I recently covered the topic of the Widow’s Son in Freemasonry, and several avenues of interpretation and investigation about this concept, ranging from biblical genealogy to archetypal mythology.
Now, I would like to take you along for a deeper dive into the topic of the Widow’s Son, and the possible source of it in Rosicrucian, Gnostic, and generally esoteric thought. Here again, there is a range of realistic vs mythological interpretations, but the occult significance of either, or both, will be further explored.
As always, this writing does not represent the official views of Universal Co-Masonry, but is only the reflections of one Co-Mason.
At the heart and origin of the Widow’s Son concept, according to the Rosicrucian writings of Max Heindel, is an alternative take on the biblical story of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel, which is itself embedded in an alternative cosmology related to, but quite different from the biblical story of creation.
In this Rosicrucian take on biblical cosmology, briefly, the spirits or angels of various elements represent different spiritual forces and archetypes unfolding in the early events of creation, and the Angels of Fire play a major role. In this story, the Angels are spirits of various elements, and the Spirits of Fire are those who decided to manifest the latent potential in matter by ignition; in the form of the sun and other stars, this effulgent quality provided a polar contrast with the cold vacuum of space and inert matter.
By burning, they created an engine of manifestation, as the heat evaporated the water, which re-condensed to fall and cool the surface of the planets, eventually creating a habitable crust-zone for biological life. Therefore, the Spirits of Fire, and all who are affiliated with them, are aligned with the archetype of dynamic power, manifestation, and light, and are also somewhat rebellious in nature, hence breaking energy free from the bonds of matter, literally what Fire does.
The Spirits of Water, on the other hand, have exactly the opposite essence and agenda, chiefly to quench the flame of the Spirits of Fire, and to keep energy bound in matter. Thus, the evaporated water condenses and rains down onto the hot molten earth, cooling it, and stabilizing it back into a more structured, albeit less free existence. Thus, the world as we know it, and in fact every individual, is some combination of these two fundamental forces, Fire and Water, dynamism and restraint, power and passivity, entwined together, encased within one another, playing out their polaric dance upon the stage provided by Earth and Air, Solidity and Space.
What does the dynamic of the elements have to do with the Widow’s Son, and the biblical first family?
Chapter Two of this Gnostic creation story presents us with the more familiar characters of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel, with one less familiar guest appearance: an angel by the name of Samael. In this version of the story, Samael is said to be of the hierarchy of the Angels of Fire, and is identical with the serpent who convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Thus, true to fiery archetypal form, he paved the way for the freeing of the latent potential of the human mind from the blissfully ignorant liquid passivity of the Garden existence.
In this version of the story, though, Samael did a bit more than just some slick apple-salesmanship; he also provided Eve with her first child, Cain. However, before Cain was born, Jehova forced Samael to flee elsewhere, for his crime of corrupting Eve. By the way, Adam hadn’t been created yet, in this version; he was only created after Samael’s banishment. This means that Cain is not only a Fire Angel/Human hybrid, but also the Son of a Widow, although he got a stepfather and half brother in the form of Adam and Abel, respectively. As a child of a Fire-angel, it’s safe to say Cain probably didn’t have much in common with them.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say, and while Cain is best known for his murder of his (perhaps half) brother Abel, water-child of Adam, he was also the first who labored to till the soil, indicating his identity as the original innovator of agriculture, the basis of all civilization, while his water-brother Abel went with the flow, and lived a leisurely life of animal husbandry.
Furthermore, after his rejection by Jehova, ostensibly for being a bit too clever and independent for the jealous god’s tastes, and the resulting fratricidal episode of course, Cain went on to found his own civilization, and his descendants are also identified as the inventors of metalworking, writing, and music, essentially the beginnings of all intellectual and technological endeavors. You could say they had, as it were, Fire in their blood, and they used that Fire to forge the foundations of civilization.
Meanwhile, Cain’s younger brother Seth, and his proceeding generations, like their late brother Abel, were of solely human birth, and therefore had a much more watery disposition, being mostly obedient and, though attuned to spirit and intuition, not all that bright, hard working, or innovative.
According to the myth, these two kinds of people continue to exist from ancient history to the modern day. The idea is that people are usually of one or the other disposition, either fiery, rebellious, intellectual, and valuing works over faith, or watery, trusting, faithful and obedient, the good flock who don’t stir up a fuss, and rely on (hopefully) divine guidance, often from religious authority figures. In fact, you could also characterize these two types of people as goats and sheep.
What has all this to do with Masonry? As you probably know, the construction of Solomon’s temple is an important biblical myth in Masonic lore.
What many may not have realized from their Bible studies is that Solomon’s need to hire Hiram Abiff, the Master Craftsman, to build his temple wasn’t simply a matter of delegation; Solomon was himself a descendant of Seth, and for all his wisdom and poetic acumen, wasn’t particularly up to the task of designing and overseeing the construction of the Grand Temple. It required a fiery descendant of Cain to get the job done, and Hiram Abiff was not only a descendant of the original Widow’s Son, but was also a Widow’s Son, himself. This makes him both a Widow’s Son, and a Widow’s great great great great great…Grandson.
This duality within humanity is said by some to continue even now, with the church representing the sons of Seth, quenching the thirst of the weary with their holy water at the entryway to every church, rituals of baptism, and symbolism of the good shepherd and his obedient flock. Meanwhile, the sons of Cain build, advance intellectually and technologically, shun authority, tame the wilds and illuminate the world with their Fire. Perhaps these two sides, that of the goat and the sheep, the fire and the water, the intellect and intuition, are ultimately destined to meet, intertwine, and come to balance.
Whatever the case, it’s hard to deny that Freemasonry leans heavily on the fiery side of this equation, as evidenced by all of the symbolism around being craftsmen, builders, intellectuals, valuing labor for the betterment of man, personal initiative, and of course, the significance of Hiram Abiff, the Widow’s Son and Master builder from the Fire-tinged bloodline of Cain, himself.
What does it all mean? As with any mythology, one can take it in a variety of ways; perhaps there is some literal truth to it, different populations of people from the ancient past, born of different dispositions, with threads of this dichotomy continuing even today. We could also, however, take it as symbolic of our own inner polarities, with our inner intuitive Solomon, wise and watery son of Seth, needing the intellect and determination of our inner son if Fire, Hiram, to complete the great work of the Temple within us, and vice versa. It’s always possible to form our own theories, but the only way to find out for sure what it means to a Mason, is to ask one.