Contemplations of Origins:

Biblical Allegories & the Story of Cain & Abel


Cain and Able, (similar to all religious anthropomorphized allegories representing the natural cycles of life) refer to the allegory that is metaphorically either relevant to the past, present or future in terms of Archetypal myths that speak to man’s underlying subconscious.

Joseph Campbell in his excellent book, “The Power of Myth,” makes this distinction rather clear in his statement, “Abel is an ancient word for ‘shepherd,’ though it can also mean ‘breath.’  He  represents the era in human history when humanity developed beyond hunting and gathering food. The era of animal husbandry is the first era of civilization.”

On the other hand Cain, meaning ‘smith’ as in blacksmith represents someone who, “made tools that would actually interfere with nature.”  Such as building fences to keep out Abel’s animals or trying to force plants to grow in rows, using animal waste as fertilizer and manufactured instruments to break up the soil. That being said Cain and Able represent the duality of early man. In all cultures there is this duality being represented by those who were the hunters (or in this case a herder) and those who were planters and lived off the earth.  See the Iroquois legend of flint the hunter and Sprout (or plant boy) for another, pre-Christian example.

Campbell adds that in the biblical tradition, “the plant boy is Cain and the hunter (herder) is Abel. In the bible you have the herder against the planter; and the planter is the abominated one. This is an old myth of the hunting/herding people who came into a planting culture world and denigrated the people in which they conquered.”

If you study the bible on the esoteric level, meaning to find the route archetype and allegory rather than taking it literally (which would be the exoteric and our current present way of looking at most religions), then quite a lot of new material will become illuminated from the previously limited text.

Campbell continues, “Biblically, it is typically the second son who is the winner, the good one. The Second son is the newcomer – namely the Hebrews. The older son, or the Canaanites, were living there before. Cain represents the agriculturally based city position.”

What you see is always based on the levels of insight and perspective you use to observe, rather just than the sensory organs of the “eyes and ears”. The truth of the matter is that all current religions have now been contorted to include paganistic (good and bad) rituals, symbols and the esoteric interpretations thereof which can become quite deeper then the exoteric elucidations if you choose to see them as such.

Eric Anthony Crew

(Originally written October 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm)