THE “WIDOW’S SON,” or the “Son of the (a) Widow,” a phrase that usually evokes compassion, becomes instead most intriguing when its esoteric meaning is known, for its frequent presence in Holy Writ then reveals new understanding.
Rudolf Steiner deals with the esoteric meaning of the term in The Temple Legend (TL), Lects. 6, pp. 61, 65, 68 and 71, and 7, p. 80; The Gospel of St. John and its Relation to the Other Gospels (Jn-Rel), Lects. 11, pp. 211-212 and (indirectly) 2, p. 31; perhaps implicitly in regard to Jesus in The Gospel of St. Luke (GSL), Lect. 5, p. 108 and The Fifth Gospel (FG), Lects. 4, p. 72 and 6, p. 125, and probably elsewhere. TL deals intensively with Freemasonry, and is must reading for anyone who, from within or without, desires to know of its origins and deeper nature. Lecture 6, “Manicheism,” as with many other references in Steiner, throws more light on the subject than has heretofore been shed within the framework of official Christendom. (See 7 Brit 775, “Mani,” and 776, “Manichaeism.”) (While almost homonymic and probably a namesake, the third-century A.D. “Mani” should not be confused with the prehistoric “Manu” associated with Noah as shown in “Spiritual Economy” and I-59, though cognate according to Lievegoed in The Battle for the Soul [(BATSO)].) In TL, Lect. 6, we find the following explanation:
The soul was always known as the “mother” in all esoteric (mystical) teachings; the instructor was the “father.” Father and mother, Osiris and Isis, those are the two forces present in the soul: the instructor, representing the divine which flows directly into man, Osiris, he that is the father; the soul itself, Isis, the one who conceives, receives the divine, the spiritual into itself, she is the mother. During the fifth Root Race [the present post-Atlantean; see I-4 and I-1] the father withdraws. The soul is widowed. Humanity is thrown back onto itself. It must find the light of truth within its own soul in order to act as its own guide. Everything of a soul nature has always been expressed in terms of the feminine. Therefore the feminine element—which exists only in a germinal state today and will later be fully developed—this self-directing feminine principle which is no longer confronted by the divine fructifier, is called by Mani the “Widow.” And therefore he calls himself “Son of the Widow.”
Later in the same lecture, we find the following (initially I thought Steiner’s reference to the “sixth Root Race” was a misstatement, his intent being instead to the “sixth Cultural Era” of our present post-Atlantean Epoch; however, it is best to see it as a proper reference to the sixth Evolutionary Epoch of Earth evolution, particularly since the sixth Cultural Age, Philadelphia [Rev 3,7-13; see I-1, I-25 and I-24], is the one from which the fruits of our present fifth Epoch will be carried over):
The sixth Root Race will have the task of drawing evil back into the continuing stream of evolution through kindness. Then a spiritual current will have been born which does not oppose evil, even though it manifests in the world in its demonic form. The consciousness will have been established in the successors to the “Sons of the Widow” that evil must be included again in evolution and be overcome [see Rom 12,21], not by strife, but only through charitableness. It is the task of the Manichean spiritual stream forcefully to prepare for this. This spiritual stream will not die out, it will make its appearance in many forms. It appears in forms which many can call to mind but which need not be mentioned today. If it were to function merely in the cultivation of an inner mood of soul, this current would not achieve what it should do. It must express itself in the founding of communities which, above all, will look upon peace, love and passive resistance to evil as their standard of behavior and will seek to spread this view.1 For they must create a receptacle, a form, for the life which will continue to exist even without their presence.
As Steiner notes (TL, Lect. 7, entitled “The Essence and Task of Freemasonry,” p. 80), “The Freemasonry Masters call themselves ‘Children of the Widow’. Thus the Company of all the Masters is directly derived from the Manicheans.” Steiner goes on to give the chain of development.
In Jn-Rel, Lect. 11, pp. 211-212, Steiner further explains the meaning of “Widow’s Son”:
When a man was initiated in the old sense, the maternal element emerged and the paternal element remained behind; that is, the candidate killed the paternal element within himself and united with the mother in him. In other words, he killed his father within him and wedded his mother. So when the old initiate had lain three and a half days in the lethargic state, he had united with his mother and had killed the father within himself. He had become fatherless and this had to be so, for he had to renounce his individuality and dwell in a higher spiritual world. He became one with his people. But what lived in his people was precisely expressed by the maternal element. He became one with the entire organism of his people; he became exactly what Nathanael was, what was always designated by the name of the people in question—in Jewry, an “Israelite,” among Persians a “Persian.”
