Psyche and Greater Love


I have been re-reading the book Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. It is a (good) retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche using Christian philosophy/values.

At the part where I am, Psyche, who was previously sacrificed (by being left tied to a tree) to the goddess Ungit (=Aphrodite/Venus?) has just been found alive. She claims that she was rescued by Ungit's son (a god), is now his wife, and lives in a gold-and-amber palace on a mountain. From the point of view of the narrator, she is living on water and berries in a nice-but-definately-un-palace-like mountainside valley. Psyche also claims that she has never seen her husband: he only visits her when it is too dark to see. Psyche insists that she is very happy with her new life and refuses to come back home. The narrator see two possibilities:
  1. Psyche is telling the truth, but her god-husband is actually a horrible monster of some sort. That is why he is hiding from her.
  2. Psyche was driven mad by her experiences, and her "husband" is really an outlaw who lives on the mountain and is taking advantage of her delusions.
Based on this, the narrator decides that she is going to rescue Psyche, by force if necessary. She justifies this by saying that "there is a love deeper than theirs who would seek only the happiness of their beloved." One example she gives is that love would not leave a man as a happy coward. I believe the general claim is that greater love would seek to make the beloved into a better person.

A couple relevant Bible passages: Now for the questions:
  1. Is virtue a higher good than happiness?
  2. If Psyche was mad, would the narrator have the right to compel her to return?
  3. Is the narrator's desire to bring back Psyche at any cost to herself
    1. Charitable, because she wants what she believes is best for Psyche
    2. Cowardly, because she cannot bear to think of Psyche in those circumstances
    3. Possessive, because she doesn't want Psyche to be happy without her?
    Asking about this specific case is more of plot analysis than philosphy, but the general question holds.

Back to essays page
Back to home page