Jupiter and Semele: Seeing the Divine

Gustave Moreau Jupiter and Semele 1894-1895

‘Semele, penetrated by the divine effluence, regenerated and purified by this consecration, dies struck by lightning and with her dies the genius of terrestrial love, the genius with the goat hooves’

Gustav Moreau

This work, Jupiter and Semele, painted in 1895 by French Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau depicts the artist’s vision of a divine encounter. The story goes that the mortal woman Semele asks Jupiter if she can see him in his true form. He grants her this request and Semele becomes so enraptured in ecstasy at the splendor of the experience that she dies as a result.

The Mystery of Death

Say we look at this myth as representing a literal death. Will we physically die if we see the face of the divine — or see our true natures, or the true nature of the Universe?…We cannot know exactly what happens at death, maybe death is ecstatic union with the infinite or maybe in death we have even further veils to travel through before we unite fully with the Divine Cosmos.

We can only speculate what death actually transitions us into and what that experience may be like. We can contact the dead to get an idea, have psychedelic experiences to expand our perceptions, we can see and experience the other side, but Death is still a mysterious being.

But maybe ‘seeing the face of god’ is something we are able to experience during our time alive on earth? By undergoing a symbolic death of the self and destroying the illusions that keep us from true union; breaking free from the boundaries of our body’s — while still embodied within them.

Mystical traditions maintain that years of training should take place preparing and strengthening the physical vessel, mind, body, and soul to be able to manage the possibility of such an intense divine experience. The key element from the story is that to enter through this gateway Semele needed to have a heart of true intent. This is ultimately why Jupiter grants her the initiation into this particular divine ecstatic experience — causing her ego self to die to the illusion of separation perhaps.

Death and Ecstasy

Some views tend to control (maybe subconsciously) people from experiencing their true nature; their sovereign nature as gods on earth. A symbolic death, such as the one Semele is depicted going through, can be read as a transformation toward experiencing her true nature; an awakening to the divine aspects of reality at the crossroads of sex, ecstasy, death, and cosmos.

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