Molten Sea

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The Molten Sea, illustration from the Holman Bible of 1890

The Molten Sea or Brazen Sea (Hebrewים מוצק yām mūṣāq) was, according to the Old Testament account, a round basin cast in bronze by the temple builder Hiram of Tyre (Hiram Abiff) for the forecourt of Solomon's Temple, with a diameter of almost 500 cm and a height of about 250 cm. The basin thus held almost 50,000 litres and rested on a base of 12 bronze oxen. The Bible describes the casting of the basin thus:

„23 Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. 24 Under its brim were gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast. 25 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The sea was set on them, and all their rear parts were inward. 26 Its thickness was a handbreadth, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held two thousand baths.“

The casting of the Brazen Sea forms the core of the Temple Legend given by Christian Rosenkreutz:

„The temple was finished to a very definite stage. Only one thing was still missing, which was to be Hiram's masterpiece: namely the Brazen Sea. This masterpiece of Hiram was to represent the ocean, cast in ore, and adorn the temple. All the ore mixtures had been wonderfully prepared by Hiram and everything was ready for casting. But now three journeymen set to work, whom Hiram had found unfit to be appointed masters during the building of the temple. They had therefore sworn revenge against him and wanted to prevent the construction of the Brazen Sea. A friend of Hiram, hearing of this, informed Solomon of this plan of the journeymen so that he would thwart it. But Solomon, out of jealousy against Hiram, let the matter run its course, because he wanted to spoil Hiram. The result was that Hiram had to watch the whole casting dissolve because the three journeymen had added an unseemly substance to the mass. He tried to extinguish the foaming fire by pouring water on it, but it only got worse. While he was close to despairing about the outcome of the work, Tubal-Cain himself, one of his ancestors, appeared to him. He told him to throw himself into the fire, because he was not vulnerable to it. Hiram did so and reached the centre of the Earth. Tubal-Cain led him to Cain, who was there in the state of original divinity. Hiram was now initiated into the secret of fire creation, the secret of ore casting and so on. He also received from Tubal-Cain a hammer and a golden triangle to wear around his neck. Then he returned and was now able to really produce the Brazen Sea, to put the casting in order again.“ (Lit.:GA 93, p. 60f)

According to Rudolf Steiner, the Brazen Sea means the following:

„The Brazen Sea is that casting which is produced when water is mixed with ore in the appropriate way. The three journeymen do it wrong, the casting is destroyed. But by revealing the mysteries of fire to Hiram, Tubal-Cain is able to combine water and fire in the right way. This gives rise to the Brazen Sea. It is what is the secret of the Rosicrucians. It comes into being when the water of calm wisdom unites with the fire of the astral space, the fire of passion. Through this, a connection must come about which is "brazen", which can be carried into the following ages, when the secret of the sacred Golden Triangle, the secret of Atma-Buddhi-Manas, is added. This triangle, with all that it entails, will be the content of the renewed Christianity of the sixth sub-race. This will be prepared by the Rosicrucians and then what is symbolised in the Brazen Sea will be connected with the knowledge of reincarnation and karma. This is the new occult teaching that is being reinserted into Christianity. Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the higher Self, is the secret that will be revealed when the sixth sub-race will be ripe for it. Then Christian Rosenkreutz will no longer need to stand there as a warner, but all that has meant struggle on the outer plan will find peace through the Brazen Sea, through the sacred Golden Triangle.“ (Lit.:GA 93, p. 66)

In the twelve oxen that support the bronze basin of the Brazen Sea, one will easily recognise the symbolic expression of the 12 forces of the zodiac.

In a handwritten version by Rudolf Steiner from 1906 and in a new version of the Temple Legend given by Steiner in the esoteric hour of 27 May 1923, the Brazen Sea is described as a casting of all seven planetary metals and water, the metal of the Earth. The casting was to be completely transparent and with it the enmity between the sons of Cain and Abel was to be finally reconciled:

„The completion of the building of the Temple was to be crowned by a work in which Hiram Abiff intended to reconcile the tension and enmity between the sons of Cain and Abel. It was the brazen sea, the casting of which was to be made from the seven basic metals (lead, tin, iron, gold, copper, mercury and silver) and water, the metal of the Earth, mixed in such a way that the finished casting would be completely transparent. The matter was completed except for a very last impact, which was to be made before the assembled court, including the Queen of Sheba, and by which the still cloudy substance was to be transformed to complete clarity. Now the three treacherous fellows, who had the task of adding the last ingredient, mixed the water in the wrong proportion, and instead of becoming transparent, the casting burst into devastating flames. Hiram Abiff tried to calm the fire, but this did not succeed, the flames burst out in all directions.

But Hiram Abiff heard a voice from the flames and from the glowing mass: "Throw yourself into the sea of fire, you are invulnerable. He threw himself into the flames and realised that his path led to the centre of the earth. Halfway there he met Tubal Kain, his ancestor. He led him to the centre of the earth, where the great ancestor Cain was in the state he was in before the sin, the murder of Abel. He gave him the golden triangle with the Master's Word. Halfway up, Tubal gave Cain a hammer and instructed him to touch the casting of the brazen sea with it. Hiram Abiff was told by Cain that the energetic development of the human earthly powers would finally lead to the height of initiation, and that the initiation attained in this way would have to take the place of the old seeing in the course of the earth, and that this would disappear. With the hammer Hiram goes back to the surface of the earth; with it he touches the brazen sea, the casting succeeds, and he could prepare its complete transparency.“ (Lit.:GA 265, p. 458f)

„There is also deep meaning in this part of the legend. Before man descended from the bosom of the Godhead into earthly embodiments, he was in spiritual surroundings which he could perceive. He heard the divine word of creation. He embodied himself in the metal masses that were still liquid in fire at that time. Before this happened, three companions could not harm him: Doubt, superstition and the illusion of the personal self. He could not have doubts about the spiritual world, for it was around him. Superstition could not afflict him, for he saw the spiritual in its true form. But superstition consists in imagining the spiritual in a false form. The illusion of the personal self could not afflict him, for he knew himself to be in the general spirituality; he was not yet separated from this general spirituality by being enclosed in his body. If these three treacherous fellows had not attached themselves to his heels, his body would have become a pure harmonious coherence of substances. They mixed in the impact that made him forget the divine-spiritual Creator's word. The casting was thereby destroyed. The journey of Hiram Abiff to the centre of the Earth then represents the advance of man along the occult path. Through this, humanity regains possession of the T, the divine creative word, learns to know human nature (Cain) as it was before the Fall and how it can create in purity.“ (Lit.:GA 265, p. 370)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.