Prometheus

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Prometheus was a Titan in ancient Greek mythology, who was credited with the creation of man. In order to fully provide for his creations, Prometheus stole fire from Mt. Olympus, but was punished by Zeus as a result. Prometheus is often analogous to the light-bearers of other ancient cultures.

The Legend of Prometheus and H. P. Blavatsky

H. P. Blavatsky refers to Prometheus in the Theosophical Glossary as the following:

Prometheus (Gr.). The Greek logos; he, who by bringing on earth divine fire (intelligence and consciousness) endowed men with reason and mind. Prometheus is the Hellenic type of our Kumâras or Egos, those who, by incarnating in men, made of them latent gods instead of animals. The gods (or Elohim) were averse to men becoming “as one of us” (Genesis iii., 22), and knowing “good and evil”. Hence we see these gods in every religious legend punishing man for his desire to know. As the Greek myth has it, for stealing the fire he brought to men from Heaven, Prometheus was chained by the order of Zeus to a crag of the Caucasian Mountains.[1]

Prometheus and Manas

In Theosophy, Prometheus' flame is seen as the transmission of Manas to man. It is through Manas alone that man is considered intellectual, which distiguishes the human race from the other members of the animal kingdom:

The Greeks have all this depicted in their great fable of Prometheus stealing the heavenly fire -- which, be it known, is divine intelligence, not the physical flame we cook our suppers with! -- from the gods and bringing it to man for his behoof. It was what the Theosophists call Manas, the spark of thinking intelligence which made "man" a manasic being, or capable of abstract thought.[2]

The acts of Prometheus also give man the ability to elevate beyond his capacities. By fostering the Manas into mankind, Prometheus gave man the spiritual ability to become universal beings:

This “audacious revolt” is again an anthropomorphic and personifying allegory that we owe to the Church, which materialized, in order to disguise them the better, all the ancient ideas—old as the world. It was a philosophic doctrine imbedded in the esoteric meaning of the Promethean legend. The sacred fire which he stole from the Gods is the flame of conscious intellect, the spark which animates the fifth principle, or Manas; it is also the generating and sexual flame; that spark is the reflection —if not the very essence—of the Archangels or Monads, forced by their karma from the preceding manvantara, to incarnate in the astral forms of the third great pre-Adamite race before its “fall”—the fall of Spirit into Matter. That supposed “revolt,” that “theft” of the creative fire, is a result of Evolution (of which the Darwinian theory is but the rough exterior husk on the physical or material plane).[3]

To develop this higher intellegence, it is noted that the Manvantara cycle must have a long duration, as remarked by Gertrude van Pelt:

The story is told in allegory in the myth of Prometheus, who brought the

spiritual fire from heaven to mortals and was chained to a rock for ages -- the rock of matter, which was the animal body. The lacking principle was mind or manas, which must have lain sleeping as a germ forever had not Prometheus lighted and awakened it with spiritual fire. To quicken it permanently; to make a mortal, immortal; to change a dawning intelligence into a god -- for this, a

long manvantara is needed.[4]

Connection to Lucifer

The Legend of Prometheus is often equated to the Story of Lucifer. Both are the light-bearers, who are punished for their transmission of higher knowledge to man. As H. P. Blavatsky comments:

The allegory of the Fall of man and the fire of Prometheus is also

another version of the myth of the rebellion of the proud Lucifer, hurled down

to the bottomless pit -- Orcus.[5]

H. P. Blavatsky also recognizes that Prometheus gave man the knowledge of the gods, so that they could be gods themselves. This threatens Zeus, as man equal in spiritual knowledge with the gods is not tolerated. Thus, Prometheus shares the same fate with Satan:

Hence the allegory of Prometheus, who steals the divine fire so as to allow

men to proceed consciously on the path of spiritual evolution, thus transforming the most perfect of animals on earth into a potential god, and making him free to "take the kingdom of heaven by violence." Hence also, the curse pronounced by Zeus against Prometheus, and by Jehovah-Il-da-Baoth against his "rebellious

son," Satan.[6]

Relation with Epimetheus

Prometheus (Beforethinker or Forethought) and Epimetheus (Afterthinker or Afterthought) were both Titan brothers who were assigned with the creation of mortal creatures. Using the gifts of the gods, Epimetheus created animals as quickly as he could, giving them the gifts of speed, sight, and strength. Prometheus, conversely, used his time wisely to painstakenly create man, and found his brother had used the majority of the gifts. This led Prometheus to take the light of knowledge from Mt. Olympus to give man the gift of consciousness. As Grace F. Knoche notes:

"Man the thinker was born: instead of being less qualified than the animals which Epimetheus had so well equipped, he now stood a potential god, conscious of his power, yet

innately aware that from then on he would have to choose between good and evil,

and earn the gift Prometheus had brought."[7]