Steiner is here speaking of Jn 1,47, discussed above in “Mysteries.” Immediately preceding this statement in the same paragraph, he referred to the lifting of the etheric and astral bodies out of the physical body during the three and a half days of initiation, while the Ego was left behind. During this time, known as the “temple sleep,” the physical body appeared as though dead. (See “Three Days’ Journey.”) It is important to note that according to Steiner, whatever the gender of one’s physical body, the etheric body is the opposite. While the just-quoted passage long predated our modern commitment to non-sexist writing or speaking, in the case of one who was a man in the incarnation in question, there was a very realistic “killing” of the male, or paternal, physical element, leaving the female, or maternal, etheric element in dominance. Thus, there is high substantive spiritual essence not only to the above description, but to its reality in the highest sense. In the Bible, this is reflected by, among other things, all those passages that speak of the necessity of overcoming the “flesh” (which is distinctly different from the term “body”).2
But we cannot stop with such relatively simplistic examination. Gen 2,18-24 tells of the time in ancient Lemuria (see I-1) when the division of the sexes occurred, as a part of which the Fall described in Gen 3 takes place and the “tree of life” is removed from humanity’s cognition. We then enter into the Atlantean period of evolution when Cain, the male principle, kills Abel, the female principle, as described in Gen 4. The male principle applies itself to the outer world and can only receive its spiritual inspiration from without. The female principle, by contrast, remains in contact internally with the spiritual world, but as a result, in the physical world, the female element can no longer reproduce itself as it once did before the division of the sexes; it must be fertilized from without by the male element. Only gradually, in the course of evolution, has the killing of the female element been accomplished, but it was set in motion in the account in Gen 4. Still, the ancient clairvoyance remained to a great extent throughout the Atlantean period until, progressively, with Noah (Gen 6-10) we have the transition to the present post-Atlantean, or Fifth Evolutionary, Epoch (see I-1) with its seven Cultural Eras, of which we are in the fifth. Even in our own Epoch’s earlier Eras, clairvoyance was still much more prevalent than it is in humanity’s present spiritually darkened condition. But what took place had to occur, namely, the killing of the female element as humanity settled into its complete preoccupation with, and domination of, the outer, mineral-physical world. The Mystery of Golgotha had to occur at just the “Right Time” to prevent humanity’s hardening beyond “the point of no return.” The necessity to reestablish the female principle is absolute if humanity is to avoid beasthood (Rev 13) and the Pit. However, the return should not be to the precise condition that existed before the Fall, but rather to one that embodies the fruits of having taken dominion over the outer world and reascended therefrom. The metaphor for this is the marriage of the Bride, the renewed female element, and the Bridegroom, the Christ or eternal “I Am” (see “Bride/Bridegroom”). One does not have to strain so hard to see that the female of our species has been subjugated during the post-Atlantean Epoch down to our present time. But while the germ was planted by the Christ Event and the Mystery of Golgotha, the stirrings, as though in the first pangs of labor, of a return to that female element have really only manifested themselves during the twentieth century with the end of the Kali Yuga in 1899 (see I-46).
To this very day, great hostility exists between the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry.3 The hostility was prefigured into the spiritual transitions of our post-Atlantean Epoch, but it must come to an end with humanity’s increased anthroposophical insight into its nature. The origin of the hostility is ancient, deriving from the conflict between the male Wisdom of Cain (Freemasonry) and the female Wisdom of Abel (the ancient Priesthood, now represented by the Roman Catholic Church), further represented in the division between King (male element) and Priest (female element). Solomon, the last king before the division, was nevertheless the strongest representative of the priestly Abelites. The thread of the conflict between Cain and Abel resurfaces in the Biblical account of Solomon’s building of the temple, for which he sends for Hiram-Abiff. We are told in 1 K 7,13-14, “And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill, for making any work in bronze” (my emphasis). Steiner tells us that Hiram was a descendant of Tubal-cain, the first forger of bronze and a descendant of Cain (Gen 4,22). Because of the Abel-nature of Solomon and the Cain-nature of Hiram, difficulties arose between them which involve the Queen of Sheba (hidden, it would seem, in such passages as 1 K 10,4,11, et al.). (Even the division of the kingdom that then occurred might be viewed as a sort of division between the northern male, kingly element4 and the southern female, priestly element; see “As Above, So Below.”) The basis for the above comments is to be found in Steiner’s twenty-lecture cycle (May 23,1904-January 2, 1906) The Temple Legend (TL), subtitled “Freemasonry and Related Occult Movements.” The “legend” itself, though inherent in the cycle’s entirety, is given in capsule form in Lect. 5 (pp. 50-53, incl. fn 3), and variously reiterated and elaborated in Lects. 7 (pp. 73-77), 11 (pp. 141-143), 17 (pp. 237-246) and 18 (pp. 253-263); it is also summarized in the Appendix to “Three Bodies” below.
Changing direction, let us look at two noble Individualities (i.e., entelechies, or “I Ams”). The first is that of Adam Cadmon-Phinehas-Elijah- John the Baptist-Raphael-Novalis, discussed under the heading “Novalis” in Cognate Writings, Vol. 3, Companions Along The Way, and expanded upon there under “Prokofieff.” The incarnations of the second are set out also in Cognate Writings under the heading “Interlude for Steiner Individuality,” and included Eabani- ( Abraham? ) - Cratylus-Aristotle- Schionatulander-Thomas Aquinas- Steiner. Particular note should be taken of the “great cosmic law,” set out as a footnote in the “Interlude,” “according to which each individual who accomplishes something in the service of the Guiding Powers of the world must, after a certain time, perform a similar deed in consequence of it, but in such a way now that it appears like the opposite pole of the first.” The application of this cosmic law to both noble Individualities is obvious in the above references in Cognate Writings. Let us now consider how that applies in the case of the one known as Hiram-Abiff. Whether or not he was the same entelechy as Cain and/or Tubal-cain, we see from anthroposophy that his incarnations included those known as Hiram-Lazarus/ John-Christian Rosenkreutz5-Count St. Germain;6 and there is the distinct probability that Joshua7 should be added to the front of this line. If Hiram, through his ancestry if not in fact his own prior incarnations, had brought the earthly craft of bronze work to humanity on its descending path, in the last three incarnations listed he clearly began to take the human being back on the ascending path of spiritual development. But it is from his enlightened status as Son of a Widow that he commenced this line of development—much as the enlightened Aristotle Individuality, the father of modern science, led humanity away from recognition of multiple Earth lives, or reincarnation, and later, as Steiner, is the one who, in the twentieth century, leads it back again to a true knowledge thereof.
With the above background, let us now look, in canonical order, at instances where the Bible speaks of the Widow’s Son (emphasis mine):
1 K 7,13-14: (13) And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. (14) He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill, for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon, and did all his work.
Aside from the accomplishments of Joshua in implementing the mission of Moses in the “outer world,” we see in this passage the application of wisdom to the (domination of the) “outer world” in a manner not possible for the sheer wisdom of Solomon.
