In the story of Pandora that I read as a child, hope was the most terrible thing in her box. I have read several versions, and most side with the usual interpretation that hope is good. Some versions leave hope in the box which Pandora slams shut in fear. Some let hope escape as if it were a merciful and curative addition to the other terrors that emerge including toil, sickness, pain and death. But if hope was considered good, why did the Greeks include hope as one of the evils in Pandora’s box? I think Nietzsche got it right. Hope is the worst evil.
In the sessions I hold in my psychotherapy office my clients often resort to hope. It is my sad obligation to release them from this delusive comfort. If you maintain hope when what you hope for is hopeless you will use up your brief and precious time.
Nietzsche said that hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man. I witness this daily as I speak with people in the throes of unrequited love or failing marriages. I witness it in the self-inflation of those who imagine themselves as more than they are despite daily evidence to the contrary. I witness it in those who want the easy way out and eschew the trials and discipline of transformation. Hope is the enemy of these individuals.
As a psychotherapist I am engaged in encouraging human transformation. Here in the trenches of early self-discovery are the stabs that hurt the most. This is where you realize that your mother’s love can’t protect you in life, and that if she babied you then you are in for an even rougher ride. It can also be where you find out that you secretly cherish injury and weave it into a form of justification for your failures or refusals. Perhaps you doubt your God or face your own petty jealousy with embarrassment and shame. We are simple beings after all, and what torments us are sometimes vile to our higher sensibilities.
As a spiritual teacher I encourage my students to remember that the pettiness of their troubles aren’t what differentiate them from their fellows. If they are to be differentiated it will be by the courage and honesty with which they face their petty troubles. While the troubles are ordinary and repetitive, the spirit that defeats them is not.
To juxtapose an attribute that may be a great help to those on a spiritual quest with hope which we have already discredited, I bring in faith. To develop, you must have faith. How does faith differ from hope? Why would one be indicted while the other maintained? One difference between hope and faith is that in the case of faith it is possible to witness demonstrations of the higher orders of resolution that are possible. A person who has transcended suffering demonstrates that it can be done. You may also witness transformations in yourself. If you let go of a solution you don’t die. On the contrary, you are born again. You can have faith in this process of transformation because you know it from within and see it in others around you. Although you may not have witnessed it at an order that relieves you of suffering altogether, you do witness transformation in principal. In other words, you can have faith that you witness both in the person of the one who has succeeded and in your own personal experience when you arrive at a new level of solution.
Hope can easily attach itself to fantasy. Our visions of what will fulfill us multiply and divide, and move chameleon like through our lives. Upon examination these visions can be shown to be contradictory. Unfounded hope thrives on being unexamined. The grounds of faith, on the other hand, can be discovered in seeking clarity.
An example may be seen in the case of romance. It is possible to hope for a particular romance, or to hope for a particular outcome for your romance. Hope doesn’t necessarily translate into reality. You may marry the wrong person, or stay too long in a marriage that doesn’t work. Staying too long may be justified by hope.
Faith, on the other hand, is renewed when you actually witness the truth of human development. If you remove the makeshifts, refuse false solutions and adhere to clear perception, the process of psychic expansion is apparent. And this process is repetitive. Each time you turn to face the truth unflinchingly, you are inspired to turn and face the truth some more. Eventually truth is like fresh air to you. You can stand nothing else.