no experience of love or life behind it. One of the definitions of cinema is that there is nothing before the beginning and nothing after the end. However, the card of Love does not mean the end, but rather the beginning of the journey. It invites both storm and stability, the union of two beings and the antagonism between the two sexes. It is obvious that the card does not advocate perceiving love through rose-colored glasses, chocolate candies, flowers, or the best sex of your life. This card hints at the transcendence of the ego and the spiritual dimension of heroism. Transcendence is not limited by our understanding of good and evil, or beautiful and ugly. An angel kissed by a demon, or a demon kissed by an angel, are two sides of the same coin. Maybe this very coin was glued to the arrow of Eros.




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