Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


A Note on Prometheus and Pandora

In response to an inquiry we offer the following tentative interpretation of the curious Greek legend of Prometheus and Pandora. The whole appears to us a tradition of the fall of mankind, hidden under the representative fiction of the ancients.

Prometheus, whose name means "fore-thought," seems to represent the man of the Golden Age in its first decline, when he began to "incline to proprium," i. e., began to desire to be guided by his own intelligence and worldly fore-thought, no longer content to be led by the Lord alone. (See A. C. 131-141.)

Prometheus committed his first sin by his effort to deceive Zeus in a matter of sacrifice. He slew an ox and put the flesh inside the hide but wrapped up the bones in the fat, and asked Zeus which part of the sacrifice he preferred. The god, though aware of the deceit, selected the fat and the bones, but as a punishment he took away the blessing of fire from the man whom Prometheus had created. This, we would suggest, signifies the first separation of internal worship from external, —the offering of worship which was dead within, (the bones), but clothed externally in natural good, (the fat). Prom this separation the fire of celestial love perished in the Most Ancient Church.

To his first sin Prometheus now added the crime of stealing fire from heaven, concealed in a hollow staff. Fire stolen means love perverted,-—the forbidden love which is the love of self. And the hollow staff suggests apparent truth confirming and excusing the evil love. And now the gods in their wrath sent Pandora—beautiful, curious woman—to hapless Epimetheus, whose name means "after-thought." The proprium was conjoined with the now perverted human understanding.

The inevitable curse now fell upon mankind:
Whilom on earth the sons of men abode
Free from diseases that with racking rage,
From evil free, and labor's galling load;
Precipitate the pale decline of age.

Now swift the days of manhood haste away,
And misery's pressure turns the temples gray.
The woman's hands an ample casket bear,—
She lifts the lid,—she scatters ills in air.

Hope sole remained within, nor took her flight,
Beneath the casket's verge, concealed from sight.
Th' unbroken cell with closing lid, the maid
Sealed, and th' cloud-assembler's voice obeyed.

Issued the rest, in quick dispersion hurled,
And woes innumerous roamed the breathing world:
With ills the land is rife, with ills the sea;
Diseases haunt our frail humanity.

Self-wandering through the noon, the night, they glide,
Voiceless,—a voice the power all-wise denied.
Know then this awful truth: it is not given
To elude the wisdom of omniscient Heaven.

(Hesiod, Works and Days, 125-144.)

The setting of this myth is indeed different from that of the story of the fall in Genesis, but the jewel of spiritual truth remains the same. In both accounts the woman, or the desire for a proprium, is the immediate cause of the fall. In both it is the passion of curiosity, —the desire to know from self-intelligence,—that leads to the fatal step. The curse of labor, the labor of temptations, is the result in both stories, and in both, finally, Hope still remains the one consolation in the midst of all the evils which henceforth infest humanity.

The nature of this Hope is further described in the story of Prometheus, who, as a punishment for his rebellion, is chained to a craggy rock where an eagle is daily devouring his ever renewed liver. Henceforth the human understanding was to be chained to sensual conceptions of truth, and its vital good the prey of falsity; but the day would finally come when the shackles of Prometheus would be broken by the promised Hercules: one day the fettered intelligence of mankind would be set free by the coming of the Redeemer, the omnipotent Truth of the Word incarnate. This coming was the Hope that remained, for in the very hour of the fall and the curse of Jehovah, God promised that the Seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent.

Previous: Greek and Roman Ideas of the Life After Death Up: Greek and Roman Ideas of the Life After Death Next: Bibliography of C.T. Odhner's Writings on Mythology

Crown of Revelations
Rebirth, Reincarnation
The Holy Center
Salvation in the Gospels
Psychology of Marriage
Precious Stones
The Human Mind
The Moral Life
Saul, David & Solomon
Bible Lost & Found
The Human Soul
Genesis and Exodus
City of God
Swedenborg Cosmology
Ultimate Reality
The Pattern of Time
Means of Salvation
NC: Sex and Marriage
Book with Seven Seals
My Lord and My God
Philosopher, Metaphysician
Inspiration of Genesis
Words In Swedenborg
Book Expo
Missionary Talks
Tabernacle of Israel
A Brief View of the Heavenly Doctrines
Ancient Mythology
Odhner: Creation
Ten Commandments
Christ and The Trinity
Discrete Degrees
Body Correspondences
Language of Parable
The Ten Blessings
Creation in Genesis
The Third Source
Noble's "Appeal"
Life After Death


• Back • Home • Up • Next •

Prometheus & Pandora

Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com