Eros and Persephone
Persephone's alienated eroticism effuses erotic forms that fuse attraction
and danger, lust and forms of violence complicit against lust's satisfactions. Compare the
erotic character of Persephone with other "young" goddesses in the
Olympian system. Athena is unapproachable; her eros is utterly out of play.
Artemis exudes an aura of erotic attraction, but she vanquishes even her own
devotees who dare to approach her. Persephone's inviolability, however, is
contingent, not essential. The forms of eros to which she gives rise are
compromised by being compounded with the ethos of death. One can imagine
the succubus—the ghostly female that satisfies a dreamer's lust only to drain him
of his vitality; the vampire, who craves living blood like the ghost souls; or the
dominatrix, who requires craven submission of her lovers, as declensions of
Persephonean eros. The liberation OF Persephone in the Mysteries, would,
presumably, relieve the ghastly tension in these forms and reveal their hidden
spiritual dimension. To see that there is such a dimension one has only to recall
the forms of goddess worship in Hindu Tantra, where Kali, Durgha, and
Smashan Tara draw into the ambiance of transgressive sacrality a like ethos of
death—blood drinking, worship in cemeteries, proximity to corpses.
Persephone's beauty is precisely legendary—no one can find her to see
her, thus she inspires powerful fantasies which may begin with the imagination of the Korê
but lead inexorably to the willingness to enter into proximity to death
to attain her.
The two forms of Persephone's nature share an inexpressible erotic core. The Korê in her
innocence is not yet a maturely erotic woman, and the Queen of the Dead is accessible only
to Death Himself as a Lover. To possess the Queen of the Dead is to engage with an identity
that transcends the living. One must become Death to have Her. But to become Death
is not the same thing as to die. It is to perform an operation that implies an acquaintance
with a configuration of death that in complementing the living knows something beyond
both. Beyond life and death—as beyond Day and Night—is the hint of Being itself that we
took from Parmenides.
Eroticism in general springs from a division in Being that conventionally expresses itself as
oppositional pairs—male and female, day and night, sun and moon. But the shift in
consciousness that allows for the consummation of the Sacred Marriage involves a
recognition that these pairs in fact are themselves the veil of a unity that manifests in a
subtler duality wherein the conjoined pair has something other than an oppositional sense.
Being and Appearance, as we saw in our Parmenides chapter, is a figure that can neither
resolve to a one nor a two. To be Hades, then, in order to wed Persephone, or to be
Persephone, wedded to Hades, bespeaks an identity beyond life and death in which to be the
one is already to be the other. Hades is drawn to Persephone and she to Him as Being is
inescapably the author of all Apparency and That Which Seems must seem to Be.
Incidentally, the same figure will appear in the identity/distinction between
Persephone and her Mother. The daughter is a daughter by being her mother as
the mother is a mother by being her daughter. The mother appears through her
daughter. The daughter is the appearance of the mother. Eros we might remember, in the
Hesiodic memory of an ontogeny prior to the Olympian dispensation, suffuses a primordial
chasm or spatiality whose quality is that it does give rise through a kind of hunger to the
sources of what will come to appear. First the earth and night issue from hunger and space.
The first things hunger for further nature and produce it. But the chasm chaos and its
erotic function remain to instill in its creations a similar avidity for production.
Things diverge from there. What begins as symmetry quickly digresses. But the
original unity and its internally asymmetrical duality offer themselves at every
point as liberative resource.