1 K 11,26-31: (26) Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against the king. (27) And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king. Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of David his father. (28) The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. (29) And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clad himself with a new garment; and the two of them were alone in the open country. (30) Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. (31) And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes....’”
Clearly we see the continuation, in verse 28, of the ability of Jeroboam to apply himself to the “outer world,” as in the case of Hiram, and the further indication of his “wisdom” is probably suggested by the fact that the eventual opposition of Solomon forced Jereboam into “Egypt” (vs 40), an esoteric term for the ancient clairvoyance from which “Israel” had to depart, as we shall see. The emphasized conclusion of the passage relates to the division of the kingdom into kingly and priestly elements, as discussed above. The “historian(s)” who wrote the above passage left one other hidden but persuasive clue that points to the esoteric meaning of the Widow’s Son. We are told in 6 AB 1084, “Zeruah,” “While the identity of the king’s mother is a common feature in Judean regnal formulas, it is missing from those of Israelite kings. Thus, the identification of Zeruah in 1 K 11,26 is a rare reference to an Israelite king’s mother.” And the significance of the break between the kingly, male, northern kingdom and the priestly, female, southern kingdom from which the Savior was to be born, is also strongly indicated by the meaning of “Zeruah.” According to 6 AB 1084, “In a variant version of Jeroboam’s origin,” in the Septuagint’s (Greek) treatment of 1 K 12,24 “Jeroboam’s mother is Sarira, a ‘harlot’,” foreshadowing the general characterization of the northern kingdom of Israel as a “whoremonger” after other gods, namely, those of the “outer world” from the standpoint of the priestly southern kingdom of Judea. All of this plays strongly, however, into the idea of the “two becoming one” with the advent of the Christ, as more fully indicated in “The Nativity.” The necessity of all the streams again converging in humanity’s reascent is always emphasized in Steiner’s work, and is uniquely summarized in Lievegoed’s deathbed work, BATSO.
1 K 17,1-24: (1) Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (2) And the word of the Lord came to him. (3) “Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, that is east of the Jordan. (4) You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” (5) So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. (6) And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. (7) And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. (8) Then the word of the Lord came to him. (9) “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” (10) So he arose and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” (11) And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” (12) And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a cruse; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” (13) And Elijah said to her, “Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son. (14) For thus says the Lord the God of Israel, ‘The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” (15) And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days. (16) The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by Elijah.
(17) After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; and his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. (18) And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance,8 and to cause the death of my son!” (19) And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her bosom, and carried him up into the upper chamber, where he lodged and laid him upon his own bed. (20) And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, hast thou brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” (21) Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s soul come into him again.” (22) And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. (23) And Elijah took the child, and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and delivered him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” (24) And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
While every word of this is important, the emphasized portions readily identify this passage as an initiation. What one must then come to see is that the pre-initiation personality is Naboth (1 K 21) whose Individuality is that of Elijah, Naboth’s post-initiation manifestation. Before examining what Steiner said about this in more detail, it is pertinent here to note that the account in the books of Kings clearly shows Naboth/Elijah to have been initiated into the Mithraic Mysteries, as explained in “Mysteries” herein. When this is realized, it can be seen how the passage contains the critical features found in other Biblical initiations, such as that of Lazarus (Jn 11), et al.; see also “Three Days’ Journey.” Like other personalities who, upon receiving the insight of deep spiritual experience, have their names changed (see “Name Change”), Naboth became Elijah through the initiation by which he also became the Son of a Widow. Christ himself emphasized that the Individuality of Elijah came to one personality who was the Son of a Widow (Lk 4,26).9
The Elijah Individuality is so immeasurably important to the entire Bible that we must here pause to examine it more fully. For perspective, it is well to reflect upon how the Bible message revolves around the five exalted Individualities (entelechies as distinguished from personalities in a given incarnation) already identified in this work who are recapitulated in the final essay, “Pillars on the Journey,” below. This Individuality is the first among those listed.
Steiner gave two excellent lectures on Naboth/Elijah. The first (December 14, 1911), “The Prophet Elijah in the light of Spiritual Science,” was the fifth of six lectures published in Turning Points in Spiritual History(TPSH, the six being on Zarathustra, Hermes, Buddha, Moses, Elijah and Christ). The second (September 17, 1912) is Lect. 3 in The Gospel of St. Mark (GSMk).
Let us look at what he said in the first and longer of the two.
We shall . . . endeavour to portray all pertinent events first as they actually happened and later draw attention to the manner in which they are depicted in the ancient Biblical records. . . .
We must go back in thought to those ancient Hebrew times when the brilliant epoch that marked the reign of Solomon was passed, and the kingdom of Palestine was enduring many and varied forms of privation. We must recall the troubles [with] the Philistines and other similar incidents, and transport ourselves in mind to those days when all that formerly constituted a united and centralized monarchy was already divided into the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and King Ahab, who was the son of Omri, reigned in Samaria. . . .
Between King Ahab[’s father] and the King of Tyre and Sidon .. . there was . . . a sort of alliance [that was] further strengthened by the marriage of Ahab with Jezebel, [the latter king’s daughter]. . . . We are looking back into an age when that ancient clairvoyant gift which was in general a spiritual attribute of man in primeval times had by no means entirely disappeared among those [who] retained the fitting disposition. Now, Queen Jezebel was not only endowed with this gift, but her clairvoyant powers were of a very special order; [but these] were not always employ[ed] . . . to promote that which was good and noble. While we look upon Jezebel as a kind of clairvoyant, we must regard King Ahab as a man who only under exceptional circumstances evinced a faculty [wherewith] the hidden forces of his soul could break in upon his conscious state. In olden times such manifestations were much more [widespread than today]. . . . Ahab [sometimes] experienced visions and presentiments, but never to any marked extent, and .. . only when he was confronted with some special matter connected with human destiny.
