Children’s Classic Series
Beauty and the Beast
We continue our metaphysical study of Children’s Classics with the story of Beauty and the Beast. I thought it opportune to take advantage of the story since it’s a hit in the theaters at this time.
Most of you are probably familiar with the revised, or shortened version that the Disney Company, for the most part, has make popular. However, the much longer original version was written by the French novelist, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. It was published in 1740.
It was shortened in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince to something close to the more recognized version.
The theme can be found in stories as far back as 4000 years, according to research…love for love’s sake.
In the original story, Belle, or Beauty had nasty sisters…. a theme that seems to be prevalent in many of the stories of old. Wonder what that’s about? They were even turned into statues at the end of this original story because of their behavior. Kind of reminds me of Lots wife being turned to a pillar of salt in the book of Genesis.
But maybe the lesson of good daughter-bad daughter is simple: we must have dark to be able to see the light. You know, like the day has its opposite in the night.
And a beauty has her opposite in the Beast.
Beauty, metaphysically means spiritual—Fillmore states – The loveliness of God beheld in His creations by the eye of man. Spiritual man beholds this divine loveliness everywhere. “He hath made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccles. 3:11).
And Beast is defined as: a four-footed mammal as distinguished from a human being, 2. a contemptible person; 3. something formidably difficult to control or deal with.
Let’s look at the story:
We start with a family; originally a family of a widowed father, and 6 sons and 6 daughters. This was a wealthy family with spoiled children, use to the luxuries that wealth brings. When that wealth is lost in a housefire and the sinking of his merchant ships, the family must find other ways to survive. The sons must work in the fields and the daughters go without, losing potential wealthy husbands.
Only Beauty doesn’t seem to mind this, in fact she enjoys taking care of the house and the family and in her spare time she reads. She is the symbol of the part of each one of us that is wholly innocent and inexperienced. She is untouched by hatred and suffering and is only a reflection of beauty and goodness. She has yet to confront darkness and fear.
One day the father learns that one of his ships was not lost at sea after all and he goes to see what remains of its cargo. Each of his children ask for some expensive item, thinking their wealth has returned to them. They still remain materialistic. Beauty only asks for a rose, it’s her favorite flower and because she is content with her new life.
The rose symbolizes our desire to grow, to gain wisdom and spiritual insight. We ask for enlightenment and wisdom without understanding the consequences. On this request the whole story hinges and the transformation of both the Beast and Beauty are directly linked to her asking for the rose.
Unfortunately, the father’s debtors claim all that is left on the ships cargo and he is still left without. As he travels home he gets lost in a terrible storm and stumbles upon the castle of the Beast. The castle mysteriously provides warmth and food and rest for the weary traveler.
The next morning, well rested, the father starts for home, but sees a rose bush and remembers Beauty’s request and so plucks one. This arouses the Beast, who accuses the father of being ungrateful for the comforts that were provided from the night before and says he must sacrifice his life.
So we see that the sudden wealth of the family ends up being an illusion and this can cause us to fall into despair. This despair is depicted by the terrible storm that traps the father and prevents him from returning home. What appears to be a problem turns out to be an essential ingredient for the story to move forward. So too in our life, the problem is often the very thing we need, to propel us forward in our life.
By plucking the rose the Beast is roused. When you seek for knowledge and spiritual wisdom you awaken the monster inside of you; the shadow self. It is not seen at first, it is hidden from awareness but it makes its appearance causing fear and uncertainty.
The Beast wants to kill the father for being ungrateful and taking the rose. It feels like when you open yourself to deepen your spiritual life you only awaken a beast that wants to kill you off. Rather than having more peace, it seems the spiritual path is fraught with darkness and fears. This kind of experience requires an identity death. Think about how we’ve changed since traveling on the Path in an awakened state.
The Beast is an important symbol here. He represents the dark animal nature, the primordial part of us that is connected to our fears, our survival instincts and our untamed self. This part of us is under a curse. Just as the beast is under a curse so is this dark part of ourselves is seen only as dangerous and even evil.
He wasn’t always a Beast. His real name was Adam and he had been a handsome young prince, but extremely arrogant, entitled, and lacking in empathy. One cold and snowy night, a beggar woman came to the castle begging for a place to sleep for the night to escape from the bitter cold. In exchange she offered him a single rose.
Adam sneered at the rose and refused her a warm bed and coldly sent her on her way, but not before the beggar woman suddenly transformed into a beautiful enchantress, who in her righteous anger put a spell on him, turning him into the physical manifestation of the Beast he had become inside,
The rose she had left him–which represents Adam’s True Self (and he had sneered at it because it represented the vulnerability he had rejected)–would continue to bloom for a decade. If Adam failed to learn to love another (and earn her love) in that decade, the rose would die and he would be forever doomed to his fate.
In us, this curse has many causes, such as constant criticisms or other abuses as a child, deep fears about our own primal sexuality as well as deep beliefs about our own unworthiness, ugliness, shame and dark side. The curse has power only to the degree that we believe in it. When we believe in our own ugliness the spell cannot be broken, when we fall prey to our deep beliefs about who we think we are or engage in shameful feelings this gives power to the curse.
The father begs to be allowed to tell his family of his dilemma, and the Beast, hearing about the daughters, allows that one may take the fathers place, but must do so willingly
When the father returns home and tells his story, Beauty offers to take her fathers’ place, thinking how much she loves him and maybe she could somehow escape the Beast.
