Respect for mystery – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

The Greeks were great masters at describing human behavior through small stories that we usually call myths. All the generations that came after them, from Freud’s psychoanalysis (with the Oedipus complex, for example) to the films of Hollywood (like Morpheus in “Matrix”) ended up drinking from this source.

For a good part of my life, one of those stories left me very intrigued: the myth of Psyche.

Once upon a time … a beautiful princess was admired by all but nobody dared to ask for her hand in marriage. In despair, the king consulted the god Apollo, who told him that Psyche should be left alone, dressed in mourning, on top of a mountain. Before day broke a serpent would come to meet and marry her. The king obeyed, and all night the princess waited, in terror and dying of cold, for her husband to appear.

She finally fell asleep. When she awoke she was in a beautiful palace, transformed into a queen. Every night her husband came to her and they made love, but he had imposed a sole condition: Psyche could have all she desired but she had to show utter trust and could never see his face.

The young woman lived happily for a long time; she had comfort, affection, happiness, she was in love with the man who came to her every night. However, now and again she was afraid she was married to a horrid serpent. Early one morning, while her husband was sleeping, she shone a lamp on the bed, and saw lying there by her side Eros (or Cupid), a man of exceptional beauty. The light woke him up; he discovered that the woman he loved was incapable of respecting his only desire, and disappeared.

Whenever I read this text, I used to wonder: can we never discover the face of love?

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  2. Mari Ann says:

    I am sure he reappeared. Otherwise he couldn't have loved the woman who loved him so much that she would not (or could not) obey his wish/demand. I am also sure that his eyes were more important to her than his serpent! That is where his soul is to be found! And the rest can be done without the serpent.

    What a sad and painful story. You just didn't make my day!

  3. D says:

    I think that is an awesome story. But, to seek the face of love we should seek the face of God.

  4. aditya says:

    Mari Ann
    i like what u wrote wil all u’r heart. love knows no crime and no punishment ! love knows only love. but the story here has some significance
    is it because love is to be expereinced, felt rather than ‘consumed’, the injunction is against seeing, may indicate an injunction against mere curiosity ! have u wondered, wonder disappears the moment you see it. certain things are best enjoyed as a mystry, e.g. this creation.


  5. Nephthys says:

    ancient spirit
    love is life
    life is love
    life is sun
    and the sun we cannot look at

  6. Marií«lle,

    I am sorry, I forget to put “writing” in front of “like”…
    Your suggestions and opinions are warmly welcomed.

    One wise man once said,

    -“Don’t worry, and don’t be fearful for love, because you are born with love and one day you will find your own reflection of love in somebody’s heart.”

    Have a nice day !

    God blesses you


    God bless you all !

  7. Alexandra says:

    Dear Santosh, your thread of thinking has sense. I always like your lines, even if sometimes I have other opinions. You do have the skill to bring valid arguments.
    Unfortunately, I lived a long period with a man I trusted blindly, seemed the perfect friend, I loved him a lot. But, certain signs of something wrong I felt at times, he said is only my imagination. He always said he will never live me, and that he love me. Just all of a sudden, he started to stay more and more abroad… He had business there…Once we talked at phone, and as usually as if a joke he asked me if I cheated on him. I asked him back, as no other time . And what a shock when he admitted.I thought I have a heart attack. More, he started to be aggressive and when I cried he turned it on saying nothing changed, the other woman is not even close to be sweet as I am, or being sexy, and he said the woman was a ….the thing. But, after that point, the long lasting relation broke.And, me stupid, I asked him why he said he loved me and never live me. His reply was that I was the stupid to believe such…Conclusion: after many years I come to know I did not know that man. He was something else that I believed. Even now, after years I feel sadness writing about that.

  8. THELMA says:

    Dear Pandora, thank you. Beautifully expressed ..

  9. Cristina says:

    Love is about forgiveness. True love holds no grudges. If he loved her, he would forgive her foolish mistake.

  10. Clover says:

    When you go to Rome next, if you can, visit Castle St Angel to see this story painted in the old room of the Pope, sooo pretty!! One of my favorites too.
    I think it means more to respect God’s myterious ways? Anyways, I would have also want to look at him. Eyes make you fall in love. Is where the warmth lies, also the strengh, sweetness, chemistry… poverina!!!
    I love your blog Paulo!