At [this] time . . . a rumour had spread throughout the land that a remarkable spirit was abroad. In reality, this was . . . Elijah. Few there were . . . who knew precisely in what place the personality that bore this name might be found—nor did they know [how] he exerted so powerful an influence upon . . . people and events. . . . Throughout the widest circles any reference to this mysterious being, or even the mention of his name was accompanied by a thrill of awe, and .. . it was generally felt that this spirit must possess some singular and hidden attribute of greatest import [see fn 15 below]. But no man knew [how or where] it might be sought. Only certain . . . initiates had true knowledge....
King Ahab was also ignorant concerning these matters, but .. . experienced a peculiar feeling of apprehension, and a kind of dread overcame him whenever mention was made of [Elijah]. Ahab .. . had introduced into . . . Palestine a certain religious order which held to outer forms and ceremonies, . . . Such information [about] Elijah as came to the followers of this pagan form of worship .. . created in them a strange and peculiar feeling of fear and dismay. For [they knew of] the Jahveh-religion . . . [and its] belief in One God—in One Great Spiritual Being in the cosmos, Who rules over the superperceptual realm, and Who by means of its forces makes His influence felt, and affects both the evolution and the history of mankind....
It was well known that in truth the religion of Moses contained the germ of all that one might term the Jehovah-Religion, but this fact had been grasped by the nation in a manner more or less after the fashion of a people yet in a stage of childhood or early youth. [cf. I-65]
The old faith .. . may only be described .. . as an awareness of contact with that which is invisible and superperceptual, which comes to man when he indeed apprehends and realizes his own true Ego—and it was this consciousness of the supersensible which had descended upon the people. But [it was] based upon an attempt to picture . . . the workings of . . . Jehovah, as conceived from their experiences of the external phenomena of life. . . . It was the custom to say that Jehovah acted .. . in such a manner that when all nature was luxuriant and fruitful, it was a sign that He was rewarding mankind [and vice versa].
At that time about which we are speaking the nation was enduring the miseries caused by a period of dearth and starvation, and many turned aside from the God Jehovah, because they could no longer believe in His works when they saw how He treated mankind.. . . [To] speak of progress in connection with the Jahveh-conception, .. . the nation must henceforth form a new Jehovah-concept embodying the old thoughts and ideas, through which must flow a fuller and a higher order of human understanding, so that all might say:—“No matter what shall take place in the outer world, . . . such external events are in no way an evidence of either the wrath or the benevolence of Jehovah. . . . And even though we meet with the direst want and affliction, nevertheless, through those inner forces alone which dominate the soul, man shall come to the sure conviction that—HE IS.”
This great revolution in religious outlook was destined to be consummated and wrought through the power of the prophet Elijah (and, as will be seen later, his spiritual force operated at times through the medium of a chosen human personality). When it is ordained that some great momentous change shall be brought about in the concepts of mankind, as was the case in Elijah’s day, it is necessary . . . that there be certain fitting personalities at hand in whose souls can be implanted the germ .. . of those things . . . ordained [to] enter into the history of mankind. . . .
[It was] the preordained fate of the nation that the individuality known as the prophet Elijah should be the chosen one whose soul should first grasp the Jehovah-concept in the form which I have described. To this end it was essential that certain . . . special forces be called up from the hidden depths of his soul—deep-seated powers as yet unknown to mankind, . . . Something in the nature of a holy mystical initiation of the highest order . . . must first take place in the innermost being of Elijah. . . .
Such personalities as Elijah who are chosen [to stimulate] some momentous forward impulse stand, for the most part, isolated and alone. In olden days, however, there gathered around them certain followers, . . . or Schools of the Prophets as they were called in Palestine, and which by other nations have been termed Initiation or Mystery Sanctuaries. Thus we find the prophet Elijah .. . surrounded by a few earnest disciples . . . [2 K 2,3,5,7,15]. [Now at that time strange events had begun to take place in the land] the people, however, had no idea where the mysterious personality might be found who had brought them about. They could only say:—“He must be here, or there,—for something unusual is happening.”
Hence . . . there was spread abroad .. . [a] rumour .. . that HE, a prophet, was actually at work, but no man knew rightly where. This uncertainty was due to the exercise of a definite and peculiar influence, which could be exerted by all such advanced spiritual beings as are found among outstanding seers. . . .
All truly exalted spiritual personalities, such as Elijah, were endowed with this specific and highly penetrative quality which made itself felt now here, now there. [It] entered little by little into the souls of the people. It operated in such manner as to cause them to be unable to tell, at times, just where the external form of some great spiritual personality might be found. But the true followers and disciples of Elijah knew . . . and were . . . aware that his outer individuality might perchance assume a wholly unpretentious character . . . [in a] quite lowly station in earthly life. . . .
At the time [in question] the actual bearer of the spirit of Elijah was a close neighbour of Ahab’s, . . . and [was] the possessor of a small property in his immediate vicinity; but Ahab had no suspicion that such was the case. He sought everywhere for [Elijah, but] he entirely failed . . . to take into consideration the simple and unassuming land-owner who lived so near him, and gave no thought as to why he should, at times, absent himself, nor where he went on these occasions. But Jezebel (being clairvoyant) had discovered that this unobtrusive personality had actually become the external physical embodiment of the spirit of Elijah, [but this] knowledge she . . . did not impart to Ahab [keeping] it to herself . . . as a secret, for reasons which will become apparent later. . . . In the Bible this . . . character . . . is known by the name of Naboth. We thus see that according to the investigations of Spiritual Science we must recognize in the Naboth of the Bible, the physical bearer of the spiritual individuality of Elijah.
