Widow's Son

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

Mysteries, Page 12
Widow's Son, Page 2