  11. Mariëlle says:

    Dear Santosh,
    You’re very welcome.
    It has nothing to do with liking you, or not liking you, I don’t even know you.
    Put everything down the way you like to, I do as well, am just making an honest suggestion and giving my opinion.

  12. Pandora says:

    The myth of Psyche and Eros has always fascinated me.

    Psyche in Greek is used in names of butterflies or moths and means Soul and the Butterfly is her symbol, like your picture last week, which reminded me of Pysche taking a breath. Psyche also means Breath of Life.

    She sought the burning light of love like a moth to a flame, the flame of desire, the passion of the soul, the mystery of the soulmate, the most timeless, eternal and ancient mystery of them all.

    But how long can anyone stare continuously at a blue flame without blinking, before their eyes start to water and burn, and the physical desire to close them, despite witnessing the most incredible beauty and wonder, become or seem to become a physical necessity, that cannot be avoided?

    And in a blink of an eye, when the eyes are re-opened the flame is gone, extinguished, no more within sight, Eros has fled.

    Is he transformed, a passion spent, or an eternal flame that will be rekindled again?

    It is a sweet mystery .. .replayed throughout time, and time again.

  13. Catherine says:

    and so which I would answer
    “it is only with the heart that one sees rightly”


  14. Leaf says:

    There should always be mystery.
    so much love can die in the face of what becomes familiar.
    where does eros go?
    in the soiled underwhere and laundry
    that psyche probably takes care of

  15. Marií«lle,

    Thank you very much for writing 7 lines of text for me. I don’t know if you are criticizing my writings or praising them but anyways, I appreciate your comment.

    Let me tell you that, I am not preaching anything here and I don’t know if the words which I have written are facts or faults but I do what I want to do, and I like the way I do it.., so nobody is allowed to change it, not even GOD..,

    For God, everybody is his child and my knowledge does not come out from any scriptures or books, it comes from the power of eternal light.

    I am an ordinary poor human being and there will be people who will like me and those who will not, but anyways I accept everything and every criticisms.Everybody has “free will” to do what they like and I am not against it… but I will “accept” whatever comes in my life.

    Thank you very much and I am sorry if any of my words make you feel bad or scared or “stop wanting to read…” :)

    God blesses you !


    God bless you all !

  16. B*Sofie says:

    For me today – right on spot –
    this story confirms Christs
    wish for me considering a special
    decision I am about to make;

    To fully trust in Him
    for the sake of love*

  17. Mariëlle says:

    Dear Paulo,
    Such a beautiful story about Psyche. I read it before somewhere and love it.

    Can we never discover the face of love?
    I started reading The Alchemist for the second time last night, and you (Paulo) wrote this in the pre-face/ introduction: “3 types of alchemists… those who are vague because they know what they are talking about, but also know that the language of alchemy is speaking to the heart and not to the mind. Maybe it’s the same with love.

    Dear Santosh,
    The certainty you use to put your answers down annoys the hell out of me. The things you put down are in no way Facts, even though you write them down like they are. It is just your Opinion, and my opinion is it would be a lot more interesting to read what you have to say if you actually put it down AS your opinion. I’m sure you’ve got a lot of interesting knowledge that is interesting for lots of people. But the way you put it makes me stop wanting to read it, to me you sound like a preacher telling the little kiddies what to think.


  18. Alexandra says:

    Was Eros… oh… so sorry, I wrote Apollo.

  19. Alexandra says:

    I know the story, already read it several times. So, I reply to the whole…I know she lose her husband, due to her stupidity, and for she listen her sisters. The ” ogre” was a beautiful man, god, Apollo. But, because she broke the rules, she lose him. A sad story, where the moral might be not listening to relatives more than to your husband…We have that theme in Orpheus too, or in many stories in my country folklore…thanks anyways, Greeks has such an amazing history. I like so much Ulysse, the whole mythology, the architecture.

  20. Mari Raphael says:

    Eu acho que o amor tem todas as faces numa só. Essa face a gente pode ver ou ní£o. Perceber através da induí§í£o e intuií§í£o do coraí§í£o.
    A Alma ní£o tem face mas a gente sabe quando encontra o Amor da nossa Alma.
    Mari Raphael.

