by Robert Wilkinson
Happy Valentine’s Day! Since this is a day dedicated to loving, affectionate relationships, let’s take a new look at how courtship is different from seduction. Later I’ll offer you a bit about the story of the origin of Valentine’s Day. For now, let’s take a stroll down the Path of the Lover Archetype!
While perusing past Valentine’s Posts, I saw that the very first one was a much different offering than those of the past few years. This year we’ll take a new look some of those prototypical themes, focusing on the differences between courtship and seduction.
Valentines’ Day is the one day of the year dedicated to lovers, which is a great thing unto itself. In mythology, the Lover is one of the six archetypal roles, or Masques, that compose the various “faces” the personality shows to the world. We discover these Masques, or Archetypes, through seeing them in others, which we learn to imitate according to what we’ve learned and what appeals to our Anima, or subconsciousness.
As we learn to imitate various aspects of archetypes, they become fixed as images in our Astral (emotional) mechanism. Some of these are conscious, while others reside in the subconscious mind. That’s why often we don’t even know we’re being a certain way or acting out a certain unconscious role, until a) someone points out what we’re doing, or b) we have an electric moment when our Higher Self holds up the invisible mirror to our personality and it awakens to what it never saw before that moment.
The nature of subconsciousness, or the Astral mechanism, is to like what it likes and not like what it does not like, regardless of the sanity or lack thereof in those views. These “likes” are really seductions in that the unconscious part of personality always wants more of what it believes it “likes.”
We find a lot of our likes and dislikes through others we meet along the road of life. This is where we often get seduced by the likes of another, whether it’s good for us or not. How does this happen?
We project our likes onto our world, and we are the recipient of the projected likes of others. It begins with our parents’ verbal and nonverbal cues, where we learn that some things bring smiles and praise, while other behaviors, likes, and attitudes bring frowns and disapproval. These are powerful cues that influence our choices, both those that bring pleasure and those that bring pain.
As we grow into spiritual maturity, we learn to be more conscious in our likes and dislikes and how these relate to the growth of personality into the Higher Self. As we evolve consciously, we grow to see how not to be seduced by anything or anyone, and learn to make conscious choices that lead us to ever-greater states of happiness, joy, and bliss. We no longer yield to seductions but embrace the “courtship” of the Higher Self, becoming that greater Love with each dance step we take.
So let’s take a deeper look at what seductions look like, examine how they arise from superficial, callow affections and maladjusted desire minds, and explore how to step back from ours and others’ projections. In looking at the differences between courtship and seduction, we find that there are “symptoms of seduction,” where we can learn to see the difference between healthy affection and seductions that only leave us feeling wounded.
Our old friend the I Ching makes a distinction between seduction and courtship. We’ll begin with the nature of how we influence others and how they influence us. In one highly respected translation, it infers that any healthy influence between people must stem from “reciprocity that stimulates joy,” indicating we’re in the same “category of existence” as the other. It involves understanding innate tendencies and spotting how influences work in us and others.
Expanding on the concept, from Hexagram 31, "Influence (Wooing)" also known in various other translations as "attraction," "persuasion," and "reciprocity":
... for it is perseverance that makes the difference between seduction and courtship; in the latter the stronger takes a position inferior to that of the weaker and shows consideration to them. This attraction between affinities is a general law of Nature. Heaven and earth attract each other and thus all creatures come into being. Through such attraction the sage influences human hearts, and thus the world attains peace. From the attractions they exert we can learn the nature of all beings in heaven and on Earth. (Wilhelm/Baynes edition)
I note that “consideration” is a keyword for the expression of respectful sincere affection, and so it seems that one clue about seduction is the lack of consideration. If another is not respectful in their affections, then it's a seduction. This of course can be associated with a lack of respect for appropriate boundaries, and not allowing for a healthy individuality to express itself.
Any time there is a coercion, a push and pull that seems out of balance, or offers that disrupt your life with associated demands to explain why you aren't going along with them, it's a seduction. Remember that seductions may seem playful, but if you don't go along with them, there are overt or implied threats, whether of withholding of affection, gifts, or even emotional connectedness.
Think "I've done x, y, and z for you, and you don't seem to care." Or "Because I've done a, b, and c, you should be doing d, e or f." Though it seems like these are forms of bargaining, make sure you agreed to the bargain to begin with, otherwise it's a seduction. While I agree reciprocity is very important for a relationship to stay in balance, often one partner tries to do things the other did not ask for, and expects something in return for the "favor." This is a seduction.
Moods are seductions by the subconscious desire-mind. A good mood is when the subconscious desire-mind has been bought off, a bad mood when it has been denied its desire. You can observe more moods, and moodiness, than usual when a seduction is going on. Objectivity, detachment, and dispassion are the solutions to moods and seductions, since these are not easily manipulated by either subconscious images or the desire mind (Kama Manas), the vehicles of seduction.
I have noted that seductions are often accompanied by too much emotional baggage automatically associated with expressions of affection. These are interactions that escalate much too quickly to be authentic. Other times, seductions involve the need for one to "save" another, or "be saved" from something by another. Seductions do not like a healthy autonomy, as they are based in unconscious power and control factors.
To the degree our "inner Lover" is unhealthy, we are needy and hope someone will come along to end our feelings of inadequacy. If our inner Lover is healthy, we tend not to attract destructive or clingy people who get attached and controlling, or those who quickly begin offloading heavy emotional freight or expecting a form of salvation from us and what we offer or don't. Beware of self-pity, as this is a common form of seducing another into "helping" in ways that don't help.
Robert Johnson (the author, not the blues legend!) wrote some interesting things about the nature of seduction in his three classic works, "He," "She," and "We." These are short, enchanting works that explore certain archetypes within us and our world, and definitely worth the time.
Ultimately, as I hinted at earlier, the Lover is about the dance of courtship between the lower self and the Higher Self, and we play out this dance through relationships that mirror both of these parts of our inner nature. As we embrace the courtship of the Higher Self to bring our personality out of various forms of suffering, we can find a way to view all our relationships through the eyes of the Lover, and grow beyond the seductions that only cause us pain.
We now segue into a brief and interesting history lesson about Valentine's Day, because it’s a good thing to honor the circumstances that brought our world to give a day to valuing lovers. That’s a strange notion in itself, given the barbarism of our world these past few thousand years.
Of course, being about a saint, it's a holiday of recent invention, originating in Rome. February 14 originally honored Juno, the Queen (who also happens to have an asteroid named after her, but that's another article for another time.) February 14 was the day before the Feast of Lupercalia, where children were allowed to pair up for the festival, and longer if they chose.
In a nutshell, Claudius II, the tyrant of the third century, needed soldiers, not lovers, so he cancelled marriages and engagements in Rome. Saint Valentine continued to marry people in secret, so Claudius chopped off his head on February 14. After that the church co-opted the Feast of Lupercalia, re-naming it Valentine's Day. And there you have it.
So for today and the next while, please take some time to review how throughout your life others have offered you healthy affection, and how you offered it to them as well. Consider all you have liked and loved, and everyone and everything that inspired you to give and receive your tender affections and a higher Love.
These were the times you were wearing the masque of the Lover, doing a timeless dance with a form of the beloved, and therefore yourself. We all like that which is beautiful to us, since it mirrors our own beauty. And exploring beauty is a very good thing. Happy Valentine's Day, you beautiful lovers who read this.
© Copyright 2006, 2014 Robert Wilkinson