Steiner then discusses things that take place deep within the soul of Naboth, typical of those things each Biblical prophet goes through upon receiving a call to mission, resulting in the clairvoyant development of the soul and firm resolve to “do all that in me lies.” He was instructed by God to go to Ahab and say to him, “In the God Jahveh must ye have faith, until such time as He may again bring rain upon the earth” [1 K17,1; cf. Jn 4,32-34]. Naboth also knew “that henceforth he must devote himself to the further unfoldment” of the soul powers necessary for him to apprehend his full mission. “He then resolved that he would eschew no sacrifice, but [would] share in the sufferings of those who were exposed to the greatest measure of want.” He gave himself “over to unceasing inner contemplation of that God who had revealed Himself to him.” Confirmation came to him in the form of the following spiritual seeing and hearing:
1. He was told, “Abide in patience—endure all things—for He who feedeth mankind and thee also will of a surety provide that which thou needest; but thou must ever hold to a true faith in the soul’s eternal life.” At the same time
it appeared to him . . . that he was led by a hermit to the brook which is called Cherith, where he concealed himself and drank of the waters of the brook so long as any remained; and that he was nourished, so far as the conditions prevailing at the time permitted, by food which the Lord provided. It further seemed . . . [that] this nutriment was brought by ravens.
2. “It was next ordained that [Naboth] should pass through a more advanced stage of development” in regard to his soul forces through “intensive contemplation” and “meditation” whereby he realized the necessity to “change utterly the nature of [his] inner being .. . bring[ing] to [his] inner Ego a new life.”
3. Next we read:
Then came to [Elijah-Naboth] yet another experience which was, however, only in part a vision,10 .. . [thus] of less spiritual significance. . . . In the vision, it appeared to him that his God . . . set him upon a journey to Zarepath [where] he met a widow who had a son and he there saw . . . personified, as it were, in the fate of this widow and her son, the manner and way in which he was now to live. It seemed to his spiritual sight that their food was well-nigh spent, and even that which they had was about to be consumed, after which they would die. Then it was that he spoke to the widow as in a dream, . . . using in effect those same words which, day by day, and week by week, throughout his solitary meditations, he had repeated over and over again to his own soul:— “Fear not,—from that meal which remaineth, prepare the repast which must be made ready for you and your son, and for me also. In all that may yet come to pass trust alone in that God Who doth create both joy and sorrow, and in Whom we must ever abide in faith.”
In this dreamlike vision it was clearly impressed upon [Elijah-Naboth] that the barrel of meal would not become empty nor would the cruse of oil fail; for the oil and the meal would ever be renewed [cf. Mt 14,13-21; 15, 32-39; 16, 5-12; Mk 6, 32-44; 8,1-10, 13-21; Lk 9,10-17; Jn 6,1-14; 2 K 4,42-44; also “Feedings”]. It is worthy of note that at this point his whole soul-state . . . expressed itself in the vision in such manner that it seemed to him as if his personality went to live in the upper part of the house which belonged to the widow. But in reality the inner truth was that his own soul had .. . risen to a higher level.
4. And finally,
It next appeared to [Elijah-Naboth], again as in a vision, that the son of the widow lay dead. This we must regard as merely a symbolical representation of the fact that [Naboth] had overcome, and slain, as it were, the Ego which had been his up to that time. . . . It then happened that after the widow’s son was dead, she reproached him. This signifies that his subconscious spirit reproached him, in other words, aroused in him a misgiving of his nature:—“My old Ego-consciousness has now left me—what am I to do?” In the description given of these events it is stated that he took the child unto himself and plunged unhesitatingly still further into the depths of his soul, and we are told that power was vouchsafed to him through which he brought the dead son once more to life. Then did he gain more courage to stimulate and quicken the new Ego, who was now his, by virtue of those qualities which were in the Ego that he had lost.11
Naboth/Elijah continued to develop the hidden soul forces. But it was now time for him “to stand before King Ahab and bring to a crisis the matter which must now be decided, namely, the victory of the new Jehovah-concept as opposed to those beliefs that the King himself accepted” along with most of the people, “owing to the weakness of the times.” We then read:
Now, it came about, that while Ahab was making a round of his empire, anxiously observing the signs of want and distress that the personality [of Naboth-Elijah] approached him; and no man knew from whence he came. . . . And there was a strangeness in the manner of his speech which affected the soul of Ahab, who was not, however, aware that this man was his neighbour. More strongly than ever did the King experience that feeling of awe and dread which had always come upon him when reference was made to that great spirit known in the Bible as Elijah the prophet. Then it was that the King spoke and said:—“Art thou he that troubleth Israel” [1 K 18,17]? And Elijah-Naboth replied:—“No, not I, but thou thyself it is who bringeth misfortune and evil upon the people, and it must now be determined to which God they shall turn.”
So it came to pass that a great multitude of the tribe of Israel assembled upon Mount Carmel in order that final judgment should be made between the god of Ahab and the God of Elijah.12 The decision was to be brought about by means of an external sign; but such a sign as all might plainly discern and clearly understand. To enter into details concerning these matters at the present time would, however, take us too far. It was arranged that the priests and prophets of Baal . . . should be the first to offer a sacrifice. The people would then wait and see if the performance .. . would lead to any communication or influence being imparted to the multitude. In other words, the people were to judge whether or not, in virtue of inherent divine powers possessed by the priests any sign was vouchsafed of the might and potency of their god.
