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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Temple Legend
GA 93
Part I

2. The Contrast between Cain and Abel

10 June 1904, Berlin

I mentioned already1 At the end of his lecture given on 27th May 1904 with the words: ‘Next time I shall deal with one of the most important legends, which is one you have often heard, but whose inner meaning is so profound that there is hardly anything to match it: the legend of Cain and Abel.’ last time that a great number of occult secrets lie hidden in the story of Cain and Abel. I wish to point out certain things today, but right at the beginning I would stress that the relationship between Cain and Abel—with regard to its deeper aspect, of course—is an allegory for very profound mysteries2 See in this connection: Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, Book 2, ‘The Divine Hermaphrodite.’ p.124, but also Rudolf Steiner's later cycle: The Effects of Occult Development Upon the Sheaths of Man, ten lectures given in the Hague, 20th–29th March 1913 (London and New York, 1945). which we will only be able to reveal in part on the basis of the conceptions we hold.

If we take the five books of the Pentateuch, we shall find therein many things which indicate the development of mankind since the Lemurian Epoch. The story of Adam and Eve and their descendants is not simply to be taken literally, in a naive fashion. I would ask you to take into account that in the Pentateuch, in Enoch,3 Apocryphal Book of the Old Testament. in the Psalms and some important chapters in the Gospels, in the Epistle to the Hebrews and some Epistles of Paul and in the Apocalypse, we are dealing wholly with the work of initiates, so that in these writings it behoves us to search for an occult meaning. If the Bible is not just read thoughtlessly—thoughtlessly in a higher sense—many things will become apparent. And I should like to draw your attention to something which may easily be overlooked, but must be taken quite literally if we are to see that nothing is without a meaning in the Bible and that it is quite easy for this meaning to escape us.

Take the first sentence from the fifth chapter of Genesis:4 This is a free rendering by Rudolf Steiner of the words of the Old Testament. Instead of ‘male and female created he them,’ Rudolf Steiner substituted: ‘male-female created he him,’ with subsequent corrections of ‘them,’ ‘their,’ etc., into ‘him,’ ‘his,’ etc. On later occasions, Rudolf Steiner often stressed the fact that this first creation of man was a male-female creation. Compare also: Egyptian Myths and Mysteries, eighth lecture and Genesis, Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation, eleventh lecture. ‘This is the book of the generations of man. In the days that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male-female created he him; and blessed him, and called his name Adam, in the day when he was created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:’

One must take the literal rendering. Adam himself was simply called a man. Male-female created he him; not yet sexually defined, asexual. And how was he created? In the likeness of God.

And moreover, in the second sentence, ‘In so and so many years’—that indicates a long span of time—‘Adam begat a son Seth, after his likeness’. In the beginning of the time of Adam we have men in the likeness of God; at the end of Adam's time after the likeness of Adam, after a human likeness. Earlier, man was made in the likeness of God: later, in Adam's likeness.

We thus have, to start with, human beings who are all similar in appearance and all created after the image of God. They were propagated by asexual means. We must be clear about the fact that they all retained the same form which they had at the beginning, so that father looked like son and grandson also looked like son. What first caused mankind to change, to become differentiated? In what way did it change? Through the fact that two were engaged in propagation. The son or daughter looked like the father on the one hand, like the mother on the other.

Now just imagine you have a race of people which were originally similar to God in appearance and they were propagated not by sexual means, but asexually: the descendants are all similar in appearance to their forebears. There is no mixing of the race. The differentiation first came about in the Seth period. But between the times of Adam and Seth something else occurred. Namely, before the transition from Adam to Seth two others were born, who were important representatives: Cain and Abel. They came between and represent a transitional stage. They were not born at a time when propagation had already taken on a strongly marked character of sexuality. We can infer this from the meaning of the names Cain and Abel. Abel is the same as ‘pneuma’ in Greek,5 See in this connection Rudolf Steiner's The Gospel of St. Matthew, lecture 5. which means ‘spirit’, and if we look at that from the point of view of sexuality, it denotes a decidedly female character. Cain, on the other hand, means almost literally ‘the masculine,’ so that in Cain and Abel the masculine and feminine principles confront one another. Not yet on an organic level: they tend to differentiate on a spiritual level.