  21. THELMA says:

    The myth of my … ancestors, [yes dear Deedee, the Greeks and drama and Eros and love and jealousy!! We are governed by our .. passions and ‘enthusiam';}] is an allegory refering to the Soul in incarnation and the desire to return to the Divine source.

  22. Seema says:

    Can one see a soul’s face? The answer is simple. Not directly, only within the realm that we define as physical. If so, then how can one pretend to see Love’s face?

  23. Christine says:

    This made me sad. Why does there have to be secrets between lovers?

  24. Ca says:

    Querido Mestre,

    Eu suponho que quando ha o verdadeiro amor, ní£o ha serpente, mas eu espero até amanha ansiosamente pra saber o fim desta historia.



  25. Monika says:

    This way eroticism gets lost.

  26. Gina Re says:

    Discover the face of Love is painful! :-D

  27. Irina Black says:

    We can discover the face of Love,when we are ready to pay any price for Love.

  28. kealan says:

    She disobeyed her husband and that is why he left. Although the idea is that she looked upon his face, it may have a deeper meaning. She looked upon his innocence and true self and for that matter he had to leave in fear of what she may do next… She broke his heart, his trust. We can always look in the face of love but we run the risk of our own trust being broken. If you look in the face of war you may get an arrow in the eye! Cupid knew love and he knew her heart before he entered the marriage, perhaps he knew that she would break his trust and set in such a way where he could make a quick exit. He may have foreseen that he would steal his arrows so instead he set this difficult rule to balance the power.

  29. Deedee says:

    Greeks and drama!Always liked those kind of stories,I used to read the greek mythology when I was a kid and all other.There’s nothing better than this.Well,I guess Psyche was right.How can you live with someone without seeing his face?His eyes?Then you can’t see the light in his eyes?And the truth in his eyes?Nonsense.Too bad for him,but Psyche,even if she had the wrong intention at first(just seeing if he was good looking or not)was right in doing that for the right reasons mentionned above.That’s why I hate sunglasses for example..
    But wait the second part tomorrow..he might come back,lol.

  30. Irina S. says:

    I think it is the clear example of ‘when you want too much you lose all’. Love should only be felt and lived but neither explained nor trying to find the answer to the question ‘why do I love?’

    When you find an aswer to the above mentioned question, it means that what you feel is not real love. Love does not need justifications but only a heart where to dwell forever and trust.

  31. Mari Ann says:

    I am sure he reappeared. Otherwise he couldn’t have loved the woman who loved him so much that she would not (or could not) obey his wish/demand. I am also sure that his eyes were more important to her than his serpent! That is where his soul is to be found! And the rest can be done without the serpent.

    What a sad and painful story. You just didn’t make my day!

  32. Jenovia says:

    It seems a majority of us do…but only when it is too late.

  33. Dear Paulo,

    Q)can we never discover the face of love?

    A) No, we will never discover the face of love. There are many reasons behind it and those reasons does not allow to show the face of love. Some of the reasons are-

    1. Those who are in love or rather true love and wants to be together throughout life forever have to trust each other than universe has trusted on earth, stars has trusted on gravity, moon has trusted on light of sun and mother earth has trusted on lights.

    2. In Christianity, women was evolved from limb of a man. In Hinduism, women existed together with men and similarly in other scriptures or religion.., women existed together with men. I don’t know what is on women’s mind but I surely know what drives her on darkest of nights. Love.

    3. Laws made by humans are another barrier, war between the families and especially those who are caretakers sometimes turned into too much care takers. e.g. Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare …

    There could be many more such barriers but let me stop here now with few additional quotes.

    -“Love has no faces and searching for humanly faces will not give love.”

    -“We humans see physical body and organ to get the feelings and tie nots or bots of marriage, togetherness and life long commitment when love is above such attachments.”

    -“Please don’t search to see the faces of love they lies in your reflection.”

    -“When love ignites, problem multiples and difficulty collides.”

    -“Love is above everything: religion, race, culture, country and life.”

    Now, it is up to us to decide, if you want to be “happy and satisfied” without seeing the face of love or remain in “despair and sufferings” by seeing the face of love. The choice is yours, as always !

    God bless you all !

  34. sido66 says:

    “following the light of my soul, my steps guided by the energy of the love …”

    Soul = Psyche = Nephesh