The sacrificial beast is brought to the altar.... Then Elijah-Naboth raised up his voice and said:—“This thing must now be determined—I stand alone while opposed to me are the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. We shall see how strong is their hold upon the people, and how great is that power which is in me.” The sacrifice is performed, and everything possible done in order to transmit to the multitude a potent influence from the priests—that all should believe in the god Baal. The ecstatic exercises are carried to such lengths that the hands and other parts of the body are cut with knives until the blood flows, so as to increase still further the awesome character of the spectacle evoked by these followers of Baal, under the frenzied stimulus of the dancing and the music. But behold! there is no sign—for Elijah-Naboth is there, and the spirit within him is at work.
In words all insufficient of expression, one might say, that while Elijah-Naboth stood thus near at hand, he caused a great spiritual power to flow forth from his being, so that he overcame and swept away all things which were opposed to him. In this case, you must not, however, imagine to yourselves the exercise of any kind of magic.
Elijah-Naboth then prepares his sacrifice [which is offered] using the full force of his soul.. . . The sacrifice is consummated, and achieves the fullness of its purpose, for the souls and the hearts of the people are stirred. The priests of Baal . . . are driven to admit defeat. They are destroyed in their very souls by that which they had desired, killed, as it were, by Elijah-Naboth—for Elijah-Naboth had won the day!
What follows as the natural outcome of all these events? .. . [Jezebel] was quite aware of the fact that the man who had done all these things was their neighbour, and that he was to be found living close at hand, that is, when he was not mysteriously absent. Now, what did Elijah-Naboth know and realize from that moment? He knew that Jezebel was powerful, and that she had discovered his secret.. . . He felt that henceforth his outer physical life was no longer safe. He must therefore prepare for death in the near future; for Jezebel would certainly compass his destruction.
Now, King Ahab went home, and as related in the Bible, told Jezebel about those events which had taken place upon Mount Carmel [1 K 19,1, the “sword” being the word of God, as in Mt 10,34; Lk 2,35; 1 K 3,24; Heb 4,12; Rev 1,16; et al.]; and Jezebel said:— “I will do unto Elijah that which he did unto thy four hundred and fifty prophets.” Who could understand these words spoken by Jezebel [1 K 19,2] were it not for the investigations made by Spiritual Science, in whose light their meaning seems almost self-evident. [As a result of these researches it is quite clear, and this point has always been obscure, why it was that Jezebel brought about the death of Naboth, when in reality she sought to destroy Elijah. From Spiritual Science, however, we realize that she sent her threatening message to Elijah-Naboth, because in virtue of her clairvoyant powers, she knew full well that the physical body of Naboth was in truth the bearer of Elijah’s spirit.—Ed.]
It now became necessary for Elijah to form some definite plans whereby he could avoid being immediately done to death as a result of Jezebel’s revenge. He must at once arrange, that in case of this event happening, his spirit could still continue to carry on his teachings, and exert its influence upon mankind. Thus it came about when next he held commune with his soul, and while in a state of intense inner contemplation,13 that he questioned himself thus:— “What shall I do that I may find a successor to fulfil my mission in this physical world, should my death indeed be brought about through the vengeance of Jezebel?” Then behold! a new revelation came to him, in which his inner vision was directed toward a certain quite definite personality, to whom Elijah-Naboth might pass on all that he had to bestow upon mankind—this personality was Elisha....
But soon after Elijah had chosen his successor the vengeance of Jezebel fell upon him. For Jezebel turned the thoughts of her lord toward Naboth, their neighbour, and spoke to Ahab somewhat after this fashion:—“Listen thou unto me, this neighbour is a pious man, whose mind is filled with ideas concerning Elijah. It would perhaps be well to remove him from this vicinity, for he is one of the most important of his followers, and upon him much depends.”
Now the King knew nothing whatever about the secret which surrounded Naboth, but he was quite aware by this time that he was indeed a faithful adherent of Elijah’s and gave heed to his words. Jezebel next urged Ahab to try and induce Naboth to come over to his side, either by methods of persuasion or, if necessary, by exercising his power of kingly authority. She said:—“It would be a great blow to the schemes and projects of this man, Elijah, if by any means it were possible to draw him away from his intents.” Jezebel knew quite well, however, that all her talk was the merest notion; what she really desired was to induce her lord to take some kind of definite and effective action. For it was not this particular move in which she was interested; her mind was bent upon a plot which was to follow: hence the advice which she tendered was of the nature of a subterfuge. After Jezebel had spoken in this manner to Ahab, the King went to Naboth and held converse with him; but behold, Naboth would not regard what he said, and replied:—“Never shall those things come to pass which thou desirest.”
In the Bible the position is so represented that this neighbor of Ahab’s is described as possessing a vineyard which the King coveted, and sought to acquire.14 According to this account (1 K 21,3), Naboth said to Ahab:—“The Lord forbid it me that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.” In reality, however, the actual inheritance to which reference is here made was of quite another kind to that which Naboth declined to surrender; nevertheless, Jezebel used this incident as the foundation of her revenge. She deliberately proffered false counsel, in order that the King might be discountenanced and then angered by Naboth’s refusal. That such was the case becomes evident when we read that passage in the Bible (1 K 21,4), where it is written: “And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat not bread.” Think of that! Merely because the King could not obtain a certain vineyard in his neighbourhood, he refused to eat! We can only begin to understand such statements, when we are in a position to investigate the facts which underlie them.
It was at this point that Jezebel took definite steps to bring about her revenge. She started by arranging that a feast be given to which Naboth should be invited, and at which he was to be an especially honoured guest (1 K 21,12). Naboth could not refuse to be present; and at his feast it was planned that he be afforded an opportunity of expressing himself freely. Now, Jezebel was truly gifted with clairvoyant insight; with the others Naboth could easily cope, with them he could measure forces; but Jezebel had the power to bring ruin upon him. She introduced false witnesses, who declared that “Naboth did deny (blaspheme) God and the King.” It was in this manner that she contrived to compass his murder; as is related in the Bible (1 K 21,13). Henceforth the outer physical personality of Elijah was dead, and no more seen upon the face of the external world.
