Psyche in Mythology and the British Psychological Society of Today

Psyche/ˈsʌɪki/the human soul, mind, or spirit

“their childhood made them want to understand the human psyche and to help others”

Similar: soul spirit(inner) self innermost self(inner) ego true being essential nature life force vital force inner man/woman persona identity personality individuality make-up subconscious mind intellect anima pneuma

Opposite: body

Wikipedia

the fountain of knowledge in the contemporary world, states :

Psyche (mythology)

Psyche (/ˈsaɪkiː/;[2]Greek: Ψυχή, romanizedPsukhḗ) is the Greek goddess of the soul. She was born a mortal woman, with beauty that rivaled Aphrodite. Psyche is known from the story called The Golden Ass, written by Lucius Apuleius in the 2nd century. See Cupid and Psyche.

The following text is extracted directly from Wikipedia and adapted to the world of the British Psychological Society, which uses Psyche as its figurehead and logo image. Readers can make their own comparisons to recent events within the Society, such as these may be discerned by interested parties.

Early life

Psyche was the youngest child of a Greek king and queen. She had two elder sisters. She was the most beautiful among her siblings and she looked like a goddess among mortals. She was so beautiful that people, including priests, compared her to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Many went to the extent of saying that she was even more beautiful than the goddess. When Aphrodite’s temples were deserted because people started worshiping Psyche, the goddess was outraged. As a punishment, she sent their son, Eros, to make Psyche fall in love with a vile and hideous person. However, Eros fell in love when he saw her and decided to spare her from his mother’s wrath.

Both of her elder sisters were jealous of her beauty. Her sisters eventually got married with kings and left to be with their partners. Nobody asked Psyche’s hand for marriage; people would rather admire her beauty. She was left alone. Desperate, her father decided to consult the oracle of Delphi to get answers.

Wikipedia

Marriage to Eros

The story continues:

[Psyche’s] father, the king, consulted the Oracle of Delphi for the solution of this problem. From inside the priestess, Apollo himself spoke. He said, “Despair, king. Your daughter will marry a beast even the gods fear. Dress her in funeral clothes and take her to the tallest rock spire in the kingdom. There, she shall meet her doom.” Hearing this, the king was heartbroken. But since he had got direct orders from Apollo, he did as he was ordered.

He took her in funeral clothes to the tallest rock spire in the kingdom. Psyche waited for the beast to come, but when it did not come, she took matters in her own hands. She jumped off the spire. Everyone in the kingdom thought she was dead.

[This is precisely how some members view recent events within the British Psychological Society.]

But Zephyrus the Greek lord of west wind, had saved her from death. He had taken her to Eros‘s palace where she waited until night for Eros to return. There, she saw that the palace was very large and each cupboard was filled with gold. When Eros returned, he said to Psyche in utter darkness that she must not see him. She must not try to see him and he can’t tell her his name or it would ruin everything. 

The first few weeks of Psyche’s life in the palace were great, but soon she heard her sisters calling out her name. Her two sisters convinced her to see her husband’s true form, in case he was tricking her.

Psyche eventually listened to what they told her. She snuck into her husband’s room with an oil lamp and a knife. Psyche shone the light on her husband’s face, and a small drop of hot oil fell onto his shoulder, awakening him and burning him.

Betrayed by his wife’s actions, Eros ran off to his mother, Aphrodite. After learning what she had done, Psyche was miserable and depressed.

Aphrodite found Psyche and made her face four trials. 

Wikipedia

Trial Number One

According to the myth, Psyche’s first trial was to sort a huge mount of seeds. With the help of an empathetic ant colony, Psyche completed this task.

Wikipedia

Translating ‘seeds’ as ‘data’ and ‘ants’ as ‘BPS members’ creates a simile for the current organisation of the British Psychological Society.

Let me explain.

Recently I contacted Neil Baker, the Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager seeking any existing sociodemographic data held by the Society on the diversity of the BPS membership and workforce including gender, ethnicity and age. Neil responded as follows:

“the BPS declaration on equality, diversity and inclusion has formed the basis of all work relating to EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) over the past five years, including our commitment to anti-racist practice and decolonising the curriculum. The declaration will be replaced later this year by a brand new 18 month strategy incorporating EDI outcomes...

