myths about the origin of evil

In the Western world, there are two myths about the origin of evil. The 1st is the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The 2nd is Hesiod’s tale of Pandora’s Box.

Adam and Eve live in Paradise. Everything needful is there for them. There is no lack, no want and no really hard work. They have only two commandments – “be fruitful and multiply” – have sex and make babies and “do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge”. Pretty simple right? There is no evil or suffering in the Garden of Eden and there is no death either. (It is only the eating of the Tree of Knowledge that brought death into the world). There are no long searches for a soul mate as it is already there. So what happens? The serpent (another name for Satan) convinces Eve to eat from the Tree. She gives of its fruit to her husband and the rest is history. God comes in and curses them (another allegory – God doesn’t dispense curses) and now Adam has to earn his living by “the sweat of the brow” and Eve gives birth with much pain and suffering. But more than that, humanity (Adam and Eve are symbols for the human race) have separated themselves from the divine and so there are wars, sickness and death and a gradual descent from their original perfection.

Hesiod’s tale is a bit different.

The great god Zeus, Lord of Heaven and the Olympian Gods, is angered at Prometheus who has just given fire to mortal man. (Why this should anger him requires meditation. This is difficult to understand and a subject for a future article). He punishes Prometheus severely and then sets out a remedy to rectify this problem. Zeus creates a Woman (Pandora) and gives her all the gifts of the Gods. He creates a box in which is contained all the evils in existence – hatred, jealousy, violence, sloth, etc.) he gives instructions to Pandora not to open the box. As long as the Box is not opened these evils will not afflict human kind. But he doesn’t tell her that. He just instructs her not to open it. Naturally she does. The evils fly out of the box and enters the human realm. And thus we have the world as we know it and one of the myths about the origin of evil.

What is common in both these stories? In both there was an element of disobedience. A violation of Divine Law. Modern Christians would use the word “sin”. This created the separation – the disconnection – from the Divine – from the source of life and good. We are all dealing with the ramifications of this to this day.