Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

Hope Sinks: Pandora, Eve and the Obsession of Ahab

Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

Hope Sinks: Pandora, Eve and the Obsession of Ahab

Article excerpt

Most everyone is familiar with the mythology of Pandora; however, few realize its significant message: Hope is evil.

First, the popular notion that Pandora was given a "box" is not quite accurate. A better translation would be "jar." And this jar has a lid on it. The lid is to keep all of the "ills" from escaping into our world. Think of it: The jar is filled with all sorts of evils. Now, hope is in the jar. Therefore, hope is an evil This assumption is pretty logical, isn't it? But exactly what is the "evil" we call hope? And why don't we see it as evil?

Let's look a little further at Pandora's plight. When Pandora unscrews the lid, she allows all the evils to rush freely into the human world. However, she frantically struggles to get the lid back on the jar and actually manages to entrap the one last evil--hope--between the lid and the jar, so it is caught halfway in and halfway out. This is important because its purely evil identity is not fully unleashed or, as importantly, revealed. This is why we do not quite recognize the evil of hope. But it is evil, nevertheless. Now, what is its evil nature?

A quick glimpse at any dictionary, for example Webster's New World Dictionary, tells us that hope is defined as "a feeling that what is wanted will happen; desire accompanied by expectation." There's "the rub"! Probably the most accurate translation of hope in the Pandora mythology would be expectation, in the sense of desiring more than what one already has--and expecting to get it. Thus, hope is really another way of saying discontent, discontent with one's current state, and a desire for more and more. Voltaire once defined being human as being a "void," an insatiable hole that can never be filled or satisfied. This is hope's evil. Hope is what keeps us from ever being happy because it fuels the black hole in us, creating a constant expectation and desire for more.

For example, "hope" structures one of our earliest human mythological events, the fall from "Eden." Too many people see the fall as a consequence of temptation. A forbidden fruit is offered, and our all too human frailty falls prey to its allure. But that's not quite right, is it? Temptation is an illusion. As in Pandora's case, the outcome is predicable. The gods give Pandora the jar knowing she will open it. Likewise, God places the tree in the center of the garden knowing Adam and Eve will fall. So where's the temptation? Consequently, what actually attracts Eve (and Adam) to the forbidden fruit is the evil of hope, that is the expectation they will have more than they already have--that they will be (as the serpent promises) "like God." Amazing--how strong an evil is hope! Imagine residing in Eden, in paradise, and not being satisfied. Imagine giving up eternal life in paradise for the promise of "more." And why are Adam and Eve banished? They are banished, so they will not eat of the tree of eternal life. Thus, their banishment is a taking away of all else but hope. Their punishment is to endure the evils of hope. They are forever focused on their mortality, clinging to the "hope" they can regain paradise and eat of the second tree. And these expectations continue to plague us, don't they? In fact, our hope is even stronger than the fiery sword that keeps us from its realization.

This same hope, to be like God, is also evident in the alchemist search for the "philosopher's stone," the infamous substance that could change base metals into gold. As we all realize, such a concrete process of metamorphosis was secondary to the real quest--to turn man into God. The alchemists believed in a strict hierarchical order to nature and all things. At the top of this "ladder" was God, followed by the angels--in an orderly progression--to man then woman, to the animal kingdom through botanicals to minerals. Each group was itself ordered, with a monarch, followed by everyone or everything else in an ordered progression--so much so, that even today, we are aware of the hierarchy even though we may not realize it. …

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