“In terms of demographic data BPS has been working hard to ensure demographic and diversity data form a core part of all membership systems. This work will lead to roll out of a brand new CRM system for membership over the next six months…

Our commitment to capturing data is embedded in our core belief that membership data can help the society actively challenge prejudice and discrimination, while promoting equity, social mobility and inclusion. While at the same time, allowing us to explore potential gaps, barriers and/or concerns for members as they undertake their membership journey.”

In spite of all its professed, good intentions, the BPS is yet to collect any sociodemographic data on its membership and so does not have the foggiest idea about this issue.

It is notable that Neil Baker has neglected to provide any information on the socio-demographics of the BPS workforce. Surely the Society must have this information in its HR department but, seemingly, prefers not to reveal it. One can only imagine why this might be the case.

The Society’s official policy and its actual practice could not be more different. I can illustrate this fact with an account of a personal experience of what can happen when one attempts to “actively challenge prejudice and discrimination, while promoting equity, social mobility and inclusion.

[Health warning: expect to be insulted, attacked and canceled if you should ever have the audacity to attempt this.]

In July 2017, I tweeted about The Psychologist‘s penchant for ‘white’ people on its covers and in its content of its publications. Editor Sutton responded that I was being “shrill and condescending” and he would “continue the discussion today with others who might have more constructive stuff to say”.

Sutton later accused me of trolling him, something he (wisely) later retracted.

Jon Sutton states his mantra that his team believe they are “doing good things”.

Then comes a very curious statement: “over those four years we’ve repeatedly been criticised on here in the opposite direction…”

What could this possibly mean – that the Psychologist editor has been repeatedly criticised by BPS members for being too non-racist?

If so, that is extremely alarming. Because there has been an objective, racist bias within BPS publications over the entire history of the organisation aided and abetted by its appointed editors. There are multiple examples.

The Society’s deletion of members’ comments does not pass unnoticed:

So much for the ability of concerned members to challenge the Society’s publication practices and policies.

The BPS needs to establish an anti-racist policy which is supported by a statistical database of the sociodemographic diversity of its membership that can be tracked over time.

It is unacceptable in the third decade of the 21st century that the BPS is playing catch up on a process that has been standard in reputable institutions of higher learning for years.

Psyche, wake up from your slumbers. Wake up, or you will die.

Trial Number Two

[Psyche’s] next task was to gather wool from a notoriously dangerous sheep. Psyche was saddened but helped by a river god, who taught her to collect pieces of wool from bushes.

Let’s translate ‘wool’ as ‘criticism’ , ‘dangerous sheep’ as ‘critics’ and the ‘river god’ as the recently deposed President-Elect. The latter had been elected on an explicit platform to transform the Society’s out-dated and ineffective structure and governance.

It is current practice of the Society’s unelected officers to not respond to, cancel or delete all forms of criticism. Witness this example. I submitted the following (abbreviated) critical comment on The Psychologist website on 2nd June 2021. As predicted, it got deleted five days later, but not before it had been archived:

Pravda-esque

Permalink Submitted by David F Marks on Wed, 06/02/2021 – 10:25

If the issues affecting the BPS and its membership had never been more serious and dire, I would think this article on “Power Posing” must be an embarrassing joke…

Readers interested in how their membership fees are being squandered can get up to speed by reading “The legitimation crisis and a membership denied answers” available at: https://bpswatch.com/. You will not find any of the most essential information here in the Psychologist. It has all been embargoed by the unelected management.

Instead of doing a genuine job as a forum for “communication, discussion and controversy”, this magazine hides behind the coattails of senior management and drags its readers through the pseudoscientific depths of topics such as ‘power posing’.  

Contrary to its published statement to “provide a forum…among all members of the society” and “to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied”, the Psychologist’s editor, Jon Sutton, serves as a minion of the unelected officers of the BPS Psychologist. BPS members are treated with contempt by the Society and its magazine. This un-peer-reviewed magazine claims to promote advancement of knowledge; on the contrary it promotes a regress to the lowest common denominator of  content that aims to be ‘popular’. Unfortuntaely, ‘Pop Psychology’ tends to be ‘Pseudopsychology’, as Mr Loncar’s article demonstrates. 

The Psychologist fails to address the most relevant truth: the BPS has reached a nadir in its reputation as a professional society and has no credible governance. In parallel, a nadir has been reached by the Psychologist in the art of bullshitting as eloquently explained in the May issue by Emma Young: “people who bullshit more often in a bid to impress or persuade others are also more susceptible to bullshit themselves”. 

