Cain and Abel
The Path, November, 1887
“The first step is Sacrifice; the next, Renunciation.”
“’Es leuchtet mir ein, I see a glimpse of it!’ cries he, elsewhere: ‘there is in man a HIGHER than Love of Happiness: he can do without happiness, and instead thereof find Blessedness! was it not to preach forth this same HIGHER that sages and martyrs, the Poet and the Priest, in all times, have spoken and suffered, bearing testimony, through life and through death, of the Godlike that is in man, and how in the Godlike only has he Strength and Freedom? which God-inspired doctrine art thou also honoured to be taught; O Heavens! and broken with manifold merciful afflictions even till thou become contrite and learn it! O, thank thy Destiny for these; thankfully bear what yet remain; thou hadst need of them; the Self in thee needed to be annihilated.’”1
The Bibles, poetry, tradition, concur in this verdict. When life has been exalted above mere animalism, a time comes when the Self in thee needs to be annihilated.
Other sacrifices may be difficult; this renunciation is supremely difficult. To destroy what surrounds us is comparatively easy; to rise in the air and destroy the ground we stood on, not so easy, and yet this is what must be done.
Vices may be abandoned—virtues even may be acquired—for selfish reasons; but to banish once and forever, all selfish motives, all personal objects, to work resolutely for universal ends—this can never be done selfishly.
Can we give a reason for following the good, the beautiful, the true? None, but that we find them good, beautiful, true.
To work in this pure disinterestedness and unselfishness is what is necessary.
The Self in thee needs to be annihilated.
Up to this point of progress, the individual has worked.
After this sacrifice, there is no longer an individual; there is only God, working through what were the powers of the individual.
The cup that separated the water from the ocean has been annihilated. Now, there is only the ocean.
After the sacrifice, it is perceived that only an unreality, a bond, was offered up; but till the sacrifice is consummated, what is to be sacrificed is seen as Self.
This sacrifice of Self is made after the illusory nature of the life of the senses is perceived; after it is seen that within the sensuous world there is a spiritual world, of which the sensuous world is a husk.
This perception, the Orientals call—“overcoming the illusions of the Ten.”2
When the inner world is perceived, these physical senses and organs are superseded by five inner senses, and five inner organs of sense.
This truth is told again and again in the Hebrew Bible. Moses, (the Soul) led the Twelve Tribes (senses, organs, desire, egotism) from bondage in Egypt (sense-life). During the probation in the desert, these Twelve were superseded by Twelve Tribes who had never known bondage, (astral senses, etc.).
But the individual having gone so far, was to cease from individual life.
Moses saw the Land of Promise from afar, but himself entered not in. He died, and another entered in.
The Self was annihilated; there was no longer Man, but God only. Those who have read the Idyll of the Lotus have learned the same lesson.
Sensa—the soul—triumphs over Agmahd and the Ten. But Sensa himself perished by the hands of Agmahd and the Ten.
It is the darkest fact in human life, but an inexorable fact, that there is no redemption without sacrifice; the Self needs to be annihilated; and the Christians have rightly made the sacrifice on Calvary the central picture of their religion; Christ had to sacrifice himself before he could ascend to his Father.
This is the meaning of Cain and Abel.
To the Soul (Adam) resting in calm unity, was added Personal desire (Eve). Eve is the type of personal life in its essential character, as recipient of alternate emotions of pleasure and pain, sweet and bitter, good and evil. For Eve tastes the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.
Now, two paths lie open—continued personality through many lives, or redemption through self-sacrifice: Cain is the first; Abel the second.
Cain offers no real sacrifice, and ever after, having chosen egotism and isolated life, he bears the brand of fear, for fear ever follows strife. The brand remains till Cain learns the “perfect love that casts out fear.”
Abel offers the true sacrifice—the whole animal nature. But soul has served Self too long. Before the soul has regained its divinity, the bonds of individuality must be broken by sacrifice. At last the sacrifice is consummated. Abel lies bleeding on the ground, but the liberated soul re-enters Eden, passing the flaming swords of the Cherubim, and advances triumphant to the Tree of Life. There is no longer man, but God only. For this is offered the prayer of the Eastern Saint—
“The dew is on the Lotus;—Rise, Great Sun!
And lift my leaf, and mix me with the wave!
Om mani padme hum, the Sunrise comes!
The dew-drops slips into the shining sea!”
1. Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, Book II, Chap. IX.
2. Eye, ear, nose, etc., and tongue, hands, feet, etc.