Epimetheus also serves as a parallel to Prometheus' intentions. In this definition of Prometheus and Epimetheus, the former is described as altruistic, while the latter is described as egotistical. H. P. Blavatsky notes that mankind has become comsumed with the Epimetheus condition, and should become aware of their potential to reach the intentions of Prometheus once again. She states:

The modern Prometheus has now become Epi-metheus, "he who sees only after

the event"; because the universal philanthropy of the former has long ago degenerated into selfishness and self-adoration. Man will rebecome the free Titan of old, but not before cyclic evolution has re-established the broken harmony between the two natures -- the terrestrial and the divine; after which he becomes impermeable to the lower titanic forces, invulnerable in his personality, and immortal in his individuality, which cannot happen before every animal element is eliminated from his nature. When man understands that "Deus non fecit mortem" (Sap. I., 13), but that man has created it himself, he will

re-become the Prometheus before his Fall.[8]

Importance of Prometheus in Theosophy

In regards to Theosophy, Prometheus has primarily been to illustrate the struggle between between spirituality and materialism. Prometheus represents the essence of the spiritual being, while the gods represent the brute humanistic urges. As the high intentions of Prometheus are inhibited by the crude behaviors of the gods, Prometheus' choice remains of great interest to many Theosophists, including H. P. Blavatsky. She remarks:

This drama of the struggle of Prometheus with the Olympic tyrant

and despot, sensual Zeus, one sees enacted daily within our actual mankind: the lower passions chain the higher aspirations to the rock of matter, to generate in many a case the vulture of sorrow, pain, and repentance. In every such case one sees once more -- "A god . . . in fetters, anguish fraught; The foe of Zeus, in hatred held by all. . . . " A god, bereft even of that supreme consolation of Prometheus, who suffered in self-sacrifice -- "For that to men he bare too fond a mind. . ." as the divine Titan is moved by altruism, but the mortal man by Selfishness and

Egoism in every instance.[9]

Theosophists do not limit the struggle of materialism and spirituality to the legend of Prometheus. They also extend it into contemporary life, as it is a continuation of the challenge to balance these moral forces. When man had recieved the fire of higher knowledge from Mt. Olympus, they were faced with the responsibility of living with both the divine purpose of Prometheus and the lowly desires of the gods. As commented by Alvin Boyd Kuhn:

The gift of Prometheus thus became "the chief cause, if not the sole

origin of evil," since it joined in an unstable equilibrium in one organism the free will and spiritual purity of the angel hosts with the heavy surgings of the bestial nature; linked divine aspiration with sensual appetence. Theosophists view this situation as the ground of man's

whole moral struggle.[10]

Name of Prometheus

The Name of Prometheus also takes on an Esoteric meaning as well. As the legend of Prometheus is a story of man's creation, the duality of perfection out of imperfection is evident. As Prometheus had chosen to extend his awareness to mankind, he realized that his ability to give man their knowledge of perfection must also come with their knowledge of imperfection. This decision and its consequences have been preserved in the Greek Tradegy, Prometheus Bound. The drama is cited often in The Secret Doctrine, and has led H. P. Blavatsky to state:

This was left to that class of Devas who became symbolised in Greece under the name of Prometheus, to those who had nought to do with the physical body, yet everything with the purely

spiritual man...Each class of Creators endows man with what it has to give: the one builds his external form; the other gives him its essence, which later on becomes the Human Higher Self owing to the personal exertion of the individual; but they could not make men as they were themselves -- perfect, because sinless; sinless, because having only the first, pale shadowy outlines of attributes, and these all perfect -- from the human standpoint -- white, pure and cold as the virgin snow. Where there is no struggle, there is no merit; The first humanity, therefore, was a pale copy of its progenitors; too material, even in its ethereality, to be a hierarchy of gods; too spiritual and pure to be MEN, endowed as it is with every negative (Nirguna) perfection. Perfection, to be fully such, must be born out of imperfection, the incorruptible must grow out of the corruptible, having the latter as its vehicle and basis and contrast.

Absolute light is absolute darkness, and vice versa.[11]

Notes

  1. Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. Theosophical Glossary (Los Angeles, CA: Theosophical Company, 1973), 263.
  2. Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1930), ???
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 386-387.
  4. van Pelt, Gertrude W. Archaic History of the Human Race (San Diego, CA: Point Loma Publications, 1979), 28.
  5. Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. Isis Unveiled (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 299.
  6. Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), 244.
  7. Knoche, Grace F. To Light a Thousand Lamps: A Theosophic Vision (Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 2001), 25-26.
  8. Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), 422.
  9. Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), 422.
  10. Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1930), ???
  11. Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine Vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), 95.

Further Reading