Now, because of all that had happened the deep forces in Ahab’s soul were stirred; and he was, as one might say, confronted with the grave question of his destiny, while at the same time he experienced a strange and unusual foreboding. Then Elijah, whom he had ever regarded with a feeling of awe, appeared as in a vision and revealed to him plainly how the matter stood. Here we have an actual spiritual experience, in which Ahab was accused by the spirit-form of Elijah (subsequent to his death) of having virtually himself murdered Naboth—this Naboth-Elijah. The connection with the latter personality he could but dimly realize; nevertheless, Ahab was definitely termed his murderer. In the Bible we can read the dreadful words which fell upon his soul during that aweinspiring prophecy, when the spirit-form said:—“In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine” (1 K 21,19); and then came yet another dire prophetic utterance:—“The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel” (1 K 21,23).
We now know that these predictions belonged to a class which finds ultimate fulfillment . . . (1 K 22,35,38 [as to Ahab]; 2 K 9,30- 37 [as to Jezebel]).
The lecture goes on to speak of the transference of authority over to Elisha, but that is beyond our immediate need as it regards Elijah.15 We shall now accordingly look independently at his successor Elisha as the next Biblical example of a Widow’s Son.
2 K 4,1-7: (1) Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” (2) And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.” (3) Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels of all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. (4) Then go in, and shut the door upon yourself and your sons, and pour into all these vessels; and when one is full, set it aside.” (5) So she went from him and shut the door upon herself and her sons; and as she poured they brought the vessels to her. (6) When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. (7) She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons shall live on the rest.”16
From 2 K 2,13 we know that the “mantle of Elijah fell on Elisha,” and we can see immense similarities in the miracles they performed. We could wish that time had permitted Steiner to devote the attention to Elisha that he did to Elijah, but we know that he pointed the direction and laid the groundwork for many disciplines in which he urged his followers to carry on to new applications. In that spirit, it seems not too much to see in the above passage a Widow’s Son situation for Elisha also. Obviously, the servant of the Individuality of Elisha, namely, the husband of the woman, was deceased making her a widow, and she was about to lose her two sons. While the “temple sleep” is not explicit here, it is perhaps implied by this telescoped version of the parallel Elijah passage and the demands of Elijah’s “mantle.” The balance of Chapter 4 is not quoted above but involves the raising of the son of an “old woman.” It is probably not inappropriate to see in 2 K 4, especially the quoted portion above, the identification of the personality of one of the Widow’s Sons with the Individuality of Elisha, just as was the case in 1 K 17 with Elijah.
Lk 7,11-15: (11) Soon afterward he went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. (12) As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. (13) And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (14) And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said “Young man, I say to you, arise.” (15) And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.
The majesty of the Individuality of the “Young Man” of Nain is by no means recognizable from the exoteric reading of this passage. That this seems to have occurred early in Jesus’ ministry before the authorities began to seek his life (cf. Jn 11,50 and 12,10-11) is probably Luke’s way of saying this was the first initiation carried out by Jesus personally, even preceding that of Lazarus, thus indicating its immense significance.17 This is strongly hinted by Steiner in GSL, Lect. 10, pp. 185-186, and the connection with the personality of Mani (discussed above) and the Individuality of Manu is elaborated by Lievegoed in BATSO, Chap. 6. That Individuality is there, as in TL, Lect. 6, identified as perhaps the highest “stream” in humanity’s evolution. The depth of its significance is such that it is only touched upon by Luke, much as the significance of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple (Lk 2,41-51) pointed to a deeply veiled mystery, discussed in “The Nativity.” The clear identification here in the New Testament of this youth as a Widow’s Son points toward the later Mani, who identifies himself as such. What Steiner says in the two quoted passages from TL at the outset of this discussion shows the exalted status of the Individuality here involved, if it is, as indicated, that of Mani and Manu.
Before leaving the scriptural evidence, we should note the implications of the term “fatherless.” The very fact of specifying this suggests that one so described (at least when identified as a male child) is a Widow’s Son, else one would be identified as an “orphan.” It must suffice here to point out passages that speak, always presumably with deep meaning, of the “fatherless,” namely: Ex 22,24; Deut 10,18; 14,29; 16,11,14; 24,17-21; 26,12-13; 27,19; Job 5,15; 6,27; 22,9; 24,3,9; 29,12; 31,17,21; Ps 10,14,18; 68,5; 82,3; 94,6; 146,9; Prov 23,10; Is 1,17,23; 9,17; 10,2; Jer 5,28; 7,6; 22,3; 49,11; Ezek 22,7; and Zech 7,10. We see also, in “The Nativity” that Jesus was “fatherless” long before he began his ministry, and that he committed his otherwise unattended mother to John from the Cross (Jn 19,25-27). And we are also told by Steiner that Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, a Widow’s Son in the Naboth/Elijah incarnation, was slain by Herod. That these were real life situations does not detract from the probability that they reflected a deeper spiritual reality. Similarly, many spiritually exalted personalities have lost their fathers at a very early age, a curious fact which the reader may have observed.
CHAPTER END NOTES
5. One of the best accounts of Christian Rosenkreutz is in Rosicrucian Christianity (ROSC). He is referred to by Steiner again and again in numerous works, including, but not limited to, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (CWCR), Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz (ECMCR), Rosicrucian Esotericism (RE) and Rosicrucian and Modern Initiation (RMI). The reasons he is not known to traditional historians, foremost among which is the requirement of serving spiritually incognito, are obvious from these accounts which, however, asseverate his earthly reality first in the thirteenth century, when he was not yet known by such name, and then again in the fourteenth. Steiner says (TL, Lect. 5, p. 50, fn 3) that the Temple Legend originated with Rosenkreutz in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but insofar as the world is concerned it started with Count St. Germain and the founding of Freemasonry in the eighteenth century (accord: 10 Brit 318, “Saint-Germain, compte de”).
