Pandora and Pantheon

Pandora by John William Waterhouse
Pandora by John William Waterhouse

The next volume of Pantheon will center on the artifact known as Pandora’s Box (or Jar), but in order to render the mythology properly, we need to assess its significance first.

There are two conflicting interpretations of the mythology that depends on the role of “hope” in the box. Is the box full of evils (kakoi), according to Hesiod, which was subsequently unleashed on the world, but hope did not escape? If that is the case, then what the hell was hope doing in a box filled with malicious forces? In Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche offered his interpretation:

71. HOPE. – Pandora brought the box of ills and opened it.  It was the gift of the gods to men, outwardly a beautiful and seductive gift, and called the Casket of Happiness.  Out of it flew all the evils, living winged creatures, thence they now circulate and do men injury day and night.  One single evil had not yet escaped from the box, and by the will of Zeus Pandora closed the lid and it remained within.  Now for ever man has the casket of happiness in his house and thinks he holds a great treasure; it is at his disposal, he stretches out his hand for it whenever he desires; for he does not know the box which Pandora brought was the casket of evil, and he believes the ill which remains within to be the greatest blessing, it is hope.  Zeus did not wish man, however much he might be tormented by the other evils, to fling away his life, but to go on letting himself be tormented again and again. Therefore he gives Man hope,- in reality it is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of Man.

This is a rather bleak view, one that chimes perfectly with his interpretation of the Hellenic Greeks as natural, even cheerful, pessimists.

Or perhaps Hesiod got it all wrong & the box actually a stronghold of goods (such as Trust, Restraint, Charities or Graces) that were lost, but only hope remained behind? After all, other writers like Aesop and Theognis claim it was the Jar of Blessings (dôroi). Schopenhauer offers the following argument in the second volume of Parerga and Paralipomena:

The fable of Pandora has never been clear to me; in fact it has always seemed to me to be absurd & preposterous. I suspect it was misunderstood & distorted even by Hesiod himself. As her name already implies, Pandora has in her box not all the evils, but all the blessings, of the world. When Epimetheus hastily opens it, all the blessings fly out, all except hope which is saved & left behind for us. In the end, I had the satisfaction of finding a couple of passages of the ancients which accord with this view of mine, namely an epigram in the anthology (Delectus epigrammatum graecorum, edited by Jacobs, c. 7, ep. 84), and a passage of Babrius quoted there which begins with the words: Zeus collecting in a vessel all the good things . . .’ (Babrius, Fabulae, 58.I.)

Since Pantheon is a work of fiction, we can resolve this dilemma with a convenient explanation: Pandora’s Box is an Edenic artifact that can either edify or condemn a terrestrial species. Moreover, the members of team Pantheon must figure out how to unlock this artifact, because it is not a creation of the gods.

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...a philosophisticator who utters heresies, thinks theothanatologically and draws like Kirby on steroids.

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