Now I would ask you to hold that fast in your minds. Originally mankind was male-female. Later on it was divided into a male and a female gender. The male, the more material race, was represented in Cain, the female, the more spiritual, in Abel-Seth. A differentiation has occurred. That is symbolised in the words: ‘Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.’ (Genesis 4:2)

‘Ground’ (Boden) has the significance of the ‘physical plane’ in all ancient languages and the three aggregate conditions of the physical plane are: the solid earth, the water and the air. ‘Cain was a tiller of the ground’ in its original sense means: he learnt to live on the physical plane, he became a man on the physical plane. That was the male characteristic. It consisted of being strong and robust in order to cultivate the soil and then retire again from the physical to the higher planes.

‘Abel was a keeper of sheep.’ As a shepherd one accepts life as the Creator has presented it. One does not cultivate the herds, one tends them. Therefore Abel is the representative of the sex which does not reach spirituality through its own individual effort of understanding, but only receives it as a revelation of the Godhead and then merely tends it. The keeper of flocks, the guardian of that which has been placed on the earth, that is Abel. The one who creates things for himself, that is Cain. Cain lays the foundation of zither playing and other arts (Genesis 4:21–22).

Now comes a contrast in their attitude towards the Godhead. Abel receives from the spirit and offers up the best, the highest fruits of the spirit. God regards the offering of Abel with satisfaction—of course, because it is what He Himself has bestowed on the earth. Cain makes a different claim. He turns to God with the products of his own intelligence. That is something quite foreign to the nature of God, because it is something which man has achieved out of his own freedom.

Cain is the type of man who aspires to the arts and sciences. That has nothing to do with the deity to begin with. A profound truth is expressed here. He who has occult experience knows that the arts and sciences, in spite of having made man free, do not lead him to the spirit. Rather are they the things which lead him away from what is truly spiritual. The arts have sprung up from man's inner being, which have their roots in the earthly plane. That has no immediate appeal for the deity. It produces the conflict which arises when the smoke of Abel's offering, the spirit implanted in the earth by God himself, is accepted by the divine worlds, but the smoke from Cain's offering is rejected and remains on the earth. What is independently produced remains on the earth, like the offering of Cain.

That, too, is the same as the contrast between male and female. Female is inspired by what is received directly from God. ‘Pneuma’ is achieved through conception. What Cain has to offer is human work on the physical plane itself. That is the contrast between female and male spirit. Here these two are fundamentally opposed to one another.

Man is not only a physical being but is spiritually both male and female at the same time: he is both the one who receives and allows himself to be inspired and the one who works upon the inspirations and combines them through his intellect. These two functions were now separated—we can regard male and female simply as a symbol from now on—from now on the principle of inspiration was transferred to those who were like Abel, who remained shepherds and priests. It was not transferred to the others. They dedicated themselves to the worldly things of science and the arts and confined themselves purely to earthly activities.

That could not have taken place without a change occurring in the human being. While man was still male-female, it was impossible for him to separate spiritual wisdom and scientific knowledge. Only through a definite separation into the two sexes could man's brain be brought to the pitch where it could function. The brain became male,6 This passage appears to have been imperfectly preserved. One can compare it with passages from lectures 17, 18, 19 and 20, given on 23rd October 1905, and 2nd January 1906, in the present volume. the deeper nature became female. Mankind can only be productive through his physical nature. Through that he produces something—namely, descendants. But a spirit, inasmuch as it is connected with the brain, is male and confined to productivity on the physical plane. Therefore Cain and Abel are the representative types of these two kinds of thinking.

Through this separation, it came about that in the propagation of the human species the offspring ceased to be merely identical copies of their parents and became differentiated. I would ask you to visualise the following. The greater the importance attached to sex, the more the differentiation that resulted. If we were dealing with purely asexual propagation then the new generation would look just like the one that had gone before. A variation would not occur in the sequence of the generations. Variation only comes about when a mixture occurs. And how was this mixture made possible? Through the fact that the masculine element committed itself to the earth. Cain was the one who became a tiller of the soil and transformed it. This outward difference in the generations would not have come about in man if a part of humanity had not descended onto the physical plane. It was no longer as it had been before when propagation had descended on mankind from the higher planes. Something was now introduced into man's make-up because he had extracted something from the physical earth. Now man takes on the likeness of what he has won for himself on the physical plane and he carries it up with him to higher planes. The physical is the mark of Cain. The physical plane and the effect it has on man is the mark set upon Cain.

Now man is fully united with the earth so that there is a contrast between Cain and Abel, a contrast between the Sons of God and the sons of the physical plane, between the Abel-Seth generation who are the Sons of God and the Cain generation, the sons of the physical plane.

