The ageless children’s story Beauty and the Beast is one of the finest parables we have about the transforming qualities of love — and about one of life’s most important lessons: things are not always what they seem.
Briefly, you’ll remember, a lovely young woman tries to save her father from certain doom by agreeing to live for a time in a palace ruled over by a Beast. At first she is revolted by his appearance, but then gradually, as she comes to know him and feel his tremendous caring attention, she begins to fall in love with him. At last, when the Beast proposes marriage to Beauty, she joyfully accepts — and the Beast is changed back into the handsome prince he always was.
The tale had been told and re-told many times before Madame Gabrielle-Susanne Barbot published it in France as La belle et la Bête in 1740. Since then, the story has been part of our cultural legacy and has appeared in some form down through the centuries. Perhaps the most memorable rendering of it is the 1946 French film written and directed by the artist Jean Cocteau, starring the strikingly beautiful Josette Day as Belle and the classically handsome Jean Marais as Bete. In the film, the Beast’s enchanted palace comes alive in marvelous ways to help win Beauty’s love.
From Beauty’s Perspective
From Beauty’s perspective, the fairy tale’s moral is that we cannot judge something or someone on the basis of looks alone, because appearances can be deceiving. Beauty had assumed that the Beast was, well, beastly — an animal and not a man, even though he is dressed in princely garments and lives in a palace. At the moment of truth, however, when she declares her love for him, the veil is lifted and the Beast reveals himself to Beauty: things are not always what they appear to be.
From the Beast’s Perspective
From the point of view of the Beast, the moral is that if we truly love, we can transform everything around us, even the fundamental perceptions of the people closest to us. Love conquers all, love changes all, love makes all things possible.
Love, in fact, can transform us out of our beastly nature, which is to say our basest animal level, into the spiritualized human beings we really are. The reward of our loving effort is union with all the parts of ourselves. In the end, we are transported, as beauty and her prince were, into the heavenly realms of bliss.
Just as Beauty was able, through love, to see her prince behind the veil of the Beast, we also can chose to see the people and things in our lives through the transforming prism of love. The key word here is ‘chose’ — when confronted with daily situations, we have a choice…we can decide how we will act and react in the face of everything that comes into our experience.
Here are some lessons from Beauty and the Beast about choosing truth over appearances — and love over fear.
Avoid judging. Virtually all spiritual literature warns us against judging people and conditions. The reason is that when we judge someone or something, we immediately put them in a kind of prison of our opinion — a prison which they cannot get out of and which we cannot get into. If you think of a person as a thief, for instance, the person is labeled forever — and your judgment actually can make that person act like a thief. Stay away from judgment: it limits perception and keeps you in fear.
See the beauty. Beauty is all around us, everywhere and at all times. But it is up to us to actually see and appreciate beauty. Many people go through life choosing to regard their reality as ugly and unsatisfying. They look at the half-full glass and see it as half-empty. When all of life is seen only as an opportunity to confirm the human experience as a vale of tears and troubles, then it certainly becomes that! See life for the beautiful journey it truly is, and watch miracles happen.
Stop complaining. Complaining is another form of judging. When you complain, you are automatically saying that people and situations are imperfect, defective, and even ugly. Try to head off a complaint by taking a second to question and reconsider your initial response. Even a brief moment will give you the chance to see things in a different way. A complaint is a comment that comes from a willful ego. Life will go much smoother if you trade a complaint for a compliment.
Move beyond the appearance. Things are not always what they seem. In fact, things are almost always different from how they appear to the eyes and how they sound to the ears. If you will find the truth about people and things, move beyond appearances — entertain exactly the opposite of what you are seeing and hearing. The truth, like the prince, lies behind the wall of the physical senses, in a place where only the heart can discern.
Choose love. When given the choice between fear and love, choose love every time. If the culture is presenting you with fearful visions, you can personally dispel them by deciding to leave fear behind and go toward love. In this way, by raising your own consciousness into a loving place, you are lifting all of Consciousness with you. This is how wars are stopped or prevented — and how people and situations in ‘terminal’ conditions are healed unconditionally.
The lessons of The Beauty and the Beast are everywhere in this enchanting fairy tale. We encourage you to surround yourself this month with the energy of its transformative teachings: love transforms everything, elevates everything, and reveals your life as the truly beautiful experience it is.
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast This much-loved retelling of the classic French tale Beauty and the Beast elicits the familiar magical charm, but is more believable and complex than the traditional story. In this version, Beauty is not as beautiful as her older sisters, who are both lovely and kind. Here, in fact, Beauty has no confidence in her appearance but takes pride in her own intelligence, her love of learning and books, and her talent in riding. She is the most competent of the three sisters, which proves essential when they are forced to retire to the country because of their father’s financial ruin. The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast’s castle to spare her father’s life. Beauty’s gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple’s deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. Robin McKinley’s writing has the flavor of another century, and Beauty heightens the authenticity as a reliable and competent narrator.