As the complaints mount up, the Charity Commission is investigating. One fears that the ending of the BPS story will not be a good one. 

The BPS needs to stop debarring, deposing, canceling and deleting those who are critical of its policies, practices and governance, start listening to its members and to radically transform at root-and-branch level its current processes of communication, governance and decision making. Or it will die.

Trial Number Three

[Psyche’s] next task was to collect water from the underworld. Psyche was now assisted by the eagle of Zeus, who collected the water for her.

Translate ‘water’ as ‘evidence’, the ‘underworld’ as ‘malpractice’, and the ‘eagle of Zeus’ as ‘ethics procedures’ and the simile is pertinent to the recent practice of the Society.

In my capacity as Editor of the Journal of Health Psychology, an independent, non-BPS journal, and as a BPS Fellow, I wrote an Open letter to the Chief Executive of the BPS about the malpractice of a major figure within British Psychology, the late Professor H J Eysenck:

Dear Mr Bajwa,

I am writing about a serious matter concerning the research integrity of a person who one can presume was a member of the British Psychological Society. In the interests of openness and transparency, this is an Open Letter. If left unresolved this is a matter that can be expected to produce potential harm to patients, to biomedicine and science, to your institution, to its members and students. Although Professor Hans Eysenck died in 1997, the issue of alleged falsified science committed by the late Professor remains current to the present day.

To give a few examples, the 2017 edition of Eysenck’s autobiography published by Springer, in relation to the causal link between smoking and cancer, states, ‘On a purely statistical basis the causal efficacy of smoking – if this can be deduced at all from a simple correlation – is very much less than that of psychosocial factors; about one-sixth in fact’ (Eysenck, 2017Rebel with a Cause. Kindle Locations 3759–3761). Is the claim that psychosocial factors are six times more important than smoking something that the British Psychological Society is content to endorse or is it a claim that the BPS would like to see corrected? Or consider where Eysenck describes the effectiveness of psychotherapy in preventing cancer: ‘The total number of deaths in the control group was 83 per cent, in the placebo group 81 per cent, and in the therapy group 32 per cent, again demonstrating the efficacy of the method in preventing death from cancer and coronary heart disease’ (Eysenck, 2017, Kindle Location 3804–3806). Or the section where Eysenck claims that ‘there is some evidence that behaviour therapy may be useful in prolonging life, as well as in preventing disease’ (Eysenck, 2017, Kindle Locations 3821–3822).

I hope that the Society will add its voice to those who are requesting that the relevant publishers and journals should correct or retract Eysenck’s publications wherever they can be shown to contain questionable data-sets or claims that are known to be false.

The case is fully documented in Dr. Anthony Pelosi’s peer-reviewed article: ‘Personality and fatal diseases: revisiting a scientific scandal’. As the Editor responsible for the peer review and publication of Dr. Pelosi’s article, I have every confidence that Dr. Pelosi’s evidence and conclusions are reliable and true. In light of the policies and statutes of the British Psychological Society concerning research integrity I bring this case to your attention for investigation. A full and thorough investigation would be good for Psychology, for the research integrity of the BPS as a professional society and for the welfare of patients and the general public.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards, David F Marks BSc PhD CPsychol FBPsS
Editor, Journal of Health Psychology

The letter was sent two-and-a-half years ago (in October 2018) and no reply has ever been received. This lack of response is discourteous and unprofessional. Some might say plain rude.

The BPS needs to stop prevaricating, formulate a clear, unambiguous ethics policy and implement that policy without fear or favour. Or it will die.

Trial Number Four

The myth continues:

Psyche’s last task was the most difficult; she had to bring back some of Persephone’s beauty for Aphrodite. Persephone willingly gave Psyche some of her beauty. When she was near Olympus, Psyche opened the box of Persephone’s beauty, but the only thing inside was the essence of death.

Psyche died, but her husband, Eros, who had forgiven her, saved Psyche’s life and took her to Olympus.

Psyche was made the goddess of the soul.

Task four requires no translation.

Conclusion

What will be the fate of Psyche? Will she be saved, or will she forever remain a myth of a bygone age?

Published by David F Marks

Author, editor, psychologist.

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