Youth of Nain

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Raising of the son of the widow of Nain, altar panel by Lucas Cranach the Younger, c. 1569, in the Stadtkirche Wittenberg.

The youth of Nain, the son of a widow, is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. He lives in Nain (Arabic نين‎ Na'in, literally 'charming'; Hebrewניין Najin), a small town on the border between Galilee and Samaria, located about 20 km southwest of the Sea of Galilee and 7 km southwest of Mount Tabor. The youth is described as a widow's son and raised from the dead by the Christ. His raising from the dead was an initiation, but unlike Lazarus, it only took effect in his next incarnation.

„11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus[4] gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.“

Rudolf Steiner has pointed out that this youth had been the youth of Sais in a previous life on Earth. The whole Egyptian-Chaldean culture was alive in him and this was revived in a new form through the revival and the associated initiation of the youth at Nain.

„What we read about the "Raising of the youth at Nain" contains the secret of the continuing Christianity. Whereas in the case of the healing of Jairus' daughter, which I was able to explain to you at least in outline the day before yesterday, the mysteries connected with it are so profound that the Christ Jesus takes only some of the people who were able to watch the healing process and then gives them the order that it should not be told, we see another raising from the dead taking place in such a way that it is then immediately told. One was a healing process that required the one who performed it to look deeply into the processes of the physical body. The other was a reawakening, an initiation. The individuality contained in the body of the young man at Nain was to experience an initiation of a very special kind. There are different kinds of initiation. One type consists in the fact that the person who has been initiated sees the knowledge of the higher worlds shining in him immediately after the initiation process, that he can see into the processes and laws of the spiritual worlds. But another kind of initiation can take place in such a way that at first only the germ is sunk into the soul concerned, so that it then has to await another incarnation; then this germ emerges, and in the later incarnation the person concerned then becomes an initiate in the express sense.

Such an initiation was accomplished with the youth at Nain. At that time his soul was transformed in the event of Palestine; at that time it did not yet have the consciousness of having ascended into the higher worlds. Only in the next incarnation did the powers germinate which had been placed in this soul at that time. - In an exoteric lecture we cannot mention the names which came into consideration at that time, but we can only point out that later, in a mighty teacher of religion, that individuality awoke which the Christ Jesus had raised in the youth at Nain, and that in this way, in later times, a new teacher of Christianity could arise with the powers which had been sunk into his soul at that time.

In this way, the Christ ensured that an individuality could appear at a later time to further Christianity. And this individuality, which was awakened in the young man at Nain, was called upon later to penetrate Christianity more and more with the teachings of reincarnation and karma, to connect those teachings with Christianity which at that time, when the Christ himself walked on Earth, could not yet be expressly proclaimed as teachings of wisdom, because at that time they had first to be transplanted emotionally into the souls of men.“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 196f)

Steiner explained this in more detail in an esoteric lesson:

„The youth of Nain in the Gospel of Luke is no other than the youth of Sais; the difference between the spiritual environment of the third and the fourth cultural age is concealed even in the names. The young man of Sais wanted to know the secrets of the spiritual world unprepared; like the other initiates, he wanted to become a "son of the widow", of Isis, who mourned for her lost husband Osiris. But because he was unprepared, because he wanted to unveil the image of Isis and see the heavenly secrets on the physical plane, he fell to his death. No mortal could lift the veil of Isis at that time. The young man of Sais symbolises the impotent wisdom of Egyptian times.

He is reborn, he grows up as the youth of Nain, he is again a "son of the widow", again he dies in youth. And the Christ Jesus draws near as the dead man is carried out of the city gate. And "much people out of the city" was with his mother; it is the multitude of the Egyptian initiates. They are all dead men burying a dead man. "And when the Lord saw them, he was sorry for them". He was sorry for the mother who stands there as Isis, who was the sister and wife of Osiris. And he said: "Young man, I say unto thee, arise!" "And the dead man arose and began to speak, and he gave him to his mother." - She has, after all, descended to Earth, the former Isis; her powers can now be experienced on Earth itself. The son is given to the mother again; it is now up to him to unite himself completely with her. "And the bystanders praised God and said: A great prophet has arisen among us". For in the young man at Nain, the Christ Jesus, by the kind of initiation which this raising represents, had sunk a germ which could only come to flower in his next incarnation.

A great prophet, a mighty teacher of religion became of the young man of Nain! In the third century A.D. Mani or Manes, the founder of Manichaeism, first appeared in Babylonia.[1]“ (Lit.:GA 264, p. 228f)

The next incarnation Steiner points to is as Mani or Manes, the founder of Manichaeism. Later Mani was reborn as the "pure fool" Parzival.

„All the old and new knowledge that had come up from this soul in that incarnation as Manes had to be submerged once more, as it were. As the "pure fool" he had to face the outer knowledge of the world and the working of the Christ-impulse in the depths of his soul. He is reborn as Parzival, the son of Herzeleide, the tragic figure abandoned by her husband. As the son of this widow, he now also leaves his mother. He goes out into the world. After various wanderings, he is chosen to be the guardian of the Holy Grail.“ (Lit.:GA 264, p. 230)


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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  1. According to memorial notes by Elisabeth Vreede, without indication of place or date.