Beauty by the Book: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You From celebrated Hollywood starlets to the covers of Cosmo, our society seems obsessed with beauty. Actress and Main Floor host Nancy Stafford (best known for her starring role as Michelle Thomas on Matlock) digs below our culture’s fixation on outward appearance to show you that true beauty is more than skin-deep. “Every woman has beauty,” says Stafford, “but not everyone sees it. I want you to see it.” In Beauty by the Book she bares her heart to readers, laying out the Scriptures, promises, and truths women need to know to find their true value. Her liberating reflections will help you see yourself as God sees you-worthy, lovable, and beautiful.
Demeter: Nurtured by the Mother Within
by Joseph Dispenza and Dr. Beverly Nelson
The ancients believed that there was a time when the earth enjoyed an unending season of temperate weather. Because trees were always green and flowers always bloomed, the world was filled with life and beauty. Crops also grew in abundance, and humans were blissfully happy in this earthly paradise.
The goddess responsible for the earth’s bounty was Demeter (DEM-eh-ter), the goddess of grain and the harvest. Her beautiful daughter Persephone (Per-SEH-fo-nee), gladdened Demeter’s heart; Demeter’s love for her daughter kept the earth in bloom.
Demeter and Persephone were seldom far from each other, but occasionally Persephone would wander out of her mother’s sight. One day as Pluto, lord of the Underworld, watched the lovely maiden picking flowers in a meadow, he immediately fell in love with her and determined that she must marry him and become queen of the Underworld.
As Persephone bent to gather more flowers, the ground beside her opened wide. Out from the gaping hole in the ground came Pluto, in a chariot drawn by a team of mighty black horses. He seized the terrified girl, dragged her into his chariot, and took her off to the Underworld.
Overcome by grief, Demeter left her home on Mt. Olympus and wandered the earth dressed as an old woman. No one recognized her in her mourning. For an entire year Demeter refused to allow the earth to bloom. Every growing thing withered and died; the once green earth turned brown and barren. All over the world people starved.
Concerned that the mortals would all die out, the other gods begged Zeus to talk to Demeter and recall her to her duties. But his efforts were unavailing. Until her daughter was returned to her, she vowed, the earth would never bloom.
Finally Zeus sent Hermes, the messenger of the gods, to demand that Pluto return Persephone to her mother for half of every year. During the other half of the year, she would be required to go back to the Underworld and continue her rule as queen of that shadowy place.
Each year, during the months when Persephone returns to her, Demeter makes the earth green and blesses the harvest. But during the months when Persephone has to stay in the Underworld, Demeter mourns, and in her grief and loneliness she makes the earth turn barren and cold. Nothing is allowed to grow during these seasons of grief. The world waits with Demeter for Persephone’s return each spring, when the earth will turn green and warm once more.
A mother’s love for her child is so powerful that it moves all of nature to change and come alive. The ancients understood that the mother within us is activated when we nourish and nurture our inner child.
Only recently have we begun to discover the concept of the inner child. It coexists in our personalities alongside our adult selves and is part of the multidimensionality of who we are at all times. When as adults we suppress the memory, needs, and desires of our inner child, we run the risk of never learning how to feel normally, or how to play and have fun, or to manage stress. We can take ourselves too seriously, feel guilty about not being ‘good enough,’ and become suspicious of people who enjoy life, and know how to play.
Nurture Your Inner Self this Month
This month, if you would like to be more nurturing to your inner self, in the same way Demeter was nurturing to Persephone, try some of these techniques. Tell your inner child that it is OK to:
take the time to do the things you want to do…
associate only with the people you want to associate with…
give and accept love from others…
have the freedom to make choices…
allow someone else to care for you…
enjoy the fruits of your labor with no guilt feelings…
take time to play and have fun each day…
be in charge of your life and not let others dictate to you…
be honest with others about your thoughts and feelings…
not be so serious, intense, and inflexible about life…
cry, hurt, and be in pain, as long as you share your feelings without suppressing them…
be angry, and bring your anger to some resolution…
make decisions for yourself…
make mistakes, laugh at them, and carry on…
let your imagination and creativity be set free to soar with the eagles.
These are ways you can be a mother to yourself. Nurturing that part of you that does not often receive your attention can bring about some surprising results. For one thing, you may find that you are living more fully in joy than you have been in quite some time. For another, life may stop seeming to be such a struggle and might appear more manageable, and…more fun.
As you get in touch with your Demeter/Persephone energy, remember that love — in this case love of self — can have an enormous impact on the world around you. Demeter loved Persephone so much that when her daughter returned to her every year, she caused the rivers to run and the trees to bloom.
Demeter and Persephone: This retelling of the story is from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
In Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Wayne Muller suggests we create a sanctuary in time every week (if not every day) for devotion, gratitude, silence, and self-nurture. He includes dozens of Sabbath exercises drawn from the practices of the world’s religions.
Search for all books about nurturing in the Spirituality and Health database
The Forgotten Child Within: Discovering, Nurturing, and Healing Your Inner Self by Louise Hay / Audio Tape
To help listeners begin to heal the problems and fear that stem from childhood experiences, Hay tells how to get in touch with and soothe the inner child. Includes a beautiful meditation for health for everyone and the planet. Conversations on Living Lecture Series.