This gets her out of the house, so to speak. Beauty had to be separated from her family. Transformation is impossible in the sanctuary of the familiar. Life has to cause you to become extremely uncomfortably scared and intrigued before you can be transformed. She cannot be saved from her own transformation before she willingly accepted the path offered even though she was unaware.
Willingness is a real important part of the message. You cannot be transformed unless you go forward with willingness to be changed. This is seen when the Beast requires Beauty to come and live with him willingly.
When Beauty sees the Beast, she realizes he is not as terrifying as she had imagined. This is true of life, when you face your fears even if only for a few moments, you find they are not as frightening or sinister as anticipated.
Beauty dreams she met a handsome prince who spoke to her by a pool in a beautiful garden. He told her not to be deceived by appearances. When she woke, she wondered if the Beast had kept this handsome prince a prisoner somewhere in his castle. She wondered if she was meant to free him
The dream shows us that the answers are inside of us even if we don’t fully understand the answers when we get them. The inner self always knows the truth even when our eyes and ears are deceiving us. (for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear)
The Beast asks her if she loves him and to marry him and then demands that she tell him the truth. In life, we must come to the point where we love and embrace the thing we are afraid of or fighting against. Our dark nature must be honored and loved if the true value is to be revealed. But we must be willing to tell ourselves the truth. Otherwise it is all a pretense.
Months passed, Beauty found herself to have whatever she needed and wanted. Every night the Beast asked her if she loved him and if she would marry him and each time she told him the truth, that she did not love him and would not marry him. He left her each night sad and lonely and each night she dreamed of the prince who told her to let her heart guide her.
Beauty began to miss her family and one day when she had become comfortable enough with the Beast, she asked him if she might visit her father and family. The Beast lamented her leaving him and tried to convince her to stay asking her what more she could want to make her happy. She begged him to let her go for two months and then she promised to return to him. She told him that she was grateful for all he had done for her and she thanked him for his kindness. He agreed and gave her a ring which only had to be turned on her finger three times and she would be returned to him. She left the palace and the Beast and went home.
After we have come to terms with our fears and dark nature we may long to be returned to our security and ease. Sometimes staying conscious and aware gets tiring. We believe that we don’t need to continue growing and learning. We leave the path and return to ease. But our transformation is incomplete.
The Beast will die if Beauty does not return. We have awakened a primordial self and begun a dialog with that dark and untamed part of us. The Beast inside of us is essential to our survival, our growth and development as a human being. Spiritual transformation requires us to know the Beast. The Beast is under a curse and is really a handsome prince. Our seemingly dark sides are really beautiful gifts that once transformed have the power to change our lives. The transformation cannot occur if we lose our connection to our essential dark self.
When she returned home, her family was thrilled to see her. And when it came time for her to return to the castle her sisters conspired to keep her there, jealous of her fine cloths and happiness. She worried about the Beast but she had rather missed her family and did not think the Beast would mind her staying just a while longer. But all the time she was there she found herself strangely unhappy and thinking of the Beast and her home at the palace. She was not content to be with her family anymore. At long last she had a dream in which she saw the Beast lying very still in dark cave. He appeared to be dead or dying. He faintly spoke to her saying it was almost too late. Beauty finally follows her heart and returns to the palace.
Returning back to what we used to be isn’t what we remember it to be. Beauty finds she is no longer happy where once she had been so happy. (you can’t go home). But she feels compelled to remain because her family doesn’t want her to leave. Sometimes the familiar has a powerful pull that is hard to break even when we aren’t happy with what is familiar. And the spiritual path, difficult as it may be, calls to us.
Again, she has a dream. We are always aware deep inside ourselves about the truth of our own path. This dream propels her to return.
When she awoke, she was worried about the Beast and she turned the ring that the Beast gave her to magically return to the castle, three times and suddenly found herself back at the palace. She searched for the Beast, remembering her dream in which she saw him in a cave. She found the cave and the Beast lying just as he was in her dream near death. When the Beast opened his eyes she said, “I never knew that I loved you until I thought that you were dead and I had lost you.” The Beast looked up at her and said “you really love such monster as I?” Beauty cried and said “yes, yes she loved him very much.” he asked her again if she loved him and would marry him she said “Yes, my dear Beast.”
At that moment there was a great light burst forth and the Beast was instantly transformed into the prince of her dreams. The spell had been broken and the two married and lived happily ever after.
The ring is an interesting symbol of connection and promise. This is similar to the marriage ring that gives loyalty and love to the other, just as you must commit to give love and loyalty to yourself by staying true to your own journey.
Just as you need to stay on the spiritual path or your soul withers and a valuable part of yourself that you have awakened, wanes. Once a part of you has been awakened it must be integrated or it will die. This is not a great concern because we are always guided back to where we need to be. But it is this absence that helps Beauty see for herself that she loves the beast.
The marriage between the masculine and the feminine selves is apparent here when the two get married as well as the marriage between the dark and the light.
Learning to accept the whole self is at the heart of this story; You cannot learn to love yourself only when you have achieved so-called perfection but to love yourself when are flawed, ugly, afraid etc. The transformation only occurs when you truly see the ugly as beautiful, the dark as light, the fearful as valuable. These are the lessons of the story of Beauty and the Beast.
Which character do you relate to? Can you think why?