6. Unfortunately, I do not have at my informational command all that Steiner may have said on this matter. In a letter to me dated September 4, 1995, René Querido wrote of the Hiram connection: “Rudolf Steiner gave a revised version of the Temple Legend, most probably towards the end of 1923. I have the text in a German typed copy—it has never been published, and was given to a group of friends who were preparing the Christmas Foundation meeting. At the end of the [revised version of] Temple Legend we find the following: ‘Hiram Abiff was reincarnated as Lazarus and was the one who was the first to be initiated by the Christ.’ I am sure that in the next few years this will be published by the Archives in Dornach, but there is no sign of it so far.” That this line starting from Hiram is accepted as a verity within anthroposophical ranks is indicated by Lievegoed in BATSO, Chap. 4, and by Rene Querido’s discussion on the matter as reported in NEWS, Summer 1995, p. 26. In TL, Lect. 5 (p. 56) and ROSC (p. 12), Steiner identifies Count St. Germain as the reincarnated Christian Rosenkreutz, and his remarks in ROSC (pp. 6-8) would seem to identify the latter as the reincarnated Lazarus/John and have apparently been so taken in Rudolf Steiner’s Mission and Ita Wegman (RSMW), Chap. 11 (p. 99). Except as above, I have been unable to resurrect the original source of my impression, from Steiner’s work, that Lazarus/John was the reincarnated Hiram. That Hiram may himself have been the same Individuality as the earlier Tubal-Cain may well be suggested by the “bronze” connection when considered in the light of what Steiner had to say about the karmic significance of vocation in earlier times; see The Karma of Vocation (KV), Lect. 4.
7. Lievegoed, in BATSO, Chap. 4, p. 63, says, “Ehrenfried Pfeiffer has told me that Rudolf Steiner said that Joshua was an incarnation of Christian Rosenkreutz.” Pfeiffer (1899-1961) as a young man worked closely with Steiner in the development of biodynamic farming. While Joshua is not clearly identified in the Bible as a Widow’s Son, he is said to have been “Hoshea the son of Nun” (Num 13,8), whom “Moses called .. . Joshua” (Num 13,16), both such names being variants of the name “Jesus,” meaning “salvation.” He is also identified (1 Ch 7,27) as the grandson of “Elishma,” which probably means “El (or God) has heard” (2 AB 473) and is probably, by reason of the “ma,” a feminine (i.e., maternalistic) variant of “Elisha” which means “man of God.” The name “Nun” means “fish.” While only a millennium of the astrological age of Pisces remained, the Cultural Age of Pisces was to start with the introduction of the spiritual teachings of Christian Rosenkreutz and the Renaissance (see I-19), the beginning of the 2,160 years of development of the Consciousness Soul (see I-24). Perhaps we have, in these names, a prophetic foreshadowing of what this Individuality was to accomplish in humanity’s evolution, and thus an even more hidden indication of Joshua’s being a Widow’s Son.
15. (continued from pp. 387) According to Prokofieff, there was a “‘shift’ in the hierarchic Beings who inspire John which renders him incapable of recalling his previous incarnation as Elijah.” We are here dealing with a changing of the guard, so to speak, brought about by an advancement procedure similar to that envisioned in I-15. To get to this, we must go back to the Bodhisattva who became Buddha. As a result of his last incarnation, his guardian angel was entitled to rise. Here Prokofieff quotes (see text preceding his endnote 46) Steiner (The Festivals and their Meaning [(FM)], Lect. 5-20- 13, p. 377), “When a man from being a Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha, then his Guardian Angel is, as it were, set free; it is such Angel Beings who, after the fulfillment of their mission, ascend into the realm of the Archangel Beings.” Now, the Archangel who worked through Elijah was Michael, the Folk-Spirit of the Hebrew people and the “ruling Sun Archangel” (see I-19), thus the most advanced and chief among the Archangels. He was to advance to the rank of Archai (Time Spirit) in 1879, so that not until that time could “the place which was ‘made vacant’ in the Hierarchy of the Archangels as a result of Michael’s ascent to the rank of Time Spirit” be filled. By virtue of his work with the Bodhisattva who became Buddha, the latter’s angel became “the spiritual successor and inheritor of Michael’s mission in the sphere of the Angels” (and Archangels). But “in order that he might take up his place, the Guardian Angel of the Gautama Buddha, once he had in the sixth century B.C. been freed from the task of guiding the human being that had been entrusted to him and had thereby been enabled to ascend to the rank of Archangel, had to make the sacrifice of consenting to work in the sphere of the Angels for almost a further 2,500 years, even though he was—insofar as his inner qualities were concerned—already an Archangel. It was this sacrificial deed which enabled him to participate in the manner described in the events of Palestine, though now no longer as the Guardian Angel of a Bodhisattva incarnated in a human body, but as the collaborator and guide of a Buddha working in a spirit-body. For as he continued to work in the spiritual world nearest to the Earth after the Buddha’s enlightenment beneath the Bodhi tree, he was able to participate in the events of the Turning-Point of Time far more directly as an Angel than would have been possible had he been of the rank of an Archangel. Thus instead of the Archangel Michael working through Elijah, we have working through John the Baptist the particular Angelic Being who had formerly been the Guardian Angel of Gautama Buddha. However, everything has, as we have seen, now moved one Hierarchy lower.”
How magnificently this observation ties in with the fact, shown by Steiner, that John the Baptist’s preaching closely echoed that of the Buddha. See the portion of GSL, Lect. 6, pp. 119-120, quoted in the four paragraphs of “The Nativity” text embodying its fn 15.