The great god Zeus tasked Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus, who were both skilled craftsmen, with populating the earth. Epimetheus made animals and birds, insects and fish. When he was finished Prometheus stepped forward and made the last creature. He took some soil, mixed it with mud, and out of it moulded the first human being. While the other animals were on all fours, their sight fixe on the earth, Prometheus made humans to stand on two legs, so that they could gaze up at the stars. When he had finished, he realised he had no gift to bestow on his wonderful creation.
“I know what I’ll do. I’ll give them a gift from the Gods!”
He climbed up through the clouds up into the heavens and plucked from the rim of the fiery sun a sliver of a flame. Cautiously he guarded it as he carried it back down to earth, out of sight of the gods. Some time later Zeus peered down from Mount Olympus and saw flames flicker across the land and smoke rising. He realised what Prometheus had done and flew into a rage.
“You have given away the secret of fire Prometheus! You shall be punished for this!”
He tied Prometheus to a cliff and sent eagles to peck at him all day long. A mere mortal would have died but being a god, Prometheus knew that the pain would last forever. A great hopelessness fell upon him and his heart was heavy and despairing. This hurt him more than the physical pain as he braced himself for eternity.
As time wore on the great Zeus grew wiser, and his heart softened. He took pity on poor Prometheus when he saw the suffering he was enduring. So, he broke the chains that bound Prometheus with lightening, swept the eagles far away, and Prometheus was free once more to join in the joy of his creations.
At the heart of this story is the idea of the gift; of giving; generosity, and the central role it plays in human life. In this great Greek tale, we witness Prometheus’ heroic endeavour to first to give life to humanity, then to bestow on humans the gift of technology that will help sustain them on the wild earth.
Of course, this story is not meant to be read literally, but metaphorically. When we read the myths, we are really reading ourselves, the history of humanity. The gods and heroes we encounter there all exist within our own minds. The myths are a mirror held up to us that reflect our own deepest nature.
Prometheus and Zeus are aspects of ourselves. The promethean principle stands for the creativity of the craftsman, the generosity of the saint, the boldness and daring of the warrior, and the hero’s ability to endure pain and suffering in service to a greater good.
Zeus, likewise, is the part of us that seeks justice, that holds authority, and wants to punish wrong-doing. He is the judge within. He is also the wise and compassionate part of us that forgives and feels pity when witnessing the hardship of another.
Both Prometheus and Zeus embody different skills, strengths, intelligences and capacities that exist within us. These qualities, like seeds, can be watered and grown within ourselves. Which of the capacities that you witnessed in the above story are strong and well developed within you? Which would you like to develop more? How might you do this?
When are both of the Promethean or Zeus principles active in you?
How might you harness these latent human potentialities to pursue your valued ends in your life?
We can deliberately ‘put on the mind of Prometheus’ when we need to. Knowing that this presence, this potential exists within us can give great confidence and be a great resource in facing challenges in our lives.