You will now understand how it is that the episode of Cain and Abel falls into the period between Adam and Seth. A new principle entered into mankind, the principle of heredity, the original sin consisting of being dissimilar to the generation which had gone before.

But there still remain some Sons of God. Not all of those belonging to the Abel line were eradicated. And now we see what took place when to the question: ‘Where is Abel, thy brother?’ Cain answered: ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’ No man would have said that previously. That can only be said by an understanding which reacts as though acoustically [?] to the spiritual. Now the principle of struggle, of opposition, is added to the principle of love; now egoism is born: “Am I my brother's keeper?”

Those who still remained of the Abel line were Sons of God, they remained akin to the divine. But they now had to guard themselves against entering the earthly sphere. And from this resulted what was to become the principle of asceticism among those who dedicated their lives to the service of God. It became a sin for such a dedicated one to have anything to do with those who had committed themselves to the affairs of earth. It was a sin when ‘The Sons of God7 See note 15 of the previous lecture. saw the daughters of men that they were fair’ and took them wives; they took them wives from the daughters of Cain.

From this union resulted a race of men8 Genesis 6, 4. ‘There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the Sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown.’ which is hardly even mentioned in the published books of the Old Testament, but is only hinted at; it is a race that is not perceptible to physical eyes. It is called ‘Rakshasas’ in occult language9 According to H.P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, there are many explanations for this race of the Rakshasas in Oriental esoteric philosophy. See, for instance: The Secret Doctrine, Book 2, p. 288, where it speaks of ‘Rakshasas’ (giant demons) and Daityas (Titans).

A German translation of C.G. Harrison's The Transcendental Universe, which was among the books in Rudolf Steiner's library, may have been used by him in preparing this lecture. In the fifth lecture of the above it speaks of: ‘These semi-human creatures, the progeny of the fallen angels, are known in the Hindu Scriptures as the “Asuras” and are sometimes called “Rakshasas” or demons.’ This makes it plain that, in lecture 2 held on 10th June 1904, Rudolf Steiner conferred a different meaning on the term ‘Asuras’ to the one he had in mind when he lectured on 23rd May 1904 (lecture 1).
and is similar to the ‘Asuras’ of the Indians. It consists of demonic beings who really did exist at one time and who acted seductively upon the human race and caused its downfall. This flirtation of the Sons of God with the daughters of men produced a race which worked particularly seductively upon the Turanians, the members of the fourth sub-race of the Atlanteans, and led to the destruction of humanity. Some things were preserved and carried over into the new world. The Deluge is the flood which destroyed Atlantis. Men who were seduced by the Rakshasas disappeared by degrees.

And now I have to tell you something which will in any case appear extraordinary to you, which is particularly important. It has been an occult mystery for the outside world for many centuries and will seem incredible to most people, but is nevertheless true. I can assure you that every occultist has often convinced himself of its truth through what is called the Akashic Record. But so it is.

These Rakshasas were real beings, they really existed—actively and effectively—as seducers of mankind. They continued to influence human desires until the time when Christ incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddhi principle itself became present on the earth in a human body. Now you may believe it or not: this is something of cosmic significance, of significance which reaches beyond the earthly plane. It is not for nothing that the Bible expresses it thus:10An account of Christ's entry into Hell can be read in the Apocryphal Book of ‘The Acts of Pilate.’ ‘Christ descended into the forecourts of Hell.’ It was not human beings He met there, He was confronted by spiritual beings. The Rakshasa beings were brought thereby into a state of paralysis and lethargy!11This passage appears in the notes of Marie Steiner von Sivers in the following form: ‘The Rakshasas were brought into a state of paralysis because they were being opposed from two sides: by the old Chela, who was deeply connected with the physical plane and by a purely spiritual being, the Christ. Their power was thus paralysed from two sides. Something cosmic was effected. This tension, this bottled-up energy, had to be prevented from becoming effective energy. That is the Christ principle in action against the Antichrist.’

