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Relief sculptures of this sort adorned the Temple of Venus Genetrix in the Forum of Caesar in Rome.

I’ve seen Mithras slaying the bull hundreds of times, but never Cupids. These sculptures date from the 2nd century AD and adorned the temple of Venus Genetrix in the Forum of Caesar. Caesar began work on this forum and Augustus completed it after his assassination. Archaeologists think these sculptures came from a later embellishment and repair of the forum by the emperor Trajan c. 113 AD. It’s unclear whether this was the original decoration or not.

In literature and myth Cupid can control the desires of men and gods. Cupid implants a desire in his targets. His victims are unable to rule themselves, as Apollo in the story of Apollo and Daphne. His victims are drawn toward the implanted object of desire irresistibly, as if to a beacon.

During egodeath, the mind senses that its thoughts and desires are implanted in it from outside its normal source of control. Egodeath proves that the ego cannot rule itself. The ego is drawn toward egodeath irresistibly.

In this relief decoration, Cupid masters and slays the self-command bull, the egoic mental world model, just as Mithras does. The wings represent the sensation often encountered in the altered state that the mind is in flight.

The Cupids pictured here also stand with one leg on the ground and the other in the air. This represents the enlightened mind with one foot rooted to the ground, the determined world, and one foot floating free in the transcendent world. This image also suggests the one ‘footed’ mushroom.

This image shows the higher self in winged ecstatic flight subduing the animalistic lower self, which kneels in submission.

The similarities to the common Mithras tauroctony show the fluidity of ancient metaphorical art and thought. Different characters were plugged into standard themes drawn from altered state experiencing.

(Picture source:

Now that Hoffman has cracked the imagery of the mystery religions, we can see the same altered state themes expressed in metaphor in other religious contexts. This is another piece of evidence that altered state metaphor was found in the center of Rome among the ruling class, attached to a temple sponsored by the emperors. Altered state metaphor was not confined to the mystery cults of Eleusis, Isis, Mithras, or Christ.

Here the altered state metaphor of Cupid’s tauroctony is used in support of the imperial ruler system. The temple of Venus Genetrix is a temple to Venus the Creator. This term has a few meanings in this context. Venus could be described as Genetrix because through her influence living things procreate, i.e. the lower self and the higher self join in union and produce the new control system. Venus was also said to be the ancestor of Caesar and Augustus, so through this temple her power is put to the service of the imperial system of Caesar and Augustus. Later emperors took the names of Caesar and/or Augustus to link themselves with the system begun by them. Trajan’s restoration or embellishment of the temple of Venus Genetrix is a sign of that deliberate homage and connecting to Caesar and Augustus.

Featured prominently in the window of a well-known academic bookstore in Rome.


Metaphorical Psychedelic Eternalism
September 2011


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