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 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.