top of page

Volume 2:263-271

Continuing with the Tenth Stanza, H.P. Blavatsky bemoaned the fate of mankind with the introduction of Pandora's box. In The Secret Doctrine 2:270, Pandora's apparition "on earth is the signal of every kind of evil. Before her appearance, the human races lived happy, exempt from sickness and suffering." The story goes that Pandora marries Epimethus, brother of Prometheus (both Titans). Since Zeus wants to exact revenge on mankind for the disrespectful actions of Prometheus, he supplies a gift box to the household for the wedding. Pandora opens the box. Though traditions vary, all the evils of the world escape and the only object remaining in the box is hope--except that hope, from the Greek word "elpis," is not hope. The term "elpis" equally means "deceptive expectation." Now, Epimethus has been warned not to marry Pandora and to reject any wedding gifts from the gods. Since Epimethus represents "hindsight," he marries Pandora anyway and accepts the gift box. He is the self-deceived man. Some scholars suggest that the hope which remains in the box is a good thing, but they overlook the fact that Zeus gives Epimethus the box to exact revenge. He does not include anything good in the box, except indirectly. Once Pandora opens and closes the box, thereby trapping "elpis" within, the only thing that she has left to give to the world is deceptive expectation. By placing nothing in the box that can directly help mankind, Zeus's revenge is complete, first in chaining Prometheus to the rock for giving "Fire" to mankind and second in fooling Epimethus into harming precisely those human beings that his brother is trying to help.

Hesiod described Pandora, forged by Hephaestus as the first woman, in Verses 572-631 of Theogony, "When he had made the lovely curse, he brought her to a place where the gods and men were gathered, and the girl was thrilled by all her pretty trappings, given by mighty Zeus's daughter with grey eyes. Amazement seized the mortal men and gods, to see the hopeless trap, deadly to men." Further, "From her comes all the race of womankind, the deadly female race and tribe of wives who live with mortal men and bring them harm, no help to them in dreadful poverty but ready enough to share with them in wealth." As a "lovely curse," she is a beautiful evil like the apsara, Lilith. Since Pandora is created during the time of the Titans when Prometheus gives mind to mankind, she symbolizes the close of the Third Root-Race. From this time onwards, the lives of men are haunted with deceptive expectations. Hesiod knew there is a paradox involved in the whole sordid business, writing that there is a "second evil as a price of fire, man's blessing: if a man avoids marriage and all the troubles women bring and never takes a wife, at last he comes to miserable old age, and does not have anyone who will care for the old man." Ironically, only in going to a woman is a man capable of seeing the truth of life revealed to him. And he stops living in the lie that he has told himself. This is why the ancient Greeks depict the man kneeling before the woman in initiation. A woman is not only capable of binding a man to herself but also of releasing a man from himself.

With the quality of "foresight," Prometheus allows Pandora to open the gift box. He knows that a man who gets a wife of the "deadly sort" suffers "all his life with never-ending pain," but he also realizes that a man who "gets a good wife" receives "good and evil mixed." Perhaps hope in a positive sense comes from the encouragement that not everything will go wrong. In Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound in Verses 238-263, the Chorus asks Prometheus about mankind, "What cure did you discover for their misery?" He replies, "I planted firmly in their hearts blind hopefulness," but then adds, "I did more than that; I gave them fire." It is precisely the "blind hopefulness" that leads to the unraveling of deceptive expectation that readies man to make proper use of the "Fire." The relation of this "Fire" to "deceptive expectation" is most poignantly shown in the 5th century AD drama, Heracles, by Euripides. Heracles conquers Hades and completes his Twelve Labours, but Hera, who often symbolizes the more physical prakritis of matter derived from the more ethereal prakritis of her mother Rhea (which is why Rhea in childbirth becomes identified with Demeter, where Rhea is ethereal matter, Demeter is astral matter, Hera is physical matter, and Persephone is the earthly child of this combination), spites Heracles. She afflicts him with madness. Confused, he kills his wife Megara and their children. When he comes to his senses in Verses 1270-1290, he realizes that the killing of his family is in fact his "final labour" and most difficult hour. He recounts his previous labours killing lions, giants, hordes of centaurs, hydra-hounds, and three-headed watchdogs, but they are nothing compared to this final labour of overcoming the deceptive expectation that married life is going to be something other than pain and suffering. Resigned, Heracles leaves town, and goes off dejectedly with his traveling companion, Theseus, complaining that "nothing I endured before was as painful as my present woes."

Plato reflected on how "love" is harmful to both"beloved and lover" but also the "greatest of goods" in Verse 263 of the Phaedrus. On the one hand, the lover is a great danger to the beloved in Verse 255 because he thrives unhealthily on preserving the image of the beloved in his mind. The lover makes the beloved weak and then, when the lover regains his senses, he reneges on his promises and often becomes violent. On the other hand, "madness" is a "divine gift" in Verse 244 so long as it teaches restraint to the soul. But ultimately, as Socrates reminds us in Verse 277, mankind is not yet capable of defining love as a "whole by itself." All one can really do about it is to wander off into the night, wishing to possess no more riches than a "man of moderate desires" can carry, per Verse 279.


Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound and Other Plays, trans. Philip Vellacott (London: Penguin Books, 1961).

H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 2019).

Euripides, Heracles and Other Plays, trans. Robin Waterfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Hesiod and Theognis, Theogony, Works and Days, Elegies, trans. Dorothea Wender (London: Penguin Books 1973).

Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Christopher Rowe (London: Penguin Books, 2005).

(Photo by Gustavo Ferreira on Unsplash)


bottom of page