It is a well-known tradition that if we are hit by one of Cupid’s arrows, our hearts will be profoundly affected by LOVE. In other words, Cupid’s arrow has the power to change our psyche and inner being.
My question is how did Cupid’s weaponry— a “dangerous” bow and arrow—come to symbolize an implement for intensifying life’s joy rather than bringing it to an end?
The conceptual creation of this little “armed” cherub/angel within human culture has its origins in ancient religion and humankind’s remote past. According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, early humans entertained a sophisticated system of symbolism by which worldly objects were used and combined in clever ways to depict more elevated spiritual meanings.
Cupid, composed of an infant and a bow and arrow, is such a symbol. An infant was used to signify innocence, more particularly, innocence from spiritual qualities. In fact, Cupid’s bow and arrow is exactly the same kind of weaponry used by God in the Holy Word.
Jehovah’s arrows are sharp, and all His bows are bent . . . (Isaiah 5:28)
Swedenborg discovered that the “bow” symbolized the doctrine of love and truth and “arrows” were the spiritual truths forged into a penetrating (to sharpen is to make keen) idea that can change lives. A bow represents doctrine because it is the means and power by which truth is declared, delivered and goes forth.
Isn’t the purpose of religion to change our values and to love others? What other weapon would God use to affect and penetrate people’s hearts and minds but through the spiritual doctrine of love and its truth?
According to Swedenborg our early ancestors (cavemen) understood this symbolism between physical and spiritual things and incorporated in into their culture and art. Cave drawings are not “primitive.”
Hunters (like Cupid) denote those who teach doctrine (in the same way the Lord asked his disciples to become “fishers of men”). When we look at cave art depicting prehistoric hunters shooting their bows and arrows (or spears) at animals it is not to be understood in merely natural terms as hunting for meat. Animals symbolize our animal nature (worldly affections and emotions). These lower human and worldly traits are precisely what God and religion take aim at—so that we may transcend our biological selves.
Without the re-emergence of this symbolic language, Holy Scripture will seem irrelevant and lacking divine authority in the post-modern world, and, no one will be able to undertake a genuinely inclusive, unified approach to the exposition of religious doctrine.