C.G. Harrison has the following to say on this subject in the aforementioned book: ‘The Asuras are igneous, or dynamic, in their nature, and their power for evil was terrific. It was destroyed for ever by the advent of Jesus Christ, and they are now, as St. Jude puts it, “reserved in everlasting chains until the judgment of the great day.” (St. Jude evidently derived his knowledge of the subject from the “Book of Enoch”.) Stated in scientific terms, they are held in check, unable to move backwards or forwards, between the earth and the Eighth Sphere at the point of latency, where the attraction of both is equal on all planes, until the “great day” or axidal coincidence, when they will be drawn irresistibly into the vortex of the latter. This text in St. Jude has been unfortunately misunderstood, and supposed to apply to Lucifer and the first fall of the angels; hence the Miltonic and medieval myths.’
They were at the same time kept in check so that they became unable to move. They could only be lamed in this manner because they were being opposed from two sides. That would not have been possible if there had not been two natures combined together in Jesus of Nazareth: on the one hand the old Chela nature, deeply connected with the physical plane, which could also work effectively on the physical plane and through its power could hold it in balance: on the other hand there was Christ Himself who was a purely spiritual being. That is the cosmic problem which is fundamental to Christianity. Something occurred at that time in occult spheres; it was the banishment of the enemies of mankind which has its echo in the Saga of the Antichrist, who was put in chains but will make his appearance again, if not opposed once more by the Christian principle in its primal force.

The whole occult striving of the Middle Ages was directed towards nullifying the effect of the Rakshasas. Those whose vision extends to the higher planes have long foreseen that the moment when this could happen might be at the end of the nineteenth century, at the transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. Nostradamus,12Actually Michel de Notre Dame (1503–1566). French astronomer and medical doctor. Famous on account of his Prophesies, written in French verse. who worked from a tower which was open to the heavens, who brought succour during the Great Plague, was able to foretell the future. He wrote a number of prophetic verses in which you can read about the war of 1870 and several prophecies about Marie-Antoinette131755–1793: daughter of the Empress of Austria, Maria Theresa; became Queen of France in 1774 and ended her life on the scaffold, not heeding the warning of the Count of St. Germain. which have already been fulfilled. In these ‘Centuries’ by Nostradamus (Century 10, 75) the following prophecy can be found: At the close of the nineteenth century a Hermes Brother will come from Asia and bring unity to mankind. The Theosophical Society is nothing less than a fulfillment of this prophecy of Nostradamus. The annulment of the Rakshasas and the reestablishment of the primal mysteries is an aim of the Theosophical Society.

You know that Jesus Christ remained on the earth for ten years after His death.14Rudolf Steiner assumed that his audience was familiar with the work of the English theosophist, G.R.S. Mead Pistis Sophia, A Gnostic Gospel, London, 1896, which begins with the words: ‘It came to pass, when Jesus had risen from the dead, that he passed eleven years speaking with his disciples ...’ The Pistis Sophia15The title of a work assumed to be the same as The Apocalypse of Sophia, composed by Velentius, the most learned doctor of the Gnosis who lived for thirty years in Egypt in the latter half of the second century.

The only MS of the Pistis Sophia known to exist is the Askew manuscript, bought by the British Museum from the heirs of Dr. Askew at the end of the eighteenth century.
contains the profoundest theosophical teachings, it is much more profound than Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism.16Published in 1883. See also, The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century and its Relation to Modern Culture. Jesus incarnated again and again. His task was to renew the mystery wisdom. This is no mere fact of cultural or historical interest, but it is the fact I have described to you, which is well known to all occultists, namely, the struggle against the Rakshasas. You see there is a deep and important occult secret lying hidden therein.

You might ask: Why is that said in allegorical form and not stated openly? I must here remind you that the great teachers of humanity such as Moses, the Indian Rishis, Hermes, Christ, the first Christian teachers, all adhered to reincarnation. And this allegorical way of communicating wisdom had a good reason. When, for instance, the Druid Priest spoke of ‘Nifelheim’ or ‘Ymir the Giant’17Refer to notes for lecture 3 given on 30th September 1904, (included in this volume) and also the first and thirty-first lectures in Foundations of Esotericism, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982. and so on, that was, of course, no mere piece of poetic folk lore. Rather, it was because he knew that what he was then conveying to his pupil in the form of a fairy story would, when that spirit reincarnated, have prepared it to understand the truth in a more complete form. It is not faith, but knowledge, which inspired these fairy stories, that is, the experience of reincarnation. Even the denial of the reality of reincarnation—from the third century A.D. onwards—was made on the premises of reincarnation, because it was the intention to involve18See twenty-third lecture in Foundations of Esotericism, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982. so that practically all his spiritual life was taken up into incarnation. For that reason Christianity had no knowledge of reincarnation for 1,500 years. If we were to deny man a knowledge of reincarnation any longer we would be denying him this knowledge for a second time. That, however, would be a great sin, a sin against mankind. But to deny him this knowledge on the first occasion was necessary, for the value of the single life between birth and death had to be acknowledged.